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Sleep Deprived or The Summer During Which Spencer and Aaron Fell in Love

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The blessing it is to have a friend to whom one can speak fearlessly on any subject; with whom one's deepest as well as one's most foolish thoughts come out simply and safely. Oh, the comfort — the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person — having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all right out, just as they are, chaff and grain together; certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then with the breath of kindness blow the rest away.

~Dinah Craik

 

 

Sleep Deprived or The Summer During Which Spencer and Aaron Fell in Love

Chapter one: Minnesota.

 

 

Budget Oversee Committee consisted from overpaid, lazy bunch of bureaucrats who came to the office straight from their mansions with big, square, feathery beds only to plot how to make other peoples – field agents who worked their asses off day in and day out – miserable by looking what else they could cut off in order to supposedly save costs. Someone should definitely tell those bastards that the bureau would save pretty impressive sum just by cutting those fuckers paycheck in half.

 

Once, years ago there was a time when one could get a total reimbursement of all travel expenses without having to explain his supervisor and therefore highty and mighty Budget Oversee Committee that they needed to eat and sleep and that after spending twelve hours worth day on their feet in the field the last thing they needed was putting together a geographical profile of the cheapest motels in the area.

 

But in last few years not once, not twice, not trice Spencer found himself challenging unit's budget into staring contest once Hotch, Morgan and Rossi had been over it several times already and separately and in unison came to a single conclusion that once again they had spent more than Budget Oversee Committee had decided that they could spend in the field.

 

Last year they had to say goodbye to their annual raise because as small as it happened to be the committee decided that it was something they didn't deserve and besides they were already, according to the committee an overcrowded unit which had more profilers than any other team. Translating from bureaucratic economics into English JJ's paycheck was largely coming from whatever raises and financial perks they were supposed to get but didn't.

 

When Emily finally left for London for a while it seemed that BOC, affectionately and unofficially deemed by the four of them as Bunch of Cretins would leave them finally in peace but it took Spencer one good look at Hotch who just returned from his first meeting with BOC after Emily left with the look on his face that spoke, 'On the next case out of town we are doubling up.'

 

After all it was cheaper share two double and one single rooms than get five single ones.

 

Cheaper Chief Accountant's stark white and oversized butt in his too small trousers.

 

Single rooms were supposed to give them the illusion of privacy they needed and in a way deserved, the peace of stretching out in the bed to calmly sleep through the night or doing whatever nocturnal desire had struck them whatever it was to catching up with late night documentary about the spider's circle of life, ordering in midnight snacks or submitting to more carnal desires like watching porn and masturbating.

 

It sucked, majorly. Especially way too small double beds.

 

The first case on double-up regime Spencer spent sharing a room with Morgan. It wasn't the first time they shared a room, they've done it in the past but it was the first time in a longer while when they had to share a double bed. They didn't like it but they sucked it up.

 

During the first night Morgan had a nightmare which had ended painfully for Spencer because by the time he managed to kick off Morgan from the bed he ended with a black eye, split lip and bruised ribs. Morgan of course apologized and spent the rest of the nights until they got back sleeping on the floor but after that case they decided to don't double up together again for a longer while.

 

So next time when they went into the field and it became painstakingly clear that the only beds the motel had were double beds Spencer simply snorted 'Dibs' before he grabbed his bag and followed Hotch to his room before Rossi and Morgan could protest about the arrangement.

 

Doubling up with Rossi was out of question for Spencer because the man snore like a distraught goat, constantly and unfortunately for anyone who had to double-up with him he always fell asleep first.

 

In the past Hotch proved to be a good, unproblematic roommate who didn't have severe control issues over the remote control and few chapters of a novel. He didn't snore, didn't kick, didn't stole the covers (at the very least during those few times they were forced to share a double bed). Spencer fully believed that he was in for a calm, peaceful night of sleeping.

 

If he knew what he was getting himself into he would simply sleep in the SUV or back at the police station.

 

Spencer was roused from his sleep around three thirty in the morning by the sound of creaking springs and shallow labored breathing of a man straining himself for complexion... for ten minutes now and for the last two minutes not paying attention if his fellow bedfellow was really sleeping.

 

The bed was squeaking like a pig which someone was trying to slice in half.

 

'Come damn it!' Spencer hissed inwardly. 'I want to sleep for fuck's sake. You couldn't have taken care of that while you were in the shower?!'

 

Two minutes later nothing had changed, the bed still oinked, Hotch still tried to strain himself into complexion and Spencer was getting closer and closer to grabbing a pillow and pressing it to Hotch's face to finally end this embarrassing horror.

 

He didn't know how he would be able to look Hotch in the eyes tomorrow. He will either end laughing his butt off every time he would look at the man or he would spend the day trying to match his new crimson tie.

 

'The retribution for that must be painful,' he decided. 'It would be nice if it got me a single room too,' he mused.

 

There was one thing, one thing that would put an end to it and would make sure that Hotch wouldn't try taking things in hand while he was sharing the room with Spencer.

 

Spencer breathed the air in, softly and shallowly drawing it out as if he was coming around for a moment before he turned on his back. The change of position had earned him a pause from Hotch's side of the bed but predictably after two and half a minute wait through which Spencer was breathing softly as if he was sleeping the bed creaked again.

 

Once. Twice. Trice.

 

Horny bastard. Strike that: relentless horny bastard. Was he drawing his orgasm out because he liked it that way or because the lump on the bed next to him was counterproductive to his nocturnal routine, if it was nocturnal routine.... It could be a nocturnal routine because even when Hotch was doubling up with someone nine times out of ten he ended sharing a room with Rossi who snore and wouldn't wake up even a minute before the alarm would go up.

 

Oink. Oink. Oink.

 

Spencer's right hand curled into a fist. If Hotch wouldn't finish it in two minutes his face will have a very urgent meeting with Spencer's right hook which while not as impressive as Morgan's or Hotch's right hook carried enough strength to leave a bruise.

 

Oink. Oink. Oink.

 

Thirty seconds. Twenty seconds. Ten seconds. Five seconds.

 

Jesus...

 

Rossi and Strauss are having an affair!” Spencer howled, not loud enough to wake up the whole floor but loud enough to make it deafening for the other occupant of the room.

 

Hotch froze but other than that he hadn't done anything which if Spencer just woke up – which he did not – wouldn't alarm Spencer that he wasn't sleeping but Spencer knew better.

 

It was the highest time for the endgame.

 

And I want to sneak into Chief Accountant's mansion house in the middle of the night, bind him with his ridiculously high thread count sheets spread eagle to his big, square, feathery bed, take down his pants, put the barrel of my revolver in his anus and shot all bullets from the cylinder into his ass,” this time Spencer didn't howl but made sure that his voice was loud and clear.

 

Noble and highly encouraged aim,” Hotch mumbled. “Do you have any particular reason for informing be that you are thinking about getting in touch with your inner unsub?”

 

Yes,” Spencer snorted. “My inner unsub wants me to practice first before I will go after the real target. As of late I've been feeling increasing desire to take a pillow and smoother a rabbit with it.”

 

Rabbit?” Hotch asked skeptically. “The miniature fluffy one or one of those which eventually end at the table?”

 

Neither,” Spencer answered. “I was thinking about the relentless bugger who for past twenty minutes was making the bed squeak like a slaughtered pig. I acknowledge your stamina oh the mighty one and I bow before you. Now either stop it and go to sleep or go to the bathroom to finish it because I'm an inch away from hitting something and your head is the closest.”

 

Hotch sighed and his shoulders relaxed a little before he said quietly, “I'm sorry. You have every right...”

 

To sleep,” Spencer snorted before he turned again to the edge of the bed and pulled the covers tightly over himself.

 

I was going to say file a grievance,” Hotch sighed and Spencer could hear him turning on his back.

 

I will,” Spencer muttered. “I will file a grievance against entire merry bunch of cracked in the head accountants for violation of privacy and whatever I will be able to think of on our way home.”

 

You want to file a grievance for violation of privacy done by your supervisor against budget oversee committee?” Hotch asked.

 

I'm pretty sure that my supervisor wouldn't violate my privacy if he had his own room where he could make the bed squeak for as long as he wanted,” Spencer snorted. “Beth is a lucky woman, I give her that. Now shut up and go to sleep or shut up and go to the bathroom.”

 

Hotch didn't move.

 

Spencer closed his eyes ready to fall back to Morpheus's arms when a soft sigh tore through the air.

 

You're wrong,” Hotch sighed.

 

Spencer opened his eyes and rolled on his back.

 

I'm wrong?” he said.

 

Doesn't matter,” Hotch said before he turned back to his own side. “It's not your business.”

 

You woke me up at half past three in the morning,” Spencer pointed out. “You made it my business just like I will make your business the reimbursement of my expenses on the sessions with chiropractor which without shadow of a doubt I will need if I will spend the rest of this case sleeping in the SUV or at the police station.”

 

Jerk,” Hotch snorted into the pillow.

 

Fucker,” Spencer huffed. “Now we are even.”

 

Hotch snorted into the pillow. Spencer huffed the bangs out of his eyes and crossed his arms thinking what an insufferable jerk Hotch could be at times.

 

If I will have a migraine tomorrow it will be your fault,” Spence muttered.

 

Slightly pitched muffled sound came from the pillow.

 

So what you are going to do?” Hotch asked. “Boot me out of the bed and make me sleep on the couch in the lobby?”

 

I will if you will as much as twitch a finger to my side of the bed,” Spencer grimaced.

 

That's my side of the bed,” Hotch pointed out. “I always sleep on the right side of the bed and if I slept on the right side of the bed tonight you would be still sleeping and not planning a murder.”

 

Spencer frowned before he said, “You always take the side closer to the door.”

 

No, I always take the right side which more often than not happens to be closer to the door,” Hotch corrected him.

 

Relentless bastard with severe territorial issues,” Spencer puffed. “It wasn't labeled 'Aaron Hotchner's side' so suck it up and get over it, I'm not moving to the left side of the bed until the room-service will change the sheets. You will get your precious right side back tomorrow.”

 

Thanks,” Hotch sighed.

 

Why you didn't do it in the shower?” Spencer asked suddenly, he wasn't curious, it just bothered him.

 

Hotch was silent for a very long while before he sighed, “I tried. Didn't work.”

 

Didn't work?” Spencer echoed.

 

Didn't work,” Hotch confirmed and after even longer pause he added, “Doesn't work.”

 

Doesn't work?” Spencer asked.

 

You said that I made it your business,” Hotch shrugged. “Doesn't work.”

 

For... for how long?” Spencer asked pensively as he sat up and leaned against the headboard.

 

That particular part?” he could practically hear Hotch grimace. “Works better when I'm using my left hand and I'm not sharing the room with tap-dancing rhino who at any given moment can barrel into the bathroom.”

 

I don't tap-dance,” Spencer muttered. “And I don't come barreling into the bathroom when I know that someone is in there. Taking into an account the level of your embarrassment I hazard a guess that before we left you had 'the spirit was willing but the flesh was not' moment, am I right?”

 

Yes,” Hotch muttered.

 

More than once?” Spencer asked cautiously.

 

Hotch rolled on his back and raised his head up to glower at Spencer which in any other position and any other circumstances would make Spencer keep his mouth firmly shut but it was almost four o'clock in the morning, his sleep routine was upset and he really wasn't going to take serious the threat that was coming from a man who came to bed wearing Fairly OddParents t-shirt.

 

I have a PhD in Psychology and I charge less than any other certified psychologist,” Spencer shrugged. “And it's not that the first thing which I'm going to do after leaving this room will be coming over to Morgan and Rossi while saying 'guess what I just learned', is it?”

 

I'm not worrying about that,” Hotch huffed.

 

I know, you are worrying about your ego,” Spencer nodded. “Which already is the prime casualty of your problem which means that it can't get any worse than it is,” he shrugged.

 

For a psychologist you have a bedside manner of a psychopath,” Hotch snorted.

 

But I don't break doctor-patient confidentiality,” Spencer pointed out.

 

And you also happen to be a relentless bugger,” Hotch added.

 

I've learned from the master, the table got turned around,” Spencer quipped. “So?”

 

It was fine,” Hotch sighed. “Nothing serious, nothing overly sexually exhausting. Kissing, making out, cuddling, petting, a great deal of foreplay. Everything was fine, slow but fine, no pushing or going past things we weren't both comfortable with...”

 

But?” Spencer asked.

 

Then we decided to go step further,” Hotch grimaced as he folded his arms over his chest. “Everything was going fine until...” he looked at the door to the bathroom and crossed his ankles under the covers.

 

Until it came down to discovering what previously remained undiscovered?” Spencer suggested.

 

In case you didn't notice I have a living proof that I'm not a virgin,” Hotch snorted.

 

Fine,” Spencer snorted. “Sexual intercourse consisting from inserting the penis into vagina and continued penetration of thereof done by aforementioned. Is that better?”

 

It's painfully clinical and painstakingly accurate,” Hotch muttered. “And that's when everything went...” he pursed his lips over his tongue making the sound akin to one done by a deflating balloon. “I was embarrassed, she was understanding, we cuddled and went to sleep.”

 

Bad move,” Spencer commented.

 

For your benefit I'm skipping the part that has me making sure that she went to sleep relaxed,” Hotch snorted. “I decided that I was stressed out and that it was a one time thing that occasionally happens to a man. I wasn't planning on loosing sleep over it.”

 

But you did,” Spencer said.

 

Not that time,” Hotch sighed. “Next time I made sure that it was on our day off. No stress to mess. I even took an idiotic bubble bath in scented oils with vanilla candles, burnt myself with hot wax in the process...”

 

Where?” Spencer asked.

 

Not there,” Hotch puffed. “I've put my right pinky in hot wax if you really need to know mother hen.”

 

Papa rooster,” Spencer coughed. “So?”

 

Same outcome, same story,” Hotch sighed. “She was understanding, I was embarrassed, I pleased her the other way. Next morning when she left for work and took Jack to school I...”

 

Took things in hand,” Spencer suggested. “And?”

 

Everything was in working order. Straight from point A to point B,” Hotch snorted. “But it got me thinking so I ended going out and playing dumb idiot at one of those free clinics, I profiled the crap out the kid on duty, played into his empathy, sold him a story that my girlfriend was returning home after over a year abroad in Japan and that I didn't want to disappoint her on our first night together after so long separation. It was really pathetic, so pathetic that it made my teeth hurt....”

 

Spencer frowned and he did quick math in his head before he said, “I noticed.”

 

I wasn't proud out of myself but I've got what I wanted and told myself that this time everything will be good right from the beginning till the end,” Hotch sighed. “Next time turned exactly like the others with the adjustment to Beth's decreasing understanding, the level of my embarrassment had remained the same and later only increased because she started questioning my past relationships and no, we aren't going to talk about it.”

 

Were they satisfying to you?” Spencer asked ignoring Hotch's comment.

 

For the most of the time, yes,” Hotch grunted. “Few weren't but it wasn't big deal, usually the problems were stress related or chemically induced.”

 

Did you try again?” Spencer asked. “After the blue pills had failed?”

 

Once or twice,” Hotch sighed. “Hadn't worked. So now she is making a research, worrying herself that my inability to perform is her fault and she has a meeting with a counselor lined up and as much as I care for her and want to spend my time with her I only want to come back home in order to play dead.”

 

Have you masturbated in between?” Spencer asked pensively.

 

Yes,” Hotch nodded.

 

Frequently?” Spencer asked.

 

Reid...” Hotch drawled out Spencer's surname on the vowels.

 

Doctor Reid,” Spencer corrected him with a shrug putting the emphasis on his tittle.

 

Yes, Doctor Reid, I have been masturbating frequently between my failed attempts at having a healthy sexual intercourse with my girlfriend,” Hotch said sourly.

 

Successfully?” Spencer asked.

 

In a moment I will successfully deliver a right hook into your groin Doctor Reid,” Hotch snorted.

 

Go ahead if you want to lose your fingers,” Spencer shrugged.

 

Yes,” Hotch huffed.

 

Then she is totally right,” Spencer declared. “Your problem doesn't lie with the plumbing, it lies with the wiring. I hazard a guess that she ends doing something which subconsciously turns you off momentarily. Did all your attempts at having a sexual intercourse had a common denominator?” he asked.

 

Us,” Hotch supplied.

 

Asshole,” Spencer snorted. “Stop playing dumb, it doesn't become you,” he added. “Does she prefers a particular position? Particular behavior?”

 

Hotch fell completely silent and it was a longer while before he finally said, “She likes being on top.”

 

Everything fell into its place like pieces of puzzle forming a bigger and at the same time scary and sad picture. Erratic and aggressive behavior, hyper-vigilance, almost never-ending assertion of dominance, quickly developed recklessness seemingly to play into the fantasy of the psychopath in order to lure him out of his hiding place and this feeling of helplessness so overwhelming, so consuming that once it turned into fury it burnt everything in its path.

 

Spencer brought his knees to his chest and wrapped his arms around them before he placed his chin on the top of his knees.

 

Male on male rape has historically been shrouded in secrecy due to the stigma men associate with being raped by other men. Fewer than one in ten male-male rapes were reported. As a group, male rape victims reported a lack of services and support, and legal systems are often ill-equipped to deal with this type of crime. Also the rape of men by men has been documented as a weapon of terror in warfare.

 

When you patient is bleeding out on you, you fix what you see and what you see is blood-loss, visible injuries. Foyet had Hotch at his mercy for nearly five hours and Hotch was injured, powerless...

 

Spencer wrapped his arms more tighter around his knees and he lowered his head allowing his hair to fall around his face.

 

Reid?” Hotch asked. “Reid?” Spencer could hear him sitting up and moving so he was facing Spencer, he could practically feel Hotch's hand hovering over his arm in order to check if Spencer hadn't fall asleep on him.

 

Hotch's right hand landed on Spencer's left arm and Spencer couldn't stop the shiver which ran through his body and made Hotch withdraw his hand. He needed to address it and he needed to address it now, for Hotch's sake if not his own.

 

Spencer took a deep breath before he raised his head so he was resting it on his arms but rather than looking at Hotch he fixed his gaze on the bathroom door.

 

For a very long time after Georgia I used to go to sleep with growing sense of dread,” Spencer said quietly. “I didn't need any of these supposedly certified retards that the bureau hires as counselors to tell me that I was suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder because I knew that I had a helluva of a PTSD. Being captured, beaten and forced to play Russian roulette between being drugged so much that you can't see straight does that to a person. The nightmares were bad, really bad but I kept telling myself over and over that it was over and that I was safe and that it won't happen again, that I wasn't in a shed in Georgia but in my own flat in DC or one of the hotel rooms with the rest of the team sleeping down the hall. Reliving the capture and the beatings I could stand because I knew that it was over and not happening again, that wasn't what terrified the living daylight out of me...”

 

He paused to take a breath and wrapped his arms around his knees even tighter before he continued.

 

Between the time I was taken and the first video feed you received there is an eighteen hours worth gap, time during which I've been beaten, drugged... I have an eidetic memory and while it doesn't equal hyperthymesia and I know it I also know that if I would concentrate on a past memory and things connected to it hard enough sooner rather than later I would be able to recall pretty much all memories I've acquired since after the age of five. Being unable to remember something is not a normal state of mind for me because I need to know, I need to remember...”

 

He paused again and this time he crossed his ankles before he hugged his knees even tighter.

 

Between the time I was taken and the time I've written in the official report of the incident that I'd met Rafael there is a six hours worth gap during which I was slipping in and out of consciousness, bordering on the edge of a nightmare and a hallucination which I couldn't remember properly. I know that people who suffered from a concussion often suffer from retrograde amnesia which generally resolves around the time and origin of their injury. It seemed to me that it was the reason why after Georgia along with the nightmares of the capture, the beatings, being drugged...”

 

He paused to take a deep breath.

 

Few weeks after the capture, shortly after I came back to work I had a dream, a nightmare to be more precise. I was still in the shed but it wasn't like any other nightmare I had from the capture. It wasn't real... at the very least I convinced myself that it wasn't real. It came back, once, twice, trice... I was dreaming it every single fucking night and while other nightmares had changed this one remained the same.”

 

He let out a shaky breath and took another before he continued.

 

It was always the same,” he licked his lips. “I was laying on the floor on my stomach, with my head down, breathing in the stale, dusty air. I was in pain, my head was hurting like hell and there was this pain in my lower back which origin I couldn't pinpoint... not right away. Next time I remembered it better and I decided that it had to be a nightmare because it didn't happen for real, it couldn't happen for real,” he licked his lips again before he added softly, “And one day, one day I realized that I was wrong and my mind was repressing something I didn't want to remember but when I actually remembered it I only wanted to forget it but I couldn't, I couldn't and the first night after I remembered was the first night when I tightened my belt around my left biceps and shot up so much that it was a miracle that I didn't OD then and there.”

 

You never...” Hotch started, his voice was low, so low that it was barely above the level of whisper.

 

Simon Soloveychik wrote, 'Man – is his dignity',” Spencer said quietly. “More often than not male on male rape is about power, either reassuring or asserting the dominance over the victim. Fewer than one in ten male-male rapes get reported due to the stigma men associate with being raped by other men. Almost every time in the end pride and dignity makes the man swear to himself one thing, 'No one knows and no one will ever learn'. You end pretending that nothing had changed but it's not true because everything had changed, you've been violated, used against your will and there was nothing, absolutely nothing you could do about it, there was no way you could have stopped it. The more you keep pretending that nothing had changed the more you convince yourself that it didn't happen, that it all had been just a nightmare, not a memory that you repressed so much that in a way you forgot about it but you didn't because it's not a nightmare, it's a memory and your mind knows better than let you turn your back on anyone when you are at your most vulnerable, your most exposed. With time you learn to avoid triggers but to be able to do that you have to make yourself even more exposed and more vulnerable by trusting your partner with your triggers because if you wouldn't be able to bring yourself to trust them then what's the point of being together.”

 

Spencer sighed and took another shaky breath, “My question is: what is more important to you, Hotch, your relationship with Beth or your dignity?”

 

Hotch was quiet and when Spencer looked up he saw that the man had shifted to sitting in cross-legged position.

 

How long... How did you...” Hotch started and shook his head.

 

Tonight,” Spencer said quietly. “I would love to say that I'm good at the job but if I was that good I would have realized it sooner and wouldn't make the connection right in the moment it smacked me across the head.”

 

How did you... How did you deal with it?” Hotch asked. “After...”

 

After forgetting was no longer an option?” Spencer finished grimly. “For a long time I used to ignore it but at some point it wasn't an option either so I decided to use it because it was the only thing I could do without contemplating the idea of eating my gun. It didn't always work and there were times when it had failed, one time it had failed spectacularly...”

 

Hotch closed his eyes.

 

I'm not going to tell you that it won't come back to you because if I can promise you one thing for sure is that it will come back to you,” Spencer said quietly. “When it will happen I want you to remember that you aren't going to be the only one in that room. Sometimes knowing that there is someone who understands what's going on makes all the difference in the world.”

 

I'm sorry, for earlier,” Hotch sighed. “I shouldn't have...”

 

Spencer rolled his eyes before he said pointedly, “If at that point I thought that my ass was in danger, trust me, you would know and instead of sitting on the bed and talking with me you would be sitting under the running shower handcuffed like Houdini and for safety measure bound with the shower curtain. I trust you, Hotch and I trust you to not abuse that trust.”

 

A little too late for that,” Hotch mumbled.

 

Will it happen again?” Spencer asked simply.

 

No,” Hotch answered quickly. “I'm...”

 

If you say I'm putting you with Rossi I swear to God I don't believe in that if you will make me share the room with Rossi ever again your replacement won't be looking only for Emily's replacement but also Rossi's and mine,” Spencer snorted. “I have severe issues with his snoring and he not only he falls asleep first but he also snores through stoppers and two pillows and I'm only bringing up times when we had two separate beds in the room.”

 

What's wrong with Morgan?” Hotch asked. “You didn't have an argument, did you?”

 

We didn't have an argument but we did have a nocturnal, nightmare induced fight. I ended bruised like a peach and because I like the idea of not being attacked by my roommate we decided that it would be better if we didn't share the room for a longer while,” Spencer answered.

 

Why you didn't tell me anything about it before?” Hotch asked.

 

We all get nightmares Hotch,” Spencer sighed. “And we handle them, once we handle them better, once we handle them worse but we always handle them. Besides Rossi is fare more capable of holding his ground against Morgan in case of a repeat and while I trust Morgan I don't trust him to not break my ribs in case one of his nightmares will turn violent again. I weight only 170 lbs, Morgan weighs about 240 to 245 lbs, you weight about 190 no more than 200, Rossi is between 200 and 210 lbs and his chances against Morgan are the most elevated in case of a fight.”

 

You know that's not how it works,” Hotch shook his head.

 

I know and I also know what doesn't work. Suddenly awaken and turned into punching bag dude who weights 170 lbs soaking wet defending himself against a guy who weights about 240 lbs and mostly consists from muscle. It's like unleashing a lion on a wild cat, I have chances in a face to face combat because what I lack in body mass I make up in agility and speed but for that I need enough room to maneuver and I can't do it when someone is trying to break my ribs while I'm sleeping. That in the end leaves me with you or sleeping in the SUV or at the police station.”

 

Only you would profile your roommates by judging your chances in case of an eventual fight,” Hotch sighed.

 

I like my ribs,” Spencer shrugged. “I'm kind of attached to them,” he paused in order to stifle a yawn, “Or more precisely they are attached to me and a broken rib would put me on medical leave for two weeks and out of field for a month and possibly another month of no heavy lifting and not doing anything else than researching.”

 

We are getting up at six,” Hotch sighed. “We should try to catch a nap when we still have time.”

 

Motion eagerly supported,” Spencer nodded. “Will you be okay?”

 

Eventually,” Hotch nodded. “Thanks and I'm sorry. It won't happen again.”

 

Of that I have no doubt,” Spencer said before he slid down on the bed so he was laying flat on his back.

 

Hotch lied down too, also on his back and he threw the coverlet around both of them before he said, “Strauss and Rossi are having an affair.”

 

I had to say something to get your attention,” Spencer said sleepily.

 

It was a statement, not a question,” Hotch muttered. “I noticed that as of late he had a surprising spring in his gait but I attributed it to the successive sale of his shares.”

 

You weren't that far away from the target,” Spencer snorted. “He's been getting his share...”

 

For only the two of them know how long,” Hotch sighed. “Where did you see them?”

 

At the convention which we were supposed to attend with Garcia, we never made it inside, but the view outside kind of made up for that,” Spencer admitted.

 

You two can consider yourself as lucky,” Hotch said. “Back before Dave retired I walked in on them in a supply closet, precious fifteen seconds of my life that I would never be able to take back. It taught me to knock on the doors of supply closets until Dave retired.”

 

That explains a lot,” Spencer sighed sleepily. “Like why Strauss was out searching for your blood for a very long time.”

 

Nah, that was my usual charm,” Hotch said sleepily.

 

Reckon how long they have been at it?” Spencer asked pensively.

 

Depends who you will ask,” Hotch sighed. “When I came to BAU there was a pool running around and someone who knew someone who knew both of them while they were in college claimed that they had it going for that long. Personally I thought that it was since about the fall out with wife number two, Strauss wasn't married back then and Dave was where he usually was after a divorce, on rebound.”

 

Which means that this time someone else is on rebound,” Spencer noted. “Sorry, I asked,” he yawned. “I feel like a teenager discussing his parents' sex-life with an older brother..”

 

One whom he caught masturbating,” Hotch yawned. “We should get a medal for being one of the most dysfunctional families that ever existed.”

 

It's not something I would like to put on display,” Spencer said sleepily. “Speaking of medals I know a five years old who made 'The Bestest Daddy in The Hole Word' – and I'm speaking it out the way she wrote it down – to the guy who at the time of her conception had been 2853 miles away from the mother and had never been involved with the mother, before or after her birth.”

 

What brought this on?” Hotch asked pensively.

 

That's a medal I would like to put on display,” Spencer yawned. “We should give them a medal, Strauss and Rossi, I mean. Something that reads 'You Are World's Most Dysfunctional Parents But We Love You Anyway'.”

 

Has someone ever told you that you get cranky when you are sleep deprived?” Hotch asked.

 

The source of my sleep deprivation and several times on that,” Spencer yawned again. “Nighty night or whatever had been left of it anyway.”

 

To Be Continued...

Chapter Text

It takes more love to share the saddle than it does to share the bed.

~Author Unknown

 

 

Sleep Deprived or The Summer During Which Spencer and Aaron Fell in Love

 

Chapter two: Bad-ass Bone

 

Two weeks had passed and seemingly nothing had changed between Spencer and Hotch. It should have been embarrassing as hell, to both of them and it was and most probably with anyone else Spencer wouldn't be able to raise above the embarrassment and anger he initially felt but with – and for –Hotch he did it.

 

He hoped that what happened wouldn't redefine their dynamics in and out of the field, at the very least not negatively and he found himself relieved when next day and for few days after that night Hotch acted like his usual wounded up tighter than his own tie – with occasional moment or two of levity – self and Spencer acted... well no different than usual.

 

They didn't come back to the subject of Foyet's rape on Hotch nor Charles Hankle's on Spencer and if Spencer for the day to two days after his confession had been dressing up exceedingly warm in spite of impossibly hot June weather it wasn't because he felt vulnerable from exposing himself by telling – after years of remaining silent – someone what happened during the hours of his capture that never made the official record. He was dressing himself warm because he was coming down with a flu.

 

And if Hotch had been at his side more often that usual, constantly somewhere in the periphery of Spencer's vision he wasn't doing it because he thought any less of Spencer. He was being his usual overprotective mother hen self – after all Spencer dropped on him pretty hard information to accept, especially considering that he managed to hid it from the team for more than five years – and Spencer knew that side of Hotch better than anyone else on the team.

 

Nothing had changed, they hadn't changed. George Foyet and Charles Hankel changed them but they didn't defeat them, they were both dead and Hotch and Spencer were not.

 

The only thing that changed for Spencer following his confession to Hotch wasn't related to Hotch at all and it wasn't even a bad change, surprising, yes, but not unwelcome.

 

Elle came back to DC after spending nearly six years in New York and she brought with her Spencer's beloved, self-proclaimed goddaughter, Lily, the spunkiest, sweetest, bright-eyed five years old wonder who always ignored two of Elle's past ex-boyfriends and from the day she learned how to talk called Spencer her Papa.

 

Spencer didn't know how that happened because he wasn't notoriously present in Lily's life in her very early years but according to Elle he was enough of notorious presence in her life for Lily to idolize and worship him. He fought the bad guys, he did magic, he wrote her long letters which Lily wanted Elle to read her instead of regular bedtime stories, he brought her the best toys and when he was with her he devoted to her his undivided attention.

 

Lily was precious and in a way precocious and if he had to Spencer would have thrown himself at a grenade for her – he would do the same for Jack and Henry without a single blink but Lily was Lily, she was special. She was Spencer's just as much as Spencer was hers and Elle couldn't help but continue to give her blessing for Spencer's continued presence in Lily's life.

 

Elle came back to DC not for a social visit but because of her reassignment to Crimes Against Children Unit and because she had been duped by the landlord of the apartment she was planning to rent she ended living temporarily at Spencer's flat until she would find a better place with more reliable landlord.

 

Lily was happy with living with Spencer, Spencer was happy with having Lily constantly around and Elle was happy because until a better offer came along she and Lily didn't have to live at the hotel but shared Spencer's bedroom while he had gotten himself acquainted with the folding sofa in his study.

 

Two weeks after Minnesota and a week after Elle moved in with Lily into Spencer's flat Spencer got himself acquainted with one of the downsides of having a roommate with a kid and demanding job that had them working weekend shift while Spencer with the rest of the team was off the rotation.

 

The day before, at the dinner Spencer promised Elle that because he had a free weekend while Elle was supposed to be working and it was fairly unlikely that the team would be called into the field baring extremes like a threat to national security that he would spend the weekend with Lily so Elle wouldn't have to waste the money she needed for rent on a babysitter.

 

He started to regret it shortly after nine o'clock in the morning while Lily was half-way through her second breakfast and his phone rang. After sparing a glance at happily munching her Cheerios Lily Spencer looked at his phone and the caller ID and after a sigh he picked it up.

 

It's my day off, mama approved, I'm not supposed to be working and neither should you,” Spencer said quickly.

 

On the other side of the line Hotch snorted, “Mama might have approved our official day off but Mama also received a call from the warden of United States Penitentiary in Tucson, Arizona and was told to send her best men – her words not mine – to run a VICAP interview on Preston Falcon who is scheduled for you know what on next Monday. She is being nice by allowing us to fly out of DC, commercial mind you...”

 

I love commercials,” Spencer snorted. “When?”

 

Reagan's, tomorrow evening at 21:27 but before tomorrow we have to show up today at the office to pick up the case files and get acquainted with them before we will fly out,” Hotch said quickly.

 

Why us?” Spencer asked pensively. “Strike that, I know why us and why not anyone else, I was merely demonstrating my excitement of having a nice official weekend off pass me by, again.”

 

You and I know that's not how it works,” Hotch sighed. “What you were interrupted?”

 

Nothing special, just a usual day of I-Don't-Want-To-Do-Anything,” Spencer said. “Will an hour from now be enough or would you need more than that to get to Quantico?”

 

I will pick you up in twenty minutes,” Hotch said.

 

We are going to work, it's not prom, you don't need to pick me up and I need to assuage someone's unhidden curiosity anyway because if I won't do it anytime soon DEA is going to be one agent down,” Spencer answered.

 

What Montaigne wants you to do?” Hotch asked curiously.

 

It's not what he wants me to do, it's what he doesn't want me to do,” Spencer snorted. “Somehow he convinced himself that if he will sell me his precious Electra Glide not only he will get the money from the sale to make his wife happy but he will also have access to his former Electra Glide which in turn will make him happy because it's not that you are going to ride it Reider, you just want an excuse to disembowel it and put it together again.”

 

Well... he is right, isn't he?” Hotch asked.

 

He was right in April, been there, done that, it was great fun but for the last week he had been scheming how to convince me to lend him his bike for that part of his upcoming vacation which he isn't going to spend with his wife in Jamaica because he will be on vacation while she will be working,” Spencer answered.

 

And you figured out that the best way to not get involved into a lovers spat is by becoming an organ donor,” Hotch commented..

 

Not really,” Spencer quipped. “But I was planning to have the bike moved from the parking lot anyway, now I have an opportunity to do so without raising too many eyebrows and as far as I remember you didn't mention that Jack was going to spend the weekend at Jessica's place which means that you are bringing him with you.”

 

It's a bike,” Hotch muttered. “I like my son in one piece if you don't mind.”

 

It's a bike with a sidecar that happens to have seat-belts,” Spencer shrugged. “Besides I'm not as suicidal as it seems, it will be few minutes worth ride around the parking lot and the building and like two hundred points to awesomeness, at the very least according to Montgomery's oldest son who had been very eagerly helping me to disembowel and put the bike back together. What can I say, I love indulging kids, Jack is no different.”

 

I can hear you grinning,” Hotch sighed. “All right go ahead and indulge him but you will be the one who will explain him why he can't get one before he will turn twenty-one and don't let anyone else hear you because Morgan would never believe you that you can actually drive a bike.”

 

I rode one when I was at Cal-Tech,” Spencer shrugged. “It was also the biggest thing that I brought with me from California to DC when I moved, I hope that it serves that thief well,” he snorted. “Sometimes I'm missing getting on a bike after classes and going home to visit Mum, I used to park it in Callahan's garage around the block because when Mum saw it for the first time she spend three days at trying to convince me how bad my brain would look like spattered on the asphalt.”

 

Sounds like you actually had a rebel bone in your body,” Hotch chuckled.

 

I needed a cheap vehicle that would allow me to travel from point A to point B on daily basis. One of the best vacation I actually had was touring Nevada with my roommate, he is the badbutt, I'm just an opportunist, I was doing fine without the bike and while I prefer cars over the bikes now and above both I prefer trains I like the idea of occasionally getting on a bike,” Spencer explained. “Besides my Volvo is at the shop again and I have severe issues with weekend trains.”

 

See you at the office,” Hotch said. “And Reid?”

 

Yes, sir,” Spencer quipped.

 

If I will have to identify your body because you had gotten yourself into an accident the first thing which I will do after will be finding a way to resurrect you only to throttle you for getting yourself splattered on the asphalt.”

 

Threat noted and taken into consideration,” Spencer said. “See you at the office, Hotch.”

 

Once he hung up he made his way to the couch where Lily was finishing her second breakfast and he leaned down to peck her on the top of her head before he said, “Hey Princess would you like to see where I work?”

 

Lily looked up and perked instantly, “You will take me to the Batcave?”

 

Well it's not a Batcave strictly speaking,” Spencer said. “It's actually above the ground and has windows but yeah, it serves the similar purpose.”

 

Are we taking Bluebell?” she asked eagerly.

 

Lily named Spencer's Volvo Bluebell when she was about four years and decided that all superheroes amongst the things they need to fight the bad guys absolutely must have a proper vehicle which require a good name, that was how Spencer's Amazon became Bluebell.

 

No, Petal, Bluebell is at the shop getting her insides working properly,” Spencer answered.

 

But you need a vehicle,” she protested.

 

I have one,” Spencer smiled. “I will tell you a secret, Petal,” he said confidentially. “I didn't name that one yet because I wanted you to name it but you have to promise me that you aren't going to tell your Mum that you saw it until I will tell her, kay?”

 

Lily beamed at him.

 

Sleep Deprived

 

Lily didn't need to be persuaded to be dressed up in protective gear, in fact she was so eager to put on the shoes, jacket, helmet and gloves Spencer bought for her in the spur of a moment when he was getting a jacket, gloves and helmet for himself that he figured out that the bigger problem would be getting her out of it.

 

The bike was immediately named Firebird after Lily circled it around five times before she allowed Spencer to strap her into the sidecar. The name was appropriate because Montaigne like a true narcissist he was decided that he would pick more women if he was driving an orange Harley Davidson than one that was boringly black – he referred to it as chick appeal. Spencer didn't care about chick appeal, he cared for his safety first and the color made the bike visible from afar.

 

Spencer couldn't help but feel slightly giddy at the idea of taking Lily on a long ride because with the minor exception of few leaps around the block while he was still cleaning and fixing the bike it was his first long ride on a motorcycle since he turned twenty and his old Harley he practically put together from scraps back when he was at Cal-Tech had been stolen two months after he moved to DC.

 

Morgan would rupture something if he knew that Spencer used to drive a motorcycle when he was in college, he knew that Spencer used to ride a bike when he was in college but Spencer didn't exactly clarify what kind of a bike it was allowing Morgan to automatically assume that it was a bicycle (which had been actually true until Spencer managed to but his bike together) and not a motorcycle.

 

But Spencer managed to suppress his giddiness for long enough to get himself and Lily to Quantico safely and in one piece.

 

Once he parked the bike in underground parking, unstrapped Lily from the seat-belts and convinced her that taking off her helmet wouldn't make her look any less great than she did he directed Lily to the elevator.

 

The elevator was empty and he stabbed the button with sixth floor number just in the moment he heard someone calling out.

 

Hold the elevator!”

 

Spencer reached out with his right hand to hold the door and waited for the caller to come running.

 

First to the elevator ran Jack who would have collided with the wall opposite to the door if Spencer didn't catch him in the last moment and then just as the door were about to slide again Hotch slipped in.

 

Hotch looked at Spencer then at Lily, then back at Spencer before he raised his eyebrows.

 

Spencer smiled, widely, before he looked down at Jack and said, “Hey Comet, how are you doing today?”

 

Uncle Spencer,” Jack perked up. “I'm great,” he said before he looked at Spencer, actually measuring Spencer from head to toe with his gaze, “You look different. Why do you need a helmet?”

 

To keep his brain inside his head buddy,” Hotch said. “He needs it and we need him.”

 

Your dad is actually right,” Spencer said to Jack. “Helmets are protective gear, that's why you need one while you are ridding a bike, to keep your head from being injured.”

 

But it's very far,” Jack said. “You rode a bike all the way down here and you aren't tired?”

 

It's a different kind of bike than yours, Jack,” Spencer answered. “I rode a motorbike.”

 

Like Uncle Derek?” Jack asked.

 

Spencer looked up quickly from Jack to Hotch and smiled at Hotch with his 'I told you so' smile.

 

You've picked up a passenger,” Hotch said.

 

This is Lily,” Spencer said as he put his left hand on Lily's back. “Lily, this is Jack, his daddy works with me. Jack, this is Lily, my...”

 

Petal,” Lily finished with a grin. “Spencer is my Papa.”

 

Papa?” Hotch asked.

 

Remember that time in Minnesota when we couldn't sleep and ended discussing a lot of things, particularly functional and dysfunctional families?” Spencer asked pointedly. “I didn't get into the details back then, here,” he motioned with his head at Lily, “is the detail.”

 

It's a pretty big detail,” Hotch nodded slowly.

 

Five years old,” Spencer nodded. “Rewind, replay, react,” he said simply.

 

Hotch quirked his left eyebrow at Spencer but immediately after that he leaned over and extended his hand to Lily as he said, “Hey Lily, I'm Aaron, it's nice to meet you.”

 

It's nice to meet you too, sir and Jack too,” Lily beamed at Hotch as she shook his hand and quickly extended her free hand to Jack.

 

Once they had reached the bullpen and after showing Jack and Lily around they settled them down in Rossi's office after turning the PS3 to have something to do while Strauss handed them over the boxes with details of Falcon's case.

 

Strauss ignored the noise coming from Rossi's office, particularly delighted squeals. She briefed them thoroughly and only when she was done she said.

 

You are a man of many surprises Doctor Reid,” she gave Spencer small smile.

 

Pardon?” Spencer raised his head from the folders.

 

It isn't rare for agents to name as their medical proxies and giving the power of attorney to people they work with, especially their supervisors. But it's far more rarer when the person who holds the power of attorney and the position of medical proxy happens to be an agent from a different unit. I was briefed by Katie Cole today regarding the living will of one of her senior agents and the security agent on the entrance of the base thought that I should know about something highly unusual for you.”

 

What can I say,” Spencer shrugged, “I'm a trained hostage negotiator and I'm pretty effective in reverse psychology or like some people call it, cowing people into submission without appealing threatening. She let me in and we talked out our issues, it helped, I've got a good friend out of it and pretty cool goddaughter. Can we withhold wide advertisement until they will settle down in DC properly or at the very least until we will get back from Arizona?” he asked.

 

Strauss's lips twitched slightly in a shadow of a smile.

 

You do realize that one of the documents I received from Katie Cole is the copy of a joint custody arrangement between you and Agent Greenaway regarding her daughter?” Strauss asked pointedly. “And as such in the eyes of the bureau from now on you are going to be treated as that girl's father?”

 

If I didn't, I wouldn't have signed it,” Spencer nodded. “This job showed me, too many times on that, how important for child's healthy development is having a positive male role model in their lives. As discredited as he often gets Freud nailed it pretty well when he wrote, 'I could not point to any need in childhood as strong as that for a father's protection.' I know how badly my own abandonment by my father had screwed me up, I know that I would be a different man if he had chosen to stay around when I needed him the most. I pulled through but I know too many people who didn't. I wrote my dissertation from psychology on the negative results of paternal abandonment in child's development and I've been told that it's a pretty grim read. So if you are asking me if I knew what I was getting myself into when I signed the custody arrangement the answer is, yes I knew what I was doing and I would do it again. Lily is starting school in August, first grade, a year ahead of her peers, children at this age are very often intolerant and they distrust everything and anyone who deviates from what they perceive as normal and normal for them is that they have a mother and a father. Lily's father was unknown, to me just as much as to Elle, her past boyfriends either feared commitment or fathering a child that wasn't theirs. I stepped up as a father fully knowing that maybe some day Elle will find a man who will be worthy of her and worthy of being Lily's dad until then...” he shrugged, “a good dad doesn't have to be the biological one.”

 

Like I said, you are a man of many surprises, Doctor Reid,” Strauss said.

 

I'm a man who doesn't shrink from his responsibilities, madam,” Spencer shrugged. “Especially those willingly taken upon myself.”

 

Gratulations then,” Strauss said. “I will see you when you will get back,” she nodded at him and Hotch.

 

Once she left Spencer bend himself over the boxes looking for the report regarding Falcon's first kill but he could feel that Hotch's eyes were still fixed on him.

 

What?” he asked as he raised his head to look at the older man.

 

Elle Greenaway?” Hotch asked.

 

I was making amends,” Spencer said simply. “And according to Elle I suffer from a clinical case of very bad timing. I found her in New York less than a day before Lily was born, the shock of seeing me looking like death warmed up and wanting to talk with her caused her waters to break. Luckily for me Elle was due next week so my appearance only speed things along without doing too much damage, to Elle and Lily at the very least,” he smiled. “The same cannot be said about my left hand because I've forgotten how strong Elle's grip could get when she wanted. Luckily she didn't break any bones but for next few days I didn't trust myself to pick something with that hand without the fear of dropping it down.”

 

Life altering event?” Hotch asked.

 

Very,” Spencer nodded. “I'm glad that I was there, Hotch. Seeing and being able to hold Lily. Elle knew what she was doing when she let me hold her. I was struggling and I didn't need an excuse to struggle, I needed a kick in the butt to get my life under control again. Elle let me name Lily and that was the ultimate kick in the butt. I might not have been her father but the idea of being her godfather and favorite uncle was very appealing back then and to get there I needed to be alive and clean. Sometimes it wasn't enough,” he sighed. “But it was enough of an obligation to seek out movies schedules when I really wasn't handling things well on my own.”

 

Any man can be a father. It takes someone special to be a dad,” Hotch nodded. “You came a very long way to get there.”

 

And to be frank it still scares the living daylight out of me,” Spencer sighed. “But it's a responsibility from which I won't shrink even if, like I said before, Elle would find a man worthy of her and Lily. She is my friend and she will always remain one.”

 

I know,” Hotch nodded. “Gratulations.”

 

Thanks,” Spencer smiled. “Now can you tell me if you have the copy of the report regarding Falcon's first victim?”

 

Sleep Deprived

 

I'm still not sure...” Hotch grimaced.

 

He was eying the motorcycle so intently that Spencer felt that if the bike had actually a mind of his own it would shrink under the scrutiny of Hotch's glower into the size of a tiny model, that would have been problematic because Spencer was sitting on it and Jack and Lily happily squeezed themselves into the sidecar and they were are waiting for Hotch to give his blessing to Spencer to drive them around the building.

 

We are on Marine Corpse's Base for Pete's sake,” Spencer groaned. “It's lunchtime on Saturday, the base is practically deserted, the only personnel left is security agents, the rest are out in town or at home eating their lunches. The only thing that might ran us over in here is a suicidal pigeon or kamikaze sparrow and yes I know that it's practically the same thing. If I will swear on Lily's head that I won't be driving faster than twenty miles per hour will you give me the blessing?”

 

Jack doesn't have a helmet,” Hotch pointed out.

 

Spencer rolled his eyes as he picked the helmet from his knees and handed it over to Jack who eagerly put it on.

 

Happy?” Spencer asked.

 

You don't have a helmet now,” Hotch said.

 

Jack is irreplaceable, I'm not, you can always get a new genius. Do you want me to provide statistical probability for obtaining a genius that would want to work for BAU or will you simply take my word for that?” Spencer shrugged.

 

It's orange,” Hotch protested.

 

It's visible,” Spencer rolled his eyes. “I admit that the previous owner is a narcissist who used it to attract attention....”

 

You are wearing orange jacket,” Hotch interrupted him.

 

Black jacket with orange stripes,” Spencer corrected him. “It's just a short ride around the parking lot, stop being a parrot about it.”

 

Parrot?” Hotch asked.

 

Macaw,” Spencer clarified. “The particular genus I have in mind is Ara.”

 

Ara?” Hotch mouthed as he frowned.

 

Ara,” Spencer nodded. “Abbreviation.”

 

That particular abbreviation Spencer proposed to Morgan and Emily back when Rossi just joined the team when they sometimes ranted to Spencer how much of an anal retentive asshole Rossi could get. Rossi figured out in a matter of few weeks why sometimes Morgan and Emily were making noises that imitated that particular genus of parrots behind his back and he figured out even faster whose idea it was to abbreviate it.

 

I'm not a parrot,” Hotch said grimly.

 

You don't have right feathers for that,” Spencer agreed. “So?” he pursed his lips.

 

All right,” Hotch sighed. “Remember what I told you earlier today, you have ten minutes.”

 

Ten minutes later they were back right in front of Hotch whom Jack subjected to what seemed to Spencer the mother of all pouts Jack ever subjected Hotch to. Hotch tried to resist but after Lily suggested that perhaps he didn't want to let Jack have another ride because he wanted to have a ride himself.

 

That was how Spencer found himself driving around Marine Corpse's Base with two excited kids whose delight could be heard even through the padding of the helmets with Hotch's knees pressed into his ribs.

 

It doesn't feel right,” Hotch commented for the tenth time in past twenty minutes.

 

Stop trying to drive from the backseat,” Spencer puffed. “I will let you ride if you want but until then stop trying to distract me.”

 

Do you know why I'm doing it?” Hotch asked.

 

Because you are being an Ara?” Spencer supplied. “You are a forty-six years old classic alpha male. In high-school you were a class president, valedictorian, captain of your high-school basketball team and the president of the history club. Wherever you went sooner rather than later you ended in the position of a leader, you are the driver and dislike being driven around. Your ego wants to boot me into the backseat, that's why it doesn't feel right.”

 

I'm an alpha male, you know me for too long for me to deny it,” Hotch huffed. “But that's not why I'm commenting that it doesn't feel right.”

 

Care to enlighten me without making me run into a tree?” Spencer asked.

 

It was the summer between my freshman and sophomore year in college,” Hotch sighed. “I came back home exhausted after the exams and went straight to Haley's place.”

 

Spencer felt rather than saw Jack perking in the sidecar at the mention of Haley's name.

 

Jessica at the time was going steady with the man named Greg Yorkins, the Brooks weren't overly fond of him because he dropped out of high-school after his second year, he was successful butcher though, a bit on the rebel side but he worshiped the ground Jess was walking on. Haley and I occasionally went on double dates with them when we were still in high school. When Jess and I came back from college Haley and Greg arranged a surprise for us, three days worth getaway in the shack in the woods that once belonged to Greg's grandfather,” Hotch explained.

 

What happened?” Spencer asked cautiously.

 

Greg was always more fonder of us eventually becoming one family than I was, I was more neutral but Greg was an only child with constantly absent father and a mother that wasn't better than the father. When Haley and I had gone steady he... he put together a bike for me... he didn't have many friends other than Jess and I think that he always longed for having a brother. It was touching really. He was six feet six inches tall and he outweighed me by one quarter of my weight, imagine Morgan but taller and that's how Greg looked at the time when I was barely reaching to his chin with the top of my head.”

 

I can imagine that,” Spencer nodded.

 

So we went to Greg grandfather's hut in the woods,” Hotch continued. “We drove there on our bikes, laughed, joked and generally had great time but then we had to return home. We left the hut in splendid weather, the sky was clean, the sun was shining... about an hour away from home we were passing through the woods... in heavy rain. Greg and Jess were driving ahead of me and Haley, I could see the lights of their bike, they weren't driving fast because it was raining. Then for a moment they disappeared behind the curve of the road but instantaneously I heard the sound of metal colliding with something solid. Greg's bike collided with a tree that had fallen about few minutes before we got there. He didn't make it, Jess spend following week in ICU in chemically induced coma and about a year in physical therapy, Haley and I made it unscratched but I barely managed to stop the bike before I collided with that tree. That day was the last day I drove a bike before today and that's why it doesn't feel right.”

 

I'm sorry,” Spencer sighed. “I'm an idiot with big mouth and tact of a bull in a china-shop.”

 

Not really,” Hotch chuckled dryly. “Despite being a genius you don't know everything, there was no way you could have learned that from another source. You were still partly right about my ego, it wants to have a ride and you are in the way.”

 

We will be at the parking lot in a minute or two,” Spencer smirked. “I'm not giving you my jacket though.”

 

Thanks for the indulgence,” Hotch said.

 

Sleep Deprived

 

Spencer didn't have to wait long for the outcome of the ride. He knew that Hotch enjoyed the ride once Spencer let him drive and hopped on the backseat and he had to give Hotch that even though he didn't drive a motorcycle in over twenty-six years he had enough of experience for Spencer to feel comfortable with having Hotch drive the bike faster than twenty miles per hour much to Jack's and Lily's delight.

 

Spencer knew that Hotch enjoyed the drive but he didn't know that the outcome of the drive would come so fast.

 

So what you think?” Hotch asked once he took Jack out of the sidecar.

 

It was Sunday morning they were supposed to fly to Arizona in less than twelve hours and at the moment they were standing in the middle of one of the best motorcycle shops in DC in front of shining black 1992 Electra Glide with a sidecar which Jack claimed as his own in the moment they entered the shop while Lily wandered away towards the female clerk to thoroughly discuss gloves. Once Jack wandered away towards Lily Spencer glared at the bike trying to find at least a tiny flaw in it.

 

You know what I'm thinking,” Spencer snorted before he crouched by the bike to examine the engine from the outside. “Something is wrong.”

 

There is nothing wrong,” Hotch shrugged. “I'm not an expert but from what I learned it's a cruising perfection.”

 

I didn't mean the bike,” Spencer puffed before he hoisted himself into standing position. “I meant you, just yesterday you hopped on a motorcycle for the first time after twenty-six years worth break. This,” he motioned at the bike, “is not you being nostalgic and wanting to relieve part of your youth due to small identity crisis which in any other man your age and position would be understandable. This is you loosing your marbles and wanting to spend practically an entire year savings on a twenty years old motorcycle you will ride once in a blue moon in secret because Aaron Hotchner is a leader who sets an example and drives SUV and not a bad-ass who drives a Harley to work because he can.”

 

Do you smell that?” Hotch asked simply. “It smells like... I know that smell, it's Eau de Hypocrite, don't you agree?”

 

I didn't spend the savings of an entire year on my bike,” Spencer huffed. “And I didn't purchase one because I had a sudden fancy to purchase it. I weighed out the options, it was an investment I could afford financially at the time and I had great fun when I was poking around it. My Volvo broke down and the bike is a nice alternative to overcrowded trains. I'm not being a hypocrite Hotch, I'm concerned because you are planning to do something so out of your character that I'm inches away from calling Rossi and telling him that you had gone clinically insane. I would love to be proven wrong,” he said when he looked Hotch in the eye.

 

Hotch glared at Spencer but Spencer held his gaze instead of lowering his head trying very hard to not break the eye contact by blinking. Finally after what seemed like ages Hotch looked away and stepped towards the bike before he ran his forefinger over the top of the tank.

 

Beth and I were talking,” he admitted. “I told her what you discovered in Minnesota regarding my problems with my performance,” he spoke that part quietly.

 

And?” Spencer more mouthed the word than actually said it.

 

She didn't believe me,” Hotch sighed. “Said that she heard better lies from her ex-boyfriend who was a notorious cheater, apparently he was more convincing. She packed whatever stuff she had left at my place and left and I don't think that she will ever came back.”

 

I'm sorry,” Spencer said softly.

 

I'm not,” Hotch grimaced. “It's better this way, it's a pity that Jack had to be caught in the middle of it, he doesn't know yet that Beth and I are no longer together and I don't know how to explain it to him. For the first time in a long time I don't know what's the best for my son and it's not fair. And maybe I was miserable and uptight before I'd met her but since Haley died I hadn't let any of my personal problems affect Jack, now...” he shrugged. “Yesterday was the happiest I saw him since he asked me if Beth could have a sleepover.”

 

You know that it's not how things work,” Spencer shook his head. “You can't keep distracting Jack from thinking and asking about Beth forever and I really don't was to sound like a first class ass but for the most of the time you are barely there and he isn't going to ask only you about Beth, he will ask Jess, he will ask Mike, his teachers, Rossi, Morgan.. whomever will come along if he trusts them enough to confide in them.”

 

I know,” Hotch said quietly. “I just want him to be happy and I don't want my personal problems to affect him.”

 

All good fathers want that for their children,” Spencer said. “You are his hero Hotch, you don't have to hop on a motorbike to remain one. This,” he pointed at the bike, “isn't you and you can take my word that six weeks from now you are going to regret spending your money on it.”

 

I'm not on rebound,” Hotch grimaced. “I wasn't on rebound when Haley and I divorced.”

 

No, you just became more married to your job that you had been before,” Spencer pointed out.

 

That early years were one of the happiest Haley and I had,” Hotch said quietly. “I promised Haley that I will tell him how we met and how I used to make her laugh. He is finally old enough to understand most of those stories and I want... I want to make those moments special, something that would make him happy, something he can look forward to when I'm gone. I know that I won't be able to protect him forever but maybe... I'm not planning to run away with a bikers gang and I know that it costs an arm and a leg...”

 

Spencer nodded slowly, that he could understand, making reminiscence of Haley special to both of them now and from the perspective of the future when Jack wouldn't be a charming second grader with missing front teeth but most probably rebellious teenager with an attitude. Hotch was a leader who set an example but he was also a father who wanted his son to grow up knowing that there will be some things which Hotch might not approve but that he will always try to understand what appealed Jack to them.

 

It's your money,” Spencer said finally. “Do whatever you want to do with them. I'm still convinced that you are going to regret it sooner rather than later but I understand why you want to buy it and coming back to your earlier question I think that this baby is certainly worth its price.”

 

Thanks for the approval, Mum,” Hotch coughed.

 

You know that the cost of the bike doesn't cover the costs of the protective gear you will have to buy for yourself and Jack and that your son is growing not shrinking?” Spencer asked.

 

Hotch glared at him before he snorted, “Your enthusiasm can bring a man to his knees.”

 

Sorry, I couldn't resist one last chance to convince you that it isn't a very good idea,” Spencer gave him a sheepish smile.

 

Eau de Hypocrite, Doctor Reid,” Hotch said. “You can give me a third degree about it once you will get rid of your bike.”

 

That's not going to happen anytime soon and you know it,” Spencer puffed. “If it makes you feel any better restoring my Volvo into it's former beauty and reliability will cost me just as much as your bike is going to cost you until then the only things I have left is trains, bike and carpooling which I have to do very carefully for Morgan to not smell the blood in the water to avoid going shopping for a car with him, I made that mistake only once in my life and I'm not eager to ever repeat it.”

 

You can always bikepool,” Hotch smirked.

 

That's right,” Spencer snorted. “Because the day you will ride your bike to work and will cross the bullpen while wearing your leather jacket and holding your helmet in hand will be the day before I will cut my hair short and dye them black before I will get myself into my funeral suit, clip my backup Glock to my belt and will go to work pretending that I'm being you because your team needs Aaron 'Hotch' Hotchner in charge of it and not Bad-ass Hotchness.”

 

Now you are being a donkey,” Hotch snorted. “But since I know that you are a man of your word I will forgive you that, at the very least until the day when I will cross the bullpen in my leather jacket and with my helmet in hand,” he smirked.

 

Spencer rolled his eyes before he mouthed at Hotch, “Bully.”

 

To Be Continued...

Chapter Text

The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost. ~Arthur Schopenhauer

 

 

Sleep Deprived or The Summer During Which Spencer and Aaron Fell in Love

Chapter three: Thy Loving Children.

 

He didn't know how long he had been standing there in absurdly cold for late June pouring rain but it seemed to him that the sky was weeping the tears that for some reason refused to fall from his eyes. He was just standing there with Lily perched on his left hip and her small head pressed against his left shoulder and they were both getting soaked.

 

He felt rather than heard that someone came back for him because suddenly the rain stopped pouring over him when someone spread the umbrella over him and Lily seconds before an arm with a strong hand sneaked over his back and came to rest on his left arm.

 

“Oh dry the glistening tear, that dews that marshal cheek, thy loving children hear, in them thy comfort seek, with sympathetic care, their arms around thee creep, for oh they cannot bear, to see their father weep,” the voice which spoke these words was familiar, laced just as much with sorrow as it was laced with concern... it was grounding, soft, reassuring and just right. “Let's get you out of here before you and Lily will catch pneumonia.”

 

Spencer didn't answer, he was just standing there and staring at the polished black wood of the coffin before him drowned under the avalanche of white lilies. The hand on his arm nor the strong arm wrapped over his back hadn't retreat.

 

Come on Spencer, come with me,” Hotch whispered when he strengthened his hold on Spencer's arm.

 

Spencer didn't move, he kept just standing there as he licked his lips, opened his mouth to take a breath, hesitated, closed his mouth and opened it again before he said quietly, “In nearly ten years since I'd met you this is the first time you had called me by my given name, Spencer, not Reid. You don't have to deviate from your routine for the sake of my comfort.”

 

Hotch sighed before he spoke, “The first and only time since I'd met you when you didn't call me Hotch or Hotchner was two years, six months and twenty-seven days ago when you said, 'I'm so sorry, Aaron'.”

 

So you are returning the favor, Aaron?” Spencer asked grimly, putting the emphasis on Hotch's first name.

 

No, Spencer,” Hotch answered doing the same what Spencer did with his first name. “I'm not going to make you come to the funeral home because I know that you don't want to go there but at the very least allow me to take you out of the pouring rain to a place where we will get you warm and get you out of your soaked clothes.”

 

It wasn't supposed to be like this,” Spencer whispered brokenly.

 

I know,” Hotch strengthened his hold on Spencer's arm again. “Come with me,” he added as he made a small step forward and gently maneuvered Spencer away from the coffin.

 

Sleep Deprived

 

Spencer didn't have a chance to tell the rest of the team that Elle was back in town and that she brought her daughter with her. He didn't have time to prepare them for the news that just few weeks ago when Emily was still on the team he signed joint custody arrangement with Elle and that he officially recognized Lily as his daughter even though technically he was on the other side of the country while Lily was conceived and he never found himself in a position that would allow the existence of even the minimal possibility for him to ever be Lily's biological father.

 

He didn't have a chance... He didn't have a chance to introduce Lily to the team properly and he didn't have a chance to watch how Elle was making amends with them. He didn't even have a chance to say goodbye. Elle never made it off the table because she didn't even have a chance to make it to the table...

 

Not even three days after Spencer told Hotch and Strauss about the arrangement and introduced Lily to Hotch on eight o'clock in the morning of DC time CACU team on which Elle was posted apprehended, in his own home, a preferential pedophile who hadn't profiled as psychotic or suicidal but turned out to be armed and ready to get himself killed just because he didn't want to go to prison, and he decided that the best away to ensure that FBI killed him was shooting one of their agents.

 

He managed to shot a single bullet, just one bullet, straight at Elle's head. She was dead before she hit the ground. Within twenty minutes since the shooting Katie Cole contacted Strauss who called Hotch...

 

Spencer couldn't bring himself to remember the rest of the day between the moment Hotch told him that Elle was shot and the moment he wrapped his arms around Lily, technically he knew that in between Hotch drove them to the airport and that they flew back to DC but the whole flight and way to Quantico where Strauss had taken Lily after she convinced Lily's daycare teachers to release Lily into her custody.

 

He wasn't there when Strauss told the rest of the team about Elle and about Lily, he was with Lily and Hotch in Strauss's office trying to not lose remains of his composure while he was telling Lily that Mommy wasn't going to come back home.

 

To their credit while they were surprised and most likely slightly pissed off that Spencer didn't tell them about Elle and Lily sooner they all managed to suppress their feelings in order to overwhelm Spencer with their support.

 

Rossi had taken care of funeral arrangements together with Hotch and Morgan. Garcia made sure that Spencer and Lily weren't left alone in Spencer's suddenly overwhelmingly empty and quiet apartment and that someone was constantly with them be it either Garcia herself or JJ with Will and Henry or Morgan or Rossi or Hotch.

 

Spencer lasted only four days of that overbearing support before he finally snapped when JJ tried to hug him one time too much and after he apologized to Will and Henry for what he was going to do he pushed the three of them out of the door before yelled through the door to leave him the fuck alone and he pushed the couch against the door to make sure that they wouldn't come back inside.

 

But his outburst didn't mean that they left him alone, it only meant that he didn't let them inside when they came to his door to check on him or that they hadn't called but at the very least this way Spencer didn't have to look at their pitying faces and he could always ignore their calls and drown their calls through the door by turning the stereo on.

 

Even Emily called, ten times since she learned that Elle died and how involved Spencer was with her, Spencer answered first two calls, ignored seven that followed and answered the tenth one only because in her last message left on Spencer's answering machine Emily told him that she was coming back to DC for Elle's funeral.

 

The funeral itself was big, almost whole BAU came down to it and practically whole CACU. Somehow none of Elle's teammates ended as a pall-bearers, in spite of Spencer's inability to stand their continuous and overwhelming presence Elle's ball-bearers were: Hotch, Rossi, Morgan, Will, Anderson and, it came as quite a shock to Spencer, Kevin. JJ, Emily, Garcia and even Strauss ended hovering around Spencer and Lily like a bunch of concerned mother hens they were.

 

Spencer didn't remember giving an eulogy during the funeral, he remembered that he started reciting Psalm 23 but his voice broke down on the fourth verse and for the rest of the funeral he remained silent, he didn't say a word when Hotch had taken over finishing the Psalm and not when the whole team beckoned at him to come with them to the funeral home.

 

He couldn't bring himself to follow them, he didn't want to follow them. He didn't want to see any of them, he didn't want to talk to any of them. He just wanted to curl in his bed with Lily in his arms and to sleep without feeling the emptiness Elle's death left behind.

 

When he entered Spencer's flat Hotch looked around it, spared a glance to the pile of dirty dishes in the sink which were left there after yesterday's dinner and today's breakfast before he left Spencer in the living-room as he padded to the bedroom. Spencer knew all too well what Hotch was going to find there.

 

Efficiently Hotch dried Lily off and helped her change into her pajamas before he made her drink half of the cup of tea which she didn't finish because she dozed off with her head in Spencer's lap.

 

We need to talk,” Hotch sighed once Lily was sleeping soundly.

 

No shit, Sherlock,” Spencer snorted. “Strauss was already there, yesterday, I had to let her in because she said that if I won't open the door to her SWAT team will burst it from the hinges twenty minutes later... But if you really think that we need to talk then fine...” Spencer grimaced.

 

Gently he maneuvered Lily to rest on the couch before he stood up and walked towards his study. He stopped in the doorway and motioned at Hotch to follow him. Quickly Spencer crossed the room before he sat down on the couch and rested his elbows on his knees while Hotch was examining the room.

 

He was depressed and he knew that he was depressed, Hotch didn't need to assess the room and inform Spencer of his conclusion.

 

Strauss offered me early retirement with full benefits,” Spencer said quietly. “She wasn't expecting to leave with an answer and I hadn't given her one, yet.”

 

She offered me the same thing after Haley's funeral,” Hotch sighed. “At the time I thought that she was being a bitch, it took me a while to understand that it's her way of showing support.”

 

I've got that,” Spencer said bitterly. “Like a minute later when I regained the control over my jaw. Elle and I were never together, never married, never dated but Strauss went out of her way for me to receive spousal bereavement leave, HR most probably hates her guts right now,” he mumbled and licked his lips before he continued, “Personally I think that it's the sounder idea than transferring to the teaching position at the Academy or accepting one of the other offers from more stationary units, CACU amongst them,” he snorted.

 

In the last three days you hadn't let inside your flat anyone aside of me and one very driven with concern Section Chief, and you did that only because she threatened you with SWAT team bursting your doors out of the hinges,” Hotch sighed. “Do you really think that accepting early retirement is a good idea?”

 

Elle had no family other than Lily,” Spencer said quietly. “Her father had died when she was a kid, her mother died when she was in college, she was an only child and she didn't know where the rest of her extended family lived or if they even knew that she was alive,” Spencer grimaced. “As for me?” he looked up at Hotch. “I'm an only child, I have no siblings, my mother is an institutionalized paranoid schizophrenic who forgets to eat when she isn't properly medicated and my father is a selfish bastard whom I wouldn't let come within twenty feet to Lily. I'm all she has left now, Hotch and unlike you I don't have the comfort of having a sister-in-law who would take care of Lily when and if I will go away. We both know that if Jessica didn't offer to take Jack you would have accepted Strauss's offer or accepted more stationary job.”

 

You are depressed,” Hotch said calmly.

 

The hell I am!” Spencer hissed. “I've lost my best friend, Hotch!” he spat. “I've just buried the last person I trusted implicitly, the only person who hadn't duped me when I was at my most vulnerable, the only person who hadn't lied to me, no matter the reasons,” he chocked out bitterly. “Do you want to know why I kicked JJ out? She was being her charming, comforting big sister self and all I could think about every single time I looked at her was that she acted exactly the same way when Emily didn't really die. Ms Interpol herself? She died, then she came back because she wasn't really dead, Elle died and she isn't coming back, bullet to the head does that to a person,” Spencer brought his hands to his face. “I know that none of it was her fault but I couldn't bring myself to look at her because she was here and Elle will never be here again. Morgan? I'm surprised that he showed up at all after the chewing off I gave him when he called me after I kicked JJ out. Garcia? I'm surprised that I still have gas and electricity after I profiled the crap out of her. And don't even ask me about Rossi...”

 

They know that you are depressed and hurting,” Hotch sighed and Spencer heard the creak of the coffee table in front of him when Hotch sat down on it. “They know that you didn't mean what you told them.”

 

To the contrary I've meant every single word that left my mouth,” Spencer muttered. “And not even one of them wasn't a lie, we all know that.”

 

You are good at the job,” Hotch said simply.

 

I'm replaceable,” Spencer snorted.

 

No, you're not,” Hotch shook his head. “This isn't me trying to convince you to come back to something you are obviously not ready for, something you might never feel ready for.”

 

Isn't that exactly what you are trying to do?” Spencer lowered his hands to glare at Hotch through his spread fingers.

 

No,” Hotch said. “Accepting Strauss's offer or any other offer in fact was and will remain your decision, yours alone and none of us will try to influence it. I just want you to remember one thing, that regardless whatever you decide we were and will still remain your family, Spencer. We want to help you but we won't be able to help you if you won't let us in.”

 

Spencer lowered his hands and looked down at his socks.

 

Elle and Lily were living with me for about ten days before she was killed,” he said softly. “Four of them I spent out in the field but she used to come around to DC occasionally, weekends, holidays... anniversaries, she always came to the anniversaries of my sobriety and always brought Lily with her, we used to go to amusement parks, zoo, cinema... before the meetings, they always stayed for the night. Day after that I used to wake up to the smell of coffee and fried eggs and bacon... Wherever I turn... I can't help it... I walk into the kitchen, I look at the stove and the only thing I can think about is that she used to sit on the counter next to it while she was frying beacon for breakfast. I go to sleep to a bed which still smells of her shampoo and body lotion even if it had been a week. Wherever I turn there is she and then I remember that she is not going to be here anymore...”

 

Rei...” Hotch started.

 

And Lily?” Spencer continued. “I knew how to be her father when Elle was around. Now the only thing I know is that she needs me and that I need to do what is the best for Lily.”

 

You will,” Hotch said and he gently placed his hand on Spencer's right knee and give it a squeeze. “And you will be able to think more clearly once you will get out of this place even if it would be for few days.”

 

You really think that it's going to make a difference?” Spencer asked grimly.

 

It's been two years, seven months and two days and I still can't bring myself to drive past the house in which Haley and I lived together,” Hotch admitted. “Come with Lily to my place, it might be a bit cramped but at the very least you won't be seeing Elle's ghost whenever you will turn around.”

 

Neither Lily nor I are the best companions for Jack right now,” Spencer shook his head.

 

I know that he wasn't at the funeral today but I had to tell him why I dropped him at Jess's place in the middle of a supposedly free week. He said that he is sorry and that he made me promise that I will give both of you a hug.”

 

Spencer smiled softly Jack... Jack was exceptional child. He sighed and opened his mouth to say that when Hotch's phone rang. Hotch checked out caller's ID and answered it.

 

No, Morgan, I found him right away,” Hotch said. “He didn't want to come... I brought him and Lily home and got them into a fresh change of clothes... He is talking... I doubt that it's a good idea, at the very least today... I'll make sure of that... I didn't exactly leave him any choice... I'll, Penelope, I'll call you later,” he said before he hung up.

 

Morgan lost his phone?” Spencer asked.

 

We are worried about you,” Hotch said as he pocketed his phone. “Come with me, please.”

 

I told you why I can't,” Spencer shook his head.

 

If you won't come with me I'll call Jessica to bring Jack around because I'm not going to leave you alone with your daughter in the house with a lingering ghost,” Hotch shook his head.

 

Fine,” Spencer sighed. “I will pack our clothes and we will spend a few days on your couch if that's going to assuage your inner mother hen.”

 

Sleep Deprived

 

The first thing which Jack Hotchner did when Jessica brought him back to Hotch's apartment was not making a beeline to his father but to Spencer before he clambered into Spencer's lap and wrapped his arms tightly around Spencer's neck.

 

It was a miracle that Spencer didn't burst in tears then and there, at the very least until the moment Lily wrapped her small arms around Spencer's neck under Jack's arms.

 

Everything was screwed up. It was parents' responsibility to comfort their grieving children, not the other way around. It was Spencer's job to comfort Lily, it was also his job to not show the depth of his grieve over Elle's death in front of Jack but once the first tear rolled down his face he just couldn't stop them from coming, he couldn't stop the pain that was practically bleeding out of him.

 

Then Jack snuggled closer to Spencer's right side and laid his head on Spencer's right shoulder, with his mouth about an inch away from Spencer's ear before he whispered, "Oh dry the glistening tear, that dews that marshal cheek, thy loving children hear, in them thy comfort seek, with sympathetic care, their arms around thee creep, for oh they cannot bear, to see their father weep."

 

Jack remembered. How couldn't he? He might not understand a lot of what was going on around at the time but he remembered... and there he was, emphatically reaching out to Spencer and Lily to comfort them rather than concentrating on his own painful memories.

 

It wasn't fair. It wasn't fair for Jack to feel obliged to comfort someone who should be comforting him. But that thought rather than making him stop only made Spencer cry harder as he hugged both kids as tightly as he could without crushing them.

 

Jack's hold on Spencer's neck strengthened to impossibly tight clutch.

 

I don't want you to leave,” Jack whimpered. “Promise me that you aren't going to leave Uncle Spencer,” his hold on Spencer's neck got even tighter.

 

I'm not leaving Jack,” Spencer assured him brokenly. “What makes you think that I'm going to leave?”

 

You hugged me too tightly,” Jack whispered. “Mum hugged me too tightly too.”

 

Spencer lessened his hold on Jack slightly.

 

I'm not going to leave, Jack,” Spencer assured him. “I might eventually come back to my own home but even then you always will be able to call me and talk with me, I promise.”

 

Pinky swear?” Jack mumbled.

 

Pinky swear,” Spencer said as he moved his hand to ruffle Jack's hair. He took a deep breath before he continued, “My Mum told me once that making a decision to have a child is a momentous decision because in the moment you decide to have a child you consciously and willingly decide to have your heart walking around outside of your body. For mothers and fathers their children always come first and their lives mean for the parents more than their own. Your mum knew what George wanted to do to you, both of you... and she knew that having you work the case was the only... the only way she had to buy your dad more time to reach you before George did, the only way she had to save you. And yes she was scared, but she was more scared more of you being harmed than she was scared of her own death. It's not fair that she isn't here anymore,” Spencer ran his hands over both heads pressed to his shoulders ruffling Jack's short blonde hair and Lily's dark curls, “but for your mums it would be even more unfair if you weren't here anymore. A mother's love is unrivaled force of nature which will always and forever put her child first and foremost ahead of everything in the world.”

 

He took a breath and sighed before he continued, “No one ever really dies as long as they took the time to leave us with fond memories, as long as their presence however short it might seem had left us filled with their warmth, their joys, their sorrows and their love for us. And yes their absence hurts but it will hurt much more if we never had a chance to meet and get to know them.”

 

Will it stop hurting?” Lily asked timidly. “That mum isn't going to be with us anymore?”

 

It will hurt less,” Jack whispered. “But it will still hurt, just not as bad as in the beginning. But you still have your dad.”

 

So do you,” Lily replied. “Can I sleep with you tonight?” she asked Spencer.

 

Of course,” Spencer answered. “I hope that this couch...” he started.

 

Doesn't unfold,” Hotch answered.

 

The answer caught Spencer by surprise because he knew that Hotch went to Jack's bedroom but he didn't hear him return.

 

The bed is big enough though,” Hotch said.

 

Can I sleep with you too?” Jack asked.

 

Sure buddy,” Hotch answered slowly. “Let's get you all in PJ's before dinner and we will call an early night.”

 

I'm not dinning in PJ's,” Spencer muttered.

 

And I'm not going to make you dine in your PJ's,” Hotch said. “It was just a very tempered suggestion.”

 

Tempered suggestion my...” Spencer started but shook his head. “Never-mind.”

 

Sleep Deprived

 

It was the buzzing of the Blackberry which tore through his mind giving him an impulse to start coming around but it was the whack to the nose coming from his right side which completely woke him up making him open his eyes to the sight of Hotch standing in stork-like manner on his right foot while he was putting a sock on the other.

 

W's up?” Spencer mumbled and immediately answered himself, “I know that it's a case.”

 

Third abduction of a child in Chicago within three days, the same MO. No other teams...” Hotch started.

 

Go,” Spencer yawned. “I know that Strauss wouldn't call you if she absolutely didn't need you. I can handle Jack and Lily on my own and if I won't... I'm pretty sure that your land-line has Jessica's number on speed-dial. Just lock the door on your way out because as you can't see I can't exactly move around right now.”

 

I'm sorry,” Hotch sighed.

 

Don't be,” Spencer sighed too. “It's the hazard of the job just like any other of them. I'll be fine.”

 

They can go without me,” Hotch said.

 

You don't have Emily's replacement yet and I'm on a leave, the team is already two agents down and they don't need the third. We both now that in case of abductions time and manpower is essential. Don't make me get up only to kick you out of the door,” Spencer muttered.

 

Jessica's cell-phone is number six on the speed-dial, her land-line is seven. She gets up at six o'clock in the morning...” Hotch said he resumed dressing up.

 

I will be sleeping at six o'clock in the morning unless Lily and Jack will have different plans, I highly doubt so,” Spencer replied. “I'll be fine.”

 

Are you...” Hotch started when he put his trousers on.

 

Yes, bye,” Spencer muttered.

 

Hotch approached the bed and bend over to kiss Jack's head, Jack immediately stirred and opened his eyes.

 

You are leaving?” he mumbled.

 

I have to buddy,” Hotch sighed. “Spencer is going to take care of you while I'm gone.”

 

Okay,” Jack mumbled sleepily before he rolled his back to Spencer's shoulder.

 

I'll call you in the morning,” Hotch said as he finished dressing up and grabbed his duffel. “I'll lock the door on my way out, spare set of keys is in the drawer, the keys to the SUV are on the shelf by the door, Morgan is going to pick me up. The code to secur...”

 

I already memorized it,” Spencer answered. “Go, get the bad guy, come back home and stay safe.”

 

Yes mum,” Hotch said.

 

Spencer snorted before he grabbed the closest pillow he could reach and he threw it in Hotch's general direction but instead of Hotch it hit the wall next to the man.

 

Bye,” Spencer mumbled.

 

Sleep Deprived

 

When he woke up for the second time he wasn't greeted with the whack on the nose but by the sound of a bomb going off in the next room. He practically fell off the bed and the only reason why he didn't run out of the room with the revolver in hand was because the paranoid fucker had locked it in the safe on the opposite side of the room to the door.

 

Perhaps it was for the better that paranoid fucker had locked his gun in a safe otherwise Spencer would have come running into the kitchen in his boxers, washed up Cal-Tech t-shirt, with his left sock on and right lost somewhere in the covers with his gun in hand only to see a shocked Lily and Jack, still in their PJ's and with their bathrobes on staring at something which once had been Hotch's microwave.

 

Spencer quickly grabbed the kids and turned them around so they were facing him rather than the wreckage before crouched before them. Upon first glance, aside from the obvious shock and bits and pieces of dried egg yolk in their hair they seemed fine.

 

We wanted to make eggs for breakfast,” Lily whimpered. “We put them in microwave but they just...”

 

... explode,” Jack finished sheepishly. “We are so sorry that we woke you up.”

 

Spencer stared, first at Lily whose bottom lip began to tremble slightly then at Jack who became very interested in examining his bare toes.

 

Something started bubbling inside him with such force and speed that he couldn't contain it anymore. He tried to stop it by taking a deep breath to try and calm himself down but instead of taking a breath he squeaked, wizened, his knees gave up and he landed on his butt about a second before the bubble inside him had burst and he started howling with maniacal laughter.

 

He couldn't stop, it was just too crazy to do something else.

 

My mad scientists,” he chocked out between howls. “My utterly brilliant, lovely, mad scientists. What I would have done without you?”

 

Slept a bit longer?” Jack suggested sheepishly.

 

Come here, yolks,” Spencer snickered before he extended his arms towards the kids who quickly ran to him and wrapped their arms around his neck. “First we will clean you off, then I'm going to teach you how to make eggs properly and then we will go shopping because the last thing which I want to tell your dad right now is that you somehow managed to blow up microwave.”

 

I have pocket money,” Jack suggested.

 

And you are still going to have it,” Spencer told him. “I was supposed to take care of you and you annihilated the microwave on my watch.”

 

What annihilated means?” Jack asked curiously.

 

A more fancy term used to describe something which is wiped out of existence, something completely destroyed, reduced to nonexistence, like the microwave,” Spencer clarified.

 

It sounds silkily sneaky,” Lily mumbled. “How do you call someone who annihilates?”

 

Annihilator and they are usually the bad guys though sometimes its good guys who have slightly mad ideas in the wrong place and at the wrong time, like you two, my Microwave Vanquishers.”

 

Is annihilator and exterminator the same thing?” Jack asked pensively.

 

Not exactly,” Spencer sighed. “Though one could disagree. Annihilation is used to describe the destruction of things, extermination extends on the living, like animals...”

 

And people,” Jack muttered. “There was a truck on which was written extermination at my school. I didn't know there was bad guy inside.”

 

The word exterminator is also used to describe the job of someone who makes a living from clearing mice and rats out of buildings. These rodents can get very very sneaky and you need sneaky guys to get them out of their hiding places, catch them and take them somewhere very, very far away.”

 

Like in the Pied Piper of Hamelin?” Jack asked skeptically.

 

I was never a big fan of Grimm's Fairy Tales,” Spencer grimaced. “Especially this one, there are far better stories which can teach children that you should keep the word you had given to someone.”

 

Not to mention the fact that never turned off profiler in him was screaming 'pedophile' every single time he recalled the story.

 

What's your favorite story, Daddy?” Lily asked curiously.

 

The Peasant's Wise Daughter,” Spencer answered. “It's one of the few not gore ones.”

 

What's gore?” Jack asked.

 

Spencer took a deep breath and said, “Gore is another word for bloody.”

 

Grimm's Fairy Tales aren't that bloody,” Jack protested.

 

Not literally and not all of them,” Spencer said grimly. “Most of the fairy tales which end being put in the books are the mild ones. My Mum was a Professor of English Literature and she specialized in Middle Age literature, my godmother was the Professor of German Literature, she used to baby-sit me sometimes when my parents got out. When I was about your age, maybe slightly older I read my way through entire collection of original fairy tales. The Willful Child gave me my primary nyctophobia.”

 

What's nyctophobia?” Jack asked.

 

Fear of darkness,” Spencer explained. “These days it's not nearly as strong as it used to be but it took me years to convince myself that any kind of light is a light, even if it's just moonlight or the light of the street lamp.”

 

You are scared of darkness?” Jack asked timidly.

 

I'm not scared of darkness, it's the absence of light that scares me,” Spencer said grimly.

 

Isn't it the same thing?” Jack asked pensively.

 

To some people it's the same thing,” Spencer sighed. “Now let's get you cleaned off.”

 

Sleep Deprived

 

Luckily for Spencer shopping for microwave with Lily and Jack wasn't problematic, at the furthest they remained two feet away from Spencer and didn't try to lock one another inside the refrigerator unlike the horrid twins of The Mother of the Year who was too busy flirting with the clerk to pay attention to what they about four at the most five years old children were doing. Unlike the mother Spencer was watching the display together with Lily and Jack.

 

Why some boys believe that their sisters are stupid?” Jack asked suddenly.

 

It's atavism Jackster,” Spencer answered. “Ages ago...”

 

When there were dinosaurs?” Jack asked curiously.

 

Well not that far,” Spencer smirked. “But it might seem to you as this far,” he added. “Anyway, ages ago medicine wasn't as advanced as it is these days and because of that there were many diseases, sickness which made sure that not many children grew old enough to have children of their own, that's why people used to have more than one child, to make sure that their families would continue existing because with some luck and widely believed in God's will out of ten children in the family into adulthood lived three to four children. That's why this,” Spencer nodded at the two horrors, “is atavism, the need to get rid of the competition to the bowl. Of course these days parents who have more than one child can afford to feed them properly but the need to get rid of the competition had still remained. Human race over the ages get down from the trees and learned how to walk on feet, we grew intelligent, we learned how to invent and use tools, how to hunt and protect our beloved ones from dangers but by the end of the day we are still animals, highly intelligent, with free will and soul which makes human race unique in animal kingdom but we are still animals.”

 

Animals?” Jack asked skeptically.

 

Yeah,” Spencer nodded. “Once we will be done here I will take you to a fantastic place where you can see for yourself how human race had changed over millenniums.”

 

Really?” Jack asked eagerly.

 

Really,” Spencer smiled at the boy.

 

Sleep Deprived

 

The David H. Koch Hall of Human Origins at Smithsonian National Museum kept Spencer, Lily and Jack occupied for the better part of the day. Spencer was explaining the exhibits to both of them providing background information that couldn't fit the plaques. At some point both kids tired of wandering sat down on the couch and just listened to Spencer's stories.

 

When he made a longer pause to take a deeper breath and few sips of water from the bottle he was carrying in his pocket he realized that the couch he was sitting on with Jack and Lily was surrounded by a quite tight circle of fifteen kids, both boys and girls waring in age between seven to ten who listened to his narrative with growing awe.

 

He didn't mind that, it was flattering and it actually wouldn't be the first time he ended being surrounded by a group of kids who decided that this tall dude in washed off jeans and t-shirt was far more interesting than a seasoned tour guide. That was how Spencer cured himself from his alleged Reid's effect, at the very least when it came to prepubescent children.

 

It happened before but today was the first time it happened since he became Lily's father and it was also the first time when he had Jack under his care who as Spencer spoke and the crowd around him thickened started inching themselves closer and closer to him until Lily completely clambered into his lap and Jack was pressed against Spencer's left side with Spencer's arm wrapped around his shoulders.

 

The message was clear: you can listen to your hearts content but by the end of it this man is my Papa/my Uncle and it's me who is coming back home with him not you. It was touching really and it was something he never experienced before to this degree, being possessed by someone who fully depended and fully trusted you to take care of them. It was that and not long minutes spent at talking which made his voice falter for a moment before it pitch slightly.

 

He was so going to have a laryngitis, he could feel that in his bones.

 

Finally when Spencer's vocal cords were about to give up the group was rounded by the teacher and the tour guide, he was thanked profusely by the former and playfully scolded in a hushed voice by the latter.

 

Is it always like that?” Jack asked when they were heading back to the car.

 

Like I take a breath and don't stop talking until my vocal cords gave up?” Spencer asked playfully.

 

You are Lily's Papa,” Jack said seriously.

 

And Jack's Uncle,” Lily added with the same seriousness in her voice. “They can't have you, you are ours.”

 

I know,” Spencer smiled at them warmly. “Who is hungry?”

 

Me!” Lily and Jack chirped in unison.

 

Sleep Deprived

 

After lunch Spencer took Jack and Lily to the park in the neighborhood and while the pair had commandeered along with a group of six other kids between the age of four and eight the pirate ship which was a part of the playgrounds equipment Spencer allowed himself to sit down in peace on the farthest unoccupied bench on the playground.

 

The day hadn't ended but he was exhausted already, more mentally than physically. Ever since he woke up he was constantly moving, either cooking or cleaning or making sure that Jack and Lily remained at the farthest within his arms reach, which they did quite eagerly but he knew that it could change at any given moment.

 

Being able to finally place his butt on a bench in peace while Jack and Lily were burning down their energy was an utmost pleasure and only the wondering eyes of few single moms on neighborhood benches had him worried whatever or not one of them would decide to join them.

 

Ella, Haley, you can go ahead,” he heard behind his back. “I will stay with Madison here so she can sleep.”

 

Kay Daddy,” he heard a reply before two red-heads one about Jack's age and the other no older than four zoomed past the bench.

 

Few seconds later he heard the sound of a stroller moving through uneven ground and a heavy sigh just as someone unceremoniously entered his personal space, which these days with exception of Lily and Jack and maybe Hotch had been exceptionally big, and placed their butt on the other side of the bench.

 

Didn't your mother teach you to ask first if you are intending to get into someone's personal space?” Spencer asked sourly without looking at the intruder.

 

I'm sorry,” the man said. “But personally I prefer to avoid the clusters of females discussing the achievements of their precious progeny, especially when said achievements center around successfully smearing themselves in their own extremities. I fathered three children from infancy and I find that particular achievement neither cute nor highly sanitary.”

 

Spencer snorted, “Is this why you are intending to bother me with whatever your daughters had done?”

 

Nope, I'm an old man, I just want to sit in the shade of a tree while my youngest daughter is napping and older are spending their energy at causing as much havoc as a seven and almost four years old can. I'm Jason by the...” the man said as he turned towards Spencer.

 

It was that pause that made Spencer glance to his right at the intruder and he almost laughed. Self-exile to God and Jason Gideon only knew where hadn't done the latter any favors, he no longer had a bald spot on the back of his head but was almost completely bald except from the area around his ears and those hair were almost completely white. Once well-built and reasonably filled out like the man who indulged himself into the pleasures of cooking and eating what he cooked now Gideon was much more thinner. His clothes were worn out and seemed a size or two too big for him.

 

Way,” Spencer finished sourly. “You look like shit Jason.”

 

So are you Spencer,” Gideon answered after examining Spencer from the top of his unruly hair which he didn't bother to comb today through his washed off Cal-tech t-shirt under his unzipped Georgetown hoodie, worn out jeans to soles of his converses.

 

Did you find it?” Spencer asked bluntly.

 

Find what?” Gideon asked cautiously.

 

The belief in happy endings,” Spencer answered. “Disillusioned hope for which was the only thing that kept you from putting the bullet through your head,” he added sourly. “I guess that I should be thankful for that because quite big part of me was worried that I will find your corpse down there.”

 

I'm sorry that I made you wo...” Gideon started.

 

Did you find it?” Spencer interrupted him.

 

I found circus and Helen,” Gideon said.

 

They hired you as a clown?” Spencer quipped.

 

No, the cook,” Gideon answered. “Helen and I got married, I adopted Ella, we had Haley and Madison. We are living in Barry Farms and we are opening a dinner close by.”

 

If you are living south-east then what brought you here?” Spencer asked sourly.

 

Helen is visiting one of her friends from high-school, I took the girls to the park so they can gossip in peace,” Gideon answered. “What brought you here, Spencer?”

 

You are asking as if you were thinking that I'm meeting a dealer in here,” Spencer snorted. “I'm a provable genius, I wouldn't be that stupid. When I was still using I used to met him in that back-alley that was crossing with the back-alley by your apartment. Someone told me and I'm not pointing fingers that this place is frequented only by cats and sparrows.”

 

Spencer glanced at Gideon, he wouldn't achieve better effect if he actually slapped the man.

 

You used past tense,” Gideon said finally.

 

I was supposed to get my five years sobriety coin last week,” Spencer answered stiffly.

 

You didn't?” Gideon asked cautiously.

 

Making funeral arrangements is counterproductive to celebrating anything, especially sobriety,” Spencer snorted. “If you don't believe me you can ask Hotch once you would work up enough bravado, the man hates Thanksgiving with burning passion and officially celebrates it in March, says that spring gives more reasons to be thankful for.”

 

Your mother?” Gideon asked. “His mother?”

 

Are both alive and doing fine last time I checked,” Spencer answered coldly. “The mother of my daughter, the mother of his son. Both were fatally shot. You see that sea-faring pirate in crow's nest?” Spencer asked as he waved. “That's Jack, he turns seven on 20th October, that pigtailed cuteness that is clambering into crow's nest with him now is my Lily, she just turned five this month, 13th June to be exact.”

 

She looks familiar,” Gideon said slowly.

 

She looks like her mother,” Spencer said. “If you will think about it long enough you will figure that out, you old peacock, one last hurray for you. She understood why, I understood why, but you see the main problem with understanding is that understanding doesn't equal forgiving because forgiving requires something you were never able to give us except once in a crappy version of a goodbye letter and it doesn't count. Tom Stoppard wrote, “We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.” Enjoy your life Jason but if you know what's the best for you and your family you will stay away from mine and I mean both: my life and my family. Farewell, have fun.”

 

With that he stood up and without turning back he approached the pirate ship from which Jack and Lily ran out to wrap their arms around his legs. That gesture made him smile despite the insistent itch which just appeared under his skin.

 

He forgot about the anniversary but now that he remembered he also remembered what happened on that day and he was barely able to swallow around the bile that formed in his mouth.

 

He still remembered the number, he knew where in the neighborhood he could stop and wait for the man.

 

It's been five years. Five years. Half of a decade. A chunk of lifetime. Lily's lifetime against which he always used to measure the days of his sobriety even though officially he celebrated the anniversary belatedly, from the day he finished detoxing... the day on which Elle was killed.

 

Daddy?” Lily said timidly. “Are you sick?”

 

He blinked and glanced down at the kids.

 

I'm...” he started. “I feel a bit sick, Petal,” he admitted. “But I will be fine in a moment.”

 

And he needed to be. He had to be, he had been sober for five years, Lily was with him, Jack was with him. He needed to be strong, for them, if not for himself.

 

He needed to get to a meeting and he needed to do it now.

 

Sleep Deprived

 

He stood up from his seat and marched towards the 'stage' how they called the empty floor between the table and chairs. Lily and Jack were with Joyce, John's wife who dropped him to the meeting on her way to her Pilates lessons but when she saw Spencer she immediately changed her mind and promptly decided that an evening in ice-cream parlor wouldn't hurt her.

 

He stopped in front of the 'stage' and took a deep breath as he looked around. The room wasn't filled to the brim, like it usually was on Thursday's, Friday's meetings were usually the crowded ones. There were few new faces, many old ones. Those new ones Fred, who was in charge of today's meeting asked Spencer as one of the oldest participants to address more personally.

 

My name is Spencer,” he said quietly and paused just long enough to listen to the greeting. “And I'm... I'm not a big fan of labels. I never had been and I think that I will never be fond of them. But I carry them because they are mine to carry. I'm a man, I'm human and like every human being I make mistakes, I have my good days, I have my bad days, I have good and bad moments. I'm a genius, it has been proven, several times on that, I'm supposed to be smart but I still make mistakes because despite being a genius I'm still a man and it's human to err. I'm a son, I'm a son of a woman who on her good days can dazzle you with her intellect and compassion and on her bad days takes me for one of the students attending her lectures and on really bad ones believes that I'm an impostor, the agent of a fascist government who replaced her only son. I'm a son of a man who one day packed his bags and left his mentally ill wife and ten years old son alone without any support and who for seventeen years didn't as much as send a freaking postcard never mind the money he was supposed to send on monthly basis. I don't know what he was hoping for and frankly I don't want to know. What I know is that for seventeen years I hadn't heard from him and the first time I'd met him after he left he had the audacity to be proud of me, he was and still is too much of self-centered prick to realize that who I am I became not because of him but in spite of him. Since I'd met him again he started sending postcards, letters. I hadn't read any of them, I throw them unopened and unread into a shoe-box I keep in my closet just for him and when the box it's filled so much that I can't put anything inside, I wrap it in a packing paper and saran-wrap, order a curer to deliver the package to his firm and on his costs. I just started my third shoe-box. Will I ever forgive him? Maybe, someday, certainly not soon,” he sighed.

 

He took another deep breath as he continued.

 

Who am I? I'm a widower, maybe not in the strict sense of the word but recently I buried the mother of my daughter and one of the closets friends I had. I loved her, I wasn't in love with her, but I loved her with everything I am. I would die for her, I would kill for her and to me this the extent of how much you can love someone. She was the only person who was truly capable of seeing through whatever lie I told other people about being fine when I was really not. I loved her all the more when she had given me a reason. I'm a father, my daughter is my reason, my world, my everything. The last time I tightened my belt around my biceps and shot up on Dilaudid was day before she was born, after my last failed attempt at getting myself clean. Against her lifetime I measure the days of my sobriety, she is five years and fifteen days old and the very reason I wake myself up to the thought, today I'm sober. I'm a drug-addict, a recovering one but what you hear is true, once you fell into clutches of addiction you will always remain an addict because battling addiction doesn't end, not after a year, not after two, not after three, five, ten, fifteen, twenty, it's an never-ending battle you fight day to day. Some days are easier, some days are harder, through easier you are capable to get all by yourself and by the end of them you can pat yourself on the shoulder and look at your reflection in the mirror saying: I made it through today, I will be able to make it through tomorrow too. Through bad days you need help, help of others, no man is an island, help of your friends who understand that you are having a bad day and who know that you need to take your mind off the persistent itch under your skin, itch which makes you wonder if the number of your dealer is still active, itch which makes you gaze longingly at the liquor stores. During those days you need to remember that scratching that itch will only bring temporary relief, it will stop itching for a little while but it will come back with doubled force and it will be laced with guilt because you had failed, not only other people who believe in you but most importantly you failed yourself. But even then you still have a chance because in the end it's the day we are living which matters. Today is 1842 day I've been clean and to me it sounds much more obliging than five years and fifteen days to make it through the rest of it and start day 1843. Thank you.”

 

Sleep Deprived

 

And you keep telling me that you aren't much of a public speaker,” John sighed when he sat down in front of Spencer in a small, hole in the wall bar two streets away from BCC headquarters.

 

They meet there sometimes after the meetings to talk about Spencer's most pressing issues he wasn't inclined to discuss in public. John as recovering drug-addict whose drug of a choice was primarily hydrocodyne and secondarily amphetamine didn't have a drinking problem, he just didn't drink excessively and during their talks they both stuck to ginger beer or virgin mohitos.

 

I'm not,” Spencer shrugged as he moved a glass of ginger beer towards John. “I told you that I often do my best work under intense terror or almost unbearable pressure.”

 

You didn't stick long enough to take this,” John said as he pulled something from the inner pocket of his jacket. “Personalized just like you wanted,” he said as he pushed the coin towards Spencer and moved his hand away.

 

Spencer looked down at the coin, the only difference from other sobriety coins he had in his possession was that where on others was engraved 'God' he asked to have engraved 'Musume'.

 

He smiled softly to himself before he said, “She is the only goddess in the world I want to serve and worship.”

 

Lily would be shorter,” John observed.

 

Musume sounds more mysterious,” Spencer said as he fingered the word. “I meant what I say, against the days of her life I measure the days of my sobriety.”

 

But even that sometimes is not enough,” John said slowly.

 

I took Lily and Jack to the park today,” Spencer sighed. “So they could spend some of their conserved energy while I would rest a bit without worrying that they would blow something up by accident, they annihilated microwave this morning because they wanted to make eggs for breakfast,” he grimaced. “I'd run into Gideon,” he added and grimaced even more.

 

John nodded slowly.

 

The only sorry I ever heard him say aside of that crappy 'I'm sorry' in his goodbye/suicide letter was 'I'm sorry for your loss' if the case moved him enough to say it. I never heard him saying sorry to any of us,” Spencer said sourly. “Never, for anything, even for stepping on someone's toes by accident. Least of all for putting our lives in jeopardy,” he sighed. “That case during which Elle was shot..” he took a deep breath. “It was everyone's fault, it was nobody's fault. We all made mistakes, mistakes which almost cost Elle her life. I should never mention the intimate details resolving around my colleagues lives, Garcia shouldn't allow the hacker to get into the network through her laptop, Hotch shouldn't send Elle home while we didn't know if Garner was operating alone, Gideon shouldn't demand the conference.... Elle later told me that when Hotch and I met at the hospital for a second we both looked as if we wanted to whack the other across the head with the baskets we brought before we entered the room. Garcia was there before us, she brought balloons and baskets of sweets and flowers. Morgan and JJ came too, they both brought purple hyacinths. Elle later told me that someone washed her blood from the floor and from the wall before the cleaning service had arrived, I figured out later on that it was Hotch, it was so typically him... Gideon hadn't showed up even once since she was taken out of surgery. We all begged her for forgiveness, Gideon didn't.”

 

He paused to take a deeper breath and a sip of his ginger beer.

 

After Hankel along with PTSD I was suffering from retrograde amnesia,” he admitted. “There were bits and pieces I couldn't fit in, not without reading the reports and I read them all. In Garcia's report was the mention of an order to put on the site with the videos the warning that the video was a virus, she didn't specify who had given the order but I figured it out when I read Hotch's report. He wouldn't have given that order, neither would Morgan or JJ or Emily... Only then that stupid memory/drugged hallucination from the hospital started making more sense you know. One of Gideon asking me to understand that he had to do this even if at the time I couldn't figure what he was asking me for. He asked us to understand, he asked Elle to understand. She understood why, I understood why, but the main problem with understanding is that understanding doesn't equal forgiveness because forgiveness requires asking for it, requires opening one's mouth to say a damned sorry but sorry was beneath Jason Gideon because Great Jason Gideon never made mistakes and if he never made mistakes he had nothing to apologize for.”

 

He took another sip of his beer before he continued.

 

He mentored us all, Hotch, Morgan and I grew under his wings, he was our mentor, our teacher, we trusted his judgment, we trusted his judgment implicitly,” he snorted. “Even when Hotch was made the Unit Chief, first interim and then on permanent basis we were still looking up to Gideon, still looking for his approval, basking in his praises because they weren't given easily and because of that they needed to be treasured.”

 

He took another sip of his beer before he continued.

 

I told him that I was struggling, John,” Spencer said quietly. “It was the closest I ever came to admitting at loud to anyone on the team that I needed help because I hated the man I became, because I was scared of my own shadow and that I hated that. Deep inside I knew that I wouldn't be able to get clean on my own and I was right, I didn't get clean on my own. Gideon wanted me to, I don't know what the fuck he was thinking and I'm not sure that I want to know. All I know is that when it mattered it was Elle who drove me to rehab center in New Jersey, it was Hotch and Morgan who make sure that everyone and their grandmother believed that I was on a vacation while Garcia made sure that not even a trace regarding my stay there had remained on paper. It was JJ's, Garcia's and Emily's food I was receiving through the duration of my stay there. It was Emily and Elle who hung with me on the phone and taught me how to cuss in many languages. I don't remember ever hearing a word from Gideon or seeing the man himself even once. He had done his share, he had given me a permission and that was it. He was too blind to see that permission wasn't what I needed because I was struggling just fine without it,” he snorted at the end.

 

He took another sip of his beer and sighed.

 

I will always remember that case which took me to the field the first time I went to the meeting. Not only because of the suspect, though he is..” he paused and licked his lips before he corrected himself and said, “he was one of those which I will remember forever. One of those who never had a chance, one of those who had the whole world against them. The more I learned about him the more people I was supposed to protect disgusted me, bullies and thickheaded, hard-assed cretins who believed that boys will be boys and that hazing and bulling thickens ones skin,” he spat. “Deep inside I knew that between and amongst them were people who happened to be in the wrong place in the wrong time, innocent people who didn't deserve being caught in all of this but I was angry, strike that I was pissed off, I was pissed off because in another lifetime, alternate reality... It would have been me John, I'm not going to lie about this, it would have been me.”

 

But it wasn't you,” John said calmly.

 

It wasn't me,” Spencer sighed. “It could have been me if my Mum wasn't around, if protecting her wasn't more important to me than my own dignity. If I lost her back then...” he shook his head. “I wouldn't be here, I wouldn't be who I am. I wouldn't be the one who chases the bad guys but the bad guy,” he grimaced. “Anger is a destructive emotion, fury burns down everything in it's path and if you aren't careful you won't only hurt the others but yourself too. I confronted that kid, he was heavily armed and I was not, I wasn't armed at all because all I knew for sure was that I only had one chance, one chance to save his life from suicide by a cop and give him one chance to say goodbye to the only person who mattered the most to him in the world and for that I was willing to lay down my own life and not only that...”

 

He sighed before he took another sip of his beer.

 

It's a minor miracle that after everything I pulled back then I only got away with quite deep imprint of Hotch's jaws on my butt, of course not in literal sense,” Spencer added quickly. “He should have fired me, I would have fired me but instead he told me that he understands how hard it is when you end identifying with the bad guy. He also told me that while it wasn't any of his business that I should go and catch the rest of that movie. He never gave me a permission to struggle, only the assurance that I could let him know when I was having a bad day. Higher power only knows how many times I ventured to that well since that day because Hotch had given me something I don't think Gideon ever did, the sense of security of being understood, wholly and completely, even if what I was saying at the time might not making no sense whatsoever. I never thanked you for that.”

 

You are wallowing under mistaken illusion that I have some saying in where cadets end,” John smiled at him warmly. “Even as brilliant as you. First assignments for the cadets always reminded me one of those garden sales with puppies or kittens. You put the whole litter in a box or a playpen in your front yard for your neighbors to observe them, to get them interested in them while you are hoping that they will pick and take one. If you are lucky enough the whole litter will go during the sale, if not you are required to do some research, some glowering, some pulling a rank and reminding that the purpose of certain units is primarily training agents.”

 

Spencer barely swallowed the sip of his beer without chocking because the mental image was too funny.

 

But if you want to know I will let you on this,” John said lightly. “Aaron Hotchner is this kind of a boy who always secretly wanted to have a puppy and when he when he was finally allowed to have one he comes to your house and picks one long before giving them up crosses your mind, he shows up every day to take care of it until he can take it home with him and before he does that he makes sure that all kids in the neighborhood knows which puppy is his. You were tagged as Hotchner's probationary agent long before you left the academy, signing your posting was a mere formality.”

 

Woof,” Spencer coughed.

 

I really shouldn't have use that comparison,” John sighed and he shook his head. “I'm sorry but my older sister is coming around for a few days worth visit with her granddaughter and Jody is hellbent on leaving with a puppy.”

 

Don't be sorry,” Spencer smirked. “It's a nice comparison, Hotch's profiling puppy. It's certainly better than Gideon's prodigious profiling puppet progeny and I've be actually called that just so you know. Puppies unlike puppets have a learning curve which allows their further training and they eventually grow up into for the most of the time bigger dogs.”

 

What kind of a dog are you?” John asked dryly.

 

Depends whom you would ask and when,” Spencer shrugged. “About two-three years ago I would have gotten by as a cocker spaniel to which I was supposedly bearing striking resemblance. These days?” he sighed. “I would like to think of myself as a German Sheepdog, easy on the eye but under nice exterior fiercely overprotective of his family in this 'come close to my family and if you will be lucky you will end bearing the imprint of my jaws on your sorry butt',” Spencer quipped.

 

I believe that Senator Cramer learned that lesson the hard way,” John smiled. “This is calm and it's Doctor. I would have given a lot to be a fly in that room, not a firstborn but I wouldn't be hesitating over my monthly paycheck.”

 

With the right unsub in the interrogation room I would do it for my own paycheck,” Spencer said dryly. “If I will ever get back to that,” he sighed heavily.

 

John sobered immediately and he said, “I'm sorry...”

You have nothing to be sorry for, John,” Spencer said sincerely. “I knew that you couldn't be there without raising more than several eyebrows and even more suspicions. I also know that while Erin Strauss made sure that I received full spousal bereavement leave it was you who made sure that HR would suck it up and get over it. I don't have to tell you that she offered me early retirement with full benefits, do I?”

 

She mentioned that offer amongst the others,” John nodded. “She means well, Spencer. In recent... I can't exactly say months and years don't exactly fit to she became damn overprotective of your team. It has nothing to do with what she and Dave are doing behind closed doors and don't act surprised, I'm not a since-fiction fan but I'm a father of one and I've seen the exchange and guessed the same conclusion to which you and Miss Garcia arrived.”

 

And that's how supposedly secret love affair stops being one,” Spencer muttered.

 

As long as HR doesn't know about that it's still one,” John shrugged. “Deep at her core Erin is first and foremost the mother. Greg had taken her children away and rebelled them against her and I doubt that it's going to change anytime soon, she has no standing against him, if she tried she would be capable to destroy him but she doesn't want to because her children would be hating her more than they are hating her now. Eventually they will cool down and will see Greg's behavior for what it really is until then Erin needs to channel her nurturing side into something, someone or multiple someone's. Your team had gotten through a hell and then some in recent years, I'm not saying that the others hadn't in their own way but something draws her to your team as the mother and caretaker. She is also a bureaucrat so her mothering ends being more bureaucratic than not but in the end she means well.”

 

She did great job with Lily,” Spencer sighed. “I don't know what she pulled at the daycare to have Lily released into her care and frankly I'm not sure if I want to know but I'm grateful that she took care of her during those hours between Elle's death and my arrival. She played with her too while I was making lunch to prove her that I wasn't as depressed as it seemed. She didn't exactly buy it. Oh and since we are talking about her here is the complaint, she threatened to sick a SWAT team on my door.”

 

She was being her Mama self, Spencer,” John sighed. “Plus here I'm John, your sponsor...”

 

I know,” Spencer nodded and smiled softly. “I just thought that you should know what one of your section chiefs is capable of doing to get inside someone's apartment.”

 

John scratched his chin before he took a sip of his beer and said, “Originally I wanted to wait few more days with it but Joyce and I had been talking since we heard about Elle and we decided that if you would like to come back to field work once your bereavement leave would end Joyce and I would gladly take care of Lily, Joyce adores her and now that Grace is preparing herself to leave for college, thanks by the way, I'm not supposed to say that but she is preparing a grand surprise for you for your tutoring sessions...”

 

Spencer grimaced and waved his hand before he said, “Starting from Grace, she did it all by herself I just showed her few tips I found useful. Grace getting enrolled to Cal-Tech was her own doing, I just called them to check if she made it and she made it before I called.”

 

Nevertheless she thinks that you are one of the most awesome people ever,” John smiled.

 

Now about the offer,” Spencer sighed. “It's a great offer and I really appreciate it but we both know why it can't be permanent arrangement. Not only because I still don't know if I'm going to come back but because if I will I wouldn't it put past Garcia to have Lily GPS chipped, she already promised Hotch and JJ that if they will breath a word she would make sure that both boys will get some sort of bracelets or necklaces with tracking devices which would make sure that they are where they are supposed to be. For now Hotch is against but JJ, especially lately, looks as if she is starting to seriously consider that and knowing Garcia I wouldn't put it past her to have Lily GPS tracked without my knowledge, you know, just in case, you will thank me one day if she will ever get lost. And seriously I'm not really looking forward towards explaining the team why my daughter is spending extended periods of time in the mansion of the biggest D in whole F B of I and his wife.”

 

We could tell them that you are my illegitimate son and it's me being supportive and secretive papa,” John offered.

 

Spencer snickered, “Because that would go well. And you'd already done more to me than my own father ever did. It's a great offer and I really appreciate but it cannot happen and we both know it, John.”

 

There will be others,” John said. “Not from me or Joyce, though you might want to spend an afternoon appeasing Joyce's inner mother hen before she will pull Erin and because she can't threaten you with SWAT she will sick Horatio at your door. He likes you but a man has to do what a determined woman wants, poor man, he just started working for us when Joyce was pregnant with Grace, I was away on assignment when she had an insatiable craving for Skittles and suddenly realized that for some reason all open shops in the neighborhood didn't have any and for some reason it had been these way every time she wanted to have Skittles. I never saw the man as relieved as when I came back and he had turned Skittles fiend into my care.”

 

You can tell her that for the time being at Hotch's insistence to get me out of my apartment I'm staying at his place and that for most of the time the door are normally locked and that there is no furniture under the door to make sure that no one would get in,” Spencer smiled.

 

There will be other offers, you can take my word for that,” John sighed. “You are more loved and cared for than you think you are. You told me once that the team was your family and deep inside you know that they won't let you get through this alone.”

 

That's what Hotch said,” Spencer sighed.

 

He didn't spend so many years in his position because he is photogenic,” John said.

 

No, he spend so many years in his position because he is politically savvy anal-retentive neat-freak, drill sergeant, grammar nazi and protocol militia that can dictate a warrant in the middle of a car chase without a blink and because of his experience in SWAT he is capable of circumcising a fly on the wall without killing it, the fact that is almost a provable genius doesn't hurt either,” Spencer said dryly. “You are forgetting that you are talking to a genius who looked up his future coworkers, especially the one who was going to be his probationary agent and spend quite a lot of time at wondering how the aforementioned managed to get through the cracks with nothing more than 'a bit of a nerd' label.”

 

Said the man who through past ten years stubbornly clings to his 187 even though his ever-expanding knowledge and experience should put him well past 190, 200 even,” John coughed.

 

I don't believe that intelligence can be accurately quantified,” Spencer shrugged. “At least not in my case, the problem with eidetic memory is that because I remember almost everything I ever read I also happen to remember every IQ test that ever fell into my hands and considering that quite a lot of them got through my hands even having me taking an official test again would be called cheating because the questions in them remain more or less the same. Plus I believe in what my buddy genius from Cal-Tech called metric IQ, we came up with this once when we had gotten ourselves stupidly wasted on his grandmother's homemade wine. We agreed to never let other people know that our IQ is higher than our actual height measured in centimeters, of course we called it off once we sobered up because it wouldn't be really fair to him because at the time he was a shortie, he was five foot three inches at the time which on official test would put him in profoundly gifted but not much of a genius. On the other hand when I was taking that test I was exactly six foot tall and upon pondering for a moment whatever or not it was going to hurt me if I applied that theory I calculated that before my thirtieth birthday, remember that I was eighteen at the time, I shouldn't grow up more than additional five centimeters and so I decided to aim for a result between 185 and 187, I've got 187. As for how my theory looks in practice of bloody course I miscalculated because between that day and my thirtieth birthday rather five centimeters I grew up almost seven centimeters which these days would put my official record between 189 and 190 thanks to six feet, two and three quarters of an inch of height.”

 

Only you would measure up your IQ against your height,” John chuckled.

 

I could measure it up against my weight but then I would be one dumb genius, wouldn't I?” Spencer said dryly. “Speaking about weight I need to get the kids and make dinner for them. Hopefully mother hen was very busy this evening and didn't call me yet otherwise I will have to explain why I'm not answering my phone,” he said before he reached for the remains of his beer. “Thanks, I will call you sometime later.”

 

You are welcome, now go appease mother hen, Joyce should be here shortly,” John answered. “And don't hesitate to call me, I mean it.”

 

Spencer nodded before he stood up and walked out of the bar.

 

To Be Continued...

Chapter Text

I have learned that if you must leave a place that you have lived in and loved and where all your yesteryears are buried deep, leave it any way except a slow way, leave it the fastest way you can. Never turn back and never believe that an hour you remember is a better hour because it is dead. Passed years seem safe ones, vanquished ones, while the future lives in a cloud, formidable from a distance.”

~ Beryl Markham

 

Sleep Deprived or The Summer During Which Spencer and Aaron Fell in Love

Chapter four: Of Houses and Homes.

 

Aaron Hotchner owned a set of California King sized navy sheets from Egyptian cotton with a very high thread count, Spencer didn't have to take a peek into Hotch's linens cabinet to know that because he bought them himself when the team was throwing Hotch a housewarming party when he moved to his apartment. It cost him an awful lot but he knew that Hotch, ever the practical man, would pay little to no attention to something as necessary as a bit of luxury in one of the places where people spend the most of the time when they are at home.

 

Spencer himself preferred owing few high thread count sheets than a few of less luxurious ones because when he was able to sleep in his own bed he wanted to take a break from bumpy mattresses and sheets of dubious quality and state of cleanliness (and most hotel rooms he'd slept in had either one or – even worse – both).

 

Last night he managed to convince Jack and Lily to sleep in Jack's rooms, of course it required few trips to Jack's room to make sure that Lily and Jack were sleeping once Spencer read them first story, second story, gave them a glass of milk and hugged the life out of both before he read them third story and finally retreated to the living-room to appease the curiosity of the mother hen who by Spencer's estimations just left the shower after a very long and exhausting day and was as tired as Lily and Jack.

 

The first thing which Hotch had given Spencer upon answering the call was a thorough chewing off for not answering his cell-phone and ignoring the calls made to the land-line through the whole day which apparently lead Hotch into making Garcia put a trace on his cell-phone which to their intense relief was active and moving around DC quite a lot. In return Spencer answered that he hadn't gotten any calls on his cell-phone through the day and that if he was supposed to get them then Hotch should stop blaming him for faulty equipment. Once they had gotten that issue out of the way they had gotten through the widely accepted by the society dance of asking how Spencer was faring, how everyone else was faring, how the case was going and how close Hotch and the rest of the team were to going home. After those few minutes the conversation had ended and they went to their respective beds.

 

Next morning to Spencer's intense relief he had woken up all by himself without having a bomb going off in the next room which meant that if Jack and Lily weren't sleeping then at the very least they were doing something quiet and not overly dangerous.

 

Upon further inspection of the outer rooms and both bathrooms which he found empty Spencer padded his way to Jack's bedroom where to his surprise he had found the pair snoring happily in Jack's bed sharing between themselves not only a duvet but also a teddy bear.

 

As heartwarming as the sight was it was also bothersome because last night Spencer made a bed for Lily on Jack's couch and this morning the couch looked as if last night an elephant tap-danced on it. From where he was standing it looked as if one or few screws at some point of the night had given up.

 

He sighed heavily as he looked from the couch to the snoring pair on Jack's bed. He wasn't going to deal with the couch before a shower, big mug of coffee and breakfast, plus in order to inspect that thing closely and hopefully fix it he had to get the kids out of Jack's room, something which should be easier if he had breakfast prepared for them.

 

After thorough scrubbing and closer inspection of his scruff that hadn't reached the state of 'you desperately need to shave man' he padded his way back to the bedroom to dress himself up before he made his way to the kitchen, turned on the coffee maker and started making pancakes.

 

He was almost finished with pancakes and halfway through his first mug of coffee when small arms wrapped around his left tight and a pointed chin was planted on his hip.

 

Morning Jackster,” Spencer said without looking down because he was flipping the pancake on the frying pan, “Do you want your pancakes with blubbery cream or strawberry jam?”

 

You didn't look down,” Jack said. “How did you know that it was me?”

 

Lily is...” Spencer started and quickly said when another pair of arms wrapped around his other leg, “Good morning Petal, slightly shorter.”

 

Morning Daddy,” Lily yawned. “I'm not short,” she pouted.

 

Sure you aren't,” Spencer agreed. “I was only explaining that considering your age difference your height has to be different too.”

 

Why?” Lily asked.

 

Because little boys and little girls grow differently,” Spencer answered quickly. “There is about two years worth age difference between you which shows right now,” he said as he balanced the spatula against the edge of the frying pan after he moved the hand of the frying pan away from kids' reach and placed his hands on the tops of their heads. “See? But if it's any consolation in twenty years it's not going to bother either of you.”

 

Why?” Jack asked.

 

Because you will be grown ups by then,” Spencer answered with a small smile. “And by my estimations both of you have at the barest minimum five foot and five inches as a given height which can of course wary taking into consideration genetics.”

 

Why?” Lily and Jack asked in unison.

 

Go sit down at the table and I will explain,” Spencer said.

 

Through the course of the breakfast and his second mug of coffee he tried to shed some light at the importance of genetics in relation to one's size and expected height which in the end left Jack grinning broadly because he might grow as tall if not taller than his dad and Lily pouting that Greenaways weren't overly tall and that girls generally were shorter than boys until Jack assured her that it no matter how high or short she was going to be he was always going to protect her like any other older brother would.

 

Once Princess Lily decided that she liked the idea of Knight Jack protecting her Spencer directed both to the couch and Hotch's TV set to have a free rein at examining Jack's couch in peace.

 

He barely managed to enter Jack's room leaving the door ajar behind himself when his cell-phone chimed with the sound of arriving text message. After shaking his head Spencer fished the cell-phone from the pocket of his jeans and read the text which read:

 

Spencer Reid!!! Answer your goddamn phone!!! CK

 

The number and initials at the end of the message belonged to his landlord, Clark Kellerman and Spencer instantaneously remembered why Clark should be demanding a response from him.

 

Swiftly he dialed the number as he sat down on Jack's supposedly made bed.

 

Spencer Reid,” Spencer said once Clark picked up.

 

Finally! Do you have any idea how long I've been calling you?” Clark grunted.

 

My cell-phone is broken,” Spencer said simply. “It answers the calls as it wants and as of late it seems that it doesn't want to answer most of them. I know that I'm three days late but I have the money prepared...”

 

Aren't you forgetting something?” Clark snorted. “Let me remind you then: I will let you know by the end of May – May genius – whatever or not on the last Monday of June I would sign the lease for another year. May had ended, last Monday of June had passed you didn't call me to renew the lease for another year and your junk is still in the apartment to which keys I'm supposed to give to the new tenants on Monday.”

 

What?!” Spencer hissed. “Clark, April Fool's was, like the name suggests, in April, I just buried the mother of my daughter and I don't find this joke funny. In fact as the jokes go it's the crappiest I ever heard...”

 

It's not a goddamn joke!” Clark huffed. “Man, we had a deal, you didn't keep your side of it. I tried to contact you, you didn't answer. I found people who wanted to lease it for two years and had paid for them in advance. I don't fucking care if you had buried entire female side of your family because I don't have this money anymore and if you won't have your crap moved out of my apartment by Sunday evening I will throw everything out.”

 

He couldn't help it, he saw red, literally, his blood pressure sky-rocketed, his muscles constricted and he hissed, “Listen chi materol, hunanbwysig kurafi with hírszerzés of tolʹko chto vylupivshikhsya kuritsa. Mne vse ravno, kto ty chertovski , no yesli moya dochʹ poteryaetdomoĭ, chtoby vskore posle traurnoĭ svoyeĭ materi ya ubeditʹsya, chto vy budete sozhaletʹ ob etom , kak vy nikogda ne regreted nichego ranʹshe. Pokud jsem někdy vás zase vidím tak budu kopat tě tak silně, že dokonce i vaše vnoučata budou cítit. Természetesen, ha lesz valahogy, hogy unokák után fogok letép a herék és a cucc őket füled. Matawa tabun watashi wa chōdo watashi ga anata no kubi o shime, watashi wa totemo yoku, dare mo anata o mitsukenai koto o anata no karada o kakusu koto ga dekiru koto o kanari kakushin shite iru, anata o korosudarou. Je zoon van een teef!”

 

What did you say?” Clark asked.

 

That I will have my crap moved out by Sunday evening, enjoy your Porsche, or whatever you bought with this money you jerk,” Spencer said quickly before he hung up.

 

He let out a shaky breath, calling Clark 'materialistic, egoistical son of a bitch with intelligence of a newly hatched chicken' while switching between Welsh, Hungarian, Czech and Russian with light-speed wasn't for him, neither was various threats he made under Clark's address in rapid succession switching between Russian, Czech, Hungarian, Japanese and Dutch.

 

But it also brought a small smile on his face because it brought back the memories of smiling Elle while he was amusing her with his ability to curse in many languages in rapid succession and he remembered it was easier to convince her that he was successful when he was using Slavic languages. Once when his car broke down somewhere in New Jersey she laughed her butt off when he started cursing in Russian-Swedish mix entire Volvo company.

 

He didn't have time for cursing now. He needed to think and think fast, he needed to make a list of priorities and stick to them.

 

Sleep Deprived

 

... and it's amazing but we both know that you didn't invite me to late breakfast just to chat especially after taking into consideration that while you were inviting me over the phone under your breath you were cursing in Russian which as far as I remember in BAU's guide to Doctor Reid's negative moods translates into 'so pissed off that for your own safety you should better take cover and stay there until the black mood will pass',” Emily said calmly before she took a sip of her cappuccino.

 

I knew that someone wrote it,” Spencer grumbled.

 

It's more like a warning that is occasionally given to new employees,” Emily gave him small smile. “So what's giving you, cross it out if it doesn't apply: ulcer, hypertension, tics and that restless leg syndrome which you always develop when you are in great hurry but pretending that you are not.”

 

Almost an hour and half after hanging up on Clark, dropping Lily and Jack with Jessica and swearing up and down that he would pick them on late afternoon or early evening Spencer found himself sitting in a small cafe by Emily's hotel sipping as calmly as possible on his cappuccino while Emily was eating her late breakfast.

 

Beating around the bush with profilers never works,” Spencer sighed.

 

I will give you a point of trying,” Emily promised.

 

Thanks,” Spencer gave her small smile. “So out with it,” he sighed. “Elle's prospective landlord had duped her which is why she was staying with me. Now my ex-landlord had duped me which is why I'm at the moment essentially homeless because I need to vacate my apartment with all my crap by Sunday evening which is not going to be a problem because reading is not the only thing which I can do absurdly fast, packing under pressure is one of my hidden talents and – that's the only thing that makes me happy right now – I can assure you that I will pack all my crap long before Sunday evening and by all my crap I really mean all my crap, everything I brought to that apartment or purchased while I was living there, I will unscrew toilet seats even if I don't think that I'm going to need them. If Clark wants to fuck with me, and he does, that materialistic kurafi, then he is going to learn how well I learned from Hotch the lesson about pulling DNFW...”

 

I'm so sorry,” Emily whispered as she interrupted Spencer's rant. “I sold it Spence, I've signed the papers before I left for London, I'm so sorry. I can try to...”

 

Spencer took a deep breath and let it out through his nose slowly before he said, “Stop. I will be fine,” he smiled as sincerely as he could. “For now I have Hotch's couch and I think that I can persuade him to let me stay few more days and as far as I remember Morgan is about to finish the renovation on his new property. If the worse comes to worst I will beg Rossi to let me stay in the shed where his gardener keeps his tools. I adjust easily.”

 

Lily wouldn't adjust easily to that and I don't think that CPS would support that notion,” Emily interjected.

 

JJ has a couch and Henry's room is big enough to fit a roll-away bed,” Spencer said. “It will be a matter of few weeks to a month at the most, don't worry, I just needed to ask you first.”

 

I'm sorry that I couldn't help,” Emily sighed.

 

You did,” Spencer shook his head. “And I'm going to be fine. You remember that stupidly catchy song that Garcia once programmed to all of your phones to play while I was calling? It went something like 'trust me, trust me, I'm a doctor. I know, I know what I'm doing'.”

 

Emily chocked on her cappuccino and she coughed.

 

Okay they are PhDs but if you really want I will give you CPR,” Spencer said cheekily.

 

You,” Emily coughed, “wish,” she coughed again before she cleared her throat and glared at him.

 

Spencer smirked at her.

 

Come with Lily for a vacation in England,” Emily offered. “My aunt owns a cottage in Scotland which she rents to anyone who asks her nicely for a symbolic penny, she also has lots of land, the villagers have horses, puppies, kittens, Lily would love them.”

 

I was planning tour de Greece,” Spencer sighed. “Before Elle died and I was kicked out of my house and home. Now I would be happy with few days in a cottage in North or South Carolina, if I can afford it of course,” he grimaced. “Maybe next year will be better.”

 

I will hold you to that,” Emily said. “In the meantime I will swamp your desk with London's postcards.”

 

In return I will swamp yours with DC postcards,” Spencer said.

 

Just DC's?” Emily asked.

 

It was a loaded question and one which Spencer was unable to answer at the moment.

 

For now,” he said finally. “You are flying out today.”

 

Emily grimaced, “Hazard of the job.”

 

Speaking about hazards of the job for old times sake let me drop you off to Dulles, bad-ass style,” Spencer said.

 

Bad-ass style?” Emily asked skeptically.

 

Pristegnite remni i derzhisʹ krepche,” he said simply.

 

You are forgetting that I've seen and traveled in your Volvo, it's not a Formula One racing car,” Emily said.

 

Then it's a good thing that when Hotch left for Vegas he left the keys to his Suburban with me and that the Chevy is equipped with sirens and emergency lights and that it's driver can profile traffic changes,” Spencer said dryly.

 

Let me call off the taxi,” Emily said.

 

Sleep Deprived

 

It was a petty thing to do but at the moment Spencer wasn't above extracting his revenge against Clark Kellerman. Any other day, any other time he would have looked away, chew on his bottom lip and say 'Fuck it' but today wasn't that day.

 

He was pissed and Clark Kellerman deserved everything he was going to get and he was in for a very nasty surprise once his new tenants would arrive. Unfortunately for Clark, Spencer knew what kind of a man Clark was and Clark was ruthless idiot, carefree spirit who lived from his father's fortune until he was in danger of becoming broke or as broke as an idiot son of a millionnaire could be. Luckily for himself in a spur of a moment the idiot had decided instead of spending the remains of his money at carnal pleasures to purchase few flats in DC in order to have a steady income that would allow him to live maybe not in luxury but at the very least without worrying that he would end penniless.

 

It was Clark's idiocy which in the end granted Spencer one of the lowest leases in DC. His very first argument with Clark was about the necessary equipment which most land-lords granted to their tenants, meaning the cupboards in the kitchen, oven, sometimes a fridge. During his inspection the flat was equipped with fully functioning kitchen and kitchen equipment was put on the contract but once Spencer moved his furniture into the flat he discovered that the kitchen was full equipped by the previous tenants whom Clark duped the same way he later duped Spencer. They were eager to give the equipment to Clark for the cut on their last monthly payment of the lease for the price of the equipment but Clark refused to make the cut and simply assumed that they would leave the equipment but it was Spencer and not Clark who suffered in the end.

 

Knowing Clark he had showed Spencer's apartment to new tenants while Spencer was away and he assured them many times that everything actually screwed to the floor was going to be a part of the equipment.

 

Unfortunately for Clark Spencer remembered what he brought to the house and kept the receipts for every damned thing. So without a blink of an eye once Gus and his Merry Men, brother of one fellow recovering drug-addict who owned a moving company and few storage units around the DC, had showed up to help Spencer with moving Spencer with almost sadistic pleasure – after borrowing two ladders from his neighbors had unscrewed everything that was screwed to the floor or wall or the ceiling and formally belonged to him. Toilet-seats, bookshelves, kitchen-cupboards, chandeliers, wall lamps, the settees in the office and bedroom, all curtain rods. Along with that with the rest things to the moving truck went Spencer's fridge and kitchen-oven.

 

Only few things had ended in the back of Hotch's Suburban. All of Spencer's and Lily's summer clothes, Lily's books, toys and bike, Spencer's computers, few books which he didn't read yet, few favorite cups, mugs, plates. Out of storage where Elle kept her things where Gus and his boys disposed Spencer's stuff (meaning whatever fit there, what didn't fit was put in the next storage unit) Spencer had taken Lily's bed with which he intended to replace Jack's broken couch.

 

He stopped by Hotch's place only for long enough to leave the things he had brought from his flat and to dismantle broken couch and replace it with Lily's bed.

 

By the time he reached Jessica's house he was exhausted, both physically and mentally; famished, because aside of two pancakes for first breakfast and toast for the second breakfast while he was talking with Emily he hadn't eaten anything through the whole day.

 

The first thing which Jessica had said upon opening the door was, “Oh dear, you look like crap.”

 

Spencer attempted to smile through his exhaustion but his smile might have ended looking like a grimace. According to Hotch Jessica was very straightforward, brutally honest and relentless in her pursue of other people's problems, traits which made her successful psychologist with a bit dusted degree in psychiatric medicine who made a living primarily from counseling marriage couples.

 

I feel like crap,” Spencer admitted. “I know that I promised to take the kids right away but can I have coffee first?” he asked tiredly.

 

Cup, mug or pot?” Jessica asked.

 

Big part of me wants to say pot but I will settle for a mug,” Spencer said tiredly.

 

Sugar, milk, creamer, vanilla ice-cream?” Jessica asked as she ushered him inside.

 

Two, no and double yes please,” Spencer answered.

 

Any objections to homemade lasagna?” Jessica asked as she continued to lead him towards the kitchen.

 

None whatsoever,” Spencer shook his head. “Where are the kids?”

 

Wearing Mike down in the backyard,” Jessica said. “Last time I'd seen them they tied him to the tree-house's pole and they were deliberating over his fate.”

 

Indians and cowboys gone wrong?” Spencer asked as he sat down at the kitchen table.

 

Horribly,” Jessica confirmed. “He was outnumbered and unarmed. Well, good evening Sunshine.”

 

Mike Brooks-Berkeley padded his way into the kitchen and made his way towards the kitchen island, “Evening, you hadn't seen me, I need to prove my worth and steal something eatable from the Very Wise Shaman without her noticing. Any ideas?”

 

Jessica pushed the bowl of fruits towards her husband as she asked, “How are they?”

 

Aside of plotting my demise? Fine. When I was leaving they were contemplating ditching the prairies for pirates life, yo-ho, yo-ho, since we are at it, any suggestions over the treasure?”

 

I can draw them a map,” Spencer offered.

 

Your little flower already done it,” Mike answered. “And she had chosen you to be the oracle whose three riddles my unfortunate self is supposed to answer otherwise you can have me for dinner.”

 

Cannibalism is highly frowned upon in most of the societies,” Spencer commented. “I think that I will settle for Jessica's lasagna. Try to draw it out a bit so I wouldn't have an excuse to eat you.”

 

Speaking about eating...” Mike started.

 

Mickey,” Jessica chirped.

 

I'm not going to like it, am I?” Spencer asked with a sigh. “How cold?”

 

Icily,” Mike answered. “You ever worked in understaffed unit?”

 

Yes, supremely sucks,” Spencer nodded. “As far as I remember Turpin is on maternity leave, Hawkins's pregnancy got endangered and she is supposed to be on strict bed-rest until further notice, former Unit Chief retired and Nabokov's son was in an accident which makes you the captain, the navigator and the crew of a very deserted ship.”

 

I'm getting help but help doesn't have all confidential clearances yet,” Mike grimaced. “And I'm guessing that he might became an endangered specie once his wife will learn that he had gone behind her back and had gotten himself into big, bad FBI.”

 

Do I know him?” Spencer asked pensively when Jessica put the mug of coffee in front of him.

 

You should know him, from what I heard you are supposed to be the godfather of his son,” Mike answered. “Now excuse me, but I've got to get going before they will send search and rescue party after me,” he said as he grabbed the bowl.

 

I'll take a look at it later,” Spencer said. “Will is soooo dead,” he grimaced. “Did you know that?” he looked at Jessica.

 

That Mike had been trying to get William LaMontagne into FBI?” Jessica asked. “He had been at it for a longer while,” she nodded. “Three years to be exact, he had gotten an e-mail with a question if the offer was still on the table about a month ago, since then Mike is practically beside himself and he managed to get a lot of logs out of the way. MPDC isn't overly pleased with him stealing one of their most efficient homicide detectives but...” she hung her voice.

 

Will is suffering from PTSD,” Spencer said pointedly. “We both know what trauma does to people.”

 

And we both know that people are more likely to bounce back after a trauma if they have a purpose in their lives,” Jessica answered as she put the plate with lasagna in front of Spencer. “For some it's their family, for some it's their job, for some it's both,” she sighed. “I know the type,” she said as she sat in the chair opposite to Spencer. “They are like other people you see everyday but they are different because they had found in their lives the purpose to help those who can't help themselves, the purpose to serve and protect those who are unable to protect themselves, they are the voice of those who can't speak for themselves and to do that they are willing to lay down their lives. For others they will get through a hell and will come crawling backwards, they are willing to overcome their own suffering because they know that they are needed by someone else. They are everyday heroes who serve others because inside of their minds, their hearts and their souls is burning the fire of duty.”

 

Slaves of duty,” Spencer commented sourly. “Will doesn't need to change his job for that.”

 

It's far more complex than that,” Jessica grimaced. “I can't get into too much details without breaking doctor-patients confidentiality but I can share my observations with a fellow psychologist, from what I heard you are a doctor of psychology.”

 

Newly hatched,” Spencer nodded. “At least when it comes to the tittle, it's not even a year old.”

 

Right now he is one big, living, breathing question mark circling around what ifs...”

 

Bargaining,” Spencer interjected.

 

He is also angry at himself for letting a criminal inside of his home, near his son, he is doubting his place in MPDC and the opinion he has in homicide division...”

 

Anger and depression, he is long past denial,” Spencer nodded. “What he needs?”

 

Finding the purpose in his life again, the purpose that comes with duty. Will, Mike and Aaron have the same kind of fire under their skin, the fire that fuels them to move forward, to do their job and doing what they think is the best for their family. For Will right now what's the best for his family and himself as the man of duty is stepping back and devoting his time and attention to those who are still waiting for their justice, it gives him an excuse to move on, forwards or backwards depending from the angle you are looking at what he is doing, it gives him an excuse to use his strengths and abilities where they are needed, it also gives him an excuse to take his family out of the place in which it had been endangered...”

 

If they hadn't been living in DC he would be already dead,” Spencer pointed out.

 

If they hadn't been living in DC he wouldn't be on duty that day and Henry wouldn't be in danger,” Jessica said. “The only reason why we aren't living in Quantico is because I'm a mean bitch and I need to live close to my workplace, both of them, so I can devote my time to my family when I'm not working. As a married couple and both employed by FBI and posted in Quantico JJ and Will wouldn't have this kind of a problem, show me a fucker crazy enough to break into Marine's Corpse Base in order to harm someone.”

 

I can't,” Spencer shrugged. “That's NCIS jurisdiction but since I know agents in there I can tell you that they get crazy fuckers in that area once in a while, usually rapists, few murders, a kidnapping or two. But you do have a point in there.”

 

It's not me, it's Will,” Jessica shook her head. “Right now Cold Cases make sense to him, it gives him a purpose without being in the first line of fire and endangering his family. And if it will bring him the peace of mind who I am to talk him out of it?”

 

The sister-in-law of his wife's supervisor?” Spencer supplied. “The team is already two agents down and once JJ will kill Will the number will get higher.”

 

She won't kill him,” Jessica shook her head. “She might be unhappy about not being consulted in that regard but that's hardly fair considering the lengths she had gotten through in order to come back to the team, don't you agree?”

 

Have you ever thought about law-school?” Spencer asked pointedly.

 

My husband and brother-in-law were there and while both are employed by the Department of Justice none of them had made an overly dazzling career in court...”

 

Unless you count in expert witness testimonies,” Spencer pointed out. “I don't know about Mike but Hotch's expert witness testimonies are a pleasure to watch, especially when the defense attorneys are trying to get ballsy and they are making themselves sitting ducks ready to get profiled from the soles of their shoes to the top of their heads.”

 

I've seen it,” Jessica nodded. “Once with Aaron and few times with Mike, according to Aaron Mike learned everything by himself but according to Mike he had gotten few tips from a source that wants to remain anonymous. I'm more than inclined to believe my husband on that because whatever he likes it or not Aaron had spent some time in courts and ever since he had moved to Virginia I have no memory of Mike ever coming home from court testimony and looking unsure about the outcome.”

 

DNFW?” Spencer asked.

 

DNETAFW,” Jessica supplied.

 

And if you won't take the advice it's your funeral,” Spencer nodded.

 

Speaking about funerals do we need to provide the alibi that you spent whole day with us, you know in case your landlord...” Jessica said.

 

No,” Spencer shook his head without letting her finish what she was saying. “Quite big part of me wants to sneak on him, duck-tape him, throw him into the trunk of my car, take him to Francis Scott Key Bridge in order to play human Yo-yo over Potomac. But the other part of me knows that I would be the primary suspect in case of his most unfortunate demise and that for Lily's sake I should refrain from such methods of revenge so I settled for clearing all my stuff from his flat and by my stuff I mean everything I purchased to equip that hole in the wall. I would love to be the fly on the wall when his new tenants will enter the place and find out that the previous tenant had taken everything they were hoping to have in their nest. Since we are at it I should call my lawyer and warn him that Clark 'Dick' Kellerman is going to sue my sorry ass for thievery, he had done it to the previous tenant who had proved what he did purchase for that place and won that case.”

 

You aren't going to sue him yourself?” Jessica asked pensively. “You have legal grounds to sue him.”

 

I have and so what?” Spencer snorted. “I have big chances of wining it but I'm disinclined to participate in legal battle over ten grands I invested in full equipment of the kitchen and bathroom. Turn me loose in a casino and I will win as much in fifteen minutes. Besides Clark is a narcissist, he craves the attention which I'm disinclined to give him, that of course doesn't mean that right now I'm wishing him the very best in life, my mildest wish regarding his charming self at the moment resolves around very sudden and violent case of diarrhea, preferably in the middle of sexual intercourse, idealistically in circumstances where there are two or three females involved... it would be diarrgasmic.”

 

Jessica snickered.

 

I know that it's disgusting but right now everything which embarrasses his sorry ass would make me feel marginally better about becoming a homeless man thanks to Clark's inability to call more than one number in order to ask whatever or not his tenant would like to renew the lease. And people wonder why I'm not a big fan of new technologies, they fail and when they fail the results can get catastrophic. Not to mention a lot of them instead of helping are slowing me down.”

 

Well, the fact that you are smarter than a computer doesn't mean that you are a psychic who can communicate with people over the distance just by using sheer willpower,” Jessica pointed out.

 

Which is a great pity,” Spencer snorted. “I would take telepathy over cell-phones any day because you can't be charged for using it, battery doesn't die in the least opportune moment and you might have coverage in areas where cell-phone coverage is spotty at best.”

 

What happened to your phone?” Jessica asked.

 

It got as picky about answering the calls made to it as a high-school girl about her prom dress,” Spencer snorted. “As of late it seems as if it decided to get to the prom naked.”

 

Jessica chocked on her coffee at his last comment.

 

Do you have a hammer laying somewhere because I want to smash something, I might as well annihilate that fallible device which calls itself a cell-phone?” Spencer asked.

 

You've got to ask Mike about the hammer, he keeps the track of tools,” Jessica said. “But I have something that might make you more reachable to everyone who wants to contact you. Do you like BlackBerry?”

 

With a spoonful of sugar and whipped cream or vanilla ice-cream,” Spencer answered. “Oh, you mean the smart-phones... I prefer older phones but I don't have severe issues with BlackBerry, yet.”

 

You might use it for however long you like,” Jessica said as she stood up. “And it's old, by my estimations it celebrated it's fifth birthday recently,” she said as she walked into the hall and came back a moment later with a BlackBerry box and placed it on the table, “I found it while I was cleaning the attic, Haley left it behind when she moved out, I'd meant to give it back to Aaron but you need it more at the moment.”

 

I'm not sure...” Spencer started.

 

Take it, you need it and I don't think that Aaron would mind, plus you can give it back to him once you would get more reliable phone on your own,” Jessica shrugged before she took the phone and the charger out of the box and plugged it to one of the sockets in the kitchen.

 

She had that 'it's non-negotiable' look on her face when she said it so Spencer decided to follow her suggestion and devoted his attention to demolishing the lasagna on his plate. It was delicious and he would be damned if he would leave without a recipe. Something in regards of his resolution must have showed on his face because Jessica smiled at him before she said, “Aaron already has it, in a small ring-binder with sunflowers on it in the kitchen, it's something Haley and I put together for him when Jack was going through his very picky eater phase.”

 

Good to know,” Spencer nodded.

 

I might keep Jack and Lily here for a sleepover if you want,” Jessica said. “You look like you need rest,” she added quickly.

 

Nah,” Spencer shook his head. “They aren't overly problematic, when they aren't trying to cook eggs in the microwave or breaking the couch with just their sheer will.”

 

If Jack's couch got broken it certainly wasn't from sheer will,” Jessica said. “About three weeks ago Aaron decided to take the whole bunch to the cinema and keep them for sleepover, from what I learned they were playing pirates and my guess is that someone who wasn't supposed to jump on the couch had jumped on it enough times to loosen the screws.”

 

You are giving me a very disturbing mental image,” Spencer said.

 

That's hardly disturbing,” Jessica shrugged. “Disturbing is finding Mr Wound-Up-Tighter-Than-His-Own-Tie swinging on the swing with his ass on display while explaining the merry bunch how different birds are flying. And since he was making out of himself very good imitation of a sitting duck I grabbed Zoe's toy bow and shot an arrow at him, the kids glued Velcro to the suction cups at the end of the arrows. For future references, he can still intimidate a crap out of someone even when he has an arrow sticking to his butt.”

 

Spencer almost chocked on his coffee at that, after few seconds of coughing he chocked out, “That's a great Halloween costume, as long as you will be able to persuade him to wear a beak and feathers.”

 

It would be great costume,” Jessica agreed. “But all the king's horses and all the king's men wouldn't be able to put him in the costume of a sitting duck, unfortunate cowboy maybe, but poultry related costumes are a no-no, when we were freshmen in high-school our history teacher had us doing a charity Thanksgiving event for kids at the hospital... Guess who wound up as a turkey and guess who had fainted in that outfit right in the middle of his monologue... Football team was giving him a hell until St. Valentines and for some reason after the Valentines a weird rumor started running around amongst the girls from school regarding football team and ragging case of syphilis. Only few years later Greg, my boyfriend from that time, had confessed that his Hotchness came around to him and convinced him to buy a yearly supply of condoms and almost similar amount of itching powder and together for almost three months they had worked on upgrading regular condoms to 'you will never want to have sex again' ones which they efficiently distributed amongst all rascals day before the Valentines because randy boys don't question how a pack of condoms had made its way to their backpack.”

 

Spencer stared at her in shock, “You are kidding me, aren't you?”

 

Nope,” Jessica shook her head. “Ask him about St. Valentines Syphilis Massacre at St Christopher's High-school in Suffolk and enjoy how fast he can get through so many shades of red. You would think that over the years he would have built some immunity to that particular tease but as it is it works every single time.”

 

And here I was thinking that adding itching power to football team's shower gels was evil,” Spencer muttered. “Turns out that compared to Hotch I was moderately mean in my revenge.”

 

Apparently a genius doesn't get mad...” Jessica started.

 

He gets even,” Spencer finished. “I know. I saw that adage in the bathroom of UNLV when my mum was still working. It sounded very appealing to me at the time and it still works these days, especially when some poor unfortunate soul forgets about it and attempt to mess with me. Messing back with them usually teaches them a lesson to avoid that... until next time. Morgan still didn't figure out how to take his name off the subscription list of Chess Life, House Beautiful and Humpty Dumpty which means that he didn't introduced himself properly as 'one sore looser'.”

 

How did you do that?” Jessica asked curiously.

 

I know people here and there,” Spencer shrugged.

 

Personally or professionally?” Jessica asked pointedly.

 

Okay, I used to have an ongoing friends with benefits with one of the graphics that has a contact here and a contact there....” Spencer mumbled.

 

And because you made her a happy woman she agreed to help you,” Jessica finished.

 

No,” Spencer shook his head. “I made him a happy man and apparently I left him with fond enough memories for which he had agreed to help with this madness,” and upon seeing surprise look on Jessica's face he added, “Hotch has access to my polygraphs and in so far my bisexuality hadn't bothered him.”

 

I would be surprised if it ever did,” Jessica shrugged.

 

He is not this kind of a man,” Spencer agreed.

 

I didn't mean it this way,” she shook her head. “I've met him in my first history class of my ninth year, freshman class of 1978-79, a lifetime ago, I was fifteen at the time and maybe three to four inches smaller and I was going though the biggest drama a teenage girl, average teenager girl of course can be getting through, all my friends from middle-school had ended in the other high-schools, there were three big ones in the town and one or two smaller private high-schools. Anyway history was the first class of the day and the brother of my best friend who ended in the other high-school had just dropped me off at the gates while my friend and the other girl who lived in the same area as we did but had got to different class than us drove away with him to their new school. I was mad, I was sulking, I've got to the class late and the teacher made me sit in the only available seat, the middle one between an overweight girl with braces and thick glasses and the boy who at the time looked to me like an elementary-school runaway, and a nerdy elementary-school runaway on that. He really couldn't be higher than four feet and seven inches and didn't really appear to me as older than ten at the time. I remembered then what the brother of my friend had told me about one of the kids in his class... Harry Byron Meyers.”

 

Never met a mathematical equation he didn't like or hadn't solved,” Spencer said with small smile. “He encouraged me to pursue the greener pastures once he realized that I have an enormous desire to study but I lacked one to teach others what I know, though thanks to him and his persistence for few years I had a steady employment in Mathematics Department while I was completing my doctorates from chemistry and mechanical engineering. On with the story,” he smiled at Jessica.

 

I remember thinking, 'please don't turn into a child prodigy, just be an usual height-challenged kid my age,” Jessica said.

 

Who are you talking about?” Jack asked curiously as he tapped Spencer's shoulder before from the other side Lily had clambered into his lap.

 

Your Da,” Mike said dryly. “I only get to hear something about height-challenged dwarfs when Jess and Aaron are referring to something which happened in high-school,” he added before he looked at Jessica and said, “The rest is playing hide and seek, Lily and Jack needed to use the bathroom so I brought them back. I'll be going.”

 

So what happened?” Jack asked curiously as he pushed a chair towards Spencer before he sat next to him.

 

Well the height-challenged dwarf had turned out to be... maybe not a genius but for sure a know-it-all who at the time was barely twelve...” she paused and added, “twelve and almost a half, that's how I learned how old he was. Though I've learned that later on. Back in that class he finally opened his mouth and started talking and boy how he talked... in a roundabout way he explained that what our teacher was try to teach us was a load of crap or at the very least didn't research the issue very well, he talked for ten minutes straight before she realized that she had been insulted by a twelve years old in a class full of students so she sent him to principal's office.”

 

Sounds...” Spencer started.

 

Wait for it,” Jessica interrupted him. “The next lesson we had together was English literature, we started Shakespeare and suddenly I'm hearing Ms Perkins and hers 'Aaron Leland Melvin Hotchner what's this?!', 'Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter, Madam'.”

 

What kind of a name is Leland?” Jack asked curiously.

 

Old English, as far as I remember it was your grandfather's name and your dad did mention once or twice a grandfather named Melvin, which explains why he was saddled with those highly unpopular in his generation names,” Spencer clarified. “And I have no memory of ever coming across that combination.”

 

His mother's favorite writers, Walter Scott and Edmund Spenser, hence Walter Spencer and the comment about working with a guy whose first, middle and third names are mirroring his,” Jessica said. “He changed them after his mother, Miranda, had passed away, he almost changed the surname too but he changed his mind in the last moment”

 

Miranda?” Spencer asked. “I thought that it was Monique,” he frowned.

 

Monique Leblanc had given birth to him and had left her name on his birth certificate,” Jessica snorted. “I was nothing but a snotty toddler when it happened but few years later I was old enough to understand the rumors my parents sometimes discussed at the table and one of them was connected to Leland Hotchner's big return to Suffolk and the circumstances surrounding his departure. Few years had passed since he left, people moved on and forgot how he seduced seventeen years old coquette who was later caught in flagrante delicto with the director of the biggest banks in town... Thanks to Monique over the years the orphanage received few more kids until one day one of the cheated wives had... had made sure that no other woman in town had the same problem as she did,” Jessica grimaced. “Aaron was her first child and therefore different, she was angry with Leland, very angry and she wanted to make him pay for the way he jilted her. So she bundled the baby in a blanket, put him in a basket and placed the basket on the front steps to the Hotchners residence, on a cold April night mind you,” Jessica huffed. “It was the Hotchners cook who was returning from the visit at hospital in Norfolk who had found Aaron, her name was Miranda Avram... According to rumors Melvin and Hannah Hotchner had wanted to send the baby to orphanage but Miranda managed to persuade them to let him stay... and it was Miranda Avram and not Monique Leblanc or Hannah Hotchner nor Melinda Beckett, Leland's wife who raised Aaron. Even when Leland finally recognized him as his son Aaron never called Melinda more affectionate name than Madam Hotchner.... not that she cared, mind you, she was...” Jessica grounded her teeth and most likely a curse, “Leland and Melinda are responsible for the man Aaron had become, socially smart, educated and well-spoken. But it was Miranda and not any of them who nursed to him when he was sick, who came to chase the monsters from under his bed... I will always remember how he introduced me to her, he never addressed her as mother, always Mama, Mama Mia, Mamam,” Jessica sighed.

 

What happened to her?” Jack asked curiously. “I don't remember meting her.”

 

You couldn't have met her,” Jessica shook her head. “First year of law-school,” she nodded at Spencer as she continued, “the last day of the first term, everyone is anxiously awaiting the results of their exams, mine were handed out early but I stayed additional day because your dad was my ride home,” she sighed. “He got his results, passed every exam with flying colors or almost flying colors, so we get back to his room to fetch his bags... The call caught us right in the moment we were leaving the room, Aaron came back to pick it...” she shook her head. “Miranda was coming back from last minute shopping before Christmas when she was attacked by three drunken high-school jocks.... The list of injuries....” she grimaced. “They didn't tell him the worst but it didn't matter because what they told him was enough to bring him down to his knees and leave him an emotional wreck and it only got worse, we didn't have enough money for a plane ticket to Norfolk so he spent twelve hours in a car, twelve hours of uncertainty and terror. Miranda kept holding on until Aaron got to her... passed away within minutes after she saw him, she told him how proud she was of him...”

 

That's so sad,” Lily whispered into Spencer's chest.

 

He never said,” Jack mumbled.

 

What happened in the past that was painful has a great deal to do with what we are today,” Jessica said quietly.

 

William Glasser,” Spencer sighed. “She protected him, didn't she?”

 

Jessica nodded slowly, “She had given him six years of unconditional love and peace. He still speaks her name to these days even though he uses a different one. Have you ever heard him praying?”

 

Heard, no,” Spencer answered. “Mouthing would be more accurate word and only on few occasions.”

 

But you recognized the words, didn't you?” Jessica asked.

 

Angel of God, My Guardian Dear to whom God's love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side to light and guard and rule and guide,” Spencer recited as he turned his head to look at Jack who joined him at 'My Guardian Dear'. “I guess that the Hotchners didn't offer him a lot of emotional support after Miranda died, did they?”

 

Support?” Jessica grimaced. “I only heard Aaron's relation from how the Hotchners had reacted to Miranda's death and it doesn't exactly shows them in a very good light. He hadn't say a lot but what he did say makes me wonder why he still gives shreds of a damn about Melinda...”

 

She is Sean's mother,” Spencer pointed out. “It would matter to Sean.”

 

Well,” Jessica puffed, “I don't have an eidetic memory but I have no recollection of ever seeing that little... at Haley's funeral nor I heard a word about him calling or sending a letter that he won't be able to attend.”

 

I would have been surprised if he did,” Spencer snorted. “New York hadn't done him any good, neither did Honolulu. FDC in Honolulu is treating him well but they aren't overly fond of doing any favors to their lodgers, especially favors which has them shipping their lodger back and forth between Honolulu and DC.”

 

Honolulu?” Jessica asked at loud while her raised eyebrows asked another question, 'FDC?'. She was a smart woman and a wife and sister-in-law of federal agents, she didn't need to have the abbreviation explained to her.

 

I don't know the details,” Spencer grimaced. “I only know the summary. Young Hotchnetto used to have a certain weakness towards black things, leather jackets, black beauties, black Cadillacs and their speed. That happens, and to smarter people than him, trust me,” he sighed. “I have no idea how he acquired his weakness but I do know that at some point a girl was involved and that she had many suitors, DEA amongst of them. One day they rounded them up, pulled him aside, cut him a deal due to a relation to not an overly happy pumpkin who thoroughly chewed his butt once he learned what happened. He took the deal, went to rehab, served his sentence, community service and one day bamf he is not in New York, he is in Honolulu, the rest comes quickly, under the influence he gets behind the wheel, hits and runs, eight years old girl... All the king's horses and all the king's men couldn't get him out of the mess he got himself, not that the king really felt like getting him out especially since he learned what he had done.”

 

How long it had been?” Jessica asked.

 

Almost four out of five,” Spencer sighed. “From what I know he had a change of heart in Honolulu, he got himself clean, most probably due to the lack of sources, participates in all re-socializing activities, helps in the kitchen, helps in the library, helps at school. Model lodger.”

 

Parole?” Jessica asked.

 

Four out of five plus something from what I heard,” Spencer shrugged. “I don't know what something is but it's got to be bigger than a month and shorter than a half of a year. Bear in mind that I have only second-hand knowledge.”

 

He didn't clarify how he acquired it nor the fact that up until now aside of Hotch he was the only person on the team who knew that Sean had a drug problem and consequently the problems with law. In the end what happened back in April of 2008 in Honolulu kept the little berk alive and out of harm's way when Foyet decided to go after Hotch and his family. Jessica didn't need to know how painful it was for Hotch to learn that while Sean was under the influence of drugs he almost killed a child and ran away from the accident site and how hard it was for the man to stand aside while Sean was being prosecuted, he did provide money for an experienced lawyer which argued relatively low sentence but that was it, his heart wasn't really in it and Spencer knew why.

 

The older brother in Hotch wanted to protect Sean from the consequences of his actions but the father in Hotch wasn't on Sean's side, he was seeing only an eight years old girl who would spend the rest of her life requiring medical attention, new prosthesis for the leg she lost in the accident and years of rehabilitation on her injured arm.

 

Spencer had been in Honolulu with Hotch following Sean's arrest, not only as silent support that kept the man from loosing his cool but also as someone who could have been in Sean's place if he was a bit more careless, a little less responsible and he had gotten the subtle message Hotch had send by taking him with himself to Honolulu, 'I will understand that you are struggling, I will help you when you will fall but once you will get someone grievously hurt or killed by your actions don't count on me protecting your ass forever'.

 

For Spencer it was a lesson learned and remembered, one not to be shared with anyone on the team not because Hotch asked him to not do it, which he didn't, but because he knew how hard it was for Hotch to get caught between the need to protect his family and the need to protect the innocents.

 

He didn't have all the details, only scraps of it, he knew what happened to Sean but he didn't know what Hotch had told his step-mother regarding Sean's conviction, if he had told her at all that Sean was convicted, he probably did, maybe not immediately, but Spencer hadn't seen or heard a word about Mrs Hotchner since the last time he had seen Sean before either of his arrests which meant that mother dear most probably ended in Hawaii at some point leaving Hotch in peace back in DC.

 

Slowly he shook his head just as Jessica finished closing her mouth.

 

Sorry,” he said sheepishly. “I've got lost in thought. What you said?”

 

I wanted to show you something,” Jessica said. “But you've got to come with me.”

 

It's a surprise,” Jack piped up.

 

Oh, really?” Spencer asked as he arched his left eyebrow.

 

Yeah,” Jack beamed. “You really have to see it Uncle Spencer.”

 

Who am I to say no,” Spencer said affectionately as he looked at Jack. “All right Mon Jacadi lead the way.”

 

Mon Jacadi?” Jack and Jessica asked in unison.

 

I'm Mon Petale,” Lily said simply. “Or Mon Etoile Polaire.”

 

So there is a photo of me in Macmilan English Dictionary under the definition of 'sappy' and I don't care,” Spencer shrugged.

 

It's nice,” Jack smiled at him.

 

It's possessive,” Jessica added before she smiled at Spencer whimsically. “Come on then, lead the way Jack.”

 

Jack didn't have to be told twice, in less than a minute he dragged Spencer with Lily propped on his right hip from the table, up the stairs and to the white door which had JACK painted on then in lime green, bold letters before he dragged him and Lily into the room.

 

It was a nice room, Spencer decided, not overly big but neither it was too small. In the middle of it, backed against the wall was a loft bed made out of light-brown wood, on the top of the upper bed were spread books and mascots while the lower bed was nicely made and had a white teddy-bear leaning against the pillows. The bedding on each bed was different, the one on the upper bed had Lightening McQueen on it while on the lower one covered with one of the Disney Princess's bedding, probably Jasmine from Aladdin as far as Spencer's memory served him well in regards of animated movies.

 

Do you like it Uncle Spencer?” Jack asked eagerly.

 

There will be others, John told him yesterday as he assured Spencer that he wasn't going to get through what he was going on his own, there will be others, he said.

 

I know that it might seem offending...” Jessica started cautiously.

 

No,” Spencer said quickly. “It's..” he cleared his throat. “It's not offending,” he said. “A bit overwhelming but not offending.... I don't know what to say...” he stuttered.

 

That you would think about it?” Jessica supplied as she looked from Jack to Lily before she looked at Spencer. “I'm not really expecting an answer today, or tomorrow, or next week. I just want you to know that the offer will stand still until you would decide what you want to do.”

 

I...,” Spencer whispered. “Thank you, Jessica, you don't really have to.”

 

Family takes care of one another,” Jack said making Jessica smile.

 

We...” Spencer started.

 

You are my Uncle, like Uncle Dave, Uncle Derek, Uncle Mike and Uncle Will, aren't you?” Jack asked simply.

 

Well... yes...” Spencer started before he closed his mouth when Jack looked at him innocently, there it was this, Hotchner's 'I didn't really just maneuver you into a corner without having you notice it, nope, you walked in there on your own free will'. “You are really your dad's son,” Spencer sighed finally as he messed Jack's hair. “I will think about it, that's all I can promise.”

 

Great,” Lily piped up. “I don't want you to stop chasing the bad guys, Papa.”

 

It's not that simple, Petal,” Spencer sighed.

 

It should be,” Lily said simply.

 

But it's not,” Spencer said. “I need to sleep over it, Musume and I need to sleep over it few nights at the very least, but you will be the first to know, I can promise you that.”

 

Okay,” Lily nodded before she hugged him.

 

Sleep Deprived

 

They had a pair of eyes to see, a pair of ears to hear and mouth to voice the conclusions born in the area between eyes and ears to which the biology refers as brain. They saw, they heard and quite quickly added two to two and had gotten four which they promptly sprung on Spencer just when he was thinking that he had them safely lured into the land of dreams.

 

Did Uncle Sean killed her?” Jack asked as he opened his eyes suddenly when Spencer closed Franklin book he was reading to him and Lily two hours after Jack and Jessica showed him Jack's room and the free spaces left for Lily in it.

 

No,” Spencer said quickly.

 

You said that he went to jail,” Jack said.

 

I...” Spencer stuttered. “I didn't tell you that he went to jail, only that he was in Honolulu.”

 

In a Honolulu's jail,” Jack corrected him as he sat up. “You told Aunt Jess that he was in FDC in Honolulu and FDC means Federal Detention Center, I asked Dad what it stands for. So?” he looked at Spencer expectantly. “Did Uncle Sean killed that girl you told Aunt Jess about? Is he a bad guy?”

 

Just as he said that Lily climbed on Jack's bed and leaned against his big pillow which Spencer intended to take away in order to have Jack falling asleep in a healthy position.

 

Blabber, chatterbox, gigantic magpie, Spencer sighed inwardly, get yourself out of this right the fuck now without damaging Jack's and Lily's psyche or tainting their innocence.

 

You see, Jack, Lily,” Spencer started with a heavy sigh, “sometimes not really bad people do bad things to good people who hadn't done them anything wrong. Your Uncle Sean isn't a bad guy and he didn't mean to do what he did but that won't change the fact that whatever he had or hadn't mean to do what he had done he had done it and innocent people, a little girl suffered in the process, so yes, he is in jail because he hurt her badly but that doesn't make him a bad guy, just the guy who had been in a wrong place, in the wrong time and under wrong influence.”

 

Alcohol?” Jack asked pensively.

 

From where he was getting this, Spencer cringed inwardly.

 

No,” Spencer grimaced. “It was not overly legal medicine which side-effects lead to the accident and that little girl getting hurt, he didn't help himself by running away... He was very scared and very sick and sick people don't make the best decisions.”

 

And Dad hates him because of that, doesn't he?” Jack asked pensively.

 

No,” Spencer protested. “I know your Dad, Jack and I know that he cares about Sean even if he is very disappointed with what Sean had done to this girl but that he is disappointed with Sean doesn't mean that he hates him.”

 

Then why he told me that Uncle Sean is somewhere in Russia while he is in a Honolulu's jail?” Jack asked simply. “Why he would have to lie if he hadn't hated Uncle Sean?”

 

Now that was a big canon aimed at Hotch and for Jack's and Hotch's sake Spencer needed to get it out of the way before Hotch would come back home.

 

Your Dad hadn't lie to you about it because he hates Sean,” Spencer said calmly. “Lying is bad, I want you to remember that, both of you,” he looked from Jack to Lily and back at Jack, “but sometimes when you want to protect someone you love from harm you would do everything to protect them, even lie for them, to them. I don't know how old you were when your Dad told you that Sean was in Russia but I guess it wasn't a very long time ago. Two years, a year, am I right?” Spencer asked.

 

Jack nodded slowly.

 

Kids this age possess a grasp over the concept of right and wrong, good and bad, it's a bit hard to get a firm grasp of the concepts in between. Not exactly good but not really bad, right or wrong to certain point but not completely. I can only guess why your Dad lied to you, I want you to remember that, only he knows the truth and I'm sure that if you will ask him he will tell you it this time. I think that the reason he had done it was because he didn't want you to hate Uncle Sean completely for being a bad guy because the good guys don't go to jail. That's the only explanation I have, a very likely one knowing your dad. Love sometimes makes people do not overly smart things and if I can be completely sure of one thing and make you completely sure of the same is that your Dad loves you very much and there isn't a thing in the world he wouldn't have done in order to protect you.”

 

Jack nipped on his bottom lip as he looked at his hands before he said, “Lying wasn't smart, he should know that I would learn the truth one day.”

 

He knows that,” Spencer agreed. “But I think that he would rather have you a bit angry at him for lying than having you hate your Uncle for being in jail.”

 

I'm not angry,” Jack said petulantly. “I'm disappointed with him.”

 

Spencer smiled inwardly, just inwardly as he brushed Jack's hair out of his eyes, the boy was slowly inching towards needing a haircut badly.

 

Don't hang on that for too long,” he said softly. “Being unhappy with someone you love makes you even more unhappy, sometimes even sour or bitter.”

 

Like a grapefruit or orange?” Lily asked pensively.

 

Like a grapefruit and lemon,” Jack corrected her gently.

 

Grapemon,” Lily mumbled.

 

Jack's lips twitched slightly.

 

Will Jack's Uncle get out of jail?” she asked suddenly. “You said that he wasn't a really bad guy and not really bad guys don't stay in jail... for very long I think,” she added pensively.

 

For sure he will get out of jail next year but he might also leave sooner than that, maybe in few months, I'm not really sure,” Spencer said. “I would have to check it out with Jack's dad.”

 

He is very busy this time,” Jack said suddenly. “He didn't call today, did he?”

 

No,” Spencer shook his head. “He didn't call me today, did he call your Aunt?”

 

Jack shook his head.

 

Then he has to be very busy today,” Spencer agreed.

 

He got more busy when Aunt Emily left,” Jack said. “You aren't going to leave him too, are you?”

 

Spencer sighed and closed his eyes before he opened them again as he looked at Jack, “I don't know buddy, I really need to sleep over it.”

 

You can still help him, can't you?” Jack asked.

 

I can always ask,” Spencer said. “But before I will ask him if he needs my help you two need to go to sleep.”

 

Why?” Lily asked.

 

Because I don't know all the details of the case, especially things which could have recently happen, not to mention if I will get them I will have to concentrate very hard on them and I can't be distracted, that's why it would be easier for me to work on the case if you two were sleeping so I wouldn't have to worry about you.”

 

You don't have to worry about us, Papa,” Lily said sweetly.

 

Sorry, Petal, worrying is Dad's job,” Spencer smiled at her.

 

The job is Dad's job,” Lily protested. “You aren't doing it right now.”

 

I might once Princess Lily and Knight Jack will close their eyes and will fall asleep,” Spencer said.

 

Princess Lily might fall asleep if Papa will read her one more story,” Lily said sweetly.

 

Knight Jack eagerly supports the motion presented by Princess Lily,” Jack said.

 

Princess Lily and Knight Jack should stop talking about themselves in third person because Papa Spencer finds it slightly disturbing and insistently catchy,” Spencer said. “All right one more story and you better be sleeping by the end of it otherwise you will meet the torture of tickling fingers and trust me you don't want to wake the tickling hand.”

 

Tickling hand?” Jack looked at Lily skeptically.

 

You really don't want to wake it,” Lily said solemnly. “Because then Papa will tickle you until you would promise to fall asleep. It always works, even if it makes mum...” she paused and her lip trembled slightly, “made mum ask to make up his mind if he is trying to make me fall asleep or trying to skin me off.”

 

I'm sorry,” Jack whispered.

 

Mum always smiled when she was saying that,” Lily whispered. “Do you think that Mum is watching over us now, Papa?”

 

I”m sure she does, Petal,” Spencer said softly before he added, “I'm sure that they both do. I have a suggestion for you, both of you. Why don't you lean back, get under the covers,” Lily instantly wormed her way under Jack's covers and snuggled closer to Jack which at the very least put her in a bed even if it wasn't hers, “close your eyes, think about your Mum smiling at you and repeat after me.”

 

Within seconds Jack's big pillow was on the floor by the bed and they were both resting their heads against the smaller pillow with their eyes closed and hands grasped together.

 

Angel of God, My Guardian Dear to whom God's love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side to light and guard and rule and guide,” Spencer recited softly, allowing his lips to twitch when Jack and Lily joined him at 'My Guardian Dear'. “Angel of God, My Guardian Dear to whom God's love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side to light and guard and rule and guide. Angel of God, My Guardian Dear to whom God's love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side to light and guard and rule and guide. Angel of God, My Guardian Dear to whom God's love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side to light and guard and rule and guide. Angel of God, My Guardian Dear to whom God's love commits me here. Ever this day be at my side to light and guard and rule and guide.”

 

By the end of third repeat Lily's voice was nothing but a soft, sleepy whisper. The second sentence of the fifth repeat Spencer had to finish by himself because Jack fell silent after mumbling 'at my side'.

 

He wasn't a religious man, hadn't been one for a very long time, he was a man of science but he did believe in afterlife and that Elle's and Haley's love for their children was so strong that even if they weren't there anymore their kids could still feel it.

 

Watch over them, please,” he whispered as he combed the rebellious strands out of his face behind his ear.

 

He smiled softly to himself as he looked down at them. Asleep, they looked so innocent, so sweet and angelic that no one would believe otherwise, especially Spencer whom they almost had given a heart attack when they blew up a microwave while they tried to cook eggs for breakfast.

 

Elle sometimes, especially after Lily was born, used to refer to such picture of sweetness and innocence as 'ovaries burst', Spencer himself, as the part unequipped with female reproductive organ's preferred the term 'butter melter' happened to know at the very least one if not three, strike that four females who would melt into a puddle of goo upon seeing a picture of what he was seeing right now.

 

Very gently he stood up and leaned over Jack pressing a soft kiss to his forehead before he leaned over further and pecked Lily's nose which she wrinkled slightly before she burrowed closer to Jack's side.

 

Quietly Spencer padded his way to the end of Jack's bed before he took out Haley's BlackBerry which Jessica had given him to use, quickly snapped a shot of sleeping cuteness, checked if the photo wasn't blurred and padded his way to switch the lamp on Jack's bedside table into a nightlight mode before even more gently than before he made his way towards the door even more gently before he stepped outside leaving the door slightly ajar.

 

Once he had taken a shower and dressed himself to bed he sat down and typed on the phone two messages which he send to Garcia, Emily, JJ and Jessica and the other separately to Hotch, Morgan and Rossi. Both messages contained attached photograph which Spencer had snapped minutes before but they contained different texts, the man had gotten 'Mood Brightener' while the females received 'Ovaries burst'.

 

Jessica was the fastest to answer with a 'Tease ; >'

 

Emily was next with 'Evil genius'

 

JJ's and Garcia's answers arrived at the same time with Rossi's 'Are the looks deceiving?' and both contained a variation of 'cuteness overload'.

 

Morgan's text was the shortest aside of Jessica's 'tease'. It only read: 'thanks'.

 

Instead of texting Spencer back Hotch had called, right after Spencer finished reading the last text.

 

You answered,” was the first thing which Hotch said when Spencer picked the call.

 

The number is mine, the cell-phone is not,” Spencer sighed as he leaned against the headboard. “My Nokia is dead, long live Haley's BlackBerry which Jessica borrowed me, at the very last long enough until I will have enough time to obtain fully functioning phone that suits my needs.”

 

Knowing your issues with smart-phones you would be perfectly fine with a box of matches, a bag of wood and a blanket if that method of communication didn't have a woefully limited coverage,” Hotch said dryly.

 

So said Mr What You Are Going To Do If You Will Forget To Charge Your Tablet and the Battery Will Die,” Spencer snorted before he continued allowing his voice to mimic very calm and infuriatingly polite Hotch, “It's not that I don't appreciate the gesture because I do but I also know that technology sometimes fails, sometimes in the least opportune moment and yes, we digitalize the data but we also keep hard copies just in case. And yes, I know that Reid gets to have his paper files and if I will ask he might share them with me but he isn't a very big fan of violating his personal space, so I doubt that he will very much appreciate having me hovering over his shoulder like a grotesque parrot.”

 

You heard that,” Hotch muttered.

 

Yup,” Spencer chirped. “It gave me a very bizarre dream next time I was having a nap. Let's just say that 'Aaron doesn't really want a biscuit' pretty much covers that dream and for that I blaming that intern who dumped decaf into coffee jar and coffee into decaf jar. Decaf always provides me with quite disturbing dreams and no experienced BAUer is suicidal enough to switch coffee and decaf.”

 

Did someone else hear that?” Hotch asked.

 

Did someone call you Polly?” Spencer asked.

 

Point taken,” Hotch muttered.

 

Bad day?” Spencer asked sympathetically.

 

Good day?” Hotch asked avoiding the answer.

 

My landlord is a jackass who knows how to dial only one number and makes me want to get in a very close touch with my inner unsub, I've just buried the mother of my daughter and in less than a day that narcissistic, materialistic prick rendered me and my daughter homeless. And yes, I know that I can sue his sorry ass and win but I will be damned if I will give him the satisfaction of receiving scraps of attention his equally materialistic and narcissistic father hadn't given him. For all I care right now he can go back to his miserable life filled with pointless fucks, I hope that he will get every STD known to human kind and few unknown ones, I wish that his balls would fall off one morning and that he would flush them down the toilet before he would realize that something is missing. There, I said it and from now on I don't give a damn about Clark Kellerman and his sorry ass and like one of the prostitutes with fondness of meth I've met in not my best times once or twice had said: may the mighty jackass dick end in his miserable ass for all the damn I'm no longer giving about that son of a mongrel bitch. And yes that's a direct quote, Becky Rodgers could cuss better than a seasoned sailor, I always thought that she was born in the wrong era and wrong body, two centuries ago she would be the most terrifying pirate known on both sides of the Atlantic.”

 

Interesting acquaintances you have,” Hotch commented.

 

Had, last time I heard something about her was that she OD on cocaine in one of the Baltimore's less stellar motels,” Spencer clarified. “She had interesting views on life in general and much appreciated from the perspective of the years which had passed since then views on my ass on the street. It's not your place, Doc, she said, you don't belong here, you are still young enough, still strong enough to get the fuck out of here and never come back. I've seen here once or twice before she died, around the time Gideon was going through his second major depressive episode in the span of three years. I got her a coffee and fifty bucks, I've never seen her happier than that day when she said, I knew that you would make it, Doc.”

 

You didn't try to persuade her to get herself clean?” Hotch asked.

 

In the times when I weighed buck twenty soaking wet in three woolen sweaters?” Spencer asked pointedly. “While she weighed twice as much and I was well acquainted with the running joke amongst the outcasts that beat cops considered her cleavage as not overly concealed carry. She had a horrible temper, even fouler mouth but a heart of gold. I don't know how she got by because I had never seen her actually working on the street but I know that at her house anyone who had asked, and few that didn't ask could find a mattress to stay, a healthy bowl of stew to eat, she took care of the young ones, the lost ones, somehow she managed to persuade some of them to get themselves clean, helped them find stable jobs to gain some leverage in life, I even heard of one girl she sent back to high-school and convinced to get to college, she is in medschool now, not overly prestigious but inching her way towards the degree in psychiatric medicine and planning to specialize in handling addictions.”

 

She sounds...” Hotch started.

 

Unique,” Spencer said.

 

I'd meant to say motherly,” Hotch clarified. “But unique works for me too. Coming back to more pressing subject at hand, from what I heard until now Clark Kellerman evicted you.”

 

He didn't evict me, he just didn't want me to sign the lease for another year and since my cell-phone wasn't working how it was supposed to work I can't prove whatever or not he called me at all and with everything that had been going on through the past month...” Spencer grimaced. “My fault, his fault, everybody's fault, nobody's fault. Right now I don't give a flying fancy about him, I got by with less, it's just not fair that Lily got caught in the middle of it.”

 

You and Lily can stay with us for however long it would take you to find a proper place,” Hotch said simply. “I don't mind and judging by the attachment you sent me I doubt that Jack does, they look sweet.”

 

Looks can be deceiving,” Spencer said. “The morning you left for Vegas they almost had given me a heart-attack. They wanted to make eggs for breakfast and they blew up the microwave, I thank the deities that the only casualty was your microwave and next morning Jack's couch, at the very least I thought so until Jessica explained to me who really finished that piece of furniture that it had given up under the weight of a five years old.”

 

Was Lily hurt?” Hotch asked in concern.

 

If she was I would have heard it,” Spencer told him. “Taking into the account that I didn't hear it, the couch must have give away either when she was going or coming back to the bathroom around two o'clock in the morning.”

 

Did you see her?” Hotch asked.

 

Nope, I was sleeping,” Spencer shrugged. “But I know my daughter, Hotch. Her pediatrician told us, Elle and I, that that's how Lily's brain is wired, or at the very least was since she we got her potty trained, two o'clock in the morning she's got to wake up and go to the bathroom before she comes back to bed and sleeps through the rest of the night. She does it even if we... I make sure that she goes to sleep after going to the bathroom and that's the end of it, we were also told that at some point she will grow out of it. That's the only explanation I have for why she didn't wake me. The couch had to gave away while she wasn't on it, she came back from the bathroom, found the couch wonky, got into Jack's bed and slept the rest of the night in there.”

 

Are you sure of that?” Hotch asked skeptically.

 

As sure as I'm sure of the fact that Will and JJ will find next following weeks exhausting, it makes me feel kind of grateful that it took Lily four days to figure out the difference between going to the bathroom and using the potty in her room, she grew out of it pretty quickly too, almost as soon as she figured out how to hoist herself on the toilet without falling inside it. It was a dazzling accomplishment for a kid under three years old, a two o'clock' Mama, Papa I want to show you something. I couldn't be more prouder about a Nobel prize. Strike that, I couldn't be more prouder until I taught her how to read, three and a half, reading her books all on her own and pouting because 'they are so short Papa'. By the time she was four she was reading fluently at the level of a second grader and just started learning how to write.”

 

You mentioned the medal...” Hotch started.

 

I didn't say that she was a genius, did I? And even geniuses are making mistakes when they are learning how to write,” Spencer said simply. “I still remember the first sentence I wrote: 'the tac is back', it didn't sit right with me when I read it after I finished writing it so I quickly changed it into intended 'the cat is black' before I proceed to feel horribly embarrassed about my poor writing skills for the rest of the day.”

 

How old were you?” Hotch asked curiously.

 

Fourish,” Spencer shrugged. “Reading was great fun and I decided that writing would be too. I remember that I wrote it on the other side of a very important draw my father had to take to work, he didn't realize it was there until the next day. It earned me my first and the only spanking my father had dared to give to me, he didn't dare to touch me again because after first slap I ended wailing like a cross between demented banshee and firetruck's siren, after that I didn't speak with him for two weeks until Mum finally got out of me why I was acting like a severely offended feline towards him. It caused a helluva of an argument over discouraging the development of one of the most important skills in child's life and few nights spent on the couch. Enough about me, how was your day?”

 

Splendid,” Hotch said sourly. “After two days we managed to establish that the unsub is male, local, probably native to either Las Vegas or neighborhood communities, has a vehicle, appears non-threatening to children, is smart enough to don't get caught on any cameras, the only preference in his victims is that they are female between five and seven, all disappeared in broad daylight, he has no racial preferences, in so far we have five girls missing two Caucasian, one African-American, one Asian, one Native-American. Geographical profile looks like Swiss Cheese, we have five distraught parents, joint forces of LVPD and NLVPD, all on high alert and tomorrow we will learn that he had gotten another girl. After two days we are nowhere near solving the case than when we had been when we landed. He operates on a very tight schedule, takes a huge risk by grabbing the kids from the street but at the same time... it feels like chasing a ghost. In so far no body turned up, but that's not much of a comfort.”

 

Do you want me to take a look at geographical profile?” Spencer offered.

 

You are on administrative leave,” Hotch pointed out.

 

And tomorrow you are going to have sixth missing girl,” Spencer retorted. “Or first dead body, take your pick, violating protocol or another victim?”

 

Are you sure?” Hotch asked tiredly.

 

I wouldn't have asked if I wasn't, you've got me at missing girls between five and seven,” Spencer muttered.

 

Use my laptop,” Hotch sighed. “Just don't disconnect the cable or it will die, I forgot to drop it to Garcia. For the sake of not violating the protocol...”

 

Log as you,” Spencer finished. “Penzance?”

 

You wish,” Hotch muttered. “dctrspnc2xrd.”

 

I feel used,” Spencer snorted.

 

The purpose of a password is to protect the data and Jack figured out Pnzncl98l,” Hotch snorted. “But if it really bothers you...”

 

Not really, I was just being an ass,” Spencer said. “All right, go catch some zzzs, I will get back to you as soon as I will find something new or interesting.”

 

Knock yourself out, just try to remember that you have two overly curious early birds under your care,” Hotch said.

 

And your sister-in-law on speed-dial, she already offered to take them for the night, if the worst will come to worst I will call Will and ask him if he wouldn't mind watching over them for an hour or two,” Spencer answered. “Nighty night.”

 

Once Spencer hung up on Hotch he brought to bed Hotch's laptop and image projector he had found in the wardrobe, granted it wasn't the real map which would make it easier but at the very least from Hotch's laptop he would have access to all details of the case and the team needed well adjusted geographical profile.

 

It had to be sometime after two in the morning when Spencer was done with getting himself familiar with the case and adjusting geographical profile. He sighed, closed his eyes for a moment pressing his palms against his eyes. Hotch was right, chasing that unsub was like chasing a very determined ghost.

 

What you are doing Papa?” Lily's voice tore him from his thoughts and made him lower his hands.

 

I'm working Petal, I promised Jack that I would ask his dad if I could help,” Spencer answered.

 

And he let you?” Jack asked hopefully.

 

They are getting pretty desperate because they can't find the bad guy,” Spencer answered. “I was about to take a break, do you need something?”

 

Can we...” Jack started.

 

...stay with you?” Lily asked.

 

Okay, let me clean up the bed...” Spencer started.

 

You don't have to,” Jack said quickly. “You can still work, we just want to stay with you.”

 

What happened?” Spencer asked as he got off the bed.

 

Nothing,” Jack said quickly, too quickly.

 

Jack?” Spencer looked at the boy pointedly.

 

I wet the bed,” Lily admitted timidly. “And my bed is too short for both of us, can we stay with you?”

 

Spencer looked at her, she was dressed into fresh pajamas and so was Jack.

 

We took off and left the sheets in the bathroom and washed ourselves before changing into fresh pajamas,” Jack explained sheepishly. “That's what Dad did when I wet the bed.”

 

Spencer felt a pang of regret and shame, if he wasn't so focused on work he would have heard the rustle and the sound of running water and Jack wouldn't have to handle the accident on his own and Spencer had no right to ask for or expect that from Jack.

 

Jack smiled at him softly before he said, “I don't mind, I know that it was an accident.”

 

I didn't mean to,” Lily said quietly.

 

I know, Petal,” Spencer said gently. “Nothing wrong had happened Sweetie, you heard Jack, it was an accident and there is nothing to worry about,” he said as he hugged her before he motioned at Jack to come closer and said solemnly, “Thank you for taking care of Lily, Jack.”

 

I don't mind taking care of Lily,” Jack said sincerely. “I like having Lily around, it's like having a little sister on my very own.”

 

I'm not that little,” Lily whispered petulantly.

 

No, you're not,” Spencer and Jack said in unison before Jack continued, “But you are still smaller and I've got to take care of you.”

 

All right, get in to the bed,” Spencer said. “I'll be right back okay?”

 

Lily and Jack nodded before they clambered on the bed and burrowed themselves under the covers, skillfully avoiding knocking down the laptop from the top of it.

 

Once he left the room Spencer padded his way to Jack's room to check the state of Jack's bed, it wasn't thoroughly soaked in, the wet spot was only superficial and required only few minutes of scrubbing with soaped water and a towel placed over it. On his last trip to the bathroom he put the covers and the blanket under which Jack was sleeping due to warm June nights in the washer and came back to bed.

 

Jack and Lily were curled in the middle of it and Lily quickly scooted against Spencer's side when he sat down and leaned against the headboard.

 

Thank you,” she said sleepily.

 

You're welcome,” Spencer said gently. “Do you want to listen to a story?”

 

Lily shook her head and burrowed even closer to his side as she mumbled, “No.”

 

Okay,” Spencer said slowly. “What do you want to do?”

 

Sleep,” Lily decided. “After you will tell us what those dots in different colors on the map mean.”

 

They...” Spencer started “they help us figure out where the bad man might be hiding or working so we can catch him.”

 

But what they mean Uncle Spencer?” Jack asked. “There is five red dots and five green dots and all have numbers on them.”

 

What abduction means?” Lily asked pensively. “Child abduction.”

 

It means that the bad guy had taken a child away from its parents, Petal,” Spencer said gently.

 

And you are going to find them, aren't you?” she asked hopefully.

 

Does it means that the bad guy had taken five children?” Jack asked thoughtfully.

 

Spencer opened and closed his mouth slowly. Jack, was smart and he should have known better than leaving an open laptop with Jack and Lily in the room.

 

Did he?” Lily asked timidly.

 

They were both staring expectantly at Spencer who was a bit too tired and a bit too shocked to produce a white lie instantaneously.

 

Yes,” he said finally.

 

Was Greta Swann one of them?” Jack asked pensively.

 

Greta Swann?” Spencer whispered.

 

Yeah,” Lily nodded.

 

If you will read the first letter in the name of the street by each of the dots in the way they are numbered you will get Greta from red dots and Swann from green dots,” Jack explained.

 

Greta Swann wasn't one of the children,” Spencer said slowly but immediately he started concentrating on where he had heard that name before.

 

Greta was a very popular name, particularly in generations born before 1970 where its popularity had started to visibly decline to surge in popularity back in late nineties and that particular combination sounded familiar.

 

Greta Swann. Did he know her personally or did he come across her name in a case file?

 

Greta Swann. Greta Swann. Greta Swann... Greta...

 

Then it clicked. Greta Amy Swannson, born to Robert Alan and Patricia Jade Swannson on 17 th February 1996 in Las Vegas, her mother worked in her family's general store, her father was a cop with LVPD. On 2 nd July 2002 she left her mother's shop telling her that she was going to go to her friend's house just five houses away from the store and promised to call the shop when she would get there. That was the last time anyone had seen her alive because someone had grabbed her during that short way.

 

Today was 30 th June 2012, three days away from the tenth anniversary of her abduction, three days, three letters. Greta Amy Swannson and she disappeared on 2 nd July.

 

Greta Amy Swannson,” Spencer whispered as he reached for the laptop and started typing.

 

On 27 th October 2010 Patricia Swanson died in a car crash, she was in her 30 th week of second pregnancy, the baby hadn't make it either.

 

Robert Swannson was more interesting. After his wife and unborn baby had died he attend grief counseling session with a therapist for a little over a year while he still continued to work and search for his lost daughter. After Patricia had passed away he inherited the store and few properties that belonged to her family in and around the town.

 

Whom any child would trust aside of the family, family friends and closest neighbors? Figures of authority, teachers, firefighters, cops... Robert Swannson was a cop, a cop and a distraught, grieving father who had first hand knowledge that the job never ends, that every day brings in new case which pushes other cases from the list of priorities, he had to know that but it didn't mean that it wouldn't be angering him that his daughter had disappeared, his wife had died and that no one seemingly cared about what happened to Greta.

 

It could be him, he had a motive, access to the victim pool and access to places to hide them and he wanted to remind other people that his daughter was still missing... He was also involved in the investigation, he was the responding officer to 911 call the parents of second victim had made and patrolling the streets had given him unlimited access to victim-pool.

 

There were only two properties which Swannson owned where he could be keeping all of the girls without alarming the neighbors that someone was there. An old storage by E Vegas Valley Drive which belonged to his wife's family and seemingly no one used it for years.

 

And if it was him it would be better to catch him while he wasn't on duty ready to grab another victim.

 

He reached for the cell-phone and quickly dialed Hotch's number.

 

Hotchner,” Hotch growled sounding as if Spencer just woke him up.

 

Robert Alan Swannson,” Spencer said quickly. “On Monday, 2nd July it will be ten years since his daughter Greta Amy Swannson had disappeared, her age is consistent with current victimology, six years old, walking around to visit a friend, she was never found. He is an officer with LVPD and he responded to the call concerning Jill Kershaw disappearance, the second victim...”

 

How did you figure it out?” Hotch asked sleepily.

 

I didn't,” Spencer answered. “Our early birds can read and count and realized that first letters of the streets by which the victims' families live and the letters of the streets where they were seen for the last time reads in the order of disappearances Greta Swann, I figured out the rest.”

 

When I sent you the details of the case they were sleeping,” Hotch muttered.

 

They woke up, you should too,” Spencer retorted. “Robert Alan Swannson, he injected himself into the investigation and has unlimited access to victim-pool. His wife's family owns several properties in and around Vegas. My personal favorite is the one at 7315 Vegas Valley Drive, it's an old storage, officially unused, secluded and big enough to hide a whole class of kids without attracting anyone's attention. Swannson isn't on duty right now which means that most probably he is with the girls in his hiding spot...”

 

I've got it,” Hotch said. “We will handle it from now on,” he added. “Are they sleeping now?”

 

Spencer glanced down at Lily who was wide awake and then at Jack who had his eyes closed but wasn't sleeping.

 

They are pretending to sleep,” Spencer said. “I will give you, Jack,” he added as he gave the phone to Jack who immediately opened his eyes and accepted the phone from his hand.

 

Does it mean that you got the bad guy?” Lily asked curiously.

 

I think so,” Spencer sighed as he ruffled her hair and smoothed his left thumb over the soft skin of her cheek before he added, “And you know what Petal, you and Jack had helped, a lot.”

 

Really?” Lily asked happily.

 

Really, really,” Spencer nodded. “Can you sleep now, Princess?”

 

Yeah,” Lily agreed.

 

I love you too Dad,” Jack said to the cell-phone before he had given it back to Spencer. “Dad says that if that guy is the bad guy he should be home in the evening or tomorrow in the morning. Is it possible that you got the wrong bad guy?” he asked skeptically.

 

It happens sometimes,” Spencer confirmed. “Sometimes very smart bad guys convince us that someone else other than them is that bad guy we are looking for, sometimes it's a good guy, sometime it's another bad guy but it usually helps us find the bad guy we are looking for.”

 

Jack looked at him and mumbled, “That's a lot of bad guys in there.”

 

It will make more sense in the morning once you will be rested,” Spencer promised. “I'll put the stuff away and I will come back to bed.”

 

Quickly he logged out of the laptop, closed it and put it away on the desk, turned off and disconnected image projector, went to the bathroom and came back to bed.

 

He had done his job and now he could rest enjoying the reassuring calmness of Lily's and Jack's soft breaths next to him.

 

Sleep Deprived

 

Morning hours of Saturday, the last day of June had gone peacefully, nothing exploded, the Martians hadn't landed by the window of Hotch's bedroom and hadn't asked for directions to Venus, the apartment above suddenly didn't decide to stop being apartment 221 by preferring to become apartment 121 instead, even the pancakes Spencer made for breakfast didn't get burnt.

 

After breakfast Jack and Lily helped him to clean up and to put fresh sheets on Jack's bed before they proceed to unpack the bag with Lily's clothes for which Jack eagerly helped to make place in the lower drawer of his wardrobe.

 

Unpacking Lily was actually the easy stuff because once Lily's clothes were put away and Jack made the room for small chest with her toys both kids decided that even if all toys were put away the room seemed incredibly cramped so they, meaning Spencer, needed to change it.

 

After two hours of moving the furniture Spencer was exhausted but at the very least current state of Jack's room had pleased its incredibly picky lodgers even though Spencer wasn't sure if Hotch was going to like the way the room had looked, especially after he would stumble inside it in the middle of the night wanting to give Jack a good-night kiss and will find himself running into Lily's bed because Jack decided that Lily's bed needed to be closer to the door and both beds needed to be under the window rather than by the opposite wall where Jack's bed was placed before.

 

But at the very least when Spencer's back started signaling him that he should better take a break if he wanted to move tomorrow Lily and Jack decided that the room looked perfect and that they finally could play. So while the kids pulled out from Jack's stuff a racetrack to play Spencer collapsed backwards on the couch and closed his eyes as he sunk against the cushions with the cheers coming from Jack's room sounding to him far more pleasant and definitely more perfect than Mozart's Requiem.

 

The kids were still playing when half of hour later Spencer hoisted himself up from the couch before he made his way to Hotch's bedroom to unpack his bag of clothes and check the state of his go-bag.

 

He was done with it pretty quickly, unlike the kids who were still playing, so using the fact that their attention was directed elsewhere he checked his emails, proofread the article he finished writing before Elle passed away and decided to go over the functions of the new BlackBerry.

 

He wasn't big fan of smart-phones, as far as he was concerned the main purpose of a cell-phone was making and answering the calls, occasional texts, preferably with attached images and he needed a cell-phone not a mini computer packed into one but these days finding a working cell-phone that suited his needs without additional stuff he didn't need or used was hard, it took him almost two months to find his old phone once his old Motorola decided that her days were becoming numbered. Additionally, knowing Hotch who would spend some time at persuading Spencer that smart-phones weren't completely evil, it was better to have counterarguments prepared before convincing Spencer to agree to a smart-phone would even cross Hotch's mind.

 

And the phone he was using now belonged to Haley so maybe some of her older stuff was there and Hotch would definitely want to know whatever or not there were some photos of her and/or Jack on it.

 

They were, Haley's memory card in the phone was big enough to fit a big folder with Jack's photos: Jack on his, probably first, three-wheeler bike; Jack in a sandbox with yellow bucket on the top of his head; Jack with a soccer ball; Jack with a kitten; Jack with a puppy; dozing Jack in a big hammock; Jack and a goat; chocolate ice-cream covered Jack; Haley with Jack on a slide; Jack with Morgan on Morgan's motorbike; Jack in an inflated swimming pool... wait, scroll back, how did that got there?

 

Spencer frowned at the photograph, it was small and the phone's display wasn't overly big or kind to the details but Spencer was able to recognize Jack, Morgan and Morgan's motorbike but something in the photo didn't sit right with him. He checked the details of the photograph regarding the time it was taken, early days of June 2007 and as far as he remembered correctly the dates it had to be taken definitely before Hotch and Haley had split which raised a question how Morgan did get there.

 

It didn't make any sense, sure the whole team had an occasional barbeque at the Hotchners but that was before Haley got pregnant with Jack. Hotch didn't make a very big secret out of the fact that the pregnancy wasn't easy on Haley and even if he tried to he was surrounded by profilers, at the very least Spencer and Morgan for the most of the time until Elle got there, who were able to tell whatever or not Hotch left the house in a good mood and more often than not when it came to private matters the man had ended asking stupid questions like for example where one could find in DC a store that sold genuine kosher dills rather than pickled cucumbers.

 

There was definitely something wrong with the photograph and technically Morgan had no right to be there with Jack, not on the day the picture was taken, it had to be a mistake, programing malfunction and Spencer should definitely examine it in bigger size.

 

It took him a while to find memory card adapter which allowed him to transfer the images from the card to his laptop.

 

Once he had everything packed into one folder he came back to checking the photographs but instead of an explanation he only found more confusing details, amongst the sea of just Jack photographs there were two dozens of photographs of Haley with Jack and almost just as many photographs of Jack with Morgan. On each of the photographs Jack was slightly bigger than on the other one and Spencer was more than capable of seeing a difference between not even two years old toddler and one chocolate ice-cream covered endearing little snot few months short of his fourth birthday.

 

Hotch wasn't on any of the photographs, Morgan and Haley were, in so far separately but Spencer had a sinking feeling regarding the person that was shooting the photos of Haley and Jack together. Most of them were taken after Hotch and Haley split and technically Morgan had no right to be on any of them either, not if Haley was the photographer, the only ones on which he could be were the photographs of the few outings the team had together after Henry was born when JJ invited the whole team for a barbeque or picnic in the park and it happened to be the weekend when Hotch had Jack. Everyone had a photograph with Jack or Henry or both from those outings, even Spencer had few of them and on almost every single one of them in the distance or cut off by the camera was another member of the team. The photographs of Morgan and Jack he had found were different, no third parties aside of the photographer which didn't make any sense. Why Morgan would be on photographs with Jack while Hotch was not and definitely wasn't the photographer considering that it was Haley's cell-phone?

 

One, two, even three photographs could be easily explained as Haley needing Morgan's help with something she couldn't do by herself, but two dozens of them? Even Haley, not overly tall and not physically strong wouldn't require Morgan's assistance so many times while she was living in the house of a man who was more than capable of handling male tasks, granted Mike Brooks-Berkeley wasn't Morgan but he was more than capable of fixing the fence and making impromptu reparations to the roof or garage doors. The photographs had to be from that time when Haley was living with her sister and her husband because Hotch moved out of the house barely a week before they left for Boston.

 

There was only one simple explanation, only one really good reason for Morgan to be on those photographs while Hotch wasn't but Spencer couldn't believe that either of them would have done it to Hotch, they both knew Hotch and they had to know that even the hint of suspicion would crush the man. His beloved wife and the man he trusted with his life, with his family, with his team...

 

Additionally while Morgan was a good man he was also a notorious flirt and stable romantic relationship was never overly high on the list of his priorities.

 

Somewhere from the back of Spencer's mind had surged the image long time buried, a case in Atlanta about two weeks after Henry was born, the one with the serial killer that was picking up his victims in the clubs. Morgan dragged him out with himself as a wingman, Spencer made jokes about Morgan getting the numbers and Morgan retailed by making Spencer flirt with Austin while presenting the fliers with their suspect. Morgan didn't take numbers, at the time he said that he was working but he might as well don't want any because...

 

Only two people knew the truth and one of them was dead while the other made sure that not even a hint of suspicions had crossed the minds of other people. Hotch didn't know, if he knew regardless Morgan's experience and seniority on the team Hotch wouldn't make Morgan Acting Unit Chief if he knew that the man was having an affair with his wife... if Hotch knew that Morgan was the man Haley left him for.

 

It had to be that, the grim testimony of what was going behind Hotch's back while he was staying longer hours at the office because Gideon was back on administrative leave due to another major depressive episode he suffered from after Sarah was murdered; Spencer himself wasn't there too, he spent better part of the month in rehab and even when he was there his concentration extended only to the cases he was working on, when it come to things going around him he felt so distracted that he wouldn't notice an elephant in a pink tutu tap-dancing in the bullpen until said elephant wouldn't sit on him.

 

The elephant reemerged, smoothing its tutu with its trunk, stood on hind legs, made few pirouettes before it landed on unsuspecting human.

 

This was going to crush Hotch and Spencer knew that. Once it will come out it would change the team's dynamics. The extent of Hotch's trust in Morgan would be ending at getting the job done if he would be able to still trust Morgan to get the job done, if the trust in Morgan his second in command won't vanish like the trust in Morgan his friend would vanish.

 

Once it will happen it would be only a matter of a short time before the rest of the team would realize that something definitely not good is going right under their noses. He could practically see it happening: Rossi going after Hotch to slowly drag out of him what was going on between him and Morgan; Garcia would go after Morgan, pestering him to tell her what he had done to upset Hotch; JJ would go after Spencer, the witness, because there was no way that finding a new place would take him less than few weeks, he would be the witness of Hotch's break down because even Hotch couldn't keep himself in control twenty-four hours per day.

 

By the end of the day they all would know what happened and.... and if the worst will come to worst they would have to make a stand between Hotch and Morgan and even Spencer wasn't sure on whose side he would be. Morgan was his best friend and the older brother Spencer never had but Hotch... Hotch was harder to define, he was his teacher, his mentor, his oldest confidant, in a weird slightly dusted way his oldest friend and the closest person on the team he had to intellectual equal.

 

What was worse there was no neutral ground, no in between, not when he was practically living with Hotch and Jack and quite frankly he didn't want to become Swiss, for fuck's sake even back then Morgan should know, should remember how important his family was to Hotch...

 

If Elle was here, if Emily was here... if either of them was here so Spencer could voice to them his worries and his doubts.

 

If Elle was here, if Emily was here... it wouldn't matter anyway because Elle was dead and couldn't be here anymore no matter how much he wanted her to be here and Emily was far away in London caught up in her own worries and troubles.

 

Benjamin Franklin said, 'Three can keep a secret if two are dead.'

 

Elle was dead, today was eleventh day since she died. Haley has been dead for two years, seven months and five days. Hotch slowly but eventually moved on, even if things didn't work out with Beth he still moved on, little by little but he moved on. Dragging one of Haley's skeletons from the closet wasn't going to do anyone anything good, especially Hotch, it would hurt him and it might destroy whatever progress he made in getting his life under control, whatever confidence he had gained that perhaps one day, someday, he will be happy. And if Hotch would be unhappy, it would affect Jack and Spencer couldn't bring himself to do that, to either of them.

 

Haley's and Morgan's affair lasted less time that had passed since she died and for all this time it had remained a secret, a secret which by staying this way wasn't hurting anyone.

 

It didn't feel right, in fact it made him feel like the lowest vermin on earth but for Hotch's sake, for Jack's sake, for team's sake and even for Morgan's sake, even if right now the other man wasn't overly high on his list of favorite people, it should stay the way it was before Spencer stumbled upon the proof of Haley's and Morgan's infidelity.

 

When it mattered Emily didn't make it off the table and Spencer wasn't going to allow the skeleton from Haley's closet to made it past the door and it was going to stay that way even if it was making him physically sick right now.

 

He had gone over the photographs again, weeding out the photographs with Morgan, put them in a separate file, transferred them to a flash drive and made sure that no visible trace of the file was left on his laptop before he put the flash drive in his wallet. He could hide it amongst his or Elle's stuff in the storage unit later but for now... for now he should busy himself with making lunch for Lily and Jack.

 

Sleep Deprived

 

Few hours later, after a homemade lunch, a trip to the park which had ended with three big bowls of ice-creams Spencer found himself seated on the ground by Elle's grave quietly observing how Jack and Lily were picking daisies from the grounds surrounding Haley's grave.

 

One would think that considering the years that had passed between their deaths Haley's and Elle's graves would be further apart but they weren't, both graves were in the same quadrant and even in the same row just few graves apart, few more quarters south halfway between both of them was Carolyn's grave.

 

Jack slowly placed his bouquet of daisies on Haley's grave before he turned to Lily and said something that made Lily scoot towards him and wrap her smaller arms around the boy. Jack returned her hug and just as Spencer was about to stood up to go over to them they both giggled as they returned to picking the daisies.

 

Even kids were allowed to have their own little secrets, especially considering how close Lily and Jack grew in past few days. Jack practically adopted Lily as a little sister who only pouted over being called 'little', the sister part wasn't offending her at all and her issues with being 'little' could be easily solved by introducing her to Henry who was about a year and half younger than her and three years younger than Jack.

 

Perhaps he should schedule a play date for the kids or a sleepover, once he would establish when and where Will was planning to inform JJ that he was leaving MPDC's homicide division for FBI's Cold Cases. Hotch would probably have no problems with having Henry for the night and if they would take Henry out early enough perhaps they could spare an hour or two at a game of soccer and maybe a picnic.

 

I had a feeling I will find you here,” he heard a familiar voice a little to his left.

 

Spencer looked up, Hotch was standing about a feet away from him, he was wearing a worn pair of jeans and a t-shirt which looked as if it remembered his years in Yale. It looked as if just got off the plane and rather than staying at the office with paperwork he decided to come back home to check up on Jack, Spencer and Lily and when he hadn't found them home he decided to quickly change into more comfortable clothes before he started searching for them.

 

Have you told her yet?” Hotch asked gently as he sat down slowly next to Spencer.

 

Told her what?” Spencer sighed. “Have I told her that we brought up our daughter believing that her Mama and her Papa are fighting the bad guys? Have I told her that even now what matters to our daughter is that her Papa is still fighting the bad guys, that he is still her hero, her role model? Isn't it what being a parent is really all about, bringing up new generation of people who are able to see the difference between right and wrong, good and bad, people who don't shrink from their responsibilities but willingly take them upon themselves? I don't have to tell her, Hotch, she already knows, she already knows because she knows me and she knows our daughter... That of course doesn't mean that I'm going to return to duty right away, there are few things which I need to take care of first but I will come back to the team.”

 

I'm glad to hear that,” Hotch admitted. “You know what at times scares me the most in what we do?”

 

Spencer looked at the other man as he asked, “What?”

 

Not being fast enough to save anyone we could have saved,” Hotch sighed. “That case was one of them, Swannson confessed that if we hadn't caught him when we did he would kidnap remaining three girls and on the night of the anniversary he would have killed all eight of them and he would drop their bodies on the street from which his daughter had disappeared. You saved eight lives last night, five little girls returned home to their parents, three innocent girls didn't have to get through the horror of being torn away from their families. I don't think that we would have done it without you.”

 

Did they...” Spencer started.

 

No physical trauma, no sings of sexual abuse of any kind, Helen Grass the first victim has to stay at the hospital for few days because her parents and her doctors are worrying if the cold she caught during her stay in Swannson's storage wouldn't develop into something worse due to lowered immunity and psychological trauma,” Hotch said. “We wouldn't have done it without you.”

 

You would,” Spencer said simply.

 

Not as fast as we did with your help,” Hotch said. “Did something happen between now and last time we talked?”

 

Nothing overly disastrous,” Spencer shrugged. “If you aren't counting my back which needs more than few hours of rest because I'm a doctor, not a furniture mover. If Jack or Lily will ask us to move another piece of furniture bigger than a chair you are all on your own.”

 

You redecorated Jack's room all on your own?” Hotch asked.

 

Not really, Jack and Lily helped,” Spencer answered. “Especially when they were giving me directions, it's only a pity that at times they were giving me contradicting directions but...” he sighed, “we worked it out, your apartment is no longer the war zone... well unless the apartment above hadn't decided that being apartment 121 is cooler than being apartment 221 because if it did we are screwed... and homeless.”

 

Speaking about homeless, do you want me to arrest Clark Kellerman?” Hotch offered. “I'm sure that I can find a convincing argument to...”

 

Nah,” Spencer shrugged. “My money is on karma. Tomorrow in the evening his new tenants will decide to do to him what I once wanted to do to him when he duped me for the first time and hopefully they have less restrain than I did so maybe if luck is on my side Clark at the very least will get a shiner.”

 

You are too forgiving,” Hotch said.

 

I'm totally not,” Spencer snorted. “I'm giving him few days of peace before I will let Garcia crash his financial record before I would ask an old time friend of mine to return the favor and bitch slap him in public while listing how many STD she had gotten from him in the earshot of his newest conquest. She would do it for laugh and because she owes me, big.”

 

I forgot that you used to attract prostitutes like the honey attracts the flies,” Hotch grimaced.

 

I didn't tell you who I'm going to ask to do that,” Spencer said.

 

It's been implied,” Hotch deadpanned. “Natalie Hopkins alias Bella Bonaventure, I don't know about you but she is still sending me 'Thank you' cards every year on the date of what would be the day she had been arrested if she didn't run into you who believed her innocent while the majority of MPDC's homicide division wanted to take her head off for killing one of their own.”

 

She is more than capable of playing a shrew and a whacked one on that,” Spencer shrugged. “Not that it would interest you but last time I talked with her few months ago she told me that if one of us would ever end in 'Delightful Pleasures Emporium' we would get a ninety-five percent discount for everything she has in store.”

 

She did mention that in her last 'Thank you' card,” Hotch muttered as he looked ahead.

 

You had been there, hadn't you?” Spencer asked innocently.

 

She has a very interesting collection of bath salts,” Hotch shrugged. “You should take a bath in Foreplay, it's lavender and vanilla scented and very relaxing. Your back will appreciate a good...”

 

Daddy!” Jack exclaimed enthusiastically as he spotted Hotch.

 

...soak,” Hotch finished as he extended his arms towards Jack who zoomed past Spencer and barreled into Hotch with the speed and force of a small tornado effectively knocking Hotch flat on the ground making the man let out a huff of laughter suppressed by the weight on his chest.

 

Spencer snickered softly just as a pair of small arms wrapped around his neck from behind and Lily pressed her cheek against Spencer's.

 

Did you catch him, Papa?” Lily asked solemnly.

 

We did, Petal, we did,” Spencer said softly as he turned his body around to pull her into his lap.

 

Today was Saturday, 30 th June and it had been eleven days since Elle died and for the first time in eleven days Spencer felt confident that he could face ups and downs of being a single parent with a demanding job, after all he had a good role model.

 

So who wants a homemade pizza for dinner?” he asked with a small smile.

To Be Continued...

Chapter Text


There's one sad truth in life I've found
While journeying east and west -
The only folks we really wound
Are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.
~Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Sleep Deprived or The Summer During Which Spencer and Aaron Fell in Love

Chapter five: Promises Once Made.

Twenty-five days had gone by since Elle died, a week had passed since the team returned from Vegas and it had been the day when one Lily Spencer – 'for Pete's sake Spence, it's an unisex name, and yes, it's not overly popular amongst women but I would like her to be partly named after one of the best men I ever knew and she really doesn't look like Roberta, so please say yes' – Greenaway-Reid in the chaperoning company of one Jack Spencer – 'what's really wrong with you people, what happened to the tradition of naming daughters after the mothers and sons after the fathers, you didn't think that it was prudent to inform me beforehand that you were intending to name your son after me' – Hotchner was introduced to one Henry William – 'big thanks for giving him a second name after his dad and grandpa JJ and don't you even dare to tell me that for a while you were considering Spencer as a second name' – LaMontagne at the barbeque in Rossi's garden after Spencer's namesakes almost had fallen into Rossi's pool still fully clothed, too concentrated on their chase after a soccer ball to watch where they were going which warranted the warning hollers with the use of their full names and few seconds later had prompted Spencer's hissy fit about names that wear well, names that don't wear well and what in the in the name of Einstein you had been thinking Aaron – you really don't want me to use your past and present middle and third names – Hotchner.

One could say that having a child named after you was endearing and meant that the child's parents held you in high regard. Spencer wasn't one of those people, he didn't wallowed in a mistaken delusion that being someone's child namesake was a honor, it wasn't. The main purpose of middle and third names was filling the space between the first and the last name on legal paperwork, they allowed to tell the difference between a John James Doe and John Joseph Doe who were unfortunate enough to be born on the same date in the same town. Other than that they were rarely needed and didn't exactly matter to the wearer whatever or not he or she was named after his or hers parents favorite rockstar, grandfather, best friend or whatever.

Elle he could understand, she was in the room with him when he named Lily and she knew how important in a matter of seconds Lily became to him. Lily's middle name wasn't a honor, it was a claim, a reminder that Lily to certain extent will always remain Spencer's even if they hadn't shared any blood ties. Additionally Lily was born as Greenaway and Spencer couldn't exactly give her more than the first name that suited her without complicating hers or Elle's lives more than they already were which is why in the end he conceded that Lily Spencer Greenaway in a way suited the little bundle in his arms.

But Jack Spencer Hotchner was a completely different issue.

"Jack isn't named after you," Hotch said calmly.

"I'm not?" Jack pouted as he wrapped his arms around Spencer's left leg. "It would be cool if I was."

"Okay, you are a little named after Uncle Spencer," Hotch conceded to the pout. "Your Mum and I had a really big problem with naming you and we couldn't exactly agree on any of the names. In the end we decided to name you after your Grandpa Jacob Brooks and my Grandpa from my mum's side who happened to share his first name with your Uncle Spencer."

"Why not Aaron though?" Rossi asked. "It wears well too."

"I grew up as Aaron Leland Melvin Hotchner," Hotch deadpanned. "And for some reason in high-school my English teacher with almost sadistic pleasure used my full name on almost every single lesson," he snorted. "Get through a freshman year in high-school as class's dwarf that due to his height, almost shoulder-length black curly hair and his father's most unfortunate first name as a middle name gets called Lily Hotchner, I dare you Dave," he glared at Rossi before he turned to Spencer, "And that's the reason why I abhor the tradition of saddling children with their parents' first names as the middle names."

"But Leland..." Garcia started timidly. "Your middle and third names are different," she protested.

"Self-preservation," Hotch coughed. "Not that anyone would have dared to call me Lily or Pansy or Sissy in college, but I didn't want to give anyone an excuse to come with a floral nickname, I had my share of more than few embarrassing ones."

"You wanna share?" Morgan asked curiously.

"Hotchrocket," Hotch coughed. "An after-effect of a not overly sober basketball match gone very, very wrong."

"It's kind of cool," Jack said.

"It really isn't, buddy," Hotch shook his head. "Not with the way I gained it, let's just say that it was a very painful way."

Jack looked from Hotch to Spencer and stared at Spencer expectantly. Spencer rolled his eyes inwardly as he made a circling motion with his right hand over his own crotch. Jack frowned for a second before he wrinkled his nose and said, "That got to hurt."

Spencer smirked at Hotch, the man should have realized that his son was old and active enough to learn that an accidental kick or whack or having a really fast object aimed at man's crotch could be very painful for the recipient.

"I don't know why you are complaining Spence," JJ said. "Spencer is a good name, one that wears well without too much of a fancy and happens to be just popular enough to not be overused."

Spencer rolled his eyes before he sat down allowing Jack and Lily to clamber into his lap before he said, "When I was seven going eight into a house next door to the one I lived in had moved an old married couple who wanted to enjoy their retirement in Vegas. Eugene and Edna Ross-Stawinsky. They moved in just as the school had started. They hosted a housewarming party at their place for all of the neighbors and with all of this stuff one does in order to make friends in new place. About a week, maybe closer to two after they had moved in I was coming back from school, the bus stop was two-three houses away from the one in which I was living and every day while I was going to and coming back from school I had to pass by Ross-Stawinskys house. It was Thursday, late afternoon, I was returning from school and thoroughly enjoying the short walk and I almost made it to the door of my house when I heard, 'Spencer! Spence! Come to Mommy my little popsicle. Don't do that, you are a very bad boy..." Spencer imitated an old lady's voice. "And because I'm Spencer and my name was being called out I turned around to check why in the name of Einstein Mrs Ross-Stawinsky was calling it out and calling me a bad boy. It was then when I saw him for the first time," he paused to take a breath.

"Him?" Lily asked curiously.

"Him," Spencer echoed before he continued, "He was standing by Ross-Stawinkys mail-box, partly on the grass, partly on the pavement in all of his curly, black-haired glory, his brown eyes were so dark that they were almost black and they were zeroed on me as he very slowly crouched by the mailbox and planted by there the biggest pile of poo I ever saw come out of a rear end of a cocker spaniel."

Quite predictably Spencer's story caused an eruption of giggles, snorts and howls of laughter. Spencer smiled to himself before he cleared his throat in order to continue.

"Mrs Ross-Stawinsky believed that her Spencie was his mama's precious little curly boy but I knew, I knew better, I knew that he wasn't precious, he was evil, he was devil reincarnated, he was so rotten that even the hell itself spat him back out," Spencer continued.

"No offense Pretty Boy but you and dogs don't get along well," Morgan chocked out.

"None taken, jerk," Spencer coughed.

"Shush," Garcia hissed before she placed her hand over Morgan's mouth, "Boy Wonder is telling the story and he is doing pretty great."

"Thank you," Spencer smiled at her sincerely. "For few days," he said as he continued his story, "we had settled on observing one another, lying in wait and nervous anxiety what the other would be like. Did the innocent appearance was deceiving us? Was he going to be the bane of my existence or was he going to become my friend and then..." Spencer hung his voice and cleared his throat. "It was a warm Friday afternoon and I was returning from school when the beast finally showed its true colors and clenched his jaws on my butt with all of his vehemence and cruelty."

"You poor thing," Garcia whispered.

Spencer silenced her with his raised hand as he continued, "It happened once, it happened twice, but when it happened for the third time my Mum decided that enough was enough so she made a copy out of my class schedule, went over to Mrs Ross-Stawisnky, placed the schedule in her hand and said, 'This is my son's class schedule. Every day between Monday and Friday he leaves the house at 7:30 AM to get to the bus stop by the Thompsons house, the bus leaves the bus stop by 7:40 AM. Every day between Monday and Friday he returns from school, the bus stops by the Thompsons house precisely at 2:50 PM, it takes Spencer ten minutes to reach home. Twenty minutes, that's how long I ask you to keep your precious popsicle inside the house or in the backyard, it's not going to kill him, Edna, it's not going to kill you. But if your Spencer comes within ten feet of my Spencer between 7:30 and 7:40 AM and between 2:50 and 3:00 PM you have my word that I will catch him, put him in a cat's carrier and that I will drive your precious popsicle all the way to Reno before I will dump him in the dog pound."

"And you never saw him again while you were coming back from school." Morgan said.

"No," Spencer quipped. "I saw him on Monday, waiting for me by Ross-Stawinskys mail-box but luckily for me he was so concentrated on contemplating into which one of my butts he should sink his teeth that he completely ignored my mum who had approached him from behind with a carrier and forced and locked him inside it before she extended her hand to me and said, 'Come Spencer, we are taking a road-trip.'"

"And she drew you all the way..." Rossi started.

"... to Reno where we dropped Spencer the cocker spaniel in the dog-pound before we came back home," Spencer finished. "When it come to promises my Mum was Rosedale-Rozanov through and through, never wasted a breath on a promise she didn't intent to keep."

"Do you know what happened to Spencer after your Mum dropped him in a pound in Reno?" Morgan asked cautiously.

"Unfortunately I do," Spencer grimaced. "After few days of looking for him Ross-Stawisnkys went to Reno, picked him up from the pound and brought him back home but they didn't let him outside when I was there. A wise decision, wiser would be keeping that infernal beast in the backyard and not letting him out without a leash," he grimaced even harder. "About a month and half after they brought him back they let him out into their front yard once I returned home but my mum was still in the front yard, picking the mail, she picked the mail and was about to come back home when she saw Mrs Rawson leaving the house with her two years old twins, Rita and Rose, two years old, they said their hellos, Mrs Rawson suddenly remembered that she needed to bring something from the house so she asked my Mum to keep an eye on the girls for a minute or two, neither my Mum nor Mrs Rawson hadn't seen Spencer until that furry behemoth zoomed through the street and... you are more than capable of filling in the rest of the story."

"They trained him that way?" Morgan asked skeptically.

"That's the worst, they didn't, cocker spaniels, other breeds too but the issue is the most common amongst the cocker spaniels, occasionally happen to suffer from rare but serious behavioral problem called rage syndrome which is speculated to be an inheritable form of epilepsy that causes temporary dissociation from reality. It usually can be managed with antiepileptics but it needs to be diagnosed first. Ross-Stawisnkys ignored the issue and it almost lead to a tragedy," Spencer explained.

"You are making it sound as if those swe... cockers shouldn't be trusted," Garcia said sceptically.

"Because in my book they shouldn't be trusted, especially with children," Spencer said grimly. "The rage syndrome occasionally resurfaces in Bernese Mountain Dogs, Rottweilers, English Bull Terriers, Pappilons, Border Collies and Golden Retrievers."

"Goldies too?" Garcia gasped.

"At times, if you don't research the kennel properly," Spencer nodded. "It might also happen to dachshunds but that's my private, probably exaggerated and openly biased opinion because if I ever found a dog breed more evil than cockers then it's certainly the dachshunds."

"I agree," Hotch nodded.

Spencer smiled to himself.

"Your opinion on dachshunds is exaggerated and openly biased," Hotch clarified.

"The scars on my calves beg to differ," Spencer snorted.

"The scars on your calves prove your bias," Hotch pointed out. "How did you get them to end so biased about the dachshunds?"

"That's for me to know and for you to wonder about if you really don't have anything more interesting to do," Spencer retorted.

"You started talking about the dogs," Hotch said simply.

"Mothy is coming back?" Lily asked eagerly. "He is, isn't he, Papa?"

"Mrs Henderson is on her way to visit her sister in Miami and she did ask me if we finally managed to settle down because Mothy misses you," Spencer said cautiously as he eyed Hotch and Jack.

"What kind of a name is Mothy?" Rossi asked.

"Lily's," Spencer said simply. "I call him Behemoth, Elle called him Moth and Lily calls him Mothy."

"Behemoth?" Morgan asked skeptically.

"I will call you worse if you will ever dare to pee into my only pair of shoes I happen to have with me while I'm miles away from the spare ones," Spencer deadpanned.

"Is the name Behemoth appropriate for his size?" Hotch asked with a frown.

"He is not a Great Dane..." Spencer started.

"That's comforting," Hotch muttered.

"...but he is not a Chihuahua either," Spencer finished.

"Does he happen to be closer to one of them?" Hotch asked pointedly.

"Yes," Spencer nodded.

"Which one?" Hotch pressed.

"Great Dane," Jack chirped. "Uncle Spencer wouldn't look so nervous about a dust mop."

"Chihuahuas aren't dust mops, Jack," Garcia informed Jack quickly.

"My friend from school has a chihuahua," Jack said. "As long as a dog can squeeze under and can still stand under the coffee table it's a dust mop, Aunt Penny," he explained. "His dad wanted a bigger dog but his mum wanted to have one that she can put in a bag, it's not really smart and you don't know how hard it's not to laugh when Popsicle left 'his Mama' a smelly surprise in her brand new bag."

"See," Spencer quipped. "Even Jack agrees with me that a dog needs to look like a dog and not like an animated statue of one."

"Because you are not being a very good influence on him with all your bias towards everything small and cute," Garcia muttered.

"Excuse me?" Spencer snorted. "I'm biased towards everything small and cute?"

"Aren't you? At times of course," JJ asked as she tried not to laugh.

"Ready small and cute?" Spencer asked quickly.

"Ready," Jack and Lily quipped in unison before they looked at Garcia and both smiled at her with their probably the biggest smiles.

"Do I still look biased to you?" Spencer asked pointedly and he smirked inwardly to himself.

Apparently cuteness overload had worked well enough to leave Garcia temporarily without a retort and he was about to comment on that when he had felt a tap on the top of his head.

"What's up?" he asked as he looked up and came almost nose to nose with Hotch. "Aside of you at the moment."

"I really want to know what kind of a dog you are trying to smuggle inside a two bedrooms apartment," Hotch said calmly and quietly enough so only Spencer and Jack and Lily heard him.

"Does the answer a Newfoundland satisfy you?" Spencer asked sheepishly.

"A Newfoundland," Hotch repeated the name. "You are telling me that you, a sworn, self-diagnosed germophobic and kynophobic neat-freak not only converted to the dark side of dog lovers but also had gotten one of the bigger breeds that sheds like crazy and drools extensively. Okay, who are you and what you have done with Spencer Reid?"

Lily and Jack in Spencer's lap giggled softly.

"I'm still a sworn, self-diagnosed germophobic and kynophobic neat-freak," Spencer said simply. "But I'm a sworn, self-diagnosed germophobic and kynophobic neat-freak with overgrown empathy bone who hates upsetting his little daughter and deliberate, unreasonable animal cruelty so... yes, when I see a man throwing a yipping cardboard-box into the lake in Central Park I do take a dive into aforementioned lake in order to rescue four terrified Newfoundland puppies which only fault was that their probable owner was either an idiot or a sadist, or both. Yes, he sheds like crazy, and yes, he drools like a fountain but he is also the kindest, gentlest, most patient, bordering on overprotective dog and natural-born babysitter. Not to mention he converted a pair of sworn cat lovers that while cats rule a good dog is always a good dog..."

"You couldn't warn me beforehand that you are bringing him in?" Hotch asked.

"I could," Spencer said. "But..."

"Mrs Henderson who is taking care of him called you just as you were leaving your apartment and informing you," she turned to Hotch, "while you were driving here was counterproductive to getting here safely, am I right?" Strauss asked pointedly.

"She..." Spencer started as he looked at Strauss. "The address of Hotch's apartment..."

"... is listed on your file as your current address and his land-line was added as an alternative number to reach you," Strauss said. "Relax, there is nothing wrong with two grown men sharing an apartment in direr times."

"It only makes them look like Bert and Ernie," Rossi said simply.

"Or Rod and Nicky," Strauss said to Rossi.

"What?" Hotch asked.

"And here I was thinking that not getting pop-culture references was my specialty," Spencer shook his head before he looked up at Hotch and clarified, "Avenue Q, a musical that holds 22nd place on the list of the longest running shows in Broadway history. I saw it, like three times, granted not on Broodway but on tour but I still saw it."

"You saw it and you didn't say a word?" Garcia asked curiously.

"There is no amount of money or blackmail material in the world that will make me sign what really internet is for," Spencer quipped. "Or what to do with a B.A. in English or whatever or not it's okay for Hotch to google which one of Rod and Nicky's songs is one of the most popular ones on youtube and had gotten like a million remakes in various versions," Spencer protested. "In case you people hadn't notice we aren't only working together but for the time being we are also sharing living quarters and I would really like to live long enough to move to my own place."

"You know that I'm still going to google it, don't you?" Hotch asked pointedly.

"I do, but I'm hoping that when you will find it you will remember that I didn't start it, they did," Spencer retorted as he eyed Strauss, Rossi and Garcia.

"If you were..." Garcia started.

"Garcia!" Spencer howled.

In spite of Garcia's continued attempts to prove that he did know the lyrics from Avenue Q Spencer managed to resist both her and the urge to push her into Rossi's swimming pool but in his attempts to fend himself from her he managed to get himself into Morgan's clutches who kept grilling him about Moth until Will and JJ had rescued him by asking him about the list of kids friendly dogs to which Spencer had only one answer: Newfoundland, which Hotch grumpily called corrupting innocent souls to the dark side of shed fur and dog slobber, which had prompted another argument about whatever or not deep at his core Hotch was a cat person.

The ride back to Hotch's apartment was quiet even if Spencer could see that Lily was practically vibrating with excitement at the idea of seeing Moth again after weeks long separation which Moth had spent with Mrs Henderson and Jack really didn't look better than Lily. It was Hotch who was going to have a problem with Moth.

Jessica had provided bits and pieces of a picture of how Hotch's childhood looked like and the bigger picture they were forming wasn't pretty, just very, very sad. Even raised by the most wonderful woman on earth as Miranda Avram had appeared in Jessica's stories Hotch was still raised in a house of people for whom not being proper was the eight deadly sin, years spent with Leland and Melinda Hotchner, who if happened to be dotting on anyone on a occasion certainly weren't dotting on Hotch but their younger son. It was Sean who had gotten everything he wanted and what he wanted was mostly the things which Aaron Hotchner had been denied when he was growing up, whatever it had been pets, new toys or having his friends over or going to amusement park with his parents.

Thanks to Miranda Hotch still got a few newer toys as a child or few cherished trips with his Mum under the disguise of visiting one of Miranda's relatives but not even Miranda could have sneaked inside a kitten or a puppy in order for her son to receive this kind of unconditional love that an animal gives to his or hers owner, what was probably worse as far as Jessica could tell, Miranda had tried to sneak a stray puppy into Hotch's bedroom once but it had ended with a tragedy for all three of them.

No matter how many issues Spencer had with his father he had to give William Reid that he never descended as low as to cruelly kill an animal in his son's close vicinity, he even avoided emptying mouse traps in the garage when Spencer was nearby. And in spite of all of his resentment he felt towards his father he had to give him that he taught Spencer how to appreciate a little, warm, purring engine splayed over on his chest while he was reading a book on his bed even though these days their surname and their love for cats was the only thing they had shared.

"Wherever you are at the moment you better come back at once," Hotch muttered. "I don't want you to get run over by Wentworth Bergham's Lamborghini just because you were too lost in thought to watch where are you going."

'Ouch!' Spencer cringed inwardly before he said, "Yes, sir."

Watching what was going on the parking lot he picked up Lily from the backseat and collected Jack who had gotten out of the car through the door on Spencer's side.

"I know that I should have asked first," Spencer said once Hotch closed the car. "But Strauss was right, Mrs Henderson had called me practically in the last moment and really..." he sighed before he switched to French which Lily didn't know as well as she knew Spanish, in so far her French was ending on greeting and introducing herself to people, "Lily's home is with me now, even if right now we really don't have a home of our own. He had been with her since she was three years old, she isn't complaining because she knows that Moth needed to stay with Mrs Henderson for as long as it was going to take Elle and her to settle down in DC in peace but I know that she misses him and I know that a big dog that sheds and slobbers is a problem but I promise that you won't even have to pet him if you don't want to and that he won't be too much of a problem."

"I don't have a problem with a big, shedding and slobbering dog in the house," Hotch grumbled. "What I have problem with is being notified that I'm going to have a big, shedding and slobbering dog in the house within hours of his arrival into my home and his owner who through all these weeks he had spent in my home not even once had breathed a word about a dog."

"I was hoping that by the time Mrs Henderson would call me about taking Moth back I will have a place on my own," Spencer admitted.

"You are all on your own with Jessica," Hotch muttered.

"She kind of already knows," Spencer said sheepishly and when Hotch glared at him he added, "What? I needed to ask her if she was really ready to take in both Lily and Moth when I was away."

"You warn her but don't warn me?" Hotch asked grimly.

"Moth was going to be hers additional problem while I was gone, not yours," Spencer replied. "He is house-trained, well-behaved and he isn't going to climb on the furniture."

"You are so sleeping on the couch tonight," Hotch grumbled. "You and your dog."

"Yes, sir," Spencer said quickly.

Sleep Deprived

Moth arrived with Mrs Henderson just as they had finished the light dinner and Hotch started cleaning the dishes from the table ignoring Lily's and Jack's excited greeting with Moth who thoroughly licked their faces and with the patience of a big teddy-bear he was at heart allowed them to hug himself before he greeted himself with Spencer in his usual 'that's my savior and I need to pounce on him' manner in which he was always greeting Spencer after long periods of not seeing him because while Lily was his Mistress Moth appeared to subconsciously know that without Spencer and his involvement he wouldn't have his Mistress because he wouldn't be around, at least that's what Elle used to say when she was helping Spencer to get out from under big, joyful teddy-bear after this kind of greeting though Spencer knew better that the big, joyful teddy-bear could smell the treats in Spencer's pockets which Spencer used to bring from DC in order to bribe his way inside Elle's apartment.

"Behemoth!" Spencer howled from under Moth who completely ignored and continued to thoroughly lick his face and hair.

"Behemoth, one; Spencer Reid, zero," Hotch commented.

"Kiss my... Behemoth!" Spencer yelped.

"I'd rather not," Hotch muttered. "Not to mention the fact that he appears to be primarily interested in you."

Spencer grabbed Moth by the fur on his neck and pushed his mutt away from his own face as he glared at Hotch and muttered, "Beef Jerky."

"We just had dinner," Hotch commented sourly which indicated that he had gotten the hidden message.

"Can he stay with us?" Jack and Lily asked in unison and Spencer looked past Moth's legs to see a perfect imitation of Simba and Nala from Lion King asking Sarabi if they could go to the waterhole while they were intending to sneak away into elephant's graveyard.

"In your room?" Hotch asked pointedly.

Simba's and Nala's grins and eyes grew even bigger.

"As long as he is going to stay of the furniture," Hotch said. "Your Papa looks like he is about to burst it might be a good idea to get Moth from him before he will turn blue."

"I'm fine," Spencer mumbled as he tried to smoother down the desire to burst in laughter because here and now it wasn't the best place and time to do so. "But I'm not going to say no to little help," he added as he slowly wormed his way from under Moth.

Once Moth's bedding was placed under the wall in the dinning area along with his bowls Spencer took over from Hotch bathing Lily and Jack before the bed because Hotch had received a call he needed to answer even though at Spencer's question if they were going to leave for a case today he answered, 'No'.

Hotch was still hanging on the phone when Spencer lead freshly bathed and dressed in their pj's kids to their bedroom along with Moth who knew that Lily liked to fall asleep with him in the room.

"Why Dad doesn't like dogs?" Jack asked once Spencer finished telling them a story. "Moth is great."

"Oh, Jack," Spencer sighed as he moved from Lily's bed to sit down on Jack's. "It's not that your dad doesn't like dogs, he likes them and he is getting along with them just fine but he never had a dog on his own you see. He had met a lot of dogs in his life but he hadn't come back home with one and he knows that keeping a dog requires a lot of work around the dog, like brushing his fur, feeding him, walking him out so he can relieve himself. It's a work not everybody wants to do which makes keeping a dog slightly problematic and because your dad never had a dog on his own he prefers to have the things the way they are."

"Because of Grandfather?" Jack asked pensively. "You and Aunt Jess are talking sometimes about him, especially when you think that we aren't listening. He was a very bad man, wasn't he?"

"He was a bad, pitiful man who couldn't recognize that he was given a precious gift," Spencer sighed. "That's what you are to us," he smiled at Jack and Lily. "Children are precious gifts but not all adults can recognize their value, Jack. Your Grandfather was one of them, he didn't realize that if he was nicer, kinder and more caring he would have not one but two devoted sons. It happens sometimes and it's very sad, for everyone involved. But in the end more often than not from those sad children grow up adults who know how much it hurts to feel lost, unloved and unworthy of love and when they have children on their own they know better than to inflict these feelings on their own children, they are ultimately devoted to them and there isn't a thing in the world they wouldn't have done for them in order to make them feel happy, loved and cared for."

"You were one of them, weren't you?" Jack said pensively.

"I..." Spencer started.

"Almost always when we are talking about something that's big and not good you keep repeating that you and Dad love us," Jack said. "Was your Dad as bad as Grandfather?" the Grandfather at the end was almost spat.

"He wasn't," Spencer grimaced. "Bad Dad that's it," he sighed. "For as long as he was around as a Dad he always had enough time to spend it with me... he taught me a lot and he had given me a lot but in the end..." he grimaced.

"In the end?" Lily asked as she climbed out of the bed and into Spencer's lap.

"In the end the most important things in life I hadn't learned from him." Spencer said softly. "I learned them all by myself from his mistakes and at some point... at some early point of my life I realized that he had taken from me more that he had given to me. Everything I am today I hadn't become because of him but in spite of him, I know that and I never fail to remind him that and that when I needed my Dad the most he wasn't there because he had chosen to not be there."

"Is this why you needed to sleep over coming back to work?" Lily asked pensively. "Because you will be going away without me?"

Spencer nodded.

"But you will come back, won't you?" she asked simply. "Every time."

"As fast as possible," Spencer said earnestly.

"So it's okay," Lily said simply. "Even Batman can't be in two places at the same time and Moth will protect us while you are gone."

Spencer smiled at her, she was so sweet and... he glanced at Jack who was frowning slightly.

"What's wrong buddy?" Spencer asked.

"Did your dad chase the bad guys too?" Jack asked.

"No," Spencer answered.

Jack visibly relaxed.

"Jack," Spencer said softly. "You know that your Dad will always come back to you, don't you?"

"Unless he would get hurt so badly that he would have to go to Mum," Jack nodded. "Uncle Mike explained it once when Dad had to go away for a very, very, very long time sometime ago."

"Yes," Spencer nodded. "But until it happens, if it'll ever happen, he will kept coming back to you as fast as possible. And if he will ever lose all of his marbles and suddenly decide that he doesn't want to come back to you in order to get away from you he will have to get through me."

"That's not going to happen," Hotch said as he walked into the room. "The part about me loosing all marbles and going away from you, Jack," he added as he sat down on the other side of Jack's bed. "I can't promise you for sure that I will never get hurt, buddy," he sighed. "I can't promise you for sure that one day I will get hurt so badly that I won't come back home again. But I can promise you that I'm going to be always careful with myself because I want to keep coming back to you for as long as I possible."

Jack smiled softly at Hotch just as Moth sneaked in on Hotch and placed his head on Hotch's tight, a sight which only widened Jack's smile and Spencer could tell right away that once he and Lily would move out to a place of their own Jack was going to pester Hotch to get a dog on their own and judging by Hotch's slightly tighter than usual smile Hotch just realized the same thing.

"Can we have a picnic tomorrow?" Jack asked suddenly. "Just us."

Hotch opened his mouth to answer.

"The five of us," Jack clarified.

"Sure," Spencer and Hotch answered together though they hadn't done it in unison, Spencer answered quickly without hesitation while Hotch drawled out the syllables.

"You know that in order to have enough strength left for tomorrow you have to go to sleep now," Hotch said. "No nocturnal pillow fights and telling ghost stories between pretending that you are sleeping."

"Ghost stories?" Jack asked innocently.

"Are you going to tell me that the reason both of you started screaming last night at we should be asleep o'clock wasn't because after we told you a bedtime story you pretended to fall asleep and spend some time at telling each other how many ghost and monsters live in your closet?" Hotch asked pointedly.

"I' pretty sure that you mentioned Bernardo the Headless Soccer Player," Spencer said.

"You said that the screws in the closet's shelf had given out," Lily shrugged. "But it was a bit scary that when Jack was telling the story the shelf had given out and the soccer ball had rolled into the room."

"Did you read them The Legend of Sleepy Hollow while I was gone?" Hotch asked.

"Nada," Spencer said. "But they did spend few hours here and few hours there at Jessica's place and Becky is in the right age to like scaring smaller kids."

"Becky has a total crush on Johnny Depp," Jack said simply. "That's what Zoe said when we asked Becky if we could use her TV set to play the races. She told us that we can use it once we will watch the movie with her."

"She wanted to scare us but it didn't work," Lily said simply.

"I beg to differ," Spencer quipped.

"The movie was funny," Lily shrugged. "The shelf falling down was not."

"Well, I personally screwed the shelf back to its place and we checked the closet, didn't we?" Spencer asked.

"No monsters or ghosts inside," Jack nodded.

"And we have Mothy," Lily asked.

"So we are going to lie down in our beds in order to fall asleep in peace so we can have a lot of strength for tomorrow's picnic," Spencer said.

"Yep," Lily and Jack said in unison.

"Off you go then," Spencer said as he stood up with Lily in his arms and he carried her to the bed nestling and tucking her under the covers before he bend down to kiss her forehead. "Sweet dreams, Sweet-pea."

"Nightie Papa," Lily said earnestly over Hotch's 'Good-night buddy.'

What surprised Spencer, and Hotch probably too, was that once he straightened up from bending over Lily's bed just as Hotch did from bending over Jack's bed almost immediately right after that Jack and Lily said, almost in unison, "Me too!"

Spencer looked up from Lily then at Hotch who lips were twisted in a shadow of a soft smile before he looked down at Jack who had his left eye open and fixed on Spencer.

Spencer smiled at Jack before he bent down and pressed a kiss to his forehead while whispering, "Sweet dreams Jacadi."

Making his way slowly to the door he passed by Hotch who went around Jack's bed in order to kiss Lily goodnight.

This was new development, Spencer thought as he made his way to the kitchen. During last week that followed Hotch's return from Vegas the team was on stand down for two days and had spent following three and half days working on a relatively local arsonist. Spencer wasn't working with them not only because his bereavement leave wasn't over but also because he wanted to use whatever was left of it at looking for an apartment on his own.

Rationally he knew that Hotch wouldn't kick him out until Spencer would find a place of his own and even then the place would have to pass not only Spencer's but also Hotch's and Morgan's inspections and while Hotch told him to take his time in order to avoid making hasty decisions deep inside Spencer knew that once he would return to active field duty Hotch would have him underfoot around the clock and not just at work or just at home.

In so far no big fight had occurred but it was only a matter of time before one would occur between one alpha male and one 'I'm not an alpha male but I can get very territorial about my stuff and personal space and one day I just won't roll on my back in order to show you my belly and my submissiveness'. And once it would happen over big enough issue...

"You look like a cat who just realized that the canary was let out of the cage," Hotch said as he stopped by Spencer.

"I was thinking," Spencer sighed.

"When you don't?" Hotch retorted.

"Between getting out of bed and first cup of coffee for the day," Spencer replied. "And in various personal situations you don't want to hear about."

"Got it," Hotch said. "Want to share?"

"Supremacy plans? No way," Spencer shrugged.

"You aren't kicking me out of here," Hotch said.

"I wouldn't do such a thing," Spencer protested.

"Isn't that what you are doing by bringing home a dog?" Hotch asked.

Spencer mouthed inaudibly, 'Deaf asshole.'

"Partially deaf asshole," Hotch chastised him. "And that partiality refers only to right ear and on such level that for most of the time I don't remember that my hearing is worse in that ear."

"You can always consider Moth as training before Jack's puberty," Spencer retorted.

"Are you comparing Jack's prospective partners to a dog?" Hotch asked skeptically.

"They shed clothes, they salivate... Do you want me to keep going?" Spencer asked simply.

"You can if you want me to throw a bowl of popcorn at you," Hotch replied.

"Not that I'm questioning your aim or anything but at the moment you can throw at me either the bowl or popcorn," Spencer said. "In order to fulfill your treat you need to microwave it and put it in the bowl which leaves me an absurd amount of time to get out of here corn free."

"And where you would go?" Hotch asked pointedly.

"Master bathroom for a good soak," Spencer said simply.

"It has only one way out," Hotch said.

"But it also has a toilet, water from the tap and big enough bathtub to bunk there through the night," Spencer said.

"And no food," Hotch pointed out.

"As long as you are counting out saran-wrapped bowl of mushed strawberries," Spencer said. "I was meaning to ask..." he stopped abruptly as he realized that Hotch went almost as red as the crimson bowl which was standing on the counter. "You know what? I really don't want to know why you keep it there as long as it won't suddenly blow up while I'm in the middle of the shower."

"It probably gone bad by now," Hotch sighed. "I'll throw it out later. Do you want beer, ginger ale or soda?"

"Ginger ale," Spencer answered. "Are we watching something?"

"You mentioned few weeks ago wanting to watch Sherlock," Hotch said.

"I did?" Spencer asked trying to recall when and where he told Hotch that.

"On the flight to Arizona, I think it was after the sandwich but before you scared off a thirteen years old girl and her mother by pretending that you were reading a Russian dissertation on the subject of Rhyer's Syndrome," Hotch answered.

"In case you forgot that let me remind you that I asked them politely, four times to tune down slightly their harping and reading over and over the same article from five different newspapers and I really don't have anything against people who like vampires that happen to sparkle in the sunlight, it's their life, their choices and their preferences but getting through Twilight alone gave me a headache and left me cursing the fact that I have an eidetic memory. Not to mention the fact that their pitched squeals and shrieks started giving me a headache. I was polite and I was calm, it was their choice to ignore my calm and polite requests to talk a little lower."

"And you enjoyed every moment of it," Hotch said.

"A genius doesn't get mad, he gets even," Spencer said simply.

Sleep Deprived

"Why Behemoth?" the question roused Spencer from his sated state between the land of living and so called lalaland where he had ventured after playing murderous game of badminton against Lily and Jack, eating two helpings of cheesecake between playing with Moth, Lily and Jack the game of 'run the dog down to the ground until he succumbs to a minor narcoleptic episode' before it occurred to Spencer that Moth had a very sound idea.

And it wasn't as if Hotch couldn't stand up from the blanket in order to pull Lily and/or Jack from a tree and retrieve the Frisbee they had thrown up there because even though Moth was dozing at the moment playing Frisbee was still a lot of fun even after it landed on a tree.

Lying down on the blanket with his head propped on Moth's left side, with the cowboy hat he had found in Hotch's closet – I have no idea... strike that, I have the idea, it was a part of last year's Halloween costume – covering his hair and his face while he twined his fingers together over his stomach and crossed his ankles before he succumbed to the soaking in warm July sun.

"Is he named after you?" Hotch asked curiously as he petted Moth causing the dog to emit the soft puffs and purrs of pleasure because Moth fully approved decadence of napping in warm sunlight and absent-minded petting in 'that's right, that's right, that's... oh I love you' spot on his head between his ears seeing that Moth's role model in his young puppy days had been Elle's three legged cat, Independence, she had adopted from the shelter.

Moth had been such a cat at times, perhaps that's why he and Spencer for most of the time had been getting along just fine.

"Nope," Spencer commented from under his hat. "I already told you that he peed into my shoes. It didn't exactly make me a happy camper so I growled a little and I might or I might have not threatened his testicles with snipping before I calmed down. But if you are interested I can tell you what Elle used to say when she was asked the same question."

"Fire away," Hotch said.

"Behemoth stands for be he the moth that is drawn to my family," Spencer answered. "Besides it suited him and it suited Elle because Moth was growing up along with Lily and Elle's aging cat, Independence, which at times had been affectionately called Decadence and what's even more funny she answered to both names."

"And let me guess she is with Elle's other neighbor, isn't she?" Hotch asked.

"She is in pet-cemetery, she passed away or more precisely was put away to eternal rest in December due to advanced thyroid cancer," Spencer explained. "Lily was moping for weeks afterward until she smuggled home an injured sparrow..." he hung his voice as he tried to swallow around the bile in his throat before he said, "I've just realized how many times during past year we had to sooth away her pain over losing someone she cared about, how many times she ended asking Elle to call me just to ask me if Independence didn't suffer, Elle was just as broken down as Lily was when it became evident that Independence's days were outnumbered that she couldn't bring herself to take her to the vet. Independence was the reason why Elle broke up with Mark aka 'The Ultimate Unfeeling Jerk' he wanted to throw her out of the window before Elle asked if perhaps she should throw him out of the window which is why I took company time in order to come to New York."

"You went to New York just to put away a sick cat?" Hotch asked.

"Don't remind me," Spencer said. "Remember that you are talking to ultimate cat lover with a soft spot for one dog, not the other way around. And I went to New York because I knew how much Independence meant to Elle and how much it meant for her that someone would be with her in the last moments of her life."

"You couldn't say no," Hotch said.

"I could have but I didn't," Spencer corrected him. "Besides I liked Independence and..." he pushed the hat up. "I know that it's silly, now I know that but at the time I just wanted to say goodbye to her. And Elle was my best friend and..."

"Friends don't take three days off in the middle of a hectic week, spend a four hours worth drive at traveling from DC to New York just to put away their friends beloved cat," Hotch said. "That's not friendship."

"Of course it's friendship," Spencer snorted. "What else it would be?"

"Love," Hotch said. "You were in love with Elle."

"I wasn't in love with her!" Spencer growled. "I loved her but I wasn't in love with her. Trust me, Hotch, I didn't harbor a deep unyielding need to boot away whichever insensitive jerk had come around to stay for longer than a night in order to woo Elle in hopes to lead her to the altar in order to make a honest woman out of her. You don't have to fall in love with someone to love them and you know that."

"I know that," Hotch said simply. "I also know that her daughter called and calls you Papa and that in moments that mattered you had always done your damned best in order to be with them. You had taken time off from work for a sick cat while when it mattered I couldn't even take a morning off in order to support Haley before Jack's medical appointment. I was just thinking."

"An ill-advised activity for you since you started drawing such conclusions," Spencer snorted.

"Are you calling me stupid?" Hotch glared at him.

"No, I'm calling you doubting Thomas with severe control issues," Spencer replied. "On the top of being paranoid personality you are also a classic alpha-male and as such you need to be in control of yourself and your surroundings. The events of past few weeks made you wonder how much control you really have over your surroundings, one of your agents had quit, Budget Oversee Committee had reached new heights with the way they are treating all the agents, then the proverbial shit had hit the fan with Beth, my problems didn't help either because you ended being one agent down and not only said agent due to his lack of forethought ended homeless and not only he and his daughter had ended at your apartment but they also managed to smuggle inside a Newfoundland. You are doubting in yourself and the authority you are supposed to exert ergo you need to assuage your ego with something, like proving a point, hence your mistaken belief that I ever had been in love with Elle Greenaway."

"You and Elle used to have good chemistry which at times could put Morgan's and Garcia's into a shame and left it crying in the corner with a thumb stuck into its mouth," Hotch protested.

"Do I need to remind your chemistry teaching self that I happen to hold PhDs in both chemistry and psychology?" Spencer asked pointedly. "Some chemical compounds don't get into a reaction with one another without catalyst, some need heat, some need alcohol and some just don't react at all. Elle was always a gorgeous woman, I'm not going to deny that and neither will you and if you will open your mouth now in order to say that you didn't look I swear to whichever deity happens to be listening at the moment that I will punch you in the crotch."

Hotch moved his arm and placed it over threatened area.

"You are and you used to be a healthy alpha-male and even though you were married you and Haley had your better and worse days and the fact that you were on a diet didn't stop you from taking an occasional look at the menu, especially on days when you knew that you were going to get a miniature carrot on a stick for dinner," Spencer said simply. "That's sexuality and Y chromosome for you, Hotch. At some point almost every single man that passed puberty ends appreciating the view, unless one happens to be Gideon because in all the years I knew him I never caught him looking even for a second where a gentleman isn't supposed to look, but perhaps that was me. But my point right now is, we all looked, once or twice or more times and not only at Elle, JJ, Emily, Garcia, Ashley and... I can keep counting names. And I will tell you something, they not only know that we happen to take a not exactly proper look, they do the same thing with us. For all of Garcia's protest's that she isn't physically attracted to me she never fails to make me realize that I happen to be wearing a fitting pair of pants at the moment, she might not be physically attracted but a nicely shaped butt in a pair of fitting pants is still a nicely shaped butt in a pair of fitting pants and a girl can look. Why do you think that for last four or three years I end as a constant runner up to Mr Supreme Buttocks who at the moment happens to be hovering over me?"

"You are a runner up to me?" Hotch muttered. "In a..."

"Annual butt-appreciation contest," Spencer finished. "Think of it as an appreciation of all the time you are spending on the bike. Personally I think that aside of the butt itself the general air is also playing a factor. Tall, dark and dangerous with a little haughtiness on the side, beats tall, mild and gentle on the side with 'thank god god he shaves dry and almost always has a minimal shadow of facial hair which makes him look less androgynous'. That's one of the things you sometimes get to hear on your way to the bathroom. Why do you think around the end of every July in last almost eight years you end getting a big red velvet cupcake for seemingly no reason?"

"And what you are getting?" Hotch asked almost stupidly.

"Depends," Spencer said simply. "First time I've got a caramel cupcake but next year I spent few coffee breaks at dropping less than subtle hints that I'm dreaming of Garcia's chocolate cupcakes. Last year I've got coconut one because Lily was going through her Coconut Rules phase and it was infectious. This year... I feel like coconut and caramel one but will I get it?" he shrugged. "If I will ask nicely I will probably get it anyway but asking nicely kind of ruins the purpose of being surprised and making Garcia squirm when I ask her why I'm getting a cupcake while Morgan doesn't. Last year she said that I got one because that day was Harry Potter's birthday and as a magician I'm closer to being a wizard than Morgan is."

"You are one evil genius," Hotch shook his head.

"Takes one to know one," Spencer deadpanned. "Back to Elle because I know that you won't back off you relentless bugger," he added. "I found her attractive and maybe or maybe not she had been physically attracted at some point of time but like I said before chemical compounds sometimes require a catalyst and that catalyst wasn't there when we were on our relatively best. Later on we were just too screwed up to be more than friends. Did I and do I love her? Yes. Was I in love with her? Was she in love with me? No, but that was okay because we knew that we loved each other regardless. In the end that's all that mattered, matters and will ever matter. Perhaps it was all we were destined to be, the star-crossed lovers, the parallel lines that run along one another but never met... and this is it. Goodnight," Spencer said before he drew the hat over his face.

For a longer while the only sound aside of Hotch's and Moth's breathing that Spencer heard was Lily's and Jack's soft giggles about fifty feet away from the blanket Spencer, Hotch and Moth were occupying and judging by the swishes tearing through the air Jack and Lily came back to playing badminton.

"She looks so much like Elle," Hotch said suddenly.

Spencer didn't say anything, not only because Hotch was stating the obvious but also because Hotch was getting dangerously close to getting punched where no man wants to be punched.

"She looks so much like you," Hotch added after a moment.

"She looks so much like me because she looks so much like Elle," Spencer retorted. "Elle was a brown-eyed brunette, Lily is a brown-eyed brunette even though thanks to Mr Unknown who might or might have not been a blonde her hair are about a shade of two lighter and at times due to a lot of exposure to sunlight they have a reddish glow. And if you won't stop it at once I will really punch you in the groin."

"I just wanted an opening in order to warn you that you didn't convince everyone by saying that at the time of her conception you were miles away from Elle," Hotch said. "And even if you think otherwise I'm on your side, so are JJ and Will and Dave, I'm not sure about Strauss but if she isn't sharing her opinion with the rest of us then at the very least she is Switzerland."

"So Morgan and Garcia are convinced..." Spencer started.

"Morgan isn't buying what you are saying and he managed to convince Garcia to certain extent that it wouldn't hurt you or Lily if someone appraoched you with a cotton swab," Hotch clarified.

"He can cotton swab my ass," Spencer snorted. "If he wants to waste bureau's resources on his mistaken delusions it's fine by me but if he will approach me with a cotton swab I will poke his eyes out with it because I'm not going to make it easy for him, as in easier than I already made it by attending the same party with him," he added with a huff. "He knows that, I know that which means that at the moment Rossi is missing the glasses from which Lily and I were drinking last night and depending from how long it took or is going to take Morgan to convince Hannah from the lab to test our DNA against one another then Morgan is a) about to learn that he was mistaken and b) once I will check the list of agents asking for a consult he will be inches away from getting punched when he last expects it unless I will decide that being wrong is enough of a punishment for him because he will have to explain why he wasted bureau's resources on his private business."

He tried to sound calm and controlled but inwardly he was all but not calm and controlled, he was steaming. Leaving aside the fact that Morgan wouldn't find what he was looking for he had no right and no business into being that interested in Spencer's private life no matter his justification of such violation.

Morgan didn't know that Spencer knew that it wasn't the first time when Morgan had gotten way too far into his team-members' private affairs and even though past week Spencer had spent at avoiding a confrontation with Morgan over the man's and Haley's affair right now he wasn't really above using what he knew against Morgan in the most painful way that was humanly possible.

Morgan didn't know what was going to hit him. Even if Spencer was carrying Reid family name in character he was Rosedale-Rozanov through and through and along with his intelligence and not overly long fuse when it came down violating his privacy he also inherited after them the ability to verbally castrate and disembowel someone while he was smiling innocently the entire time at the unlucky sod that happened to cross him and while Morgan was accustomed to calm and mellowed Doctor Reid he would soon learn that Monsieur Rosedale-Rozanov was everything else but such.

"I'm not liking your silence," Hotch said.

"Don't worry your Supreme Buttocks about Morgan," Spencer said calmly. "I can handle him."

"I know that and that's exactly what worries me the most," Hotch admitted.

Sleep Deprived

During Monday's briefing Spencer and the rest of the team had learned the nature of the call which Hotch had received on Saturday evening. It came from Emily who was requesting borrowing Morgan and Garcia for few weeks in order to help her with one of the arms dealers whom she was investigating and into whose private and professional affairs Morgan and Garcia had stumbled while they were searching for Ian Doyle.

Seeing that it was an unofficial request from a friend and former coworker that wasn't backed up with legal pad at the moment and had been voiced in a way 'for now I can manage on my own but I will totally owe you, all of you if you would help me' Hotch only presented Emily's request and asked Morgan and Garcia to give it some thought and inform him about their decision before the end of the week before he resumed briefing the team on the new cases.

Since none of the cases had taken the team out into the field the better part of the day was spent pouring over the paperwork before the carnal nature decided to remind the BAUers that men and women in order to function properly aside of coffee with a lot of sugar also need food, preferably in a solid form so when JJ mentioned dreaming about a juicy kebab, either doner or shish one because she wasn't overly picky in that regard, Morgan had offered to take orders from everyone, and he, oh so subtly, had dragged Spencer with himself – it's not that you won't be done with your caseload later than everyone else and I do need a hand or two – seeing that apparently majority of agents in the bullpen had decided that this Monday was great Monday for Turkish takeaway, because usually about three to four people instead of one ended taking other peoples orders for the variety of takeaway that ragged from Turkish through Italian, French, Indian to Chinese and Japanese.

Spencer knew that Morgan didn't need his help in bringing food to the office, Morgan wanted a confrontation with Spencer over the results which he had gotten from Hannah, whom apparently he had taken out to dinner in order to get the results so fast but he didn't know that Spencer was about to rip his testicles off at the earliest possibility that presented itself.

Once Morgan handed the list of orders to Ali Bergman who commented happily, "Man I feel so appreciated like you have no idea" before he had given Morgan and Spencer free Tripe soup so they could sustain their hunger while they were waiting for the rest of the orders. They thanked Ali and went out to wait in the small garden to take the advantage of the sunny weather, and to talk without being overheard.

"So?" Spencer asked as he stuck a straw into his Styrofoam cup of the tripe soup, because he wasn't big fan of tripe but happened to like the broth base of the soup due to its spiciness. "Did you learn anything interesting from the cutlery you had taken from Rossi's mansion?"

"I..." Morgan started and immediately answered the question he was about to ask, "Hotch told you."

"He knows that he can take my word for granted and he certainly knows better than to try and violate my privacy in order to assuage his deluded beliefs which he might or might have not developed after inhaling too much paint," Spencer replied icily. "That's how it starts, you know," he added grimly. "For a long, long time everything is fine and then you start to thinking, wondering, things that never until that faithful day..."

Morgan frowned and opened his mouth in order to retort something but he caught himself in the last moment and said calmly, "I'm not having a late onset of schizophrenic break if that's what you are implying and I certainly didn't inhale too much paint."

"Got one hit to the head too much then," Spencer shrugged.

"Reid," Morgan sighed. "Would you..."

"No, I wouldn't," Spencer growled. "Because here is the thing, what was between me and Elle was, is and is going to remain between the two of us and last time I checked your name was Derek Morgan and not Elle Greenaway. And contrary to what you want to believe, you don't know better than me what was between me and Elle and if I can help it you aren't going to know."

"Are you sure?" Morgan asked. "Are you really sure that you really know everything which was between you and Elle?"

"As sure as I happen to be of that if you won't back off right this second eternal subscription to Chess Life, House Beautiful and Humpty Dumpty is going to be the last of your problems," Spencer hissed.

Rather than answering Morgan pulled out of his pocket a solitary sheet of paper and slid it on the table towards Spencer, text downward.

"I will stop if you will read it," he said finally.

"You are in no position to make deals with me," Spencer snorted as he turned the paper text up and took a cursory glance to memorize it.

"So?" Morgan asked calmly when Spencer folded the paper and put it in his own pocket.

"Are you completely sure that you had taken the set of glasses you wanted to take?" Spencer asked calmly. "For all that you know you might have taken the glasses from which Will and Henry were drinking. Or even better the ones from which you and Jack were drinking."

"Hotch and Jack," Morgan corrected him almost automatically.

"I meant exactly what I said," Spencer said sourly. "If I was intending to say Hotch and Jack I would have said Hotch and Jack, but I didn't say Hotch and Jack, I said you and Jack. It's not as if any of us, especially Hotch, knows what you and Haley were doing behind his back and for how long and it isn't exactly as if we can take your word for that, can we?"

"Reid... I don't understand and I don't appreciate what you are implying," Morgan said. "I was only..."

"Oh, I'm not — I'm not implying anything," Spencer said icily. "I'm making an inference. An inference is an educated guess, and based on that, I form a hypothesis. For instance, my hypothesis here is that after it really sunk that we all knew what Carl Buford did to you, you realized how little control you had over your life and your secrets, so in order to regain the control you lost, you decided to retaliate. Except that consensual one night stands didn't have done anything to help you with that, they assuaged your need to feel something but only for a little while. And that's when you decided to go after more meaningful prey."

"Reid..." Morgan growled warningly.

"At the same time an unattainable target and an easy prey," Spencer continued in unstoppable fuming and hissing fury. "An attractive housewife and stay at home mother in need of man's undivided attention and his comforting strength. You made her feel wanted, you made her feel needed, you made sure to be there for her where her husband was working his ass off to keep his team from falling apart. You were getting off from just knowing that while you were giving her a little loving he was up to his ears in reports doing all by himself, again, things which should be handled by two agents with the longest seniority but instead of helping him you only made sure that he and his wife were drifting further and further apart..."

"Reid!" Morgan snarled.

"You loved it, didn't you?" Spencer spat ignoring the warning in Morgan's snarl. "You loved knowing how much power you held over him. You took away his wife, his son was seeing you more often than he was seeing his dad, but that wasn't enough, was it? In the end you took away from him also his house because you and Haley needed more of unsupervised adult fun-time which you couldn't have at her sister's place because you knew that while Jessica was Haley's sister she was also Hotch's friend, someone whom through all this time you were supposed to be you, narcissistic, driven by your dick, manipulative..."

In hindsight Spencer saw what was coming but he still wasn't done with Morgan, as the fury over the way in which Morgan had violated Spencer's own privacy had coupled with repressed anger over discovering Morgan's and Haley's affair and had him making a decision to stay quiet because uncovering the secret wouldn't do anyone any good.

The force with which Morgan's left fist collided with Spencer's nose was just strong enough to effectively knock Spencer off the bench on which he was sitting. The force and speed of the blow combined with the fall from the bench of abnormal height made Spencer place his whole weight on his left palm in order to cushion his fall, unfortunately he had done it under such angle that his left pinky got dislocated.

Aside of the noise made by the crash Spencer didn't make any noise. Luckily for himself, and Morgan to certain extent, when he fell down somehow he managed to avoid hitting his head against the pavement but that didn't stop him from closing his eyes as he rolled on his back. Having Morgan convinced that he smacked his head against the pavement and lost his consciousness should frighten the man enough to put his own fury in the backseat for just long enough for Spencer to retaliate.

"Reid?" Morgan called out as he stood up. "Jesus, Kid," he groaned as he rushed around the table towards Spencer. "Don't you... ouch," Morgan didn't have a chance to finish because Spencer could easily justify when and where he should push his legs of the pavement with enough force and speed to perform a partial backward roll vicious enough to kick Morgan into solar plexus hard enough for the man to land on his ass just as Spencer rolled back, quickly sat up and even faster than he sat up he stood up from the ground.

"Hurts?" Spencer taunted. "Now imagine that this is nothing compared to how Hotch would feel if he will ever learn that his beloved wife and the man he trusted with his life, with his family, with his team had been doing behind his back."

"And... ouch... you are planning to... tell him?" Morgan grunted.

"No, but not for your sake, you backstabbing traitor, you are lucky that I didn't hit you as low as I wanted," Spencer spat.

"That was low," Morgan huffed.

"That wasn't low," Spencer snorted. "You know what was low? Low was seducing his wife who left a man who yes logged too many hours at the office because no one was helping him but when he was home he devoted everything to his family. Low was standing aside and watching how he was struggling when his life was falling apart and how he was losing control over himself. And you know what? There was the time when I was really, really pissed at Haley for doing what she had done to him but it took me seeing the evidence of your betrayal to realize that at that time I was pissed off with the wrong person."

"Just because he offered you a roof over yours and Lily's heads doesn't mean that you have to be pissed off on his behalf, you judgmental little shit," Morgan growled. "Oh yes, I'm big, bad, brute who whisked away his wife, his son and his home in order to get back at him for getting me out of a lot of shit and helping me put away a son of a bitch who had destroyed a lot of innocent lives. You are one hell of a profiler if you think that I seduced Haley in order to get back at him."

"Are you seriously try to convince me that she seduced you?" Spencer spat. "Try a bit harder than that because I'm not buying your shit."

"I didn't seduce her, she didn't seduce me," Morgan said. "It happened once and just once while they were married and we weren't exactly sober."

"Bullshit," Spencer hissed. "Evidence points to the contrary. You were frequent guest at their house while Hotch was working his ass out."

"To help Haley."

"Achieve an orgasm?" Spencer growled. "Yeah, right, you are good at that. If I would get a dollar for every time I heard you through the wall... I wouldn't be a billionaire but I would certainly be able to buy myself a three course dinner in one of these five stars restaurants."

"With things Hotch wasn't helping," Morgan barked out.

"And guess why he wasn't helping?" Spencer hissed. "Because instead of taking his caseload like any normal person would you had taken upon yourself banging his wife. Ma-fucking-ture."

"You are, you hypocritical berk," Morgan growled.

"Fuck off!" Spencer spat. "We aren't talking about me and who I might or might have not fucked but what the fuck you were thinking when you decided to take his wife and son away."

"You wouldn't understand," Morgan muttered. "It's not that you are capable of understanding how it feels to watch how all of your friends are practically falling over their feet in order to support the man who yes, had lost his beloved wife and the mother of his son, but one that had the comfort of knowing that he could show his grief without being judged with the same measures as the man who murdered her. He could openly mourn her, I couldn't, I had to handle her death on my own without having support in any of you. And you know what could make a difference? Six days, six fucking days from that damned night when that son of a bitch attacked Hotch..."

Spencer frowned as he tried to concentrate on what Morgan was saying. It had to be before they left for Detroit. Wednesday lunch or early dinner, a snippet of conversation about the new house Morgan was flipping in order to move in there from his smaller one bedroom apartment and about the housewarming party planed not for the coming weekend but the one after.

"You son of a bitch!" Spencer hissed. "You were planning to wipe your affair into his face. What the hell you were thinking? That he will give you a permission to court his ex-wife? That he will let you be called Papa Derek?"

"He wouldn't make such a..."

"Of course he would!" Spencer growled. "You took away his wife, his son and his home! What did you expect? That he will pat you on the back and congratulate you? You know what? I can't stand looking at you, let alone talking with you right now, you self-centered prick. And you know what else? You really should accept Emily's request, for your own sake because right now I'm not exactly above beating the crap out of you and it's taking me a great deal of my control in order to not do it. You really don't want me to get in touch with my inner unsub, trust me. Tell Hotch that I took the rest of the day off and for your sake you should make sure that he will come back home for dinner with the news that you are taking a temporary reassignment to London otherwise I'm not going to be responsible for what's going to happen to you."

With that Spencer strode past Morgan, grabbing his own bag on the way before he stormed in the direction of the closest taxi stand.

Sleep Deprived

"You know how it looks to me?" Jessica asked calmly.

"Like I collided with a column and fell down on my ass so gracelessly that I dislocated a finger, exactly like I already told you?" Spencer said pointedly once Jessica finished 'buddy tapping' his dislocated pinky to his ring finger.

"Au contraire, you look as if someone attempted to beat the crap out of you," Jessica snorted. "The keyword is: attempted to."

"My opponent had gotten a swift kick to solar plexus and verbal kick in the nuts. Hopefully I also scared enough crap out of him that I won't have to see him around for next few weeks though personally I'm hoping for few months. You can trust me on that when I say that he looks worse than I do," Spencer said sourly.

"So who and what had done to you in order to get on your bad side?" Jessica asked sympathetically. "Clark Kellerman?"

"He is safe," Spencer shrugged. "From me, not from IRS, his new tenants, his current ex-girlfriend and who knows what else Garcia had unleashed on him behind my back, Morgan might be her favorite knight in shinning armor but apparently I'm her favorite woobie, whatever the fuck it's supposed to mean."

"Spence," Jessica sighed.

"My point is, I'm not a woobie and the only reason why she is still calling me that is not because I can't google the definition and retaliate accordingly to what deep inside I perceive as demeaning insult because we both know that I can and that I would if I loved her any less than I do. Does it makes any sense to you?" Spencer asked.

"Right now what makes the most sense to me is that you are suffering from weird adverse effects to Ketoprofen," Jessica said.

"I'm not allergic to Ketoprofen," Spencer snorted. "I'm allergic to hydrogenated ketones of morphine like you have no idea, as in if you will come within ten feet of me with a syringe of thereof and point a needle at me you will find out that when I want I can manifest my supreme ninja butt-kicking powers..." he clarified and paused for a second. "I ramble on my own, call it hyper-kinetic speech, call it verbal ADHD, call it word Niagara or any other name that pleases you, I heard if not all of them then at the very least majority of them. I ramble, I know that I ramble and I ramble more than usual in different circumstances that depend from various factors as in whatever or not I recently had a cup of coffee with two spoons of sugar, whatever or not I feel comfortable in someone's company, whatever or not I feel nervous in someone's company, whatever or not I happen to be thinking at loud in someone's company, whatever or not I'm working my snit towards someone, anyone, not just the person in whose company I happen to be. I ramble, I know that I ramble and I also know that my rambling sometimes pisses people off so I try to control it but I don't always succeed."

"Does it accumulate?" Jessica asked curiously.

"What accumulates?" Spencer asked.

"Factors that lead you to rambling like a chipmunk on speed," Jessica clarified.

"Chipmunk on speed?" Spencer stared at her.

"You never saw Alvin and the Chipmunks?" Jessica asked.

Spencer shook his head.

"Weren't you born in early eighties?" Jessica asked.

"9th October 1981 to be exact," Spencer clarified.

"And you never saw Alvin and the Chipmunks on TV? The follow up to 1962-63 TV series known as The Alvin Show? It was running between 1983-90. They even got three separate full length movies, that ruled in box office, the last one was released last year," Jessica asked.

"Maybe I did, maybe I didn't," Spencer shrugged. "Is this such a big deal?"

"Yes," Jessica said quickly. "You have a five years old daughter and as a mother of four if I ever learned a thing from my children, actually I learned more than one thing from my children but the rest is irrelevant at the moment in regards of the point I want to make... Christ it's contagious. Back to the point, every kid goes through Chipmunk phase, Spence, every kid, especially the kid who discovers that his or hers dad can make pretty good imitation of thereof."

"I can make pretty good imitation of a chipmunk?" Spencer mumbled.

"Not a chipmunk, the chipmunk," Jessica corrected him. "Simon to be exact and I will shave my head if by the end of the year you won't see at the very least the movies because even a year after the last premiere they still rule at school."

"My mum always told me: don't make promises you aren't intending to keep," Spencer quipped.

"I intend to keep this one and you can trust me that before the New Year will arrive you will be properly chipmunked," Jessica said. "If I will ask you again who had done this to you will you still answer the column with murderous intent?"

"Probably," Spencer sighed.

"Who had done this to you?" she asked.

"A column with murderous intent," Spencer answered. "I'll be fine. I don't nee a surgery. You reset it just fine."

"I reset it by hand and without x-ray," Jessica said. "Unless you want me to tell Aaron..."

"That my gracelessness renewed old injury?" Spencer suggested. "Jessica, it's not the first time when I dislocated that finger, I can tell a difference between a broken and dislocated finger, it's dislocated, it needed resetting, icing and buddy tapping. For Pete's sake I had gone through high-school and better part of college and university coaching and sometimes playing basketball, it's really not the first time it happened."

"You know that if I missed anything your finger has to be reset again?" Jessica asked.

"Yes, Madam," Spencer nodded. "If I will solemnly swear that I will go to emergency if the swelling won't lessen by the end of the day would you leave me in peace?"

"Seeing that a dislocated finger can remain swollen for first three days if not more..." Jessica started.

"Jessica!" Spencer whined. "Old injury."

"Fine, have it your way," Jessica said. "Once again, who had done this to you?" she asked as she stood up to pick the ice-pack from the fridge before she handed it to Spencer.

"The column that had it coming for a while," Spencer muttered as he took from Jessica and placed the icepack on his left hand.

"That column happens to have a name?" Jessica asked.

"Depending from whom you ask and when," Spencer snorted. "Right now he is the guy who violated my privacy in the worst way possible. Here, take a look," he said as he pulled from his pocket the offending sheet of paper with his uninjured hand and handed it over to Jessica. "What do you make of that?"

"For starters..." Jessica started as he eyed the paper. "Congratulation, it's a girl party. "

"And for the main course?" Spencer asked pointedly. "After taking into consideration that if he had taken the glasses he wanted to take it's nothing short of a miracle because I never..."

"You couldn't have and... I don't know, not remember it in the morning?" Jessica asked curiously.

"Trust me if I slept with Elle I would have noticed it, no matter how drunk I would have been," Spencer shook his head. "It's either Morgan's idea of a sick joke..."

"Not with those markers," Jessica pointed out. "You are forgetting that you had given me the copy of Lily's medical records and everything medically relevant about yourself and her mother. You and Elle share the same blood type, O negative, Lily is O negative which indicates that she had either taken her blood type after her mother or both parents because two O negatives are predictably boring since together they can produce only another O negative and no other blood type."

"I know that, granted I majored in chemistry instead for biology but in recent years I had taken keen interest in anthropology and I happen to know a thing or two about genetics, that's not my issue. My issue is how two people who have... Elle and I didn't have sex, ever, as in the closest we ever came to being naked together was at a very public pool with a lot of people in and we were in our swimsuits. Given that how this," he pointed at the results Jessica was holding, "can be possible?"

"In practice or theory?" Jessica asked pointedly.

"Either," Spencer grunted.

"I don't have to explain to you life expectancy of human sperm, do I?" Jessica asked.

"No, you don't," Spencer nodded.

"The thing is that given the right conditions like pH, temperature, presence of air and other factors a lucky sailor can survive even eight days outside human body and lead to a pregnancy. Though the results get better if the time period between the ejaculation and conception is shorter than that. If you are completely convinced that you and Elle..."

"Never had sex," Spencer finished. "It's a given."

"Then in order to create a child together you still had to have sex with someone else," Jessica said. "The question is whatever or not within a week, or maybe even better two taking into consideration that the time of the conception can be only speculated, of the day on which Lily might have been conceived you had unprotected sex with another woman."

Spencer frowned and muttered quietly, "Damn you New York."

"You did," Jessica said. "Care to enlighten me of the circumstances?"

"Natalie Neuman, fellow conference attendant, safe sex, as in safe until condom decided to malfunction, she was clean and on a pill but it still scared the crap out of me. I saw her later on through the duration of the conference, with two different men..."

"One of which could have unprotected sex with both Natalie and Elle that lead to Lily's conception. Except it weren't his soldiers that got lucky, they were yours, Speedy Gonzales," Jessica smirked.

"You aren't going to let me live it down, are you?" Spencer groaned.

"Why would I?" Jessica asked innocently. "If it's true, and if I were you I would run another test with foolproof DNA samples, it will remove from the equation the possibility that one day, one of the would be daddies would snap out of his supreme fucker state and decide to find and take back all of his children..."

"Highly unlikely," Spencer snorted. "Elle wasn't exactly at her best in the few months leading to Lily's conception and it reflected on the men she was taking to her bed. I'm the last person to judge her but it's true, she wasn't at her best and her judgment was heavily affected... But now?" he frowned before he smiled softly, "I think that she would have laughed her butt off, maybe she would even make lewd jokes about trying for another because she wanted to have another child before Lily would turn ten and it's not that I could deny that first time around it had worked splendidly."

"You wouldn't mind that, would you?" Jessica asked.

"I don't know," Spencer grimaced. "Maybe I would, maybe I wouldn't. I mean Lily is still my daughter whatever or not these results are real or some kind of a really sick joke. That's not going to change, ever, she was, is and will always remain my baby daughter and if someone has issues with that it's their fucking problem, not mine."

"Sure thing, Speedy," Jessica quipped. "No, that's all wrong, Speedy made Lily so that makes you the Road Runner."

"You need to limit the time you are spending on watching Looney Tunes, Sister. Beep! Beep!" Spencer snorted and added, "Maybe you are right and I'm suffering from funny adverse effects to Ketoprofen."

"You genius. You've done it again," Jessica snickered.

"If Wile E Coyote was the real genius he would have caught the Road Runner ages ago," Spencer snorted. "That furry pipe-cleaner with eyes is nothing but an insult to a real genius."

"You don't know Alvin and the Chipmunks but you know your Looney Tunes," Jessica giggled.

"I'm a man of my word, even the drunken one which lead me to watching every Looney Tunes cartoon my roommate had found. I still owe him a few of them," Spencer deadpanned.

"Stop giving me ideas how to properly chipmunk you," Jessica said.

"Thirteen years had passed since then and I'm more careful these days, both with my alcohol intake just as with things I promise while I'm under influence of thereof," Spencer quipped.

"Naughty boy," Jessica said.

"Things which grandma's homemade wine does to you," Spencer shrugged. "You should have seen us after grandpa's moonshine, one of the longest nights in my life and one of the few in my life which I spent clinging to bathtub and we only drunk half of a glass per head."

"Really naughty boy," Jessica snickered.

"You hadn't done anything stupid in college?" Spencer asked.

"I convinced my future husband and future brother-in-law to attend a masquerade party with me dressed like Boney M.," Jessica answered. "How I got them to agree to that is still beyond me."

"Them probably too," Spencer offered.

"According to Mike you can't say no to Madonna, especially if you want to convince her to go with you on a date, what Aaron got out of it I don't know," Jessica clarified.

"And Haley went as...?" Spencer asked curiously.

Jessica sighed heavily and grimaced before she asked, "You are a doctor of mathematics, aren't you?"

Spencer nodded.

"You never found it curious that even though they started dating back in 1981 Aaron and Haley hadn't gotten married until 2000?" Jessica asked.

"No," Spencer said. "I didn't even know when or where they got married," he shook his head. "And I honestly can't understand why it took them so long to get there."

"The easy answer would be that life had gotten into the way," Jessica sighed. "But that wouldn't be true and I've seen it happening. When Aaron and I were in college during summer vacation I had gotten into an accident, I made it, not without help. I had to take a longer break to recover and because my mother had to work and Haley could afford putting off going to college for another year the two of them had decided that she would stay home with me and help me with the rehabilitation. I had a hell of a depression back then, I was angry, self-centered and if I knew what was happening..." she grimaced.

"Physical therapist turned out to be..." Spencer frowned.

"Handsome, charming son of a bitch so to speak. He was there, Aaron wasn't, I think that she was resisting the attraction for a while but she was young and foolish and like I said he was there while Aaron wasn't. He not only had his own studies but he was also working in order to pull himself through college without touching his father's money or overusing trust funds. One weekend he wasn't working and he decided to make her a surprise by visiting without prior warning. I only saw him storming out from our house and making a beeline to his car before he drove away and that was the last I saw of him for the rest of the summer until I've gotten into Yale. He wouldn't even speak with me if it wasn't that during one of the first parties of the year I've attracted the attention of a certain idiot who thought that because he was on football team he could get any girl he wanted. Aaron proved him otherwise and made sure that from then on I was chaperoned to the parties either by him or by his roommate until I would decide that I didn't need chaperones and would send them to hell. Apparently I decided to call them off too late because Aaron's dubious matchmaking abilities had worked and his roommate became as smitten with me as I started to become smitten with him."

"Congratulations," Spencer said as he frowned. "For you and Mike, I mean. What about Hotch and Haley? The got together in the end."

"They rekindled over Becky's loaded nappy, literally," Jessica deadpanned. "They broke up in June 1983 and up until December 1997 they avoided each other like a plague. Aaron was already on his way to BAU at the time and Haley..." she grimaced. "A lot had happened in those fourteen years they had spent apart. She went to UCLA and after graduation she traveled up and down the west coast: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, Seattle though in different years than Aaron, she even spent few months in Las Vegas. You have to understand that we weren't on very good terms back then, it's hard to explain," she sighed.

"Try me," Spencer offered.

"Haley," Jessica sighed. "Haley was three years younger than me and... saying that our parents loved her more now would be a blasphemy but for a child of four, five, six it felt like it. She was born prematurely, not overly but it was enough to make her the weaker child that ended sick and in bed more often than she was healthy and out of it. So yes, for the majority of the time until she was about four or five our parent's attention was focused on her. She wasn't a spoiled brat, not really, but she got used to being constantly showered in attention and affection, she needed to feel it, she needed to see it. She was the baby and I was the tomboy. I didn't hate her but when I was between Becky's and Harry's age I could really do without a whimpering log that was afraid of climbing trees because she feared that her nice dress would get dirty... and don't even start me on jumping over the fence, she tried it once and somehow managed to get herself stuck on the rail. She looked back then like the world's most pissed off and wailing fairy."

"It doesn't sound as if there was much love between you back then," Spencer said.

"Maybe, but make no mistake no bully at school would touch her without getting through me first and even as a kid I had a helluva of a right hook," Jessica snorted. "Eventually she realized that clinging to Mum's skirt wouldn't lead her very far in life and in middle high she grew a backbone but..."

"Old habits die hard just like old beliefs," Spencer nodded.

"Yeah," Jessica grimaced. "That in the end lead to hers and Aaron's divorce and it was probably the same thing that lead to her first divorce."

"They aren't one and the same?" Spencer asked skeptically.

"Oh no, they aren't," Jessica shook her head. "Fourteen years, remember," she sighed. "When she started teaching at preschool she had met her first husband, it was mad, puppy love and they both weren't prepared for being neither a married couple nor parents."

"Parents?" Spencer mumbled out. "I... We.. Did Hotch..."

"It took me every trick I had in the book to convince her to open up about the years we spent apart and even then I had a feeling that she wasn't telling me everything. All I know is that when their daughter, Lisa was two after one fight too much her husband had taken her out of the nursery with the intention of taking her to his mother. The nursery didn't know that Haley and Jeff were going through a rocky path and she was told that Jeff had taken Lisa away when she went to pick her up from the nursery, by then it was already too late: Jeff's car collided with an eighteen wheeler ten miles away from his mother's place, they were both DOA, his mother had a heart-attack when she learned about the accident. I think that the only reason why Haley didn't give up back then was because of her, she didn't know about the conflict and Haley could direct all of her own grief into taking care of the old lady."

"And she still..." Spencer said.

"We were at huge odds, Spence," Jessica sighed. "She didn't call, didn't write, only send postcards around the holidays, and to our parents and not me. It hurts knowing that in spite of everything she couldn't bring herself to trust me enough to be there for her when she needed me. To bury beloved daughter and husband, no matter how estranged at the age of twenty-four... no one deserves that, she didn't deserve that."

Spencer nodded slowly.

"I know even less about her second marriage than I know about her first marriage," Jessica added grimly. "I don't know when, I don't know where, for how long. I only know the name, Ricky Brasco and that they got married in middle nineties, maybe in 1994, maybe in 1995, when she returned to Virginia in early 1997 the divorce was already finalized. I didn't see her right away, she went away again but not for long but according to Mum, she looked horrible, I tracked her back to private rehabilitation center, psychiatric ward, helluva of postpartum depression coupled with mourning her stillborn daughter, the son of a bitch hadn't offered her any help but she had gotten herself under the control. Even more when Aaron finally came around and Mike had locked them up in Becky's nursery with an evening supply of milk and nappies. We both knew that Aaron could take the door down without much effort but we trusted him to be sensible enough to not do it. We left the house for few hours and when we came back they were playing footsie under Becky's crib."

"And here I thought that I was the master of passive-aggressive manipulation," Spencer murmured.

"I have no doubt of that," Jessica gave him fain smile. "But here is the thing, we asked Aaron to become Becky's godfather even before I got pregnant with her and he not only said yes but was really happy that we asked him. For Becky's godmother we wanted to ask a friend of mine who in the meantime turned out to be not much of a friend and not overly fairy enough to be a godmother and when Haley returned..."

"She asked you if she could become Becky's godmother and you didn't want to say no," Spencer finished.

"It's not that I didn't want to, it's more like I couldn't say no, not with how genuinely excited she was about my pregnancy, after everything she had been through, I just couldn't. So when Becky was born and was big enough to leave her under Haley's and Aaron's care..."

"The doors were closed," Spencer said. "Did he..."

"I'm sure that she told him about her first marriage," Jessica sighed. "And about her daughters because as excited as she was about Jack during the pregnancy with him she redefined the word paranoia and Aaron never breathed as much as a word of protest, until they had gotten down to the names, where he could protests to all of his heart's content..."

"And they still picked up Jack," Spencer nodded.

"Jacob," Jessica corrected him quickly.

"Jacob Spencer," Spencer snorted.

"Any known serial killers?" Jessica asked.

"I can give you a few not widely known names," Spencer shrugged. "From the known ones I can give you as an example: Timothy Wilson Spencer, also known as 'The Southside Strangler', who raped and killed five women in Richmond, Virginia in 1984 and 1987. He was also the first murderer in United States that was convicted on the basis of DNA evidence. DOD/COD: 27th April 1994, execution."

"As a surname it doesn't count," Jessica said. "And Lily was always..."

"Lily," Spencer answered simply. "Occasionally Lilia, Russian version of the same name, but it's more of a pet name than anything else, you won't find it on any legal or medical documents. And in reference to the subject we discussed earlier it certainly explains a lot."

"It certainly does," Jessica agreed. "She lost two daughters already, she couldn't stand the idea of losing her son too."

Spencer nodded slowly as he looked out through the window.

"You weren't surprised when I said that the reason they split up for the first time was because of her infidelity," Jessica said quietly. "I gave you her cell-phone," she added.

Spencer looked back at her.

"You didn't tell Aaron," she said even more softly.

Spencer looked down at the table.

"You didn't tell him not only because it would hurt him," Jessica whispered. "But also because you both know that man personally."

Spencer didn't look up as he massaged with the tip of his left thumb his bandaged fingers.

"And you confronted him about their affair," Jessica said as she reached out and placed her right hand over Spencer's left. "That's why you came to me to patch you up. It was Morgan."

Spencer looked up at her and whispered, "God grant me the serenity to accept things I cannot change, the courage to change things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. What's done is done and we cannot change it. No matter how much we want things to change. I think that I've lost my best friend today, Jess."

"I'm so sorry," Jessica said softly. "Not only for that but also because of me you had gotten caught in the middle of it."

"It wasn't your fault," Spencer sighed. "You didn't know. How could you know?"

"I wasn't absolving her."

"You weren't, you humanized her. I shouldn't have confront him about it," Spencer admitted. "But I was pissed off and I lost it when I realized that he had gotten where I didn't want him to get and I..."

"Ella Wheeler Wilcox wrote: 'There's one sad truth in life I've found, While journeying east and west - The only folks we really wound, Are those we love the best. We flatter those we scarcely know, We please the fleeting guest, And deal full many a thoughtless blow To those who love us best.'," Jessica said softly.

To Be Continued...

Chapter Text

Invisible tears are the hardest to wipe away. Just let it out, my friend.

~Terri Guillemets

Sleep Deprived or The Summer During Which Spencer and Aaron Fell in Love

Chapter six: The Return of the Reaper.

Spencer knew that Hotch didn't buy his story about colliding with a column with murderous intent but he didn't push the issue, not with how sullen Spencer was for the rest of the day once Hotch picked him, Jack and Lily from Jessica's place. Lily's and Jack's joy over being taken to the cinema along with Jessica's and Mike's crowd was too precious for Hotch to shatter it by questioning Spencer about his bad mood in Jack's and Lily's close vicinity and Spencer made sure to spend the rest of the day with the kids in order to avoid the confrontation with Hotch and he couldn't help but feel relieved when he realized that Hotch let it slide, at least for now. But that didn't mean that he didn't offer to be there to listen if Spencer was ready to talk about his problems because he did and it was Spencer and not Hotch who didn't want to talk about it.

Morgan crossed a boundary, one which crossing Spencer didn't take lightly, no matter the outcome and Spencer retaliated in the most hurtful way he could, by crossing another boundary and using Morgan's private tragedy for justification of his... what it exactly was?

Revenge? Morgan denied it and even though Spencer didn't really feel like taking Morgan's word on that deep down he knew that in regards of Haley's and Morgan's affair he had only Morgan's word to build the picture of what really was going between the two of them.

Love from first... strike that, hundred something sight? It could be for Haley but not for Morgan. Love from the first sight definitely wasn't Morgan and as far as Spencer could tell it would never be Morgan.

Accident? Falling off a bike can be called an accident, but one just doesn't trip and fall into a vagina, especially the vagina that belongs to the wife of their boss.

What else it was? What else it could be?

Only Morgan knew and right now he and Spencer weren't exactly on speaking terms and Spencer knew that Morgan wouldn't greet him warmly if he would show up at his place right now. The problem was that Spencer only had right now because Hotch told him over the dinner that Morgan accepted Emily's request and he and Garcia were leaving DC by Friday night. That only left Spencer four days to find out what the hell was going through Morgan's mind when he and Haley had gotten together behind Hotch's back. Staying angry for the duration of Morgan's reassignment wasn't going to help him but humility would.

So on Thursday late evening rather than 'seeing a movie' like he told Hotch he was planning to spend his time he had went to Walmart to make a last minute purchase before he drove over to Morgan's house.

The doors opened but before Morgan could say anything Spencer raised with both hands the cardboard sign he made at Walmart's parking lot with an up arrow over the text that read:

Insensitive ass and sad excuse of a friend.

"If I agree with that statement will you go away?" Morgan asked pointedly.

Spencer grimaced slightly but shook his head wordlessly.

"You went too far," Morgan said sourly. "So did I. I'm sorry that I hit you."

"So am I," Spencer said quietly. "Truce?"

"Maybe not yet," Morgan grimaced. "How about a breaker for a calumet and we will get from there? Metro or car?" he asked as he let Spencer inside the house.

"Car," Spencer said as he closed the door behind himself. "Movie night."

"And yet you are here," Morgan pointed out.

"I know what I've done," Spencer answered simply. "I was insensitive jerk who went too far for a selfish reason. I don't need to share that with the support group when I can apologize to the person I offended."

"Mountain Dew it's then," Morgan nodded. "Dinner?"

"With two kids at home?" Spencer sighed. "I've already eaten."

"Then it can wait," Morgan said. "I know that you didn't come here just to apologize," he added before he disappeared in the kitchen.

When Morgan came back with two glasses of Mountain Dew Spencer was already sitting, on an armchair from which he had relatively the closest way to the door and his car. He accepted the glass from Morgan and took a sip before he placed it on the coffee table.

"You want to know what it was and how it had started," Morgan said once he sat down.

Spencer nodded.

"The simplest answer would be that it was an accident," Morgan sighed. "I swear to you that one day I didn't wake up with the intention to seduce Hotch's wife. And I'm sure that Haley didn't wake up to the same on that day. It's complicated and explaining some things..."

"Morgan, I'm living with the man," Spencer said. "After I woke up to Hotch holding my mug of coffee while he was wearing a lime green apron that said, 'Don't even think about kissing the cook' I doubt that something about his private life is going to surprise me."

"He makes you coffee to bed?" Morgan asked in surprise.

"He made me one, once," Spencer shrugged. "I don't have him house-trained, I think it's the other way around because I usually wake up an hour to forty-five minutes before him. As an owner of a dog who happened to live with a dog in an apartment you know what I mean."

"You just got the dog back this weekend," Morgan pointed out.

"I still wake up before him," Spencer said simply. "Force of habit which allows me to sustain the natural forces with more than an oatmeal, they are partial to scrambled eggs and toasts or waffles."

"You remember that back when Haley was in a first trimester of her pregnancy with Jack you and Hotch ended on a case in Buffalo that went very ugly really fast?" Morgan asked. "And that because both of you caught something while you were there I had to practically drag both of you to the doctor?"

"Was it when I threatened to castrate you with a pencil if you will ever tell anyone that I sat down in a bucket of ice and refused to part with it?" Spencer asked grimly.

"That one," Morgan nodded. "You caught mumps from Hotch who had gotten it from a witness, the only difference was that you decided to be a baby about orchitis while Hotch only turned grumpier and both of you looked like stuffed up hamsters."

"I wasn't a baby about orchitis, you – lucky that you caught mumps while you were prepubescent – sod," Spencer snorted and as soon as he realized what he had said he also realized what Morgan was implying, "Mumps viral infections in adolescent and adult males carry an up to 30% risk that the testes may become infected; about half of these infections result in testicular atrophy, and in rare cases sterility can follow."

"And thanks to a bucket of ice to the groin you can enjoy your time with your daughter today," Morgan said. "The same thing can't exactly be said about Hotch, if Haley hadn't gotten pregnant with Jack when she did they would never have a child," he sighed. "Haley just gotten the results back then, Hotch was too preoccupied to pick them up, Jack was with Jessica back then and Haley... She was really down and spend the majority of the day torturing herself before she headed to a bar, I found her there, brought her back home and..."

"You just happened to fall into the bed together?" Spencer asked ironically.

"You think that I didn't... that we didn't know that it was bad idea?" Morgan growled.

"If you really did we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?" Spencer pointed out.

"I wasn't exactly sober," Morgan grimaced. "Neither was Haley and the call from Hotch saying that he was leaving with Emily for a custodial which was sprung upon them in the last moment hadn't helped either. She was hurting, she was angry, she was drunk and we both weren't at our best. It happened and in the morning we swore that it will never happen again."

"But it did," Spencer said.

"Not until Haley and Hotch separated for good," Morgan shook his head. "Yes, I came around to help in the meantime but we didn't slept together until after Hotch received the divorce papers and even then it wasn't a romantic relationship. It was just sex with no strings attached. Do I really have to explain to you the concept of friends with benefits?"

"Friends with benefits is still a relationship," Spencer pointed out. "The only difference is that you don't advertise the benefits you are getting. But it wasn't enough, it couldn't be enough, could it be?" he asked. "Not when Jack was involved. You couldn't be with Haley just for sex without having Jack around at some point."

"Don't you think that I hadn't realized that?" Morgan snorted. "I did. I liked the little guy and I liked having him around with Haley. Was I thinking about how Hotch would react when he would find out? I didn't, not when it started because it didn't matter because we were what we were, a rebound, someone with whom you could spend the night without having to escape the bed in the middle of the night or wondering what you should do in the morning aside of coffee. Hotch wasn't supposed to know because it wasn't going to last."

"But it did," Spencer pointed out.

"It didn't matter by then," Morgan sighed. "I was in too deep and if being with Haley would cost me my job I was ready to accept it because I knew that I would be lucky if any of you remained on speaking terms with me once the truth would come out. But it didn't matter because for as long as I could be with her I could take a different job, that's how much being with her and Jack mattered to me. Would you walk away from your job if Elle asked you too? Wouldn't you give everything to make her and Lily happy?"

"I would," Spencer said quickly. "But here is the thing, Elle knew better than to ask me to give up who I was for something she couldn't give me and in spite of what you are thinking and the proof which you delivered into my hands we didn't have an affair, we weren't in a relationship, we didn't have sex."

"But you have Lily," Morgan protested.

"Nothing is accidental," Spencer shrugged. "I never intended to have children on my own and you know why. But I have Lily and as much as it scares me what I could unknowingly pass on her I wouldn't change a thing about it because if I did I would never have her in my life and if I didn't have her in my life I wouldn't be who I'm, I wouldn't do what I do and most probably we wouldn't be having this conversation because I wouldn't be there. Elle knew how much I needed a reason to refocus and re-prioritize things in my life and she had given me a reason. A reason to stay sober, a reason to keep doing what I was doing and to be the best at what I do, and when it mattered Lily was also my reason to continue living because no matter how deep into depression I succumbed I never dared to turn my gun on myself because I would never let her grow up without a dad for as long as I had the power over that. It doesn't matter to me how she came into being because what really matters is that she did and that I would never change that."

"Reid..." Morgan started. "I didn't mean to..."

"You sure as hell did," Spencer snarled. "It wasn't any of your business and it didn't change a thing! The only thing you in so far had proven is that you don't trust me and my word in regards of the most important person in my life and if you can't trust me enough with being a dad how can you trust me to have your back in the field, how can you trust me with everything else and the most important how can I trust you."

"I wasn't thinking about it," Morgan said. "I was thinking about you."

"Yeah, right," Spencer spat.

"I did it because I knew how that damned case of mumps had ended for Hotch," Morgan said insistently. "He doesn't advertize it but I doubt that he would try to hide it from Beth, and that's probably why she didn't come with him to Elle's funeral or hadn't come by to the barbeque at Rossi's. I know how much Lily means to you... how could I be sure that it didn't end for you the same way it ended for Hotch."

"My or Hotch's ability to reproduce isn't any of your business Morgan," Spencer growled. "It's not that any of us is hitting on one of your sisters for you to worry whatever or not we are being truthful in our intentions and whatever or not your sisters would get the damned best like they deserve. I felt guilty that I pushed you to leave for London but now I think that it was a good idea because it will take me more than few days to get over your good intentions."

"Do you still meant what you said at the beginning?" Morgan sighed.

"I do," Spencer snorted as he stood up. "The thing is: I'm not the only one. Have a safe trip because I don't think that I would show up at the airport tomorrow."

With that he turned on his heel and left.

Sleep Deprived

Once he returned home – as weird as calling Hotch's apartment home was, for the time being it was still his and Lily's home – he walked inside and shedding his outer clothes as he went – knowing fully well that tomorrow morning he will regret not putting them away in the wardrobe because Moth most probably would end rolling in them at some point of the night – and without caring whatever or not Hotch was sleeping he strode into the bathroom to wash his face.

Only when he straightened up and looked into the mirror he realized that Hotch wasn't sleeping but at that very moment was having a very bubbly bath and that he had something red and very mushy on his face along with two slices of a cucumber one of which he was holding up in order to check who disturbed his privacy.

"What in the name of all things holly and reasonable had crawled on your face and died there?" Spencer muttered.

"It's my semi-biweekly unsupervised half of hour of relaxation and self-pampering," Hotch replied as he twirled the slice of the cucumber he was holding between his fingers. "You will understand it once you will a) get married, b) turn forty years old or c) both of them. And if you will breath a word to anyone that I have a thing for strawberries..."

"Are you kidding me?" Spencer snorted. "Nobody will believe me that you put on self-made, beautifying strawberry mask on semi-regular intervals. It's like Emily's goth phase in high-school, no one will believe it until they will see it for themselves."

"Do I comment on things which you end putting on your head, Shaggy?" Hotch retorted. "You have more hair-care products than Haley and I used to have together."

"Curly hair, you will never understand what it means to never grow out of your curly phase," Spencer rolled his eyes. "In that regards Lily is doomed from both ends and some of the things I keep in your bathroom are hers, Lily Hotchner," he snorted.

"From that snide remark I take that the conversation with Morgan hadn't gone well," Hotch sighed.

Spencer grimaced, "It went well in some areas and in some it did not."

"He meant well," Hotch pointed out.

"The road to hell is paved with good intentions," Spencer snorted. "All right, kept soaking, Berry Straw, I'm going to bed."

With that he turned around and left the bathroom knowing very well that Hotch wouldn't be advocating for Spencer's forgiveness on Morgan's behalf if he really knew why Morgan did what he did. If he knew... the truth would destroy Hotch.

It would destroy Hotch who was smiling again, maybe not as often and as much as he used to smile before his marriage had started falling apart, but after all the shit Hotch had been through in past few years seeing him smile was some sort of a small miracle, a sign that little by little Hotch was moving past the tragedy which had befallen on his family.

If Hotch learned about the affair he wouldn't turn his gun against himself, he wouldn't do that to Jack, he loved Jack too much to rob him from the only parent he had left but the smiling man who enjoyed trading verbal barbs with Spencer just as he enjoyed engaging into intellectual discussions would disappear, probably for eternity.

How Hotch could stand the weight of knowing that Emily was alive and recovering while he, along with the rest of them had carried her coffin? How he could stand looking at his own reflection in the mirror knowing what he was hiding from the team? How could he...

"Reid?" Hotch whispered.

When he had left the bathroom? How much time had passed since Spencer curled under the covers of his side of the bed allowing himself to weep in the seeming darkness of the room?

"I miss Elle," Spencer chocked out between sobs. "I miss her so fucking much that it hurts."

It was the only truth he could give Hotch. He missed Elle...

"I'm sorry if what I said before had hurt you," Hotch whispered as he rolled on his left side and placed his right hand on Spencer's arm.

… he missed her so terribly that it physically hurt because she was the only person in front of whom he could be himself, the only person to whom he could take his issues without worrying anyone on the team, the only person he could take his grief and his anger over what Morgan had put him through lately... and she was gone.

Gone.

It wasn't fair, it just wasn't fair.

Sleep Deprived

He woke up to a pat on the top of his head wrapped in quilt and coverlet like a human-sized burrito as something or more precisely someone was literally breathing down his neck. As he tried to sat up in order to untangle himself from the attempt at a Gordian knot he was immediately brought down by someone's right arm which wrapped even more tightly around his middle.

He looked closer at the hand that was holding him down. Caucasian, judging by toned muscles and dark hair it definitely belonged to Hotch which in a way was good and in a way was very, very bad because Spencer really needed to visit the bathroom and the human ivy wrapped around him wouldn't let him out of his reach until Hotch would wake up enough to realize that in his caretaker mode during the night he had unleashed his closeted cuddler side.

"Hotch?" Spencer muttered. "Cuddles?"

"Mhm," Hotch mumbled.

"I've just gotten a call from porcelain god," Spencer said.

"What?" Hotch muttered.

"I have to pee, like right now," Spencer snorted.

Instead of releasing Spencer Hotch snuggled even closer against his back.

"Sure go ahead and snuggle," Spencer muttered. "Your teddy-bear needs to go to the bathroom, Cuddles."

Nothing happened.

"Hotch, I need to go to the bathroom," Spencer sighed. "If you won't let me out my elbow will come in very close contact with your ribs, maybe repeatedly."

"Okay," Hotch muttered sleepily. "What?" he asked as he rolled over and released Spencer from his hold.

"Nothing," Spencer sighed as he sat up. "Keep sleeping Cuddles, I'll be right back."

"Don't call me Cuddles," Hotch muttered as he rolled over to the other side.

"Sure, Snuggles," Spencer snorted.

Sleep Deprived

Morgan's and Garcia's plane to London had departed from Dulles at 22:37 on Friday, 20th July and as far as Spencer could tell their assignment could last as little as three weeks though six weeks were more in the realm of possibility but eight to ten were also probable just as much as twelve. Either way Spencer had before himself at the minimum three Morgan-free weeks.

It pleased him for personal reasons, a little less in professional regard since he had gotten one third of Morgan's usual caseload (and so did Hotch and Rossi) which together with Emily's caseload which was distributed fairly twenty percent per head up until Friday meant that from Monday on Spencer would be handling his usual caseload, which on his personal request was higher than everybody's else, would increase by thirty percents of Morgan's own work and Morgan's twenty percents of Emily's caseload.

Which is why Spencer and Hotch both ended coming to work on Saturday morning along with JJ and Rossi who were supposed to pick up the files they needed for their round of custodial interviews next week in Oregon and California.

"Ouch," JJ sighed sympathetically when she saw Spencer's desk and the table that belonged to his workstation.

"Kevin is a Technical Analyst," Hotch sighed. "He isn't Technical Analyst/Communication Liaison," he clarified.

"JJ?" Spencer turned to her.

"They are on your desk," JJ said. "And after last time you nearly bit my head off for touching something..."

"You didn't touch," Spencer snorted. "You dropped a file. I know that I'm a provable genius but we all know that 'you are going to solve that much faster than I would' is rather petty excuse. Maybe once I will start charging the dropper you people will learn that genius doesn't equal omniscience."

"Looks like Kevin owes you two weeks of lunches," JJ said.

"That still leaves us with a Technical Analyst who is not a Communication Liaison," Rossi pointed out.

"If I will take the research now..." JJ started.

"I will demand a raise," Spencer snorted. "One that doubles or better triples my salary. Every day I take between five to fifteen open cases more than any other agent in BAU. With Emily's reassignment my workload aside of the usual five cases more had increased to five plus between five and ten cases I get from Emily's stack, plus five which might even end ten cases from Morgan. If JJ will focus on research her caseload will decrease from usual fifteen to ten and I'm being optimistic about it. Twenty-five plus five plus five plus five equals forty and that optimistic scenario because that forty can very easily turn to fifty-five. If I'm supposed to do the job of two, even three agents then I want to be paid for this."

"JJ, I don't want to tear you from your caseload especially given for how long Morgan and Garcia might be gone and how uncertain Emily is about how long she is going to need them. Three weeks is not much of a problem but three months can become one taking into account your nearing evaluation," Hotch said.

JJ nodded slowly.

"Reid," Hotch turned to Spencer. "Instead of JJ you will take over Garcia's duties and handle intake and research, Kevin will be helping you that's why I will lower your own intake of cases to ten open cases at the maximum. Rossi and I will share the rest of your usual caseload and between us and JJ we will share half of Emily's usual caseload, the rest along with Morgan's caseload will go to Nolan, Chapman and Hershey from the other teams until Morgan and Garcia will come back or until Emily's replacement will come along, whichever comes first."

"That's a fair deal," Spencer nodded. "Why I didn't hear about it yesterday?"

"Because I didn't get the answer from Chapman's, Nolan's and Hershey's Unit Chiefs that they wouldn't have problems with their additional caseload. Technically they shouldn't have since when they were having problems with too much work with not enough people we were getting their additional caseload but it was proper to ask them first," Hotch explained. "I just got the answers this morning. Will you take it?"

Spencer nodded.

"I need a verbal answer," Hotch said.

"Yes, I will be your Acting Communication Liaison," Spencer sighed.

This was going to suck, majorly, he could feel it in his bones.

"Didn't Ferguson go on a maternity leave last week?" JJ asked suddenly.

"She wanted to take an extended sabbatical but she ended quitting because she didn't want Thompson to hold on her coming back after her maternity leave. So technically until the end of her maternity leave she is on FBI payroll but after that who knows. Thompson will be holding on her regardless because she is a good agent and he is refusing to replace her. That's a common trait between BAU Unit Chiefs, they hold onto good agents who in their eyes are irreplaceable," Spencer commented.

"One of those things you pick on your way to the bathroom?" Hotch asked pointedly. "Because if it is then you need to listen more carefully to what's being said and visit the bathroom by the other bullpen. Not that I'm implying anything."

Spencer frowned but immediately realized what Hotch was implying.

"I wasn't suggesting that you ever wanted to sleep with your Communication Liaison," Spencer deadpanned. "Besides whatever you like it or not you are actually doing it," he added dryly and for Rossi's, JJ's and propriety sake added, "In a completely platonic manner I mean."

"How much sugar you had with your coffee this morning?" Rossi asked pointedly.

"Enough," Hotch and Spencer said in unison.

"Why did you ask about Ferguson?" Spencer turned to JJ.

JJ shrugged.

Sleep Deprived

"I want my old job back," Spencer muttered to himself as he tried to decide whatever or not he should go over to Zane and Sawyer in order to hand them over their caseloads or in order to beat them with it to death because their jokes were really disturbing his concentration on the files before him in a way they never disturbed him before.

JJ wasn't there in order to shush them when they were getting too loud. She left two hours ago to get the rest of the team lunch and she still hadn't returned.

"Spence?" JJ called out from the doorway. "You've got a minute?"

"Sure, I have tons of minutes," Spencer said sarcastically. "And a pair of thirteen years olds in the room who can't take their pervy jokes out for lunch," Spencer growled in Zane's and Sawyer's direction.

"I need you to get out of there for a minute," JJ said.

"Fine," Spencer sighed as placed the files on his desk and made his way to JJ. "So what's going on?"

"Technically nothing but I wanted to show you something," JJ explained after she closed the door. "It might also solve your problems with Zane and Sawyer, Mr Communication Liaison."

"Acting Communication Liaison," Spencer snorted. "This position isn't permanent, and if someone thinks that it's going to be I'm going to beat my point into them, with case files," he added vehemently. "What you wanted to show me?"

"Something you are going to like," JJ said with small smile before she turned left and started walking in the direction of the locker rooms and the other bullpen. "I did," with that she sauntered towards her former office.

Spencer rolled his eyes but followed her until she stopped by the door that once belonged to her office and after her reassignment to Ferguson's office.

"I pulled few strings," JJ smiled serenely. "Thompson is convinced that Ferguson will eventually change her mind about leaving FBI so he isn't looking for her replacement and he had agreed with me that BAU Communication Liaison needs an office in order to work efficiently."

With that she opened the door and walked inside.

"It's a bit bare," she said sheepishly. "But you have furniture and – what I think is the most important to you right now – you have door to shut."

Spencer stared at her and the desk and cabinets.

"Should I move your nameplate?" JJ asked.

"Hell, yes," Spencer mumbled before he walked to JJ and hugged her tightly, "I love it, JJ, you are brilliant."

"Just persuasive," JJ said lightly. "You need a hand or two?"

Sleep Deprived

Spencer was up to his ears in his own paperwork when Hotch knocked on the door of his new, temporary office, most probably to let him know that he was going home.

"Wow, that was fast," Hotch said as he looked around the office.

"It's not finished," Spencer answered. "It's small and I don't get to have any outer windows but I don't care about them as much as I care for the door with a lock," he smiled at Hotch briefly. "For the record, I hate you."

"You're welcome," Hotch answered. "You know that after Garcia you are the best person for the job."

"No, JJ is the best person for the job," Spencer objected. "She has the training and the experience, old contacts with local LEO's and media, not to mention the fact that she looks better on TV that I do. I hope that dealing with reporters isn't a part of my temporary job description?"

"Officially it is," Hotch said. "But Strauss agreed with me that turning you loose on the reporters would be cruel."

"To me or the reporters?" Spencer asked pointedly.

"Both," Hotch coughed. "How you are doing with catching up?"

"Better than I expected but worse than I hoped that I will manage to catch up," Spencer grimaced.

"Your speed dropped down a bit?" Hotch asked.

"A little," Spencer sighed. "Not enough to slow me down a lot but enough to make me reread some files. It's a bit hard for me to switch from profiling the crime itself to profiling the nature of the crime and who would be the best agent to take care of the real profiling. You have something for me?"

"Appendix to your contract, if you will sign it now I will take it to Strauss with me," Hotch said as he placed the files on the desk.

Spencer picked the file, opened it, gave it a look over and scratched his signature on each page of the appendix before he gave it back to Hotch.

"Feeling like Turkey for dinner?" Hotch asked.

"I prefer steak, when I was talking with Jess she promised that she would save something for us, and I really feel like getting to know that Israel wine Rossi gave you after the barbeque," Spencer answered.

"Strawberries for desert?" Hotch asked after a moment.

"Are you trying to bribe me or woo me?" Spencer muttered.

Hotch sighed before he walked to the chair in front of Spencer's desk and sat down as he said, "I know that it's hard to come back to..."

"I'm sorry," Spencer sighed. "It's just... I'm..." he cleared his throat. "I know what you are thinking but..." he paused again.

"You've lost your best friend," Hotch said quietly. "Being angry is a part of grieving process, that's not the problem, the problem is..."

"Taking out that anger on people who are trying to help you," Spencer finished.

"There is also denial," Hotch continued.

"I'm not in denial," Spencer shook his head. "Elle is dead, Hotch, she is six feet underground and she is not coming back. I know that and I know that no matter how much I want to I can't bring her back. I'm not in denial."

"You said 'you'," Hotch said. "You didn't say me, you are distancing yourself from whatever occurred between you and Morgan when he showed you the results. Don't tell me that nothing had happened that day because when he got back Morgan looked as if someone tried to attack him and I have a very visible proof that someone attacked you. I might not be a doctor but I can do my own math, Reid."

"What happened that day is between me and Morgan, Hotch," Spencer said sharply. "We will work it out before he will come back, I can promise you that much and considering one of the factors that lead to our alteration I ask you to respect my decision."

"I will," Hotch nodded before he stood up and added, "Try to keep in mind that we are on your side and we want to help you."

"I will," Spencer nodded. "Close the door on your way out."

Sleep Deprived

It's been a while since they last seen each other but she didn't change much. She gained a little weight but he wasn't about to tell her that since he had learned long time ago when he was still in college that if you want to live long and in peace you should never bring up woman's weight unless she would bring it up first and even if she does you should always tell her that she lost some.

"Wendy Kaplan," he murmured to himself as he reached for his cappuccino and saluted with the cup to his approaching companion before he took a sip. "I took the liberty to order you some when you said that you would kill for one."

"Are you wooing or bribing me, Doctor Reid?" she asked when she sat down in front of him. "Because if it's the first I'm taken and if the second..."

"Then I would need much more than a cup of cappuccino and fried salmon," Spencer finished.

"I'm that predictable?" she grimaced.

"It's Tuesday, your fishday, the other is Friday. Your parents never reached a compromise in regards of raising you in one of their religion and even though you are an atheist yourself old habits die hard and of course you don't want to lie to your mother when you will visit her and she would ask if you ate your fish," Spencer quipped.

"The doctor is on the top of his game," she quipped in return.

"I'm just having a bad day, that's all," Spencer grimaced. "Enforced reassignment."

"I'm sorry to hear that," she said sympathetically. "I know that you loved BAU."

"I still love it," Spencer shrugged. "But BAU is a harsh and cruel mistress, especially since our Communication Liaison was reassigned, our former CL is preparing for her big evaluation and because we are already two agents down our Unit Chief is playing hot potato with Communication Liaison position. It kind of burns."

"My condolences then," she offered. "Do you want to pass the potato along?"

"Hopefully I have three more weeks of that hell left so as great as your offer sounds I'm going to pass. I didn't ask you to spare me an hour of your time in order to talk you into a position in which neither you nor I happen to feel comfortable," Spencer said.

"So?" she quipped as she looked at him before her eyes widened.

"Yup," Spencer grinned. "Technically it's not an invitation since my official title doesn't come with additional Senior before it but I happen to know that both seniors are slowly nearing the short end of their rope and since they don't have much room to maneuver they are between pulling Graham Norton out of retirement or hiring Tess Mielczynsky. It's a bad time of the year for hiring new people."

"Diabetes got the better of him," she said. "He is alive but he is no longer in the possession of all his body parts as for Mielczynsky, I never heard of her."

"Lucky you then," he said before he took another sip. "Have you ever seen JJ?"

"Once in a while over the years," she nodded. "Similar?"

"Marginally," Spencer grimaced. "Tess is a bit higher and a bit more filled out in all pleasant for man's sight places, in some more than in the others and even though she is intelligent she has a history..." he hung his voice.

"Of buttering her path up in the ranks, is this what you wanted to say?" she asked. "Why you are telling me that?"

"Good question," Spencer nodded before he gave her small smile. "Why?"

"Last time I heard something from you Aaron Hotchner was caught in a net of a little mermaid, David Rossi was coming in terms with his wife's death and Morgan was uninterested in flirting with women," she said. "Not to mention the fact that as someone with bigger distance than the rest of your team I happen to know very well that you are not as socially challenged as you pretend to be and I've seen you playing 'I'm ….. sexual – insert opposite sexuality to the person you are trying to politely turn down' Doctor and in so far I've seen heterosexual, homosexual and asexual versions of it. People who fall easily into your bed disturb you more than they please you, especially if their eagerness to share body fluids next morning takes the road 'so now that we fucked casually let's have a serious adult relationship'."

"Seriously why I need a shrink when I've got you," Spencer snorted.

"You are surrounded by them," she quipped.

"Most of them aren't permitted to profile me and only one of them charges me by the hour," Spencer retorted. "Speaking about her, she is sending her love from Barrow, Alaska, she and her dearest are pretending to be sisters in order to not offend the locals which brings me back to my personal reason to invite you to lunch."

"You want me to play matchmaker?" she asked.

"Not really," Spencer shook his head. "Did Professor Collins finally sold his shed in Dumfries?"

"From what I heard..." she started and paused before she added, "He did. Were you interested?"

"Not really," Spencer answered. "I'm a big boy Alex, I wouldn't exactly fit in a shed. I'm interested in something bigger than that, something with two, preferably three or more bedrooms, two bathrooms would be nice, maybe a pool, with a neighborhood that wouldn't be interested in people I would be bringing home."

"Your optimism never ceases to amaze me," she smiled. "People are curious by nature and a new person on the block always attracts a horde of well-meaning, curious..."

"Lonely women and under-appreciated housewives," Spencer finished. "I've been there before and I've been traumatized for life by one of my neighbors who lent me a screwdriver dressed in latex lingerie and who later told almost everyone in the building that I was gay which lead to another traumatizing encounter with my male neighbor who was so far gone into the world of spandex that he was lost to the said world. I don't flaunt my sexuality, Alex, it's my business who I happen to be bringing home and I avoid sharing body fluids with my neighbors, one of the lessons I've learned in California."

"Are you interested in any specific area?" she asked.

"Anything between DC and Quantico, preferably with a reasonable price bellow one million, ideally bellow five hundred thousands. If you happen to know any foreclosures I'm your man."

"You know that a real estate agent would have done a better job, don't you?"

"I know but I prefer to buy something straight from the owner," he shrugged. "I will buy you a dinner, a big dinner."

"I would prefer new Kelly Kaplan if you catch my drift," she grinned.

Spencer had a decency to turn as red as his tie before he reached for his cappuccino to swallow down his embarrassment.

"Can we not talk about Kelly Kaplan here?" he asked sourly. "Kelly feels more secure behind closed doors and considering her current accommodations she didn't exactly had a lot of time or place to write anything new."

"That explains a lot," Alex nodded. "House problems?"

"I don't have a house, I have a merciful supervisor who doesn't mind, very much at the very least, having me underfoot twenty-four hours a day seven days in a week. I also happen to know that this well one day might dry so I would like to move out before that happens. If you help me Kelly would dedicate her brand new installment to Bianca Anderson."

"Have you ever thought about introducing Kelly to the rest of the team?" Alex asked curiously.

"I did," Spencer nodded.

"And?" she smiled.

"You would sooner see photos of Hotch going undercover as a drag queen, in a corset, stockings and a pair of murderous stilettos than I would introduce Kelly Kaplan to anyone on the team," he snorted. "The rest of the team doesn't need to know that their meek and mellow doctor earns spontaneous bouts of his keep as a writer of 'crimotica'. It's bad enough that all females on the team, past and present had read those books and when you get enough alcohol into them they will readily admit that they would love to have a lesbian experience with Kelly Kaplan. In so far I only know one which backed out of that statement."

"Did she get to have that encounter?" Alex snickered.

"No, she received a handwritten dedication from Kelly Kaplan and drunken promise for one time sex over the phone that never took place," Spencer replied. "We were so drunk that she called me Frizzles and her best lesbian friend with a permanent strap-on. I've called her Domino and we never spoke about that night ever again."

"Maybe you should," Alex suggested. "It might give you new ideas."

"She passed away in June," Spencer said quietly. "Killed in a line of duty," he added.

"I'm sorry to hear that," Alex said sympathetically. "Were you close?"

Spencer nodded slowly before he added, "Things have been a little crazy since she's gone. I miss her, I miss going to her with everything. After Emily and the whole deception... she was the only one to whom I could turn without worrying that she would ever dupe me if the stakes were high enough. That was our policy, absolute and brutal honesty, no matter what. I miss her, Alex, and even though I still have her daughter, my daughter, our daughter to look after..."

"You still miss her," she finished. "You still want to talk to her, you still want to share with her everything you shared with her until she died..." she paused and after a longer pause she asked, "Maybe you should write her."

"Dead don't write back, Alex," he pointed out.

"They don't, but getting off your chest whatever emotion that it's gnawing at you helps. She was your friend and you miss her terribly and you still want to share with her things which you shared before. I'm not saying that you have to sorely rely on that, God forbid, but conscious writing requires arranging your thoughts, naming your emotions. If you don't wish to speak about your grief to your friends, ill advised decision, maybe you should try going to a meeting of support groups or seek a grief counselor, some people find opening to a stranger easier than opening to a friend. I'll be there if you want to talk."

"You don't have to go all doctor on me, Alex," Spencer nodded as he gave her a small smile. "I have the same degree in the same subject."

"I'm more experienced," she said.

"Profiler."

"Former profiler and still actively working psychologist."

"Psychologist overwhelm me," Spencer sighed. "What I really need is a mathematician with a really good riddle."

"You know one that would readily provide you with such?" she asked.

"I can name a few," he nodded. "Let's change the subject, Bianca. How is the new book coming?"

"Very loud," she quipped. "It starts with an older guy dying during an orgasm..."

"And your lovely cop spends next three hundred something pages pursuing the woman who killed him."

She smiled before she said, "I didn't say that it was a woman, Doctor Reid."

"You know that there are only two possibilities, it's not as if you will kill me with suspense, Doctor Blake," Spencer pointed out. "When it's coming out?"

"Late September," she answered.

"That's great, I have a birthday present for Emily," Spencer smirked. "Is there a chance that I will get a signed copy?"

"If you will ask nicely," she said.

"I will."

Sleep Deprived

Lunch with Alex Blake after a visit to NCIS in order to help determine whatever or not three separate cold cases with a completely different MO were connected by more than one of the agents gut-feeling that they were connected had helped Spencer to refocus and regain his peace after a helluva of a morning of his official second day in the position of an Acting Communication Liaison.

Technically he was on the third day of his reassignment and he felt just as much resentment for his new position as he felt on the first day. With the exception of Sunday spent with Lily and Jack at the zoo Spencer had spent majority of his time at running between bullpens and offices with a stack of files between being almost permanently attached to his cell-phone.

Other agents aside of Hotch, and maybe Anderson – who was the only agent working for BAU as support agent who was taking profiling classes and was able to tell that Spencer was getting towards the short end of his rope – hadn't made it easier for him: there were jokes about him being a Pretty Boy but not as pretty as JJ or Garcia, those would end on Wednesday afternoon when majority of profilers will discover that the new Communication Liaison had ensured that every joker was signed for mandatory attendance to the seminar on sexual harassment. And while fellow BAUers were bad local LEOs were much worse than them, they sounded so disappointed when they were realizing that Miss Penelope wasn't answering their calls.

Like Spencer predicted on the first day his new position sucked majorly, he was so deep into paperwork that he had a very little time left for his own cases, three of which he already turned over to Anderson who as one of the two people at the moment wasn't getting a kick out of Spencer's new position and almost immediately had offered his help. Then again Anderson had been with BAU almost as long as Spencer but unlike Spencer wasn't on BAU's payroll as a profiler but was steadily working his way towards the position.

That was the best thing about Anderson, there was no narcissistic fiber in him, but then again Spencer expected that from someone who raised his little brother and sister after their parents had passed away, special family circumstances and his little sister's handicap requiring medical attention and treatment had ensured that after graduation he was left in Quantico and he steadily had worked his way to the position of a supporting agent in BAU. Now with his siblings grown up and moving on with their lives Anderson allowed himself to work on what he really wanted to do in his life. Having Spencer asking for his help due to the impromptu backlog caused by the change of guards was only going to help him get there.

"You've got mail," Hotch said when he knocked on the open door to Spencer's office. "And Anderson took over your desk."

"With my blessing," Spencer answered. "Support doesn't have a lot of work to do, majority of them is either upstairs in counter-terrorism or downstairs in cyber-crime and from what I've heard they are bothering the hell out of them. He wanted to do something more productive than twiddling his thumbs and he has good instincts and my pointers if he gets stuck."

"I've got a call from Alex Blake," Hotch said as he sat down in the chair in front of Spencer's desk.

"How is she?" Spencer asked simply acting as if he hadn't seen her recently.

"Asking if I would terribly mind if she sent her application for the vacant position on my team," Hotch said. "She sounded a bit as if she hadn't realized that the vacate had been open for almost two months."

"She's been here before, Hotch," Spencer shrugged. "She knows that unless you are David Rossi, Max Ryan, Kate Cole or Jason Gideon you don't get to waltz into BAU saying that you want the job and that the actual hiring process takes some time and at times an open position might remain vacant for months. The question is what you want and if you are ready to fight about it."

"For now I want my Acting Communication Liaison to stop going behind my back in order to encourage other agents to send applications for the vacant position," Hotch muttered as he placed the letters to Spencer on his desk. "I really appreciate that you want to help, but I would appreciate it more if you mentioned to me beforehand that you wish to give a pep-talk about joining BAU to someone. At the very least it would stop me from sounding like an idiot who doesn't know whatever or not the person on the other end of the phone had applied for the position or not."

"Are you still avoiding Tess Mielczynsky?" Spencer asked.

"She won't get the job, her reputation aside she doesn't have a lot to offer," Hotch grimaced. "Yes, she is intelligent, yes she knows a few languages and yes she has glowing recommendations and good records in marksmanship but I would prefer to hire someone who has more potential than that of being Mrs Rossi Number 4, especially since current candidate for one would have something to say about my hiring practices if I hired Ms Mielczynsky."

"She is not the only one," Spencer pointed out.

"The rest is usual rejects, one is undecided, most of them are male and therefore not on the list. BOC wants me to hire a woman, Strauss wants me to hire a woman..."

"Which means that you will either hire a woman or I will have to claim that I always wanted to be one," Spencer nodded.

"And there is the additional problem with hiring a woman, few of those who applied are either on their maternity leave or about to get on one if few weeks or months. It's a really bad time for hiring a woman," Hotch grimaced.

"That's what you get for being in the position of power and judging by your crankiness you need to refill your mug," Spencer said as he closed the file he was working on.

"Said so the true ray of sunshine," Hotch snorted. "I've heard a rumor that majority of BAU has to attend a mandatory seminar on sexual harassment."

"Now imagine that," Spencer muttered.

"I do," Hotch said. "Which is why I came here to warn you that sooner rather than letter they will be seeking retribution of some sort."

"Lucky me," Spencer quipped. "Don't worry Mum, I can overwhelm them with case-files and of all the things I'm missing at the moment ammunition isn't one of them," Spencer motioned with his head at the desk behind him. "Garcia will have a heart-attack once she would learn how many trees had to die for me to get those."

"You can always place the blame on Kevin for printing them out," Hotch pointed out.

"I'd rather not," Spencer grimaced. "Whatever she chooses to believe it or not he is nowhere near to getting over her just like she isn't anywhere close to getting over him. She has prejudices, he is proud, so they end dancing around one another acting as if that fiasco of a proposal didn't hurt them as it did."

"I thought that they buried the hatchet at JJ's wedding," Hotch said.

"That hatchet is very slippery," Spencer snorted. "Just when you start thinking that it's buried it peeks out and says 'hello'. They've been together for almost four years, that's enough time to get to know one another, she'd meet his family, he'd meet her brothers."

"If you were him you would have proposed in a different way," Hotch nodded.

"I wouldn't propose to start with it," Spencer shrugged. "She has helluva of commitment issues and feels very insecure about herself in a relationship, any kind of more than friendly relationship. If I was Kevin I wouldn't ask her to marry me. Oh, hi Kevin," he smiled.

Kevin leaned against the doorway with a very suspicious look on his face as he hugged the files he was holding to himself and said, "Hello Aunt Agony, don't mind me Doc, keep going."

"I will," Spencer smirked. "Once you would park your butt over there," he pointed at the other chair in front of his desk.

Kevin eyed, first Hotch, then the chair before he looked at Spencer again and slid into the chair next to Hotch.

"What I did wrong?" he asked finally.

"Like I'd already said, you intended to ask her if she would marry you," Spencer said. "I don't have a big experience in proposals but I know enough women to know that when they are feeling insecure about themselves the worst thing you can do is overwhelm them. That's why instead of overwhelming them you should make them feel that they are in complete control over the situation."

"What I should have done differently?" Kevin asked pensively.

"Isn't your lease coming up in few months?" Spencer asked. "You could bring it up, ask for her thoughts on that matter, her help in picking a new, bigger place, new furniture, essentially turn the control over everything to her, complement her choices, make a room for her in your new place. Bribe the lady in the apartment above her to flood her flat so she would have to spend few days living at your new place. Look at JJ and Will, Henry will be turning four in the fall and they just gotten married in May, the wedding itself shouldn't be the goal, being together and supporting one another should."

"Minus bribing the neighbor you spoke like a seasoned relationship counselor," Hotch remarked.

"You know that we are talking about spilled milk, don't you?" Kevin grimaced. "I fucked it up already and more than once."

"You can still fix it," Spencer pointed out. "You don't know what will happen tomorrow Kevin, to you, to her, to all of us. If you are convinced that she is your only one get a grip, dust of the armor, mount the white horse and fight for her."

"Would you..." Kevin started. "Would you fight for Elle if you had a chance?"

"I don't know, maybe," Spencer sighed. "Now I will never know for sure."

"He is right and you know it," Hotch said. "She is not over you, if you want to be with her, you have to fight for her. Even if she will fight you at first you need to convince her that you will be there regardless."

"Think it through," Spencer said as he reached for the letter from the top of the stack.

He tore it open without looking at return address and frowned when he saw a single photograph of a modestly sized house tucked into the envelope. The house seemed familiar in a way but he saw so many houses in his life that he couldn't recall immediately when and where he had seen it. It had white exterior, walls, windows, picket fence and small swimming pool.

"That's weird," he muttered, more to himself than to Hotch or Kevin.

"What's weird?" Hotch asked.

Spencer pulled the photograph from the envelope and handed it over to Hotch.

"Do you have a return address?" Hotch asked quickly.

Spencer gave the envelope a look over before he answered, "No. You know this place?"

Hotch didn't answer, instead he fixed his gaze on the photograph. His back and shoulders straightened, his hand grasped the photograph tightly. Spencer didn't need to ask again if he knew the house in the photograph because he could see it for himself that he did and that the place had...

It was the photograph of the backyard of Hotch's house, the one in which he and Haley lived together and the one in which she was murdered.

"Who owns the house at 1600 Valley Avenue, McLean, Virginia?" Spencer asked as he looked at Kevin.

"David Rossi," Hotch answered quietly. "He..." Hotch paused and cleared his throat, "convinced me to sell it to him so I wouldn't be the one worrying about selling it... It's an older photo, one from before..." he paused again before he added, "Dave made sure that before the house would go on sale it would look completely different just in case..."

"This photo wasn't taken in the backyard," Spencer said pensively.

"No, it had to be taken from the upper floor of the house... on the other street," Hotch mumbled. "Where it come from?" he asked sharply.

Spencer examined the postal code on the stamp before he answered, "McLean."

"But it was addressed to you," Kevin pointed out.

Spencer looked at Kevin before he dove into the pile of remaining letters. Close to the bottom of the stack of remaining letters he found another envelope with no return address and McLean's stamp. Very carefully he tore it open and he picked up another photograph... no two photographs.

"Reid," Hotch said but Spencer barely heard him as his hand shook so hard that he dropped the photographs on the desk.

The one on the top had to be taken during one of those precious few moments after Hotch's divorce where he, Haley and Jack were together. What to casual onlooker like a nice photograph of a happy family was marked with the eye of the providence drawn in dried blood. It was cruel, unbelievably cruel but all thoughts of digging up Foyet's carcass and dedicating the rest of his life in order to bring him back to life with sole purpose to beating him to death again had fled Spencer's mind when he looked at the second photograph under the one of Hotch's family.

On the other photograph he saw himself, younger, with longer hair, casually dressed and carrying Lily – about two years old in the picture – in his arms with face forward the direction he was going while he was chattering with smiling Elle who was pushing Lily's stroller. The bloody eye of the providence was also on this picture but unlike standing alone like on the other photograph it was joined by a bloody question mark.

'Look what I could have done', that was why both letters were addressed to him and not Hotch. Foyet was obsessing over Hotch and his end game was destroying Hotch but that son of a bitch profiled them just as much as they profiled him.

As a narcissistic and paranoid personality Foyet wouldn't allow anyone to share his fame which excluded secondary party. As someone who was dead for nearly three years he couldn't send letters, especially on the day that held no significance to him or anyone connected to the case because to Foyet and everyone involved in his case the date 25th July had no meaning.

He looked at the photograph of himself, Elle and Lily again and he barely managed to stop himself from throwing up. He shook his head as he reached for his phone and dialed the extension to his old desk.

After one signal Anderson picked up but Spencer hadn't left him any chance to answer as he barked out, "Anderson, my office, pronto."

"You think that there might be more?" Kevin asked nervously.

"I wouldn't put it past him," Spencer replied sourly. "The better question is why now? He is dead."

"Properly," Hotch interjected.

"He was too narcissistic and too paranoid to work with a partner," Spencer continued. "Any partner in his eyes would be stealing his glory."

"Whose?" Anderson asked as he stopped by the door.

Very slowly and delicately to not wipe any trace of evidence Spencer raised and turned the photographs towards Anderson before he said, "They came in two separate envelopes, no return address, sent from McLean. Get through Rossi's, JJ's, Morgan's and Garcia's correspondence and check if they had gotten one of these. Bag, tag and get it down to forensics with top priority. Once you are done with that, get the other agents to search their own mail for one of these, I doubt that they would find anything but we need to know for sure. I'll talk with Strauss."

"Kevin you will come with me," Hotch said. "We need a scan of the photograph of the house before we will get it down to forensics. I want you to do ..."

"Digital perspective analysis rendering to establish from where it came from," Kevin said.

"Meet me in the garage once you will be done with Strauss," Hotch turned to Spencer. "I'll send Mike home to stay with Jess and the kids, just in case."

Sleep Deprived

What would have been an hour worth drive Hotch managed to get down to forty-two minutes drive with blazing sirens and flashing lights. The house looked unoccupied and actually turned to be unoccupied\ once they cleared it out. It was a necessary precaution they had to do.

According to Kevin the photograph had to be taken from the upper floor of the house located at Cross Street which was right behind Hotch's and Haley's house and they needed to check it out whatever Foyet or his partner, if he had one, had been there at some point.

Quickly they crossed the street and walked towards the front door of the house at Cross Street. They didn't have a warrant so they will have to play nice if someone was there until Kevin would find the owner of that house assuming that the owner was still alive.

Spencer was clutching the loathed tablet under his left arm, normally he got by without it but considering the fact that they were reopening a former case they needed immediate access to the gathered data.

A dark blue SUV was parked in the driveway and the sound of children laughter indicated that it's occupants were inside it.

"Stop for a moment," Hotch said.

Spencer stopped and looked at Hotch who motioned with his left hand at his own collar. Spencer passed the tablet to Hotch and quickly buttoned the top button of his shirt and straightened his tie. Hotch wanted both of them to look professional but Spencer wasn't convinced that impersonating Men in Black would get them inside without a warrant but it wasn't as if had a choice on the matter considering that they left the house these morning dressed like ones.

"You don't think that it's going to work," Hotch muttered once he gave back the tablet to Spencer.

"It's not that," Spencer grimaced. "It's irrational and there is a part of me which doesn't want me to enter that house. I'm not sure why."

"Gut feeling?" Hotch asked. "You are worried about what we might find inside?"

"Not that," Spencer sighed. "I told you that it's irrational."

It was, all of his instincts were screaming at him 'get the fuck out of there' for an unknown reason. Foyet was dead and most probably the person who sent him the letters wasn't Foyet's partner since Foyet's profile excluded existence of one but more likely an unwilling participant who didn't know what he or she had sent to FBI.

Once they stopped at the front door Hotch knocked and pulled out his credentials while Spencer pulled the right side of his jacket to display his gun and credentials.

The door were opened by dark-haired woman, she appeared to be in Spencer's age, maybe few years older.

"How can I help you?" she asked nervously as he looked from Hotch to Spencer.

"I'm SSA Spencer Reid, this is SSA Aaron Hotchner, we are from FBI and we would like you to answer few questions if you wouldn't mind," Spencer said. "Mrs...?"

"Helen," she answered and when Spencer looked at her expectantly she opened her mouth just as the door were pulled open and a familiar figure appeared behind the woman.

"Gideon," Spencer finished.

"Spencer," Gideon said as he stared at him before he looked at Hotch and said, "Aaron, what brings you here?"

"Work," Spencer answered quickly before he said, "I thought that you said that you live in Barry Farms.

"You know each other?" Helen asked.

"We used to work together few years ago," Spencer answered briskly. "Mrs Gideon?" he turned to the woman. "We need to ask you how long you've been living here?"

"We don't live here," she answered. "Our house in Barry Farms is undergoing renovation, this house belongs to Bob Sinclair, the uncle of my friend who allowed us to use it while our house is getting fixed."

"When you moved in here?" Spencer asked.

"Saturday morning," she answered just as Gideon answered, "Why you need to know that?"

Spencer opened the tablet he was holding in his left hand and tapped the photograph of the envelope which was sent to him.

"Did you send it?" he asked.

Gideon shook his head.

"I did," Helen answered. "These letters were piled on the island when we first came in, seemed urgent so I sent them."

"Did you look inside the envelopes?" Spencer asked as Hotch pulled out his BlackBerry and started scrolling through the contacts.

"No," she shook her head, she was growing more frightened by every second.

"Frida Kershaw will get you a warrant the fastest," Spencer told Hotch before he turned back to Helen and said, "Mrs Gideon I need to ask you to call Bob Sinclair and if he lives in or around DC to come down here immediately."

"Helen won't call anyone if you won't tell us what you are doing," Gideon said quickly.

"Reopening a murder investigation," Spencer replied. "We can do this the easy or the hard way Jason, either way you won't get rid of us until we won't search the house from the top of the chimney to the basement. So which way it's going to be?"

"What you are looking for?" Gideon asked suspiciously.

"Anything which was left by the previous tenant," Spencer answered. "And by anything I really mean anything, victims included."

"Victims?" Helen whispered. "There are..."

"We can't exclude that possibility without examining the premises," Spencer explained. "At the very least confirming with the owner whatever or not the man we are suspecting to commit these murders had indeed lived there."

"How many we are talking about?" Gideon asked tersely.

"Those we know of?" Spencer sighed. "Thirty-seven, shot and stabbed, thirty-eight if one would include the leading detective whom he was slowly killing for over ten years. And I'm not including those he let live, which ups the number of his victims to forty-one. So, do you want to invite us in?"

"You have a body count almost going into forties and you still hadn't caught him?" Gideon asked harshly.

"This is coming from the man who allowed Frank Breitkopft to walk away unharmed," Spencer retorted. "Do not judge or you too will be judged," he said silkily before he turned to Helen and said, "Mrs Gideon?"

"I will call Bob but you have my permission to tear this house apart," she said shakily before she walked away.

"Are you honestly convinced that I wouldn't be able to recognize the hiding place of a serial killer?" Gideon said bitterly.

"How can I be?" Spencer shrugged. "I hadn't seen you for almost five years with the exception of that brief encounter in the park few weeks ago and it's not that you were letting anyone in both before and after Boston. It's not that we should fully trust your judgment after Adrian Bale, we did because we wanted to believe that you were getting better, that after what happened you were more careful but instead of careful you had grown more careless. So no, Jason, I don't trust your judgment, especially not when it comes to the man who led Boston PD and BAU by their noses for over ten years. I don't trust you with the man who went after my family, after my team. In fact I don't trust you at all because neither you are the man I used to know nor I'm the boy you had taken under your wings. With or without your permission we will search this house from the top of the chimney to the bottom of the basement."

"You are about to get the emailed copy of the warrant to search the house and its premisses and if that isn't enough one of the agents will deliver hard-copy it in under an hour, by then CSU and ME will be standing by ready to get through the house," Hotch said.

The sound of incoming message made Spencer look down to open and enlarge the attachment before he showed it to Gideon.

"You've changed and not for the better," Gideon said bitterly.

Spencer bit back the retort which was forming in his mouth. He wasn't there to piss off Gideon as easy as Gideon was making it. They needed to search the house because if Foyet had killed anyone while he was at large the families of his victims deserved to know what happened with their loved ones.

Sleep Deprived

CSU with ground penetrating radar had found six bodies buried in the backyard, according to ME two males, four females, cause of death of men had yet to be determined but the women were most certainly stabbed to death.

Gideon and his family were long gone, moved to a hotel since no one was in big hurry to inform them that Foyet was dead and wasn't going to come after them. At the very least this way Gideon was away with his family and not bothering anyone on the scene which allowed them to process the stuff that Foyet left behind.

He hadn't left a lot behind, few changes of clothes, definitely male ones and his computers through which Hotch with Kevin's help from Quantico was going over in the garage while Spencer was waiting for the arrival of Bob Sinclair.

Bob Sinclair was an old, fragile man who upon learning that FBI found six bodies buried in the backyard of his house almost collapsed if Spencer hadn't caught him and helped him get to the SUV

"I know that I'm asking a lot of you Mr Sinclair," Spencer said gently as he gripped the man's hand. "But we need your help with identifying the man who killed those people."

"Anything sir," the man whispered. "I would do everything so you will catch this monster. What you need to know?"

"Who used this house before Mrs and Mr Gideon?" Spencer asked. "For how long?"

"Before Helen and Jason?" Bob sighed. "There was a guy, just one, he answered the add in late March... 2009, yes, 2009. Moved almost immediately, paid in cash, two years in advance... I spent last two years with my sister in Japan, her husband had a stroke, he died just this spring... after his two years were up I paid for the house via internet, hadn't heard from him but my head..."

"I understand," Spencer squeezed his hand. "I'm going to show you a photograph Mr Sinclair, I need you to tell me whatever or not you recognize the man who hired your house, okay."

The older man nodded.

Spencer took the tablet from the front seat and tapped the icon with Foyet's photograph.

"It's him," Sinclair chocked out. "Looked a bit different when I saw him, red hair, red beard but it's him Agent Reid."

"What name he gave you?" Spencer asked gently.

"Said that his name is Aaron Hotchner," Sinclair whispered.

Son of a bitch. What a fucking, humungous, crap-eating whoreson.

"You will catch him, won't you Agent Reid?" Sinclair asked nervously.

"We will," Spencer nodded before he looked around and spotted Robertson, one of the supporting agents before he asked, "Is there someplace where you can stay with someone else."

"My niece and her husband in Norfolk," Sinclair answered.

"Robertson!" Spencer called out.

"Yes, sir," Robertson almost immediately appeared by the SUV. "What can I do for you?"

"You will take Mr Sinclair to his niece in Norfolk, you will stop at his place to pick few changes of clothes before you will drive to Norfolk," Spencer answered.

"Sir?" Robertson asked cautiously.

"That's an order Agent Robertson," Spencer hissed harshly.

"I'm not questioning that," Robertson said quickly. "It's just... Agent Hotchner had taken the SUV which we brought from Hoover and Anderson took the Gideons in the other car, if you won't come with us..."

"I will find my way back, don't worry about it Robertson," Spencer answered. "Now go," he said as he closed the door and waited until Robertson got inside the car before he stepped away so Robertson wouldn't drive over his feet.

Just as he the car disappeared behind the corner Spencer shook his head as he reached for his phone and dialed Kevin.

"You've got a minute?" he asked tiredly.

"I can spare one," Kevin said sourly. "But right past a minute mark I need to tell you something."

"Okay," Spencer said. "I need to know who canvased the area after Haley was killed."

"Roy Watson, shot in the line of duty last year, according to the neighbors the house was inhabited by Geofrey Tego who left for a long safari in Kenya roughly about the same time you guys went to Detroit," Kevin answered.

"George Foyet," Spencer snarled. "That twisted SOB was watching the house all the time. Listen I have one more favor to ask for and it's going to be a big one. Open Foyet's file and run his aliases and their variations through the system focusing on the locations in or around where..." he paused to take a breath.

"Where all of you were living at the time," Kevin finished. "Copy that. But you might have a bigger problem than Foyet who happens to be dead and isn't going to run away. Age... Hotch and I were going over Foyet's computers, this creep has the photograph count going into thousands. There is one folder in which he stored pictures taken of the house in which Hotch and his wife had lived. He has a freakzillion pictures of Haley, Jack, some of Hotch himself and here goes another SOB, in an awful lot of them Haley and/or Jack are accompanied by Morgan and those with Haley... There is no easy way to say that, Morgan had an affair with Haley and Hotch just found out about it, from Foyet."

"Fuck," Spencer whispered. "Get me his cell-phone on GPS. Call supporting unit, Hightower and Merridew, send them over to the hotel where Gideon and his family is staying to relieve Anderson, get Anderson back to Quantico and have him help you with going over Foyet's files because I still think that if he could afford two hiding holes in DC area he could easily afford one or two more and taking into consideration what we had found here..." he ordered as he started stormed towards his car.

"He did," Kevin finished. "You have Hotch's location programed into the GPS."

Foyet had ten years to plan his return and big escape, he most certainly had enough time to gather the means to stay off the radar hoping that whoever would come chasing after him would underestimate him, which they did, they all did, even Spencer himself. The bastard was dead for two years and eight months yet he still managed to surprise them, at the time they least expected it.

At the very least he was dead and he wasn't going to hurt anyone else not that it would matter to those he had killed in the few months he had spent in DC as he was hunting and haunting Hotch.

Spencer should have shot him when he still had the chance. It would only take one bullet, to the spine to paralyze him or one to the head to kill him. Haley would be alive, Jack would still have a mother and Hotch...

Lord only knew what kind of state Hotch was now. Foyet was destroying him even from beyond the grave, he violated the sanctity of his home, stabbed and raped him, threatened his family and killed his beloved wife. That alone was more than enough to break a lesser man than Hotch but learning about Haley's and Morgan's betrayal, two of a few people Hotch trusted implicitly, not from a friend, not from someone who would prepare Hotch for the news, but from the man whose goal was destroying everything Hotch hold dear... Hotch had to be furious and in pain, at the very least emotional if not physical.

Morgan didn't know how lucky he was that between him and angry Aaron Hotchner was entire Atlantic Ocean, something which judging by Hotch's location couldn't be said about Morgan's house where Hotch was at the moment.

Spencer parked the car in the driveway right behind the one in which Hotch arrived to Morgan's house and silently thanked whichever deity was listening at the moment that he didn't have time to take off his Kevlar vest because even over the murmur of the engine he could hear the sound of smashed glass.

The front door luckily weren't closed but even if they were Spencer was in such state of mind that he would either kick it open – in spite of lack of practice and threat of renewing old contusion – or shot the locks off.

What he found inside was a ruin. The living-room looked as if a tornado tore through it, all of the inner doors Spencer could see were knocked out of the hinges.

Opting to alert Hotch of his presence instead of surprising the man and risking physical assault with whichever weapon Hotch would decide to use Spencer called out, "Hotch?"

He didn't receive an answer.

"Hotch!" he called out again, this time louder. "It's me!"

Hotch didn't answer but at the same time Spencer could hear a thud coming from the further one of the bedrooms, the thud was followed by an another and a chocked out sob. Slowly, avoiding stepping on destroyed phone and shattered photo-frames Spencer made his way to master bedroom and he peeked inside.

Hotch was sitting on the floor with a vacant expression on his face as he kept clutching onto something so small that it was fitting in his palm.

"Hotch?" Spencer said gently but once again he had gotten no answer. He took a breath and let it out before he tried different, softer, paternal approach, "Aaron, answer me."

"You knew," Hotch whispered, his words were barely audible and yet they felt to Spencer as if they were screamed into his face. "Of course you knew," he chocked out bitterly as he threw down the small box he was holding in his hand. "I wanted to believe that you acted differently around Morgan because of Lily and Elle, that you were angry with him because he violated your privacy but it didn't sit right with me because you and Morgan usually work out your issues by getting even with one another. On that Monday you didn't, I don't know who hit first but I know that you wouldn't get yourself into physical confrontation without a very good reason which means that Morgan done something you don't approve, something which you couldn't bring yourself to tell me which means that it wasn't just about Lily and Elle and Jess gave you Haley's old cell-phone," Hotch rasped out before he hid his face in his hands and mumbled between his finger, "You knew, you knew and you didn't tell me, I had to learn that from George Fucking Foyet!"

"I'm... If I..." Spencer whispered as he stepped inside and started slowly approaching Hotch. "What good telling you something which no longer matters would..."

"Of course it bloody matters!" Hotch growled.

"She is dead, Hotch," Spencer said calmly as he made another step. "Whatever was between her and Morgan no longer matters," he took another step.

"It matters to me," Hotch spat.

"You are only saying that because you are angry," Spencer said.

"So you have a right to be angry with Morgan and I don't?" Hotch sneered.

"I'm not excusing what he had done," Spencer shook his head and swallowed as he took another step before he added, "But I remember that it's over, Hotch. She is dead, what's done is done, what was between her and Morgan no longer matters because she is dead and not coming back. It doesn't matter because her last words were meant for you, not for Morgan, she loved you enough to tell you in her last words to not lose faith in love, to teach Jack to believe in love." He paused and had taken another step as licked his lips before he continued, "She knew that she was about to die, Hotch, she could have been angry about it but she chose not to. She wasn't a saint, no one is and there is a lot of things which she could or should have done differently but it doesn't matter, what matters is her last words, words of forgiveness, words of love, she spoke them to you and not to Morgan."

"What about this, genius?" Hotch spat as he opened his palm to Spencer.

The small object in his palm which he was clutching so desperately was a golden diamond ring.

"It didn't happen," Spencer said gently.

"It didn't happen because I've gotten her killed," Hotch chocked out.

"You didn't kill her, Foyet did, you killed him, it's over," Spencer said fiercely as he took another step. "It's done, Hotch, it's over, you can't turn back time, no matter how much you want to do it."

Hotch dropped the ring to the floor and he hid his face in his hands just as Spencer was finally close enough to kneel by his side and wrap his arms around Hotch's shoulders. Very gently he slid from his knees to sit on the ground leaning against the bed as he strengthened his hold on Hotch's shoulders.

"It's not fair," Hotch whispered as he tried to pull away from Spencer's hold. "It's not fair."

"I know," Spencer said gently.

"I was never enough for her, I was a husband and a father who was never there," he chocked out. "It didn't surprise me that she finally had enough and left me... but for Morgan... it makes no sense whatsoever... we worked on the same schedule, he was gone just as much as I did if not more. What the fuck he could offer her? What I've been doing wrong? What I could have done differently?" his resistance to be held was disappearing slowly with each word he had spoken.

"Nothing," Spencer whispered as he strengthened his hold on Hotch's shoulders even more. "There was nothing you could have done differently, Hotch. Functioning relationship requires two people willing to compromise and meet each other halfway... Haley was... whatever happened to her in her past had made her who she was. Her ex-husbands hurt her, badly and turned her into the woman she was, devoted to her children but distrustful towards men because their actions had already cost her her daughters. She yearned to have someone to protect her, to take care of her, to be there but she was unwilling to give that man any ammunition to hurt her, so she settled on taking what she could take without giving back much. There was nothing you could have done to save your marriage and deep inside you know it."

"It's..." Hotch chocked out before he slowly leaned closer to Spencer allowing Spencer to hold him close.

That gesture spoke volumes of how much Hotch still trusted Spencer, which was nothing short of a miracle. It was a gesture that spoke volumes of the extent of emotional pain Hotch was going through at the moment. It was a gesture not of a man who showed no fear to anyone and hid his emotions behind a mask of calmness. Aaron Hotchner who was clinging to Spencer's side was not the boss, not the agent but a little boy clinging for physical comfort, for physical assurance that he, his feelings and his comfort had mattered to someone in this world.

Spencer didn't guess how much time had passed since Hotch allowed anyone to see him this vulnerable, this weak. He didn't have to guess because he knew that the last time Hotch allowed himself to weep in front of anyone it was over Haley's body and before that over his mother's body.

Hotch's head was resting against the juncture between Spencer's neck and shoulder, the fingers of his left hand latched on the material of Spencer's jacket and he pressed his right side to Spencer's left side. It was a childish pose, one which Lily favored when she was moping over the lose of her animal friend and later her mother, the only difference was that Lily was small enough to fit in Spencer's lap as she was clinging with her whole body to Spencer's solid and unwavering comfort. That Hotch trusted Spencer this much to cling to him in need for comfort was almost painfully humbling and it made Spencer's eyes prickle, only by some sort of miracle he didn't burst into tears himself.

"Was it you or was it me?" Hotch asked finally.

The question caught Spencer of guard but as he followed Hotch's gaze to his hand he realized what Hotch meant.

"It was me being an insensitive asshole with no sense of self-preservation, I jabbed like a rabid york on steroids and metaphorically removed his testicles through his nose, he knocked me off from the bench and I retaliated with a swift kick into solar plexus right after I tried to convince him that he knocked me out for good to scare him off," Spencer explained.

"I don't want to be the reason..." Hotch started.

"Aaron," Spencer said gently, "it was his decision to snoop, he knows me, he knew that I won't take it lightly no matter his intentions. The same applies to his affair with Haley, it was his decision to start and continue it, he knew that once the truth would come out the most friendly reaction he would get would be cold 'Gratulations, we are happy for you' because no one would openly support their relationship, not only because of its dubious morality but because we've seen what you have been through and we care all care for you. He knew the stakes and he chose to act regardless the consequences. We will work out our issues eventually but right now what we need is the distance we have now."

"He accepted Emily's offer after the first confrontation with you," Hotch said quietly. "Did you advise that?"

"I might have mentioned it," Spencer shrugged.

"You are forgetting that I know you well enough to know that you are more than capable of pulling 'my way or no way'," Hotch sighed tiredly.

"I had a good teacher," Spencer said simply.

"About that," Hotch muttered. "Did you really have to be that harsh towards Gideon?" he asked. "I know that he is a civilian now..."

"If you will rearrange the letters in his surname you will get two separate words, God and nie, the Polish word for no and that's who he is Hotch, no God, we treated him like such for way too long, we didn't question his decisions because we trusted his judgment implicitly and we all paid for that, some of us dearly. I don't dismiss the good he had done over the years but I won't also forget that some of his actions directly and/or indirectly had dire consequences to people who implicitly trusted his judgment. His inability to genuinely apologize is one of the things I would keep holding against him and for a supporter of teamwork he was not much of a team player even before Boston. Besides would you really like to have him hovering over your shoulder through the entire time we were there?"

"Leave please would have done the job," Hotch pointed out.

"Leave please would have left an open communication channel I don't want him to use, at least not with me because I have more important things in life to worry about than Jason Gideon's comfort. He certainly wasn't worrying about mine considering the way he left, for fuck's sake Hotch the beginning of his goodbye letter started like a suicide note and yeah, he left his service weapon behind but we both know that it wasn't the only weapon he had, I spent hours canvassing the surroundings of the cabin looking for his corpse," Spencer huffed.

"I know," Hotch sighed as he clutched Spencer's arm tighter. "I'm sorry that I didn't come with you."

"You had your own problems to worry about," Spencer said simply.

"Speaking about the problems, we should get back to work," Hotch said tiredly.

"We most definitely should not," Spencer said. "I should get back to work, you should go to Jess's place and spend the rest of the day with Jack."

"I can do my job, Reid," Hotch protested.

"I know that, you know that, we all know that, no one is going to blame you for sitting the rest of that one out," Spencer said.

"I'm still the boss," Hotch muttered.

"You are the boss but you also have a boss above you and her orders were to not hesitate to send you back home if the case would start affect your judgment..."

"Because yours isn't affected," Hotch harrumphed.

"It's not an order, it's an advice, take the rest of the day off, spend it with Jack because no one is going to hold it against you and you need that," Spencer said.

"You don't believe that I can do my job," Hotch snorted as he pulled away from Spencer.

"No, I do believe that you can do your job, Hotch," Spencer said calmly. "What I believe in, what I know, is that Foyet is dead and that there is no reason to let him torture you anymore. Sit this one out, if not for your sake then for mine, please."

For a longer while Hotch didn't answer, he just sat on the floor next to Spencer, rubbing his palms and staring at the ring on the floor.

"You want me to talk to Jess," he said finally.

"I didn't say that," Spencer said. "But it might help. It certainly helped me to understand certain things."

"You hate being in charge," Hotch pointed out.

"I hate knowing that somewhere in afterlife there is a dead man getting a kick out of seeing you in pain more than I hate being charge," Spencer said. "I will follow you to Jess's place," he added. "I need to see Lily before I would get back to Quantico because there is something I need to check with Kevin."

Chapter Text

Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life... You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.

~Neil Gaiman

 

Sleep Deprived or The Summer During Which Spencer and Aaron Fell in Love

Chapter seven: Aftershocks.

It was once said that love is giving someone the ability to destroy you but trusting them not to. His mum said the same thing when he confessed, blushing just as hard as the raspberries she was adding to the pie for Sunday lunch his Father and Melinda were hosting in order to celebrate Sean's upcoming birthday, that Haley Brooks was the prettiest girl at school and that he dreamed about marrying her one day. His mum was smiling when she said that and that smile made him swear right away that he would never betray Haley's love if she would give him a chance to be with her.

It was one of the few promises he hadn't broken, not for the lack of opportunities, he had his share of them but staying faithful to Haley had meant more than the promise of temporary pleasure brought by the offering girl, and some of them were so pretty that he couldn't resist Pavlovian impulse to turn his head around and like Reid liked to phrase it, appreciate the view. But that was it, he looked but never touched and didn't desire to touch. Why should he when he had perfect girl waiting for him at home?

But that came to an end one day and in retrospect he should have taken it as a warning sign and he should have stayed away from Haley after Jess and Mike let them out of Becky's nursery. It would certainly make his life easier and would spare him the pain that eventually came when Haley left.

Except without Haley he wouldn't have Jack and without Jack he would became as jaded as Max Ryan devoting his life to catching the criminals until the only thing he would have left in his life would be the stack of cold cases that would haunt him, the shadows of unsubs that got away, they still did but to a lesser degree because Jack reminded him to live.

Jack knew that his dad was catching the bad guys when he wasn't with him but when Aaron actually was with Jack his son needed his dad to be with him fully without half-concentrating on playing war between the dinosaurs and the rest of the mascots and half-concentrating on whatever or not Reid was right when he commented that: from where I'm standing the map of Buffalo looks like a drunken game of darts, and whatever or not Reid's cranky comment had a hidden depth that would push the case forward (never mind that it did and that out of sheer gratitude for that comment Aaron spent a month going out of his way in order to stop by Reid's favorite coffee shop to keep the genius supplied with coffee goodies).

Jack needed his dad and Aaron needed Jack to remind him that sometimes one evening spent at building a fort and playing big bad dragon with intent to steal Prince Jack's favorite dinosaur had better effect on Aaron than spending two weeks lying flat on a beach and sipping virgin mojitos (the worst vacation ever).

He couldn't imagine his life without Jack just like he knew that Reid couldn't imagine his life without Lily. Aaron saw it in the moment the photograph of Lily, Elle and Reid marred by the eye of providence with a taunting question mark had fallen on Reid's desk. Right in that moment the ghostly shadow of George Foyet had made closing the case once and for good personal for Reid. The threat to his person Reid could stand, the threat made under the address of his daughter he wouldn't, even if it was made by a man long dead. It seemed that for a second or two Reid wasn't above going to the graveside where Foyet's body was buried in order to dig him up and beat him some more as irrational as it was. Aaron felt the same. They both wanted it to be over for good. It was probably the only thing that kept him from pulling a rank and sticking to it when Reid suggested that he should take the rest of the day off and sit this one out.

Aaron Hotchner didn't sit things out, period, and Spencer Reid of all people knew that. But Aaron Hotchner also trusted Spencer Reid's judgment, implicitly, especially when his own judgment was clouded by things he couldn't or didn't have enough time to compartmentalize. Reid proved, over and over that you didn't need a gun or a fist to kill someone because he wielded his empathy and his fury more efficiently than any other weapon. So no matter how miffed Aaron was about having Reid sending him home he also trusted his opinion that he didn't have to let Foyet torture him.

Walking away now wasn't a fail because Foyet was dead and Aaron was not and yes, Foyet killed more people right under their very noses but the fight was no longer Aaron's because there were other people to finish it and Aaron needed time to process what he had found, from Foyet of all people, and Reid wasn't going to let him avoid processing it so he could return to work with a clearer head.

Reid didn't want a repeat of Chester Hardwicke and neither did Aaron. That was the only reason why he stepped away when Reid suggested that he should. Not that Reid was counting on having Aaron stay with Jess for a little while longer before he picked Jack, Lily and their faithful Behemoth (seriously how fast prepubescent children were capable of bonding with an animal) and returned home.

He needed this, needed watching a movie in the middle of the day with a bowl of popcorn in his lap and the kids' heads wedged into his ribs because it made him feel alive, it reminded him why he needed to clear his head before going back to work. Though in retrospect he realized that picking Lion King of all movies wasn't exactly the smartest move as he watched how Simba agonized over the fact that returning to Pride Rock in order to claim what was rightfully his meant facing his painful past.

Did Reid left that movie on the top of the stack on purpose? Aaron shook his head deciding that Reid couldn't know in advance what was going to happen today and that the movie was left within easy reach by a pure coincidence

Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the from way I see it, you can either run from it or... learn from it.

He had to face the truth and the truth was that Haley had chosen Derek Morgan over him, he didn't know why, at the very least wasn't sure why but she did. What Morgan could offer Haley what Aaron couldn't?

Not money, Haley wasn't that shallow and even if she was Morgan had only spontaneous bouts of money between flipping houses and on FBI payroll he gained just as much as Aaron due to his position at the academy.

Attention? Aaron liked to believe that he devoted to Haley and Jack all of his attention when he was home and that he did his damnest best to concentrate on both the quality and quantity of his attention.

Just as Simba and his friends were plotting how to get past the hyenas in their path Lily snuggled even closer to Aaron's side and placed her small right hand on the top of Aaron's left hand and that was when it finally hit him.

Haley's less than subtle hints about not getting any younger... her adoration towards Jess's girls... the way she was always spoiling them. She loved Jack with all of her heart but just as much as she loved Jack she had yearned to give Jack a baby sister, the little girl Aaron couldn't give her because he ignored the symptoms of mumps when he still had a chance to take preventive measures against loosing his fertility. Why he couldn't see it? Why he had chosen to ignore it when he and Haley started drifting apart?

'Because you were handling it your way,' the little voice in the back of his mind that sounded a lot like Reid had pointed out. 'You dismissed it because you thought that you still had enough time to consider other ways of becoming parents again but Haley didn't want to hear about the adoption while it was the only way you were considering at the time.'

That was what Morgan could offer her, a baby, and maybe she would have one... but she didn't because he had to make the Reaper's case personal and by doing that he had placed his family, his team and their families in danger.

What could have happened if Foyet had decided to go after the families of his team first? What could have happened if he went after Elle first instead of Aaron, the easy target, one Aaron and the rest wouldn't have expected but one that would ultimately crush Reid, possibly even turn him against Aaron.

He could imagine that, Elle's and Lily's dead bodies on the tables in the morgue and Reid's accusing glare and spiteful words, 'It's your fault, you just had to make it personal. Why you hadn't taken that damned deal?'

What about JJ? They were gone for so long. It would have been easy to sneak into her and Will's flat and to overpower Will with the threat against Henry. JJ would have never forgave him if something happened to her boys because of him.

Elle killed William Lee because he was the threat to those who couldn't protect themselves and to certain extent because she knew she had failed them. She didn't hesitate, Aaron shouldn't have to hesitate. He should have put the bullet through Foyet's head when he still had a chance to save Haley, her dreams, his team, his family to which Foyet was just as much of a treat as he was to Haley and Jack.

Elle forever lived in her little girl just like Haley will always live in Jack. By accepting the glove left by Tom Shaunessy he put Jack, Lily and even Henry in danger because Foyet knew that loosing his family would ultimately crush Aaron, because the threat to Lily and/or Henry would crush and turn against Aaron the few people whose judgment Aaron would always trust. Perhaps that was Foyet's plan all along which had changed when Jack had gotten away and Foyet couldn't find him.

"Why are you crying?" Lily asked timidly as she shifted in his hold until she was kneeling against Aaron's side and wrapped her small arms around Aaron's neck.

"Because..." Aaron mumbled before he sniffed.

Because the movie made me sad? It was a very weak and shallow answer while he could give her the answer she deserved, the true answer, the answer he owed both her mother, and her father.

"Because I love you," he whispered finally as the new tears spilled from his eyes when Jack shifted in his position in order to kneel against Aaron's other side before he wrapped his arms around his neck over Lily's "I love you, I love you both and I can't imagine a life without you."

It was this simple. He loved Jack because he was his son but Lily had sneaked past his defenses as if they were made from a warm butter just by being where Jack was. Wherever he saw Jack he saw Lily too, smiling at Aaron, giggling with Jack over something that was supposed to stay secret until dinner or lunch if Papa Spencer had pulled that 'your mischievous expression bothers me greatly young lady so you better spill now or I will submit you to the torture of the tickling hand' he sometimes made when Lily and Jack looked a bit too mischievous.

She sneaked into his heart and made her place there because she didn't see him as a threat to her mother's memory. He was Jack's dad and that alone made him trustworthy, especially after he had taken care of her and her dad. It was too soon for her to have another woman take over her mum's place but a second dad? Her dad was awesome and to Jack his own dad was awesome, so having two dads had to be twice as awesome as having one. Besides with the way Jack was regarding Lily as his little sister he was including her dad into the circle so rather than loosing a dad he was gaining another one.

Aaron didn't want to imagine what he and Reid will have to put through once Reid would find a new place and move out.

It was an absurd situation but then again normal wasn't in his cards either. Normal sooner or later had turned against him. His normal marriage to his high-school sweetheart had turned in the end against him, with faults at both sides, so did his attempt at coming back to dating scene and moving forward because his normal girlfriend had found his issues incapable of getting past because they didn't fit into her ideal dream.

In so far normal life sucked and so did attempts to fix that.

He tried, God, he tried, but it seemed as if he was doing Sisyphean work. In the end he always got blamed when things didn't work out, he was never good enough, fast enough, strong enough. Nothing he ever did was just enough.

He couldn't give Haley what she wanted, he couldn't give Beth what she wanted and before that...

Before was a separate story and only few people knew that. Before had cost him the relationship with his brother because Melinda had found Aaron's choices and actions abnormal and she didn't want Sean to turn out like his brother.

Before was also one of the happiest points in his life, one where he could be just himself, where he and what he was doing was just enough. But even before had ended for him in tears and in deep denial that kept him from ever bringing before up in a conversation with anyone he'd met after.

Now before had seemed like an another life, life that wasn't his anymore. Not even Haley knew about it, Jess and Mike did but long before Haley had came back to his life he forbid them from ever bringing it up because it was just too painful.

When before had ended came after and Aaron's attempts to deny that before had ever happened, Grace knew about before and while she said she understood she did not and right in the moment Aaron thought he was on the way towards the happiness the world came crashing around him when he least expected it.

Her loss, Jess said, her loss and your gain, she said. Get into your head that one day you will be happy again and you wouldn't have to feel guilty about it.

She didn't mean Haley back then even though for a while he thought that she did.

After Haley left and it became painfully clear that she wasn't coming back Jess made a point of becoming the advocate of before, that part ofbefore which Aaron from after wasn't planning to let resurface because once in a lifetime was enough and it had ended badly for him and he wasn't going to lose everything he gained over the years just because the little frizzly-haired devil on his shoulder was trying to tempt him into going after what he wanted when he knew very well that he wasn't going to get it.

Last few weeks felt like before and after when he knew that he wasn't going to get what he wanted but was content with what he could have. He brought it on his head all by himself and in so far he hadn't regret it.

He liked it, he even liked that slobbering fur-ball which made a habit out of chewing his running shoes and had gotten in touch with its inner cat in those moment of the morning when Aaron was fully dressed for work and didn't have neither time nor desire to pick up dog's fur from the pants of his suits.

He liked, he loved having Lily around and loved how much she and Jack together made the house fuller, a bit more chaotic, more lively, be it when they were finger-painting with such fervor that before lunch Aaron had to scrub the entire table from the paint because the pair decided to paint a long train or when they decided that Reid really needed their help with making dinner (especially at times when he really didn't need it).

He found himself humbled by the privilege of getting to know closer that side of Reid which Reid rarely showed, sassy, confident and prone to banter about variety of subjects as he cooked, played with Jack and Lily because watching Reid with the kids was utterly fascinating, like how he sat down on the carpet and allowed Lily to braid his hair even though Lily had absolutely no talent in hair-dressing department. But Reid patiently endured having Lily pulling at his hair without as much as a peep and even went out and spent the rest of the day sporting that eccentric hairdo because seeing her work made his daughter happy. When it came down to that Reid was ready to even make puppets out of carrot and parsley in order to make them dance and sing to Tu Vuo' Fa I'Americano reducing Lily and Jack into snickering puddle on the floor and effectively tearing Aaron for a longer while from his budget spreadsheet for next month.

This, it, was almost like before except in before the sound of childish laughter filling the room was nothing but a distant dream, dream without which he could live as long as he could have the happiness which before had offered.

Years ago when Doctor Reid was a wet-nosed rookie in the privacy of his office Gideon had told Aaron why Aaron was so hell-bent on bringing Cadet Reid on board. According to Gideon due to his less than stellar relationship with Sean a rather big part of Aaron found in Reid all the qualities he subconsciously wanted Sean to have and because they were roughly the same age by having Reid around and teaching him ropes was assuaging in Aaron the need to protect and teach his younger brother.

To certain degree Gideon was right, Aaron wanted to protect and to teach Reid how to be a good agent, good profiler but it wasn't the whole truth. The truth was that while Reid looked and acted completely different there was something in Reid's mannerism, those little trifling things like twirling his pencil the same way, the constant need to pull the strands of growing hair behind his ear, the way the curled fingers of his left hand were rubbing the underside of his chin that reminded Aaron of Matthew.

Reid wasn't Matthew. Matthew was a red-head while Reid's hair was dark, not as dark as Aaron but back then Reid was either dying his hair or lived the life of a vampire by avoiding the sunlight at all cost because sunlight brought the light in his hair. Matthew's hair were like Aaron's, short and easy to handle while Reid needed a bucket of gel for his curly mane to stay even remotely flat. Matthew's eyes were blue like the sky on a sunny day while Reid's eyes were brown. Matthew was graceful and Reid from those days had all the grace of a newborn giraffe. Matthew abhorred the taste of coffee and Reid couldn't live without it. Matthew was left-handed like Aaron while Reid was ambidextrous and predominantly right-handed. Matthew abhorred cooking and while Reid wasn't a chief he was efficient cook and he enjoyed cooking (not a single visit to Aaron's home went by without Haley getting out of Reid one of the family recipes since Reid managed to salvage Haley's burnt down chicken).

And in spite of all those differences there was something Reid which reminded Aaron of Matthew, Matthew at his best, his happiest and most mischievous. Matthew, who overcooked the potatoes, road-crisped the steak and dumped sugar instead of salt into tomato salad because he wanted to celebrate that Aaron passed his bar exam.

Back then Aaron believed that even though Matthew couldn't cook to save his life the two of them would grow old together, spend their retirement traveling around the world and in between Aaron would work his way towards the position of Attorney General of whichever state they would settle down while Matthew would work his way to the position of a professor or maybe even the dean...

Back then Aaron was blessing that he discovered Haley's betrayal because if it wasn't for that he wouldn't be with the man he loved and planned to grow old. He could see himself and Matthew visiting Jess and Mike and their unnamed, unborn at the time, children.

Matthew Thoreau met Aaron while Aaron was at his lowest and Matthew's gentle nature and patience to listen to Aaron's misogynous complaints about Haley and most women his age in general had first secured him in Aaron's life the position of a trustworthy friend, older, calmer... gentler... flawless...

Jess and Mike used to shake their heads when Aaron started talking about Matthew and very often they shared between themselves the look which only years later they confessed was their private ongoing discussion that resolved around, 'He really doesn't know what's going on?', 'Yep, still, bless him, he is so clueless that it would have been sweet if it already wasn't so painful.'

He and Matthew had spent ten years together, ten long, happy years of living together and hoping that they will be together forever and then... then everything had ended. One day Aaron returned home and hadn't found Matthew waiting for him with dinner but it didn't worry him back then because Matthew's students were preparing for their doctorates and the exams were getting closer and closer.

But when Matthew hadn't come back home next day he started to worry, he called his students and found out that Matthew not only hadn't showed up at their study session but also hadn't come to work on Friday morning nor he was seen at the campus through the rest of the day.

The last he ever saw of Matthew was the sight of his lover curled in their bed with a goofy smile on his face as he promised that Aaron should expect the retaliation for this morning's the world's best wake up call and that he wouldn't know the time or place.

And Aaron didn't know, neither the time nor place, not until it was too late to change anything.

It wasn't Seattle PD that found Matthew but a fellow agent from the field office, Tim Graves, one of the few of Aaron's coworkers who knew about Aaron's relationship with Matthew, and Graves wouldn't have found him if a completely different case hadn't taken him to the site where he had found Matthew's body with a Colt Matthew himself had bought in recent weeks from a collector, gun of which existence Aaron wasn't aware, gun which he hadn't seen neither in Matthew's hand nor anywhere in their home.

Graves further investigation had ruled out a murder, butchered robbery, and Graves really worked his ass off to prove that Matthew's death wasn't what was the most obvious explanation, premeditated suicide.

It was, but back then Aaron couldn't stand that thought, couldn't stand the idea that the man with whom he was planning to grow old had spent the last days of his life at planning how to end it in a way that would keep Aaron from stopping him.

Matthew's death was senseless and cruel, not to Matthew who made sure that his death was instantaneous, but to Aaron who was left on his own in the house they shared with the ghost of a man whom he loved. Matthew was everywhere Aaron turned, sitting on the windowsill and reading a book, he was in the clothes that were still hanging in the wardrobe they shared, clothes which Aaron couldn't bring himself to give away. He was on the photographs scattered around the house which Aaron couldn't bring himself to take down. He was even in that stupid cactus he was keeping on the windowsill in the kitchen, in a Cal-Tech mug he brought once from a conference in California in which they used to keep their pens at the desk in the living-room...

He was everywhere Aaron turned and he was gone.

Things that Aaron didn't know but was slowly finding out weren't making grieving process easier for him. Things like Matthew updating his last will and testament three months before he put a bullet through his head. Things like finishing already started articles and not starting new ones. Things like closing investment accounts and transferring the money to one account. Things like buying a plot at the cemetery and paying for that in advance, picking the brand of the coffin, suit for the funeral and writing that damned solitary note which was found in the breast pocket of the suit he was wearing when he died: I'll always love you, Aaron.

Matthew was planning his own demise for a very long time and Aaron didn't know why, was he once again not enough? Why Matthew didn't want to tell him what was wrong with him? Why he didn't turn to Aaron before he ended his life?

It was Jess who finally got through Aaron's despair and depression and what she had found didn't make Aaron feel any better but at the very least he had his answer.

The simplest answer was that Matthew loved him, loved him more than the life itself and that he was mortified that one day he would become the very reason of the end of Aaron's life.

It was Jess and Mike who drove to Matthew's hometown and spent their time at talking to people, asking about Matthew's family, they had found the friend of the family which adopted Matthew, man who also knew what happened to Matthew's biological family. Greg Gastroux, Matthew's biological father was a drunkard who beat his family at every chance he got until one day he left the town and never returned. Georgina Gastroux, Matthew's mother, was one of the gentles women in town when she was young but that had changed after she met his father, got pregnant with Matthew's brother, Mortimer, whom apparently she was blaming for the way her life had turned.

When Matthew had been five years old and his older brother was eight years old Georgina suffered from a psychotic break and she vivisected Mortimer in the middle of the night while Matthew was staying over with the neighbors before she ran away. She was found about a month later two counties over because one day she just walked into sheriff's station and confessed to killing her son but because she didn't have any ID or wouldn't give her name or that of her son she was transported to psychiatric hospital where she was evaluated and put on medication while the sheriff was looking in neighborhood countries for women that matched her description and whatever or not what she had told them was true about her murdering her son.

Eventually she was evaluated as a paranoid schizophrenic who killed her older son during the onset of a psychotic break and she was sentenced to spending the rest of her life at the hospital. She lasted there three years before she hung herself in her room.

In the meantime Matthew was placed in foster home and with time his foster family ended adopting him. They made sure that he was surrounded with love and attention and they moved away so Matthew wouldn't have to live with the stigma of being the son of a mentally ill woman who killed her own son.

Matthew found out the truth about his family only years later when his adoptive parents and sister had died in a car accident when he was eighteen and starting college. He was smart so he had done everything to get to the bottom of it and he spent hours at researching. He knew that schizophrenia was genetically passed and he knew that there was a chance that he would develop his mother's illness but until that happened he resolved to live his life as if the early years of his life had never happened.

Jess's and Mike's continued investigation that consisted from bordering on the thin line between breaking the law and calling old favors eventually had lead to the psychiatrist in Tacoma who diagnosed Matthew Gastroux with schizophrenia, considering the late onset most probably paranoid but because he never showed up again he wasn't fully differentiated. It was about three months before Matthew killed himself.

The truth about Matthew was the lowest of blows, a blow to his heart because Matthew didn't trust him with his illness and a blow to his ego because he missed the signs. It was no excuse that in the weeks leading to Matthew's death he was working almost all the time at the oddest hours of the day and that he didn't pay much of attention to things that weren't related to work.

At the very least knowing the truth allowed him to slowly move forward, move on. Matthew killed himself because he loved Aaron enough to remove the only threat to Aaron's life he had the control of: himself.

It wasn't fair and it hurt but Aaron had to believe that Matthew would want him to move on so along came Grace and even if it ended badly it was a step forward. After Grace for a while there was Kate Joyner and then his and Haley's lives had crossed again.

But it wasn't until he'd met and got to know Reid when he finally got the full closure over Matthew's death. It had taken Reid a longer while before he opened himself enough to speak of his mother and of his own fear of developing schizophrenia but in the end Aaron understood that neither for Matthew nor for Reid the fear of developing schizophrenia had fully went away, it was always there, deep in the back of his mind and the only difference was that they were scared of different things that the illness would rob them from. For Matthew it was Aaron and for Reid it was his mind, trusting it and the possibly passing the sickness on children he wasn't planning to have, ever.

Even now the only reason why Reid wasn't majorly freaking out that Lily was his biological daughter was that between his job and being home with Lily and Jack he literally didn't have time to majorly freak out in peace without having Aaron around to stop him from working himself out into a freak out of mythic proportions.

Freak out of this proportions almost always warranted that Reid would do so something stupidly dangerous, not to others but to himself. Freak out of this proportions meant that in order to not lose all control Reid stopped operating majorly on the familiar cold-headed logic and operated on the basic instincts, instincts to protect himself, protecting those who couldn't protect themselves or in one case revenge.

It was this Reid who allowed Aaron, Dave and Morgan to go on a merry chase after Owen Savage while the genius himself figured out right away that Owen would want to say goodbye to Jordan. It was this Reid who went after William Reid like a bloodhound after a fox wanting to pin on him the murder and rape of Riley Jenkins. It was this Reid who stayed behind with Adam Jackson and tried to talk Amanda into releasing Adam. It was this Reid who separated from the team on the case in Miami while he was suffering from an intense migraine. The same Reid who ruthlessly crushed JJ by implying that if he started taking Dilaudil again it would be because of her.

Even now, eleven months after Emily's return, Reid's and JJ's friendship hadn't fully recovered. They were friendly and they still cared for each other but Reid no longer trusted JJ the way he did before Emily's return.

It was a miracle that he still trusted Aaron. Perhaps that's why he hadn't fought as hard as Aaron expected him to fight when Aaron dragged him away from his flat. For some reason he still trusted Aaron to understand what he was going through and now he was trusting Aaron to understand why he didn't bring it up to Aaron when he had found out about Haley's and Morgan's affair.

It hurt, it hurt knowing that he wasn't enough for Haley. It hurt to think that the man he trusted with his life, his team and his family had betrayed his trust the way he did. It wasn't fair but Reid did have a point, it was over, Haley was dead and her last words were turned not to Morgan but to Aaron. In the last moments of her life Haley had the power to break him by throwing into his face that everything that happened and was going to happen, was his fault but she chose not to and extracted out of him the promise to save Jack and to show him that love was the most important thing in the world. In it's own way perhaps it was her last words to Morgan too, the confirmation that what they had before she died had mattered and the plea to move on.

It wasn't fair and it hurt but Reid was right, it was over. Aaron moved on, at the very least tried to even if it didn't work and Morgan sure as hell had moved on judging by how hard he went after Doyle, perhaps he himself hadn't acknowledged it at the time but he did care very deeply about Emily, enough to be angry at her when he had found out that she wasn't exactly who he thought she was, furious with Doyle for getting away.

While Garcia and Reid were mourning their friend, Dave was mourning one of the few closest women he had instead of the unborn daughters and Morgan was hounding the man who killed the woman he either already had fallen for or was falling in love with. It explained to certain degree why he was so ultimately pissed with Aaron but not with JJ. Because Aaron knew how much it hurt to lose the woman you loved and because, once again, to a certain degree, losing the woman he loved was Aaron's fault.

In retrospect it was the only explanation that was making any sense but the idea of continuing to ponder why Morgan did what he did was making Aaron's head throb. The man seduced Haley behind Aaron's back and instead of remaining pissed off with him Aaron was making excuses for him.

Reid was right when he sent Aaron home, his head wasn't in it.

He could always come back to Morgan's place and finish wrecking it until nothing but ruins would be left out of Morgan's house.

But as he hugged tighter the pair in his arms he decided that extracting a revenge on Derek Morgan wasn't going to cost him seeing how his son is growing up.

So he cleared his throat and asked, "Would you like to go to the park?"

Sleep Deprived

Lily Spencer Greenaway-Reid was a force to be reckoned with even though said force was not even four feet tall and with her big, innocent, brown eyes and dark brown curly hair she resembled more a cherub than the spawn of Satan while in fact she was the latter and Aaron just didn't see that side of her before.

She only asked one question, one question but what a question...

Aaron always enjoyed spending the time outside with Jack and he quickly got used to having Lily around during their outings. He liked taking walks with Jack, holding on Jack's hand knowing very well that soon Jack will reach this age when holding on your dad's hand on a walk is uncool and for babies so Aaron resolved to enjoy it for as long as he could. Then along came Lily. On most walks which Aaron and Reid shared with their children she usually held on Reid's hand or Jack's but at times she ended holding on Aaron's hand.

Her hand was slightly smaller than Jack's, maybe a tiny bit softer and just as warm and grounding. That's what Aaron liked the most about holding Jack's hand during a walk, that grounding feeling of being anchored to reality in which his son simply existed giving Aaron reason to be who he was and to do what he was doing in his life.

Holding onto Lily's hand only grounded Aaron more even though he would be in danger of losing his ground if Moth, whose leash Aaron had wrapped around his right wrist to keep hold of not only Jack and Lily but also the dog, would decide to start running and would pull Aaron after him.

Luckily running was not very high on the list of Moth's favorite activities and the dog was perfectly content with walking few feet ahead of them between switching to walking next to Jack or Lily.

Aaron had to give Moth, and consequently Reid, that the dog was trained well.

"Aaron Hotchner?" he heard someone calling his name which tore him from his thoughts. "Aaron Hotchner!" this time his name came out as a definite and excited squeal.

He turned around to face the source and he almost cringed when he saw who was calling him and making their way towards him and the kids pushing before her a side-by-side pram and trying to follow it in her ridiculously high high-heels.

Barbara Baribaldi. The Barbara Baribaldi.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck, ran through his head, as he gave her small smile and said as pleasantly as he could, "Barbara. It's nice to see you."

He shouldn't have left the house, he really should have stayed home, should have watched another movie with Jack and Lily, should have tried to figure out how to connect Playstation to the TV set so Jack and Lily could train Guitar Hero in order to beat Zoe in the upcoming tournament which was supposed to take place at Jess's house next time they would come to stay there. He should have done almost everything but he should not get out of his apartment.

Thirty years ago Barbara Baribaldi was an attractive girl even though just as attractive she was also just as mean and just as ignorant. With her father as a principal, efficient and very charismatic man (which was the very reason of why he stayed on the post for as long as he did), she became the most popular girl at school, quickly she got into cheer-leading team and was made captain of said team even faster. She was also the first girl in class to lose her virginity (even those who didn't want to hear that story had heard about it), first to date the captain of a football team (who stopped being a captain almost just as soon as he called it quits with her because he had caught her in the act with his best friend in football team's showers between practices).

She was an epitome of a mean girl and the very reason why stereotypes about intelligence of blondes existed in the first place. On the top of that she hated abnormalities and those who ignored her. No one ignored Barbara Baribaldi for long, if they didn't love her, they had to hate her.

Reid knew how bad was being a twelve years old child prodigy in a Las Vegas public high-school while Aaron on the other hand knew how bad was being a twelve years old child prodigy in a Suffolk public high-school (because the Hotchners don't go to private schools until they were supposed to go to college). The only major difference between them was that Reid was twelve by the time he was graduating from high-school while Aaron was twelve when he entered it. Either way fitting into a locker had majorly sucked at the time, so was being beaten by a girl older than you.

Luckily these days he no longer fit into a locker and was no longer twelve but forty-six, and didn't look it – Beth was really surprised when he admitted that he just turned forty-six years and told him that he didn't look older than thirty-seven or thirty-nine – which was something that couldn't be said about Barbara. She and Jess were the same age, fifty or on the verge of turning fifty and Jess still looked as if she had stopped aging ten years ago while Barbara not only looked her age but even her age plus five.

Her hair were still blond but the shade of it was not a natural one which meant that she was dyeing her hair and by the looks of it she was doing it for a very long time. She was dressed in a very tight, fitting summer dress which was doing a very good job of exposing what she considered her best quality, her cleavage, taking into consideration her real age definitely a work of a plastic surgeon.

Her face was also the work of a plastic surgeon in its abnormal attempt to look youthful, too full, too bright and too creepy with a smile that was showing her perfect teeth. She probably thought that she looked pretty but it reality she looked like a woman who was desperately trying to deny her age by looking younger than her daughter who by Aaron's estimations was around Reid's age of thirty, thirty-one.

"Aaron Hotchner," she repeated again. "Look at you. You hadn't aged since the last reunion we've seen you. How have you been?"

"Fine, Barbara," Aaron answered simply. "How have you been?" he asked. "You and Trent had an another pair?"

"Oh, no," she shook her head. "Mary and Mark are Bonnie's, I've just taken them for some quality time with their grandmother. I don't get to see them as often as I like with Bonnie and Greg living in the city and I'm not really big on traveling so far every week ever since Trent passed away, he was a much better driver than I am, more patient."

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," Aaron said politely.

"Heart-attack," Barbara sighed. "In a man his age."

Your age, Aaron wanted to say but only nodded.

"How have you been Aaron? How is Haley?" she asked with a smile.

"Dead," Jack answered quickly before Aaron could open his mouth.

"I'm so sorry to hear that," Barbara whimpered. "How that happened? How have you been coping? It must be hard bringing up two kids on your own. Did you consider remarrying? And what's your names sweethearts?

Too much questions he didn't want to answer, especially not in front of Jack and Lily.

"Jacob," Jack answered simply and the use of that name was a sign that Jack didn't like having Barbara around, he always introduced himself with his official first name when he was introducing himself to a person he didn't want to see ever again.

"Spencer," Lily answered swiftly making Aaron frown slightly as he looked down at her.

"But it's a boy name," Barbara protested.

"Not in England," Lily shrugged.

"Your parents aren't from England," Barbara chided her.

"My parents were born and raised in the states but dad's family originates from England, Russia, Czech and Germany while Mum's family comes from French family that for ages lived in Portico," Lily answered.

"Your parents were American, sweetie," Barbara said. "The Hotchners and Brooks had been in the states for ages."

"I'm not saying that they weren't," Lily shrugged. "But I'm neither Brooks nor Hotchner. I'm Greendale-Rozanov," the use of that surname caused Aaron to frown even harder. "Aaron is not my dad, Barbara, Walter Rozanov is, Aaron is my step-dad."

"Step-dad?" Barbara frowned.

"Yup," Jack nodded eagerly and said, "How cool is having two dads?"

"It's not cool," Barbara huffed. "It's abnormal. I expected better of you Aaron Hotchner."

"This is who I am, Barbara" Aaron said simply. "I'm happy, Walter is happy, Jacob and Spence are happy. We are like any other family."

"Can I ask you a question Mrs Barbara?" Lily asked quickly.

"Of course, poor dear," Barbara said gently. "Ask."

"Why aren't you wearing any panties?" Lily asked innocently.

Aaron drew in a breath in order to chide her while Barbara gasped and paled before she stammered out, "I'm wearing panties, Spence."

"You definitely do not," Lily said simply. "And your are forgetting that your shoes are so highly polished that if other people would look down at them they can see so far into your vagina that they are seeing your fallopian tubes."

Aaron's jaw dropped, so did Barbara's but she recovered faster than Aaron did and with a huffed "Little bitch!" she strode away angrily, almost falling over her feet in her high-heels.

"Lily," Aaron started sternly.

"What?" Lily shrugged her shoulders as she looked up at Aaron. "It's true, she wasn't wearing any panties."

"That's not the point," Aaron said stiffly. "That was rude and unnecessary and don't even get me started on..."

"What's a vagina?" Jack asked pensively.

Aaron motioned with his head at Jack.

Lily frowned then shook her head slowly as she mumbled, "Oh boy, he still believes in storks and cabbages."

"Lily!" Aaron coughed.

"I know that what I said was rude but she really wasn't wearing any panties," Lily protested. "She had a very tight dress and no panties line which means..."

"I know," Aaron groaned. "It's great that you notice things but there are things..."

"You wanted her to go away, Jack wanted her to go away, I wanted her to go away," Lily counted out. "She was creepy and rude and you don't like her but you were too nice to tell her the truth. You really need to ask dad to explain the rules to you, Aaron," she shook her head.

"Rules?" Aaron asked.

"Rule number one is: always do what your mum tells you to do. Two: always do what your dad tells you to do. Three: always do what the adult your mum or dad told you to listen to tells you to do. Four: never ever listen to or do what any other adult tells you to do. Five: if someone is giving you a bad feeling about them they are most probably bad. Six: if they are your age or around your age tell the teacher or any adult you trust. Seven: if they are not your age start running away and screaming 'pedophile'. Eight: don't take anything from strangers unless your mum or dad told you that you can. Nine: never wonder away out of your mum's or dad's sight. Ten: the dog is never lost," Lily recited making pauses between each rule before she said, "She was giving you a bad feeling about her and she was giving me a bad feeling about her so like mum said: to the hell she went, easy."

"What's a vagina?" Jack asked again.

"Do you know how the babies are made?" Lily asked simply.

"Yeah," Jack nodded. "When mum and dad really love each other they cuddle until they have a baby."

"Every time?" Lily asked pointedly.

"Only when they really want to have a baby together," Jack said.

"You so got an edited version," Lily sighed.

"Lily!" Aaron coughed as he felt the blush creep on his face.

"You look just like dad did when I asked him the same question," Lily said simply. "He turned the same kind of red back then. Anyway," she looked at Jack, "the babies are made when a man and a woman have sex, sex is an activity for adults only that consist from repetitive insertion of a penis into vagina and continued penetration of thereof done by – that's when Mum whacked Dad across the head with a dishtowel – aforementioned. Because it's a very pleasant activity for adults they like to do it together even when they don't want to have a baby, when that happens – that's where Mum threw a cushion at Dad's head but he ducked and she got the lamp instead – they put on a protective gear and when they want to have a baby together they just don't use the protective gear – that's when Mum said something about serving Dad human version of Rocky Mountain oysters for dinner which made him leave and come back ten minutes later with a book and that's when they explained everything."

"A book?" Aaron asked.

"It's called 'Where Did I Come From?'" Lily explained. "If you will ask Dad he will find it for you."

"When did they tell you?" Aaron asked skeptically

"When I asked," Lily shrugged. "It was 20th April 2012, I was four years, ten months old and a week old," she added.

"You even remember the day?" Jack asked.

"Why wouldn't I?" Lily asked simply.

"The more curious question is why would you," Aaron pointed out.

"I have no idea," Lily shrugged. "I just remember."

"Can we get that book, Dad?" Jack asked.

"Yes, we can," Aaron nodded.

Sleep Deprived

'Where Did I Come From' sufficiently busied Aaron and the kids for the better part of the day even though Aaron was convinced that Jack could get through another year without more detailed answers about facts of life. But as Lily already proved it was better to explain them once and for all than deal with the damage already done by a more informed and cocky classmate like Ted Rogers who was the first kid in school who knew 'what parents were doing beneath the covers' and took a great pleasure from informing 'the bunch of babies believing in a cabbage and storks' about what he learned and because he didn't get everything right for the following months all parents were avoiding the Rogers like a plague.

Aaron unlike most of the kids got off easy because upon learning what Aaron learned at school his Mum sat him down and straightened out the facts Ted got wrong and confirmed those which were true. Not all parents were like her and quite a lot of kids, especially girls were informed that they don't need to know how babies are made because they weren't old enough to have them.

They started reading the book together on the floor with Aaron laying alongside with Jack and Lily who at some point changed the position to sitting on Aaron's back alternatively switching between digging her ankles or her knees into Aaron's ribs.

"That's what you and Beth were doing when you were having a sleepover, isn't it?" Jack asked pensively. "You were not making babies."

Aaron coughed and tried to stop that stupid blush from creeping on his face.

"And why did you stop?" Lily asked as she moved her legs so her ankles into Aaron's ribs.

That made Aaron turn red even more, he didn't feel like informing Jack and Lily about things and issues Reid himself had to drag out of him but he also had a feeling that neither Jack nor Lily would give up easily.

"When..." Aaron started and cleared his throat, "adults get together by testing their comparability... in all departments and because not all people like the same things they need to work on compromise between things they want..."

"And you and Beth wanted different things," Jack said simply. "That's why she is not coming here anymore, isn't it?"

"Yeah," Aaron nodded. "We were just too different to work together without problems and we... we split. She went her way and I went my way."

"Because you like Spencer more?" Jack asked.

"I like Spencer," Aaron said quickly. "But I like Spencer as a friend."

"You share a bed," Jack pointed out.

"A bed in which only sleeping is going on," Aaron explained.

"Why?" Jack asked.

"Because I like girls, Spencer likes girls..." Aaron started.

"And boys too," Lily said simply. "And you hadn't ask Dad why he was kissing one," she added with a shrug. "Never kissed another again when I was around but when we were reading 'Where I Came From?' he explained that it doesn't matter whatever you like girls or boys as long as you are happy with someone and want to make them happy because it's the person you love that matters not their body parts."

"Well, it's true," Aaron agreed. "But it's ultimately your choice to decide whatever you like girls or boys. I like girls, Spencer likes both girls and boys."

"Could you like a boy?" Jack asked curiously.

Aaron sighed and scratched his chin before he admitted, "I used to like a certain boy but it didn't end well."

"Why?" Jack asked.

"Because he fell ill and decided to leave and I never saw him again," Aaron said. "I hadn't liked another boy just as much as I liked him since then and I doubt that I ever will like another boy just as much. Maybe it was one of those things that happen to you only once in your life, maybe not. But it's a very old story."

"How old?" Jack asked curiously.

"Way older than you two together," Aaron said.

"Were you happy?" Jack asked as he pressed himself against Aaron's side.

"Very," Aaron sighed.

"Was he happy?" Jack asked.

"I hope so," Aaron sighed again.

Jack didn't ask another question for a longer while as he was watching the pictures of a baby developing in the womb. In the meantime Lily shifted so she was lying down on Aaron's back, with her head resting against Aaron's left shoulder.

"Do you have..." Jack started but stopped immediately when he saw Lily. "Oh, nap time."

"Is she really sleeping?" Aaron asked.

"Yup," Jack beamed.

"What you wanted to ask about?" Aaron asked.

"It can wait," Jack shrugged. "Can we read a story together now?"

Sleep Deprived

Jack and Lily were sleeping for hours by the time Aaron decided to call Reid about coming home because ever since they parted their ways in front of Jess's house Reid hadn't called him even once which was unsettling.

Yes, Aaron was no longer working on the case but it didn't mean that he shouldn't be updated on its progress.

After two calls going straight to voice-mail Reid finally answered the phone.

"That bad?" Aaron asked quickly.

Instead of an answer he heard Reid closing the door before a different voice said, "Agent Reid's cell-phone, Samson Moffat speaking. How can I help you?"

"You can give back Doctor Reid his cell-phone," Aaron said.

"I'd rather not," Moffat said nervously. "Agent Reid was very adamant about not having anyone disturb him until half past five unless they have a serious break through with the case."

"Where is he?" Aaron asked.

"Sleeping on a sleeping-bag behind his desk with his jacket rolled up under his head, he fell asleep half of an hour ago and advised anyone who is staying at the office to do the same," Moffat relayed. "I was about to follow the example but I needed to borrow a spare blanket from his office."

"Why he didn't come back home?" Aaron asked. "He knows that it's a cold case, the unsub is dead and there is no pressure..."

"I'm really at no liberty to discuss it, sir," Moffat muttered. "Agent Reid's orders."

"I'm his direct supervisor and if you are answering to him you are also answering to me," Aaron said quickly. "What happened?"

"I really..." Moffat started. "In the light of recovering new evidence in the case of Goerge Foyet we discovered that a different unsub used Foyet's storage locker as a dump-site for three of his or hers new victims because the corpses we found there were too fresh."

"How fresh?" Aaron asked.

"ME narrowed the TOD to last two years, long after Foyet himself..." Moffat paused for a breath just as, "Moffat!" tore through the air. "I really shouldn't have..."

That was followed by, "Give it back Cadet. If I will..." which quickly became barked out, "Agent Reid, who the fuck are you?"

"Your supervisor," Aaron pointed out. "I'm coming to work tomorrow."

"You definitely do not!" Reid protested vehemently before he huffed, "Moffat, get lost."

Aaron heard a 'Yes, sir' in the background.

"I can help," Aaron said calmly.

"I know that, Hotch," Reid sounded much more calmer. "But I can handle that, it's not the first time I handled a murder investigation on my own and I really have all the help in the world. Having you here wouldn't change a thing aside of complicating things more."

"How so?" Aaron asked.

"I really don't want to talk about it now," Reid sighed. "You need time, take it, I can handle the investigation myself and it would make me feel much better knowing that you are with Jack and Lily at home."

"How bad is it?" Aaron asked.

"It's really bad, Hotch," Reid said tiredly. "I know what he is playing at and if I can help it until it's over I will be the only person affected."

"Reid!" Aaron hissed.

"We found six more bodies," Reid admitted. "Two males, one female, three children: two boys and one girl in locations I'm not going to discus with you. We found three more in that fucker's locker, male, female and a girl of about five, maybe four but they aren't Foyet's. I don't want you here..."

"Where?" Aaron asked. "Van Ness, JJ's street, my street?"

"I'm not going to talk about it now, please Hotch," Reid sighed.

"You need me," Aaron insisted.

"No, I need to not worry about you this time, I need agents who aren't affected personally by the case. I need someone who will take me aside and tell me to stop working myself into an exhaustion and I need to intellectually know that this person won't be hypocritical about it. I need Anderson, I need Strauss, they have personal distance from this case you don't have, that's why I need you to sit this one out, all of it, new evidence included," Reid said vehemently.

"You don't trust me to keep my head on the case," Aaron said.

"I don't trust myself to keep my head on the case, not fully at the very least," Reid sighed. "That's why Moffat is useful to me, I need to keep my wits around him, I need to look at this case the same way he looks at it and see what he sees, evidence, not its symbolism even though he makes me feel like a mother duck with a duckling following her every step."

"Where did you get him from?" Aaron asked to change the subject, it was obvious that Reid needed something normal to talk about, something that would take his head off the case for just a moment.

"Ursula Wurst brought him around asking if I needed a hand," Reid admitted. "She made it sound as if she was asking me for a favor I wouldn't want to refuse and I really didn't. I had to trust her Hotch, she trained me and in all the years I've spent in BAU she came to me a handful times asking me for an appeasement of certain trainees. This is no different, the only difference between Moffat and other cadets I've assessed is that he gets to work with me and in so far he hadn't screwed up anything but pushed the case forward. We know that another unsub used Foyet's storage locker as his or hers own dump-site thanks to Moffat bothering the hell out of ME about establishing the TOD so we could narrow down the victimology and we know that because he spent half of hour staring intently at each victim and reached the conclusions that murder weapons are different even though they were intended to look the same."

"Nice," Aaron admitted.

"It gets nicer," Reid nodded. "After he was done with ME he went to bother forensics and came to me with TOD and a murder weapon, well not the real one but the example of one which killed the last three victims. And I have no choice but to admit that what he is missing in experience he makes up in persistence."

In the background the door had closed as Reid continued, "I didn't exactly have a time to take a look at his files from the academy but since I'm awake..."

"Indulge me," Aaron said and waited as Reid was typing.

"Moffat, Samson Sigmund Solomon," Reid read and commented, "Someone had very big expectations about him right from when he was born. Speaking about DOB: 31st October 1988, Colorado Springs. Sixth out of seven children, the youngest is Bonnie Moffat, Beth might have mentioned her, she is an artist and a good one from what I've heard... And I know brother number four personally, DEA, I spend one stake out with him few years ago but I thought that he was the one who wanted to switch the agencies and that's why he was asking me what one needs to get into the FBI while he was just fishing. Wait, here we go, his father was in the army, brothers number one and two are in the Navy, number three is in ATF, four in DEA, five is a ME in NCIS, number six is in FBI academy with intent to stay on bureau's payroll and the sister gets to be an artist."

"They were raised respecting the authority and duty. Their father was probably very strict with the sons which is why they decided to work for the country but none of them wanted to follow their father footsteps exactly. He obviously dotted on the daughter and allowed her to express herself," Aaron said.

"And he really expressed himself," Reid commented. "Now I remember why the name was familiar. Turns out that Papa found out that Mama in her latter years liked to play rummy with her widowed neighbor a bit too much so four years ago while the younger kids were in college he went over to the neighbor's house and shot them both in the back of their heads before he dragged them from the neighbor's house to his home and threw them into his septic tank, then he cleaned the house and made it look as if they ran away together. Their bodies hadn't been found until the new owner of the house hadn't decided to change the septic tank about a year after the mother and the neighbor presumably ran away. Moffat and his sister were character witnesses for prosecutor's office."

"No wonder that he is so set on getting into FBI," Aaron said. "Speaking about FBI."

"I'm getting there," Reid said. "Nice, nice, very nice," he counted. "I've seen those records before, well they had better results in physical tests but his file reads almost like my file from the academy with the difference that my marksmanship was never this atrocious and even though at the very beginning I had a problem with hitting my own target I never actually shot someone's else target."

"You said you did," Aaron pointed out.

"I was trying to score a sympathy point and personal shooting lessons from the best shooter in BAU who was very set on getting me into BAU but not very much on permitting me to carry a gun," Reid quipped.

"Nice to know," Aaron snorted.

"Hey, it paid off," Reid protested. "After I got out of the academy I hadn't failed a qualification aside of that one time before L.D.S.K. case, I've just barely passed the ones before and I've been improving after. But I was never as bad as Moffat is because Green considers going from shooting other people's targets to missing his own target sheet as a vast improvement and he expresses his hope that maybe soon Moffat will start hitting the target. Hogan's Alley, I've got better results in Hogan's Alley even though I was barely passing. Hand to hand combat indicates that he can stand his ground against an opponent his size but relays on his instinct to survive rather on trained moves, he actually bit another trainee's ear during the fight and kicked another where no man wants to be kicked. He is doing rather well in an obstacle course, barely passed bureau's driving test, probably roped in his brothers to help him with that."

"Which means that Wurst is just as much set on guilty tripping you into offering to train him just as she is on showing him that he can improve with time because you did," Aaron summed up.

"Maybe," Reid sighed in resignation. "Did Wurst ever come to you asking for an evaluation of a cadet in regards of their first postings?"

"Once or twice," Aaron said.

"Did that once or twice had eventually ended in BAU?" Reid asked pointedly.

"Twice did, I'm talking with him," Aaron replied. "You think that Wurst is convinced..."

"That Moffat has something to offer to BAU and that this something is big enough to recompense his lack of experience because experience is an acquired thing?" Reid supplied. "Right now I'm staring at the invitation from cryptology where his vast knowledge could be used without letting him into the field, he didn't accept it. Neither he accepted the invitation from CSU. He holds a PhD in human biology and Master in Criminology and it turns out that he is that S. S. Moffat who for past three years had been bothering the hell out of me by challenging my expertise in cryptology in which he has a PhD and I never cared enough about to get a degree. Just wait until this case is over and I will give you a run for your money doctor who."

"Other than that?" Aaron asked quickly hoping to derail Reid's mild irritation over having his expertise questioned.

"Other than that I beat him by twenty IQ points but he beats me in official language tests, he passed with flying colors seven different tests and amongst the languages he knows fluently are Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Hebrew, Arabic, Hungarian, Dutch and German. I know more languages than he does but I never cared for official confirmation that I know them. We can also send him undercover as a musician because supposedly he has a lovely singing voice, he had been in a choir since he was a first grader."

"Wurst is completely guilty tripping you into taking him under your wing," Aaron said.

"And maybe I will once I will teach him a lesson about looking past official academic titles. I can certainly give him a run for his money at the shooting range, at the very least this is the only thing I can for sure do for him so he could get into the field if he wants to be a field agent so badly," Reid muttered before he yawned.

That wasn't what Aaron suspected Wurst was hoping for but Aaron knew Wurst for a very long time and in the years he knew her he learned to trust her gut feeling about agents she was introducing to their future mentors. After all she wasn't wrong about Reid benefiting from an additional training with Aaron because while Reid got his attention on his own it was Wurst who suggested that Reid could use few pointers from Aaron in his training.

"You really don't want me to go to work tomorrow, do you?" Aaron asked.

"If you show up I will lock you into my office and I will disconnect the phone and I will pickpocket your cell-phone," Reid said. "I can handle the case on my own and you really need time to process what you found out."

"If that's Doctor's orders then so be it," Aaron sighed. "Just don't forget that if one day the table will turn around I will do the same thing to you."

"Promise duly noted," Reid yawned. "Listen Hotch, I've got to get up early."

"Go to sleep," Aaron said. "We will be fine."

"Could you give Lily and Jack and goodnight kiss from me?" Reid asked tiredly. "I've been..."

"Okay, try to get some sleep," Aaron said.

"I will, and I will try to come back home for the night tomorrow," Reid said before he hung up.

Sleep Deprived

The whole day went by without a call from Reid but it didn't worry Aaron, Reid was a capable agent and it wasn't his first solo investigation. The only difference was that he was on BAU's own turf on his very own not only as a profiler but also agent in charge and calling Aaron even for not work related reason could be seen as the inability to handle the case on his own, subject which still after all this years was sensitive to Reid because he was still under the standard age agents coming to work for BAU were and he was in BAU for nine years, more than many agents expected of him to last, definitely more than certain other agents could stand.

So while Reid was at work Aaron devoted his time to spending it with Jack and Lily, he took them, and Moth for a small bike trip in a Rock Creek Park, they shared a pepperoni pizza, feed ducks and they didn't run into anyone that would turn Lily into spawn of Satan. Once they got back Aaron quickly vacuumed the apartment while Jack and Lily were sorting through their dirty laundry which they divided by color and urgency to get it washed. After dinner they without much of a fuss had a bath and after getting into their pj's they watched the movie until they both dropped off towards the end of it.

It was half past ten o'clock in the evening when Aaron put them to bed and was about to call Reid in order to ask whatever or not Reid was coming back home for the night just as he heard the sound of the key turning in the lock.

Reid to whom Aaron opened the door was not the same Reid Aaron last seen getting into the Suburban in front of Jess's house. He hadn't shaved since yesterday's morning, looked as if he spent majority of the last night tossing and turning because the dark circles under his eyes were more pronounced. He looked deadly tired and lost in his own thoughts until he realized that Aaron was standing in front of him.

And then Reid had done something he hadn't done since that night they found him kneeling over Tobias Hankel's body in the graveyard in Marshall Parish. He took a step forward throwing his arms around Aaron hugging him just as ferociously as he did that night so many years ago.

"I'm sorry," Reid chocked out. "I'm so, so, sorry," he mumbled. "I never understood... I mean intellectually I knew... I thought that I knew but I never expected... I'm so sorry."

"Reid, Spencer," Aaron said gently. "What happened?"

"Nothing," Reid sniffled. "It's just..." he sniffled again. "It never occurred to me on emotional level what we are putting you through every time we place ourselves in danger, deliberately or not. I'm sorry, I'm sorry for every time I made you worried that this will be the time when you will have to tell my Mum that I'm not going to come back. I can't swear that I will never place myself in danger again but I promise that I will be more considerate if I ever will because if that's what you are going through every time... I don't think that I can do this job, your job I mean, it's overwhelmingly frightening."

"What happened?" Aaron asked again, even more gently as he tried to make his way back towards the couch.

Reid stepped out of the hug, closing the door with one hand while he was fishing for something in the pocket of his jacket with the other. Finally once he bolted the door he pulled out a small pack of Kleenex and wiped his eyes before he cleaned his nose. Only then he walked towards the couch and sat down next to Aaron sitting in a way which allowed them both to look at each other.

"We were able to identify the three victims we found in Foyet's storage locker, they weren't his. It was the Horn family, Terry, Gina and their daughter Molly, Gina and Molly were stabbed to death, Terry was shot. This very morning I interviewed Trish, Gina's sister, myself, she was upset about their deaths but also relieved because ever since they've gone missing she was worried that they will never come back and that she finally has their bodies to bury... She was so damn convincing Hotch!" he hissed. "We dug deeper, we found Gina's lover and I personally went to Fredericksburg while I sent Moffat to Trish to ask her if and what she knew about her sister's affair."

Reid's curled his fingers into a fist as he continued, "Gina's lover shed some light, I've learned that Trish was besotted with Terry, to the point she destroyed Gina's wedding dress, she was always envious about her, especially about her marriage which wasn't working well... I was there, I talked to her for fuck's sake, I didn't get any single vibe that something was off.. and I sent in there a rookie, an untrained, unarmed cadet serving under my command to ask Trish about subject that triggered the murders, I've... I've might as well paint a bull's eye on his forehead."

"And Moffat?" Aaron asked softly. "What happened with him?

"That's the only good thing," Reid snorted. "He profiled the crap out of Trish and got her to talk about their mother and Molly, how she loved her aunt, he read her like a book, guilty-tripped her all the way to hell and back so by the time we stormed in there armed to the teeth she was sitting cuffed with her own fluffy handcuffs to the rocking chair while he was writing her confession and calmly sipping the tea he made for them. I didn't know if I wanted more to hug the life out of him or kill the little fucker then and there myself because all the way from Fredericksburg to Alexandria I had a vission of myself telling his brothers and sister that their little brother had ended with a bullet in his head because I failed to protect him. The rest was yelling match, I yelled at him, Strauss and Wurst yelled at me, Moffat yelled on Strauss and Wurst which lead to Anderson yelling at all of us to stop acting like overprotective parents of miscreants in principals office, which in return led to Strauss and Wurst, and me yelling at him because it wasn't his business. I have to turn my report to IA on Monday, I hadn't slept a shit last night. On the top of that I was chased by an overeager state-troopers without a fucking clue with intent to present me with a speeding ticket, and you know what? Those fuckers were waiting for me in front of Trish's house and were ready to arrest me in spite of seeing me drive a government vehicle with lights flashing and sirens blazing like in a goddamn disco and if it wasn't for Anderson I would just scratch their eyes out. I officially hate your job, mine is hard enough," Reid snorted.

"Well," Aaron started. "You've got your unsub, the cadet made it out alive and unharmed, you've got a confession. Even if right now you are not very high on the list of her favorite people Strauss would get over by Monday enough to convince IA to your side of the story so you will get away with a slap on the wrist if you won't end being cleared from any wrong doing. She was the sister of the victim," Aaron patted his knee. "It happens Reid, to the best of us, and it's really not a reason to lose sleep over it because she is in custody and you have a confession regardless her intent to deceive you."

"I know that," Reid harrumphed. "That doesn't make me feel any better at the moment."

"It's not your conscience, it's your ego," Aaron sighed. "You've got tricked, your are the expert in reading people, you specialize in reading micro-expressions and she still managed to dupe you. It happens."

"And the state-troopers?" Reid snorted.

"Are idiots," Aaron said simply. "Do you want me to make some calls to ensure that they will never get promoted?"

"Anderson already took care of that, I caught the end of his call to their supervisor, he was chewing him off just as much as he chewed them off. He mentioned an official complaint against the office, brought up retribution and even intelligence tests. He was really getting off on this but then again he survived a car chase where we were the ones being chased with me as a driver and apparently it's a very traumatic experience which can only be erased with lots of good coffee for an entire week, he is also partial to peanut butter goodies," Reid sighed. "And I'm partial to supplying him with such for an entire month because he is a sanity saver, had been for me at the very least. I'm actually more worried about Moffat, he was gone by the time I left Quantico but I checked up with Kevin and his phone at the very least is at his home and I'm too damn tired to get over there and apologize," Reid mumbled.

"Bed?" Aaron asked.

"Bed," Reid confirmed. "Kids first, shower second, I'm skipping shaving and if someone over four feet and two inches tall will wake me up before seven o'clock I'll hurt them, I once worked the case where a wife strangled her husband with a quilt because he woke her up," Reid mumbled.

Aaron smirked as he stood up and pulled Reid into standing position as he said, "I know that case, I worked it with you and I do remember that she got off lightly, six months in the state prison and six years on a parole. When we were talking to her she still had bruises he gave her."

"Come to think about it, I do remember someone looming behind me when I was talking with her," Reid mumbled.

"Come on," Aaron said as he lead Reid to Jack's and Lily's room. "Be quiet, they just fell asleep when you got there."

Sleep Deprived

Aaron woke up at a stupidly odd hour of a quarter after four o'clock in the morning, way too early to start a day off by getting out of bed and way too late to immediately fall asleep upon realizing how early it was.

He was on his side of the bed, with slightly dead left arm and a curly mane blocking his view at the room while someone's else left arm was wrapped tightly across his middle and when he tried to wriggle his way out of the clutch he was clutched even more tightly so he sighed softly and put his hand on the top of Reid's arm.

Reid was not only exhausted physically but also emotional thanks to Foyet and the new case. Aaron knew that Reid wouldn't bring up symbolism without a very good reason and in order for him to admit to that he had he needed to have a physical proof of Foyet's depravity, his threat towards his family.

Because when it got to you how close Foyet was to going after your family, someone's else family it didn't matter that he was dead and wasn't going to hurt anyone ever again. Intellectually you knew that but you also saw how close he was.

This case was Foyet's last chance at triumph from beyond the grave, the 'look what I could have done to you' and it was designed to haunt them because even though in different set of circumstances the case could have ended in another team's hand Aaron and the rest would have access to their reports and what they would have find.

Foyet didn't predict that he would be dead when they would discover his sick gifts, didn't predict that the only agent on the case would be Reid who not only withstood the threat Foyet handed to him through Helen Gideon but also once and for all proved that Aaron did the right thing by not letting Foyet stand up from the floor.

Reid withstood it all on his own and now in his subconsciousness he was desperately trying to cling to the reality, to the physical assurance that Foyet didn't get a chance to go after his family. Reid didn't have to say a single word about how the victims were arranged, Aaron immediately knew what he had found. Men with little boys close to Aaron's apartment and JJ's and Will's place, the woman and the girl in Van Ness. All as close by to their location as Foyet could afford without being caught by them, watching, waiting and planning his end game. If he lived and went to prison without a doubt he would try to dangle in front of them the new murders, he would try to crush and turn against Aaron every single one of them by starting with two the most vulnerable to the threat against their families people.

And Reid went through it alone, Aaron thought bitterly as he strengthened his hold on Reid's arm and shoulders. He went through all of this alone when he didn't have to, when he shouldn't have to and Aaron wasn't going to let him go through it on his own again.

Sleep Deprived

By the time Aaron woke up again Reid was already out of the bed, curled in the big armchair in the living-room and balancing a big mug of coffee on his right knee. He hadn't shaved, didn't bother to run a comb through his curly mane which looked as if he just got out of bed. He was also dressed exchanging his usual slacks and button up shirt for a pair of jeans which most probably remembered the times when he was finishing his first or second doctorate, most probably the second since they actually fit him. He traded his oxford shirt for a normal t-shirt which was peeking out from under his washed off hoodie which once used to be black but these days looked more gray than black. He also traded his contacts for his glasses which he didn't usually do in front of the others, even with just Aaron, Lily and Jack around.

"Morning," Aaron said as he made his way to the coffee maker and checked how much coffee was left in the pot. "Refill?"

Reid didn't answer, neither to the greeting nor to Aaron's question so Aaron asked again which seemed to temporarily snap Reid out of his zombie-like state as he mumbled, "Sure."

Aaron poured coffee into two new mugs and added sugar before he approached Reid, it was only then when he realized that Reid's mug, the one he was balancing on his knee was almost full.

"You aren't done with this one," Aaron pointed out as he set both mugs on the coffee table.

"Oh," Reid mumbled before he took a big sip of his colder coffee. "Sorry," he added after he swallowed. "I was thinking."

"About?" Aaron prodded gently.

"The price of peas in Persepolis," Reid sighed. "Foyet, Moffat, Gideon, this case, our job. Not exactly in that order."

Aaron nodded.

"Gideon was right," Reid admitted. "I don't have tools to do this job."

"Reid..." Aaron started.

"Let me finish," Reid interjected. "It was years ago, my first autumn with BAU, few days before Halloween, you and Gideon sent us home while you stayed to take care of the paperwork. I pretended that I went home while I bunked in the conference room because I didn't want you to know that the heating in my old apartment broke down and that the floor in the conference room was better than my cold hovel at the time. I woke up from a slumber around the time when you and Gideon had taken a break..."

Aaron nodded, he did remember that conversation but he also wanted to hear Reid's side of the story and his own thoughts on the matter.

"You were talking about the distant future of BAU, very distant in your minds at the time," Reid sighed. "Not very much so in reality because Gideon was guessing that he would be retiring in about ten years since then, I bet that it didn't cross his mind that he would be long gone from BAU by that time."

"No one expects that and you know it," Aaron pointed out.

"I know," Reid agreed. "You asked Gideon about who would take his place by that time... and now I know that at the time you were looking for his approval just as the rest of us did but what he said..."

"We are both familiar with reverse psychology," Aaron sighed. "He wanted me to defy his opinion that I felt secure in the position of Senior SSA and that I didn't want the responsibilities that came with the position of the Unit Chief."

"And you did," Reid said. "Maybe not right away, you hadn't said a word when he entertained you with that story of his... it was overwhelmingly terrifying and humbling at the same time and then it was just cruel but I guess that's what you get for listening to things you aren't supposed to hear. But instead of agreeing with him right away you said that ten years from then I will have the tools to do this job, his job, your job and that I will be good Unit Chief."

"I'm still not doubting in that," Aaron interjected. "If you will one day accept this position you will be a good Unit Chief because while you aren't big politician you are trained hostage negotiator and one of the most empathic people I know. Political saviness is an acquired skill..."

"So are negotiating skills," Reid pointed out.

"Nurturing is not," Aaron said. "You are natural caregiver, you are empathic and you use that empathy every day, you wield it more efficiently than any other weapon, you do the same with your fury. In the room full of agents armed to the teeth you are the most dangerous person in the room not because of the air of authority around you but because of the seeming lack of it. Because in the moment you make a choice to confront someone you crush through their defenses one after the other. I hadn't seen you with Doctor Malcolm but I saw you afterward, planning the recovery of hostages and executing the plan without firing a single shot because you knew what Samantha wanted and you gave her that, because you not only saw her as a psychopath she was but also the little girl who was hurt by the last person in the world who should ever hurt her. You are a son, a father, a genius, an agent, a profiler, a friend and depending from circumstances you use all of them to achieve your aim..."

"I'm not a leader," Reid said simply.

"Bullshit," Aaron snorted. "You are the leader every time you take the lead in negotiations, every time you give us a breakthrough in the case. A good leader doesn't have to lead all the time. You had the tools to be a good Unit Chief three years ago and that hadn't changed."

"I screwed up, Hotch," Reid protested. "I endangered the life of a cadet serving under my command, I let the unsub fool me..."

"That doesn't make you a bad leader," Aaron interrupted him. "Just the one who makes mistakes like anyone else does. More than that you not only make mistakes and you have the courage to admit to yourself and to others that you make mistakes but you are ready to crucify yourself for making them. In your early days in BAU you never failed to point out to Morgan that yes, you are a genius but it doesn't mean that you know everything."

"I know that," Reid sighed. "But like I said yesterday knowing that doesn't make me feel any better."

"It will pass," Aaron said as he patted Reid's right foot.

"I really screwed up," Reid sighed again. "Listen, Hotch, I need..." he was interrupted by a soft knock on the door. "Are you expecting a guest?"

"No," Aaron answered as he stood up and asked, "Are you?"

Reid shook his head before he straightened his legs, placed his mug on the coffee table and stood up just as Aaron reached the door and looked through the pep-hole.

The person standing on the other side of the door was a young man with chin-length wavy ginger hair with a freckled face. He was wearing a stretched out, woolen, dark green jumper that looked handmade and had a backpack hanging on his left shoulder. He didn't seem very tall or very threatening but since Aaron hadn't seen him before he turned around to look at Reid.

"Man, red-haired, heavily freckled, not very tall. Do you know him?" Aaron asked.

Reid frowned before he muttered, "Moffat but I have no idea what he is doing here."

"At the moment he is staring at his shoes and has the air of someone who would very much be somewhere else," Aaron answered as he unchained and unlocked the door.

Moffat's instantaneously moved his focus from his shoes to Aaron and he blurted out, "Good morning, I'm terribly sorry for the wake up call. My name is Samson Moffat, I'm a..." the pause was very brief, so brief that if Aaron wasn't trained profiler he would have missed it, "graduate student from Georgetown's psychology department and I'm looking for Doctor Spencer Reid whom I'm supposed to deliver my article for review. I know that it's dreadfully early and I'm really sorry but I really need to deliver this article as soon as possible..."

"Ever heard of e-mails?" Aaron asked pointedly playing into Moffat's scenario of a student in desperate need of seeing his professor as soon as humanly possible.

"Doctor Reid's laptop is at the shop and he doesn't keep any other computer," Moffat answered swiftly. "I've been told that I can find him here but if it's not true I'm terribly sorry for disturbing you and your family, sir. Is there any chance that you ever heard of a man called Doctor Reid living in this building? Please?" he finally stopped for a breath and his big green eyes grew even bigger, as big as Jack's or Lily's when they were giving the Puss in Boots the run for his money in pleading department.

"I might have heard of him," Aaron said. "But you see, here is the problem, the only Doctor Spencer Reid I know isn't employed by Georgetown but by Federal Bureau of Investigation. Are we talking about the same Doctor Reid?"

"Yes, you are," Reid snorted as he stepped behind Aaron and pulled the door to fully open before he looked at Aaron and chided him, "Stop torturing him. It's hard enough to wander into the belly of a beast, you don't need to scare him some more."

"Now, who is torturing him?" Aaron asked pointedly.

"Doctor Reid, sir, Mr. Reid," Moffat started swiftly looking from Reid to Aaron.

"Hotchner," Reid corrected him. "Cadet Samson Moffat - Unit Chief Senior SSA Aaron Hotchner."

Moffat opened his mouth managing to extract from it something akin to 'I..' before he faked a sneeze quickly covering his mouth.

"My supervisor and quite merciful roommate, you don't need to apologize for that assumption," Reid said simply.

"Assumption?" Moffat asked with a slight pitch in his voice.

"Jenkins is training you in hand-to-hand combat, isn't he?" Reid asked with a shrug. "Good trainer and Quantico's loosest mouth when it comes to gossip, I never heard even a grain of truth in the stuff he ends telling because if it was BAU would be hosting mandatory Orgy Mondays or Tuesdays of Debauchery and Decadence," he snorted.

"Is he still talking?" Aaron asked grimly as he started pondering how to relocate Jenkins from Quantico to Anchorage without much of a fuss.

"Oldest son out of ten boys, his mother had two sets of twins and he wasn't born with special talents. Exhibiting violence in relations with his peers was a cry for his parents attention, luckily for him it was channeled into boxing and was honed by further training. His younger brother's premature death in a butchered robbery lead him to police academy and to the position of a trainer, marriage which fell apart due to his infidelity with a man half his age plus five had lead him to Quantico. Use it or lose it," Reid said swiftly before he paused and pointed first at Aaron and then at Moffat as he added, "You use it, you lose it."

"Yes, sir," Moffat drawled out.

"I meant it," Reid said pointedly. "Lose it or you will be lost because I know for a fact that Jenkins has a hunting cabin in the deeps of West Virginia, acres of land stretching into the forest, helluva of a place to dump a body counting on the wildlife to get rid of the evidence before search and rescue party will find the sad remains of a genius with no sense of self-preservation. Big waste of a genius and resources."

"So it's a good thing that the genius has a well developed sense of self-preservation," Moffat said quickly. "Happens when one has five older brothers who made the attempts at getting rid of the competition to the bowl and mama's attention the work of art which brings me to why I'm disturbing you at this ungodly hour."

"Attention granted," Reid nodded. "Take a deep breath and speak."

Moffat did as he was told before he continued, "Doctor Reid, sir, I came here to apologize for my actions or more precisely lack of thereof in reassuring you that my life was in no imminent danger. I'm at fault just as much as that stupid smart-phone I received from my brother without any occasion and I know that it should have occurred to me beforehand that since he never gives without an occasion anything that works properly why this time it would be different and of course that damned battery had died in the most inconvenient moment and it hadn't occurred to me to memorize the number of your cell-phone, any phone, all numbers I've got were on that infernal device..."

"Breath," Aaron said.

Moffat paused only long enough to did as he was told before he resumed talking, "I know that it's not much after all the trouble you went through because of me but I'm terribly sorry that my incompetence got you in trouble with Chief Strauss and Agent Wurst and IA and I swear..."

"Stop," Reid said gently. "What happened yesterday wasn't your fault. It was mine..."

"Sir..." Moffat tried to interject but Reid silenced him with a raised hand.

"Samson," Reid said patiently. "You are highly intelligent young man, a genius and you can prove that, you have a terrific academic record that would make many people turn green with envy..." Moffat opened his mouth to interrupt but Reid silenced him by raising his hand as he continued, "You could have remained in the safety of the walls of university but instead you chose to join FBI, that speaks of your character, of your integrity and selflessness. You are stubborn and driven, you face obstacles instead of looking for an easy way around them. You decided that you want to be a field agent even though you were offered other, safer and no less intriguing jobs within FBI. You are all of that but you are also a not fully trained cadet that was placed under my command, cadet I failed to protect from harm because out in the field as a senior agent I'm responsible for you and for any harm that comes to your person. You went to Trish Glenn's house on my order, order I've given against the protocol and by doing that I placed your life in jeopardy. I'm fully responsible for my actions just like I'm fully responsible for what happens with you, to you when you are under my command and it's not you but me who should be apologizing for my actions and lack of thereof."

"You have nothing to apologize for, sir," Moffat shook his head.

"I beg to differ," Reid sighed. "I'm sorry Samson, I'm really sorry for putting your life in danger and for being not much of a..."

"You trusted me," Moffat interrupted him fiercely and quickly realizing his fierceness he added quickly, "Sir," before he paused and continued more calmly, "You trusted me to handle a simple task of speaking with a witness, and yes, it didn't turn out the way you expected it would turn out but you have to understand that to me you are the first person who trusted in me to do something else than being a messenger between, or a genius on loan to other departments and that it means a lot to me that somebody believes that I can be a field agent in spite of my less than stellar results in physical training. And it's me who is sorry for letting you down, and for being a... territorial ass who should have realized sooner that an academic degree or not I don't have a right to question your knowledge and expertise because..."

"It's fine," Reid said gently. "All scientist are very protective of their academic field and their expertise. I'm no better."

"I was an ass and I was wrong," Moffat said. "You can admit that."

"Did you learn the lesson?" Reid asked simply.

Moffat nodded.

"That's enough for me," Reid said. "Would you like to stay for breakfast?"

Moffat looked from Reid to Aaron and then back at Reid before he answered, "Thank you for your offer Doctor Reid but I will have to pass, I'm having a whining baby for breakfast, well, not literally, but my brother offered to give me shooting lessons on DEA's shooting range and since I have training later he has to get up extra early which he doesn't like and between questioning my non-existent shooting skills he will be whining about having to get up early and skipping breakfast and he is a real baby when he is hungry and since he is doing me a favor I can't exactly gift him with a pacifier or duct-tape him."

"There is always strep-throat," Reid said.

"He had it, it didn't shut him up either," Moffat shook his head before he extended his hand towards Reid as he added, "Thank you, Doctor Reid and I'm really sorry," before he extended his hand to Aaron and said, "Agent Hotchner, I'm sorry for intrusion. Have a good day gentlemen."

With that he marched out and Aaron closed the door behind him.

"So what you think?" Reid asked once he settled once again in the armchair.

Aaron came back to the couch and picked his coffee before he answered, "His current hairdo is a retaliation for all of the military haircuts he was given in his youth, the length fits the criteria of a regular one for male agents but just barely. His posture around the figures of authority exhibits military upbringing, so does underlying that authority by constant repetitions of sir. They make him feel slightly intimidated which he is trying to cover by his posture but not enough for him to not speak his mind, especially when he believes in his opinions and he is fierce about defending them, too fierce in his opinion. He received strict upbringing but not an abusive one, at the very least the abuse wasn't physical and didn't come from the hand of the more present parent, in his case the mother. He loved her dearly, was never afraid of her and was used to bringing his issues to her attention..."

"He had a business with me, not with you," Reid interrupted him. "If you are implying that I bear some semblance to his mother..."

"I'm not implying anything," Aaron shrugged. "Your issues with regular haircuts aside it's clear that he feels comfortable when he is talking with you, he respects you but he is not afraid of expressing his opinions to you. That's something he learned in his childhood..."

"Are you implying that I need a haircut?" Reid muttered.

"Did I ever?" Aaron smirked. "In the field what matters to me is what is inside your head not on the top of it," he added. "Though that boy-band haircut..."

"It was not a boy band's haircut!" Reid hissed.

"Then what it was?" Aaron asked.

"It was my three years old daughter got her hands on the scissors haircut," Reid harrumphed. "I only tried to salvage the damage she'd done. I happen to like longer hair because not only I can tie them back if I need to but also because I don't need to spend a fortune on hair-care products. Besides hair-length regulations are misnamed, they are not regulations but merely guidelines, even Strauss admitted to that they are the testament of times when my person wasn't even a concept in my parents' minds and these days no one bothers measuring the hair length of agents in the bureau."

"The one you had after was nice and practical," Aaron said simply.

"It was chewing gum," Reid muttered.

"Chewing gum?"Aaron echoed.

"Chewing gum plus a toddler plus a midday nap," Reid clarified. "So in order to keep what remained from my hair I had to remove something from the equation. I happen to love the toddler and I'm fond of the midday naps..." he shrugged and for a moment it seemed that he wanted to say something but changed his mind.

"What you wanted to say?" Aaron asked hoping that Reid would say something about the case.

"It's nothing," Reid sighed tiredly as he rubbed his forehead with his left hand.

"Reid..." Aaron pressed as gently as he could.

"Promise me that you won't ask me about him today," Reid asked.

"Tomorrow then?" Aaron asked.

"Tomorrow," Reid nodded.

"Tomorrow it is then," Aaron nodded.

"Today is too soon," Reid said quietly.

And that's how Aaron realized that whatever else Reid had found had shaken him to his very core and once again Aaron decided that he did the right thing by not letting Foyet get up from the floor.

"Pancakes for breakfast?" Aaron asked.

Pancakes for breakfast was something normal and right now Reid desperately needed normalcy and a physical reminder that the man haunting him was no longer a threat.

"Maybe we can go to the park for a picnic?" Aaron added.

After a very long pause Reid said, "I'd like that."

Chapter Text

 

You might need somethin' to hold on to

When all the answers they don't amount to much

Somebody that you can just talk to

And a little of that human touch

~Bruce Springsteen

 

Sleep Deprived

Chapter eight: Sleep Disturbed.

Reid spent the better part of the day with Lily and Jack because their presence and his desire to not upset them obligated him to compartmentalize the events of last two days at least to the degree that prevented him from showing how not fine he really was.

But Lily and Jack had a bedtime, that point of the day when the exhaustion with eventful day was too big to try and fight it and a simple bath was enough to make them sluggish and ready to fall asleep within few minutes into the story they had chosen for the night.

Once Jack and Lily were sleeping peacefully Reid was once again left without a shield against Aaron's concern but that didn't mean that he didn't try to defeat Aaron's attempts at willing him to speak.

First, he hid in the bathroom, supposedly to have a shower but considering how long he had stayed in there under the running water he would have enough time to wash his hair three times, give himself a thorough body scrub and a shave, in the old fashioned way on that, and considering that neither Aaron nor Reid had supplies for that and the fact that Reid still didn't get rid of his scruff by the time he emerged from the bathroom he simply opted to try and drown himself in there.

Once he left the bathroom he changed himself into pajama bottoms and first t-shirt that fallen into his hands, Aaron's old training t-shirt from SWAT days, before he crawled into bed and buried himself under covers from head to toe. He couldn't have given a sign that spoke more clearly that he didn't want to speak with Aaron about anything.

"Dave and Erin are having an affair," Aaron said simply.

"I'm not masturbating!" came a muffled snort from under the covers.

Aaron allowed himself to smirk, but just a little, the rouse was wholly inappropriate but at the very least Reid responded to him at all instead of continuing to avoid talking with Aaron at all, something he was trying very hard to achieve.

"Why not? After all sexual release is an accepted relaxation method," Aaron added after the lump next to him stubbornly remained motionless and quiet.

"I'm not in the fucking mood and your presence in the same bed is..." that part was muffled by the covers but the following was not, "There are things in man's life for which he doesn't care when he is sixteen but cares when he is thirty.." Reid's voice became muffled again by the covers under which he was hiding.

"I can't hear much of what you are muttering over there," Aaron said simply.

"You don't need to hear me because if you won't stop trying to cajole me into talking I will elbow you into genitals," Reid snorted.

"Not in your current position of a human-sized burrito," Aaron retorted.

"I'm not falling for that," Reid grumbled. "I've already told you everything you need to know."

"Then why I get the feeling that there is something you are not saying," Aaron sighed. "Something which deeply bothers you."

"It's nothing," Reid muttered.

"If it was nothing you wouldn't avoid looking at me," Aaron pointed out.

Instead of answering very slowly Reid pulled the covers down and inched his way up until he was half-laying down and half-sitting.

"It's Trish Glenn," Reid spat and after a heavy sigh he added, "This case right after Foyet, strike that, not right after but because of Foyet, because that shrew saw through his act and instead of doing the right thing..." he grimaced. "She used Foyet's rouse to try and get away with a murder, a murder of her own family, her sister, her niece, hell, even the man she supposedly loved. I allowed her to fool me and I allowed myself to be distracted by her... I fucked up and it would have ended badly, especially for Moffat because I allowed my feelings to cloud my judgment..."

"You found her attractive," Aaron supplied.

"Oh please, give me some fucking credit," Reid snorted. "I'm not this kind of a man and not this kind of an agent, Hotch. She could have talked with me looking like Lady Godiva, wearing only her hair and I wouldn't raise an eyebrow, let alone allowed anything else to raise. I hadn't found her attractive, I didn't identify with her but I felt sorry for her. She lost her family, her entire family and I pitied her enough to want to help her get through it by showing her that she still had a family left. Blessedly instead of going right away with that I went to talk with Gina's lover first which lead me to a realization that it was the worst idea that ever entered my mind."

"As an agent you had an access to her personal information and therefore the information concerning her family," Aaron nodded. "Half-family?" he asked.

"Three half-sisters, two alive ones that also happen to be married with kids," Reid muttered. "Let's not forget the wicked step-mother, strike that, wicked wife of her cowardly biological father who turned his back on her mother because he refused to divorce his wife and mother of two daughters, few years later they got another one."

"And what's the coward's family name?" Aaron asked.

"Brandon Jareau," Reid spat as he crossed his arms over his chest. "Also known as Brandy, BJ or the man who couldn't afford a condom when it mattered and yes, by Brandon Jareau I mean the same Brandon Jareau that fathered Annie, Bonnie and Jennifer."

Aaron looked at Reid as he asked, "JJ knows?"

"Her father's name? Sure," Reid snorted. "About her father's inability to keep his dick in his pants? I highly doubt so, because most certainly I would have heard something about psychopathic half-sister by now. Unless it's one of those need-to-know things that almost everyone knows about except the people who really need to know... I'm highly doubting in that too because I knew her for almost seven years before DoD surgically removed her conscience which now is bothering me because neither she nor Trish don't know about it and I'm having a very serious doubts about informing either of them..."

"Murderer or..." Aaron started.

"... not she is her sister and JJ should be informed," Reid finished. "Let's play it, hello Jennifer, I've recently arrested and charged with a triple homicide, premeditated triple homicide on that, the daughter of a woman your father used to fuck, coincidentally he fucked the woman into conception of a psychopath and said psychopath, who happens to be your half-sister had murdered her own sister, her brother-in-law and her niece..."

"If you will phrase it that way she will shot your genitals off," Aaron snorted.

"No matter how I would phrase it, Hotch," Reid grimaced. "At best Trish is facing life without a parole or at worst the end of a Virginia Fried Psychopath and we will be left with the woman who will have to acknowledge the aforementioned regardless of how it's going to be phrased. Add to that the long list of her insecurities over her position and as two plus two equals four we will be left with an agent whose compartmentalization is shot all the way to hell, with helluva of work and seniority related issues, in short words a bitch..."

"Reid," Aaron sighed heavily.

"Don't..." Reid growled and stopped almost immediately to said more calmly, "You are not enough of a hypocrite to chastise me for telling you the truth because you know that she has issues but at the same time you are naive enough to believe that JJ will be able to work out her issues without a reprimand from you because you want her to feel confident in her profiling skills, skills she is still acquiring because her former position on the team as a media liaison required from her different set of skills and while yes, it prepared her better than any courses on profiling for the job she still feels insecure about her position on the team which is why she is overcompensating her ass off in the field..."

"Re..." Aaron started.

"Let me finish," Reid interrupted him. "Next year, if she hadn't been transferred to DoD she would be officially celebrating her tenth anniversary of working for the bureau after celebrating ninth anniversary of working for BAU. You've been in BAU for close to fifteen years, Rossi is BAU, we celebrated Morgan's tenth anniversary in June, Emily's seniority in BAU was shorter than JJ's but her seniority in the bureau, allegedly at the very least, was longer and Emily was very good at sticking to her official story. Next January I will be celebrating my ninth year in the bureau and at the same time my ninth year in BAU which makes me the only person on the team with shorter seniority in the bureau than JJ's but at the same time the person who in spite of shorter seniority in the bureau has longer seniority than hers in BAU..."

"JJ..." Aaron started.

"...is capable of mistaking seniority in the bureau for seniority in BAU in the position of a profiler," Reid finished grimly. "Especially if she feels ascertained in that belief by people who are superior to her both in position and experience by their indifference to her behavior which more than once in passing year made me contemplating pulling the fucking rank. That's why I'm having doubts about informing her about Trish now, I know how she will react and I have a pretty good idea on whom she will take it out and quite frankly I have enough of my own problems to not want to be her whipping boy."

Aaron swallowed the bile that formed in his throat. That ruthlessly vicious profile was not only true but it was also the testament of how vulnerable Reid was feeling at the moment. It always had been this way, Reid rarely voiced his issues and when he actually went to someone asking for help with his problems he did so because he exhausted almost every avenue he could think of to fix things on his own.

Aaron realized that Reid was a victim of bullying long before Reid himself started insinuating in very carefully dropped hints that he was bullied and there was a time when Aaron himself used to very carefully get between the bully and Reid, mindful to not diminish Reid's slowly growing confidence in himself as an agent but visibly enough for the bully to notice that this kind of behavior next time won't go unnoticed and unpunished. But the more confidence Reid was gaining in himself the more Aaron withdrew himself from that position because he knew that Reid was confident in himself and his abilities to handle wannabe bullies on his own.

And Aaron was so confident in his team and the belief that they knew each other well enough to know each others issues and triggers and he had trusted them to handle their differences like adults they were supposed to be and now he knew that his own indifference and allowing JJ to work out her issues on her own without tripping her confidence as a profiler had made out him not the trusted and just leader he was supposed to be but a conformist, spineless worm who instead of nipping JJ's abusive tendencies in a bud allowed the abuse to continue right under his very nose.

"I don't blame you," Reid said simply. "I can't blame you because I know how hard last few years had been on you and after so many years we spent together you had all the right in the world to expect of us handling our issues on our own like adults we are supposed to be."

"That's..." Aaron started.

"It's not an excuse, Hotch," Reid sighed. "No matter how hard you want to deny it you know that what I'm saying is true."

"It's not and you know it," Aaron protested. "Deep inside you know that it isn't true and that you have every right in the world to be angry with me, for a lot of things..."

"Like Emily not making it out off the table?" Reid asked pointedly. "I tried Hotch, believe me, I tried to be angry with you but every time I worked myself into a righteous snit I saw more than the turf of my own backyard like Morgan did. You really had nothing to say in that hospital corridor, you were there only to listen to the orders of DoD, JJ's orders, that's why you, and not Strauss, were conducting grief assessments. You needed to feel wholly responsible for the decision that wasn't yours to make."

"It wasn't JJ's decision either," Aaron said quietly.

"Now, that's what you want to believe in," Reid snorted. "It's the very same thing she wants you to believe in. Garcia isn't the only person who can get into heavily encrypted government databases, take what she wants and get away unnoticed. And unlike you I saw the whole file regarding the operation Lauren. JJ initiated it and she carried it out from the very beginning to almost very end."

"The operation was need-to-know only..." Aaron stated.

"I needed to know," Reid shrugged. "I needed to know if I should trust her to have my back because last time she was supposed to have it without as much as a fucking blink she watched how I was falling apart right in front of her because everything I was going through in few months before Emily supposedly died started being too much for me and I needed a friend, I needed someone who for an effing hour or two would be strong for me, who would allow me to bawl my eyes out in front of them without judging me, someone whom I could tell that I couldn't imagine losing a friend so shortly after burying another," he paused and licked his lips before he added, "I wanted, I really wanted to tell her everything that's been bothering me but I... every time I opened my mouth and wanted to say Elle's name I ended saying Emily's... 'Good instincts usually tell you what to do long before your head has figured it out'. It's Michael Burke, one of the truest sentences I ever came upon. Were her actions justifiable?" he sighed. "Emily came back and she went away alive, that counts for something."

"You still care for her," Aaron said quietly as he looked Reid in the face.

"I care for a lot of people, Hotch," Reid said softly as he looked at Aaron. "But caring for them doesn't mean that I have to trust them with my vulnerabilities. Because the true measure of a friendship, true friendship, for me is not counted by the amount of time you spend together but by the amount of trust in another person to let them stand by you not when you are at your best but at your worst, at your most vulnerable. In our line of work showing vulnerability is a danger to your own life and the life of others," he paused to lower his eyes for a moment and he raised them again before he added, "My life matters to me and I have and always will entrust you with it. And I know that you would do the same for me."

"I'll handle informing JJ," Aaron promised.

"No," Reid shook his head before he yawned. "It's my case and I will lead it to the very end. I'm just not going to hurry very much with releasing its certain aspects and I promise that when I will tell JJ the truth I will be at my mildest, kindest and most considerate because it will be the last time JJ will see that side of me in direct relation to her and that next time she will get out of the line I won't hesitate to pull a rank and you aren't going to oppose me unless I would do so in front of the strangers and you know very well that I won't."

"I'll still talk with her about her behavior," Aaron said.

"After she will get out of the line," Reid muttered. "You don't warn the rat that's looking for cheese in a hiding spot that the cheese is under low level voltage, you wait for the rat to figure out that the cheese supremely sucks."

"Somehow I'm hearing a bitch in there," Aaron muttered.

"True, but mild and mannered Doctor Reid will be gone only for her," Reid yawned.

Aaron sighed before he said, "Your bully, your call, your punishment, my blessing. Just remember to be considerate with the level of mauling because we are two agents down and we really don't need being three agents down."

"I wouldn't dream of it," Reid sighed as he lowered himself. "And I really don't have to tell you that you know how to fix the problem with low number of agents."

"You already have your own opinion on whom I should hire, don't you?" Aaron asked as he followed Reid's example and lied down. "Care to share your insight with me?"

"Nah, I'm waiting for you to figure it out on your own because I've been already trampling in your territory a bit too much," Reid said sleepily. "But I give you about a week to ten days to reach similar conclusions I did."

"Smartass," Aaron sighed.

"Guilty," Reid yawned. "Who do you think I learned it from?"

"Double smartass," Aaron retorted sleepily.

"Provable genius," Reid murmured.

"Provable evil genius," Aaron sighed.

He closed his eyes wanting to contemplate in peace how on earth Reid, a genius, but still a regular field agent had managed to get into files concerning Emily's status. He didn't break into DoD database all by himself which meant that someone else did it for him. But who would have risked being found out...

 

Sleep Deprived

In Aaron's dreams, and nightmares as well, Matthew Thoreau never uttered a single word, the testament of the gravest secret he had kept from Aaron, his illness which in the end had torn them away. His alter ego in Aaron's dreams was a contradiction to real Matthew who, if he was in good enough mood and hooked to his favorite Bloody Mary could give both Reid and Garcia a run for their money in talking department.

Both dreams and nightmares had varied as the years passed. In the early years after Matthew's suicide for most of the time Aaron found himself stuck in that weird nightmare which always started out with Matthew coming back home alive and well, through Aaron's mouth apologizing for scaring him like he did and promising that they will always be together. After they greeted each other the dream had varied from depending what about Matthew Aaron at the moment was missing the most, it was always something pleasant and familiar but it always ended the same way, leading to their bedroom, then into their bed or on very, very rare cases floor by the bed. They almost always made love, if not they usually cuddled and always Aaron had found himself falling asleep in his dream only to wake up what felt like seconds later to holding his lover's rooting corpse in his arms.

As the years had passed his subconsciousness had learned how to avoid the nightmare, supplying new surroundings, far away from their home and later on from Aaron's home he was sharing with Haley. Matthew still didn't speak but he didn't need to, ten years is an awful lot of time to get to know someone and Aaron knew Matthew so well that they could have an entire conversations in non-verbal signs for what seemed hours, they would speak about things they had in common, about their differences or they would just sit together in whichever place Aaron's sanity had found safe.

But Aaron's sanity wasn't there to protect him at all times and there were moments, especially once Aaron's divorce was finalized when Matthew's shadow had sneaked into Aaron's home and into his bed. Blessedly when it happened he almost always found himself waking up to the sound of alarm clock going off and clutching a pillow to his chest.

Then came the time when Matthew had went away, leaving his place in Aaron's dream to Haley and she was speaking, enough for both of them, she raged, she screamed, she cried, things Aaron's subconsciousness knew she should be doing before Foyet killed her. But as the time passed Haley's rage, Aaron's anger at himself, had quieted. She was just there, seated at the table, finger-painting with Jack while Aaron was preparing dinner for them, seated on the couch with a nameless, faceless book, sipping slowly a glass of wine and just being there. Unlike Matthew Haley in Aaron's dreams never lead Aaron to the bedroom, never kissed him in any other but a platonic manner.

But slowly, very slowly Matthew had returned to Aaron's dreams, to Aaron's desires for passion Aaron's mind always associated with him. Matthew came back but at the same time Haley didn't go away. They never met in Aaron's dream, like they never met in real life but they coexisted in Aaron's subconsciousness. The lover and the wife. The passion and the comfort. Ying and Yang.

Then along came Beth and they both slowly vanished from Aaron's dreams, appearing as strangers on the street, never together, always apart.

This dream was new, weird and a little uncomfortable to Aaron because both Haley and Matthew were in it at the same time. They were sitting face to face at the table in Aaron's apartment, sipping coffee and doing a crossword together, swiftly taking the pen out of each others hands as if they were the best friends in the whole world. At first they didn't seem to notice that Aaron was in the room with them, at the very least if they did neither had acknowledged his presence.

Finally after what felt like eternity Haley stood up, smiled at Aaron as she approached him and placed a gentle kiss on his cheek before she smiled and said, "I'll see you later. Have fun, Aaron."

Aaron nodded before he looked from Haley to Matthew, who stood up from the table and walked over to the coffee maker to refill his mug. Only after the front door shut after Haley Aaron turned his gaze away.

"Let her go," Matthew spoke.

Aaron whirled his head around to look at him. In seventeen years that had passed since Matthew's death Matthew never uttered a single word until now and yet his voice had sounded exactly like Aaron remembered it.

"She is beyond your reach, Aaron," Matthew said as he leaned against the counter and after a pause for a sip of coffee he added, "As a matter of fact, so am I."

"I know that," Aaron answered defiantly and added quietly, "I buried both of you."

"Exactly," Matthew shrugged. "We are dead, you can't change that, no matter how much you want to change that."

"I know that," Aaron sighed. "But I can't help but... wish..."

"I know," Matthew nodded. "Some people get to spend their entire life with their beloved ones."

"I didn't," Aaron grimaced, partly in shame, partly in resignation.

"But I did," Matthew said simply. "So did Haley, in her own way."

"Morgan," Aaron nodded.

"You, Morgan, Jack, the girls," Matthew said. "Life isn't that simple and feelings, emotions, desires... it's a Gordian knot and Alexander the Great resistant one on that. It's a very notable case of one of the first uses of Occam's razor... But why I'm telling you that?"

"Because you are my subconsciousness and you are absorbing things I'm absorbing both consciously and subconsciously," Aaron answered. "Reid's been reading the biography of Alexander the Great lately."

"Actually he's been reading the book about the scandals of ancient Rome," Matthew corrected him.

"Why we are talking about Reid?" Aaron asked.

"Because he's been on your mind an awful lot lately," Matthew said simply.

"He's going through a hard time lately, again," Aaron answered.

"Exactly," Matthew nodded. "You said it yourself, he's going, he's not stopping, not throwing self-pity parties... a lot of them at the very least, because that last case... but you know just as much as I do that Spencer Reid is a relentless, resilient son of a bitch, no offense meant to his mother but someone really has to say it at loud, what's more, he needs to hear it."

"I'm not going to call him a son of a bitch," Aaron protested.

"Why not?" Matthew frowned. "It's a compliment and you know that he will see it this way. What's more, you know that's one of his biggest problems. He is no longer that newborn giraffe from the academy, greener than... I always had a problem with that, what deserves the right to be greener than something else, there are so many shades of green..."

Aaron smiled, that was Matthew he remembered.

"Let's skip the problem with colors for the sake of the real problem," Matthew continued. "You hit it when you two were talking when he returned. You taught him, you gave him tools, you know that he is ready, has been ready for what you were preparing him for. I want you to say it at loud, to me, to yourself."

"Say what?" Aaron asked.

"Time doesn't stand still and while Dave's position in BAU is unshakable at some point he will admit, first to himself, and then to you, that his age is slowly, very slowly starting to take its tool on him, his mind will remain sharp but his body... He is fifty-seven years old and not getting younger, at best he will wring out of brass two, maybe three more years on duty but sooner rather than later he will either decide to or will be forced to retire or take the position of the consultant. Who will take over his position on the team? JJ? She's making huge progress as a profiler but with her ongoing issues dumping additional responsibility on her would not only be cruel to her but also to you, not to mention dangerous on the long run.. Oh yes, dangerous. We both know that experience isn't the only thing an agent needs on Dave's post and that right now JJ doesn't have enough of it. One of the unwritten requirements for the position of Senior SSA is having a pair of brass cojones to disagree with the Unit Chief, is having balls to confront him, not about your own issues, not things Senior SSA wants to achieve for him or herself... You don't need a shadow in that position, Aaron, you need someone who has courage to take you aside and won't hesitate to shuffle through your bullshit, won't hesitate to slap you over the head to help you readjust your priorities."

"Morgan would do that," Aaron said.

"Morgan? You heard the rumors and I don't have to repeat them to you. Morgan was ready for it four years ago and he had proved to himself, yourself and the brass that he deserves what they are going to offer him eventually and deep inside you know that the right thing to do, the best thing to do for him is accepting that," Matthew said. "Of course there is also nameless and faceless but seriously, Aaron, you are too old for that, too stubborn, too experienced and there is only a handful of people outside of the team you would trust with and in this position and most of them are preparing for their own retirement while the rest is more than pleased with their own positions. Newbies..." Matthew grimaced.

"Morgan had an affair with Haley," Aaron said. "I don't know if he knows that I know that he did but sooner rather than later he will find out the truth... Any decision regarding his transfer out of the team..."

"He is not that shallow, neither are you," Matthew said simply.

"It might not happen," Aaron shrugged.

"True but it doesn't mean that Morgan will never leave," Matthew pointed out. "It's a matter of leverage, Aaron. The job, the woman or the job and the woman. Who knows?" he shrugged. "But that doesn't stop you from worrying. Sure rather big part of you wants to hop on the plane to London, find the man wherever he is now and smack him in the face, maybe even kick him in the nuts and yeah, he deserves it, he knows you, he should have known better than hopping into the same bed with Haley. But you know that it's a petty excuse and you don't do petty. You are bigger and smarter than that."

"I trashed his house, that's petty, not bigger," Aaron objected.

"That's angry and impulsive," Matthew said. "Besides the damage you had done is fixable. You hadn't destroyed anything he or you cannot replace. You know that old adage. The best revenge is forgiveness, especially for someone who isn't expecting to be forgiven, at all or easily. Your opinion matters to him, it mattered four years ago and you withheld it."

"He was capable of leading a team on his own but he couldn't truly trust anyone," Aaron replied.

"And you aren't guilty of that?" Matthew asked pointedly.

"It wasn't only my decision..." Aaron started.

"No, it was the order you were given, but it doesn't change the facts," Matthew shrugged. "Morgan learned his lesson. You have to admit to yourself that he is ready to move on, so are you but he needs to hear it from you, just like you need to hear it from me, Aaron," he put the mug back on the counter and crossed the room, he stopped in front of Aaron, placed his hands on Aaron's shoulders and gave Aaron a small smile before he said, "You gotta go after the things you want while you're still in your prime, Aaron. Somewhere out there there is someone who gets you like no one else ever did, someone who doesn't judge you for things you have no control of, someone who knows your faults and doesn't want to change you because not all things that make you Aaron Hotchner fit their disillusioned image of a perfect life and relationship, someone who understands who you were, who you are and who you are going to be. You are going to have that happily ever after you always wanted to have. You deserve to be happy, Aaron. But you will never be fully happy if you won't let go of the ghosts to whom you are constantly coming back, to me, to Haley... We are dead, you are not and you have a shitload of years to live ahead of you, don't waste them on things you cannot change but appreciate what you have..."

"I do," Aaron said softly.

"Then why I'm still here?" Matthew asked with a soft smile.

"One last hurrah before the apocalypse?" Aaron whispered.

"Sounds to me like one more before the road," Matthew chuckled. "So where... mph..."

Aaron shut him up with a kiss, he knew that it wasn't a real kiss and that he was still dreaming but if it was going to be the last time he was going to hold Matthew in his arms, even if it was a dream...

The kiss was possessive, and brutal, filled – like almost every dream encounter they had in past seventeen years – with the pain over a lifetime together which Matthew's death denied them. Matthew's hands were in Aaron's hair, fingers clutching on the strands painfully but it was a good pain because it was making this dream more real and Aaron knew that his own vicious grip on Matthew's hips was going to leave bruises, so would do the doorknob against which Aaron pressed Matthew in the desperate pursue for some flat surface against which he could lean him on.

Their noses bumped, teeth clashed together before Aaron let his tongue dwell into Matthew's mouth as moved his lower body so his right leg was rubbing Matthew's erection making the man moan into Aaron's mouth.

Matthew tasted delicious, kind of peculiar, like coffee and coconut with a hint of mint. He smelt even better though, like coconut with a hint of vanilla and the combination of both sent another shot of arousal through Aaron's body making him buck against Matthew.

Aaron inhaled taking in more of that wonderfully heady scent of Matthew, vanilla and coconut.

Matthew... vanilla... and coconut.

Coconut? Why coconut? Why Matthew would smell like coconut while he couldn't stand the smell of coconut because he was allergic to coconut oil and any contact with it ended with almost immediate appearance of rash and blisters. Why the fuck then Aaron was clearly smelling coconut? And who the hell he was snogging in his sleep?

Sleep... he was sleeping which meant that he was in his bed and that at this very moment he was... he was... rubbing his erection against equally hard length that had to belong to... Spencer Reid and not just that because suddenly and very painfully he realized that his mouth was inch away from what looked like a first stage of an impressive hickey, left by his own teeth.

As soon as he realized that Aaron ceased moving altogether, hoping, praying that somehow he didn't wake Reid up because being caught masturbating by wide awake and quite irritated Spencer Reid was bad enough, molesting the same man in his sleep... If any god or goddess would happen to listen and have shrews of decency left to grant Aaron the ability to disappear into thin air... or at the very least making Reid a very sound sleeper for this night and this very moment only so Aaron could get away...

But getting away wasn't much of an option without waking up Reid, not when Aaron's left hand was buried in Reid's hair, Reid's left hand was on Aaron's shoulder and Reid's bad leg was threw over Aaron's right leg.

And of course Reid was wide awake and most probably plotting Aaron's quick and painful demise.

"I've just discovered the new meaning of the phrase heavy-sleeper," Reid stated calmly with a hint of amusement in his voice. "A literal one," he sighed. "So will you roll away or are you planning to play dead for the rest of the night and possibly the rest of your life?"

"I was hoping that whichever deity happens to be on duty will answer 'I want to fade into the obscurity' call," Aaron mumbled before he quickly rolled away as he slowly started entertaining the merits of suffocating himself with his own pillow.

"Something that doesn't exist can't answer mental calls, especially the bizarre ones," Reid shrugged before he grabbed the blanket which made Aaron sat up on the bed.

"I'm sorry," Aaron sighed as he rubbed his eyes.

He needed to get up and move to the living-room, for the night, and probably the rest of Reid's and Lily's stay with him and Jack, in current circumstances he wasn't going to stay there long because now Reid would make damn sure to move out of the apartment as fast as humanly possible.

"For what?" Reid asked curiously.

"I pretty much molested you in your sleep and you are asking what I'm sorry for?" Aaron scoffed. "I'm no better..."

"... than any other healthy man with a libido and warm body next to him in the same bed?" Reid supplied. "Last time I checked penises didn't come equipped with a... that's a really bad combination of words considering the issue at hand... ah.. well, to the hell with it, with a brain and they are unable to think on their own. It's physiology 101, Hotch..."

"Are you listening to yourself?" Aaron asked.

"Yes," Reid said simply. "I'm attempting to explain the physiology behind so called morning wood to a man fifteen years, six months and a day my senior, one that has a living, breathing proof that he did have sex at some point of his life, at least once. The same one who had told me yesterday that a sexual release is an acceptable relaxation method..."

"The same one who almost molested you in your sleep," Aaron pointed out.

"And the same one who had stopped when he realized what he was doing," Reid pointed out.

"After Charles..." Aaron started.

"Charles Hankel is no longer an issue," Reid huffed before he sat up and shifted on the bed so he and Aaron were facing each other. "That son of a bitch is dead," he snapped before he added more softly, "so is his son. My sex life hadn't ended that night, Hotch."

"My kind of did," Aaron muttered as he wrapped his hands around his middle.

He didn't like confessing that, he felt too exposed but after what he nearly had done he owed Reid an explanation.

"And now..." Aaron continued. "I'm no better..."

Reid sighed before he crossed his legs and rested his elbows on his knees as he said, "The first time I wanted to have sex after Georgia was eight weeks after the kidnapping, it doesn't even count as a sexual intercourse but as an attempt to have one. I tried to convince myself that I could get through one from start to finish but the only thing I achieved that night was running out of the bloody apartment of the man I went home with, in my underwear, half-opened shirt and with my pants in hand, after I managed to tie him with his own tie to the bedpost, loosely of course because I didn't want to harm him, I only wanted a head-start in getting the fuck out of there as fast as humanly possible."

"Why aren't you..." Aaron started.

"The second time?" Reid continued. "I was lucky that he was too drunk to do anything and I was actually too stoned to care, and of course I was lucky that he was more considerate when he was sober and we parted our ways in peace. The third time," he paused and licked his lips. "I knew better, it was months after the kidnapping, close to a year, I was clean, he was clean and I was in control the entire time. I profiled the crap out of him and I played on it, I used him, I'm not proud of it but the sex itself was consensual and plausible, we didn't swear eternal devotion to one another, just that by the end of it we will both hopefully have an orgasm and when one of us will tell the other to stop then the other would stop. That was the deal, it worked to our mutual benefit."

"You told him?" Aaron asked skeptically.

Reid shook his head before he said, "If he figured it out then he had done so on his own because I hadn't say a word but he had guidelines, things I told him I will allow freely, things he had to be careful with and an impressive list of no-nos. He had done the same for me. It worked every-time, we didn't pursue anything more serious on the long run because we both knew that we were too different to make it work without killing each other within a month after moving together. But that's not important, what is important is that I made sure that when I would say stop he will stop and later on I trusted him enough to know that he would stop. That's all that matters, you stopped, you weren't fully conscious... What else I'm supposed to do? Get into your dream and beat the dream crap of whomever set you off?"

Aaron allowed the corners of his lips to twitch.

"Besides," Reid sighed. "I already told you that I trust you with my life, I'm pretty sure that my ass is a part of that equation otherwise I'm in trouble and I really don't want to release a BOLO after my buttocks. Imagine how it would look like. Not to mention the last time I had a photograph taken of my naked rear was thirty years ago because Aunt Ethel needed a proof that her homemade recipe for diaper rash had worked."

Aaron coughed trying to chortle the laughter that was building up inside him. Reid shouldn't attempt to defuse this situation with humor, he shouldn't have to defuse the situation with humor.

"Why you are being so bloody calm about it?" Aaron huffed. "You should be pissed off, you should..."

"I know the difference," Reid said as he shrugged before he straightened his back. "What I know is that Charles Hankel is dead, his son who did this to me is dead too, none of them is going to come back to hurt me. What I know is that I trust the man in front of me, both with my life and stopping when I say so. What I know is that the only thing that would keep you from stopping when I would tell you to stop would be if you would completely lost all of your marbles... and even if that would happen... not only I know the signs of that but I also happen to know how to defend myself. If you continued what you were doing without my consent and hadn't stopped you would have discovered what being tied to the bedpost with your own pajama bottoms feels like."

"That bedposts are movable and pajama bottoms aren't exactly the best restraining material," Aaron pointed out.

"The heater is harder to move and my handcuffs have a longer durability than your pants in restraining department," Reid said simply. "But we are getting away from the real subject at hand. Is this the first time..."

"You are asking as if you wouldn't notice that someone is trying to molest you in your sleep," Aaron muttered.

"I would," Reid shrugged. "That's not what I wanted to ask you about," he added simply. "What I want to know is this the first time after you and Beth split that you are consciously aware of having a wet dream."

"It wasn't a wet dream," Aaron scoffed.

"I beg to differ," Reid gave him a small smile. "I'm pretty sure that in the morning I will have to make a story about a gigantic mosquito that bit me while I was sleeping and that I will have to explain that this mosquito doesn't go after the kids."

"It wasn't a real wet dream," Aaron protested. "It was more of my subconsciousness wants to play shrink with me kind of dream that might have turned into a one..." he sighed.

Reid nodded but didn't say a word, obviously expecting Aaron to continue.

"I'm sorry," Aaron said quietly. "I know that sorry can't turn back the time..."

"It's okay," Reid said simply. "I've got to warn you that I'm going to be nosy and obnoxious and that you can tell me to fuck off but I want you to try to remember that I'm trying to help you..."

Aaron grimaced but nodded slowly.

"When was the last time when you have sex with someone?" Reid asked bluntly.

"Reid," Aaron growled as he glared at Reid. "I don't think..."

"It's important, really," Reid said calmly. "When was the last time when you had a successful sexual intercourse with someone? And yes, it's not my business but like I said earlier I'm trying to help you..."

"Are you counting handjobs?" Aaron snorted.

"As long as the hand in question didn't belong to you," Reid nodded. "Handjobs, blowjobs, footjobs, vaginal, anal, intercrucal, mammary, axillary, frottage, rimming. You name it as long as there was your orgasm and another person involved."

"It's not exactly your business Doctor Crude," Aaron muttered.

"I've also heard of men who get off by rubbing their penises into their partners' hair or belly-button," Reid shrugged. "I only named the most popular kinds of sexual inter-courses that involve two people in the equation. Take your pick."

"I hate you," Aaron scoffed.

"When?" Reid asked simply.

"Now," Aaron muttered.

"We already established that," Reid shrugged. "When? After your divorce?"

"Maybe," Aaron snorted.

"I'm taking it as a yes," Reid said simply. "That's all?"

"No," Aaron muttered. "There were a few hook ups between my divorce and... and Foyet," he grimaced. "After that... a handjob or two with Beth before everything went to hell. Did I mention that I hate you?"

Reid nodded slowly.

"So what now Doctor Crude?" Aaron grumbled. "My sexual life sucks, I know that it sucks... Now that we established the facts can we drop it?"

"And you are lecturing me that sexual release is an approved relaxation method," Reid shrugged.

"You were asking for intercourse involving two people," Aaron snorted.

"I know, I also know that there is only as far as one can go with his own hand," Reid nodded. "And that sometimes a man needs a hand that isn't his own. Not to mention that for some men paid sex is a shameful release, the new lowest of low. You aren't judging anyone choosing paid sex but you don't want to pay, not yet, because in your mind it's a rock bottom, one from which you are worried that you won't return..."

Aaron puffed and crossed his arms over his chest. Reid hit it, hard and dead-center.

"You have a better idea than an escort, don't you?" Aaron muttered sourly.

"Actually it's not my idea," Reid said simply.

"It's not?" Aaron asked skeptically.

"The idea itself is as old as time itself," Reid shrugged. "Or just as old I think. You don't have to look very far for an example. Sure, we are making out of it a running joke everyone or almost everyone knows about but let's talk about it from scientific point of view."

"At three o'clock in the morning?" Aaron pointed out.

"It's either that or allowing you to crucify yourself for having basic human needs," Reid said calmly. "Which brings me back to the subject at hand which is what in the name of Einstein David Rossi and Erin Strauss are seeing in one another?"

"You want to talk about them at three o'clock in the morning?" Aaron repeated as he glared at Reid who gave him a small smile and quirked his left eyebrow. "Fine, let's have it your way. In one corner we have a fifty-seven years old trice divorced, once widowed seasoned profiler, one of the founding fathers of BAU, famous writer with a bank account to prove it. Sassy, dry-witted, intelligent and when it comes to women an old dog who is capable of charming the pants off of whichever woman he fancies."

"In the other corner we have a fifty... what?" Reid looked expectantly at Aaron.

"Fifty sometime in December this year," Aaron explained.

"Almost fifty years old newly divorced mother of three, Section Chief of one of the most prestigious and hard-assed units in the whole F B of I and a highly functioning, and luckily a recovering one, alcoholic. Seasoned bureaucrat and politician just as much as a seasoned agent, that's a helluva of responsibility on the shoulders of a woman who had to fight twice, if not trice, as hard as a man would do for her position in which she's been staying for eight years," Reid said. "Because of that she's got to be though, stubborn, anal-retentive when it comes down to doing her job well. And because she is where she is she's got to be smart, a bit of a drill sergeant and a bit of a bitch, with all due respect of course."

Aaron smirked, "Don't let her ever hear you say it."

"No worries about that, I like my job," Reid smirked. "Let's get back to what attracts to each other two stubborn, strong personalities to share bodily fluids."

Aaron frowned before he allowed his arms to relax as he leaned back against the headboard and said, "I don't know what attracts Erin to Dave but I think that I know what might be Dave's turn on when it comes to Erin. Out of all three Mrs Rossi Carolyn is the one about whom Dave always talked with utmost respect. She was strong, stubborn, self-sufficient and independent, not overly needy or nagging. She was doing fine with him and without him until life had gotten into the way."

"The perfect wife," Reid said pensively before he added, "Let's look at Rossi now. He is a stubborn jackass and he can be a dick when he wants to be one. But hey, we love him regardless because as hard as he can razz us when he does that he's mindful of how much of it we can take and when it really matters we can count on him to be there. He's got an ass made out of stone in that I don't care how many times you are going to kick me because I'm still going to be there when you will be done with throwing a tantrum manner."

"True," Aaron nodded with a small smile.

"That's what Strauss sees too," Reid said simply. "Sure he is a pain in the ass but he is, constant, unmovable, persistent and giving a damn. That's what she needs, someone giving a damn about what she wants, what she needs, someone who at times will know better than her what might be the best for her, someone whose ego won't bruise when she would call him an asshole. She trusts him and respects him, I'm not sure about Rossi's level of trust in her but from what you said he respects her, in his own way. And like I said before these two as much as we joke about them are the classic example of friends who know the benefits of having one and trusting and respecting each other enough to unwind the stress together."

Aaron frowned as he nodded. He understood what Reid was hinting at but Reid was forgetting about certain logistic detail because there was no way...

"The question is..." Reid said slowly derailing Aaron from his thoughts. "Whatever or not you would be capable of allowing yourself to unwind with someone who good mother nature hadn't equipped with breast and vagina?"

Aaron stared at Reid dubiously, he wasn't suggesting that they... should...

"Are you sure that it's wise?" Aaron asked skeptically.

"I'm sure that I hadn't heard about any woman named Matthew," Reid said simply. "Of course Matthew as a girl name had its very brief moment of popularity sometime in seventies but it's far more popular male name and I'm pretty sure that I heard you moaning it into my ear not so long ago. As for whatever or not is it wise?" he shrugged. "Neither you nor I are looking for commitment right now, we have issues, big issues, with control, with relationships. Your last relationship with a woman had ended due to her unwillingness to help you navigate through a minefield of your issues and not only ones related to sex. We respect and trust one another, we are adults and less likely to take an offense for 'I don't want to do that', more capable of taking a hint, we don't need good first impressions, release and respect of each other boundaries is enough. That's of course if you are willing to try," he added the last sentence after a brief pause.

"And if I'm not?" Aaron asked quietly.

"Then we will pretend that neither you nor I had woken up tonight and that this conversation never happened," Reid said calmly.

Aaron lowered his head as he looked at his hands. The decision should be simple: roll over, get back to sleep and never come back to this conversation ever again. It was the right thing to do, the best thing to do, one that wouldn't end blowing into their faces later on. In the end Reid would find a place on his own and he and Lily would move out and on with their lives. They both deserved it. Someday Aaron too will find the right person to let in and they would be happy. As for the in between there was always a hand, maybe an escort or a one night – and see you never again – stand. That decision wouldn't end up hurting both of them on the long run, it wouldn't put their newly dusted off friendship in harms way, it wouldn't cost them their jobs if it would come down to that.

It should be this easy. It should be this simple. Roll over, get back to sleep and over it, forget that it ever happened. Why he wasn't doing that?

"I..." he finally started and licked his lips before he tried again, "I want to... I want to stop being afraid... and ashamed of what he had done to me. I want to remember how pleasure feels like without the shadow of George fucking Foyet in the back of my mind."

A gentle, long-fingered hand settled on his shoulder which made him raise his head and look at Reid who moved closer to Aaron with a soft, gentle smile and whisper on his lips, "I can help you with that if you would let me."

"It's going to end ugly," Aaron protested quietly.

"Only if we will let it end ugly," Reid assured him. "If we will forget who we are and what we are getting ourselves into."

Aaron licked his lips before he asked softly, "What we are getting ourselves into?"

"You and me we were the pretenders..." Reid started.

"Bruce Springsteen," Aaron smiled. "So you do rock."

"I do classic rock," Reid nodded as he mirrored Aaron's smile.

"You do The Boss," Aaron added with a smirk.

"Not yet," Reid retorted. "I'm in the process of negotiating doing the boss."

"Somebody that you can just talk to and a little of that human touch, right?" Aaron asked feeling slightly nervous.

"No prayers or pity or crutches, just human touch," Reid nodded. "Am I asking for too much?"

Was he? Was wanting that human connection, being able to voice his issues, his doubts and his worries without the fear of being judged as weak too much to ask for?

Reid knew, he knew and he wouldn't judge Aaron if something he would do would startle Aaron. He had been there and he got out, whatever or not he got out of there completely Aaron had yet to determine but he could trust Reid to know his own boundaries and to help Aaron find his own.

"Will you let me know if something would bother you?" Aaron asked quietly as he looked Reid in the eye.

Reid nodded before he asked, "Will you?"

"I'll do my best," Aaron said nervously before he licked his lips and asked softly, "What now?"

"What you are up to," Reid answered with a gentle smile. "Nothing big or nothing at all, for tonight."

"Big needs logistics I doubt we have at hand," Aaron agreed.

"We have a hand," Reid supplied. "Four of them actually and you don't have to worry about logistics because I'm quite sure that I saw necessary supplies when I was looking for the spare box of Kleenex, the problem lies elsewhere."

Aaron frowned before he opened the drawer, picked up the box of condoms and immediately dropped it back inside when he read what they were made from.

"Latex," he said. "With your allergy..."

"I don't want to be fucked into anaphylactic shock, multi-organ failure takes out all the pleasure from sex," Reid agreed.

"You don't have your own?" Aaron asked.

"I do, in one of the boxes in the storage unit with the rest of not overly important stuff I can temporarily live without," Reid answered.

"Fuck," Aaron coughed.

"Out of question," Reid nodded before he allowed himself to smile and Aaron found himself responding to that smile. "We are lucky that I'm not allergic to strawberries. Would you mind answering what's with you and all things little, red and seedy?"

Aaron tried to keep the blush from creeping on his face but he didn't do a very good job from keeping it off.

"I like strawberries," he shrugged finally. "They smell nice, taste great, make good cosmetics for occasional self-pampering session. What's with you and coconut?"

"You've seen my hair after using hotel shampoos?" Reid asked. "I look like a haystack with eyes, if you add a wool into the mix you get a very electrifying personality. Besides it smells nice and tastes good. You like it too," he smirked as he gestured to the hickey. "Maybe it reminds you of Matthew?" he suggested.

"Matthew was allergic to coconut," Aaron sighed. "Nearly as bad as you are to latex."

"Oh," Reid mumbled. "I'm sorry."

"It's nothing," Aaron shrugged. "It's been a long while since someone asked about him or about something related to him."

"What happened to him?" Reid asked gently.

"I really don't want to talk about it, not tonight," Aaron sighed. "I'll probably, someday..."

"But today is not that day," Reid said as he moved slowly so he was sitting next to Aaron before he wrapped both of his arms around Aaron's shoulders and he pulled him in a tight hug. "I'm sorry nevertheless," he whispered into Aaron's ear.

"It's OK," Aaron sighed as he wrapped his arms around Reid's shoulders and caught the sight of the bruise he left in the juncture of Reid's neck and shoulder, "I'm sorry though," he added as he run his forefinger over the edge of the bruise earning a shudder from Reid. "Do you have a shirt that's going to cover that?"

"I think that I've got something, few somethings actua..." his breath hitched when Aaron sneaked out his tongue to lick the spot, "..lly," he finished shakily as he tightened his hold on Aaron's shoulders. "If you will keep doing that I'm going to approach Lester who is planning a charity play to raise money for the surgery of her neighbor's kid... I heard... oh.. that's nice.. that Dracula part is still waiting to be taken..." Aaron smirked into Reid's neck as he nipped the sensitive skin earning both a shudder and a small yelp of pain.

"Tell her," Aaron whispered into Reid's ear, "that the only way to get me into playing Dracula's part would be conceding to letting you play Mina's part."

"Not happening," Reid mewled before he gave Aaron's neck a long lick and nipped on his left ear. "The only way to get me into a dress with full make up on is convincing me that the case requires me to go drag or paying me a ridiculous amount of money for it and by ridiculous amount of money I mean really ridiculous amount of money."

"How big?" Aaron smirked.

"For one novemdecillion of dollars I would even do a striptease," Reid murmured. "Very big, very easy money, only a fool would say no."

"I don't think that such an amount of money even exists in the whole world," Aaron said. "Which makes you technically incorruptible. But out of curiosity what you would do with so much money?"

"What else I could do with so much money other than ruling the world?" Reid asked playfully. "You never dreamed about world domination?"

"Becoming the director of FBI was enough of an aim for a longer while when I was younger, these days I'm happy with what I have. Not to mention the fact that people are no longer pleased with Fickler at the helm of the bureau..."

"So I've heard," Reid nodded. "Power corrupts," he added before he nipped Aaron's ear again, "and absolute power corrupts absolutely. You don't trust yourself with having too much of it. Que sera, sera, there will be others, if not better then at the very least more careful ones."

"I'm more worried about the careful ones, they tend to shuffle their responsibilities down on their subordinates," Aaron admitted. "I'm not fancying losing a job because someone up there is a thick-headed idiot who doesn't understand basic English."

"Technically I should arrest you for offending the director of the agency," Reid said cheekily as he rubbed his cheek against Aaron's neck.

"Technically this charge won't hold in court," Aaron quipped. "I didn't mention any names. Former prosecutor, I know what will stand still and what will not."

"Speaking about standing," Aaron could feel Reid's smirk against his neck, "Can you stand having your lap full in this position?"

Surge of arousal jolted through Aaron's body. Could he stand having Reid pressing him down into the bed with his back against the headboard? It certainly wasn't the most comfortable position, for Reid at the very least, but it gave Aaron enough room to maneuver to switch it into a different one if he would feel trapped.

"We can try," Aaron replied as he allowed his hands to drift from Reid's shoulders, down his back to rest them on his hips.

Reid moved his legs until Aaron's legs were between his but instead of sitting on Aaron's tights he remained in the kneeling position until Aaron pulled him down before he moved his arms around Reid's waist.

The act itself wasn't new or unfamiliar, he'd done it before, to another person. The mechanism hadn't changed, the man in his lap did.

"We don't have to do anything," Reid said calmly, patiently as he allowed his hands to trail down Aaron's shoulders and arms.

"I know," Aaron nodded feeling Reid's hands move upward back to his shoulders. "It's just... been a while since I've kissed someone with facial hair."

"I can shave if you want," Reid said as he shifted in Aaron's lap.

"At three o'clock in the morning?" Aaron asked with a small smile as he leaned forward.

"Technically it's three... mph," Reid started when Aaron leaned forward even further and pressed his lips against Reid's.

It was more of a peck rather than a proper kiss but it allowed Aaron to feel Reid's soft, moist lips against his, delicate in contradiction to sharp and tickling hair of the stubble over and under Reid's lips. Not exactly strange. Not exactly familiar either. New. Intriguing. Fruity.

"Coconut toothpaste?" Aaron asked curiously.

"Lily's idea," Reid replied sheepishly. "It has certain perks and more importantly a due date and happens to be good enough to not let it waste and you are the one to talk, Silly Strawberry."

"It's Jack's," Aaron said simply.

"It's in your medical cabinet and not in the other bathroom," Reid pointed out. "And it's not that you use it often..."

"Unlike you," Aaron quipped.

"Due date," Reid said as he leaned forward teasingly, a breath away from Aaron's lips.

The movement allowed some of the strands of his hair to slip from behind his right ear and Aaron found himself wanting to bury his hands in those curls, wanting to feel those lips against his again, to feel Reid's body against his.

Their second kiss wasn't as delicate as the first one, it was firmer, braver, more exploratory and lasted longer. It was also scratchy because of Reid's stubble but in a pleasantly rousing and reassuring way because it was Reid, not Beth or any other woman he ever kissed, and Reid unlike them would understand if...

Reid moved closer, pressing his lips against Aaron's more firmly, the movement caused Aaron's hands to slid lower until they were resting against Reid's buttocks, the movement which earned Aaron a whole-body shudder from Reid and gave Aaron a boost of bravado to squeeze the muscles under his palms which earned him another whole-body shudder accompanied by a soft moan and small nip on his bottom lip.

The nip had turned into long, slow kiss with tongues twirling around each other, seeking, sneaking between their mouths; Aaron's fingers twined into Reid's hair while Reid's fingers pressed almost painfully into Aaron's skull alternatively stroking the areas behind Aaron's ear or scratching against Aaron's neck. Gentle and careful at first but more daring as the kiss continued for a very long time, a fate easily achieved due to remembering about breathing through their noses. Fingers pressing against nipples, searching, learning, bringing in new fire and re-awaking old desires to please and to be pleased...

It had been a long time for Aaron, a really long time considering how unsatisfying for him, at the very least in sexual regards, was his relationship with Beth, around three years, a very long time for a single man. It had to be long for Reid too, maybe not just as long as it was for Aaron but long enough for Reid to be frantic enough to divest both himself and Aaron from their t-shirts. Aaron didn't mind, not at all because it allowed him to explore the body of the man in his lap, not heavily muscled but lean and filled in the right places just enough, the result of the only activity for which Reid willing stuffed his germophobia into the furthest corners of his mind in order to devote about an hour to two per week to swimming.

Aaron smirked against Reid's mouth at the thought which made Reid pull away slight and ask curiously, "What?"

"What are the odds of me managing to persuade you into participating in a triathlon with me this year?" Aaron asked cheekily.

Reid wriggled in Aaron's lap, making Aaron groan at the friction of the thin material of his bottoms sliding over his cock just as Reid tapped his finger against his lips before he said, "As big as my pinky," he folded his fingers into a fist so only his pinky was sticking out as he wriggled it, "I would survive a swim, even if it was in Ironman's length, maybe I would even survive the bike ride but I seriously doubt that my leg would forgive me the run after the swim and the bike. What brought this on?"

"Reminiscence," Aaron shrugged with a small smile.

"I distinctly remember your first swimming session differently," Reid said dryly. "And you almost killed us both."

"I only said 'shit', you asked 'where?'," Aaron pointed out.

"I just got back from New York," Reid protested. "The coffee on the train was crappy, I didn't sleep much during the ride or beforehand, you stormed into the pool like Moses towards Red Sea, then you traded places with Egyptians in order to catch up to my laps when I had eighteen minutes worth head-start. At five o' forty-three on effing Monday morning, after almost sleepless night I wasn't going to stroke your wounded ego, especially after you nearly drowned us both."

"I should have listened to you back then," Aaron sighed.

"Why you are bringing it up now?" Reid asked skeptically. "I was angry," he sighed.

"You were also right," Aaron said. "And if I listened to you then..."

"If it wasn't Beth it would have been someone else, Hotch," Reid said gently. "We both know that," he added as he gently stroked his fingers over Aaron's left nipple. "Real life is not a fairytale where a sleeping prince awakes after one hundred years of sleep without issues of the past. Maybe all you two were meant to be was just that, she was the one to wake you up and show you that you can still want someone else and that the life hadn't ended. Her inability to help you deal with your issues is not an excuse to go back to sleep, it's just a hindrance that gives you time to explore new possibilities..."

"You're making it sound like a fairytale," Aaron pointed out.

"There's always a grain of truth in them," Reid shrugged. "I don't believe in fairy-tales. What I do believe is that somewhere out there there is a woman who will get you like no one else ever did, woman who wouldn't judge you for things you have no control of, who will know your faults and wouldn't want to change you because not all things that make you Aaron Hotchner wouldn't fit her disillusioned image of a perfect life and relationship, someone who would understand who you were, who you are and who you are going to be. You are going to have that mph..."

Aaron didn't let him finish, he already heard what Reid was saying before, from Matthew, in the dream that started it all. He didn't need to hear it twice and didn't want to think what it meant, why Reid and Matthew would be using the same words or why certain details of the dream had bothered him, for example why Matthew would be drinking coffee or smelling like coconut, he hated the first and was allergic to the latter, crosswords he did, not very often but occasionally...

Coffee, coconut, crosswords...

… the memory of Reid's grin which chased away his bad mood on their way back from Michigan on a case towards the end of Reid's first year in BAU when a psychotic unsub on PCP during the arrest started to struggle so vehemently that not only he tore away from Morgan's grasp but also in his attempt to escape he first pushed down and then landed on Reid's left ankle so badly that Reid ended with a sprained ankle. Following the incident until they got back to the jet where Aaron brought Reid a book with one thousand crosswords to keep the genius occupied.

Coffee, coconut, crosswords...

… this dream wasn't the first dream Aaron had of Matthew drinking coffee, there were others before, Aaron wasn't sure how many of them he had and for how long but he knew that there were others and if coffee wasn't in there then at the very least there were things related to coffee, like coffee ice-creams or yogurt. He did notice them but he didn't analyze them at the time.

There were other things, small things, stupid things which at the time he dreamed them didn't bother Aaron enough or at all to devote his time to analyzing them. Ties for example, Matthew didn't like to wear them and almost every time he was obliged to wear one he had at least three different excuses for why men shouldn't wear ties, not that he minded them very much when it came down to divesting Aaron from the neck-wear, but in some of Aaron's dreams he did wear them, matching them tastefully to the clothes he was wearing. If he wasn't wearing a tie in Aaron's dream he wore sweaters, something which came naturally for someone who lived in Seattle which in his dreams Aaron hadn't found weird... Or the watch...

Aaron didn't know when it had started but he was beginning to realize that as the time went by Matthew in his dreams began gaining more and more of typically Reid characteristics until the almost the only thing left of Matthew in Aaron's dreams was his old lover's face.

What had started as a reaction to his lover's sudden death over the time had became the safety valve for Aaron's attraction to the younger genius. They were both untouchable, either literally or hypothetically but Matthew was familiar and because of that he was safe to dream about for Aaron and Reid...

Reid had remained untouchable as the time went by but because time didn't stand still he became familiar, safe, someone on whom Aaron could depend, someone to whom he could open up, someone who knew Aaron, still gave a damn about him and didn't judge, someone who gave enough of a damn to expose himself in return and yes, as the time went by they grew apart but since that early June night when Reid caught him masturbating and confronted Aaron about it they were getting back on the old, familiar tract...

It was overwhelmingly terrifying and arousing realization, the idea that to certain degree he always found his younger colleague attractive but was subconsciously compartmentalizing the attraction as longing after his old lover until enough was enough and his subconsciousness simply acted on the attraction.

Aaron shuddered as he wrapped his arms more tightly around Reid's waist, bringing the other man closer to himself as he straightened his back to pull Reid to himself as close as possible, until their chests were rubbing against one another and Reid's knees were hugging Aaron's hips and their cocks were awkwardly trying to slide against one another through two layers of pajama bottoms that separated them. They were close but not close enough.

It was a very intimate position but not the best one for easy removal of the annoying barrier that separated them so after few attempts at pulling Reid's pajama pants down without much of a success Aaron urged Reid to lie on his back between Aaron's legs.

The new position allowed easier removal of the bothersome sleepwear and Aaron quickly divested Reid of his pants relishing in the sight of every inch of skin that was uncovered before his eyes, unable to tear his eyes from the lean, muscular legs and jutting cock before him as he scooted away just enough so he could lie on his stomach between Reid's outstretched legs

Could he do it? It had been a while, and a longer one on that since he'd given a blowjob but at the same time it was the only sexual act that George Foyet didn't mare with his shadow. No, he was too busy at getting off from what he already had done... and too paranoid that if he tried that Aaron would have bitten his dick off, which he would of course.

"Hotch?" Reid called out softly, focusing Aaron's attention on his face, "C'mere."

"He didn't take that from me," Aaron said softly.

"I know," Reid replied gently. "That doesn't mean that you have to do this if you're having doubts."

"I'm not," Aaron shook his head. "It's just... It had been a longer while since..."

"It's OK," Reid gave him small smile. "Nothing big, remember."

"I wouldn't say that," Aaron remarked.

Reid looked from his cock to Aaron and replied, "No longer than yours."

"And how do you know that?" Aaron quipped with a smirk, taking almost sadistic pleasure from the feverish blush that quickly covered Reid's face.

"I've got a cold," Reid protested.

"You've got a cold," Aaron repeated before he pressed a kiss against Reid's tight.

"I was looking for shampoo," Reid stammered.

"You were looking for shampoo," Aaron echoed before he placed a kiss on Reid's other tight.

"It was ages ago, I was feeling insecure about my position on the team, I took a peek so sue me," Reid blurted out.

Aaron smirked against Reid's tight before he replied, "I prefer sucking you."

And to prove that he leaned forward and gave the head of Reid's dick an experimental lick followed by sucking it into his mouth, all the time keeping his gaze focused on his partner and moving forward a little to gain leverage.

The muscles of Reid's tights under Aaron's arms twitched just as one long-fingered hand flew to cover Reid's mouth while the other shot towards Aaron head but stopped abruptly millimeters away from Aaron's head.

Cautious. Unsure. So damn considerate.

Aaron moved forward without stopping sucking on the head of Reid's cock until he could feel Reid's fingers in his hair, at first barely touching the strands, then growing bold enough to tug on few strands but not overly painfully when Aaron moved his left hand back to cup Reid's balls all the time keeping his gaze fixed on his partner while he allowed his right hand to stretch out to play with his nipples relishing in every whimper, every muffled groan his actions earned him.

Reid was so damn expressive that watching him alone was a pleasure for Aaron, maybe less for Aaron's dick which was twitching painfully begging for a shrew of attention but if he waited so long then it wouldn't kill him to wait a bit more.

But apparently Reid had a different idea and quite quickly by pulling and scratching on Aaron's arms and shoulders he made Aaron climb up his body until Aaron's legs were nestled between Reid's and their cocks were sliding awkwardly against one another while they were kissing lazily until Aaron heard the pop of the cap and smelt the strawberries seconds before he felt Reid's left hand sneaking between their bodies and taking the hold of both their cocks.

Aaron cursed, luckily for the two light-sleepers in the other room, not overly loud and against Reid's mouth which muffled the curse further, "Fuck!"

"That's the idea," Reid smirked.

"I thought... argh.." Aaron gasped. "You didn't... oh God..." he moaned. "Evil... are you..."

"Asking?" Reid whispered hotly against Aaron's ear. "Or talking Yoda?"

"Asking," Aaron puffed.

"Yes!" Reid hissed.

"What are you encouraging?" Aaron asked, and it took him almost epic amount of willpower to form a full sentence. "Question or the angle?"

"Both!" Reid groaned as he threw his head back and after sneaking out his hand from between their joined bodies he wrapped his arms around Aaron's back holding him tightly against his body.

Aaron didn't remember and quite frankly didn't want to remember or even try to recall what it was. Not with how heated the air in the room had became, how every move, every scratch, kiss, nip was bringing him closer and closer towards the edge.

What mattered was Reid's left hand in Aaron's hair, alternatively scratching the skin and soothing it while Reid's was alternatively running his tongue over Aaron's collarbone and nipping on the soft skin there with his teeth. Aaron knew that in the morning, as in later in the morning, he would find in there a hickey, matching the one he left on Reid but he didn't care. What he did care for was how wonderful Reid's legs tangled with Aaron's legs felt while their cocks were sliding against each other, the burning fire in his abdomen which made each thrust faster and harder than the one before it.

Close, so close. He hadn't been this close with another person for a very long time and everything felt both old and new, hot, liberating and so damn good.

Yes! Hands scratching and soothing alternatively, full mouth kisses with lips, teeth and tongue involved.

So good, so damn good. So close, so close, so close.

Hot, so unbelievably hot. Sweaty. Heady. So damn close.

"Reid!" gasped against the other man's chin.

"Yes!" breathless reply followed by the tightening hold of Reid's legs over Aaron's. "Close!" almost whined into Aaron's ears.

Reid right hand sneaked back between their joined bodies, curling around both of their cocks and stroking relentlessly, sharp and fast, matching to each slide of their bodies against one another.

Teeth clashing against one another. Chests heaving. Stubble sliding along his jaw towards his left ear.

Aaron's orgasm was so close that he could almost taste it.

"Come for me," Reid rasped against Aaron ear before he nipped on Aaron's earlobe.

When the release finally hit it crashed through Aaron like a tsunami wave through the beach, hard and brutal, wet and sticky. Hot, so damn hot that there was no breath left in his lungs and he didn't have enough strength left to fight for one and he allowed himself to fall into welcoming blackness.

When he opened his eyes again he was lying on his back next to Reid who was lying down on his side with his head propped on his arm and an amused grin on his face.

"I distinctly remember telling you to come for me, not pass out on me," Reid said with a smirk. "You've got me worried for a moment that I gave you a heart-attack."

Aaron groaned and allowed himself to take a deep breath as he reached for Reid's cock and instead of expected hard member he found it soft.

"That didn't stop you from climaxing," Aaron quipped tiredly.

"Happened while you were passing out, not after," Reid snickered. "How do you feel?"

"Wet," Aaron sighed. "Sticky, boneless..."

"Good," Reid smirked before he lowered his head and nipped on Aaron's closest nipple. "'Ready for round two?"

"Are you?" Aaron asked almost breathlessly.

Reid smirked again before he said, "If you will give me five more minutes I will..."

"Oh, God! You're trying to kill me," Aaron groaned.

"Maybe yes, maybe not," Reid quipped. "But what a way to go."

"It excludes the possibility of an encore in the future," Aaron pointed out before he yawned. "I'm tired and in three to three and a half hour we need to get up unless you are planning to eat pizza for breakfast."

"Sounds like a plan," Reid smirked.

"Someone needs to walk out Moth," Aaron sighed when Reid reached for the coverlet and spread it out over them.

"Someone needs to find a trainer who will teach him how to pee into the toilet," Reid yawned as he placed his head on Aaron's shoulder.

"Dream on, dream, dreamer," Aaron snorted softly.

"Moth isn't that old to not learn a new trick," Reid pointed out. "Besides that statement that you can't teach an old dog a knew trick is not true, you just need to be more patient with them."

"Mhm," Aaron nodded sleepily. "If it's a hint..."

"The only thing I'm hinting right now is that we might regret not cleaning up now in the morning," Reid yawned.

"Screw it," Aaron muttered. "I was planning to throw the sheets into washing machine today anyway and last time I checked this apartment had two bathrooms, one of which is equipped with both a shower and a bathtub."

"Sounds like a plan for an encore," Reid said sleepily.

"Mhm, if you want explain EMTs and other people how you managed to break a leg or get a concussion while having a shower," Aaron yawned.

"Point taken," Reid snorted softly as he snuggled closer.

 

Sleep Deprived

What woke Aaron up was not a kiss or smell of coffee, not even a thorough lick over his face courtesy of Moth. No. What woke him up was, "Holly fuck!" followed by a loud crash and more cursing which woke him up instantaneously and made him jump out of bed sparing only enough time to grab his pajama pants before he ran out of the room into the kitchen where he found Reid dressed only into his pajama bottoms sitting on the floor in an awkward position next to collapsed island stool with his gaze fixed on the fridge door.

"What happened?" Aaron asked as he went over to Reid and helped him stand.

Instead of answering Reid pointed at the fridge which made Aaron turn around to look at the fridge on which amongst various pictures made by Jack and Lily was a sheet of paper with a message written in bold pink letters that read:

 

Moth needed to pee.

We needed to eat.

Coffee turned off.

Alarm disarmed.

We'll be back before 10:00.

L & J & M

"What time..." Aaron started.

"09:27," Reid answered. "Beds were made, Moth was feed, Jack's wallet is missing, so are your keys. I don't know exactly when they left but knowing Moth I doubt that he managed to hold it until nine," he said quickly."

"Which means that they've been gone for about an hour," Aaron said. "You don't take this long walks with Moth."

"Twenty minutes tops and I'm counting in the trip to Starbucks down the street into it," Reid answered. "That's where they probably went," he added. "Apple juice, milk, variety of cakes and cookies."

"I'm going to dress and I'm heading there to pick them up," Aaron said as he started walking towards the bedroom.

"Don't hurry," Reid sighed.

"And why not?" Aaron sighed as he turned around to face Reid.

"You read the note," Reid said calmly. "It says that they will be back by ten, they both know how to tell time, Hotch. Yes, we should have been told beforehand that they want to leave and where exactly they are going to be but..."

"Your daughter is five, Jack is seven, they are..." Aaron started.

"Within their comfort zone, with a big dog at their side and they know that they aren't supposed to talk with the strangers, they aren't also supposed follow them anywhere or to take anything from them. If they are at Starbucks, and I highly doubt that they had gone anywhere else, they are two buildings away from here and they know their way back," Reid finished.

"I'm not liking it," Aaron muttered.

"Neither do I," Reid admitted. "But sooner or later..."

"I know," Aaron grimaced. "I'm just..."

He stopped when he heard chatter on the corridor outside which started growing closer before the keys jangled against each other as the bottom lock of the door was unlocked and Jack walked inside followed by Moth who was holding in his jaws the paper-bag from Starbucks which Jack took from him before he stepped aside to let Lily in who was holding in her hands the carrier with four small Starbucks cups inside.

"Good morning starshines the earth says hello and have some coffee," Lily said quickly before she added, "Help. Hot. Heavy."

Reid was taking the carrier out of her hands before she even finished the sentence and quickly placing it up on the table by the door before he scooped her up in his arms and asked, "Hey Petal. Where have you been?"

"We went to the dog corner because Moth needed to pee," Lily answered.

"And we were hungry so we went to Starbucks for a muffin, we stopped at the bookstore and bought the book Lily wanted to get," Jack added sheepishly as he fixed his gaze at Aaron. "We left you a note."

"We saw it," Aaron said calmly.

"We wrote when we will get back. We weren't late," Jack added.

"I know," Aaron sighed. "We were worried because we didn't know when and where you left for. You wrote that you were getting out, you didn't write where you were planning to go."

"Oh," Jack mumbled before he ran to Aaron and hugged his leg. "We are sorry for worrying you. But we brought you coffee and cupcakes," he gave Aaron small, sheepish smile.

Aaron shook his head slightly. He couldn't stay mad at them for leaving, especially if the only reason for Jack and Lily to leave the apartment without supervision was because he and Reid had slept in late.

"What happened to you, Daddy?" Jack asked curiously as he pointed at Aaron's neck.

"I was..." Aaron started, pausing only long enough to glare at Reid but quickly tearing his eyes away when he realized that Lily was watching curiously the matching bruise on Reid's neck, before he looked down at Jack and finished, "bitten by a mosquito."

"A mosquito?" Jack asked skeptically.

"Yeah," Aaron nodded.

"And that mosquito only bites adults, right?" Jack asked.

"Yeah," Aaron nodded again, this time slowly.

"Does that mosquito have a name?" Jack asked innocently. "Like Spencer, perhaps?"

"Or Aaron," Lily added simply.

"I..." Aaron started and cleared his throat. "I don't understand what you mean."

"We wouldn't have left if we could wake you up," Lily shrugged.

"We tried but you just got snuggly and five more minutes..." Jack added.

"And with your shirts and pants off and laying around the bedroom what else we were supposed to think?" Lily asked.

"That it got really hot during the night so we took our clothes off?" Reid supplied calmly.

"We thought about that for a moment," Lily said simply. "Until we saw that you have matching chew-marks. Jack voted on that."

"And I lost a spare cupcake," Jack pouted. "Lily voted on that you were not making babies and you wouldn't be turning this funny shade of red if you weren't."

"That's what happens when you give kids a birds and bees talk too early," Aaron grumbled.

"No, that's what happens when you give observant kids a birds and bees talk and you get caught..." Reid started.

"After the act?" Jack supplied. "We didn't really see anything disturbing," he added as he turned to Aaron.

"Only that you were snuggling with your inner vampires mode on," Lily said.

"You said that you went to the bookstore before going to Starbucks," Reid changed the subject swiftly. "What you bought?"

"A book," Lily said innocently. "A children book."

"And?" Reid prompted.

"It's a very interesting book," Jack said. "We read it together at Starbucks, that's why it took us so long to get back.

"What's the book about?" Reid asked.

"Penguins," Lily answered. "New York's penguins."

"New York's penguins," Reid nodded. "How it's called?"

"And Tango Makes Three," Lily said with a smile.

"Fu..." Reid started with a clear intention to curse but he caught himself in time and finished, "... fanged furry Frisbee."

"Am I missing something?" Aaron asked cautiously.

"Only that our precious, prodigious progeny had outed both of us to the entire block, maybe even the whole district," Reid sighed. "It's Saturday morning, Leslie Larsson's shift, she is the main dispenser if not the source of all running rumors in the neighborhood."

"Everybody in the neighborhood knows that half of the things she is saying is not true and the rest is exaggerated by her wild imagination. Like that one that you were salivating over her cleavage while you were really eying the book behind her," Aaron shrugged.

"You know that, I know that, Mrs Sanchez from sixth floor congratulated me having such a dear girl for a fiancee and asked about the date of our impending nuptials. For every person who doesn't believe Leslie there is a one who does. Not that I care what Mrs Sanchez and her alike think of me. I'm more worried about you."

Aaron gave him small smile before he said, "Nothing is going to happen to me, nothing bad at the very least. The only thing that's going to happen is that Mrs Sanchez and Mrs Hubbard will stop trying to set me up on blind dates with their daughters, nieces and other lovely ladies they happen to know that..."

"... they would make great wives, appropriate mothers and wouldn't mind giving you few more sweet, little babies, Sweet-cheeks, " Jack finished. "If anything Mrs Sanchez ends saying would have the power of becoming the truth I would have three step-mothers and four baby brothers, in a single year. She even tried to sell Aunt Jess to Dad as a prospective wife with kids on her own."

"So we aren't giving a fanged, furry Frisbee about what old and young ladies with too much time and not enough work to keep them occupied are saying about things that happen to be our own business," Aaron said simply.

"Does it means that we can tell Uncle Dave that you two are not making babies?" Jack asked curiously.

"No," Reid and Aaron said in unison.

"It's our business," Reid added quickly. "Uncle Dave has his own business and we have our business. Uncle Dave doesn't need to know about our business as long as our business isn't interfering with his business and it definitely does not."

"Does Uncle Dave business have anything to do with Aunt Erin?" Jack asked curiously. "Are they making babies?"

Aaron sighed heavily, "Even if they are making babies, it's not our business, it's theirs. If they want to tell us about it, they will tell us about it, in the right time, Jack. Until that happens, we don't see or hear anything suspicious and most certainly we aren't talking to them or other people about it because..."

"It's not our business," Jack and Lily said in unison.

"And what you're doing isn't their business," Lily added.

To Be Continued...