“Make sure Alec doesn’t catch it, Eve!” Q giggled as he turned and threw the bouquet over his shoulder.
“Not to worry Boffin,” Alec smiled as one of the Q Branch minions caught it. “I think I’m the last of the old guard here. No one wants a washed up old Double O like me.”
“Careful, I had enough trouble convincing James to say yes. Don’t you dare make him regret it!” Q laughed. “I will give you a water balloon and an exploding pen for your next kit!”
“He has a point love,” James kissed Q’s hair as he appeared. “He is the oldest agent left.”
“Is being on equipment testing really so awful?” Q asked.
“No,” James looked down at the band on Q’s hand. “It's wonderful. Never thought I would see the day. I just expected to not come home one day.”
“God, James, you sound like a bloody housewife!” Alec snorted. “Do you bring him his slippers and a martini when he gets home too?”
“For your information, I spend just as many hours at MI6 as he does,” James informed Alec. “Unless he is pulling an all nighter when one of you lot goes rogue. And I heard M mention that he wants you to take over field operative training. So don’t knock the office hours just yet.”
“Sure, because he needs someone to change diapers!” Alec laughed. “Christ, James, when did they get so young? Were we ever that innocent?”
“Brave new world, Alec,” James teased. “Be careful the Quartermaster doesn’t send you out for scrap.”
“I need more alcohol!” Alec announced,going to the bar. “Too sober still to think about my age!”
“Hello there,” a voice at his elbow interrupted. “You must work with Gabriel.”
“Yes-?” Alec turned to see a young man with messy hair and a crooked tie smiling at him. “I’m Alec.”
“The one with the explosions and fire?” The young man had an American accent. “I’m Spencer Reid, I work with the Behavioral Analysis Unit at Quantico.”
“I see you met Alec, don’t let him talk you into drinking anything that’s in his hip flask,” Gabriel warned with a grin.
“I hope you think I’m smarter than that, after your stories,” Spencer hugged him. “I’m happy for you, Gabe. It was lovely.”
“Where’s Aaron? I thought he was coming?”
“I got tired of being his dirty little secret while he stays in the closet,” Spencer explained with a wince. “I took a few weeks off, though as long as I am here, I might as well use the chance to distance myself. I went through enough to come out, I just can’t do it anymore.”
“You sound like you could use someone to show you around?” Alec offered. The young man was wearing a variation of Q’s usual cardigan and messy hair, and looked like he hadn’t slept in days. “We are shipping these two off for a couple of days, but I am home on leave for a bit.”
“I’m not really looking to get involved,” Spencer blushed. “I have a track record of jumping into things too fast to hide from dealing with my past.”
“I can show you the best place for a quiet meal, and my favorite bar,” Alec asked. “No strings attached, no obligations. I usually spend my time off drunk, so it will be a nice change for me to have intelligent conversation for once.”
“I’d…” Spencer glanced at Gabriel, who nodded. “I think I’d like that, actually. I’m not here permanently though.”
“Take good care of him, Alec,” James warned, walking up. “I’ve got half a mind to go knock this Aaron fellow in the head for making him look so sad.”
“So what’s different in England to do?” Spencer asked. “I was thinking about renting a car and driving to Scotland.”
“It's a shame you didn’t come last year, James used to have a house there,” Alec snorted.
“Oh, did he sell it?!”
“Not exactly,” Alec couldn’t stop laughing. “He shot down a helicopter on top of it, and it sort of exploded.”
“Well, that’s one way to cash in on homeowner's insurance,” Spencer took the glass of champagne.
“We’re going to take off, I’m glad Alec will show you around,” Gabriel gave his cousin a hug.
“I’m sure it will be a learning experience,” Spencer said, glancing at Alec, who had turned away to talk to Eve. “Who is that?”
“Oh goodness, you must be Spencer!” Eve wrapped him up in a hug. “Aren’t you just adorable? How dare you throw him to the wolves and leave him with Alec? You should be ashamed Q! And you were right, he does look just like you. And the clothes! Oh goodness, I didn’t realize they sold tragic cardigans like that in the States as well.”
“We’ll call you this weekend, Eve. I’m going to take him out for some food before all the champagne gets to his head and he finds me irresistible,” Alec winked at Spencer, and put an arm around his waist. “Any preference on food?”
“As long as there’s dessert, not really?” Spencer shivered.
“We don’t want you getting sick,” Alec wrapped his own overcoat round Spencer.
“Thanks, this is my first time out of the States, and I don’t want to spend it in bed,” Spencer blushed. “I mean, in bed sick. I’m sorry… I’m rather hopeless.”
“Come on, let’s get some dinner and dessert in you. Do you like Moroccan food?” He opened the car door for Spencer.
“We didn’t really have that in Las Vegas where I grew up,” Spencer fumbled with tucking his seat belt around his messenger bag.
“I can put that in the trunk?”
“No, I… I keep a paper journal, and I prefer to have it with me. And I always carry a book or two. I haven’t gotten into those electronic readers, although Gabriel is always threatening to send me one,” Spencer frowned.
“Well, then you won't be too horrified by an old relic like me,” Alec smiled.
“I get in trouble because I want paper copies of case files and documents, it just makes them easier to process in my head. I have photographic memory, and an electronic reader makes everything look the same. I can’t remember things as well,” Spencer explained. “You’re not much older than my boy.... than my ex, Aaron.”
“So what was the story with Aaron?” Alec asked. “Or you can tell me to shut up if you don’t want to talk about it. I just can’t see why someone would be ashamed of dating you. You’re handsome, really smart, clearly good at your job.”
"He's not out, and he's the team leader at work," Spencer said softly, looking out the window. “I got tired of sneaking into his room on cases, afraid of being seen and setting an alarm for 4 AM so no one saw us. I wanted more, and he wanted less. So, now it's just me.”
“That sounds like a good decision, but not necessarily a pleasant one,” Alec mused. “Parting ways is rarely a pleasant experience.”
“I’m good at my job as well,” Spencer sighed. “I’m awkward with people, but I’m good at what I do.”
“You don’t seem to have any trouble communication with me,” Alec parked in front of the restaurant. “Gabriel found someone who appreciates him. You just need to find your own version of James.”
“Are you applying?” Spencer asked wryly.
“I’m not relationship material,” Alec opened the door for him. “I wouldn’t say no to being your rebound, but you don’t want to have the job of house breaking me. I’m far too old to learn new tricks. Ah, Madame Samira, I came to show our American friend how wonderful the food is in your kitchen.”
“You horrible flirt, I am old enough to be your mother,” she smacked him fondly. “Shoo, go sit where you like. I will bring you what we are eating tonight.”
Alec pulled Spencer towards a pile of cushions surrounding a low table. Samira returned, carrying a tray of warm mint tea, and various bowls of salads. There were tomatoes and peppers in one, and tomatoes and eggplant in another. Alec held a plate for Spencer to fill.
“You don’t have to try anything you don’t like, if you aren’t too adventurous,” Alec was surprised he cared if Spencer liked it or not.
“I can try new food, I’m only a technophobe,” Spencer accepted a bite of food from Alec’s spoon. “Oh! That’s good, spicy, but good.” He smiled as Alec wiped a spot off his chin. “Thank you.”
“He didn’t know what he was losing, did he?” Alec asked softly.
“Hotchner?” Spencer shrugged. “He has a son, so our priorities are different, and I understand that. But I can’t be in the closet again, not after thirty, Alec. My mother has some mental problems, and I took care of her for a long time. I’d like to at least try to be happy for some time in my life.”
“Not all the time?”
“I get in the minds of criminals for a living, that’s not a happy activity. But I’d like to at least try when I’m not at work. I do work with some great people, but what we do isn’t pretty,” Spencer looked wistful.
“So, happier thoughts, at least for the weekend?” Alec fed Spencer a piece of meat. “I don’t get to spoil someone with a pretty body and good mind often. Tell me about something else that you enjoy, something that you love.”