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My Soul Alone

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*************

How can I say this without breaking? How can I say this without taking over? How can I put it down into words when it's almost too much for my soul alone?

Spencer saw the world in shades of grey just like everyone else who hadn’t found their soulmate. At times it was a hindrance, like in the middle of an experiment and he needed to see the changes in a solution when he added a different chemical or when he was observing variations in a subject. It was something that he used to his advantage, just like every other hindrance he had. He was a master at noticing subtle differences, not only in his scientific endeavors, but also in his people skills.

The latter is what caught the eye of Jason Gideon from the BAU. He thought Spencer could make a brilliant profiler and had brought the young man on board without a second thought.

Spencer’s first day at the BAU was supposed to fulfilling; full of excitement at the new adventure, the possibility of obtaining new knowledge. Instead, Spencer experienced the biggest heartbreak of his young life.

Gideon was taking him around, introducing him to all the other agents. Parading him around was more like it. He was openly flaunting Spencer’s achievements, almost to the point that Spencer began to feel like a trained dog being shown off by its master.

Their last stop was the office of the Unit Chief of the BAU, Aaron Hotchner. Spencer had, of course, read up on the man and all of his achievements. He was honestly impressed and was looking forward to learning under the accomplished profiler.

Gideon smiled widely. “Aaron, I’d like you to meet the newest member of the team, Dr. Spencer Reid. Reid, this is Hotch.”

Spencer reached out to shake his new boss’s hand. “It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sir,” he greeted enthusiastically.

“We’re glad to have you here, Dr. Reid,” Aaron started, as he clasped Spencer’s hand in his own. Spencer knew he had continued to say more, probably welcoming him and asking if he needed anything, but Spencer heard none of it because as soon as they touched, color began to bloom all across the room. Spencer was stunned by it, unable to form words as the rich red of Aaron’s tie shown against the crisp white of his shirt, the small silver spirals he hadn’t noticed nearly jumped out at him with a subtle shimmer. Aaron’s suit was black with tiny navy pinstripes, perfectly accentuating his masculine build. His hair was raven colored with not a hint of grey as it fought against the confines of the gel or whatever product he had put in it that morning. But what really took Spencer’s breath away was the man’s eyes – like the most amazing rich chocolate, warm and inviting. Roused from his stupor, Spencer whispered, “Your eyes are brown.”

“Excuse me?” Aaron asked, watching him with a confused look on his face. That was when Spencer noticed it – the wedding ring, then the picture behind the desk. Of course. Aaron was married. He’d already found his soulmate. She was pretty with her blonde hair and blue eyes and pink lips. But Aaron was Spencer’s soulmate – he saw the colors, he knew the lore. Suddenly, it slapped him in the face – Aaron was his soulmate, but he wasn’t Aaron’s.

The older man gently extricated his hand and Spencer watched as all the color began to bleed from his world. For a moment he had seen it and now it was gone. He didn’t know what was going to be worse – never touching Hotch so he didn’t have to see the colors again or knowing if they did, he was the only one affected.

He went home that night and stood before his mirror. He would never know what color his eyes were, would never be told the color of his hair, because if this is what it felt like to find your soulmate and know that you were not theirs, he would be sure never to touch anyone ever again.

*************

Spencer had gotten good at not touching others. Most of his co-workers were used to it, used to the small handwaves instead of handshakes, the aversion to hugs and big displays of affection. Every time one of the others touched him, he had to hold back the flinch, the fear of the colors always there in the back of his mind.

Lila was different. She was so free with herself, with her touches. She gave herself freely in a way that Reid would never know. He wished he could be like that, could wait for someone to find him.

But that freedom had led them to this place, Lila held with a gun pressed against her skin and her best friend weeping as she just kept saying, "Come on, Baby. We got to go. We got to go now. You owe me. I created you."

"No you didn't," Lila whispered.

"Yes. I did," Maggie spat. "I know I did. You stupid, ungrateful... God! I can't believe that I loved you."

Spencer knew this was a bad situation. Maggie was mentally unstable and any wrong move could mean a bullet for Lila.

Finally, Spencer decided to take a chance. "You see the colors, don't you Maggie?"

"What?!" the frantic woman screamed. "What do you know about it?"

"I know that you see color when you touch Lila. You do, don't you?"

"Yes," she whispered, pressing her nose into the blonde locks before her. "We see them, don't we, Baby?"

"She doesn't see them," Spencer pressed. "She doesn't see them like you do when you touch her."

"No," Maggie moaned. "NO!"

"It's true. We kissed. In the pool. Didn't we? Tell her, Lila."

"You did?" Maggie asked, her hand shaking hard.

"Tell her Lila," he prompted. "Tell her we kissed in the pool."

"Yes, we kissed," Lila whispered, her eyes pleading for Spencer to do something.

"No," Maggie cried. "No, no, NO!" She lunged for Spencer, determined to stop him, to kill him, to keep him away from her soulmate. As Lila fell to the floor, Spencer darted forward and wrestled the gun from the enraged woman's hands. He dropped her to the floor and pointed the gun at her, subduing her. Suddenly, Maggie began to yell, "Do it! Do it. Come on. Shoot me. Kill me. I'd be so much happier. Please. Please! I want it. Just shoot me. You can have her. I can't. I saw the colors. I can't live and not see those colors. Please. Please do it."

"We're going to get you help," he tried, the words felt hollow and stuck in his throat. "You're going to be alright."

But he knew the feeling. And he never felt more sorry for anyone than he did Maggie at that moment.

She wept. Spencer shushed her and laid his hand on her head. It was a small comfort and he wondered if anyone would ever have to do the same for him.

*************

Dilaudid.

Dilaudid brought colors. Not real colors. No, they were distorted and warped, something unreal and not right about them. But they were colors nonetheless. His hallucinations were full of colors, like memories turned around and back in on themselves.

Every time they ended, he wanted them back. He understood the need to hide, to escape, to want to stay in that place where he could bask in the glow of the colors he only ever saw in the fleeting moments when Hotch touched him. He had learned not to react anymore, Hotch was freer with casual touches than he ever realized until every one set his world on fire.

But now? Now he knew how to chase the colors without having his heart broken every time.

He stood in the woods, digging his own grave, when he heard them coming.

"There's only one bullet in that gun, boy!"

In the end, one bullet was all he needed. Tobias crumpled to the ground, his breath coming in puffs of white in the cold winter air.

"You did it," Tobias whispered, his voice filled with awe. "You killed him."

Spencer looked on in shock as Tobias smiled. "Do you think I'll get to see my mom?"

Not knowing what to say, he simply shook his head.

"You have brown hair," Tobias whispered and Spencer's eyes shot open. He felt a bubble of hysteria begin to surface. Just when he thought he might break, Hotch was there, grabbing his arms, grounding him. He barely heard the question - Reid, are you alright? - as the colors bloomed before him, beautiful and true, even here in the middle of a graveyard in the dead of night. He clung to Hotch, needing this so much it hurt.

"I knew you'd understand," he gasped, meaning every word, clutching Hotch like a lifeline, a reason why he was alive.

And then, again, it was gone. When Gideon came, he asked to be alone with Tobias.

He would see the colors again.

He would see.

*************

Gone.

He was gone.

Left a letter. A letter explaining to Spencer what, why. It didn't help. It hurt. It hurt Spencer's heart to know he was left behind with only words to comfort him.

They were no comfort at all.

He knew it was wrong. He knew he shouldn't fall back into old habits but he was an addict, a junkie, and he would be for the rest of his life. The sting of the needle was delicious and the brain numb was so welcome. But it was the colors that Spencer missed the most. Floating, swirling, distracting him from the pain in his heart.

His extended weekend was nearly over. He had to pull it together before he had to go back to work. They would know - Hotch and Emily, maybe JJ - they would see him and know and remember. But right now? Now he could fly and he could see.

He was sitting on the couch, sprawled as the television played on before him when he heard a knock at his door. He ignored it.

The knock came again.

He ignored it again.

"Reid?"

It was Hotch.

"Shit," Spencer whispered. He sat up and ran his fingers through his hair, trying to bring it back to some sort of order, but he knew Hotch would know.

"Reid!" the voice sounded again.

"Coming," he called back, his voice weak from disuse. Standing before the door, he took a deep breath. Swinging the door open, he tried to smile. "Hi Hotch."

Aaron stood before him, looking nearly as bad as Spencer did. Spencer's fear turned to worry as he stepped aside and let the older man into his apartment. Closing the door, he turned around and the two men stared at each other.

Hotch was dressed in older jeans, the near holes in the knees made them seem as old as Spencer himself. The henley was worn as well and slightly wrinkled. Raven locks fell across his forehead, free of gel or any product, and his facial hair was unruly, as if he hadn't shaved in days. The biggest surprise was the smell of alcohol on his breath.

"Did you drive here?"

Spencer was surprised that this was his first thought, not 'what do you want' or 'why are you here'.

"No," Hotch answered. "Are you high?"

Spencer tilted his head. "Are you drunk?"

They stared at each other for a long time, silent and still. When Spencer felt himself sway slightly, he saw Hotch take a step closer. When the older man reached out to steady him, he quickly jerked his arm away, desperate to keep Hotch from touching him.

Finally, Aaron sank down onto Spencer's couch and dropped his head into his hands. "Can I see it?" he asked.

At first Spencer was confused. See what? Suddenly he realized what Hotch was asking for. He walked over to his messenger bag and pulled out the note he had already read and memorized and read again. He handed it over and watched as Hotch read it - and then read it again.

"Why you?" he asked.

"What?" Spencer responded.

"Why you?" Aaron repeated. "Why not me? He was my mentor, my friend. Haley used to call him my wife, did you know that? We were close, or at least I thought we were. Nothing. Not a word, not a call, not a letter. Not a fucking word!"

Spencer startled as the letter was slammed down onto the coffee table and Aaron crumpled forward. Spencer had been so consumed by his own pain, his own grief, that he didn't even stop to think if all of this had effected anyone else. But now he saw it, plain as day. He was not alone in his grief.

"I don't know," he whispered. "I don't know why me. If I understood any of this I could tell you why but I can't." When the older profiler didn't move or respond, Spencer sat down next to him, a silent show of strength. "Is that all, Hotch?"

Silence reigned for several long moments. Finally Aaron sighed. "Haley's gone," he admitted quietly. "When we came back from Milwaukee. She and Jack. She packed up and left while I was gone and I don't know if she's coming back. She's having an affair."

Spencer gasped at that.

"What..?" he asked, shocked at the revelation. "What makes you think that?"

"While I was home on suspension, the phone...I'd answer the phone and there would be no one there. Hang ups. Then Haley's cell phone would ring. Every time. She'd just grab her purse and go in the other room. I just...I didn't want to believe it. But three times. Three times. She's fucking someone else. I followed her. I saw her kiss him."

"So you came here?" Spencer asked, unable to understand what was happening.

"I didn't know where else to go."

Spencer sighed. He sank back onto the couch, dropping his head onto the back. "I'm going to start detoxing," he whispered. "It's not going to be pretty."

"I'm going to have a terrible hangover, probably for the next day and a half," Aaron responded. "In fact, I have a feeling I'm going to vomit pretty soon."

"You can stay," Spencer whispered, as if there was an other option.

"Thank you," Hotch whispered back, silent tears streaming down his cheeks. "Thank you."

They took turns over the toilet, Hotch first, then Spencer, emptying their stomachs of their contents. They would comfort each other, bringing cool glasses of water and place wet cloths on sweaty necks and foreheads. Just as Hotch started feeling better, Spencer began to get worse. The false colors began to fade as the drugs left his system and the real colors bloomed whenever calloused fingers would brush over Spencer's fevered skin. That hurt nearly as much as the withdrawl symptoms did.

When Sunday evening rolled around, they both felt as if they were back on solid footing. The itch was still there under Spencer's skin but he could fight it, would fight it back this time. They sat across from each other at Spencer's table eating take out from Spencer's favorite Thai place, Hotch with his chopsticks, Spencer with a fork.

"Thank you," Aaron whispered into the silence.

"No need to thank me," Spencer answered. "Will we be okay?"

"Why wouldn't we be?" Aaron answered. "We're just two friends helping each other through a difficult time. As far as I'm concerned, no one needs to know about this. Tomorrow, we go back to being co-workers."

Spencer swallowed down his disappointment. He wanted more, would always want more, but that was not meant to be. He had to live with that. "Okay," he whispered, staring down at his plate.

Suddenly, Aaron reached over and covered Spencer's hand with his own. "I'm still your friend, Spencer. If you ever need me, if you feel like this again, I want to you call me. Promise me."

Spencer looked at him, memorizing the colors of his eyes, his hair, his skin. He smiled a small, honest smile. "I promise, Hotch."

*************

Spencer had learned that people grieved in very different ways. Aaron Hotchner was no exception. He'd seen him broken at the loss of a friend and the fall of his marriage. He'd seen the tears, witnessed the confusion and doubt that plagued the older man's mind, that choked his soul. Now they were standing in a cemetery saying their goodbyes to Haley.

Everyone knew Aaron simply as Hotch, the stalwart, strong, stoic Unit Chief. The one who ran them hard and expected the best from them. He's been called a bully, a hardass, and unrelenting. But here he stood, before a beautiful casket on a beautiful day in a beautiful suit on one of the worst days of his life.

The service was touching. Aaron's words moved several people to tears as he remembered the love of his life. Spencer's heart constricted painful when Jack blew his mother a kiss goodbye.

One by one, they each placed a single rose of top of the closed casket. A beautiful tribute to a beautiful woman. As people began to leave, Spencer felt a hand slip into his own. Hotch clutched his fingers, squeezing so hard they ached.

"Are they white?" Hotch asked.

Spencer was shocked by the question. "What?"

"The roses," he clarified. "Are they white? I asked for white. I just want to be sure they got the right ones."

"Yeah," Spencer whispered. "They're white."

Aaron just nodded then, slowly, solemnly. He let go of Spencer's hand and turned to join Jack and Jessica in the limo to take them away. Spencer felt fresh tears then. His heart broke for Hotch. At least Spencer could see the colors. His soulmate was still alive. But Hotch? He would never see them again.

And Spencer didn't know which was worse.

*************

He'd never seen her.

They'd never had the chance to meet - he'd sent her away - and now she was in danger.

In a panic, Spencer called the one person he knew he could trust.

"Hotch," he whispered into the phone, "I need your help."

"Meet me at my office in half an hour," Hotch said without hesitation.

Hotch would help, fix it, find her.

The team came, worked, found her.

They found her too late.

Me for her.

It was so simple. He was willing to trade himself. He loved her for who she was, for how she made him feel. It was that simple. Colors didn't matter. What she looked like didn't matter. Maeve being okay was all that mattered.

In the end, Diane was too far gone, could not be talked down, could not be stopped.

"NO!" he shouted as everything seemed to move in slow motion. He wanted to run to her, wanted to stop what he knew was inevitable, wanted to save the day, just like he had with Lila.

The sound of the gunshot was hauntingly loud. It echoed throughout the loft and seemed to shatter all other noise. Someone may have said something, called his name, but he didn't hear it. All he saw was the woman he loved, on the floor in a pool of blood. He didn't care about the pain in his arm or the fact that his entire team was watching.

He sat in shock, unable to move. He felt a warm hand on his shoulder and he sobbed as he felt Hotch settle next to him. He figured Hotch wanted to help him, get him out, make him leave, but he wouldn't go, couldn't go.

This was the first, the only time he would see her.

He needed to see her.

So he reached up and gripped Hotch's hand. As the colors bloomed, he squeezed harder. Aaron's fingers twitched against his own and Spencer heard him gasp, as if Spencer were gripping him too hard, a small sound of shock and surprise.

The blood was red, bright and viscous, pooling around the bodies on the floor. Her hair was brown, darker than his own, and her skin was perfect porcelain, just like he'd always imagined. He stared for a long time, wanting to remember her for the rest of his life.

He let himself get pulled away, drifting in a hazy state of consciousness to the ambulance waiting outside and then to the hospital. Hotch was a constant fixture at his side. Later, Hotch tucked Spencer into his bed and told him to take as much time as he needed.

But he didn't know what he needed. Not anymore.

As Hotch turned to leave, he whispered, "I never got to see what color her eyes are. I should ask Garcia."

Hotch turned and gave him a small smile. "They were blue."

He'd checked. Spencer was grateful for that.

"Sleep now, Spencer," Hotch whispered. "It won't be like this forever. It'll be okay."

But it didn't feel like there would ever be a time when this didn't hurt, when all of this would be okay again.

*************

Spencer sat by himself on the plane. He hated long flights like this. Coast to coast meant there was time to wait and all he really wanted was to get back home so he could check on Hotch. Besides, Rossi had taken to hijacking him on long flights like this. It had started when Spencer couldn't sleep. He had confessed to the older profiler that he'd been dreaming of Maeve and Dave had talked him into confronting that dream.

In the end, it had been a good thing, He saw her, smiling, laughing, in bright full color, with her brown hair and her blue eyes. It had been wonderful.

"So," Dave said conspiratorially as he sat down across from Spencer. "What is keeping you up on this long flight back home, kid?"

Spencer wanted to groan, to hide from the ever knowing eyes of the senior profiler. Dave knew. He always knew.

"Can't sleep," he admitted. "Has Garcia checked in yet about Hotch?"

"Ah," Dave drawled, low and long. "Worrying about our fearless leader is keeping you up, Spencer?"

Spencer didn't answer. Just sat and stared at his hands. He didn't know why but he always felt like he could talk to the man. So finally Spencer asked, "Rossi, can I ask you a question?'

"Sure, Kid. Why not?"

Spencer sighed and waited. Eventually, he looked up and stared at Rossi, his face serious but determined. "What happens when your soulmate dies?"

"Is this about Maeve?" Dave asked, just as serious as Spencer.

"Have you lost your soulmate?" he asked, avoiding the question.

Dave sighed and rubbed his hand over his face. "Yeah. Carolyn."

"Why didn't it work out?"

"Just because you're soulmates doesn't mean that it's always perfect," Dave explained quietly. "Losing James was one reason but it was a big one - one we just couldn't seem to get past."

"What is it like?"

"What's what like?"

"Knowing that you'll never see the colors again?"

"Some people, well, it's not unheard of that some people find another when the first one dies. I've never met one, but it happens." Dave turned concerned eyes to him then. "Spencer? What is this about? You never touched Maeve. How can you know if she was your soulmate?"

"Sh-she wasn't my soulmate."

Just then, Rossi's phone rang and he quickly answered it when he saw it was Garcia. "Penelope? Yes, that's great. Great news. Thanks. I'll let the team know." Then he turned to Spencer with a wide smile on his face, he said, "Hotch is awake. He's going to be okay."

Spencer sighed and let out a bark of laughter in relief. He felt himself sag against the seat. Hotch was okay. He was going to be okay.

Dave stared at him, studied him for a long moment.

"How long have you known Hotch is your soulmate?"

"Since the day we met," he admitted.

"Does Hotch know?"

Spencer just nodded.

"And here I was practically throwing him at his training partner."

"What?"

"Oh nothing," David replied in a small sing-song voice. "Just...nothing."

Spencer was confused and was suddenly sure that he'd missed something.

*************

Spencer walked up to the restaurant, surprised by Rossi's offer. It was Valentine's Day, and the place was packed. Rossi caught him before he could leave that evening, handing him some stupid story about making a reservation and not being able to make it that even Spencer knew was a lie. He had begged Rossi not to set him up. He didn't need a date, didn't want one, Valentine's Day or not. They had come back from Pittsburgh and being on a blind day was not his idea of a good time.

Still, a great meal at Silvio's, with Rossi paying, was just too good to pass up, just this once. The suggestion of his lilac button down with the navy vest and tie was a little weird but he put on the outfit anyway, thankful for the tags telling him the colors.

The Maitre D' quickly sat him at a small table near the back. It was beautifully set with a bouquet of flowers in the center. Roses. That was odd. Spencer wondered what Rossi was thinking. Was Spencer supposed to offer the flowers to his date? He reached out to run a fingertip over the petals. He wondered what color they were.

"Beautiful, aren't they?" he heard from behind him.

He turned, surprised to see his boss.

"Hotch," he said, "What are you doing here?"

"Rossi sent me."

Spencer stared in shock. Rossi? How could he?

Hotch stepped forward then so that he was standing next to him, right by the table. "I asked him to help with this," he explained, obviously sensing Spencer's confusion. "Do you like the roses?"

"What?" Spencer asked.

"Let's see if they got the color right."

Aaron reached over and pulled a single rose from the vase before reaching down to take Spencer's hand in his own. Spencer gasped as the colors bloomed again. Aaron smiled as he brought the flower close to his shirt. The colors were almost an exact match.

"Perfect," Hotch whispered.

Hazel eyes snapped up to meet smiling chocolate brown. "Y-you..? You see the color?" he stuttered. Hotch nodded before he slipped into the empty seat next to him, fingers still wrapped together. "When?"

"The first time I noticed?" Hotch asked. Spencer nodded. "Maeve."

Her eyes. He knew back then.

"What about Beth?"

Hotch just chuckled. "Let's just say that Haley showed me the error of my ways."

Spencer looked at him, confusion coloring his features. "Haley?"

"Near death experiences can be very interesting," Aaron said cryptically. "Let's just say even in death, my wife knows how to tell me when I'm being an idiot."

"You were being an idiot?"

Hotch laughed. "Yes, Spencer. I was being an idiot. Between Haley and Dave, I finally got some...perspective is probably the best word for it."

"So why are we here now?"

"Let's just say I'm choosing happiness," Aaron said softly, a gentle smile on his face. "Real happiness with my soulmate."

Soulmate. The words shot a frisson of pure pleasure straight through him.

"I can't believe this is happening," he whispered.

"Spencer," Aaron said softly, concern coloring his face. "Is this okay?"

"Yes!" he said quickly. "Yes, of course it's okay."

"Good," Hotch answered. When the older man pulled his fingers free, Spencer had to work hard to hide his disappointment. But then strong, callused fingers trailed over his cheek, his jaw before trailing up into his hair. He smiled and sighed, leaning into the touch. It was warm and beautiful and perfect. "Now," Aaron said, "Since Dave is paying for this, I suggest we enjoy ourselves."

"But we can still..." Spencer motioned between them. He didn't want it to end. He was quickly learning to love the colors.

Aaron laughed. "Of course."

The meal was delicious and they spent the entire time touching each other, neither wanting to lose that connection now that they had both admitted to it. Food, wine and dessert were all gone, and the conversation had been diverse and interesting, but now that they were done, neither man really knew what to do. They looked at each other, each waiting for one of them to do something.

"So," Spencer said.

"So," Aaron echoed. "You could come to mine."

"Really? What about Jack?"

"He's with Jessica tonight." Aaron grabbed his hand, lacing their fingers together. "Besides, you're my soulmate. We're going to have to tell him. Better sooner than later."

Spencer smiled at that. "Soulmate."

They left quickly, Spencer with the flowers in his arms and Aaron with Spencer in his. Once they were in Aaron's apartment, the older agent pressed the younger man against the wall, leaning into his body. A warm hand cupped his check as Aaron's thumb brushed over his lips. "May I?"

Spencer chuckled. "So polite. Kiss me, Hotch."

"Call me Aaron."

"Aaron. Kiss me."

Aaron happily complied. When their lips touched, everything bloomed. It was as if Spencer had spent his entire life in a muted world. He gasped against parted lips, happy to explore and taste. It was several long minutes before they separated, both panting and hard.

"Stay the night."

Spencer gasped. That was unexpected.

"Okay," he said with a smile, staring into warm, chocolate eyes. Now that he had a taste, he knew he'd never be able to stay away.

They'd never have to be alone again.

END