Fandom: Criminal Minds
Spoilers: s2 Sex, Birth, Death
Summary: what should have happened after the episode...
AN: So, like it says on the tin. This is the first of what I'm calling the Happy Birthday Dana Pretties. I know the Bday has been over for a bit, but since all the pressies wil be given Saturday, I've waited with this one. And sweetie, that I hadn't finished one, was NOT the reason why I hadn't ever posted one. Basically, I lied through my teeth.
Hotch swivelled through the
He knew it had been a mistake to leave Spencer alone at the office. The man had looked so miserable, alone at his desk, yet Aaron had let him placate him with a very fake, “I'm fine, just tired.” and a false promise that he was just collecting his things and heading out. Hotch knew he should have stayed, or at least waited until Spencer had actually moved but he'd promised Haley he'd be home in time and she'd already called twice to ask him if he'd be home tonight.
They'd just put Jack to bed when Gideon had called and told him Nathan Harris had tried to kill himself and Reid had been just in time to safe him, even though the kid had begged him to let him die. Hotch wasn't entirely sure how the hooker had gotten hold of Spencer's number, but he did know that Spencer had taken to the kid more than he should have. Identifying with a possible UnSub was always dangerous ground to walk on, because you could easily identify too much, a. balance Reid hadn't yet fully mastered. Innocence he hadn't lost and although Hotch would never wish him to lose that part that kept him so hopeful, he was also acutely aware of the potential danger that youth could present - as proven today.
Gideon had told him that Spencer was having a rough time dealing with the possibility that he'd saved a future serial killer and Hotch hadn't even thought twice when he'd grabbed his keys and rushed out the door.
There was no real reason why he was driving over. Gideon was there and Hotch knew he'd stay there until Spencer had either fallen asleep or until the morning but for some reason, Hotch didn't want anyone else to be there for Spencer other than him. Aaron needed to protect him. It was his job.
He’d called Gideon from the car and the door was unlocked when he reached Spencer’s floor. He didn't bother knocking or ringing the bell – also rather uncharacteristic, since Aaron was basically the epitome of politeness. Gideon was pacing the living room, glancing at Spencer's bathroom door every few seconds, worry etching on his features. Hotch heard the shower running and walked over to his friend.
“Spencer's been in there for the last half hour.” Hotch wouldn't have found that particularly strange if it wasn't for the look Gideon had in his eyes.
“You haven't checked?” he asked, frowning. Gideon normally had fewer qualms about being polite – when necessary – than Hotch.
Gideon just pointed at the door, shrugging. Hotch's frown deepened. He stared between Gideon and the door for a few seconds, debating whether or not to give Spencer the privacy he obviously wanted, before mentally saying 'the hell with it' and heading for the locked door. He'd apologise if he had to, but then he'd at least know.
He knocked once, but no answer. A firmer knock got him a muffled and rushed, “I'm fine.” He glanced at Gideon one more time to see the man hadn't moved a muscle, staring fixedly at him and the door.
“Spencer, it's me,” he called through the door and heard a gasp and then something fall in the sink. The rapid movement gave Hotch enough reason to throw courtesy out the window and slowly open the door.
What he saw made him freeze - Spencer was standing over the sink, dressed in his boxer-briefs and frantically rubbing a wash cloth over his already fire-red hands. He jumped when Hotch stepped inside and closed the door.
“Reid, what're you doing?” he asked gently, moving closer to pluck the cloth out of Spencer's hands and examine the damage the friction had caused. Spencer wasn't bleeding, yet, but there were some abrasions that were sure to hurt.
“I can't get the blood out.” Spencer's hands were shaking and the choked whisper tore painfully at Aaron's heart strings.
He sighed and clenched down on the instinct to simply pull Spencer closer and cradle him until all the worry had left the pleading eyes; instead he moved the young man’s hands towards the sink and rinsed the soap from his skin. Spencer had shallowly broken the skin in places and Aaron wondered how long he'd been trying to get them clean. There wasn't a speck of blood anywhere anymore.
He took a dry towel and gently wrapped the bruised hands, dabbing and massaging them dry, without rubbing. While he concentrated on Spencer's fingers, trailing each digit inside the terry cloth he heard Spencer draw in a quick breath, suddenly erupting in a full body shudder, which he chose to ignore until he deemed Reid's hands satisfactorily dry. Looking around he found a bathrobe hanging at the door and wrapped it around Reid.
Reid just stood there, hanging on by the very last strands of his control and Hotch gave up fighting. He stepped closer to Reid and gently pulled him towards him, wrapping his arms around Spencer's tense shoulders and then waited for the tide to break.
And it did. At first, Spencer remained stiff and rigid, but then a sob escaped his lips. A sob followed by wetness against Hotch's neck and Spencer's fingers clinging onto his shirt, nails digging into his sides. Spencer cried out all the worry and fear and anger and pain a kid his age should never have even been close to suffering. Desperation and torment wailed out as he clung to Hotch's solid frame, a solid rock. Hotch mumbled soothing nonsense, not even aware he was doing it, until a choked laugh disrupted the stream of sobs and broken words of anguish. He wanted to move back and look at Reid, but Spencer just clung harder and burrowed his face in the crook of Hotch's neck. Hotch settled for pulling him closer.
He had no idea how long they'd been standing in the bathroom, but eventually Reid's hands let go of the death grip on his shirt and moved back, creating a space between them that suddenly felt so cold after the long embrace. Spencer let go him completely and rubbed his eyes, wincing when the salt of his tears stung the tender skin. Hotch studied him closely as Reid examined his hands, reluctantly releasing his own hold on Spencer's shoulders.
“I couldn't get the blood out,” he whispered. “I was going to take a shower and clean away the blood, but it wouldn't come out.” Hotch took both of Reid's hands and lifted them up higher, cradling the slender fingers.
“It's over.” A finger lifted Spencer's chin. “You saved him.”
“He didn't want me to.”
Aaron's hand snaked around the back of Spencer's neck and toyed with the strands of his hair, a soothing gesture. “You did the right thing, no matter what he asked you. You saved his life.”
He placed a finger on Spencer's lips when he was about to object. “And you won't be responsible for what he does with the rest of his life.”
Spencer looked up when Aaron didn't remove his finger and he suddenly became acutely aware of just how close they were standing. Hotch was still idly playing with Spencer's hair and he gasped silently when Spencer moved his lips just the tiniest bit against his finger – not really a kiss, it couldn't be a kiss, but Hotch drew his hand away quickly, letting go of Spencer and stepping back.
He'd been aware of Spencer's attraction to him for a while and, though he'd been tempted more than once to reciprocate, Hotch was a man of his word. And he'd given that to Haley. She was his wife, Spencer was... a temptation beyond the bounds of cognitive thinking and right now, he wanted nothing more than to replace his finger with lips and taste the softness he'd been thinking about a lot more than he should have. So, he did the only thing he could do; he stepped back further to the door and turned to open it.
“Hotch?” There was confusion and hurt and so much Aaron didn't want to think about in that one word -- he chose not to think about. He couldn't.
“Spencer, I can't,” he answered to the door, shaking his head and his eyes fixed on his hand on the doorknob. He couldn't turn around and face him, knowing what would happen then. He'd made a promise to Haley.
“Gideon will stay here for the night.” It was breaking his heart to say it and even more to open the door and walk out, but it was the only thing he could do. “I'm sorry.”
He headed straight to the front door, only stopping long enough the glance at Gideon, who quietly said, “I'll sleep on the couch,” and then Aaron fled.
He was well on his way home before he stopped on the side of the road to give himself a moment. He gripped the steering wheel so hard his knuckles turned white and his hands started trembling.
He did the right thing. He'd done the right thing. Gideon would help Spencer with his nightmares and Aaron would be home with his family, with his wife and his son, whom he loved. Spencer would be alright. He promised Haley...
He drove home on autopilot and made love to his wife in their pristine bedroom, on white crisp sheets that smelled of vanilla and roses and willed the growing guilt away. He forced himself to listen to familiar moans and gasps as he pushed in, routines and actions they hadn't changed since they'd gotten married, pushed and pulled like he knew Haley liked it and the orgasm that tore through him seconds after hers was as normal as always.
Haley cuddled up to him and kissed his chest, falling asleep moments later and Aaron was left staring at the ceiling of their beautiful catalogue-furnished bedroom, with matching colours and accessories. He didn't sleep.
The next morning, the bullpen was familiarly empty. It always was when Hotch arrived. Gideon was already there, which wasn't unusual either but Hotch still felt a growing unease. He knew he should talk to Gideon about last night, but if Gideon was good at one thing, it was asking the right questions and Hotch knew he wasn't prepared to answer them. He walked quietly into his office and closed the door, only turning on his desk light.
Fortunately, JJ didn't come up with any new cases, meaning he didn't run the risk of having to be in the same room with Spencer or Gideon.
Unfortunately, that also meant Gideon knew where to find him.
“Was I wrong to call you last night?” he asked, choosing now to not bother with knocking. “He was bad off when he went into that bathroom last night, but he didn't seem particularly better when he came out.” Hotch winced at the clear admonition. Gideon was right though. It probably would have been better for Aaron to not have gone at all.
“What happened?” Jason asked quietly, sitting in one of the chairs in front of Hotch's desk.
“It would've been better if you hadn't.” He was staring at the bike hanging in front of his window, not daring to look sideways. The bike had been Haley's gift for his birthday. The thought was too painful and he looked down at his desk.
“Aaron, you know why I called you.” And that was part of the problem. Gideon knew.
“You shouldn't have,” he whispered.
“No, Jason.” A sudden flash of anger made him look up. “I'm married. I have a son! Spencer...” He trailed off. He couldn't say what Spencer was, because telling the truth would also mean cheating on his wife. “I can't, Jason.”
“Spencer wanted me to call you,” Gideon said quietly. He stared at him for a long time, but then shook his head and stood up. “I think you're making a mistake.” The door closing behind him was final a sound as Aaron had ever heard.
Hotch stared through the window into the bullpen, watching Spencer come in late and settle at his desk. There was a quietness in his behaviour Aaron hadn't seen in a while. Spencer seemed subdued, lost in thought, like he had when he first started working at the
He froze when Spencer glanced up in his direction and for a moment their eyes met, but then Spencer lowered his gaze to the floor, escaping the bullpen for the kitchenette.
He knew they had to talk about this eventually. Hotch had some of the best profilers in the country working for him and he had no illusions that the team hadn't yet realised something was wrong. If he didn't talk to Spencer the rest would think he didn't care and ask for an explanation as to why he hadn't yet spoken with Reid and they'd read in his behaviour that he was somehow responsible. If he did talk to Spencer and the young man came out of his office crying, they'd also know Hotch was responsible and all blame him and the last thing he needed was a resentful team. Either option presented the same bad result with the difference that one would stop Gideon from looking at him like he killed a puppy.
He sighed deeply and called Reid to his office.
It took him a lot longer than usual but eventually there was a too quiet knock that Hotch wouldn't have heard if he hadn't been carefully listening and then Reid's shuffling feet appeared.
He didn't want to scrutinise but he couldn't stop himself from profiling Reid's nervous stance, hands tugged firmly in his pockets, head slightly cast downward, eyes darting between the floor and the window. Again, he had to forcibly restrain from pulling Spencer in his arms.
He kept the desk between them, just in case.
“Have you slept well?” he asked, not finding any way to start the conversation any better.
“Fine,” the young man quickly replied - an obvious lie.
“I haven't.” He clutched the chair in front of him. “Spencer...”
“It's okay,” Reid quietly reassured.
But it wasn't. It wouldn't be until they both found a way out of this mess without anyone getting their heart ripped out and Aaron was darkly aware that whatever the outcome, someone was going to get hurt.
“It's not okay and I really want to change that, but I can't. I...” He shook his head. “Spencer, Haley is my wife.”
Reid cringed and wrapped both arms protectively around his stomach. “I know that,” he whispered, but there was a hint of defensiveness Aaron couldn't fail but notice. It brought home that Spencer wasn't as fragile as everyone – including him, he hated to admit – assumed him to be.
“You haven't said that you loved her.” There was still so much hesitation in Spencer's tone, but – as Aaron looked up and noticed Spencer staring at him – clear defiance as well. It made him shiver for some reason and Aaron thought he probably should feel offended by the statement.
“I do love her,” he answered quickly, too quickly. He did love his wife. She was everything he'd ever wanted. Kind and funny and beautiful and – and he didn't want it to sound like he was making excuses, because he wasn't.
Spencer nodded sadly and left his office. The lie was as clear to him as it had been to Hotch.
Hotch stared after him, not having any more of a clue as to what he should do than before he'd called Spencer to his office. He had been through so much with Haley, dark periods they'd come out of so much better, stronger. Hadn't they? If Jack wasn't proof of their commitment, then what was? If his son wasn't proof of Aaron's commitment and devotion to his marriage, then what could be?
He stared at the wedding band on his left hand and then at the picture of his son on his desk, his heart filling with love and pride at the little boy happily staring back at him. He gently touched the glass frame, sighing sadly. Haley would take his son away from him if he left. He was sure of it. He'd seen it in her eyes whenever he came home late or when he had to leave in the middle of his vacation time. He was all too aware of the resentment slowly building. She tried to hide it, but Aaron was a good profiler and it was hard to stop studying people.
But she would take away his son.
He sighed and with one last look at the picture on his desk, stood up. He needed to talk to Haley and sitting here growing more and more agitated wouldn't do him any good. He wasn't going to be able to concentrate now, anyway. Instructing Morgan to call him when something came up, he brushed past his team and perpetually ignored the curious looks he was no doubt getting.
Driving home was done in a haze of worry and contemplation. He'd made a decision and was going to stick to it. It was the only choice he could make, given the circumstances and he hoped everyone would understand, eventually.
The house was unusually quiet for this time of day but the light in the kitchen was on. Haley hadn't said she was going anywhere. Aaron shrugged and opened the door. There wasn't anyone in the kitchen but when he called out through the house, there was a thump upstairs that made him instinctively reach for his gun.
He quietly moved up the stairs, the federal agent in him taking over, his instincts of hunting down a suspect coming out. An angry hiss and more thumping drew him to their bedroom and he didn't wait before kicking open the door and bursting in, gun securely positioned towards however was intruding in their home.
Haley was sitting in bed, a sheet barely covering her and Aaron didn't even need to know where he was. In fact, he didn't even need to be here. He took a painful moment to stare at the evidence before he holstered his weapon and threw the bedroom door closed behind him. He was vaguely aware of Haley calling after him, yelling at him to stop and wait but he didn't. He ran down the stairs and straight to his car, refusing to let his mind think.
He did the only thing that didn't need thinking. He drove. He got into his car and drove, no idea where, he wasn't even paying any attention to the road. He just drove. The mindless passing of other cars and lights, traffic he avoided, people walking the street, more cars, more lights, more things that didn't make him think.
He had no idea how long – several hours – but the sun was setting when he turned back into his driveway, feeling decidedly calmer. Whoever it had been in his bed would be gone by now. And if he wasn't – Hotch was well within his rights to shoot trespassers on his property.
Haley was sitting in the kitchen and jumped when he came into view.
“Where the hell have you been?” she demanded, preparing to ream him but quickly backing down when she saw the look in his eyes.
“How long?” It was an effort to not shout and keep his tone even, but Aaron was well trained in schooling outward signs of distress. You learn best as a child, they say. Aaron did.
“Aaron, it's not...”
Haley twisted her hands nervously, obviously considering the pros and cons of lying. “Three months,” she eventually said.
Aaron nodded, because it was all he could do.
“You know why I came home early?” he asked suddenly, but didn't wait for a reply. “I wanted to fix this marriage. Try to make it work, for Jack.” He laughed darkly. “Our son.”
“Aaron, you're never home,” she pleaded. “What was I supposed to do?”
Hotch's eyes narrowed. “Supposed to do? You're not supposed to do anything!”
“So, you expect me to just sit here alone and wait until you finally decide to come home for a few hours and then be grateful for it?” she spat. “I'm not some trophy wife you can bring out when the occasion calls for it, Aaron! I'm a human being with needs!”
“So am I,” he said quietly, the change in demeanour leaving the room in an uncomfortable silence. “I've been trying so hard to balance this and work; giving both everything I have...” He took a deep shaky breath, all the pent up energy draining from him in an instant. “And I would really like some support.”
“Support? When are you going to support me?” She sighed and shook her head. “You're married to your job, Aaron and you can’t keep this up. I can’t.” She squared her shoulders. “You need to choose.”
Hotch let himself fall into a chair, leaning with his elbows on his knees. He stared at the floor and shook his head, pretty sure the pain his was feeling was his heart being ripped out of him.
Haley nodded sadly. “Jack and I will be staying at my sister's.” He barely registered her going upstairs and coming back down some time later with two suitcases.
The door closing behind her was the door closing on his marriage.
He had no idea how long he sat in the same position on the chair, staring at nothing, but a sore back eventually made itself known and he hissed when he sat up. The house was almost completely blanketed in darkness, only the back porch light through the kitchen giving a slightly lighter tint than complete darkness. He didn't bother turning on any lights, just let himself fall into the cough and pass out into a mindless oblivion.
Even though his body screamed at him to stay home, Hotch drove the next morning to work, neatly tailored, as always. The other were probably wondering why he'd left so early the day before and should he stay home another day... they had already freaked when he was once late for work.
As soon as he stepped through the glass doors he marched up the stairs to his office and locked himself inside. Fortunately, no one dared disturb him, until Gideon rapped on his door and wouldn't leave.
“What's going on, Hotch?” he demanded by way of an entrance. “You disappear for half the day and then you come into the office looking like a zombie.”
Hotch didn't respond, he just once more kept staring at the ring on his right hand and the picture of a smile Jack on his desk.
“Haley's been having an affair,” he said. It was strange that saying it out loud didn't cause his chest to constrict. Or a sob to come forth. An uncontrolled puff of laughter did escape his lips. “I was trying to save my marriage and turns out, she's been breaking it for months.” He looked up. “How's that for irony?” He shook his head, fingering the ring, before sliding it off and holding it up. “So much work and hardship for such a small thing... How do people do it?”
“I'm sorry, Aaron.”
“Yeah.” Hotch opened a drawer, and carefully dropped the ring inside. “I'm done fighting,” he said with a definite resolution. “And she's not taking my son away from me.” Grabbing the phone, he called his lawyer and made an appointment.
After the call, Aaron stared through the office for a long while. Gideon was still standing in front of his desk, staring at him with avid fascination. His eyes eventually travelled down to the bullpen, where the rest of his team was working through a backlog of overdo reports.
“How much do they know?” Hotch asked quietly, not tearing his gaze from Morgan and Prentiss arguing over something.
“They know something's wrong, but I don't think they know anything for sure.” Hotch nodded. “But they are going to find out.”
“Of course they will.” They were all Profilers; some of the best in the field. “It's what they do.” Hotch's lip lifted in a small smile.
“Aaron,” Gideon said quietly and Hotch stiffened, because he knew that tone.
“I chose my marriage over him, Gideon.” He sighed when his eyes lingered on Spencer, who was watching the bickering of his colleagues. “He's not going to want to talk to me.” Tearing away from the display he focussed his gaze on Gideon. “And maybe he shouldn't.”
“Why not? Haley's no longer standing in the way.”
“That's not the point.”
“Then what is?” Gideon moved closer and sat in a chair. “Aaron, why are you backing away when you know this is what you want? And don't tell me it's because you're his supervisor because you and I both know you would never let that interfere with the job.”
“I'm scared, Jason. This whole thing with Haley... who knows what the fallout is going to be? I don't want anyone getting caught up in this.”
“You know that he's already more in this than he realises.” Hotch frowned. “This is the first time I’ve not seen you fight to save your failed marriage.” He held up a hand to stave off any protests. “You want to move on, Aaron.”
“Spencer is not the reason my marriage has failed, Gideon.” Anger suddenly burst through him at the accusation.
“I'm not saying that.” Jason slowed down his tone and chose his words very carefully. “What I'm saying is that this time, it's no longer the choice of an unhappy marriage or being alone. He can help you get through this.” He stood up and made for the door.
“Just make sure you think about your third option before you decide.”
For the second time in two days he left Aaron contemplating the enigma and temptation of Spencer Reid. And for the second time in two days Hotch considered what would happen if he called Spencer into his office.
The others probably already knew what was going on between them. They might not know anything about Haley -- although, he wouldn't put it past them to suspect something – but he was sure they knew about Spencer. The young man was good at hiding emotions under normal circumstances, but a still emotionally vulnerable Spencer wore his heart on his sleeve for everyone to see. And knowing Morgan, he wouldn't stop pushing until he knew exactly what was bothering his colleague. Hotch supposed he should be glad for the obvious protective brother streak Derek had developed in the last years and he had no illusions that, had he been at the office yesterday, Morgan – probably everyone – would have been standing in front of his desk, demanding what the hell he did to Reid. Good thing they hadn't thought to go as far as calling him at the house or worse, dropping by.
Hotch didn't like to be the subject of office gossip, but surrounded by profilers – even with the promise that they wouldn't profile each other – things came out without anyone meaning them to. No, if they were going to find out anything, Hotch would be the one to tell them.
And he still owed them an explanation for his disappearance yesterday.
Taking a deep breath – and seriously gathering whatever courage he had – he headed down to the bullpen towards his team.
“I'm sorry about my disappearance yesterday.” He consciously did not look at Reid. “I had to leave early, but – Haley and I are separating. She's been having an affair for months and I'm meeting a divorce attorney tomorrow afternoon. Sorry for the inconvenience.” He nodded shortly and disappeared back up the stairs and into his office, where he fell into his chair and stared in front of him for a very long time.
They now knew. No office gossip or speculation. Reid knew.
But now what?
Reid would no doubt realise why Hotch had gone home. Why he'd needed to talk to Haley and Aaron doubted he would have drawn the wrong conclusion. Spencer knew Hotch hadn't chosen him.
And that's why Spencer wasn't in his office convincing him they could work.
A knock soft tentative knock startled him and the 'come in' came out a bit more choked than he would've liked, but he managed to straighten up enough and look professional.
He froze from standing up when Spencer came shuffling in. Hotch resisted the urge to look down in guilt. Barely.
“Why did you go home?” There was emotion in his voice, but for once Hotch couldn't identify what exactly. Which was disturbingly unsettling.
And gave him no option but to tell the truth. “I was going to try and fix my marriage.” He cast his eyes down, not prepared to see Reid's reaction.
“Did you want to?”
He shook his head without thinking. “No. I don't.”
“What about Jack?”
Hotch sighed and shook his head again. “I don't know.” He looked back up and willed himself to keep control. “I don't know what's going to happen now, with Haley and Jack... But I know her having an affair was just the last of many things gone wrong between us.”
“But you still would've stayed for Jack.” Reid wrapped his arms around him, his carefully practised mask slipping up and Hotch suddenly wanted nothing more than to hold him again.
“I would do anything for my son. Haley doesn't, apparently. She--” When Spencer actually winced, Hotch swallowed his words. He needed to do better.
“Spencer, I'm sorry.” On instinct, he stood up and stopped a few feet from Reid, grateful he wasn't backing away. “I know I hurt you. I know I left when you needed – when you needed me. And I know me telling you that my marriage only failed because of what Haley did isn’t helping, but – it's all excuses. Haley didn't matter; my marriage would've ended eventually, anyway.” He sighed and shook his head. “And it doesn't matter that I'm your supervisor – although it does present some drawbacks.” He tried to some light of the situation, but it all went completely lost on Reid, who just looked at him, seemingly ready to burst into tears at any moment.
“I'm scared, Spencer,” he admitted. “This can go so horribly wrong.”
Suddenly there were two arms around him, holding him so tightly that he couldn't do anything but hug back.
“Please don't tell me this is just you hugging me right before you tell me I've been an ass and you walk away,” he mumbled into a bony shoulder.
There was a distinctive – and rather vehement – shake of Reid's head, long hair tickling Aaron's nose. “It doesn't have to go wrong.”
Aaron closed his eyes and drew in a deep breath, senses filling with the smell of coffee and Reid. “Thank you,” he whispered to both the young man in his arms and Gideon, watching through the window. The man smiled knowingly and walked away.