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Title: Surviving
Author: Daylyn
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Rating: PG-13 (FRT)
Pairing: Hotch/Reid
Disclaimer: All characters belong to their copyright holders. No profit is intended.

Summary: Set immediately after Episode 5.14, “Parasite”. On the flight back from Florida, Reid and Hotch talk about Jack.

Author’s Note: Contains SPOILERS for Episode 5.14, “Parasite” specifically and for Season 5 generally. After watching this episode, all I could wonder is how Hotch would react to the fact that the con man’s son watched his father being shot and killed. Hotch is bound to see parallels to Jack. I felt absolutely compelled to write this.


Surviving
By Daylyn


Spencer is the first one on the jet and he takes one of the seats near the window. The rest of the team piles in. Spencer looks up and watches as Hotch enters last and then makes his way to the rear of the plane, to a seat that’s separate from the rest. As Hotch goes by, Spencer can see that his back is stiff. It’s almost as if Spencer can feel the tension rolling off of Hotch.

Rossi sits across from Spencer and pulls out his notebook, starting to write. Everyone else enters into their own little world, either pretending to read or, in Morgan’s case, listening to music.

This case really doesn’t feel like a win. The unsub, a con man whom they don’t even know his real name, was killed by the local LEO who had been tracking him for years. Understandable, from what Spencer’s gathered, as they thought that their suspect had a gun. Unfortunately he didn’t. Unfortunately, he was shot down in front of his family and mistress. Shot down in front of his son.

Spencer knows that this case will affect Hotch for a long, long time.

The take-off is smooth. The flight uneventful. Prentiss, Morgan, and JJ start chatting. Hotch stays in the back of the plane, a quiet, almost ominous figure. Spencer reads, but he knows he can’t concentrate.

Rossi looks up from his writing. He gives Spencer what can only be called a significant look.

“What?” Spencer asks.

“You know what.”

“I don’t think he would appreciate—”

“I don’t think it matters what he wants. What matters is what he needs.”

“Why me?”

Rossi gives him a disbelieving glare. Spencer shrinks into himself a little. “Forget I said that.”

“I will.” Their eyes meet. Spencer sighs and stands up. He makes his way to the back of the plane, the team watching and yet, deliberately, refusing to acknowledge.

Hotch is scribbling furiously as he works on his report. Hotch only works at this pace when he’s… agitated. Spencer refuses to use the word upset.

“Hey,” Spencer says as he sits across from Hotch.

“Reid.” Hotch’s tone is clipped, his body language withdrawn, every part of him indicating, ‘Stay Away’.

Sometimes, Reid’s isn’t good at doing what he’s supposed to. Especially with Hotch. Especially now.

“How are you doing?” he asks quietly.

“Fine,” is the curt reply.

“Aaron…”

Hotch’s head rises abruptly, his face like granite, yet his eyes as troubled as a stormy sea. “Reid,” he says, annoyance obvious. “What do you want?”

The team is speaking louder, purposefully, given them at least the illusion of privacy. “I want to see how you are,” Spencer replies calmly.

“I told you, I’m fine.”

“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Hotch looks at him, angry, incredulous, annoyed, dismayed. Suddenly there is a small, almost miniscule, lightening of his face. “You did not just quote The Princess Bride to me.”

Spencer gives a half smile. “Whatever works.” His voice lowers. “Seriously, I just want to see how my lover is doing.”

Hotch looks shocked for a moment, and then rolls his eyes to indicate the team. They are continuing to talk, loudly, amongst themselves. Hotch opens his mouth to respond.

“And you’re not fine,” Spencer interrupts.

Hotch sighs. “Did you think that maybe I don’t want to talk about it?”

“Did you think that maybe you need to?”

Hotch looks out the window of the jet for a long moment. Spencer wonders if he’s ever going to respond.

Finally, finally Hotch looks back at him. “Do you think that boy will ever recover from seeing his father shot in front of him?”

Spencer knows what he’s really asking: ‘Will Jack ever be okay?’

“I don’t know,” Spencer answers. “It depends on a lot of factors. How much support he gets from his mother, other family, his friends. Obviously his mother has her own grief to cope with now. Maybe they can work through it together.”

Hotch nods. He doesn’t say anything.

Spencer continues. “In this case, there’s also the hurt of finding out that they didn’t know ‘William’ at all. That their whole life with her husband, his father, is based on a lie.” Spencer pauses for a moment and then adds, “Jack obviously doesn’t have that problem.”

“This isn’t about Jack,” Hotch snaps.

Spencer meets his gaze steadily.

Aaron sighs. “Okay,” he admits quietly, “maybe it’s a little bit about Jack.”

Spencer nods, trying to look encouraging. He wonders if he ever gets that right.

“Jack could hear the shot that killed Haley, you know. Even though he was hiding.”

Spencer nods again. He doesn’t know what to say.

“He still gets nightmares.”

“I know.” And Spencer does know; he’s been in Aaron’s home, in Aaron’s bed, when they’ve been awakened by a screaming child. It’s one of the most heartbreaking sounds Spencer has ever heard. Spencer smiles sadly. “I think we all still have nightmares.”

“Yeah. But that was Jack’s mommy.”

“I know.”

Aaron looks out the window again, but he doesn’t seem to be cutting himself off this time. It’s more like he’s thinking.

“Jessica thinks that I should bring Jack to a child psychologist.”

“You don’t want to?” Spencer asks cautiously.

“It’s probably a good idea.”

“It might help Jack to have a neutral party to talk to. Someone who’s specializes in grief counseling would be best.”

“I know.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“With this job, I’m convinced that every therapist is a child molester or a serial killer,” Aaron says, a slight, self-mocking smile on his face.

Spencer smiles back. “Well, there must be one in the DC area who isn’t. We can have Garcia run a background check on anyone you’d be thinking about.”

Aaron snorts but then looks pensive.

“What’s the real problem, Aaron?”

Aaron looks up at him sharply. “You know, it’s annoying dating a profiler,” he says with mock seriousness.

“But you love me anyway,” Spencer whispers teasingly.

Aaron’s looks at him gravely. “Actually, yes, I do.”

Spencer swallows and takes Aaron’s hand. The team is quite loud in the front of the plane. “Tell me what’s wrong. What are you thinking?”

“I guess I’m… afraid… that a child psychologist will point out how much I’m hurting Jack, going back to work. I don’t want to hear how badly I’ve failed, as a father, as a husband—”

Spencer tightens his grip on Aaron’s hand. “Stop that. You haven’t failed. Not as a father. And your marriage with Haley was a two-way street. I’m sure there was plenty of blame to go around.”

“Maybe. But she didn’t deserve this.”

“Of course she didn’t. No one does.”

“But how could I go back to work and leave my grieving son?”

“You’re acting like you never see him, which you know isn’t true. Every night we’re in town, you’re there. As soon as we land, you’re there. Every weekend we’re home, you’re there. Besides, this is who you are. If you tried to be someone other than who you are, then you’d be inflicting far more pain upon those around you. This is you, Aaron. Catcher of bad guys. Righter of wrongs. And far, far more complex than that, with good and bad sides and everything in between.”

“Haley once told me that this isn’t who I am, this is what I do. Right before she walked out on me.”

Spencer strokes Aaron’s hand with his thumb. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry your marriage failed. I’m sorry, so sorry, about what happened. But this is more than a job. For all of us. It’s who we all are. You have to be who you are, Aaron. It’s the best thing for you, and the best thing for Jack.”

“To thine own self be true,” Aaron comments, with just a hint of bitterness.

“Something like that. But I know why you came back to the BAU. Could you really have faced your son and told him that you’d quit? That you let his mother’s killer drive you away from stopping ‘bad guys’? You needed to prove to yourself that you could still go on. And to show that to Jack, to show him that it is possible to lead your life even in the face of such tragedy.”

Aaron looks up at him, raw emotion in his misty eyes. Spencer swallows.

“Thank you,” Aaron whispers. “I don’t know what I’d do without you.”

Spencer smiles but shakes his head. “We’re all here for you,” he says, indicating the loud team with a quick jerk of his head. “And we’re all here for Jack. He has support. Great support. A wonderful aunt, wonderful family and, most importantly, a wonderful father. You can help each other through this, and let others help you too.”

Aaron takes a shuddering breath.

“Take him to see someone he can talk to," Spencer continues. "Talk to someone yourself too, someone who’s not so close to it. But know that I’m here for you, and for Jack, at any time, Aaron. I love you, you know.”

Aaron squeezes his hand tight.

“So, yes,” Spencer adds, “I think Jack will get through this. And yes, I think he’ll be okay, or as okay as any of us are,” he says with a small smile.

Aaron nods. He takes a deep breath and withdraws his hand. “I should finish my report. I want to go home as soon as we land. If I hurry I can get there in time for Jack’s supper.”

“Good.” Spencer goes to stand.

Aaron stops him with a light touch on his arm. “Come over tonight,” he says quietly.

“Are you sure? I don’t want to interfere with your time with Jack.”

“I’m sure. I want to spend time with my family. In case you haven’t realized, Spencer, that includes you.”

Spencer can’t stop himself from grinning widely. “I’ll be there.”

“Good.”

“Now let me get back to my report, Reid.”

“Of course, Hotch.”

Spencer stands and goes to the front of the plane. The team is engaged in a card game. He takes an empty seat.

“Hey, Spence,” JJ says, “you want us to deal you in?”

“Sure,” he responds.

He meets Rossi’s gaze. Rossi gives him an approving look.

Spencer smiles.

-----------------------

Btw: Help! I'm seeking a CM beta. I have this Hotch/Reid Fic of Doom (doom in the sense that it's never ending), which is currently about 10,000 words and half-way done. I had what I thought was a simple idea. I'm obviously far more verbose than I planned. I would love to get someone's thoughts on it. It can be separated out into six parts, so no one would have to do it all at once. I'm hoping to have it finished, completely, within the next week or two, but I'm a slow writer so we'll see. If anyone would be willing to beta, please let me know. Thanks.
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August 2010

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