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Part 1

Dinner #3

The third dinner was actually planned.

Spencer hadn’t seen much of Aaron since that fateful (and wonderful) night, but that seemed to be because they were fairly busy with work. First they had gone to Oklahoma City for the taxidermy case (and Morgan’s first test as the Unit Chief, which, Spencer had to admit, if only to himself, hadn’t been too awful). Then, almost immediately, the team had flown to Los Angeles to investigate the Dante-related deaths.

They had just gotten back from L.A. and Spencer could tell that Aaron was a bit stressed. Although he hadn’t said anything, Spencer knew that Aaron had hated having to admit that he had stepped down as the Unit Chief to Detective Kim, who had worked with the team before and whose confusion was quite noticeable. In fact, the whole team, including Morgan, had felt rather uncomfortable in that moment. Furthermore, Spencer could tell that Aaron (and all of them, really) was concerned about JJ’s head injury. She was going to be fine, but Aaron always felt responsible when one of “his team” was injured (and Spencer felt that it was still “Hotch’s team”, no matter who was currently “in charge”).

Spencer stopped by Aaron’s office before heading home. He was reviewing several files including, as Spencer could see, Foyet’s file. They both declined to comment on it.

“Hey,” Spencer said quietly. “Do you want to have dinner tonight?”

Aaron looked at him as if a bit surprised by the question, but then gave a quick (very quick) hint of a smile. “If you don’t mind that it’s late. I’m going to be at work for a while.”

Spencer didn’t mention that the reports were now Morgan’s responsibility. He knew that Aaron would be working on the Foyet case. He smiled instead. “That’s fine. I’m actually…” Spencer paused and then took a deep breath, making a decision. “I’m going to an NA meeting tonight. I won’t be home until around 9:30. I thought I’d pick up some Chinese food.” He had never actually admitted that, out loud, to another member of the team, let alone his (former) supervisor, although he knew that Aaron knew about the meetings.

Aaron looked concerned. “Is everything all right? You seem to be doing so well.”

Spencer nodded. “I am doing well. That’s why I go to NA meetings.”

“Okay. Thank you for trusting me enough to tell me.”

Spencer gave him a broad smile. “So, Chinese food?”

“Sounds good.”

“Do you want to come by my place? Or I could come to your apartment.”

“I’ll come to your place,” Aaron said decisively.

“Oh. Sure.” Spencer turned to leave, maneuvering on his crutches.

“Spencer,” Aaron said quietly, stopping Spencer immediately. “I don’t want you to think that I don’t want you in my home. I do. But I worry that Foyet is… somehow watching, keeping track of my place. I don’t want you to be in any more danger than you already are.”

Spencer swallowed. “I… hadn’t thought of that. It can’t be easy, carrying that… worry… all the time.”

Aaron shrugged.

“We’ll get him,” Spencer promised, although he had no idea how to accomplish the feat.

Aaron nodded. “See you tonight.”

Spencer got home right before 9:30, Chinese food in hand. Aaron arrived about 10 minutes later.

“Hi,” Spencer said, opening the door to let him in.

“Hi,” Aaron replied, then leaned over and kissed him. Spencer gave a happy hum.

“I’ve got some kung pao chicken, lo mein, and some moo shoo,” Spencer said, heading to the kitchen to get the plates.

“Sounds good. I’m actually pretty starved.” Aaron followed him and then helped him to carry everything into the living room since Spencer’s carrying capabilities were still limited due to his crutches.

They served themselves. Spencer handed Aaron chopsticks but had a fork for himself.

“Still not proficient at chopsticks, I see,” Aaron noted with a faint smile.

“Hey, I’m skinny enough. It’s beneficial if I actually get the food into my mouth.”

“It’s not that difficult,” Aaron said with a smile as he dexterously picked up a piece of chicken and popped it into his mouth.

“For you maybe.”

“And for billions of other people.”

“Well, I’d prefer not to starve, thank you. I still don’t see how a large percentage of the world’s population can feed themselves this way.”

Aaron gave a slight chuckle and then pulled out another pair of chopsticks from the take-out bag. “Give me your hand,” he said.

Spencer rolled his eyes. “Hotch,” he said, reprovingly.

“Give me your hand, Spencer.”

Spencer complied. Aaron grasped it with his own, and then started to trace Spencer’s fingers. Spencer’s breath caught.

“You have beautiful hands,” Aaron murmured. Spencer licked his lips.

“Here,” Aaron said, handing Spencer the chopsticks. “Let me see how you hold these.”

Spencer took them. He could tell his grip was awkward.

“No, no, no. That won’t do.” Aaron took Spencer’s hand and corrected his hold.

Spencer smiled. “You’re going to feed me?”

“I’m going to teach you by example.” Aaron moved Spencer’s hand to his plate and together they picked up a piece of the kung pao chicken. “Now, don’t grip so tightly. Just keep your hold light and move smoothly.”

Spencer actually managed to get the food into his mouth. Aaron looked inordinately pleased. Spencer snorted and rolled his eyes again. “Really, I can feed myself.”

Aaron took Spencer’s hand again, caressing the long fingers. “I like showing you new things.”

“You remember,” Spencer said, “when you tried to teach me how to better shoot a gun? You know, right before I failed my firearm qualification exam.”

“I remember.”

It was also right before Spencer had shot and killed Philip Dowd, but they both declined to mention that.

“You do know that having you behind me at the firing range,” Spencer continued, “holding me, directing me, showing me how to shoot, was extremely distracting. Not to mention erotic.”

Aaron swallowed and continued to trace Spencer’s hand. “I hadn’t realized.”

“Thank goodness you probably only thought that I was a bad shot and didn’t realize how much I wanted you to bend me over and fuck me right there on the firing range.”

Aaron’s breath caught. “Oh god,” he murmured. “You’ve wanted me for that long?” He brought Spencer’s hand to his lips and started to slowly suck on Spencer’s index finger. Spencer shuddered.

“I would never have done anything,” Spencer said in an unsteady voice, “but, yes Aaron, I think I’ve wanted you since I first saw you. You’re absolutely gorgeous, you know, and then, as I got to know you, I was even more attracted by who you are, how very… noble… you are.”

Aaron kissed Spencer’s palm, then reached out with his other hand to stroke Spencer’s cheek. “Come here,” Aaron said, cupping the back of Spencer’s head and drawing him closer.

“I thought you said you were starving,” Spencer remarked.

“I am,” Aaron agreed and pulled Spencer in for a kiss.

They kissed deeply and passionately, but then Spencer pulled away. “Eat,” he insisted. “I don’t want to be responsible for you wasting away.”

Aaron kissed him on his forehead and then pulled back. “I’ll eat if you try and use the chopsticks again.”

Spencer gave an exaggerated sigh but, using the technique Aaron showed him, managed to get another piece of food into his mouth. Aaron smiled an actual smile. Spencer gave him a mock glare and picked up his fork. Aaron’s smile broadened and then he continued to eat with the chopsticks.

“All in all this was a successful case,” Spencer said after a moment.

“Yes,” Aaron replied.

“But everyone seemed to be trying a little bit too hard to pretend that everything is normal.”

Aaron frowned slightly and then nodded. “Yeah. Our banter was a bit forced, wasn’t it? We’re all acting as if things are fine, but underneath….” Aaron fell silent, eating his food.

Spencer forced himself to reach out and touch Aaron’s arm. “I’m sorry about Detective Kim. Having to admit that you were no longer the Unit Chief was awkward.”

Aaron nodded thoughtfully. “You know, it’s not that I really mind all that much when we’re meeting new people with no expectations. For me, the team is the important aspect of who we are and what we do, not that I’m in charge. But yeah, it was uncomfortable, a bit, to admit to someone who had worked with us that Morgan is now the boss.”

“Well, ‘your’ team could tell. I think that’s why we were all trying so hard on the plane ride back to pretend everything was okay.”

“I’m fortunate, I know, to have you, all of you, this team, with me.”

“I think we’re all fortunate to be part of this team and to have you as our leader.”

Aaron smiled a bit sadly and kissed Spencer’s brow. “Thank you. I don’t know what I’ve done to earn your faith, but thank you.”

“You’re you, Aaron. You don’t need to do anything more.” Spencer leaned over and kissed him gently. Aaron returned the kiss, and then deepened it slowly, carefully. They broke apart and Spencer could see the desire in Aaron’s dark eyes.

“Let’s go to bed,” Aaron whispered. Spencer gave a quick glance at the mess sitting on his table. “I’ll help you clean later.”

Deciding that the mess could wait, Spencer agreed. Aaron followed him into the bedroom. “How much longer will you be on the crutches?” he asked.

Spencer shrugged and sat on the bed. “They think I can graduate to a cane pretty soon. It’s annoying, but it’s healing, slowly. I don’t think I’ll ever take simple walking for granted again.”

Aaron sat down next to him. “You’re pretty amazing, you know.”

“For getting myself shot?”

“For saving that doctor’s life, I heard. And for saving the life of the perpetrator.”

“I shot him, Hotch.”

“Not fatally. Everyone lived, Spencer. You made sure of that.”

Spencer shrugged again and Aaron drew him in for another gentle kiss. They lay down on the bed. Aaron pushed Spencer onto his back and lay on top of him, kissing his lips, his brow, his neck. “I’d like to explore you this time, if that’s okay,” Aaron murmured, kissing Spencer’s earlobe.

“Yes,” Spencer breathed.

Aaron removed Spencer’s tie and unbuttoned his vest, then his shirt, continuing to kiss his neck all the while. Spencer began to writhe. Aaron opened Spencer’s shirt, exposing his bare chest. He began to kiss his way down, sucking on a nipple, stroking Spencer’s ribs, kissing his chest. Spencer found himself making little moaning sounds and being unable to stop. He then found that he didn’t care, especially as Aaron began to kiss the concave of his belly.

Aaron undid Spencer’s belt and fly and opened up his pants. Aaron stroked Spencer’s hardness through his boxes.

“Oh yes,” Spencer groaned.

Aaron pushed Spencer’s pants and underwear down slightly and then hesitated. Spencer stroked the top of his head. “You don’t have to, you know,” Spencer said quietly.

Aaron looked up and their gazes met. “I’d like to try,” he said, a bit nervously. Spencer bit his lip and nodded.

Aaron looked back down and then slowly, painstakingly, took the tip of Spencer’s erection into his mouth. Spencer gave a strangled whimper and tried to keep from thrusting. He was mostly successful.

Aaron moaned and began to apply more suction, then took his hand and started to stroke the base of Spencer’s cock.

Spencer groaned again. “So good, Aaron.”

Aaron began to use his tongue to trace Spencer’s hardness. Spencer started to shake at the effort of not thrusting into that wet heat.

“I like watching you react,” Aaron said in a husky voice, and went back to sucking.

“Please,” Spencer said breathlessly.

“Please what?”

“Anything. Anything you want, anything you need. Just… anything.”

Aaron continued to stroke him. “I could watch you all day. I haven’t had anyone want me like this in a very, very long time. What do you want, Spencer? What do you need?”

Spencer hesitated for a second and then said, “Fuck me.” He took in Aaron’s shocked expression. “If you want to, that is,” Spencer added nervously.

Aaron swallowed, hard. “I’d like that,” he admitted, his expression still looking a bit dazed.

“Get up here,” Spencer said, tugging on Aaron’s arm. “And let’s get undressed.”

The removed their clothes and Spencer had Aaron lie on top of him, enjoying the weight of his body. Their erections aligned and Spencer thrust up slightly, earning him a slight moan from Aaron coupled with a downward thrust. Spencer ran his fingers through Aaron’s hair and pulled him in for a fervent kiss. Spencer could feel Aaron’s scars pressed against his own chest, and he ran his hands down Aaron’s back, pulling him even closer.

Aaron pulled back from the kiss. “God, I can’t believe how much I want you,” he panted.

Spencer drew him down for a gentler kiss. “I hope you know that the feeling is mutual, Aaron.” Spencer thrust up again, and Aaron immediately met his thrust. Spencer gave a broken moan when Aaron started to kiss his neck.

Aaron pulled away briefly and looked down at Spencer with lust-laden eyes. “How do we do this?” Aaron asked, a bit nervously. “I’ve never, you know… with a man…”

Spencer struggled to get his breathing under control. “Get off me for a sec,” he said, regretfully, and gave a disappointed sound when Aaron complied. He stroked Aaron’s cheek briefly before rolling over and retrieving lube and condoms from his nightstand drawer. Spencer quickly checked the expiration date on the condoms; they were still good, albeit barely. He turned back to Aaron and smiled nervously.

Aaron’s smile, however, seemed slightly more confident.

“Are you sure about this?” Spencer asked nonetheless.

Aaron didn’t answer but instead leaned over and started to suck hard on Spencer’s left nipple. Spencer almost levitated off the bed. “I’ll take that as a yes,” he said as he stroked Aaron’s head.

Aaron chuckled around his task.

Spencer touched Aaron’s shoulder and Aaron pulled back. Spencer took in the raw desire in Aaron’s eyes and couldn’t help himself from pulling him in for another kiss.

When they broke apart, Spencer handed Aaron the lube. “You’ll have to prepare me,” he said quietly. Aaron nodded. “And be sure to use a lot of lube,” Spencer added. “It’s… um… been quite a while since I’ve done this.”

“Are you sure—”

Spencer kissed him passionately. “Oh yes, I’m absolutely sure.”

Aaron chuckled. “Okay.” He squeezed some lube on his fingers and brought them to Spencer’s opening. He circled Spencer’s rim gently, teasingly.

Spencer shuddered. “Oh yes,” he moaned. “That’s it. Start with one finger.”

“You’ll let me know if you’re uncomfortable.”

“Yes, Aaron, I will. Although I don’t think it would be possible for me to be uncomfortable right about now.”

Aaron smiled and breached Spencer’s entrance. Spencer’s breath caught and he pushed down further on Aaron’s finger. “Oh god. Deeper. Please.”

Aaron suppressed a moan and complied. “You are so hot like this. Wanting. Needing.”

Spencer could see that Aaron’s face was flushed with desire. He pulled him in for a frantic kiss as Aaron’s finger continued to create sparks inside him.

“Another one,” Spencer gasped out. “Please.”

He could feel Aaron apply more lube and then two fingers were inside him. Aaron changed the angle of entry slightly and Spencer could feel the fingers brush his prostate. He gasped and clutched Aaron’s arm.

“Okay?” Aaron asked, unsure.

Spencer whimpered. “So good.”

Aaron smiled. He pulled his fingers out, applied more lube, and pushed back in. Spencer’s breath was in shallow gasps. He reached out and found the condom box, taking out a foil packet and opening it with his teeth. He rolled it on Aaron’s cock, and Aaron gave a slight moan. Spencer then grabbed the lube, squeezed some out, and started to stroke Aaron’s cock.

“Fuck,” Aaron groaned, thrusting into Spencer’s hand. Spencer chuckled.

They kissed, wetly, sloppily. Spencer released Aaron’s cock and whispered, “Please.”

Aaron gave a little moan. He looked at Spencer lying on the bed. “Like this? In this position, I mean?”

Spencer nodded. “It would be easiest on my knee. If that’s okay?”

Aaron grabbed a pillow and placed it under Spencer’s back. “It’s absolutely okay, Spencer,” he said with a small smile as he lay on top. He slowly began to push his way inside.

Spencer closed his eyes and felt Aaron breach him. Spencer tried to force himself to relax. He gave himself over to that feeling of pressure, pleasure, and pain. He felt Aaron pause, and he opened his eyes to look into Aaron’s concerned ones.

“Are you all right?” Aaron whispered.

Spencer nodded and took a deep breath. “Just go slowly.” Aaron complied until he was fully sheathed and then held still. Spencer continued to breathe deeply, feeling himself adjusting, accommodating. “Shift up slightly,” he told Aaron, who was focused on him with such intensity that Spencer almost groaned from that look alone. “And begin to move… slowly.”

Aaron nodded and began to thrust gently, altering the angle of his cock. Spencer felt a burst of intense pleasure as Aaron found the right position to stroke Spencer’s prostate. Spencer gasped and clutched at him. “There,” he cried. “Right there. Oh god…”

Aaron smiled and continued his steady thrusting.

Spencer looked into Aaron’s eyes. Spencer felt almost overwhelmed by the fact that Aaron Hotchner was actually inside him. Spencer had never dared to even dream that this moment was a possibility, although he had longed for Aaron for years. He pulled him down for a kiss and just reveled in the sensations bursting through him. “So good, Aaron,” he cried. “So good.”

“You feel amazing, Spencer. I never knew…” Aaron kissed him again.

“Faster,” Spencer whispered. “Oh please, faster.” Aaron began to thrust fast and deep. Spencer was overwhelmed by the feeling of Aaron around him, inside him, part of him.

Aaron’s movement became erratic. “I can’t hold on… I’m going to…”

Spencer clutched at Aaron’s back, pulling him even tighter. “Yes, Aaron. Please.”

Aaron gave three hard, deep thrusts, then groaned softly in Spencer’s ear. Spencer could feel Aaron pulse inside of him. It was almost, but not quite, enough to send him over the edge too.

Aaron panted harshly, his hot breath on Spencer’s neck. Despite his need, Spencer stroked Aaron’s back gently, enjoying the intimacy, the feeling of Aaron softening inside him.

“That was amazing,” Aaron finally breathed. He pulled out slowly; Spencer hissed in a bit of discomfort and loss.

Aaron looked down and saw that Spencer was still aroused – hard and desperate. Spencer was about to beg him to use his hands when Aaron got a mischievous gleam in his eye and quickly bent down, engulfing the tip of Spencer’s cock in his mouth. Spencer couldn’t stop his involuntary thrusts. Aaron, however, stayed with him and even encouraged his reaction.

Mere moments passed and Spencer was at the edge. He tried to push Aaron off of him. “I’m going to come,” he gasped. “I can’t… please… you have to…”

Aaron continued his suction.

Spencer groaned and felt his release burst from him into the hot wetness of Aaron’s mouth. Bliss slammed through his body. He lay there, panting heavily, as he slowly became aware again of his surroundings. Aaron was kneeling back, with an odd look on his face as he licked his lips.

Spencer pulled Aaron to lie partially on top of him and clutched his face. “You… I…” he gasped, amazed by Aaron’s willingness to perform that act. Spencer pulled Aaron down for a deep kiss and groaned as he tasted himself in Aaron’s mouth.

Aaron pulled back slightly and smiled bashfully. “The taste wasn’t quite what I was expecting,” he admitted.

“It’s acquired.”

“Hmm…” Aaron thought about that for a moment and then kissed Spencer again. “Well, if this is the reaction I’m going to get, I suppose I could get used to it.”

Spencer chuckled and kissed Aaron some more. Their kisses were wet and sated and sloppy and lazy and oh so perfect, Spencer thought. After several moments, Aaron pulled away and lay down beside Spencer, who wrapped his arms around Aaron.

“Thank you,” Aaron whispered. “That was… wonderful.”

Spencer kissed Aaron’s brow and pulled him closer. “Stay here. Please,” he said quietly, not caring if he sounded like he was pleading, just wanting Aaron with him.

Aaron nodded. “Yes. I was planning to.”

Spencer made a happy sound as he stroked Aaron’s back. Entwined with each other, they drifted off to sleep.

The next morning was spent waking up late but taking time for quick kisses, followed by rushing to get ready for work and cleaning up congealed Chinese food. Aaron insisted upon driving Spencer to the office (“I’m not making you take the train with your crutches while I’m here with a car,” Aaron declared). They didn’t discuss future plans or what they would do when the team figured it out. By a non-discussed, mutual decision, they decided to just enjoy the moment.

Spencer should have known that such instants are transitory.

The BAU received news that serial killer Karl Arnold, AKA "The Fox", whom the team had captured years earlier, had information regarding a series of recent killings. Aaron and Prentiss went to the prison to interview him.

And everything went to hell.


Dinner # 4

The fourth dinner took place after Haley Hotchner’s funeral.

Spencer had seen that Aaron was shattered after Haley’s murder. He had withdrawn so far into himself that Spencer didn’t know if it was possible to reach him. Aaron had come to Spencer’s apartment two nights after the horrific events. Spencer could tell by the cold look on Aaron’s face that he wasn’t there for comfort.

Aaron stood just inside Spencer’s doorway, his hands in his pockets, his face like granite. Spencer licked his lips nervously and asked, “Where’s Jack?”

“Haley’s sister is watching him for the moment. I needed to come speak with you in person.”

Spencer swallowed. “Okay.”

“I can’t do this, Reid. I just listened to the woman I loved for more than half my life being murdered and I can’t do… this. I can’t be what you want, what you need. I have to think of Jack. I have to think of you. I can’t give myself to you, and you deserve better than that. I’m sorry.”

“Aaron, we can—”

“No, we can’t. This is over, whatever it is. I’m truly sorry,” Hotch turned around and walked out the door. Spencer closed it after him and then leaned his head on the doorframe, his body shaking.

Spencer only saw Hotch one other time before the funeral, when Director Strauss had cleared him of wrongdoing. Spencer stood with the team in a showing of solidarity as Hotch had walked into the round table room to gather his son. Spencer had vowed to himself that he would always support Hotch, no matter what happened, even after all of this. Maybe even especially after all of this.

Spencer stood behind Hotch at the funeral, listening to Hotch’s heart-broken eulogy. He walked beside Haley Hotchner’s casket, standing with the team as they brought her to her final resting place. He exchanged a glance with Hotch, offering him silent encouragement, but they did not get a chance to speak.

Spencer was appalled when the team was pulled away from the funeral for a case. The case centered on a series of home invasions in Nashville, and everyone on the team was obviously on edge. Spencer heard that Prentiss had almost lost it when the unsub was captured. The plane ride home was subdued, and Rossi disappeared almost immediately upon landing. Spencer suspected that he had gone to talk to Hotch.

Spencer didn’t know what to do. He didn’t know if Hotch would come back to work. He didn’t know if Hotch should come back to work. He didn’t know how he felt or what he should feel. He stared blankly at the paperwork on the desk before coming to a decision.

He walked to Morgan’s office, leaning on his cane. “I’m leaving,” he told Morgan from the doorway. “I can’t stay any longer today.”

Morgan nodded. “I understand. I think I’m going to leave soon myself. I’m not going to accomplish anything right now, am I?” he said, waving his hand over the files on his desk.

“No,” Spencer agreed. “None of us will.”

“Need a ride home?”

“Actually, if you could drop me off at a supermarket, I need to get stuff to make dinner.”

“You cook?”

Spencer gave a sad smile. “I do tonight.”

Morgan gave him a puzzled look but Spencer refused to elaborate.

A few hours later Spencer was standing in the hallway outside of Hotch’s apartment, a bag of groceries in one hand, his cane in the other. He put the bag down, took a deep breath, and knocked.

After a few moments, Hotch opened the door. “Reid,” he said with surprise, “what are you doing here?”

Spencer licked his lips nervously and said, “I’ve come to make dinner.”

Hotch stepped out into the hallway and closed the door over until it was only slightly ajar. “While I appreciate the gesture, it’s unnecessary.”

“Hotch, I just want to help.”

“I know. But this is inappropriate, Reid. I told you, I can’t continue whatever we had between us. I think you should go.”

Spencer felt like he had been punched in the gut. His face hardened. “No,” he said.

Hotch looked shocked. “Reid—”

Spencer grabbed his wrist. “Hotch. I have known you for five years now. And I thought, after all this time, that we were friends. That’s why I’m here – as your friend.”

“I appreciate that, but—”

“Shut up. As your friend, I’m going to limp into your kitchen, cook dinner for you and Jack and whoever else is in there, and just be there as someone you can yell at or ignore or anything in-between. Because, as your friend, I am going to let you know that you are not alone.”

Hotch blinked. “That’s very considerate, but—”

“Shut up. I don’t give a damn, Aaron Hotchner, if you never touch me again. That’s not what this is about. But I am not going to abandon you or our friendship. Because I know what it’s like to struggle through horrors alone, and I am not letting you do that. You’ve been alone too long.”

Hotch took a deep breath. “I should be alone,” he said brokenly. “I don’t deserve…”

“What?”

“Compassion. Friendship. Caring.”

“Why the fuck not?”

Hotch looked at Spencer in shock, but then lowered his eyes. “If you only knew the type of monster I was.”

Spencer grabbed his arm. “No. Now you listen to me. We have all, at some point, done something monstrous. All of us. The fact that you were pushed out of control by a psychotic sadist does not make you a monster. What do you expect from yourself, Hotch? You listened as that man killed the woman you loved and vowed to murder your four year old son. The same man who had attacked you and stabbed you nine times. The same man who had killed a bus-load of people and had the audacity to blame you for his actions. And you snapped. Do you think that there are any of us who wouldn’t have? You’re not Superman or Captain America or some other stupid fucking super hero. You’re human, Hotch. And as a human, you were pushed beyond your breaking point.”

Hotch looked at him with pain and fear in his eyes. “He surrendered to me,” Hotch admitted in a shuddering voice. “And I didn’t stop.”

“So what?” Spencer asked emphatically. “This is the same man who managed to escape from incarceration in Boston. Had he lived, he would have spent his whole life planning to come after you, and Jack, until you both were dead. He didn’t deserve your consideration, and I can’t believe that his surrender was genuine.”

“You don’t know what it’s like. I… enjoyed killing him. What sort of monster does that make me?”

Spencer swallowed hard. “I do know what it’s like, Hotch. I killed Tobias Hankel.”

Hotch shook his head. “It’s not the same. He tortured you. He would have killed you right then. You were terrified.”

“And Foyet wouldn’t have killed you? Or Jack? You weren’t terrified of the man who had attacked you and killed Haley? You weren’t terrified for Jack? It’s the same thing, Hotch. Hankel didn’t have to die. I knew you were coming. I knew you were close. I think I provoked him on purpose.”

“Did you really?” Hotch asked. “Don’t you think he would have tried to kill you the second he knew we were there? He had already shown himself to be ruthless and able to kill within mere seconds.”

“Maybe you’re right. I don’t know. I’ll never know. But then I did the truly unthinkable.” Spencer looked away.

Hotch reached out and grasped his shoulder. “Tell me.”

Spencer forced himself to meet Hotch’s eyes. “After I asked for a moment alone, I took two vials of dilaudid from Hankel’s pocket.” Spencer started to shake. “I took them from Hankel’s dead body, Hotch. From the man I had just killed. What sort of monster does that make me?” Spencer looked away.

Hotch cupped his chin and forced Spencer to look at him again. “That makes you a scared man who had just undergone inconceivable torture and who was looking for a way to make the pain all stop. And one who was subsequently abandoned by everyone around you. I’m sorry, so sorry, I let you go through that alone. You deserved better than that.”

Spencer gave a half smile. “So do you, Hotch. I won’t let you go through this alone.”

Hotch shook his head in resignation. “Point taken. Okay. So what are you making for dinner?”

Spencer’s smiled broadened. “Chicken soup.”

Aaron opened the door and Spencer stepped inside his apartment. “You make homemade chicken soup?” Hotch asked incredulously.

“It’s my mother’s secret recipe.”

Hotch frowned. “Um…”

Spencer limped into the kitchen, Hotch following. Spencer found himself face-to-face with a pretty blonde woman who had been looking through the cupboards. She seemed profoundly sad. She looked between Spencer and Hotch curiously.

“Jessica,” Hotch said, “this is one of my colleagues and team members, Dr. Spencer Reid. Reid, I don’t know if you’ve ever formally been introduced – this is Jessica Brooks, Haley’s sister.”

Spencer blinked. He had heard that Haley’s sister was helping with Jack but, for some reason, he hadn’t expected her to still be there. “I’m sorry for your loss,” he said quietly.

“I’m sure you’ve had to say that many times.”

He held her gaze. “That doesn’t mean that I’m not sincere every time I say it.” He threw a quick look to Hotch. “I truly am sorry,” he said, meeting Jessica’s gaze again.

She smiled sadly. “Thank you. I appreciate that.”

He put the grocery bag on top of the kitchen counter. “Reid’s here to cook us dinner,” Hotch informed Jessica.

“Oh.” She actually gave a bit of a relieved sigh. “What are you making?”

“Chicken soup.”

“Do you need any help?”

He leaned on his cane and contemplated how long he would have to stand to cut up all the vegetables. “Actually, that would be great,” he said.

“You said it’s your mother’s recipe?” Hotch asked, sounding a bit nervous.

“Good,” Jessica said. “Family recipes are always the best.”

“Actually,” Spencer said, “my mother is a schizophrenic and some of her culinary adventures were less than palatable. I’ve always found this one, however, to be enjoyable.”

Jessica gave him a perplexed look, and then shifted her eyes to Hotch to try and determine if his co-worker was kidding.

“Reid, I’ve seen what you eat in the field. Are you sure—”

“Daddy?” They all turned around to see Jack coming into the kitchen, dragging a teddy bear and looking like he had just woken up from a nap.

“Hey Jack,” Hotch said gently, reaching down to pick up his son.

Spencer’s chest tightened as he looked at Hotch’s son. Jack looked at him, curiosity warring with sadness in his eyes.

“You remember Spencer from work, right Jack?” Hotch said.

“Hi Jack,” Spencer said with an awkward wave.

Jack gave him a little smile and then hugged his father’s neck tighter.

“I’m going to take him inside,” Hotch said and then went into the living room, leaving Spencer and Jessica alone. Spencer could see that Jessica’s eyes were filled with tears.

“He’s all that’s left of my sister,” she said as she met his gaze. “I’ll do anything for him… and Aaron.”

Spencer nodded. “We all feel that way.”

Jessica shook herself. “So, your recipe…?”

“It’s chicken and vegetables in a tomato based broth. It really is good.”

“Okay, let’s get started.”

They worked together for a bit, cutting the ingredients and adding them to the pot. Spencer shifted a bit when he knee started to hurt and leaned against the counter.

“What happened to your leg?” Jessica asked, indicating his cane.

Spencer licked his lips. “Um… I was shot.”

“Oh.” There were a few moments of silence. “How?”

Spencer sighed. “An unsub – unknown subject, a suspect,” he clarified, seeing her confused look, “was targeting a doctor because he blamed him for his son’s death. He came to the doctor’s home to shoot him. I got in the way.”

“On purpose?”

Spencer shrugged. “Yeah.”

“Where was Aaron?”

“That… was the day after Hotch was attacked.”

“Oh.” Her eyes were wide. “It’s quite a dangerous job you have.”

Spencer shrugged again. They were silent for a few moments, the only sound was the chopping of the vegetables.

“Why do you do it?” Jessica blurted out.

He looked at her. “The reasons are both myriad and complex and yet absurdly simple. I’ve often felt I was groomed for this position, but that doesn’t really answer your question. I do it, I suppose, because there are times, just times, when I have the opportunity to make a huge difference in someone’s life. We can’t stop the pain for the families already impacted, but sometimes we can prevent other families from having to go through that trauma. And sometimes we even save someone.”

“Is the cost worth it?” she asked. Spencer knew she was referring to Haley.

‘No, sometimes it’s not. But we do it anyway. We have to; it’s not something many people can do.”

She wiped away a tear and added celery to the pot.

“So, what’s it like to work for Aaron?” she asked after a moment.

Spencer felt his throat constrict at bit as he thought about Hotch, his suffering, his isolation. Spencer thought about the things they had done, the things he still wanted to do, the things he knew that they would never do again. “He’s…” Spencer forced himself to speak past the lump in his throat, “the most honorable man I know.”

Jessica gave him an odd look, but one that seemed understanding. She reached over and touched Spencer’s arm briefly. “Yes, he is.”

“I would do anything for him,” Spencer whispered. “The whole team would. The respect that we… I… have for him cannot be quantified.” He gave a little sad smile. “And I can quantify almost anything.”

Jessica smiled back.

They heard a sound from the doorway and turned to see Hotch standing there. His eyes betrayed nothing. “I was just checking to see how you were doing.”

Spencer forced a smile. “Just about done,” he said, adding the carrots. “It just needs to simmer for a while.” He shifted and winced slightly at a pain in his knee.

“Why don’t you go inside and sit down?” Jessica said. “I’ll clean up here.”

“I’m fine. My leg is actually much better and—”

“And you’re not supposed to be standing on it for long period of time,” Hotch interrupted. “Go sit down. I’ll help Jess.”

Spencer nodded and limped slightly as he made his way into the living room. He found Jack curled up on the couch, watching an animated film.

He sat in a chair and looked at Hotch’s son. He could almost feel the sadness rolling off Jack. He understood that pain, that sense of loss and abandonment. He tried to think of a way to alleviate it, if only for a moment.

“Hey Jack,” he said quietly, “do you like magic?”

Jack gave him a tentative nod.

“Come here.”

When Hotch came back into the room a little while later, he found his son actually laughing a little as Spencer pulled a quarter out from his ear. Spencer then put a pencil through a piece of paper and pulled it out again; Jack gasped in surprise. Spencer met Hotch’s gaze and Hotch gave him a slight smile.

“How did you do that?” Jack demanded.

“A magician never reveals his secrets.”

“I want to be a magician too. Can you show me?”

“Um… I guess I could,” Spencer replied. “If that’s okay with your father.”

“Daddy, can Spencer teach me magic?”

Hotch looked at him with uncertainty; Spencer nodded slightly. “Sure, buddy,” Hotch finally said. “If Spencer doesn’t mind.”

“Can you show me something now?” Jack demanded.

“Of course,” Spencer said. “Since you are now a magician’s apprentice – my student – I’ll show you all my tricks.” Spencer got a deck of cards out of his messenger bag. “Let’s start with a card trick.”

Jack smiled. Spencer looked at Hotch again. “Thank you,” Hotch mouthed silently.

The four of them had a subdued dinner, although Spencer did notice that both Hotch and Jessica looked profoundly relieved that the soup was edible. In fact, it was probably good (if Spencer did think so himself) since Jack was eating it between telling his father about magic tricks.

“I can get him a starter magic kit,” Spencer said quietly when Jack had left the table and was sitting with Jessica in the living room. “I don’t mind.”

“Reid, I’m not sure—”

“As your friend, Hotch. Nothing more. If I can give him a bit of a distraction, I’ll be happy to do it. If he gets bored, I’ll stop. I just… want to help.”

“I appreciate… well… everything… from you, from the team. I’m honored to have you, all of you, as my friends.”

Spencer nodded.

“As my… family,” Hotch continued. “Thank you for being here.”

Spencer swallowed. “You’re welcome. Anything you need.”

They sat in silence for a few moments. “I’m going to come back, you know,” Hotch finally said. “To the BAU. Jessica is going to help out and watch Jack when we’re away. I… need to come back.”

“We need you too,” Spencer whispered.

Hotch stood and clasped Spencer’s shoulder briefly. “Thank you for dinner. Tell your mother her recipe was delicious.”

Spencer smiled. “I’ll put it in my letter tonight.” He looked over and saw that Jack was starting to fall asleep on the couch. “I should go.”

Hotch nodded.

Spencer said his good-byes, surprised when both Jessica and Jack gave him a hug. He walked out into the crisp autumn air and looked at the stars in the clear sky, feeling satisfied. He made his way home.

Part 3
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daylyn

August 2010

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