Title: Triggers & Ties Part 6: Þūnresdæg

Author: Kuria Dalmatia

Rating/Warnings: FRAO/NC-17 (sexual situations, references to drug use)

Pairing: Hotch/Reid

Summary: "I shouldn't be telling you this, not when you're all… not when you're all Hotch-like."

Word Count: ~5,500

ARCHIVING: my LJ and FFNet account... anyone else? Please ask first.

Feedback always welcome.

DISCLAIMER: The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios and CBS Paramount Network Television own Criminal Minds. Salut! I just took them out to play and I promise put them back when I'm done. I'm not making any profit just trying to get these images out of my head.

VERSION: June 2009, December 2009, January 2010

TIMELINES/SPOILERS: Season 4 after "Conflicted".

/***/

"I have a theory that the truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours."

Hunter S. Thompson

/***/

It was a pattern that Aaron supposed he should be quite used to by now. When the Job went badly for Spencer, the younger man closed himself off from everyone. Only after Spencer had sorted things out himself, would he accept counsel, but it was only from specific people. Four years ago, it would have been Gideon. Nowadays, it was usually Morgan, sometimes Garcia, and on those odd occasions, JJ or Prentiss.

Aaron was rarely his confidante, even with the changes in their relationship, and he couldn't recall a single time that Spencer had gone to Dave. Then again, Aaron and Dave were "Mom and Dad" while the rest of the team was "the Kids". And there were some things one just didn't share with one's parents.

Gideon, Aaron supposed, had been the only one to transcend that particular rule.

The case in South Padre Island had worn heavily on all of them, but Spencer's frustrated, "I should have seen it. I've dealt with someone with multiple personalities before!" had clued the rest of them in on just how hard Spencer was taking it. It didn't matter that they had solved the case, and that they—specifically Spencer—had prevented Amanda from killing the elder Jackson.

Spencer had spent the last three days with Amanda, searching for Adam—weird yes, but really, rarely were things in a profiler's life normal—and Amanda (predictably, sadly) refused to allow Adam to resurface. Aaron could guess that Spencer felt he failed Adam, as much as he erroneously blamed himself for "failing" Nathan Harris, that kid from Chula Vista… and frustratingly and in a very twisted sense, Tobias Hankel.

What Aaron hated the most, though, was the irrational jealousy that surged in him whenever Spencer sought or accepted counsel from someone other than him. He should be thrilled that Spencer had a confidante, just like Aaron had Dave. Morgan was Spencer's peer, best friends even though neither man actually probably termed it like that.

Morgan wasn't a mentor. Not a father figure. Not a boss.

Certainly not a lover.

Morgan wasn't a threat. Aaron knew that. He trusted Spencer. He trusted Morgan. But there were times when the logical, rational part of Aaron was overwhelmed by his possessive nature. Times when he wanted to grab Morgan's wrist and tell him to back the hell off when the other man ruffled Spencer's hair or casually slung an arm around Spencer's shoulders. Spencer was Aaron's and his alone. Aaron knew that was one of his biggest flaws, that when he loved someone, he loved truly, madly and deeply. Ferociously.

Yet, Aaron did what he was supposed to do: stuff the socially unacceptable behaviors into the dark corners of his mind, locking them away so that they could do no harm. It took a lot of willpower, but it certainly beat the alternative.

Now, as they trudged across the tarmac after deplaning, Aaron listened as Morgan offered to drive Spencer home, an offer that Aaron knew better than to make tonight. The last thing he wanted was to be rejected in front of an audience who automatically digested and catalogued everything without hesitation.

Profiling.

There really wasn't a way to turn it off.

As they walked, Aaron scrolled through emails on his Blackberry, trying not to smile smugly as Spencer politely (predictably) turned Morgan down.

"Suit yourself," Morgan laughed.

Then, lightning danced across the sky quickly followed by a crack of thunder. There was a lull in the conversation and Aaron looked up just in time to see Spencer favor Morgan with that hopeful look. "Actually… um…"

And Aaron had to wonder if Spencer knew just how powerful that particular facial expression was. Would you throw yourself on a grenade for me? Because they all would. Without hesitation. Because it was Spencer.

"No problem, kid," Morgan grinned and clapped him on the shoulder, but still glanced at Aaron.

Christ. Was he being that obvious? No. Morgan was just being Morgan. It was the "I'll watch out for him" look. Still, Aaron jutted his chin slightly, as if giving permission that technically he shouldn't have to. Spencer was an adult. Aaron didn't own him, no matter how badly the dark part of him wanted to. He was, however, pleased that at least he was asked.

He headed towards his own car, alone, doling out nods and wishes of "good night" to his team. After all, it was Wednesday, and Aaron and Spencer always spent Thursday evenings together if they weren't working a case.

In the meantime, Aaron had to deal with his jealousy, had to resist the urge to suggest they all go out for drinks just so he could make sure that all Morgan and Spencer did was talk.

But that wasn't him.

That wasn't him at all.

/***/

It was the usual day-after-a-case routine in the office. Paperwork. Returning phone calls. Filing. It was mid-afternoon and Aaron was about to get another cup of coffee when his phone buzzed. Flipping it open, he saw a message from Spencer:

MOVIE NITE

It was the code for Spencer's NA meetings. He wondered why Spencer felt it necessary to remind him, but then realized this could be Spencer telling him not come over afterward.

Aaron wasn't sure when he and Spencer had started text-messaging each other, opting to use their personal cell phones instead of their government-issued ones. Perhaps it had been after the third time they had been together and had realized that, well, what they had was more than two lonely men finding an outlet for their desires.

He typed: NEEDARIDE?

NO THX. L8R?

Aaron released the breath he didn't realize he was holding. Even if Spencer didn't want to talk, the younger man was always much more amorous after a difficult case. He could envision it now: Spencer kneeling before him, lips wrapped around his cock, and Aaron fighting the urge to fuck Spencer's mouth because while that was what he wanted to do, he didn't trust himself enough. Aaron cursed and adjusted his sudden hard on.

The trip to the BAU kitchen would have to wait.

He typed: 945?

And received back: KCUBYE

Aaron glanced at the clock. Only seven hours to go.

Another image of Spencer fluttered in his mind. Spencer riding him hard, growling in his ear about how good his cock felt and that he had been thinking about it all day, how he'd masturbated in the men's room during lunch to take the edge off, how he knew how much Aaron loved watching him, how he wanted to come all over Aaron's chest. Then, Spencer jerking off with the same intensity he was fucking Aaron with. Head thrown back. Hair wild. Mouth open. Panting heavily. Wanton. Sexy.

Christ, Aaron knew he had it bad.

Maybe Aaron would be the one retreating to the men's room to jack off, so he'd be able to whisper that to Spencer tonight.

Maybe not.

That just wasn't him.

Really. It wasn't.

/***/

Aaron was in the shower. He had to do something to kill the time. He'd left the office at five-thirty because his concentration had been shot once Spencer had left early for the day. He had spent an hour at the gym trying to burn off the restlessness. The last thing Spencer probably wanted or needed was to be ravaged the moment Aaron walked in the man's apartment.

After all, Spencer was supposed to pounce him, push him up against the door and pull his clothes off. It wasn't the other way around.

Except for that one time.

On a Thursday.

Aaron rested his forehead on the cool, wet tiles. He really didn't want to think about that evening. Aaron had lost control. It had spooked him badly. He vowed never to let it happen again, even if Spencer claimed that it was one of the most fulfilling nights of his life.

Which was why Aaron was standing in the shower, fisting his cock hard and fast with his right hand. Clawing the tiles with his left. Breathing harshly through his nose. Focusing on that image of Spencer, on his knees, facing the mirror, pumping his own dick, while Aaron fucked him from behind.

He didn't want to think about why he was so stuck on that particular vision when getting off.

He strained to reach orgasm like he always did when he masturbated with his right hand. It wasn't awkward enough to trick his mind into thinking it was Spencer. His lover's hands were slender, elegant. Fingertips were not roughened by gun calluses. But it was different enough to make it a challenge to get off. The climax was always more intense when he did.

When it finally hit, Aaron cried out and his knees buckled, the water starting to turn cold. He rinsed the soap from his body before turning off the faucet and reaching for a towel to dry. It hadn't been like this before, this anticipation, this outright need for someone. He refused to think about how unsatisfying his marriage must have been if this was how he reacted to good sex on a regular basis.

He quickly slipped his suit and tie back on, telling the nagging voice in his head to shut the hell up, the one that said the getup wasn't necessary and that he was truly fucked up for needing to be dressed a specific way when he had sex with Spencer. That he was pathetic because he needed someone to help him shed the persona of Hotch to become Aaron, and Spencer knew just how to do it.

When Aaron glanced at the display of his personal cell phone, he saw that he had a message waiting. It was just after nine o'clock. Maybe the meeting had let out early. Maybe. Doubtful. Spencer only IM'd when he was running late. He flipped open the phone and retrieved the message.

SRY. DBL FEATURE

Translated: Spencer decided to stay for something after the meeting. It had only happened a couple of times, the most recent after Spencer had returned from the Riley Jenkins mess in Vegas.

Aaron's anger immediately spiked but he quickly slapped it back down, berating himself for being so selfish. This was another part that Spencer didn't share with him. Aaron never pushed, just like Spencer never really pushed him about Haley unless something triggered a bad reaction. Spencer has his meetings. Aaron had his Spencer, although Aaron knew the latter wasn't exactly healthy.

Given the situation, how distant Spencer had been last night on the jet ride back and today in the office… well… he knew he shouldn't have been surprised that Spencer decided to spend extra time.

He texted back: OK. TIME?

WILL IM U. BYE

Aaron sighed and slid the phone into his pocket. He wandered over to the couch and flipped on the TV.

He wondered how long he was going to have to wait.

/***/

It was eleven forty-seven when Aaron finally received an update from Spencer.

MEET ME?

The next message was a street address in Silver Spring, Maryland. It took a few moments for Aaron to realize just where it was and then a few more moments to try to convince himself he was overreacting. What the hell was Spencer doing in Silver Spring, which was over an hour from his apartment in Virginia? They never talked specifically about Spencer's NA meetings, but Aaron knew enough to know that it wasn't anywhere near Silver Spring. So, he did the next logical thing: he called.

And promptly got Spencer's voice mail. He then dialed the work cell number, but was treated to: "This is Doctor Spencer Reid of the FBI's Behavioral Analysis Unit…" Aaron cursed as he shoved his wallet and credentials into his pockets, followed by securing the Glock 27 in his ankle holster and the Glock 17 on his belt.

Another message flashed on Aaron's personal phone. IM OK. RLY. RU ON UR WAY?

Times like this, Aaron really fucking hated text messages. Obviously, Spencer didn't want to talk. But what if an UnSub had abducted Spencer and then used the messages to lure Aaron into a trap? They had seen that MO before, eight months ago in a suburb of Sacramento. It had taken Aaron and JJ forty minutes to convince the police chief that naming the UnSub the "IM Killer" was not a good idea.

He pounded in: YES. WHATS GNG ON?

COFFEE.

Great. Coffee. It would be after one in the morning by the time he got there. Aaron pinched the bridge of his nose.

Another message came through: RELAX. IMOK. PLZ?

Aaron took several deep breaths. He knew Spencer had a sponsor, but again, it was something they never really discussed. "It's called 'anonymous' for a reason, Aaron," was Spencer's stiff answer to any inquiries. One of the worse arguments they had ever had been over Spencer's deliberately cryptic NA support system versus Aaron's 'I need to know… what if you were in an accident? I want you to trust me.'

How they had survived that particular argument was still a mystery. Spencer's concession had been showing Aaron which speed-dial number was his sponsor; Aaron had vowed never to call unless it was an emergency, never to research the number to find out who it was, and never to bring up the subject again.

The make-up sex had been spectacular.

So, theoretically, Spencer's sponsor could be someone who lived in the area. That someone had invited Spencer over for coffee. It was late; Spencer didn't want the hassle of public transportation and was probably pretty frayed from the meeting, so he'd done the next logical thing: call Aaron.

Christ.

Aaron typed: B THERE ~1HR.

Spencer sent back: KBYE

Aaron sighed as he locked his apartment and headed down to his car. He pulled put on the Kevlar vest from the trunk once he remembered that where he was meeting Spencer was in one of the rougher parts of the city. He refrained from putting it on until he had a better assessment of the situation. It didn't stop him from slipping off his suit coat so he could get the vest on easier once he got there. It didn't stop him from making sure it was in the front seat of his car, within easy reach.

It never hurt to be prepared.

/***/

Aaron was ten minutes away from the address Spencer had given him when another message flashed on his phone: #212

He blinked. Spencer had booked a hotel room? Anxiety swept through him despite the sex-crazed part of Aaron's mind chiming in with, It's probably one of Spencer's fantasies to have sex in a motel room. It was an unspoken rule between them: no sex while on the Job. Period.

Still, Aaron's go bag was in the trunk, but he couldn't remember if he actually had condoms and lube; even though sex wasn't part of the equation while working a case, it never hurt to be prepared. Then again, if it was Spencer's intention for them to fuck in a hotel room, then the younger man would definitely have supplies.

So, he sent back OK and resisted the urge to add RUOK because he was going to be there in a few minutes.

One look at the hotel as he drove up, however, sent another wave of dull panic through him. It wasn't the seediest place Aaron had ever been to but it was in a less than desirable part of town and probably had bulletproof glass separating the front desk from the lobby. He briefly wondered how bad it would look if he entered the place with his suit coat over the FBI-emblazoned Kevlar.

Get a grip, he chastised himself as he found a parking spot and shoved the vest in the backseat, hoping it wasn't the stupidest thing he'd ever done. He sent IM HERE to Spencer but didn't wait for a response. Aaron slid on his suit jacket, leaving it unbuttoned so he could have easy access to his gun if needed. Credentials at the ready, of course.

Access to the second floor was via stairs on the outside, so it at least eliminated having to deal with the front desk. Aaron quickly made his way up, ignoring the sour urine and cigarette stink. This was definitely not a place he'd ever imagine Spencer booking.

Instincts took over as Aaron approached Room 212, palm resting on the grip of his gun. He knocked on the door and called out, "Reid?" He glanced around, not too surprised to see a prostitute and her john getting out of a car. He waited and knocked again. "Reid? It's Hotch."

Aaron could then hear the thunk of the deadbolt and the rattle of the door handle. The door opened but Spencer barely looked at him as he turned and ambled back into the room. Aaron followed, closing and bolting the door behind him. The room was the basic interstate-side motel: white walls, king size bed covered with a hideous flower-print spread, and a small seating area with a table and two chairs.

Spencer dropped into the chair facing the door, but didn't meet Aaron's gaze. Instead, he focused on his hands, which he had neatly folded on top the worn Formica tabletop. If the time in the evening and the motel didn't make Aaron worried enough, Spencer's attire lit his nerves on fire: well-worn, acid-washed blue jeans with a white, threadbare spot on the thigh, and a maroon t-shirt under a faded long-sleeved, zip-front gray hoodie.

Just as Aaron had clothing to represent different aspects of his personality, Spencer apparently had them as well. It was a combination Aaron had never seen before. An ensemble that fit in better with this neighborhood than Spencer's usual couture.

On the table was a 750mL bottle of vodka—Grey Goose, a surprising choice given the locale—that was one-third empty. For a person with a high tolerance for alcohol, it was a decent hit. For a lightweight drinker like Spencer, it was a lot.

A 32 ounce Styrofoam cup with condensation dripping down the sides and a small plastic drinking cup were next to the frosted glass bottle. The smaller cup held an inch of liquid and three mostly melted ice cubes.

Spencer's leather belt was snaked across the table, booze and cups on one side while Spencer's two cell phones were on the other. The phones—one flipped open—were closest to him.

Bile tickled at the back of Aaron's throat as fear washed through him. He cautiously approached and then brushed his knuckles against Spencer's cheek.

Spencer glanced up and offered that, 'I fucked up again' grimace before gesturing toward the other chair. "Hey."

"I thought you were getting coffee," Aaron ventured quietly, trying his best not to go into supervisor/parent mode.

"I lied." Blunt, but not slurred. Eyes slightly wetter than usual, but pupils not dilated. Spencer went back to staring at his hands.

"Did the meeting not go well?" he asked, ignoring the unspoken rule that he was supposed to refer to it as a movie. Not here. Not now. Not with everything so… like this.

"I didn't go."

Chills shot down Aaron's spine as he pulled the chair closer to Spencer but found himself unable to sit down just yet. "You've been here all night?"

"Maybe."

Then, it hit.

The belt.

The whispered confession made at four a.m. that Saturday after returning from the case where Spencer had accused his father of murder.

Oh God.

Aaron sat heavily in the chair.

"I didn't," came the flat reply. Spencer met his gaze briefly. "I thought about it. But I didn't." He paused again. "Please, spare me the 'I'm proud of you' or 'I'm glad you called' or 'you did the right thing' speech." There was a long pause and then Spencer blew out a breath. "I shouldn't be telling you this, not when you're all…" he gestured towards the suit, "not when you're all Hotch-like."

The "uniform", as Haley once called it, was really the only thing keeping Aaron together. "I want you to tell me this," he said low and urgent. How many times had Spencer said that to him since they had started this aspect of their relationship? "I want to understand."

"Then lose the tie." It was almost like an order but there was bitterness in the words. "And the jacket." Spencer looked up. "I don't want to talk to Hotch."

Fair enough. The tie joined Spencer's belt on the table. The coat was slung across the back of the chair. Aaron unbuttoned the shirt collar then his sleeves, rolling the latter up to mid-forearm. "Better?"

"Not really." Spencer gave a half-shrug. Then, his lip pulled into a small but sour grin. "Naked and on your knees would be better..." And it took a hefty amount of willpower for Aaron not to groan at the suggestion, despite the alarming circumstances, "but I won't subject you to the dubious cleanliness of the carpet."

Aaron huffed out a laugh. "Thank you."

The lapse of silence was anything but comfortable.

Spencer focused on his hands again. "This isn't the first time I've been to this hotel."

The starkness of the comment stung. While Aaron knew some of the details about Spencer's addiction, his lover was deliberately vague, except for a few passing references to the weekend Spencer had spent in a short-term rehab facility to detox. They never talked about days that had elapsed between Spencer's rescue in Georgia and the day he decided to stop using; Spencer flatly refused.

There was that fine line between boss and lover.

Aaron asked quietly, "How often?" because maybe that line would be blurred tonight.

"Often enough." Spencer tilted his head slightly. "Did you know that, in the past eighteen months, there has been an average of four point two thefts from vehicles per week within a point three mile radius of this hotel?"

"Have you been here in the past eighteen months?"

The sour smile was back again. "No."

"Why now?"

"Not sure."

"Want to try that lie again?"

That earned a harsh laugh from Spencer. "Three guesses and the first two don't count."

"You can't let this case—"

"I don't want to talk to Hotch," Spencer snarled, his eye bright with anger. "If this is how you're going to be, then just go."

The dismissal hurt, of course, just as Spencer had intended, but they both knew Aaron sure as hell wasn't going to leave. Aaron got up and walked over to the bathroom, finding another plastic cup. He rinsed it out, and then walked back to the table. He shook out four ice cubes into the cup and then poured three fingers worth of alcohol. He swirled the ice in the cup before taking a sip, surprised at the smooth taste; vodka had never been his beverage of choice.

He took another drink before asking, "Is the vodka part of the ritual?"

"No, it wasn't," the verb tense emphasized just a bit too strongly. "One vice at a time and all that."

"Why now?"

Spencer's eyebrows furrowed briefly. Then quietly, "I'm not sure why. It just sounded… appropriate."

"I thought you preferred brandy."

He waved dismissively, his mood shifting back to quiet sadness. "This isn't exactly the setting for brandy."

Aaron glanced around. The carpeting was stained in interesting Rorschach patterns but then he realized that one of the smallest spots was moving. He swung his gaze to the nightstand and watched as a cockroach casually made its way up the side of the clock-radio.

He suppressed a shudder. God, he hated roaches. It also sickened him to think that Spencer, who wasn't too keen on bugs to begin with, had stayed here by choice.

While high.

Probably so fucking high on drugs that he didn't notice. And just where the hell was Aaron during Spencer's "struggles"? So wrapped up in his own disasters that he failed to do something. Sure, it was easy to blame Gideon, to say he had just been following sage advice on how to handle the situation. Hands off, Gideon had said. He needs to figure this out on his own. But in retrospect, Aaron knew it had been, perhaps, the worse possible decision he could have ever made.

It prompted Aaron to offer, "Let's go back—"

"What?" Spencer interrupted as his lips curled to a sneer. "You're not comfortable here?"

"No."

Spencer suddenly leaned forward, meeting his gaze with a fiery one of his own. "This is who I am, Aaron."

He didn't flinch. He could read a dozen different messages in that single statement, colored by the location, the symbols and the timing. Lashing out. Aaron could certainly understand that, certainly expect it. Part of him wanted it. It didn't stop him from saying, "No, this isn't who you are." And yes, there was just a bit of anger because this self-pitying crap was definitely not Spencer Reid. "It maybe was who you were for a while, but it is not who you are now."

"Bullshit." Spencer's eyes narrowed. "I'm always just one step away."

"We're all just one step away," Aaron countered.

A few beats of silence passed before Spencer glanced away. He threw himself back against the chair and sprawled out. Bitterly, "I shouldn't have called you." Spencer focused his gaze on the table lamp. "Shouldn't have called you at all."

Aaron blinked, surprised at how much the words hurt. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, uncharacteristic for him because, well, he was Aaron Hotchner. He wasn't used to being rejected.

Then.

It hit.

Actually, it should have hit a few weeks ago when Spencer began distancing himself—oh-so-subtly—after the case in Ann Arbor. The case in which Aaron had fallen apart afterwards, Spencer had put him back together and...

Those three little words.

Spencer's abandonment issues.

Shit.

Aaron stood, picked up his cup and downed the liquor in one gulp. "We're leaving," he announced and grabbed his tie, deftly rolling it up so it wouldn't get wrinkled. He slid on his suit jacket and then stuffed the tie in his pocket. "Now."

Spencer made an indignant noise, followed by the warning, "Hotch—" as he got to his feet.

"Aaron," he corrected sharply and closed the distance between them. Spencer had somehow managed to gain a few inches, but Aaron had always been able to loom over people, height disadvantage or not. "I'm here as your friend. As your lover." He stressed the word as he leaned forward. "Not as some drunken hookup. Not as some casual fuck-buddy. As your lover." The last three words were punctuated by three pokes to Spencer's chest. He paused, keeping his gaze firmly on the other man. "Put your belt on. Get your phones. Pick up your messenger bag. We are leaving now and we are going home."

The key to winning any argument, Aaron had learned long ago, was knowing when to stop. He'd issued his order and then spun towards the nightstand, spotting the television remote. The hotel was cheap and rundown, but the yellow "menu" button meant that it was probable that they could check out using the on-screen controls. He strode over to the nightstand, picked up the remote, and turned on the television.

From his peripheral vision, he realized that Spencer hadn't moved. He didn't spare a glance. His tone turned authoritative. "Now, Spencer."

He focused completely on the task of scrolling through the on-screen menu, selecting "hotel services", "folio" and then "Guest Check Out." He nearly dropped the remote when he saw the name listed—they would definitely talk about that later—but pushed at the keys until "Check Out" was highlighted, pressed the "Enter" key and the confirmed that he did want to check out.

It was only after he had done that did he toss the remote on the bed. Spencer had gathered his things (thankfully) but was now eyeing him warily.

"Let's go," Aaron said and pointed towards the door.

Spencer wordlessly complied.

Thank God.

/***/

The drive to Aaron's apartment was spent in uncomfortable silence. Spencer hadn't said a word since Aaron had harshly corrected him and Aaron nothing after ordering them to leave.

He wasn't sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing. He was so used to arguments—one-sided screaming matches, usually, with Haley berating his choice of professions and his loyalty to his team—that this situation was... unnerving. He drove aggressively, focused completely on the road and without glances to Spencer's slumped yet defensive posture in the passenger's seat.

No comment about the Kevlar vest clearly visible in the back seat.

No comment that they were heading back to Aaron's apartment, not to Spencer's.

Just silence.

And, perhaps, that was the most unnerving of all.

Aaron was supposed to be calming down, the quietness soothing his raw nerves, but his mind spun through little scenarios of that disgusting motel room and his Spencer. Shooting up. Alone. Because the brightest minds in the FBI had stupidly believed that a socially-awkward genius with abandonment issues who had been tortured for two days somehow, someway could handle a drug addiction by himself.

He pulled into the garage, stopping the car a bit too harshly as he pulled it into his assigned space. He turned off the engine and only then spared a glance at Spencer.

Who was still eyeing him warily.

"You're staying the night with me," Aaron told him and then got out of the car.

He opened up the back door, picked up the vest, and then hit the remote for his trunk. He closed both car doors, tossed the vest in the trunk and then picked up his go bag. He did his best not to slam the trunk closed but the noise echoed in the enclosed garage anyway.

Spencer had gotten out of the car when Aaron had shut the trunk, his expression now laced with muted curiosity. He closed the door but remained silent, adjusting his messenger bag on his shoulder. He followed Aaron to the elevator.

Like the drive here, the elevator ride and walk down the hallway to Aaron's apartment was in silence. He wondered if it was because it was after two in the morning. Aaron keyed the door open, motioned Spencer inside, and once they were both in, he closed and locked the door. He dropped his go bag by the credenza along with his keys. However, he fished through the small change bowl and pulled out a small white envelope.

He had been meaning to give it to Spencer after Ann Arbor, proof perhaps that he meant those three little words, but it had been case after case after case...

No, he admonished himself. You were too fucking chicken to give it to him. Too terrified to trust.

Spencer wasn't the only one with abandonment issues.

"Look at me, Spencer," Aaron ordered. Spencer wordlessly complied and, for the second time that evening, Aaron crowded into the man's personal space. "You are never to go to that place again. Do you understand?"

Spencer's eyebrow hitched a little as his gaze narrowed. His voice was quiet yet firm. Far from timid. "You don't own me, Hotch."

Emotional distance.

"Here and now, I'm not your boss."

"Then stop acting like it."

"Right now? I'm being the adult, bailing a petulant child out of trouble," he fired back, satisfied that Spencer blinked and seemed to shrink back a little. "I'm your friend. I am your lover. And that means that if you have the sudden urge to do something completely asinine like go to the Silver Springs Travelodge and contemplate your past drug use? To list the pros and cons of getting high? Then you call me or you call your sponsor." He grabbed one of Spencer's wrists from his side, turning until Spencer's hand was palm up. Aaron then shook the envelope until the silver key dropped into Spencer's hand. "You come here. You tell me to get the hell out because you need some time alone in a place that isn't at your apartment."

"Why should I do that?" Spencer asked coolly, defiantly. Yet, his fingers curled around the key.

"Because I love you. And you said you loved me." His gaze didn't falter. "And those words mean that we take care of each other. The good. The bad. And the ugly."

"And the illegal?"

"Hopefully not." Aaron released his hold on Spencer's wrist and stepped back. "But if it happens, we'll deal with it."

Spencer focused his gaze on his hand that held the key. His voice was soft. "Okay."

"Good." Aaron pulled off his suit coat for the second time that evening, draping it over his arm. "It's late. We're going to bed." He didn't wait for an answer, just brushed past the younger man and began walking to his bedroom.

"Aaron?"

He stopped and turned.

Spencer was still looking at his hand that held the key but finally, he met Aaron's eyes. There was a luminosity there that Aaron hadn't seen before. The younger man offered up the barest of smiles. "I love you, too."

/***/ Finis /***/