Title: Blackjack

Author: Kuria Dalmatia

Rating/Warnings: FRM, R (profanity, graphic violence, adult content, torture, profanity, mention of child abuse, frank discussion of bodily functions)

Pairing: Hotch, Reid and the BAU

Summary: Aaron isn't sure what is worse: being held hostage naked in a basement while being subjected to beatings, or having Spencer dissect his failed marriage in horrifying detail.

See Chapter 1 for disclaimer and comments


Aaron snapped awake. Or. At least tried to. His mind felt like it was mired in mud. All he knew was that...

The smell was too crisp, too antiseptic.

He couldn't really feel anything.

"No," he croaked and stilled when his lips moved and his tongue brushed against his lower teeth. The gag was gone. His mouth was still horrifically dry. There were beeps and clicks and the beeps suddenly went faster and Aaron felt the pure panic settle in because he suddenly didn't know...

"Hotch, it's Reid," Spencer's voice broke in. Cool fingers wrapped around his left hand. "You're safe. You're in the hospital. Room four twenty-six. It's nine thirty-four p.m. on Tuesday. You were admitted to the hospital on Monday afternoon. I'm right here. You're safe. You're on morphine for the pain. It's why things are so fuzzy right now."

"Spencer," Aaron breathed, stunned at how one man's voice could trigger such a sense of relief. His eyes finally opened, but everything was shaded in dull grays and fear coursed through him. The beeps kept their rapid tune. He remembered being blindfolded...

Oh God no! He wasn't sure if he said that part aloud.

"Close your eyes and count to ten," Spencer instructed him, voice now strong. "That will help clear your vision. The doctor says there is no permanent damage to your eyesight." Aaron obeyed but his heart still hammered and the beeps kept time. "I'm right here." Spencer squeezed his hand.

Aaron blinked rapidly, trying to even out his breathing but it wasn't quite working. Finally... finally, Spencer came into focus. Aaron then blurted, "You're real."

God, did that sound stupid.

Spencer favored him with a quirky smile. "Yeah. Kind of noticed that."

"You were in the basement with me."


Aaron's mind shifted as sounds echoed in his head and aches ghosted along his limbs. He knew he should be hurting worse, especially his arms. But he kept going back to the simple fact: "You were there."

"Yes." There was another strong squeeze of his hand. "You're safe, Hotch. I swear, you are safe. I'm right here. I'm not going anywhere."

Aaron noted the worried look on Spencer's face. Spencer's hair was tucked behind his ears, but looked greasier than normal. The dark circles under his eyes were more pronounced by his glasses. His tie was loose around his neck, shirt collar askew, and sweater vest horribly rumpled. It was how Spencer Reid looked after pulling several all-nighters.

Guilt slammed hard into Aaron's chest. His breath came in rapid bursts as he fought for control. His eyes drifted close. He felt Spencer begin to move away and he automatically reached out, catching Spencer's wrist. Irrational fear hit him, as if being away from Spencer was the worse thing in the world. He had no idea why he said, "You were there. In the basement."

"Yes. I was," Spencer said quietly. "Would you, ah, like something to drink? There is some, um, ice water on the table."

He nodded, grateful for the other man's thoughtfulness. "Please."

He was even more thankful for how Spencer wordlessly used the controls to adjust the bed so that Aaron was sitting up and then retrieved the Styrofoam cup. When Aaron hissed pain as he tried to raise his arms, Spencer simply held the cup closer with the straw angled so that Aaron had to lean forward just a little to take a drink. It was all done with that 'been there, done that, have the t-shirt' nonchalance that made Aaron wonder just how many times Spencer had done this for his mother.

Aaron took a few sips, swishing the cold water in his mouth before swallowing. "Thank you," he said and then tensed, looking around to see if there was some maniac with a switchblade or bamboo stick lurking in the room.

Spencer put the cup back on the table and said, "I'm going to pull the chair up, okay? I'm not leaving."

It took an extreme amount of willpower to let Spencer go. The stupid beeps happily broadcasted the spike in his heart rate... again. Aaron's hand dropped to the cool sheets and he bit back the sound that threatened to bubble up.

Morphine, he told himself. Morphine.

There was the scrape of a chair against linoleum, then Spencer's cool fingers slid across Aaron's knuckles. The relief that hit him was all sorts of wrong. Even worse were the next few words that spilled from his mouth—"What are you reading?"—because Spencer always had a book of some sort. And Oh God... the only way to calm down was to hear Spencer's voice?

"Ah... actually. Um... It's an anthology of British literature." There was lengthy pause, as if embarrassed, before Spencer cleared his throat. "Do you like Shelley?"

For whatever reason, the question made Aaron laugh a little. "As in Frankenstein? God. After Mel Brooks, I haven't been able to take it seriously." He quoted, "'It's pronounced, Frawn-ken-shteen.'"

Spencer snorted and then clarified, "Percy Bysshe Shelley, her husband. Did you know he was expelled from Oxford after only six months because he refused to repudiate his and Thomas Jefferson Hogg's collaboration The Necessity of Atheism? Also, he wasn't able to correct many of the proofs of his poems, so most of the standard editions include errors and deviations from what were his probable intentions."

"Oh." But just like in the basement, Aaron found himself relaxing, lulled by the sound of the other man's voice.

"Prometheus Unbound and Ode to the West Wind are considered his greatest lyrics," Spencer chatted on. "Personally? I prefer Mont Blanc since it's considered a 'local' poem and resembles Wordsworth's Tintern Abbey, which is considered a major influence. Most critics in the mid-twentieth century dismissed Shelley's writing as intellectually immature with incoherent imagery despite Lord Bryon's favorable compliments and Yeats obvious reverence. Yet more recent studies have clarified the complex and coherent structure of his symbolism."

Aaron looked over. He wasn't expecting the curious stare or the slight tilt of the head that meant Spencer was mulling through something... specifically. Specifically Aaron's behavior. Was Spencer merely employing a monologue to judge Aaron's reaction to it?

Morphine. That's why I'm acting like this, Aaron tried to tell himself but knew it was a lie.

With one hand, Spencer opened the thick book—a college text by the flimsy paper cover and too-thin pages—and quickly found the entry he wanted. His other hand was still gently settled on top of Aaron's, as if grounding him firmly here in the hospital and to remind him that he wasn't alone. Aaron's eyes watered—damn, they needed to get a humidifier in here—and he swallowed hard.

He knew what he wanted. What he needed. So stupid. So childish. So... unlike him.

But Spencer didn't give him a chance to ask, as he began reading the poem aloud, his voice melodic as the words.

"The everlasting universe of things

Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves

Now dark—now glittering—now reflecting gloom—

Now lending splendour, where from secret springs

The source of human thought its tribute brings..."

And Aaron drifted off to sleep.

***/*** Finis ***/***