Title: Triggers & Ties 9: Parallel, Chapter 2

Author: Kuria Dalmatia

Rating/Warnings: FRM/R (profanity, adult content, sexual situations)

Characters/Pairing: Hotch/Reid

Summary: It was rare for Spencer to outright panic. But when his former lover sent a text message—RUMOVIES?—on a Thursday at 8:45 p.m., a chill shot up Spencer's spine.

Word Count: ~5,100

ARCHIVING: my LJ... anyone else? Please ask first.

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Spencer checked his watch. He checked it again. He was three blocks away from Hotch's apartment and traffic was at a complete standstill due to a four-car accident. It was thirty minutes past the time he'd promised Hotch he'd be there, but he'd faithfully updated Hotch on his status every five minutes. The replies of OK didn't calm him like he thought they would.

The rain continued to come down by the buckets. Traffic hadn't moved in ten minutes.

Decision time.

Three blocks.

Close enough.

Who the fuck cared if he was wet?

He yanked out his wallet, then pulled out some cash. He thrust the latter forward. "Here," Spencer said. "I'm getting out now."

The cabbie eyed him and then laughed. "Suit yourself."

Getting out of the vehicle with everything was tricky, especially because his anxiousness made him clumsy. He crutched over to the sidewalk and then set a hard pace for himself.

A memory flashed: Easy, Reid.

The Philip Dowd case. Hotch cautioning him from running down the hall, from drawing attention to himself.

Foyet's profile. The man would be keeping tabs on Hotch, just like he had with Detective Shaunessy and Roy Colson. Watching his handiwork from afar. Keenly paying attention to the news. Masturbating to the press release touting SSA Derek Morgan as the BAU's new unit chief.

He shuddered.

Despite the rain, Spencer slowed down. He knew he was easily recognizable—tall skinny white guy with long hair and hobbling on crutches—but that was all the information he was going to give to Foyet.

By the time he reached Hotch's apartment door, he was soaked to his skin. He knocked once, surprised at how quickly Hotch unlatched and opened the door. Unlike the previous two times Spencer had visited, Hotch stepped aside and wordlessly gestured him in.

Finally, an invitation.

Spencer didn't miss the assessing gaze or the quirk of the eyebrow that was followed by the slight frown. He hobbled inside, water dripping from his hair and clothes, and listened as Hotch quickly bolted and chained the door behind him. The sharp tang of bourbon rolled off of Hotch, but his movements were too precise, too crisp, for him to be drunk.

There are sometimes… sometimes when I don't want to stop. I do. I stop. But sometimes…

Then you call me.

I'm not an alcoholic.

I didn't say that. I'd just like to think I'm better company than Jack Daniels. You would do the same for me.

The other man then brushed by him and into the master bedroom. Unsure of what to do and wondering why he couldn't even muster a simple 'hello', Spencer stood there, balancing himself on his crutches, and took in the state of the apartment. A half-full tumbler of bourbon was on the coffee table as was the decanter, which was three-quarters full, and Hotch's personal cell phone, flipped open. The sheets and pillow were gone from the couch (thankfully) and the rest of the place looked neat yet lived in… the way it used to before everything… changed.

Spencer wasn't sure whether to be relieved or panicked.

Hotch then reemerged from the bedroom, towels draped over one shoulder and a plain white robe over the other one. He pulled out the leather desk chair and layered one of the towels on the bottom. Then, he waited.

Spencer cautiously, curiously, went over towards where Hotch clearly wanted him. He wasn't surprised that the desk was littered with parts of Foyet's casefile.

Hotch dumped the remaining towels and robe on the floor. He lifted the strap of Spencer's messenger bag and Spencer automatically ducked his head to allow the bag to be taken from him. The other man set the bag next to the desk and reached forward, touched Spencer's wrist, and then unclasped Spencer's watch, taking it off and setting on the desk. His cuffs were unbuttoned next and then Hotch tugged at the hem of his sweater.

Oh.

Oh.

Spencer wanted to say, I need to sit down, but again the words were stuck in his throat. Hotch—no, this was definitely Aaron in caretaker-mode—moved behind the chair and braced his foot against the back wheel. Spencer then shuffled over there and, after a bit of maneuvering, sat down heavily. Aaron took his crutches and then handed him a towel; Spencer ruffled it through his dripping hair because it was something to do with his hands.

He wasn't expecting to feel Aaron tugging at his shoelaces. Spencer paused and glanced down, momentarily stunned that Aaron was now kneeling and untying each of Spencer's sneakers, pulling them and the mismatched socks off. The socks were tossed toward the stacked washer/dryer. Aaron picked up a towel and, of all the damn things, dried off Spencer's feet.

Panic mixed with concern, making Spencer's belly twinge. Aaron was completely focused on removing the wet clothes. He wondered just how far it would go. He dropped the towel so it settled on his shoulders.

Aaron tugged at the bottom of the sweater again, but then opted to unfasten the holster and remove the gun, carefully setting it on the desk within easy reach. Spencer pulled off his sweater and Aaron took it from him, balling it up and tossing it over to join the pile by the washer. Aaron swiftly undid the buttons to the shirt next and waited as Spencer took it off. It too was thrown over to the pile.

Spencer was now shirtless and seated in front of his (former) lover, arousal snaking its way through his system as memories of being undressed with such tenderness flooded through him.

It wasn't fair.

Hotch stood, grabbed the robe, shook it open and then draped it around his shoulders. Spencer automatically slid his arms into the sleeves and he could have sworn he saw a small smile twitch across Aaron's otherwise unreadable features.

And when Aaron fumbled with the straps on the knee brace, Spencer's grip tightened on the armrests. He wanted to say something—don't came quickly to mind—but again, silence held him. Gently, cautiously, the Velcro was undone, straps sliding through the loops as the brace loosened against his leg. Spencer felt the light tap against his calf and he lifted it automatically. Aaron slid the thing off and then set it under the desk.

His belt was next, followed by his trouser button and zipper. Spencer knew he was staring dumbly at Aaron—his mind refusing to process, to compartmentalize, to do something with Aaron's behavior—and his lov…what was Aaron now? Aaron quirked an eyebrow as if to say, Gonna help out or what? Spencer braced himself on the armrests and then lifted his ass, closing his eyes as Aaron's too warm fingers slid along the waistband of his boxers and trousers and then efficiently pulled them off with one move.

The only thing Spencer was left wearing was the robe and the bandage wrapped around his damaged knee.

He was half-hard.

He flicked the edge of the robe over his groin.

He was embarrassed.

He opened his eyes and watched as Aaron rooted through his pockets of his trousers, placing the wallet, credentials, keys, change, three golf tees, a die, and two Starlight candies on the desk. Aaron then took the trousers over to where Spencer's other clothes were, opened the dryer door, checked the labels on the items that had them, put everything except the sweater, shoes and belt in the machine and turned it on.

Aaron then walked over to the bathroom with the sweater and Spencer let out a long breath. This means nothing, he tried to firmly tell himself. Aaron misses Jack, this is the weekend that we were supposed to celebrate Jack's birthday, and I showed up soaking wet so Aaron is directing all his parental needs and urges… because that's what everyone does to me.

Spencer rearranged the robe around him the best he could without causing the chair to roll too much around. He tossed the towel he'd been using on his hair to the side, where the one that Aaron had used on his feet was.

Aaron emerged with a fresh ACE bandage, knelt in front of Spencer, and began unwinding the wet cloth from around Spencer's leg. When Spencer knee was finally fully exposed, Aaron's fingers hovered over the damaged skin. The surgical incisions were still an angry red, puffed and swollen even though the sutures had been removed. The entry wound was nowhere near as catastrophic as the exit wound, which was to the back and side of Spencer's knee. He'd won a new ACL because the bullet had ruptured it.

It was the first time anyone besides Morgan had seen the damage.

It took a few seconds to realize the harsh yet quiet breathing was Aaron's, not his own. Aaron gently traced the edges of the bruising. Light. Surprisingly arousing. Spencer bit his lips together and closed his eyes, unwilling to acknowledge the expression on Aaron's face, the gentleness he showed in examining the wound.

It wasn't supposed to feel this erotic.

Warm fingers then gently massaged his lower calf. Spencer opened his eyes and watched how Aaron focused on the marks left by the brace.

Breathe. Breathe. This means nothing. He's…

Hands slid to either side of Spencer's knee, then to his thigh.

Finally, finally, Spencer found his voice. "Please. Don't."

Aaron stopped. He pulled his hands away. His head was bowed. He reached for the ACE bandage, but instead of picking it up, his hand rested on top of it.

"I'm sorry," Aaron whispered, his voice cracking and full of shame. "I didn't…I…"

"Stop," he ordered softly. "If you dare start that whole martyrdom shit, I swear to God…"

"You told me once to call," Aaron interrupted hoarsely, still refusing to look up. His breathing pattern changed to short, steadying breaths. "There's no reason for you to—"

Things hit all at once: the bourbon, the message, the behavior, a promise made the first time they were together, that even if they ceased to be lovers they could call one another no matter what.

"Pour it out." It was Spencer's turn to interrupt. Aaron's gaze shot up to him, eyes wet and mouth downturned. There was an argument brewing there, probably along the lines of, I'm not an alcoholic. Dave gave it to me. It's 'His Stash'. What will he think if it's all gone when he stops by? Spencer met the man's eyes with a hard look before amending, "Just what's in your glass and the decanter."

Aaron's shoulders stiffened, his mouth twisted a bit, but he rose to his feet and took deliberate steps over to the coffee table. He picked up the decanter and glass, walked over to the kitchen, and then dumped the contents. Spencer closed his eyes and listened as the faucet was turned on.

Aaron hated dirty dishes. Despised them, in fact. Few people knew that the colorful threats regarding unwashed items in the sink that were posted in the BAU kitchen were created and hung up by the unit chief.

Spencer heard the soft slap of bare feet on the kitchen linoleum. The light drag of footsteps on plush carpeting. He opened his eyes as Aaron rounded the chair and began to bend. He knew instinctively what Aaron was doing: presenting himself as penitent, subservient.

He reached out. He touched Aaron's wrist. "I need to elevate my knee."

The other man stilled. There was another long pause. "Will you stay the night?"

Spencer glanced up, genuinely surprised at the question. Aaron still refused to meet his gaze. "Will you look at me?"

Eye contact wasn't physically supposed to hurt, but this did. Because Spencer could see a wealth of emotions not commonly associated with Aaron Hotchner. Defeat. Self-loathing. Despair. Anger. Fear shone the brightest.

It took every ounce of his willpower not to flinch. Not to blink. Despite the fact that—

I'm a blinker.

"I don't have—"

"Everything is still here," Aaron countered quietly. There was that slight edge to his voice that suggested he was offended that Spencer would think he wouldn't have made the offer without making sure that basic things like a toothbrush, razor and contact solution weren't available. There was another pause. "Please."

"Will we share a bed?" Spencer asked bluntly, because he wasn't quite sure just where this was going.

And God the reaction that question got. The sharp intake of breath. The slight tremble that Spencer could feel through the fleece cuff. The way Aaron licked his lips three times before looking towards the two bedrooms and choking out, "You're… you're too tall. I… I am, too. For…for Jack's… Jack's…bed."

It was times like this that Spencer forgot completely about the 'non-weight-bearing' rule on his knee. He swiftly stood. He got out, "Aaron, no! That's not what I—" before pain hit full-force and he collapsed back into the chair. He grabbed the top of his thigh, closing his eyes. "Fuck."

"Spencer!" Sharp. Worried. Followed by Aaron's own declaration of, "Fuck!" and then a whole lot of rustling.

"I'm fine…I'm fine."

"You're a goddamn liar," hissed with that ferocity that Aaron had when he was truly concerned. It was followed by, "Shit."

"I just need ice." Spencer opened his eyes when he heard the other man march away. He glanced over his shoulder and saw the light on in the master bedroom. He wasn't sure if it was a good thing or a bad thing to witness Aaron's temper. He wasn't surprised that Aaron had obviously decided that the king-sized bed would be ceded to him.

Aaron came back to his side, picking up the crutches and holding them out to him. The man's voice was firm, strong, controlled. "There are extra pillows on the bed. You can arrange them how you'd like." Oh, so Hotch. His foot slid behind the one of the chair's wheels, his hands steadying the back of chair. "What else will you need?"

Chivalrous bastard.

Spencer accepted the crutches and, after two tries, got to his feet. "A large glass of water and a palm full of Tylenol."

Aaron nodded and let go of the chair before going back into the kitchen.

Spencer hobbled to the bedroom, robe hanging open and everything just dangling. He thought he would be more embarrassed, self-conscious that here he was practically naked while Aaron was fully clothed.

Then, he saw the bed. His stomach rolled hard. Given the facts and events that Spencer had, he expected all traces of his own existence to be erased from the room. Instead, the tabletop gun safe was still on what had been his side of the bed (Mine only has enough room for two), the mound of pillows were arranged just so (I know you like to read in bed and you hate those laptop desks), and… and…

It was as if he hadn't left.

Sort of.

The top of his nightstand had never been so damn neat.

The sheets were clean. The pillowcases weren't the same. Not obsessive behavior but… Spencer recognized the indicators. It was a space for someone… someone to come back to.

The knee twinged. Spencer cursed under his breath.

Or so he thought.

A warm hand cupped his elbow. "What can I do?"

Damn, the man was fast.

Spencer shook him off. He crutched over to his side of the bed. He sat down and then swung his legs up and over so that his bad knee was propped up on the pillows that Aaron had arranged, careful that the robe covered his chest and groin. Aaron made a quiet noise, one that conveyed his annoyance at something, and Spencer looked up. Aaron held out two, quart-sized Ziploc bags filled with ice, but his head was turned away, his gaze downward.

"What?" Spencer asked because Aaron's posture was overly stiff and formal.

There was a long paused followed by the huffed, "It's not like I haven't seen you naked, Spencer."

"I'm not sure what's going on," he replied matter-of-factly. "I don't know if I'm here as your coworker, your friend… your former lover…" Aaron's head snapped up and their eyes met. His lips were twisted downward. He shook his head and then looked away. Spencer stretched out his right hand. "May I have the ice, please?"

The request jolted the other man into action. He approached the bed, handed over the bags and then retreated to the corner of the room. It was then that Spencer noticed the full-length mirror was gone. Aaron crossed his arms over his chest, focusing his attention on the door. Spencer placed one ice bag under his knee and the other on top. He leaned back on the pillows, hissing a little as he did. He was sore. He was tired. He wasn't in the mood for an argument with Aaron, which he knew he was heading towards.

Aaron swiftly left the room and Spencer closed his eyes. Fuck. He was surprised to hear Aaron return and he opened his eyes as Aaron rounded the bed with a glass of water and a bottle of Tylenol, which he put on the nightstand. He paused, his gaze focused downward.

Softly, Aaron said, "I don't know what we are now either. I broke it off. I deliberately hurt you. Then, I took advantage of your generosity by asking you to come over tonight because I'm a selfish bastard. I didn't want to be home alone tonight because I kept thinking about the what if's and should-have-beens.

"You said once… You said once, that even if you hit rock bottom, you can always turn around and head back up the stairs." Slowly, he lifted his gaze to Spencer's. His eyes were wet; he grimaced. "I didn't want to go down the stairs. And of all the people that I know, you are the only one who understands that. I hurt you, Spencer. I said these godawful things to drive you away."

"Yes, you did," Spencer acknowledged, "but you also apologized." He let out a long sigh. "I know you hate seeing yourself as a victim, but that's what you are. Your physical wounds are just part of it. The psychological wounds are just as deep, if not deeper, and they will take much longer to heal."

"I wasn't there for you."

"What?" Spencer blinked. "For God's sake, Aaron, you were stabbed nine times! How the hell…"

"Georgia," Aaron clarified. "I wasn't there for you after Georgia. I knew what was happening…afterward." He bit his lips together. A tear spilled down one cheek. He shook his head hard. His voice was broken. "You needed someone…you needed us…and we just…I just…God, Spencer…"

"You trusted Gideon. You accepted his counsel," Spencer spat back, surprised at his own sudden anger.

He had made amends with everyone except Gideon, and it wasn't simply because Gideon was no longer physically present. There was a part of him that could never, probably would never, forgive that man, even if all the literature said there were no excuses for addicts. He blew out a harsh breath but willed himself not to cross his arms over his chest defensively.

"Gideon probably told you that I needed to find my own way, that I needed to grow up and solve the problem myself," Spencer continued. "I'm not making excuses for you, but it was a bad time for all of us. First with Elle. The whole thing with Morgan. You think that Morgan and I don't know the hows and whys of Prentiss being assigned to the team?" He shook his head at Aaron's surprised expression. "Chief Strauss isn't subtle.

"And if my timeline is correct, those were the months when your marriage really started to fall apart. You were trying to give one-hundred percent of yourself at work and one-hundred percent of yourself at home." He paused, reading the tenseness in Aaron's face and knew he was right. "The only thing you were successful at was work, because at least at work, you still had a team."

It was cruel to say. Spencer hated himself for it, but this wasn't the time or place for delicate wording.

Aaron hung his head. He whispered, "She was having an affair."

Spencer sucked in a breath. He swallowed hard. Of all the bits and pieces Aaron had (reluctantly) shared about his marriage, this was a glaring omission. It nearly shattered the profile Spencer had mentally developed of the woman.

"She was having it right under my nose," Aaron continued hoarsely. "I didn't see that either."

You didn't see it because it didn't… fit the profile, Spencer thought sadly. Yet… it also gave a significant clue as to why Aaron had given him so much leeway. He reached out again, brushing the back of Aaron's hand with his fingertips. "You kept me on the team when conventional wisdom dictated that I should have been reprimanded for missing that flight in New Orleans."

Aaron looked over. His eyes were wet as he shook his head slightly. "I found out about her… I found out after New Orleans."

"When?"

"Milwaukee."

Spencer folded his hands neatly in his lap. "That's why you chose to stay with the Team."

Aaron jerked out a nod.

Spencer closed his eyes, hating himself for what he was about to say, but knew it was the only way to get some definition to what they were to each other. "It's why you pushed me away."

"I had to."

"But I'm not a target."

"I… I don't want to…"

"We are, Aaron." Spencer lifted his chin. Aaron glared. "You want me to stay the night. This is part of it."

"Spencer." Warningly.

"Explain to me why I'm not a target."

"Spencer!" Barked. Harsh. The tone that sent people scurrying for cover.

"Aaron," Spencer countered softly.

The man turned on heel and stormed out of the room. Spencer closed his eyes and flopped back on the pillows. He used to have two full changes of clothes here, so the fact that what he wore entering the apartment was still in the dryer…

Aaron suddenly stomped back in the room. His shoulders were stiff. His gaze hard, fiery. His lip curled into a hard sneer. His hands shook. Spencer gripped the robe, surprised that he hadn't reflexively cupped his cock and balls from the force of the look.

"The media would focus on a senior FBI agent, the chief of an elite unit, fucking his younger, male subordinate. There would be questions about propriety, 'don't ask, don't tell' and fraternization rules. It would be sensationalized by the media. God help us, JJ would be trading barbs with Perez Hilton over this.

"The Bureau would be struggling to tame the media frenzy, but they wouldn't be successful. You and I would become poster boys. That's not what Foyet wants. He's narcissistic. He feeds on the press. He'll keep his focus on Haley and Jack because that's the type of press he wants. It's the breakup of the conservative, traditional American family that makes the headlines he needs to sustain his ego. He'll leave breadcrumbs so that Roy Colson and those who pick up the Boston Reaper storyline will have something to continually write about—how the Boston Reaper destroyed not only one of Boston's finest, but the unit chief of the BAU."

Spencer squeezed his eyes closed, biting his lower lip as he listened to the profile, as he heard the pain in Aaron's voice. It was there. All there. The reasons. The logic. What the Team had concluded two days after Foyet had attacked Aaron. And Spencer knew that Aaron had come to the conclusions himself, because the Team—not even Dave—would have dared approach him about it.

"He will not destroy you," Spencer snapped fiercely. He opened his eyes. He met Aaron's anguished stare. "He will not." He held the man's gaze until slowly, slowly Aaron nodded.

"I won't let him."

"We won't let him," Spencer corrected softly. He reached out towards the other man, palm up and fingers curled slightly. "Come to bed."

Aaron stood still for the longest time before shuffling awkwardly to the opposite side of the bed. He pulled back the covers. He crawled into bed still fully clothed, laying flat on his back, and stared at the ceiling.

Spencer glanced out to the main part of the apartment which was still fully illuminated. "You don't have to keep the lights on for me."

Aaron's face contorted. Another tear slipped down the side of his face. Hoarsely, "I need them on for me."

Spencer's stomach clenched hard. He fought back a bile-laced cough. Instead, he reached out and gently touched Aaron's shoulder. "I'll stay."

"Thank you."

"We'll get through this."

Aaron glanced over briefly and then returned his gaze to the ceiling. "I know."

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