Warning: un-beta'd - any mistakes are my own.

I do not own Criminal Minds, nor make money from writing about it.


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Shelter from Storm

Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner has an urge to bang his head against the damp, gritty walls of his prison. He wants to punish himself for being so stupid.

The search for a sexual sadist, killing young, male prostitutes, had lead the team to a man named John Taylor, who was "acquainted" with several of the victims. Aaron had taken Reid along, and sent Rossi and Morgan to interview another suspect. Prentiss was, much to her chagrin, in the hospital – due to something as un-dramatic as a sprained ankle caused by a very unfortunate and deeply apologetic intern at the hospital, who had dropped a set of blood samples when Prentiss and Rossi had left after interviewing the sister of the latest victim. She was in the fatal cancer ward, and has been extremely upset by the news of her brother's death. Emily had used all her people skills to placate the girl, and then tripped over the rolling vials of blood in the hallway. According to Rossi, when he had debriefed the rest of the team, Prentiss had used a very un-ladylike word when she went down, and the young, blonde intern had promptly burst into tears. Rossi had tried to convey the image of Prentiss sprawled on the floor, cussing out the sobbing intern to the consternation of several nurses, with a straight face – but it had been difficult when Morgan howled with laughter.

Aaron has a hard time even thinking about mustering a smile right now, however. He and Reid had gone to Taylor's house, and the man had been visibly nervous and jumpy. Which was perfectly understandable, seeing as the killer had turned up on his doorstep just minutes before the BAU agents arrived.

Taylor had babbled on for a few minutes, and Aaron had just decided to take him into custody when Reid suddenly exclaimed loudly behind him. Aaron had spun around, and watched his agent fall to the floor with a surprised expression on his face, and a syringe sticking out from his neck. The father of the first victim, William Harris, whom they had interviewed only the day before, had been standing behind Reid with a huge grin on his face, as if he had just pulled a funny stunt. During the short second it had taken Aaron to reach for his gun, Harris had fired the tranquilizer-gun in his hand, and Aaron had gone down like a sack of potatoes.

A big, stupid sack of thoughtless potatoes, he thinks to himself. He doesn't know how Harris has transported himself and Reid to wherever they are – whether Taylor helped him, or whether Harris has killed Taylor. He only knows that there must be a connection between Taylor and Harris which they have previously missed, and he hopes the team will connect the dots soon enough.

Aaron thinks they are in a basement somewhere – it's a small-ish room with a lone window placed high on the wall. The panes are covered with black film. There is a single light bulb hanging from the ceiling. The only furniture in the room is a bed, to which Aaron's right hand is chained. He's stretched out on worn, stained sheets, and he doesn't want to think about whether or not this is the bed where Harris has kept and raped his victims. The bed is situated along the wall across from the door – and a few feet from the door is a radiator, to which Reid is chained. Harris has used their own handcuffs – and of course he's taken the keys.

Aaron thinks Reid is still passed out. He's not moving, but Aaron can hear his breath is steady and even.

He spends a few minutes rattling the metal headboard of the bed, trying to see if there's a weakness in the metal or if he can somehow get free. It doesn't look like it, so Aaron resigns himself to wait.

Ten minutes pass, and then Reid suddenly groans and rolls to his side. He tries to sit up, and blinks in confusion at the handcuffs keeping him in place.

"Reid," Aaron calls, and the boy jumps and whips his head around.

"Hotch! What happened?"

Aaron explains, and Reid groans again. "Harris must have a connection to Taylor," he concludes as Aaron has minutes before. "Garcia will figure it out soon. I hope," he adds with a grimace. Aaron is about to reply, when there's suddenly noise outside the door. They both freeze as they look towards it, and then it opens and Harris steps in.

The man looks at them with a blank expression.

"FBI, huh? What'm I supposed to do with you?"

His demeanor is surprisingly sympathetic – if you can overlook the fact that he's killed thirteen people. But he's not someone who'd stand out in a crowd. He's polite and charming, without being memorably so. He's in his late forties, rather blandly good-looking. Just like their profile predicted – Aaron feels a small consolation in the fact that, once again, his team has nailed it. He only hopes it's enough to find the man – and with him Aaron and Reid.

"Why don't you let him go, and I'll stay here with you?" Aaron suggests, nodding towards Reid. If only he can get one of them out of here….

Harris looks from Aaron, cuffed to the bedpost, to Reid, cuffed to the radiator. Aaron watches a slow smile spreading on Harris' face as he gives Reid a calculated look. He can feel his stomach clenching, and his breath hitches in preparation to the words he knows will follow.

"You, boy. Strip."

Reid looks up, surprise on his face as if he doesn't really understand that he is the one being spoken to. Then his eyes widen in horror, and he recoils. "What? No!"

Harris snorts a laugh, caressing the gun – Aaron's gun – in his hand.

"Do it. Or Agent Hotchner will pay."

Reid looks from Harris to Aaron, and Aaron can almost hear his mind working rapidly.

"Reid. Don't do it," he says in a low, hard voice. "Don't give in to him."

Without missing a beat, Harris turns his head towards Aaron and almost casually lifts the gun and fires.

Aaron can't help but scream out in agony as the bullet goes straight through his thigh. Pain dominates his body and mind for a few seconds, and when he fights back the pain, he can hear Reid gasping, "don't hurt him! I'll do what you want!"

"No!" Aaron practically snarls, his right hand fisted and the cuffs rattling as he in vain tries to yank them from the metal bedpost.

Harris laughs, a sound that sends shivers of apprehension up and down Aaron's spine. He hears the sound of something small and metallic clinking. "Unlock them. But don't even think of trying anything," he tells Reid, leaning against the wall where there's no chance of Reid reaching him, even if he were to do something rash like throw himself at Harris.

Aaron turns his head to watch Reid pick up the keys and unlock the cuffs holding him to the radiator. He starts unbuttoning his shirt with shaky hands. Harris merely watches, a small smile on his face and the gun in his hand continuously pointing at Aaron.

"Hurry up. Or the next one will be in his stomach. You know that means a slow and painful death."

They all know that. Especially Harris – that's his preferred method of killing, after the sexual torture of his victims. A gunshot to the stomach, after dumping the half-dead boys a place he knows they won't be found until it's too late. The knowledge that they die a slow and painful and agonizing death is almost as good as the sexual gratification he gets from raping them.

These facts from the profile fly through Aaron's mind as he numbly watches Reid divest himself of his clothes. At Harris' silent gesture, he cuffs himself to the radiator once again.

Harris places the gun on the floor, safely out of reach of either agent, and instead withdraws a large folding knife from his pocket. He slowly walks to Reid's corner, his breathing already growing labored with lust.

Reid doesn't say a word, though Aaron can see him shaking ever so slightly. And so can Harris, who kneels in front of Reid, slowly caressing his face with the blunt edge of the knife.

"Pretty boy," he mumbles, and Reid lets out a gasp of air and recoils from the knife on his face. Rage briefly crosses Harris' expression, and he grabs a fistful of Reid's hair, forcing his head back. Reid makes a pained sound as Harris slowly licks his neck, his teeth grazing the jugular vein. Aaron can barely breathe as he watches, half-expecting Harris to suddenly rip out Reid's throat. He doesn't, however. Instead, he licks his way up Reid's face and around his lips, trying to force his tongue between Reid's lips. Reid makes a disgusted sound and turns his head away, pressing his lips together. Harris groans and backhands him across the face, forcing a surprised yelp from Reid.

"Don't pretend you don't want it, you filthy slut," Harris says, his voice shaking with fury or lust, or perhaps both. "I know you're just like them. You're just begging for my cock, like all the others. Slut! Whore!" The last two words are emphasized with two more slaps across Reid's face.

"No," Reid gasps, blood running from his nose. "I'm not like them," he says, trying to make Harris understand that he does not fit the victimology. Aaron wonders if it will make a difference by now.

Harris presses the knife, this time sharp side, into Reid's neck. A drop of blood escapes. "Yes you are!" he thunders, his other hand gripping Reid's free arm as he tries to force his knee between Reid's legs. "I'll show you what a real man can do to a pretty boy like you."

Reid struggles now, kicking out in an attempt to get Harris away. Harris suddenly buries the knife in Reid's shoulder, and Reid cries out in pain and stops his struggle.

"That's more like it," Harris grunts, his hand groping Reid's thigh and slowly trailing upwards.

"Please," Reid whispers. "Don't. Don't—I've never even…" He struggles to breathe through the pain of the knife still buried in him. "I'm not a slut. I've never… had sex. With anyone."

Harris stares at him, hesitating for a moment. "You're not lying," he says, and his voice has lost its edge – Aaron thinks he sounds surprised. Reid vigorously shakes his head, making hair fall in his face and stick to the blood. "No, I'm not lying. I swear."

Harris sits back on his heels, a new look of calculation on his face. Aaron waits with bated breath, hoping that the truth of Reid's confession will turn the sadist off his intended prey. Harris has killed thirteen male prostitutes – starting with his own son. He kills them because they are filthy scum – but first he rapes and tortures them to punish them for making him realize his own latent homosexuality.

Harris now looks at the knife in Reid's shoulder, and with a sudden movement he pulls it out. Reid gasps in pain – fortunately, the blade isn't long, and Aaron can tell the cut is not deep or fatal. Harris picks up Reid's shirt and presses it against the wound, and then lets go, making Reid take over.

"So pretty," he mumbles, his hand caressing Reid's cheek. "Such innocence… so beautiful. Not like the dirty whores." He seems to be talking to himself now, eyes glazed over. Aaron can feel the knot in his stomach slowly loosening, and for a fleeting moment he believes Reid has managed to dodge a bullet, so to speak.

Until Harris lifts the knife to his own mouth, and slowly, almost sensuously, licks Reid's blood from the blade. He moans deeply and meets Reid's terrified look. "I'm going to enjoy you. Having the whores was my duty. This… will be pleasure."

Reid scrambles back, as far as the cuffs will let him go, his expression and whole body language one of revulsion and denial. "No, no," he says, over and over. Aaron can feel his own body tensing in defiance as Harris moves in on Reid, a peculiar expression in his eyes. "Don't worry, I won't hurt you. My pretty boy." Aaron suddenly realizes something about the profile, something they missed – and he tries to connect the dots in his head, even as he watches in frustration as Harris starts undoing his belt.

Suddenly, a thought strikes him, and he calls out, his voice even and firm. "Harris! Don't you have to go to work? It must be almost seven."

Harris turns his head as his hands freeze on his belt. He looks at Aaron for a moment, his eyes heavy with lust until they suddenly become confused, and then focused. "Work, yes – you're right," he nods, and Aaron wants to sigh in relief as Harris buckles his belt again. "Don't worry, I'll be back later," he mumbles to Reid, his hands running over the agent's chest in a silent goodbye.

Harris stands, and hesitates for a moment as he looks at Aaron lying on sheets that are slowly becoming soaked with the blood from his thigh. "Take care of that," he tells Reid, nodding towards Aaron. "Use his belt. It won't kill him." He picks up the gun and aims it at Reid as he once again throws the keys to the handcuffs. Reid unlocks them and tosses the key back to Harris, but he doesn't move as Harris gathers up the rest of his clothes. Finally, Harris leaves the room, and they can hear the locks and bolt sliding into place. Reid waits a few seconds, and then lets out a gasping, sobbing sound.

"Hotch, I'm sorry, so sorry! I should have done what he wanted to begin with."

Aaron cuts him off, briskly. "Reid, no. He would have found an excuse to shoot me anyway. You know that. He's a sadist – it's what he does." He grimaces through the throbbing pain in his leg. "I think you should follow his advice about the belt, though," he continues, gritting his teeth. Reid nods and scrambles to his feet, one hand still pressing his own shirt to the wound in his shoulder. Aaron politely averts his eyes as Reid makes his way to him, aware of the boy's embarrassment over his naked body.

"I can use the pillowcase," Reid suggests, and Aaron nods and lifts his head. As Reid strips the pillow, he unbuckles his own belt and pulls it out, hissing in pain as he automatically lifts his hips a little to make it easier. Reid looks at him with worried eyes, and folds the pillowcase. "Hold here," he instructs, and Aaron presses his free hand to his covered thigh as Reid slips the belt around it, and then tightens. He watches Aaron carefully. "Is it too much?" he asks, looking between Aaron's face and leg. Aaron shakes his head. "Take it in another notch. The pressure is preferable to the blood loss," he says wryly, and Reid tightens and buckles the belt.

"Reid," and the boy looks at him in surprise as Aaron places his hand on the shoulder that hasn't been stabbed. "I'm sorry. I didn't think he would go for someone outside his type."

Reid smiles bitterly. "Well, you heard the man – he thinks a 27-year old virgin would be a welcome change from all the young whores." His voice is hard, but is betrayed by the ever so slight tremble to his lips.

Aaron squeezes the shoulder of the young agent. "There's still a chance they will find us before Harris returns. He'll be gone for work for seven hours."

Their profile includes the fact that the unsub is most likely working a steady job, and maintain a high work ethic. All the victims have been murdered 10-12 hours before their discovery, so the team concluded that he kills them, goes to work and then comes back and dumps the body somewhere public.

Reid smiles weakly. "Yeah, good call. I couldn't really think of anything clever to say – imagine that," he mumbles with a wry, ironic grin that's nowhere near in reaching his eyes. He slumps his shoulders, looking utterly defeated, and Aaron can feel his chest constricting. "Reid, you can't say anything that will change his mind." His calm words are in direct contrast to the storm he feels raging inside, the utter unfairness at the thought of Reid being subjected to this.

Reid shrugs, and averts his eyes. "Guess not. So this is the karmic prize of not taking Morgan up on his several offers to fix me up with 'someone who'd even jump the sack with you, pretty boy genius'." He tries to grin again, but it comes out as a pained grimace, and Aaron can tell by the restless flickering of his eyes that he's trying not to realize the realness of the situation. "I guess I always imagined that when I found someone I trusted enough, someone I could get close to, that it would… that I would want it to happen." He draws in a shaky breath, still not looking at Aaron. "It's not easy for me to get close to people. Not like that," he says with a trembling voice. "And now it's too late." He finally looks at Aaron, and his eyes are shining with unshed tears, his expression so desolate that Aaron feels a sudden, overwhelming urge to draw Reid into him arms and hold him, protect him.

"Don't be ashamed, Reid," he says, clearing his throat as his voice comes out huskily. "More people should wait with something as special as their first time. Anyone would be lucky to deserve your trust." He almost instantaneously regrets those words, especially as Reid looks at him with a starstruck expression. "I mean," he quickly continues, "you shouldn't underestimate yourself. You have a lot to offer – you just haven't met the right person yet." Damn. Aaron doesn't know what he's doing – he's never been good at aiding other people in their self-realizations and inadequacies. But he doesn't know what else to say or do, here in this room with Reid who's facing a gruesome experience in a few short hours.

Reid looks contemplative, biting at his lower lip as his hands idly trace patterns on the edge of the bed.

"Hotch, I…" Aaron watches him swallow nervously, and then draw in several shaky breaths. "I trust you," he then blurts out, and Aaron can feel his own face going blank with surprised shock when he realizes the implications of what Reid is saying. "I trust the whole team, and you know Gideon's always been like a mentor, a father, to me. But, I trust you, and we're here, now, and I don't know what else I can possibly do to…" Aaron is still mute as Reid abruptly cuts off his nervous babbling and looks away, a furious blush spreading on his face.

"Hotch, I—oh god, that was so inappropriate. I'm sorry! Just—please forget I said anything. I don't know what I was thinking, suggesting that you would…" Reid laughs, a bitter, broken sound, and makes a small, self-deprecating gesture towards himself.

Aaron's brain kicks into gear at that small movement.

Reid is his subordinate. It would be entirely inappropriate. And aside from those vague speculations about experiencing pleasure with another man, speculations that all heterosexual men will have from time to time, he's never actually felt the urge to explore that side of his sexuality.

But he does like Reid. And in some way, feels an attraction to the young man – Aaron's always assumed it was purely intellectual, the kind of attraction one might feel to a person they'd like to pursue a platonic relationship to. But now, as he looks closely at Reid, he notices thing he's never done before – never let himself notice.

Like how the boy has perfect, smooth, pale skin, stretched taut over long and slender limbs. And perfectly kissable lips. And large, beautiful, expressive eyes, framed by long lashes.

Eyes that are right now staring at Aaron. He suddenly realizes Reid has gone from babbling apologies, to holding his breath, and his expression is incredulous, nervous. He also notices that his own hand is gripping Reid's shoulder, effectively keeping Reid from moving away, as he was trying to moments before. He loosens the grip, but Reid still doesn't move. Or breathe.

Aaron is confused by himself, his thoughts, the sudden sensations racing through him. But before his mind can rationalize and execute a decision, his body takes over and makes the decision for him. He slowly reaches up and strokes Reid's hair, tucking a strand behind his ear. Reid lets out a gush of breath, and looks at Aaron with a mixture of awe and fright.

"Hotch," he says uncertainly, and Aaron allows his fingertips to run over those lips before once again resting his hand on Reid's shoulder – the one with the wound.

"It stopped bleeding," he hears himself say, and Reid looks down in surprise, as if he's forgotten all about it.

"Yeah," he replies, and flexes the arm lightly to test the pain. Aaron feels something dark and heavy move in his stomach as he watches the muscles move, and he lets his hand rest on Reid's knee. The boy flushes slightly, but doesn't flinch.

"Hotch," he says again. "You don't—I mean, we don't have to… I know it's wrong."

Aaron slowly shakes his head. "Reid, I'd feel more wrong not doing this now." Which is true on more than one level.

Reid hesitates a moment, and then nods his consent. "Okay. Uhm…" He swallows nervously, and gestures vaguely to their bodies. "How should we… I mean, should I lie next to you, or…?"

Aaron once again rattles his cuffed hand, and the biting pain in his leg reminds him that he's incapacitated in more ways than one.

"I can't really move much. I think you'll have to sit astride me." He keeps his tone even, as if he's merely asking Reid to finish his report on time – but inside he's shaking and churning, and he can already feel his pants growing uncomfortably tight at the very thought.

Reid is blushing again, and his hands are shaking as he moves them to the front of Aaron's pants. He must feel the weight of Aaron's gaze on him, because he suddenly looks uncertain. "Should I…?" Aaron nods, doesn't trust himself to speak, and as Reid slowly unbuttons his pants, he unbuttons his shirt, pushing it open to make sure it won't be spoiled for Harris to discover.

Reid actually lets out a small squeak as Aaron's erection twitches under his fingers, and Aaron is torn between annoyance and amusement. "Come on, Reid, you surely know the mechanics of how it works," he snorts. "You'll have to pull down my pants a little."

Together, they manage to pull away Aaron's pants and boxers – though Aaron hisses in pain first as his wound hurts from lifting his hips, and then as Reid is a tad too enthusiastic in pulling down his boxers, and not very mindful of the throbbing, sensitive flesh beneath. Reid mumbles a horrified apology, and Aaron can easily forgive him when he notices those expressive eyes are glued to his erection with a slightly awed shine.

Then again, a virgin is easily impressed.

"Reid," he says in a slightly strained voice, and the boy snaps out of it and scrambles across Aaron's waist – fortunately mindful of his knees not connecting with wounds or other sensitive places.

"I'm sorry," Aaron says, and Reid looks at him with a slight frown. "It will probably be painful, as we don't have any lubrication." Reid shrugs slightly, and once again sets his mouth in a bitter line.

"It'll hardly be worse than what Harris would have done. Will do later," he adds, and Aaron wants to scream and punch something. Instead, he puts his hand in his mouth and tries to wet two fingers as much as possible. Reid looks at him with big eyes, and they get even bigger as Aaron then slides the fingers between his legs.

"Hotch," he yelps, and Aaron can tell he's ready to bolt as his fingers circle and then massage the tight opening.

"Shh," Aaron says, holding Reid's eyes locked with his own. "It will make it hurt less," he says calmly, and Reid gulps and grows tense as the fingers make their way into his body.

Aaron has to close his eyes for a second as he feels the tight heat, and when he opens them again, he's pleased to notice that Reid is not entirely unaffected by the ministrations. He wishes there was time and opportunity to do this right, make it better for Reid – but all he can do is withdraw his hand after a minute, wipe his fingers on the sheet, and then gesture for Reid to proceed.

It is awkward and painful at first, as Reid fumbles, hands shaking, trying to guide Aaron into his body. Aaron watches the defeat on his face, as Reid sighs – though it is more of a sob – and grinds out a frustrated, "Hotch, I can't—I can't!"

Aaron slides his hand from Reid's hip to his shoulder, squeezing it before letting it slide up his neck, to rest on his face. "Reid, listen to me. You have to relax. Relax…"

Reid nods, but does the exact opposite as his body becomes even more tense, and Aaron's heart grows even heavier as the boy sitting astride him - trying to rid himself of his innocence with the one purpose of not letting a sexual psychopath take it from him by force – suddenly crumbles. Aaron watches the tears slide down his face as Reid turns his head in embarrassment, choking back the sobs that threaten to take over.

"Reid—Spencer, look at me." Aaron uses his best office-voice, afraid that Reid will break completely down at the slightest sign of pity. Taken by surprise at the use of his name, not often used in Hotch's vocabulary, Reid turns his head and meets Aaron's eyes, his gaze both apprehensive and expectant.

Aaron silently curses the restraint of the cuffs as he pushes himself up as far as he can, his right arm shaking with the effort as he keeps his left hand on Reid's face. "Re—Spencer, you can do this. You… have to." Aaron hates himself a little for uttering these words, because the truth is that Reid doesn't have to do this – but Aaron wants it, even under these circumstances. "Come here." His hand slides around to the back of Reid's head, and with a gentle pressure he tries to communicate to Reid that closeness will make this easier.

Reid understands surprisingly quickly, and he leans down, looking into Aaron's eyes the whole time to make sure he understands correctly – and suddenly their lips meet.

It is sweet and desperate, gentle and raw, and Aaron does his very best to ignore the sparks of pleasure that race through his body as he gently sucks Reid's tongue into his mouth. He cannot, however, ignore the sudden and painful tightening in his groin as Reid moans and grinds his hips down reflexively. Aaron slides his hand from the back of Reid's head back down to clutch at his hip, this time with more urgency.

Reid breaks the kiss and looks away, flustered and panting, and Aaron doesn't think he's ever been so conflicted in his life – he wishes they were not in this situation, wishes that he could protect Reid, but at the same time he wants Reid so badly that he can barely focus.

"Reid," he says, and his voice is both commanding and pleading. Reid looks back at him, his eyes wide, cheeks flushed. He nods, and Aaron moves his hand and grabs his own now painfully straining manhood and holds it steady as Reid slowly sinks down.

This time it happens, and Reid elicits a soft sound as he is breached by something substantially larger than Aaron's two fingers from moments before. He pauses, and at Aaron's questioning look smiles shakily. "I'm okay. It just…" He trails off, and Aaron caresses his face, his chest, his stomach, and then his hand curls around Reid's semi-hardness. Reid sucks in a breath and closes his eyes as Aaron slowly coaxes his arousal. He moans softly as he puts more weight onto Aaron's hips, taking in another inch. Reid opens his eyes and looks at Aaron again, his eyes shiny with tears. "I'm okay," he assures again before Aaron can ask, though this time the words are not followed by a smile. Instead, he takes a deep breath and slowly, excruciatingly slowly, pushes down until he is fully sheathed.

And so help him, but Aaron can't hold back a groan.

Red-hot pain sears from the wound in his leg, which Reid is now putting pressure on, to mix with the white-hot pleasure of being buried in the tight heat of Reid's body. He watches Reid carefully, taking in the boy's closed eyes and set expression. And then Reid opens his eyes to stare at Aaron with a heavy gaze, and he licks his lips – a nervous gesture that makes Aaron tighten his hand on Reid's hip enough to bruise with the effort of staving away the sudden urge to throw Reid down and pound him, until all traces of his virginity are erased.

Surprisingly, Reid leans down to kiss him again, and Aaron accepts it hungrily – perhaps too readily, to judge by the surprised look in Reid's eyes as he breaks away for a tiny second. But then Aaron shifts his hips – groaning in pain-pleasure as the movement jostles both his leg and his needy hardness buried deep within his fellow agent – and in a gruff voice he orders-begs Reid to "move, please", and hopefully his emotions can be passed off as circumstantial lust.

Because who would not feel lust at the sensation of Reid slowly moving up and down, at first awkwardly and jerkily, but soon to a rhythm which strangely matches the thumping beat of Aaron's heart.

"Am I… I mean, is it okay?" Reid asks timidly, and Aaron's eyes fly open to focus on the uncertain face above him. He stares for a moment, silently shocked that Reid actually worries about Aaron's pleasure, his own performance, as if they were… and then he remembers that this is Reid's first time having sex, and maybe the only chance he has of a sexual encounter that's not violent and sadistic and… destroying.

Aaron feels as if something snaps in his chest, and he can feel his expression growing soft, which is mirrored in Reid's surprised blush, as if he only now becomes self-conscious.

Aaron takes hold of one of Reid's hands, which he's so far used to brace himself against Aaron, and takes it to his lips, kissing it softly.

"It's great, Spencer, really great. You look beautiful," he whispers against Reid's palm, watching a delighted spark fly across the boy's face. It is quickly replaced by an expression of hopeless resignation, and Reid swallows visibly.

"I just want it to be good, seeing as…" He trails off, and Aaron can tell he's once again fighting back tears.

"I know, Spencer. I will do everything I can to…" He's cut off as Reid cries out, either in frustration or denial, and once again leans down to kiss Aaron – this time it's messy, desperate. Aaron can taste the salt of Reid's tears in his mouth. He tries to convey passion and comfort and hope in the kiss, and Reid responds by clutching one hand in Aaron's, the other against the wall, and his eyes slide shut and his head falls back as he suddenly rides Aaron with a fervent passion, as if the intensity of it can save him. And in a way, Aaron suspects it can.

Reid is moaning now, his head still thrown back and eyes half-lidded. And Aaron doesn't think he's ever seen anything this beautiful. He can feel his climax building, and he wrenches his hand from Reid's to take hold of the boy's firm erection. Reid pants and sobs out his moans, his hips slamming down on Aaron's – and Aaron is powerless to stop it now, his hips lift of their own volition to meet Reid's, and despite the searing pain in his leg, Aaron gasps out "so good, so good, sogoodsogoodsogoo-oh!". Fierce pleasure explodes through the pain, making his eyes roll back and his hips buck so wildly he's almost afraid for a fleeting second that Reid is going to fall off.

Reid is clinging to him, however, when he floats down from the euphoric state that lasts much too shortly, and Aaron suddenly snaps back to the damp basement, the threat of Harris, and Reid… the boy is whimpering now, bucking his hips into Aaron's vice-like grip on his throbbing arousal. "Hotch, please, oh please!" he begs, and Aaron pumps his hand in firm, measured strokes. It takes mere seconds before Reid lets out a strangled cry, his hand clutching Aaron's shoulder, face grimacing in pleasure, his whole body tensing up as his climax covers Aaron's hands and stomach in warm fluids. He clenches oh so tightly around Aaron's still half-hard erection, causing an after-shock of pleasant tingles to curse through his body. And then Reid slumps down onto Aaron's chest. Their foreheads rest together as their labored breaths slowly even out.

Aaron thinks his heart is going to break when Reid mumbles a very soft, "thank you."

In the evening, Harris enters the basement.

They've used Reid's bloodied shirt to clean up the sticky residues of their encounter, but Aaron still prays Harris won't inspect either of them too closely. Reid has curled up next to the radiator, and has grown more silent and withdrawn by the hour, even though Aaron's tried to engage him in light conversation. At first he responded, politely as if he was only doing it to humor Aaron. At one point, Reid mumbled, almost to himself, "I wonder if it'll be worse than I think." Aaron couldn't find anything to say to that.

And after a while, Aaron let him sink into himself – hoping Reid has managed to find a place in his mind he can go to in order to escape what is now inevitable.

Aaron had hoped the team would have tracked them by now. But he knows it will take time. Harris is nothing if not meticulous about covering his tracks. But he's made mistakes before, and Aaron knows he's made an error in judgment that will lead the team to find them. He has to believe that.

But it will be too late for Reid, who is now watching Harris with repulsive apprehension.

Harris is carrying a blanket and two bottles of water. Aaron unconsciously licks his dry lips. Harris doesn't even look at him as he tosses the things onto the bed – his whole focus is on Reid's naked form. Aaron is almost desperate for something to drink, but he can't bring himself to fill that need now, as Reid is about to be molested.

Harris once again leaves his gun in the corner of the room, and pulls out his knife. He approaches Reid, who's curled into a fetal position in the corner.

"Pretty boy. I'm going to take good care of you now," Harris breathes. "I'll leave off the cuffs if you're a good boy." He waits a moment as if to give Reid a chance to contradict him, and satisfied when it doesn't happen, he strokes a hand down Reid's side.

"Lie on your stomach," Harris instructs, and Reid doesn't hesitate for as much as a second before he complies. Aaron wants to look away, to spare Reid the humiliation, but he finds himself unable to, instead staring transfixed as Harris undoes his pants and lies down on top of Reid. He places the knife out of Reid's reach, and then brings one hand to Reid's face, firmly covering his mouth. The other hand is reaching down between their bodies, and Aaron does close his eyes when Reid suddenly gives a muffled scream as Harris thrusts into him.

"Shh, don't make noise," Harris grunts, picking up the knife with his free hand. He lets the blade slide across Reid's shoulders, only adding enough pressure to leave small welts. Reid is silent now, but Aaron can see his hands digging into the floor, fingertips going white. Harris cuts hard enough to draw blood now, and he licks it from Reid's shoulders as his thrusts grow more violent. Suddenly, he groans deeply and rises to his knees, pulling at Reid's hips until the agent is resting on his knees as well, taking all his weight on his shoulders. Harris' hands dig into Reid's slender hips, his nails drawing more blood. Aaron feels rage burn in him, and he knows now that he will never be able to regret giving Reid another experience than this.

"Does it hurt, pretty boy?" Harris rasps, leaning down to lick at the cut on Reid's shoulder blade. "Does it hurt to have me in your tight, virgin hole? Do you want to scream? Go on, no-one will hear you." Reid doesn't, however, and Harris growls and increases the force of his movement, muttering lewd words and using his knife frequently.

At one point, when Harris is busy biting into his neck and shoulder, Reid turns his head towards Aaron. Their eyes meet, and even though Reid's face shows his pain, he twists his mouth into a tiny, shaky, ironic smile – as if to say Ha, we certainly fooled him, didn't we?

Aaron cannot muster a feeling softer than horror and guilt, and does not have it in him to return the smile. Instead, he watches Reid scream suddenly as Harris, frustrated at not getting the desired reaction from his victim, does something particularly painful. Aaron keeps staring at Reid's face, afraid of what will happen if he doesn't, and hoping the other agent will find the slightest solace in the knowledge that he is not alone.

Suddenly, Harris' thrusts grow frantic, erratic, and he lets out a guttural scream as he reaches his climax. He slumps over Reid as he pants for a few moments, and then he pulls out and sits on the floor, looking at Reid who slowly collapses on his side and once again curls into himself. Aaron can see blood on Reid's thighs, and yet he can't help but feel a twisted sense of relief that it wasn't worse. Aside from the shallow cuts, Harris hasn't hurt Reid – not in any way or shape like he hurt the prostitutes.

And then, Harris suddenly explodes.

"Filthy, dirty whore!" he screams, jumping to his feet before aiming a vicious kick at Reid's face. Aaron watches, horrified, as Reid cries out and curls even more into himself to protect himself from Harris' attack. And the man is almost frothing with rage as he lets kick after kick fly at Reid, and then he uses his fists, grabbing Reid's hair to expose his face, one hand curling around Reid's throat in a choking hold.

"You ARE just like them, you little slut," he screams, spittle covering Reid's terrified face.

"You just took my cock, begged for it, like the fucking filthy whore you are! WHY did you pretend you were different? WHY?"

Harris slams Reid's head into the floor, and Aaron sees that Reid passes out from the pain and shock. His body and mind is frozen as he is certain that this is it, that Harris is going to kill Reid. Spencer, oh no, no no no…

Harris doesn't seem intent on purposefully killing Reid, though, but continues the physical and verbal onslaught for a few minutes.

When he's finally done, he grows still and gentle as suddenly as he grew violent, and almost tenderly strokes Reid's cheek, swollen from the beating, murmuring "pretty boy. I'll be back tomorrow."

Aaron doesn't even want to think about that right now. All he wants is to make sure Reid is not permanently injured – not that he can assess more than the physical aspect of that.

"Reid," he calls softly once Harris has left the room. Reid is curled into a shaking, shivering fetal position on the floor, and Aaron isn't sure he's even completely conscious – that is, until Reid turns his head and fixes a hollow, broken stare on him.

"Reid," he repeats, drawing in a shaky breath. "Come here." He tries to keep his voice low and soft, not letting shine through the frustration and rage he feels inside. Reid makes a small sound and curls even tighter into himself.

"Spencer," and his voice is so gentle it almost surprises himself, "come over here. There's a blanket. And water," he adds, ever so slightly grateful that Harris at least left hose two things – more compassion than one would expect from a sexual sadist, who just violently raped a young man he believed to be a virgin.

Reid swallows, and Aaron can almost feel the pain of his parched and abused throat. "Hotch…" He trails off, eyes huge and nervous. Aaron inwardly curses, but outwardly holds out his hand. "Spencer, I won't touch you. I just don't want you to lie on the floor and get cold and dehydrated."

Reid looks alarmed. "I—I didn't think you would…" He tries to laugh, but it comes out sounding more like a sob. Slowly, he uncurls himself, and Aaron averts his eyes as the boy makes his way across the floor, wanting to preserve a shred of Reid's dignity. He pushes the blanket and the bottles to the edge of the bed, and senses Reid pick them up. He nods gratefully as Reid hands him an opened bottle, and they both drink for a long moment. Then the side of the bed dips gently as Reid sits down. "I can lie on the floor. The blanket will keep me warm enough," Reid mumbles, and Aaron looks at him for a moment.

"Spencer, lie down here." His tone is gently cajoling, and Reid only hesitates a short second before he stretches out on the bed. Aaron holds out his arm, and Reid puts his head on it and presses himself into Aaron's side, cocooned in the blanket. Aaron bends his arm slightly and gently strokes Reid's shoulder. He can feel Reid take several deep breaths, can feel Reid's erratic heartbeat and the almost physical sensation of silent despair.

They are silent and still for several minutes, and Reid's breathing slowly evens out. Aaron thinks maybe the boy has mercifully managed to sleep after all, when Reid's hoarse whisper sounds.

"Hotch… it was worse than I thought. Much worse."

Aaron sighs and doesn't know what to reply that will in any way make Reid's pain go away right now, so he settles for gently adding pressure with his arm, holding Reid closer, stroking his hair.

And it is that soothing gesture that is Reid's undoing.

Aaron holds him even closer as the boy sobs and sobs into his chest, his neck, his body wracking with the force of it. He presses soft kisses into the sweat-dampened chestnut locks falling across his face, murmurs soft words of comfort, strokes his hand over the abused body shaking with the force of pent-up pain and fright finally being released. And when Reid's sobs finally subside and turn into a soft, anguished stream of silent tears, Aaron whispers, "I'm so proud of you, Spencer. You didn't give into him. You didn't let him win." With a final hiccupped sob, Reid is finally slipping into the temporary sweet oblivion of sleep.

Aaron doesn't think he's ever felt so grateful in his life to be jarred awake from a restless sleep by the sound of a large crash and then a general commotion – and he closes his eyes in relief as he faintly hears Morgan shouting, "FBI! Drop the gun!" A salve of bullets being fired rapidly can be heard from upstairs, and Aaron is torn between hoping Harris received at least one between the eyes, and wishing he is unharmed so he can face a harder consequence than death.

The door to their basement prison suddenly rattles, and Aaron shouts, "we're in here!"

Seconds later, the door crashes into the wall, and Morgan and Rossi fill up the remaining space in the small room.

"Hotch," Morgan calls in relief, holstering his gun as Rossi calls a "clear" after a quick inspection.

"Morgan. Help Reid, he's hurt," Aaron says firmly, his eyes already searching the stairwell for signs of the EMTs he knows must be on their way. Rossi dodges out of the room, after a searching look at Aaron to make sure he's relatively unharmed, and Aaron can hear him shouting for medical assistance.

Morgan hurries to the bed, sinking down on his knees to look at Reid who's barely reacted through all the noise.

"Hotch, did that son-of-a-bitch…" Morgan doesn't finish the question; he can already see the answer in Aaron's expression and Reid's face, which is beaten and strained and worried even in semi-consciousness. "Dammit!" he shouts, and this makes Reid stir.

"Morgan, go in the ambulance with him," Aaron instructs as the EMTs suddenly appear in the room. "I took a bullet to the leg. They'll probably put me in surgery. As soon as I wake up, I want an update on Reid. Do you understand?" Aaron talks quickly and over the conversation between the EMTs assessing Reid's injuries. Morgan nods, and follows Reid out of the room as the EMTs carefully maneuver the stretcher up the stairs.

Rossi returns, and unlocks Aaron's handcuffs so the second EMT team can get to work on him. Aaron groans in relief as his arm is finally released from the cramped position.

"The bullet went through," one of the EMTs state after a quick assessment.

Then Aaron doesn't really remember how he got to the ambulance, or to the hospital – he vaguely remembers Rossi riding with him in the ambulance, his stoic appearance and familiar small smile a solid comfort.

Aaron manages to shakily sign his own surgery form, eliciting a comment from Rossi that he can't be that bad, as his handwriting is still somewhat legible.

The last thing Aaron sees in his mind's eye before the anesthetics drag him under is Reid's face, eyes half closed, mouth slightly open, tears streaming through a grimace of pleasure, and he thinks he can hear the faint echo of a voice, husky with equal measures of sorrow and relief, whisper "thank you".

Aaron awakes and is confused for a few moments. He is not in the basement, and his head is fuzzy. Then he realizes he's in a hospital room, and he exhales in relief as his memories rush back.

"Did you know that armadillos always have four babies at a time, and they're always the same sex?"

Aaron slowly turns his head to where Rossi is perched on a chair with a worn copy of National Geographic.

"No, but I knew a bird can eat half its weight in one day," he replies, voice cracking. He clears his throat, and Rossi chuckles and hands him a glass of water.

"Morgan would be jealous of that bird."

Aaron manages to crack a slight smile, setting the glass on the bedside table after taking a few sips. He slowly sits up straighter, grunting in acknowledgement of the help as Rossi presses the key that makes the bed straighten up a bit.

"Speaking of Morgan – where is he?"

Rossi gives him a peculiar look he can't quite figure out before replying. "With Reid. He said you wanted an update when you woke up, but he also wanted to stay there. So he sent me."

Aaron waits a few beats before he asks, "well, then are you going to give me an update on Reid?"

Rossi puts down the magazine and looks evenly at him.

"No serious physical damage." Aaron doesn't miss the slight stress on the word physical. "Shallow knife wound in the shoulder and across the back. Two bent ribs. Bruises, cuts, scrapes. Dehydration – just like you. He's still sleeping. Morgan told them to run a rape kit," he continues in the exact same tone of voice, and Aaron's stomach suddenly twists into a giant knot. Oh no no… "They found two different sets of DNA." Rossi looks straight at him. "There was only one unsub, Aaron. I told them only to identify the DNA matched to Harris and not bother with the other. Told them Reid must've been seeing his boyfriend just before we left. Please tell me why I felt the need to lie about that."

Aaron has closed his eyes during Rossi's speech. Now he opens them again and looks at his old friend, his face carefully neutral.

"Maybe he has a boyfriend," he replies, his stomach tightening even further at the thought, even though he of course knows Reid isn't seeing anyone. Rossi frowns disapprovingly, and Aaron sighs in defeat.

"Dave. I couldn't let Harris be the first experience for him."

Rossi snorts and quirks his lips into a wry smile. "So you selflessly offered your body? Like the proverbial sacrificial lamb?"

Aaron almost rolls his eyes. "Sheesh Dave, making it sound so lewd certainly helps my emotional crisis of having talked my subordinate agent into having sex with me under stressful circumstances."

Rossi sends him the smug, knowing look he has a habit of adapting whenever he knows he's right about something – and he often is. "So you are having a crisis," the other agent states.

"Of course I am," Aaron sighs. "I took advantage of him."

Rossi slowly shakes his head. "You were chained to the bed, Aaron. Hardly in a position to do anything Reid didn't want you to."

Aaron cuts him off, his annoyance showing in his voice. "Come on, Dave! I'm a seasoned profiler. I can talk a vulnerable, scared young man into thinking I'm doing him a favor. He might be brilliant, but you know he's not socially adept. And obviously, he's never even been close enough to another person to feel secure enough to have sex with them."

Rossi shrugs, and Aaron is thrown off his rant by the nonchalance of it.

"So, the kid was a virgin. A sadist was about to rape him. He'd rather have his first experience be something else – understandably. You were his only option. But, Aaron, you know – I know you know – that even you could not have talked him into doing something he truly wouldn't want to. If he didn't trust you and respect you, he would not have asked you for this favor. Having sex with a random stranger probably appeals only slightly more to him than having sex with Harris. Besides, it was Reid's idea, wasn't it?"

Aaron stares at Rossi, and lets out a deep sigh. "Yes, it was his idea. But I should have said no."

"And then Harris still would have raped him. And that horrible, brutal experience would have been his first and so far only experience with intimacy."

Rossi pats his shoulder, and stands. "I'll leave you alone for a little while. To think." He pauses halfway towards the door. "Oh, by the way – the team doesn't know about the two DNA samples. And they won't be told. Unless you or Reid decide to spill, of course." He smiles his quirky smile again, and disappears.

Aaron groans and lets his head fall back against the pillow.

Later, Morgan appears in his room, grinning. "Hey. You okay? How's the leg?"

Aaron nods. Truthfully, he's almost forgotten about the leg. "I'm fine. How's Reid?"

Morgan snorts. "He's already asking for coffee." Aaron can easily see the relief radiating from the other profiler, though an outsider would probably only look at Morgan and see the overbearing laugh.

"So he's awake?" Aaron asks pointedly, and eyes the IV-line in his left hand without bothering to conceal his annoyance.

"Yeah," Morgan nods. "He asked for you before the coffee. The nurse didn't think you should be out of bed so soon, but I told her she could either come in and remove the IV, or you'd do it yourself in a much messier way."

Aaron allows himself a small smile. And soon Morgan is pushing his wheelchair (provided by the insistence of a very tight-lipped nurse) towards Reid's room.

"Hey," Morgan says, his voice bubbling with laughter. "Why is Rossi suddenly so knowledgeable about armadillo sex? He said I should ask you."

Aaron can't help but snort out a laugh – though it dies on his lips as they reach Reid's room, and Morgan calls out a "hey, Pretty Boy! There's a guest for you."

Reid is pale and bruised, and Aaron feels a great urge to reach out and hug him. But he doesn't.

Reid winces out a half-hearted smile to Morgan. "I told you not to call me that." His usually playful exasperation has an edge, and Morgan is quick to catch it. "Sorry, kid. Hey, I'll go see if I can sneak a coffee past Nurse Grinch out there."

He leaves Aaron and Reid alone, subtly closing the door behind him.

"Hey," Reid says, smiling tentatively. Aaron is speechless for a moment – he doesn't know where to start. Reid's smile quivers and falters, and he looks down.

"How are you feeling?" he finally settles for, as it seems a relatively safe question.

"Fine," Reid says curtly, still not looking at Aaron.

"Reid, I want to apologize to you," Aaron says, deciding he might as well jump right into it. "My behavior during our field case was unacceptable. You are fully entitled to pursue legal action for my sexual advances towards you. I will ask Strauss for a full suspension while the case is being processed."

Reid is not looking down anymore. He is staring at Aaron, his expression incredulous, mouth slightly open.

"I'm entitled to—what? Hotch!" Reid fists the sheet beneath his hands, knuckles tightening. "You did not make sexual advances towards me. You should be suing me," he says with a hollow laugh. Aaron holds his gaze. "Reid, even if I was not the instigator, I am your superior. I should not have allowed it to happen. And I apologize."

Reid lets out an angry and frustrated sound. "Well, you can stuff your apology! I don't want it. And if that's all you have to say, you can leave."

Aaron looks at Reid, whose face is now flushed with anger, his hands trembling – and he suddenly recalls Reid's face being flushed in passion, his hands trembling against Aaron's body. He closes his eyes for a moment, conflicting feelings roaring through him.

"Reid," he begins, but the boy cuts him off.

"I thought maybe—that maybe you also enjoyed it," Reid says softly, staring intently down at his hands still fisted in the sheets. "Even though I asked you, and there was really no other choice. But I guess you were just being nice." His voice is even, but Aaron can see his lips trembling.

Aaron knows the right thing to do is to tell Reid that yes, he was just being nice, and that they should forget about the whole thing.

But he can't.

For the first time in many years, Aaron Hotchner allows his feelings to overrule his intellect.

"Spencer," he says, and now he is the one looking down at his own hands which are folded across his lap. "I wish I could say I didn't enjoy it—you. It would be easier. But it wouldn't be true. I would have said no to Morgan in the same situation," he says with a small grimace, and suddenly Reid's hand is resting on his own folded ones. He looks up and meets Reid's exploring gaze.

"Really?" the boy asks, and Aaron nods. "But don't tell Morgan – I don't want to hurt his feelings."

Reid smiles, a tiny, genuine smile, and some of the tension leaves the room.

"How did they find us?" Aaron asks, suddenly realizing he never bothered to ask Rossi or Morgan to update him. He doesn't let go of Reid's hand, and Reid doesn't remove it.

"Harris and Taylor worked together," Reid explains. "Garcia discovered Harris had gone to Taylor's house before we arrived. He kept us in his own basement. As soon as they made the connection, it was easy. Harris is dead," he continues, his voice flat, and Aaron can't bring himself to even consider feeling remorse for that. He doesn't think Reid can, either. "Harris started raping his son when he was twelve," Reid says, his voice low and soft. "They found the kid's journal at the house."

Aaron nods – it doesn't surprise him. "I figured, when he called you 'my pretty boy'," he says, squeezing Reid's hand softly. Reid nods, and doesn't look at Aaron as he says, "after he… when he suddenly exploded, I figured he'd been disappointed the moment his son stopped fighting him. He probably thought it was an acceptance of what he was doing, and as he knew it was wrong, he was angry that his own son would endorse that behavior. And when his son turned to prostitution because that's all he knew how to do, Harris killed him. And everyone else who silently accepted Harris' treatment of them. I was sure he was going to kill me," he says, and then bites his lip. Aaron doesn't interrupt, but strokes Reid's hand softly, waiting for him to continue. Reid stares through Aaron as he continues.

"I didn't want to scream or beg. I think he would definitely have killed me if I did. But it hurt so much," he whispers, and Aaron is holding his hand tightly now, "and I didn't know what to do to distract myself from it. So I… I thought of you," he confesses, finally looking at Aaron with slight apprehension. "I'm sorry—I don't mean it to sound bad. It… helped to have that, to know, not just intellectually, that it could be different from… what happened."

Aaron softly strokes his thumb over Reid's wrist. "I'm glad it helped you," he says, and Reid looks relieved for a moment before gnawing at his lower lip.

"I should have fought him. I feel like I… accepted what he did to me."

Aaron shakes his head, looking firmly into Reid's worried eyes. "If you fought him, you'd be dead. Me as well, probably. Even if you managed to kick the knife out of his hand, he had a gun within reach. And he was big and strong. It's not a fight you would have won." Reid nods his acceptance, though he doesn't look all too pleased.

"Maybe I should take some extra self-defense classes. You know, in case I run into a crazy rapist again," he says with a half-laugh, and Aaron raises his eyebrow in a disapproving expression. "Reid, you're going to give the team a collective heart-attack if you run into anything serious too soon."

He looks at Reid's suddenly tense shoulders, and the boy looks slightly shocked as he suddenly blurts out, "do they know? The team?"

Aaron hesitates for a moment, and says, "they know about Harris, what he did to you, yes. Morgan told them to run a rape kit."

Reid is looking slightly sick. "But do they know about… us? If they ran a kit, they must have found…"

"My DNA, yes," Aaron nods. "Only Rossi knows about that. He told them not to identify it. He told them you must have been seeing your boyfriend just before we left on the case."

"Well," Reid begins, and abruptly cuts himself off, flushing and averting his eyes. Aaron doesn't know whether to laugh or cry. "I guess I've been called worse," he settles for saying, his voice dry.

Reid still looks tense, and after a minute he speaks softly. "I'm not sure what to do now. Where to go from here. I mean," he takes a deep breath and looks at Aaron, "I'd really like to try it again. Under different circumstances. Uhm, with you," he adds hastily, blushing but not looking away from Aaron's face.

"It would be entirely inappropriate to allow it to happen again," Aaron says, and Reid nods his consent. "There's a reason the Bureau doesn't encourage fraternization."

Reid snorts. "That's because Rossi used to put the moves on three different agents at once and they all flew into a jealous rage." At Aaron's incredulous expression, Reid grins slightly and says, "Morgan told me. Apparently it was quite the scandal."

Aaron knows; he was there. And it really wasn't pretty. Reid continues.

"I mean, no-one would fly into a jealous rage over me." He looks amused at the thought, and Aaron fixes him with a stern look.

"Spencer. You underestimate yourself. I almost flew into a jealous age when Rossi told me about your imaginary boyfriend."

Reid looks slightly flabbergasted, and Aaron savors the moment – it takes a lot to shock a genius.

"You," Reid sputters, and he has a coughing fit that doesn't stop until Aaron hands him a glass of water. "I'd like to see that, mister poker-face."

Aaron has never looked more serious as he replies, "just test me, Dr. Reid."

Reid grins again, though it's a bit shaky. "You said I was beautiful," he mumbles, not looking at Aaron again. "No-one's ever said that to me. I'm… did you really mean that?" His voice is low, as if he doesn't think the question has any merit. Aaron puts a hand on his chin and gently forces his head up.

"I've never seen anything more beautiful in my life," he says in an equally low voice. "And I'd really like to try it again. Under different circumstances. With you."

Reid's eyes are once again bright with tears, but when Aaron raises his hand and tentatively strokes his cheek, the boy lights up in a smile that shoots straight into Aaron's chest. And this time, he has no problem at all smiling back.

The End!

A/N: Thank you for all the lovely reviews!

A sequel is now up. It's called Eye of the Hurricane and is a WIP.