Fandom: Criminal Minds.
Characters/pairing: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid, established relationship.
Word Count: 1977 words.
Summary: Hotch runs out for some milk, leaving Spencer alone with Jack for the first time. Slice of life ficlet.
[[ … One-Shot … ]]
When the last of the milk got bumped off of the counter top and splattered all over the floor and Aaron's jaw had locked because Jack had been set on having pancakes for dinner, it had seemed a simple thing for Spencer to suggest that Aaron run out and grab a new gallon. There was only a moment of hesitation before Aaron had looked from Jack to Spencer, asking softly, "You'll be all right with him?"
A glance over at Jack- merrily smashing two action figures together- and Spencer nodded quickly. "Sure. It's not like you'll be gone that long. Jack and I can find something to do while you're gone." He offered his most reassuring smile, trying not to fidget. "Unless... you'd rather I go?"
Aaron shook his head after a minute. "No, I'll go." He smiled slightly, but it was strained; not quite forced, but close. He didn't have to say what he was thinking; it had crossed Spencer's mind too. It was the first time Aaron had left Jack with anyone aside from Jessica since Haley's death.
He squatted down on the floor beside Jack and ruffled his hair lightly. "Jack, I'm going to run to the store for a minute. Do you mind staying with Spencer while I'm gone?"
Jack leaned forward to look around Aaron toward Spencer- instinctively, Spence offered his best smile and waved slightly- and then glanced back up to Aaron and nodded. He didn't say anything, but then, he was a pretty quiet kid with everyone except his father. Aaron pressed a kiss to the top of Jack's head, and then he collected his cell phone, wallet, keys, and jacket.
At the door, Spencer touched Aaron's arm, and Aaron leaned forward to kiss him softly. "Won't be long," he murmured.
A nod, and Spencer made certain to keep his smile steady, to not betray his own nervousness. "Of course. We'll be fine. I'll call if I need you."
And for about five minutes after the door shut, everything had been just fine. Jack had resumed playing with his toys, and Spencer glanced back down at the book he'd been thumbing through- Dead Until Dark, a gift from Prentiss. She had made it her own personal mission to catch him up on every popular book series she could think of, beginning with Twilight and working her way up to the Sookie Stackhouse series. He still wasn't certain if he could call the books gifts, even if she did put them in little decorative boxes and leave them in various drawers of his desk.
Then the clicking of actions figures being banged together stopped, and when Spencer looked up, Jack was no longer sitting on the floor in front of the TV. His toys were gone with him, and it was that detail that made Spencer hesitate. Jack invariably had to be reminded to take his toys back to his room. Spencer left the book in the chair and glanced toward the font door- still locked.
Doctor Spencer Reid was a Cal Tech graduate by the age of sixteen. He held not one, but three doctorates by twenty-one, and had added three undergraduate degrees to his list. He knew, intellectually, that the sudden fear flooding him was completely irrational. Jack was in the house somewhere, not, as his mind was trying to suggest, kidnapped or tortured or laying somewhere, bloody and broken.
He swallowed and stepped into the narrow hallway, intent on checking Jack's room first, but when he noticed the door to Aaron's office was open, he hesitated. A quick glance inside, and he noticed the large wooden truck wedged in the room between the desk and the wall. A book on warrant law had been sitting atop the trunk earlier that day, and instead, it was sitting on the edge of the desk.
Spencer took one last look down the hallway, and then he headed over to the trunk, pushing the lid open curiously. A flashlight beam caught the ceiling for a moment, and then Jack clicked it off. The little boy put a single finger over his lips, and then he whispered, "I'm working the case."
Doing his best not to think of every horrible story that he'd ever read of someone getting locked in a truck- while playing hide and go seek, or out of revenge, or simply falling in and the lid locking- Spencer crouched down on the floor beside the trunk, offering a little smile. "While your dad is gone, you work the case?" The relief washing over him was intense, illogical. Jack hadn't been in any danger to begin with.
Jack nodded slowly, clicking the flashlight on and off. He didn't say anything else, but it wasn't surprising. Jack didn't talk a whole lot to anyone aside from Aaron.
"You know, when I was your age, I had a hiding spot too." Spencer nodded just as solemnly as Jack had, and he moved around until he was leaning against the wall, his knees pulled up to his chest. Jack, still laying in the box, looked up at him curiously. "I did. I'd go and lay under my bed with my favorite books and read them. I had a flashlight too." He smiled, wondering for only a moment if it was really a good idea to tell Jack anything about his own childhood.
Then a smile curved Jack's lips, and the boy sat up, twisting around in the back until he could look up at Spencer. Any doubt fled at the genuine interest that Spencer could see on his face.
Spencer tilted his head to one side just a little, and then he asked quietly, "Do you like stories?" At Jack's nod, Spencer smiled and asked, "What kind of stories?"
"Captain America," Jack whispered, and Spencer saw his hands tighten around the action figures in his hands.
"Yeah? Do you want to know a secret?"
"I like Captain America too." Another moment, and Spencer resisted the urge to check his watch. Aaron hadn't been gone that long; his sense of time passage had been skewed by the terrible fear when he'd noticed that Jack had disappeared.
Jack twisted his hands around the action figure, and then he asked, "Could you tell me a story?"
"About Captain America?" Immediately, every comic he'd ever read with Captain America flashed through Spencer's head, but when Jack shook his head, Spencer tilted his head a little more to one side. "No? What about?"
"About Daddy. Tell me about Daddy fighting the bad guys."
Spencer's mouth went dry at the thought, because all he could think of was that one moment when he had been certain he was going to die. When Tobias Hankel had loomed over him, revolver in hand, and Spencer had grabbed for the gun and shot him and Aaron had rushed to him, holding him, assuring him that everything would be okay, that he was safe.
He managed a tight smile, and he asked, "Yeah? What... ah, what exactly do you know about what your dad does?"
Jack blinked very slowly at him, and then he pulled his own knees up against his chest, sitting in the mirror image of Spencer. "He protects people. Fights bad guys. Like Captain America."
Spencer nodded slowly, and then he tilted his head up to look at the ceiling. "Like Captain America. Yeah." He shifted just a little before he drew a deep breath, wondering what exactly he was supposed to say. Jack didn't know exactly what his father did for a living, and Spencer certainly wasn't about to give him all of the sordid details. And for once, it seemed like every book he'd ever read had simply fluttered out of his head, leaving him drawing a blank. "Is it okay if I tell you a different kind of story? Your dad can still fight bad guys."
After a minute, Jack nodded, and Spencer breathed a quiet sight of relief.
"Once upon a time, there was a king with a young prince named Jack." He glanced over at Jack, who seemed to not even care that the story's trapping weren't exactly what he had asked for originally. "This king traveled all over the country, helping people, leaving his son in the care of his most trusted adviser, the lady Jessica."
Jack smiled at that, adding in, "The beautiful lady Jessica."
"That's right!" Spencer returned the smile, arching an eyebrow at Jack. "Have you heard this story?"
Jack immediately shook his head.
"Okay. Just making sure. Well, one day, the king heard a voice coming from a pool of water. When he went over to it, he saw a princess, being held captive by a very bad man. The man would spin a wheel, and he told the princess that if the wheel landed on the red section, he would hurt her. That is, unless she told him something that he wanted to know."
Leaning forward just a little, Jack asked, "What did he want to know?"
"He wanted her to pick from the king's court. And he would cast a spell on whoever she picked so that they would sleep forever."
"Like Sleeping Beauty?"
"Kind of. Only, a kiss wouldn't break this spell. Instead, they could never be woken up."
Jack wrinkled his nose, and he leaned back against the trunk's wall. "Bad man."
"Very. Well, the princess knew the odds whenever he would spin the wheel, so she refused for as long as she could. Only, each time that she told him no, the wheel would get smaller, until there would only be the red tile left. Finally, she realized that she couldn't win, and she told him that she chose the king."
Jack straightened up, his brow furrowing, but he didn't ask the question so clearly on the tip of his tongue. Spencer held up one hand, a reassuring smile on his face.
"See, she knew that if she picked the king, the bad man would have to go after him specifically. And when the bad man asked her why she picked him, she told him a riddle. She said, 'He is not the great king everyone thinks that he is. He is self-centered, and he always thinks of what he wants over everything else.'
And the king, watching this in the pool of water, remember? He heard her say that, and he knew immediately where she was. He'd met this princess before, and he knew she was clever, that she would give him clues if she could. And they had talked about what made a good king great. The king had told her that he believed that only through the study of the past could a kingdom move forward."
Jack nodded quickly. "So he found her?"
"He did. He found her just as the bad man was spinning the wheel one more time. Saved her." Spencer leaned his head back against the wall, looking back up toward the ceiling again.
"And they lived happily ever after, didn't they?"
He and Jack both jumped at the sound of Aaron's voice from the doorway, but Spencer recovered quickly enough, offering a smile. "Of course. That's the way the stories go, isn't it?"
Aaron crossed the room then, squatting down just beside the trunk. "Time for dinner in just a few minutes, Jack."
"Wash our hands!" Jack immediately clambered out of the trunk and took off toward the bathroom, toys left in the bottom of the box with the flashlight.
A smile toward Spencer, and then Aaron raised an eyebrow. "Princess?"
"It was just a story!" Spencer laughed though as Aaron stood and then pulled him up to his feet as well. "Anything else would have required more explanation that I'm up for. ... Are you cooking pancakes or what?"
Aaron's smile widened at Spencer's obvious deflection. "Of course. Come on, princess. Got to wash your hands too." He pressed a quick kiss to Spencer's forehead, and Spencer found that he didn't even mind the blush on his own face.