A/N: Okay, so before I get started, I'd like to say that this fic mentions the 'It gets better' Project (If you don't know what that is, first off: where have you been? And secondly: don't worry, It's explained briefly) which has meant a lot to me these few months. That being said, not all the views and opinions are mine, and I certainly don't mean any disrespect to the victims. Or you, the reader.
-shrugs- I'm being paranoid.
Okay, so, the project has meant a lot to me the last few months and as I was discovering this pairing I wanted to make a contribution to both. Or, let Reid contribute to both all in one nice little oneshot.
A huge thanks to starofoberon for beta-ing this!
Disclaimer: This show: not mine. This fic: mine. Any confusion? No? Yes? No, good. The flashback is from season 1 episode 6, I think?
On with the fic:
Reminiscing was something Reid was not prone to doing. He wasn't the sort. Though his mind could analyze, compartmentalize, prioritize and then realize all kinds of things at once, he reserved part of himself, pushing back his own memories.
For the most part, this was for his job. For the most part, this was for his sanity.
Only after a long, tedious case, usually one that produced undesired results, did he allow himself the luxury. Reid wasn't sure about the use of the word "luxury" but it was the one he used, and he hadn't thought to change it.
Tonight was one of those nights – one in which he set down a cup of herbal tea, placed himself in a comfy chair, and surrounded himself with books.
This was all an illusion he had carefully devised under the pretense that he would let himself "relax." The word deserved its quotation marks, because that was all it meant to him.
Relaxing was a mere theory.
Self-torment was the reality.
He had not yet taken a sip of his tea, nor stressed the spine of a single book on any of these occasions. They were props, well-chosen and very convincing props.
These scheduled evenings, however, usually consisted of an assortment of roundabout self-talk, waves of anxiety, regrets, hopelessness, a pathetic amount of sobbing and the occasional panic attack.
Spencer Reid had always bottled up his emotions. His public face wasn't consciously important to him, but he was reclusive by nature and sensible by nurture. His work pushed him to extremes that forced him into vulnerability. He could only contain so much. And what he couldn't contain in front of his team mates disgusted him.
He couldn't burden them with his weaknesses. He was coping. They were all coping. It was something unsaid, that each one of them coped. It could not be otherwise. They could not let it show, let their dark clouds manifest into their reality. It couldn't rain, lest all the team's resolve wash away.
Profilers or not, they were blind to each other, sometimes purposely, sometimes not.
Reid collapsed into a sharp burnt-orange armchair. It didn't match the curtain, nor the bookcases, nor the carpet. In fact it clashed horridly with the entire décor of the room. It had been picked up from the side of the road when his apartment had been freshly-painted and as creatively furnished as anybody's when fresh out of college. Reid appreciated its odd aesthetics.
He stirred his tea, and with it, the ridiculous amount of sugar it contained. He picked up a book with the other hand, playing out his farce for as long as he could.
~~"Hands on your heads."
The brrriipp sound of zipcuffs filled the room, and he felt the restraints clench against his wrists.~~
Reid sighed. Not this memory again.
~~ The gun turned to him. "Get on the ground."
His knees buckled easily. His lanky limbs hit the floor and fingers brushed the concrete. The unsub smirked, "Now what kind of FBI agent doesn't carry a gun?"
He didn't know. Not a good one.
~Not a good one, not a good Agent.~
"I'm a profiler," he muttered. Tiny threads of insecurity leaked into his voice. The tiny threads bound together, weaving themselves into a twisted web through his head.
Whenever he said he was a profiler, the first response was always the same. Always defensive.
"They sent you to figure me out?" You can't figure me out.
Everybody thinks himself indestructible. Sociopaths to a higher degree.
He used the same condescending tone, with the same shadow cast upon his sneering face. But the Unsub's voice betrayed him. He was just a little angrier than before, just a little uncertain.
Reid went to spout out information like some derailed android. He'd probably say something stupid and get a bullet in his brain, and the fear of this only worsened his need to talk, talk, talk.
"-Shut up Reid."
For a moment he was relieved that Hotch had stopped him from digging his own grave. Then he took Hotch's tone into account. It wasn't sharp, nor urgent, nor protective. He couldn't put a word to it. At least, he couldn't put a word to it and associate it with this situation.
Sinister, disappointed, bitter. In all his reason and intelligence he couldn't quite figure out what would elicit such a sharp tongue. He put it down to mishearing or maybe his social retardation. But something felt wrong
Of course this was a ploy. But what was the aim? Hotch was putting on an act to outsmart the Unsub. All he could do was play along.
Chastised like a child in front of a serial killer, he looked away.
"Go ahead genius, tell him." Reid and Hotch locked eyes. He couldn't see past the shadows and his boss's hard eyes. "Tell him! But remember, get it wrong and he's going to kill you."
Kill me, kill me, kill me.
He fought back a reserved kind of betrayal. Though he never put much faith in instinct something told him his conclusions and sums were coming out wrong.
Though he never relied on them, nor paid them much heed, they had sometimes proved more trustworthy than judgment.
He remembered his first meeting with Hotch. He had trouble, like most others, seeing past the cop cliché. Some didn't see past the suit and tie, or the strong jaw and furrowed brow. Most never saw past the shield in his eyes.
Reid had seen all of this and thought to file him away as just another person, just another agent. Instinct told him otherwise. Instinct told him that Aaron Hotcher was three dimensional, four! Five! Six! So illogically brilliant. So uncalculably complex. And hiding behind his suit and tie and jaw and brow and badge. But mostly his eyes.
He had only glimpsed past the mask. And few saw more then a glimpse.
He had seen Hotch smile. He had heard him speak softly and fondly. These occurrences came fewer by the passing days. When Hotch smiled the mask flickered out of existence. Without the mask, Hotch was young and simple and unexplainably gorgeous.
–Reid thought the latter objectively, of course-
He could drop that mask every once in a while.
The conversation went on. Every bit of it sounded wrong, wrong, wrong.
He had dropped that hideous tone when profiling the Unsub, but picked it back up in tormenting him.
Reid didn't like misunderstanding. He decided he would hate to be normal. He couldn't stand being ignorant.
This had to be an act. He knew it was all an act. But he didn't know the lines.
Lying was what Hotch was doing, logic told him so, and instinct did also. But a part of him chimed up unhelpfully with: It's easier to lie if you base it on truth.
"Put the hostages by the door and you'll solve both our problems."
Everything clicked into place. Pulling his resolve together the moment before breaking into a grin.
Adrenaline seeped into his blood and down through his hands. His fingers itched.
"…I wanna kick to snot out of this kid."
He almost laughed.
He was pushed backward.
When the first kick made contact, acting became far simpler.
~Pain, gasping breaths, tears~
"You fucking queer."
"Go kill yourself. Do us a favor."~
Another kick to the stomach. He gasped loudly and a single tear escaped from his eyes.
Hotch's mouth was moving, but he didn't hear the words. His eyes were pleading behind his mask, but Reid already knew. He knew, but he also knew he was disappearing inside himself.
He couldn't hear Hotch's words, just the words of his high school peers. He didn't want to imagine them coming from him. They would be the last things he could ever hear the other say.
~"Don't look at me, faggot. You think you're so smart? Figure this. You're better off dead."~
Another kick. The pain pulled him out. His hands protecting his face shifted. His fingers glided up the hem of the other man's pants.
His finger curled around the trigger. He drew back, turning away with a strangled cough.
Reid was calm.
"Feel better now?" the man said. His voice dripped with sick satisfaction.
"I think he got the message," Hotch muttered. He used the same voice as earlier – but this time, Reid liked it.
He adjusted his grip, his bound hands clasping the gun with a strange intensity.
Reid felt serene. As he turned, hair swinging into his eyes, the adrenaline stopped. His heart stopped, his million thoughts ground to a halt. Apathetically and serenely, he pulled the trigger.~~
~~He had gotten back to his hotel room not with the image of the dead gunman in his head, but the fictional image of Agent Hotchner speaking his schoolmate's words.
It played on a reccurring fear. It played on his insecurities.
He knew he was being stupid and emotional when he thought of such things.
But what really would be Hotch's reaction? What would he say, if he knew Reid had some stupid schoolboy crush on him?
Maybe he would respond in the same way Eric Peters from eighth grade had, leaving him out past the science block with two black eyes and a bruised rib, blood and tears the only thing fighting against the snow's chill.
That was doubtful.
Actually that was completely ridiculous.
Spencer didn't remember much of the being-beaten-up-and-left-for-dead-in-the-snow bit, but the initial response had stuck with him.
Shock, disgust, a step backward. That fucking sneer.
Whatever. Eric and Hotch were two very different people. For one, his crush on the former had stemmed from twisted lust and confusion. Hotch however, he admired. He was the first person he had ever admired not only for his intellect, but as a person.
For Hotchner's intelligence – though not comparable to his own – was vast and abstruse, as were his wit, his aura, his nature, his quirks and unpredictability.
His looks didn't hurt, nor his mystery.
Sure he had seen younger days, but despite Reid's youth he bore the burdens and knowledge of someone twice his age.
He shouldn't try and defend something that would never happen. He knew that.
He knew no matter what happened, the best outcome possible was for Hotch to endure him, for him to keep his job, and maybe if he were lucky he could overcome his feelings and they could return to better terms.
He wasn't in high school anymore. Acceptance was almost common and tolerance wasn't an impossibility.
There was a reason his field said that all adolescents profiled like sociopaths. It's because they were.
About a month back Reid had been sitting in this same armchair and checking over his personal emails. He sat on the edge of the seat with the laptop poised over his knees, ready to take off for work as soon as the clock hit quarter past.
Tyler Clementi, 18, jumps from the George Washington Bridge
Outed as gay on the internet.
Asher Brown, 13. Billy Lucas, 15. Seth Walsh, 13.
Carl Walker-Hoover, 11 years old.
How could an eleven-year-old take his own life? How could someone push an eleven year old kid to hang himself?
Reid had seen all kinds of evil, all kinds of wrong. But in this modern society he lived in, these things just couldn't happen.~~
~~Tears were streaming down Spencer's face.~~
~~He hadn't succeeded in ridding his mind of the smiling, sweet photographs of all those children during that whole week. He had focused on their cases and had tried his best not to dwell on their tragedies. Every time Spencer thought about it those children, his blood boiled. The travesty of everything affected him on a fundamental level. Nobody had wrapped the rope around their necks, nor pulled the trigger of their guns, nor pushed them over the edge of any bridge. Though they may as well have.
The victims had died alone. They had died with themselves as their worst enemy.
Flying back, Spencer had raked a hand through his hair for what seemed the googolplexian time that day.
"What's wrong? We got the guy."
It was Morgan, he had gotten tired of hearing Reid's sighs.
"It can't be nothing, if you're messing up your prettyboy hair because of it."
"Just… making unwanted comparisons…"
"Happiness in the present is only shattered by comparison with the past. Douglas Horton, Former US Clergyman." Hotch said, not looking up from his book.
Eric Peters, Aaron Hotchner.
Reid didn't even want to go there.
He looked over at Hotch briefly. "That's not really the problem."
"Ahh," was his reply.
He opened his mouth to say something.
But his mind went completely blank.~~
~~The moment he had gotten home, thrown the contents of his suitcase into the hamper, and stripped off his anxiety-sweaty clothes he was about ready to collapse into bed and sleep through the weekend.
He had fought back fatigue and placed himself, yet again in his atrocious orange armchair. Prying open the lid of his laptop and opening up a search engine, Reid typed in the names.
The Trevor Project. America's first LGBT Youth Suicide Hotline.
The It Gets Better Project.
Reid clicked on one of the videos. And another, and another.
He had spent a fair while going through each video, each with the same message.
Don't jump. Don't pull the trigger. It gets better.~~
~~"Um? Hello. My name is Dr Spencer Reid. Um, most people's first reaction is to tell me I'm too young to be a doctor. Well I am. And I also work for the FBI as a profiler." He laughed. "That's because I'm a genius. " He glanced over at the page of messy notes. "But that's not what I'm here to talk to you about. I may be a doctor, a profiler, and FBI Agent and a genius. But I'm also gay." Spencer looked away from the camera. "I want anybody listening to know. It gets better." He was staring straight ahead now. In his head he was talking to the kids whose lives had already been claimed. Wishing he could turn back the clock and make them listen.
He was being ridiculous.
"It gets better," he repeated.~~
He was sobbing now. Thinking about those kids. The ones whose lives had never gotten better.
His hair clung to the streaks of tears running down his face, his wracked breath came out fom his lungs in gasps and sobs.
He thought about all those times he theorized those same things those kids had put into reality.
He had made an impact on the world - and with all modesty, that impact had not been insignificant - that someone else would never have the chance to make. All because some loser teen Jock valued a person's sexuality over their worth as a person. Because their religion bred hate, rather than tolerance.
A pair of hand grasped Reid's shoulders.
His eyes couldn't focus.
The hands gave him a gentle shake.
"Goddamn it, Reid."
Spencer's legs gave way and he took a breath like he had been doused in ice water. "…H-Hotch."
~~"I spent every day of my high school life in agony. People knew what was different, and poised to eliminate it. First it was my glasses. And my haircut." Reid smirked, his hand diving through his hair. "My second-hand sweaters. Lack of athletic ability. All kinds of reasons. Things only really got bad when somebody in my year learnt the definition of the word 'gay'." ~~ Pouted? Wailed, sobbed, moaned, anything but that petty "pouted."
Spencer regained most of his composure, ducking into the bathroom to clean himself up. He had disposed of half the tissue box, combed through his hair and washed his face a half dozen times before giving up. His thought his appearance was unsalvageable.
Returning to the living room he found his teacup replenished, and a mug of potent looking coffee next to it and his boss scanning the spines of books.
Spencer took his usual seat, and soon after, Hotch perched himself in the chair opposite. This one was ocean green, and at first glance it matched the carpet and the soft lighting, but if one really looked the colour scheme was plagued with aesthetic contradictions.
"How did you get in?"
"The old woman next door took pity on me and let me in with your spare key. I was almost ensnared in what I'm sure would have been a several-hour recount of her experiences during the Holocaust."
Spencer shuddered at the thought. The room fell into silence.
~~"Some people are lucky. In their teens they will be completely certain of who they are and have the confidence to share it. Some people will tell you you're too young to decide that who you are. Even if this is completely false, there is no reason to 'come out of the closet-'" Reid said this gesturing mildly in the air around him with an awkwardness he was renowned for, "-unless you are completely ready. Me? I came out the minute I turned eighteen, at least to my mother. Even now that I have friends as good as family to me, I haven't told them a thing. It's your decision to make. I know that a person's differences will not always be celebrated, but one day soon, society will find acceptance."
Resting his elbows on the arms of his chair, Hotch interlaced each finger in front of him in an odd mannerism.
"I've seen the video," he said offhandedly.
"How did yo-"
"Garcia found it. Don't worry, I was the only one she told."
"I'm not worried. I'm not so naïve as to think something I put on the internet could not be found by someone on the team."
"I'm not saying that you are."
"I understand that some of the video's contents could jeopardise my anonymity and position in the FBI." This had been something he'd thought about. Putting his name, face and position out into the public was always a risk.
"It's no more compromising than any introduction."
Silence settled. He became acutely aware of how Hotch had not once looked in his direction and was almost stubbornly still scanning the books behind his head.
"About what I said in the video…"
~~"It's a risk, always; crushing. Now love isn't something I'm an expert on. It's not one of my many degrees or qualifications." The boy laughs, the camera shifts in and out of focus. "It's dangerous. Falling for the most popular person in school, the upperclassmen who becomes your saviour, your best friend, the school's best athlete, it's always dangerous. No matter your gender, race or creed. It does get better. At some point you'll find a place where your emotions won't get you beaten up, and people understand and accept you. Fear will always be there. But it's there for everybody. You might still find yourself falling for the wrong person…" Spencer glanced off-screen. "Like your best friend's cute boyfriend," his expression sobered a little,"or your straight, handsome and recently divorced boss…."~~
"Did you mean it?" There it was, that same tone. The very one Hotch had used before the eyes of the gunman. The tone that Reid had never figured out.
His head lolled back against the chair and the unease of the posed question washed through him like a poison - aching for the truth but panicked into lying, or vice versa.
"There is no fear but fear itself," he muttered quietly.
"Yes. I meant it. In my head I wasn't talking to a camera. I was talking to Tyler Clementi, Asher Brown. Billy Lucas, Seth Walsh and Carl Walker-Hoover. I wouldn't lie to dead kids," he said defiantly.
Hotch repeated, "Wouldn't lie to dead kids." The man looked down at his hands. They were large, creased and scarred but moved elegantly as they curled in towards his palms and then extended. "Aren't you afraid?"
"What do you mean?"
"Haven't you thought of the consequences?"
"Working at the BAU taught me how to deal with consequences, but there's no better cure than prevention. A single person's actions can affect another person's life in a way that is unrealised. Benjamin Franklin once said that: 'nine in ten men are would-be suicides.' What makes somebody a 'would-be' or a 'was a' but the absence of action?"
"Of course. And I have little objection to your input in the project. I admire your tenacity."
He frowned slightly, gazing over at Hotch. He felt his heart stammer stupidly. "Then?"
Hotch made eye contact. "Have you thought about the consequences of… you and me…?" His mask was slipping.
Spencer closed his eyes. Disbelieving, serene, terrified.
This wasn't enough for Spencer. This wasn't a confession. He had told the whole world –or at least those with an internet connection – and he wouldn't let Hotch push him into making the first move.
"There's no 'you and me'," he said. The words came out with great difficulty, like those of a man stranded in the desert and turning down a glass of water, though his voice did not betray him. "And I think you mean 'you and I'."
Reid watched as Hotch's stoic expression deteriorated. The corners of his eyes creased momentarily before he threw back his head and laughed. The sound sent a giddy rush through Reid's head, he took the scene before him and captured it in his perfect memory.
"Smartass." Hotch joked, lifting himself for his chair. "I was use the phrase in its social context rather than obsessing with grammar. You know…I can see what you're doing."
Reid shot him a sidelong glance, dripping with childish innocence. "What am I doing? Did I do something? I can't clearly recall any ki-"
He was cut off abruptly by the brush of an index finger against his lips. His skin tingled at the touch.
"I want there to be a 'you and me', or a 'you and I', frankly it doesn't matter."
"Is that a yes?"
"You didn't ask a question."
Hotch lowered himself to the carpet before him, his knees brushing against Reid's feet. Dark eyes were cast to the floor, he took a heavy breath.
"Reid." He said darkly. "Some things don't require verbalization."
The mask fell from Aaron Hotchner's face, shards collided against the floor that separated the two of them; It shattered into pieces, memories and regrets and conflicts reflected off the broken pieces.
Maskless, Hotch was a much younger man. He looked up at Spencer calmly, the light of his eyes was clear and cloudless. All the shadows were gone from his face, as if the curtains had been drawn and the seedy streetlight had flooded the room in a cinematic glow.
He brought his lips to Reid's.
In the disarray of Doctor Spencer Reid's head, clocks ticked over, Latin verbs repeated in sequence and a mathematic equation was started and solved, but foremost in his thoughts, and with every ounce of sincerity, he knew: It gets better.
A/N: How's that for fluff?
Just a note, though this is supposed to be a oneshot, there'll be a omake chapter up after NaNo finishes :)
It may or may not involve the colour purple...