Title: Triggers & Ties 11: Evolution
Author: Kuria Dalmatia
Rating/Warnings: FRAO/NC-17. (profanity, sexual situations)
Characters/Pairing: Hotch/Reid, Jack
Summary: From the way Aaron leaned forward, crowding into Spencer's personal space, Spencer knew that things had finally—finally—changed.
ARCHIVING: my FFNet account and LJ... anyone else? Please ask first.
Feedback always welcome.
DISCLAIMER: The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios and CBS Paramount Network Television own Criminal Minds. Salut! I just took them out to play and I promise put them back when I'm done. I'm not making any profit just trying to get these images out of my head.
VERSION: July 2010—January 2011. Yes, it's sadly taken that long. Sigh.
TIMELINES/SPOILERS: Season 5, "The Uncanny Valley" to post-"The Internet is Forever"
THANKS TO: CMAli for giving me the courage to continue on this. To lady_of_scarlet for hand-holding and betaing the story. To those who nominated this fic for the CMFanFiction 2010 Awards. To those who stuck around this long waiting for this installment.
RANDOM COMMENTS: Yes, I have made garum from scratch. I'll stick to Lee & Perins, thank you very much.
"The world is changed; I can feel it in the water, I can feel it in the earth, I can smell it in the air." –Galadriel's prologue (J.R.R. Tolkien, David Salo)
Of all the things Spencer Reid expected he would be doing on a Saturday evening, instructing Aaron how to make chicken and rice casserole while Jack colored a Stegosaurus blue were definitely not on the list. Since Haley's death, Spencer had been invited over for dinner occasionally, always on a weekday but never on Thursdays.
The weekends were reserved for Aaron to spend with Jack, and the entire BAU seemed to move Heaven and Hell to get Aaron out of the office by five on a Friday on those weeks when they were actually in the office.
So when Spencer received the text DINNER W/US 2NITE? Saturday morning, he had to fight down the unexpected giddiness. It made him think about those times before the Attack (yes, it deserved capitalization in Spencer's mind) when Aaron had talked about Spencer spending time with Jack.
You are a part of my life. You need to be a part of his.
It was a Saturday.
It was a step forward.
Still, one just didn't recover that quickly from the murder of his ex-wife or killing a man with his bare hands or adjusting to the challenging lifestyle of a single parent with a demanding job, even if one was the King of Compartmentalization.
Yet now, sitting at the breakfast bar, he could sense the change. Spencer's attention was divided between watching Aaron put together the ingredients, making sure Jack drew on the paper not the counter, and working on his own picture. Jack had insisted that Spencer color a dinosaur as well, and it was the first time in fifteen years Spencer used a crayon on something other than a geographical profile.
"Worcestershire sauce?" Aaron asked dubiously as he picked up the measuring spoons.
"One teaspoon," he answered as he carefully shaded in the dinosaur's neck. "Did you know that the use of a fermented fish sauce dates back to Greco-Roman times? It was called garum or liquamen. Its use was documented in the collection of Roman recipes dating back to the late fourth or early fifth centuries A.D. The recipes are usually referred to as Apicius, after Marcus Gavius Apicius who was a Roman gourmet during the first century A.D."
"Fish sauce endorsed by a first century foodie."
"Yes. You see, garum can be made with either smelt, sprats, anchovies, or sardines," Spencer clarified. "It was a staple in Mediterranean cuisine. Worcestershire sauce can be seen as the modern equivalent and is made with anchovies."
"Anchovies." Aaron stared at the bottle and then looked at him. "You know I hate anchovies."
"I hate anchovies, too!" Jack piped up as he set his crayon aside.
Spencer glanced down at the boy. "Do you know what an anchovy is?"
"Daddy does, and if Daddy doesn't like it, then it has to be yucky," Jack declared, complete with a firm shake of his head.
"Your father likes fermented anchovies…"
"You're the one who had it in your pantry," Spencer grinned as he pointed at Aaron with his crayon. "The bottle is half empty, so no complaining."
"Okay, I hate actual anchovies, as in the ones that besmirch pizza." Aaron leaned forward and ruffled Jack's hair. "Those are the kind we don't like, right, buddy? Worcestershire sauce is okay."
Spencer's mouth fell open. "I can't believe you! You're telling your son he doesn't like something he hasn't even tried."
"Do you like anchovies?" Aaron asked.
"That's not the point."
"You didn't answer the question."
"Despite the Team's belief that I only recognize coffee and sugar as food, I have eaten anchovies in a variety of things, including dim sum and puttenesca."
"You've been eating some form of anchovies and enjoying them for most of your adult life. If you've had any of Rossi's pasta dishes with a red sauce, you've eaten anchovies, as in the actual fish. Plus, Worcestershire sauce is a common condiment, so you would have eaten it as a child. Don't even get me started about Caesar salads."
"Still evading," Aaron shot back. "If we were court, I'd treat you as a hostile witness."
"We're not in court and I'm not evading," Spencer defended himself. "I'm stating that I eat anchovies on a regular basis, but not in their whole form."
"It's a yes or no question, Spence."
He glanced over to Jack, who watched their conversation with fascination. He looked at Aaron, who was busy mixing the wet ingredients but he was smiling. Spencer sighed, "If they are part of a sauce, yes. If they are straight out of a jar, no."
Aaron leaned toward Jack and mock-whispered, "Spencer doesn't like anchovies on his pizza, either."
Jack shouted, "Yay!" which earned a gentle 'inside voice' admonishment from Aaron.
Spencer almost told Jack, Your father is a bully, because there was no other way to describe Aaron's persistence in getting him to answer how Aaron wanted the question to be answered. Yet, the words stuck in his throat. It was the first time since Foyet's initial attack that Spencer had seen Aaron so relaxed.
It was the first time since that attack that Aaron bantered with him.
It made Spencer blink twice and then hastily fill in the blank spot on the Brachiosaurus's tail. Jack suddenly handed him a crayon and said, "You should make his toenails purple."
Spencer stared. "There's no evidence that a Brachiosaurus had purple toenails."
"Jack," Aaron said as he poured the liquid into the casserole dish, "let Spencer color his dinosaur how he wants to."
"But it's boring," Jack complained, wrinkling his nose at the various hues of browns and brownish-greens that Spencer had selected.
"It's more accurate. The Brachiosaurus was discovered in Colorado and Utah and existed during the late Jurassic period and possibly the Early Cretaceous Period," Spencer stated. "It's unknown the exact coloration of their scales, but given the climate and location, the Brachiosaurus would more than likely blend in with its surrounding territory since it was a fully terrestrial animal. You know, originally, scientists believed that because the Brachiosaurus had such large nasal openings," he pointed to the head, "it spent most of its time underwater to support its weight. However, recent studies proved that the water pressure would be too great for the animal to breathe and its feet were too inefficient for aquatic life."
Jack stared at him, his mouth hanging open. Then, he pushed his picture towards Spencer. "Tell me about my dino!"
Aaron chuckled and winked at Spencer. "Let Spencer finish telling me how to make dinner, then he can tell us all about your… what is that? A T-Rex?"
"Stegosaurus," Spencer automatically corrected.
"You know what kind of dino it is?" Jack asked with awe.
He shrugged. "Yes."
Jack beamed at him brightly. "You're awesome!"
Three hours later, Jack was in bed and fast asleep. Spencer spent almost the entire evening talking about the dinosaurs in Jack's coloring book; instead of a bedtime story, Jack had begged him to explain the history of the two stuffed ones Jack insisted on taking to bed. It had been an odd echo of those first few nights after Haley's death, when Spencer recited stories to Aaron and Jack. This time, however, Aaron opted to sit on the corner of Jack's bed instead of next to the boy. After Spencer finished, Aaron made him honeyed tea and they shared a plate of shortbread cookies in silence. When the plate was empty, Spencer knew it was time to leave.
Aaron walked him to the door and undid the lock and chain. Before he opened it, Aaron brushed his fingertips from the tip of Spencer's shoulder down to his wrist. Spencer's eyes widened but Aaron was staring over his shoulder, towards the kitchen. Aaron then murmured, "Most parents just make up stuff when their children ask about things they don't know about. We…we want them to believe that we know everything. With you?" A small smile washed across Aaron's face and he huffed out a quiet laugh. "You know so much…You're always so honest with him. You're so patient…" Aaron met his gaze. "Thank you for indulging Jack."
It took two tries for him to say, "You're welcome." Spencer then tacked on, "Thank you for inviting me over tonight."
"Our pleasure," Aaron replied, his tone warm yet distinctly formal, as he opened the door and stepped aside. "Good night, Spencer."
Spencer knew better than to expect anything more. That gesture before? It was just a simple thank you. Those comments? Aaron voicing his doubts about his ability to take care of his son. Nothing more. Nothing less.
You were the one who offered it to him, his mind chided. Time to sort things out. Time for Aaron to figure out what he wants. You were trying to be selfless instead of selfish…yet you're longing…
"Good night," Spencer said, fighting the disappointment. He nodded and he made his way down the hall.
"Oh, and Spence?" Aaron called out quietly. Spencer looked over his shoulder. Aaron's smile was genuine, affectionate. One that Spencer hadn't seen in months. "Jack's right. You are awesome." Aaron went back inside his apartment and closed the door.
Spencer stared at the door, breath caught in his chest.
Time, he told himself. Time.