A/N: This chapter veered spectacularly away from where I was headed originally but I actually like how it turned out. I hope you guys do too. This one's a bit different as it contained both their POV's but its slightly more (I think) Hotch-centric.
Disclaimer: Still don't own Criminal Minds *kicks rocks* or the song contained w/in the fic.
Hate That I Love You
That's how much I love you
That's how much I need you
And I can't stand you
Must everything you do make me wanna smile
Can I not like you for awhile? (No...)
But you won't let me
You upset me
And then you kiss my lips
All of a sudden I forget (that I was upset)
Can't remember what you did
But I hate it...
You know exactly what to do
So that I can't stay mad at you
For too long that's wrong
But I hate it...
You know exactly how to touch
So that I don't want to fuss and fight no more
Said I despise that I adore you
And I hate how much I love you boy (yeah...)
I can't stand how much I need you (I need you...)
And I hate how much I love you boy (oh whoa..)
But I just can't let you go
And I hate that I love you so (oh..)
~Hate That I Love You, Rihanna & Ne-Yo
"Emily did it! Well, she didn't cut it but Emily and Morgan kind of did…this." Spencer explained in a slightly panicked voice when Aaron kept looking at him like he'd grown two heads.
Aaron had known he was staring but he couldn't stop. He honestly hadn't given much thought to what Spencer would be wearing when he came over. Spencer was not exactly a fashion plate and while he'd certainly gotten more polished over the years that Aaron had known him, he was still far more likely to be the "before" picture in the makeover gallery. The man standing across from him was most definitely an "after" if Aaron ever saw one. Spencer's chestnut locks had been cut short, his natural curl providing a slight wave and subtle honey highlights making the strands look like shimmering silk. His clothing looked like he'd been styled for a photo shoot for some fashion conscious men's magazine, the creams, whites, greys and soft browns of his shirt, scarf and sport coat contrasting beautifully with his pale beauty and the jeans (since when did Spencer wear jeans?) did amazing things to his ass. He'd even traded in his traditional Converse for a pair of more formal designer washed leather lace ups that Aaron absolutely did not covet. Not even a little. Okay maybe a little. Spencer looked like he belonged on a billboard, or strutting down some runway, not standing across from Aaron in his foyer.
Finally, he spoke. "You look…different. It's good." Spencer's eyebrows shot up and Aaron hurried on,"Not good that you look different, just that different looks good on you, not that you needed to look different or anything." Aaron hastily explained. That was eloquent Aaron, he mentally chided himself.
Spencer gave a small smile. "I thought rambling was my forte." He joked. Oh...oh no he's in the blue shirt and those slacks…the ones that cling to his ass and make me want…no do not go there. But he's in that shirt…That shirt, with his dark hair and eyes…he looks amazing, Spencer thought. "You look," sexy, sinful, fuckable, "good too. I ah, I didn't know what we'd be having and I would have brought wine but I never pick the right ones and I figured you'd liberate a bottle from Dave anyway so I brought cheesecake. Did you know that the earliest known mention of cheesecake is by the Greek physician Aegimus? He wrote a book on the subject. And Cato the Elder, a roman statesmen, gave two recipes in De Agri Cultura and-" Spencer suddenly stopped at Aaron's gently raised eyebrow. "I ah, I guess I still have the market cornered when it comes to rambling." Spencer finished sheepishly.
"Does the cheesecake have strawberries?" Aaron asked teasingly.
"On half." Spencer had grudgingly admitted. "The other half is plain." He smiled.
Spencer's impromptu dissertation on cheesecake had actually helped settle Aaron. He may have looked different, but this was still his Spencer, and his Spencer had brought Aaron's favorite dessert. A covert look at the box confirmed it was from Aaron's favorite bakery. And that meant that Spencer had made a special effort, since the bakery was 45 minutes from JJ's house, and if Spencer were going out of his way…that meant Aaron had more of an opening than he'd originally counted on. Aaron gave himself a mental shake and reminded himself that he was a man on a mission and that mission was to get Spencer back in his life. "That was thoughtful of you. Dinner is from Sorelli's. If you're hungry we can go ahead and sit…?" He suggested silkily.
Spencer's jaw had dropped. Sorelli's was his favorite restaurant but they had a steadfast policy of no delivery, no carry out. "I…how on earth did you talk them into delivering? "
Aaron turned to Spencer with a smirk, taking care to let his eyes sweep across the younger man's form from top to bottom, finally stopping to level a heated gaze straight into his eyes. "Spencer," he said in a low, slightly suggestive tone, "you of all people should know that when there's something that I want I can be incredibly persuasive and rarely take no for an answer." Aaron stepped purposely into Spencer's personal space to take the box of cheesecake from his hands, intentionally letting their fingers brush. He gave an internal huff of triumph when he heard Spencer's breath hitch and saw a faint blush stain his cheeks.
Spencer caught the implication in Aaron's words and his eyes widened slightly. This was a trap, and I walked into it. I opened the gates and let in the Trojan horse. I moved my knight to a5 and fell for the Bobby Fisher. I'm Polyphemus and I just drank the wine, Spencer thought to himself in a panic. He realized too late that he should have insisted they meet at a restaurant. They could have been on neutral ground with nary an available flat surface in sight, but no, instead he'd walked into the belly of the beast, armed with nothing more than cheesecake.
"Spencer." Aaron's dulcet tone pulled him from his thoughts. Aaron again let his eyes rove over Spencer's body and then dropped his voice a couple of octaves before saying, "Come Spencer…dinner's getting cold." The corner of Aaron's mouth quirked up ever so slightly as he turned and led Spencer into the kitchen.
"Come Spencer." At the wordsSpencer gave an involuntary shudder. There was no way Aaron didn't know what he was doing to Spencer. That exact phrase, said in that tone…it was deliberate. Everything Aaron was doing was deliberate: wearing that damn blue shirt, showing how he could take charge by having dinner delivered by a restaurant that didn't normally do so, leading Spencer into the more intimate setting of the kitchen as opposed to the formal dining room. Spencer didn't know if he were flattered or offended that Aaron had planned not only reconciliation, but seduction as well. If he thinks I'm just going to fall back into his arms or into his bed he's sorely mistaken, Spencer thought to himself. No matter how good those pants make his ass look.
As he waited for Spencer to follow him into the kitchen, Aaron mentally went over his checklist for the evening. He knew where all of Spencer's buttons were and he had every intention of pushing them.
Aaron's plans were completely derailed once Spencer stepped into the kitchen and froze. "Aaron?" He said slowly, "Exactly what is that…um…that on the counter?" Spencer couldn't tear his eyes away from a mass of paper-mache that had been haphazardly painted brown and formed to loosely resemble a volcano; or would have resembled a volcano if it were extremely dark in the room and the person looking were suffering from significant visual impairment.
Aaron frowned internally as Spencer went over to poke it. "It's Jack's volcano. He's supposed to make one for school. Since science was never my forte I told him we'd give it a couple of practice runs before he turns one in. This is the best one yet, Jack wasn't all that happy with the result but at least this one kind of looks like a volcano." He explained.
"You know they sell kits that you could have bought." Spencer said slowly, poking it again.
Aaron narrowed his eyes. Aaron Hotchner was a do it yourself kind of guy. He had fended off power mad bureaucrats and serial killers alike, he'd had no intention of folding to a simple child's experiment. "I am aware yes, but Jack and I made a perfectly acceptable model all by ourselves."
Spencer turned suspicious eyes on Aaron. "How much of this did Jack actually do?"
Aaron flushed slightly. "Well…he did his own research and wrote his own presentation but after the third one wouldn't erupt he kind of lost interest in the construction so that one there was all me. I think he'll at least get a passing grade."
Spencer's head whipped around, his expression horrified. "He can't turn that in!" Spencer gasped out, looking as if Aaron had suggested their son go bathe in uranium.
Aaron crossed his arms over his chest. "And pray tell why not?" He asked stiffly.
Spencer shot Aaron a look of incredulity. "Are you insane? The color composition is all wrong and the shape is more that of a plateau than a volcano and…what is that around the base? What are you using to simulate the eruption?"
Aaron went to stand by Spencer. "Baking soda and vinegar and the stuff around the base is leftover grass from when we made Jack's Easter basket."
Spencer bit his lip. He knew that Aaron had to have tried his best, but the idea of Jack turning in such a sad looking science experiment had him in a near panic. "I ah…it's...um-"
"It's God awful Spencer." Aaron grudgingly admitted. "I was never good at the hands on aspect of science…research and recitation were more my forte."
"I'm sure you did your best." Spencer said in a rush, trying not to hurt Aaron's feelings. "Jack uh…when does he need it by?"
"Monday." Aaron answered warily, knowing where this was headed.
Spencer went into panic mode. "It's Friday night! Why didn't you call me and ask for…it doesn't matter, I'm here now. Monday… ok, ok I have time to fix this," Spencer stripped off his sport jacket and pushed up his sleeves. "He's too young to try an ammonium dichromate model, I doubt his teacher would permit a trashcano and an air pressure volcano model might not be literal enough, so we'll just go with clay. A stratovolcano would probably be simplest," Spencer turned briefly to look at Aaron. "I'll see if any of the landscape models can be salvaged. You, you get in the car and go to the Supercentre. I'll need some clay, rough felt, paint, food coloring if we're, uh, you're out…"
As Spencer rattled off his list Aaron couldn't help but wonder how he'd let the evening veer so far off the course he'd meticulously planned. "Spencer, you can't do Jack's homework for him." Aaron tried, hoping to redirect Spencer's attention back to why he'd come over in the first place.
Spencer raised an eyebrow. "You did." The and look at how it turned out remained unspoken but was in Spencer's eyes clear as day. Aaron sighed and got his car keys. "Dinner-"
"Throw it in the microwave on your way out. Good grief Aaron! You duct taped the landscape?" Spencer's voice held disbelief and amusement in equal measure.
"It worked." Aaron said simply on his way out the door.
"Oh and Aaron?" Spencer's voice was dangerously neutral.
"Pick up Jack from Jessica's. You're right; I shouldn't do his homework for him." Spencer said gleefully, knowing full well what Aaron had planned for the evening and that Jack's presence would definitely throw a wrinkle in them. He also knew that tossing Aaron's own words back at him would effectively silence any protest the older man could have made.
Aaron stilled. He had hoped to have Spencer to himself for the evening because well…he'd hoped to have Spencer. He locked eyes with Spencer and saw the younger man smirking at him. He smiled despite himself and nodded. "Of course. He'll be delighted to see you."
"Oh and get Mentos and a two liter of Diet Coke." Spencer threw in.
Aaron stopped. "Why?" He asked slowly.
"Because Jack will want to see something explode and we don't want to ruin his class project." Spencer reasoned.
"Spencer, you do realize this is going to take you all night?" Aaron said carefully.
Spencer paused, and then looked up. "I drove here so it's fine." A look of concern passed over his features, "I don't want to disturb Will and JJ though if we finish up too late…if ah, if this runs into the wee hours could I um, use the guestroom?"
"Of course." Aaron made sure to keep his voice neutral. The guestroom was just down the hall…
"But it shouldn't take that long. Not for the actual construction…so I shouldn't need to stay over."
Aaron sighed internally. "I'm sure you'll be finished at a decent hour." Not if I can help it.
Aaron could have sworn he saw Spencer crack a smile before turning his attention back to the volcano. Clearly Spencer had deduced Aaron's intentions for the evening and was throwing up roadblocks. He realized Spencer wasn't going to make things easy on him and if he wanted him back he was in for a battle of wills. Aaron squared his shoulders and quickly reformulated his plans. If this going to be war, then he was going to make damn sure that Spencer went down as the spoils.
Two hours later found Aaron in the kitchen, situated at the counter, eating pizza (because as Spencer explained it they couldn't very well eat steaks while constructing a volcano ) while Jack happily let Spencer show him how to run a cheese knife over the rough felt to create bushes and add texture to the terrain. Aaron had been placed in charge of "research", which consisted of pulling up pictures on the laptop and videos to show Jack what the volcano would do and the different types they could have made but was really just a way for Spencer to make sure Aaron didn't touch anything.
Over the last two hours Aaron had managed to spill all the vinegar and knock over the baking soda prompting another trip to the store, "misplace" the paints which took 20 minutes to find, and just make a general nuisance of himself.
"Papa, can we make it 'plode?" Jack asked excitedly when they were finally done.
"This one you have to take to school buddy." Spencer informed him. As Jack's face fell, Spencer hurried to soothe him, "But, I have something else that we can try. Let's go out into the backyard and I'll show you."
Jack scampered off his seat and out the backdoor. Aaron smiled at Spencer, who gave him one in return before grabbing the bottle of diet coke and pack of Mentos. "These candies," Spencer began in a conspiratorial tone, "are going to make that bottle of soda go off kind of like your volcano."
Jack's mouth opened in a silent O. Jack was transfixed and Aaron a little nervous when Spencer retrieved Aaron's drill and proceeded to drill a hole in the cap of the soda and then in each of the candies. Once that had been achieved he straightened a paper clip, leaving a small angle at the end and strung the candies through topping the stack with the bottle cap. After securing his creation with another paper clip Spencer flashed them a grin and walked out into the middle of the backyard with the Diet Coke and the makeshift string of candy. Jack watched with bated breath as Spencer inserted the candy into the neck of the bottle and screwed the top on, then removed the upper paper clip.
Aaron's inner child couldn't help but appreciate the results. A ten foot spray of soda erupted into the air causing Jack to scream and clap merrily. Unfortunately, Spencer had misjudged the time it would take for him to clear the experiment and ended up thoroughly soaked, but still looked the happiest Aaron had seen him in months.
"Papa's all wet!" Jack declared. "You need to go change."
Aaron knew an opportunity when he saw one. "You're absolutely right Jack. Papa should change. He probably needs a shower too." Aaron agreed amiably. He glanced at his watch. "And you need to get to bed. It's after eleven. Papa's going to sleep over." At Spencer near desperate shake of his head Aaron continued smoothly, "You said yourself you didn't want to get back too late. Even if you left now you wouldn't get to JJ's until after midnight. Looks like you're bunking here for the night."
Aaron smirked while Spencer tried his best not to look like a deer in headlights. He couldn't figure out how his salvation had turned into his damnation with one sentence.
"Yay! Papa's sleeping over!" Jack ran and hugged Spencer around the knees, wrinkling his nose when he came into contact with the wet clothing. "Papa, hurry up and change so you can read me a story." Jack took off into the house.
"I'm sleeping in the guest room, Aaron." Spencer whispered as he passed him.
"Of course you are, Spencer." Aaron agreed.
"Alone." Spencer clarified.
Aaron made a non committal noise and did his best not to grin like the Cheshire Cat as he led Spencer into the house. It didn't work and Spencer could swear he saw canary feathers poking out the sides of Aaron's mouth.
Four hours later found an exhausted, yet contented Jack passed out in his bedroom and Aaron and Spencer in the kitchen finalizing the clean up. As Spencer turned his back to and wiped down the counter, Aaron let his eyes wander over Spencer's frame. He'd loaned Spencer a pair of soft flannel pajama bottoms and a white t-shirt. He couldn't help but smile at how Spencer looked in his sleepwear. Spencer turned and looked at him.
"We should talk, Aaron."
"Spencer, it's late and you look tired. Why don't you-"
"Aaron, I have degrees in Psychology and Sociology and I've known you for years. You pulled the same "its late and you look tired" routine on me the first night you got me into bed. Stop trying to manipulate me and get in my pants and let's just…talk." Spencer interrupted suddenly.
Aaron sucked in a breath. He knew that over the course of the last few months of their relationship he had, on more than one occasion been guilty of manipulating Spencer or taking advantage of his lover but Spencer had never called him out on it before.
"This isn't fair Aaron."
Aaron winced at the accusatory note in Spencer's voice. "Spencer-"
"This isn't fair." Spencer repeated.
"I know," He said slowly. "Do you want-"
"What I want is to know why I'm here. I want to know if you meant anything you said to me the day I moved out. I want to know if you're being driven right now by your heart, your ego or your cock." Spencer demanded.
Aaron rounded the counter to interrupt, to explain his side of things but the dam had broken and Spencer just kept going.
"I spent months, MONTHS trying to get through to you! I was supportive, understanding, sympathetic, accommodating…I did everything that everyone asked of me. I put what I needed and what I was feeling and how I was doing to the side and concentrated on you and I did it without hesitation or restraint because I love you but you…you couldn't even bring yourself to try Aaron. That's all I wanted... for you try. All I wanted was for you to talk to me, but you shut me out and shut me down every single time and it didn't matter to you that it hurt me, it didn't matter to you that you were hurting me. You hurt me Aaron. You don't get to act like that doesn't matter or didn't happen because suddenly the clouds parted and birds started singing and you saw the light."
"Spencer, I was-"
"Grieving. You were grieving and I know that and I don't blame you for that. You were in pain and you felt guilty and you felt loss and you felt rage. You had every right to; your grief was never the issue. I empathize with your grief and I don't condemn you for that, I never did and I never will." Spencer said.
Spencer's voice grew hard. "I don't blame you for grieving; I blame you for how you chose to manifest that grief. You were cruel. You were cruel, vindictive, spiteful, violent and malicious. You were selfish, cold, distant and self indulgent. You ignored me, you neglected me, you took me for granted and I…I accepted it. I accepted it because I love you. I accepted it because other than Jack you closed yourself off to everyone. I stopped accepting it the minute you decided talking to me was too painful but talking to her wasn't. You couldn't spend five minutes with me but you could spend hours with her and shove it in my face. "
Aaron reached out and grabbed Spencer. "Nothing happened with Jaqueline! God, Spencer if you don't believe anything else I say believe that much. I was never unfaithful to you." His eyes searched Spencer's imploring him to read the truth.
"I know, Aaron." Spencer said bluntly. "I was jealous but not because I thought you were sleeping with her. I was jealous because you let her help you, you let her-"
"She didn't matter, you did! I could let her see me fragile and needy but God Spencer, I couldn't let you!" The words were torn out of the depths of his soul. He pulled Spencer to him. "I couldn't let you see me weak, see me beaten. The day I came out of Strauss' office and you turned and looked at me with so much pity, so much sorrow I hated it. Knowing how pathetic and damaged I must have been for you to look at me like that, Spencer it hurt almost as badly as Haley's death, knowing how I'd disappointed you."
Spencer blinked. "Disappointed me?"
Aaron barked out a bitter laugh. "Do you remember what you told me when we first got together? That I was the only person who'd ever come through for you? That everyone else: teachers, your father, Gideon, even your mom to a certain extent left you deal on your own after promising to be there. Not only that, they left you with their crosses to bear and I never wanted to be a burden to you, Spencer. You've had to be the strong one, be the caretaker, and be the responsible one since you were a child. I wanted; I want to be the one who takes care of you, who gives you a safe place. I wanted; I needed to be the one person who came through for you. I wanted to be the one who kept their promises. Falling apart and you being stuck picking up the pieces was never part of the plan. That's what wasn't fair! I promised you that I'd take care of you, that I'd always protect you and instead I dumped my ex wife's dead body and a mental breakdown on your doorstep."
Spencer stared at Aaron "Aaron –"
"I know you think this is my ego talking."
"Isn't it?" Spencer challenged.
"Not nearly as much as you think it is." Aaron returned.
Spencer crossed his arms in a clearly defensive, defiant move that screams "bullshit" so Aaron keeps talking. "You told me once I was your hero and I saw that every single time I looked into your eyes. No one, not even Haley, ever looked at me the way you do and yes, yes damn it knowing that someone like you sees me the way you do, or did... was an ego boost. But it was also humbling and I promised myself I would I spend every day of our life together earning that look in your eyes. But then Foyet happened and that day at the round table you looked at me and I saw the same look in your eyes I see when you talk to victims. You saw me as a victim Spencer and that meant I'd disappointed you, I'd failed you and-"
"Failed me? How?" Spencer barely restrained himself from reaching out and shaking Aaron. "By being human? By being fallible? Aaron…I'm not Haley-"
"Don't." Aaron stepped back; of all the things he'd been prepared to discuss this hadn't been one of them.
"Oh no." Spencer's hand snaked out and grabbed Aaron's wrist to stop his retreat. "If we're talking, we're talking about it all. I. Am. Not. Haley." He ground out.
"You think I don't know that?" Aaron snapped. Spencer was hitting in places Aaron hadn't thought to defend and he needed it to stop. "Haley didn't have a penis and she didn't-"
"Know how to live with the man you became." Spencer finished. "The boy she fell in love with wanted to be a lawyer. That man would have been home for dinner every night and they would have lived in a house with a white picket fence and a dog and 2.3 kids. The man she ended up with hunted violent psychopaths for a living and was gone more than he was home and when he was home he was in a silent panic because he was always waiting for the phone to ring to tell him his time there was up. And for all the things it cost him, for all the things it cost her, giving it up was not an option him and she couldn't live with that. This wasn't the life she signed on for and you weren't the person she needed you to be."
"Don't you dare criticize her. I promised Haley so many things and I failed her. I failed her and I got her killed." Aaron whispered.
"I'm NOT criticizing her!" Spencer said. "I liked Haley and I understand her point of view. Neither of you are bad people but she needed you to be…she needed you to fit into her world view. She needed you to be the perfect husband and the perfect father and give her the perfect life that you two plotted out before either of you were old enough to vote! And I'm not faulting her…this life, what we do and what it makes us into, is hard. It's hard for us and it's hard for the people who love us and it's not the life Haley ever wanted for herself. She did her best, you did your best, at the end of the day you were just two people who wanted completely different things weren't going to be able to make it work-"
"Thank you very fucking much Dr. Reid." Aaron's voice was ice cold, "But I do not need you to dissect my failed marriage."
Spencer narrowed his eyes. "I think you do. I think you need someone to tell you that you weren't the only reason that marriage failed. I think you need someone to tell you that the life you chose and the man you are IS good enough. And I think you need someone to tell you it's ok to fail. It's ok to give it your absolute best and still fall short because as hard as it is and as much as it hurts, it's human. You walk around here like a member of Opus Dei giving yourself 40 lashes and paying penance-"
"Haley was murdered!" Hotch barked. "Foyet broke into my home, held me down on the floor and stabbed me nine fucking times. He made me weak and he made me his victim and then he went after my family and I was useless! Do you know what that felt like? I have always been able to defend and protect what was mine and he stole that from me. The son of a bitch marked me. Every fucking time I undress I am reminded of what he did to me, what he took from me! He stole months of Jack's life that I won't ever get back, but what's worse than that even before he killed her he destroyed Haley. He took a wrecking ball to the life Haley had built for herself. Did you know she'd gone back to school? That she was working as a paralegal? That she'd made friends, that she-, "Aaron drew in a ragged breath before continuing," She was happy. The last time Haley had been happy, totally happy, was before I took the assignment with the BAU. Even Jack didn't…she wanted to be a mother and we were good back then, mostly good but underneath…she was disappointed. She told me all the time she felt like a single parent. And she was- there were times when I would go weeks without being able to spend any significant time with Jack. And as time wore on, Haley was miserable! She was lonely and frustrated and disappointed and it was because I made choices she had to live with and it eventually drove her into another man's bed and out of my life."
"And after all that, all the bitterness, all the anger, all the broken promises and missed opportunities she was finally happy. After all that pain she was finally, mercifully, thankfully happy and once again because of choices I made that was taken away from her. And I looked at her, I promised her I'd spend the rest of my life making it up to her and then I let her die. She stood in our home, our home, and knew her life was about to come to an end. She died because I was too selfish, too arrogant, and too fucking late to save her. I could have given up the BAU and-"
"And what Aaron? Been miserable? Because you and I both know that you would have been and eventually Haley would have resented you for not being to be happy without the job and you would have resented her for making you give it up." Spencer protested hotly.
Aaron wanted to argue. Even knowing Spencer was right did nothing to quell his guilt. "She's dead. I have saved countless lives but I failed the one person I vowed to love, honor and cherish. She's dead and she'll never know how sorry I am or how much I wanted to be the man she wanted me to be or how hard I tried. God, Spencer I tried. I tried and I failed and I knew better. I knew from the time I was old enough to hide the bruises and the burn marks that failure was catastrophic. I knew what failure meant, I learned it the hard way but I got arrogant and complacent and I forgot those lessons but this time it wasn't my blood that spilled for that failure it was Haley's. I failed and she paid for it."
Aaron was valiantly fighting back tears and it broke Spencer's heart. "Come here." He began dragging Aaron down the hall towards Jack's room.
"Shh. Just come and be quiet."
When they reached the doorway to Jack's room Spencer pushed the door in slightly. Jack was ensconced in his covers, one leg of his Captain America pajamas sticking out, clutching his teddy bear, sleeping peacefully.
"Do you see that? Do you see your son? Do you see him? Every day that Jack wakes up happy, loved, and protected is a day that you didn't fail Haley. Every night that he feels safe enough to go to sleep without being haunted by nightmares or looking for monsters under his bed or George fucking Foyet in his closet is a night that you kept your promise to Haley. You…you may not have been able to save her but you saved Jack and every time that he laughs, that he experiences joy, every time he is brave enough to face his fears you honor his mother and that matters Aaron. It matters to me, to Jessica, to Haley's parents, to Jack and I feel, no I know it would matter to Haley."
Aaron stood and looked at his son for several minutes before pulling the door shut. He turned and faced Spencer. "I can't do this without you." He whispered.
"Come." This time is was Aaron who took Spencer's hand and led him into living room. "I know that after the way I treated you, the way I hurt you I don't have the right to ask but Spencer I'm selfish. I need you in my life. I know that I was a mess when you were here but I'm falling apart with you gone, really falling apart. I'll do whatever it takes to make you believe me, we'll take this as slow as you want, but I can't, I won't let this be over."
"I want to trust you. I want to believe you but Aaron…you hurt me. You didn't…I never needed or expected you to be perfect but I did need you to be there. I trusted you to be there for me…and you left. Not physically, but you left me all the same. Night after night, day after day, you left me in our bed, in this house, in our relationship alone. You didn't fail me Aaron," Spencer looked Aaron in the eye, "you abandoned me. I don't know if I can…I can't do that again. Be here alone. Be rejected again, told I'm not good enough-"
"Spencer! I never said-"Aaron started.
"You did!" Spencer accused. "You made me trust you, you made me love you and then things got hard and you left me! I wanted to help. I wanted to be there for you…I didn't judge you or care that you weren't made of fucking stone and that you were hurting and needed someone to lean on, Aaron. I thought you understood that, I thought you knew that. I'm not Haley!" Spencer's voice rose with his emotion.
Spencer glared at Aaron. "I fell in love with you. The man you are. The guy with the sense of humor so dry its dusty and who holds himself to standards he'd never expect anyone else to even consider remotely possible. I fell in love with the man who works twelve hour days and then coaches Jack's soccer team on the weekends. I fell in love with the man who refuses to compromise his ideals and his principles for himself but will bend into a pretzel to protect the people he loves and debates Chip 'N' Dale Rescue Rangers with me as easily as the definition of classic narcissism. I fell in love with the man who took me to into his home and promised me I'd never spend another night alone." Spencer looked at Aaron, his eyes bright with unshed tears. "I fell in love with you and you left me."
Understanding crashed down on Aaron in waves. He'd been so concerned that he'd failed Spencer by breaking down, that he didn't realize he'd actually done was the one thing Spencer feared most: He'd abandoned him. By retreating into his grief and refusing to let Spencer in, he'd left his lover alone to emotionally fend for himself and when Spencer had tried to reach out and bring Aaron back to him he'd been vicious. He'd manifested Spencer's worst fear.
He cautiously reached out and drew Spencer to him. No sooner had he made contact than Spencer crumbled. Aaron held on tightly as Spencer slumped forward and the tears began to fall.
"I'm so sorry." Aaron said, ignoring the wetness of his own face. "You'll never know how much I wish I could take this back, how badly I wish I'd never hurt you. You're right. I'm guilty of every charge you've leveled against me and I can't do anything but throw myself on your mercy. I love you Spencer, I love you so much it's a physical ache to have you gone and I'd rather spend every day of my life living trying to earn back your love and your trust than to live without you." Aaron stopped, feeling as if his own heart were breaking as he finally saw the extent of the damage he'd done to Spencer.
Spencer shook his head. "I don't do this." He whispered.
"Do what sweetheart?" Aaron asked, confused and worried.
"I don't come back for more. You aren't the only one who learned lessons in pain and punishment, so did I. I learned…I learned if you get left you don't let them come back because they'll leave again and it'll just hurt worse. I don't do this. But you make me want to, you make me…want to believe it'll be ok and it'll be safe and good and I won't get hurt again and it's not fair that you can do that to me. It's not fair that I want to be with you more than I want to protect myself. I love you so much that it scares me. You and Jack and this," Spencer gestured around the room, "this is all I've ever wanted and I don't want to give it up and I don't want it to be taken from me but I'm so scared. I want to come home, I want to come home but I don't know if …you hurt me so…I don't do this." Spencer broke down.
"Do you think you're the only one going against the grain here Spencer?" Aaron murmured into his temple. "I don't beg. I didn't beg my father, not once I got old enough to decide not to give him the satisfaction. I didn't beg Haley and I didn't even beg Foyet when he attacked me but you have me on my knees, Spencer Reid. You have the power to do what my father and Haley and even Foyet couldn't do…you have the power to break me. I don't…I don't do this either Spencer."
Spencer was quiet for a long moment. "Being angry with you is exhausting."
"Knowing that you're angry is exhausting." Aaron countered.
"I…I hate that you have this kind of power over me. I always knew you did, but…before I trusted you not to abuse it." Spencer confessed.
Aaron swallowed. "I hate that you have the same kind of power over me. No one knows me the way you know me. I've never let anyone else…never trusted anyone else enough to be weak."
"I want to trust you." Spencer said quietly, pulling away. "But I'm scared you'll leave me alone again."
"I want to trust you too," Aaron whispered. "But I'm afraid I'll disappoint you like I did my father, like I did Haley."
Silence reigned for a few minutes. Aaron wanted to draw Spencer close again, run his fingers through his hair, drop kisses onto his skin and sooth him but he knew he needed to give Spencer space and time to work out whatever was going on in his head.
Spencer slowly, carefully crawled back into Aaron's embrace and Aaron's arms wrapped around him immediately. "I could live without you. I could get up, go to work, see Jack, go to class, see my friends, read my books, write letters to my mom and live my life without you."
Aaron's heart constricted but then he realized Spencer was still talking. "I could but I'd be miserable. And I think…no, I believe you'd be miserable and by default Jack would be miserable. T-t-there's no reason for all of us to miserable apart if…we can be happy together." He finished softly.
Aaron ran his fingertips over Spencer's cheek. "No reason at all." He agreed.
"You can't ever do something like this to me, to us again."
"I know. I won't. I won't ever make the mistake of trying to hide from you baby. Not ever again." Aaron said.
"You promise?" Spencer asked.
Aaron knew the word choice was deliberate. Spencer knew Aaron truly believed that a man was only as good as his word.
"I was lost without you and I never want to feel that again. I promise." Aaron answered.
"I'm still scared."
"We can be scared together."
"Yes," Aaron said pulling Spencer tighter against him, "we can."