Title: Haunting the Old Domain

Challenge: The Great Alphabet Meme 2: L is for Linger

Prompt by Anonymous

Author: Kuria Dalmatia

Rating/Warnings: FRT/PG-13 (profanity) Spoilers for Season 6's "JJ"

Characters/Pairing: Hotch/Reid

Summary: It's those painful moments, the silently shared sorrow, that knits them together in a way that simple exchanges of how much they miss JJ cannot.

Word Count: ~1,200

ARCHIVING: my LJ and FFNet account... anyone else? Please ask first.

March 2011.

COMMENTS: Thanks to pabzi for the beta. Any mistakes left are mine.

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.

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Aaron is at the office late again—this time it's approaching eight in the evening—and while he's gotten substantially better at leaving by five-thirty on the days they are in town, JJ being ripped from them screws his schedule to Hell, West and Crooked. Even with Dave and Morgan helping out with the paperwork, there are some things only a unit chief can do.

He still hasn't mastered the whole "what can be done at home and what can only be done at the office" either. It's frustrating and it pisses Aaron off because, damn it, after seven years, he should have it figured out but he doesn't.

Screw it, he thinks although his workaholic side primly reminds him that Jack will already be in bed by the time he gets home, so what's another hour here where doesn't have to hide his work files for fear of his son or Jess coming across them?

Aaron pushes back from his desk, grabs his briefcase, and begins stuffing files in it. His laptop is next. After quick call to Jess to let her know that he's on his way home, he picks up his briefcase and go bag, turning off the lights and locking his door as he leaves.

Except for the low drone of the TV monitors, the rest of the bullpen is quiet. Everyone in his unit seems to know when to go home except him, and the cleaning crew won't be in until eleven. On those occasions that Aaron is here that late, he'll make a special pot of coffee from his own stash for the crew to share. It's a small gesture but one that hopefully translates to that he recognizes what they do and he appreciates it.

Aaron opts to walk through the bullpen instead of taking the direct way to door leading out. He lingers at each person's desk briefly…only enough time for him to recall the agent's name, the current case being worked on, and name of spouse/significant other/children/pets. It takes five minutes to do the office, but those five minutes he spends, he has to. He never wants those in his BAU to feel faceless and nameless with him. These agents are his. It is his duty to know those things about them.

He spends the longest at Reid's desk, and always has. Even before their relationship went from friendship to lovers. Aaron notes the way the papers are stacked, the angles of the folders peeking out, and the assortment of pens in the penholder. Something is bothering Reid; his desk usually isn't this neat unless he's been obsessing about something. The files that he has are all cold cases, much like the one in Bristol, Virginia.

He makes a note to mention it to Reid tonight when they talk on the phone. Reid still hasn't accepted Aaron's invitation to move in, although Jess already gave it her blessing and Jack thinks it will be awesome to have a magician living with them. Aaron understands Reid's hesitation—it's a commitment and it's giving up freedom—and he really doesn't mind waiting. At least, that's what he tells himself.

Aaron digs through one of the outer pockets of his briefcase where he keeps his stash of hard candies. He quickly finds a few pieces of toffee, the kind that Spencer likes to crush with the end of his stapler and add to his cup of Bureau brew. Aaron places them below the power button for the monitor and hopes that his gesture brings a smile to the younger man's face tomorrow morning.

He finishes his rounds and heads out the glass doors. Habit has him during down the corridor toward JJ's office but he stops abruptly, looking down at his feet and shaking his head. JJ's gone. She's been gone. Her departure is the entire reason he's still at the office so late. He lets out a sigh and goes to turn towards Garcia's and Morgan's respective spaces when he notices the dim glow from JJ's old office.

To his knowledge, no one has moved in there yet, which is unusual since private offices are a rare commodity on the sixth floor.

Curiosity motivates him to continue down the hall. He tells himself it's to turn off the light that someone has mistakenly left on, not because he wants to know who has taken over his media liaison's old domain. Aaron slows his approach, noting the door is partially closed and the light comes from the desk lamp that JJ hated and never used. He stops and listens for a few moments; it's not uncommon for someone to duck into an empty office to make a private phone call.

When he hears nothing, he takes the final steps to the office, ready to turn off the light. Aaron tells himself it's to save electricity and the cynical side of him wonders if he had made a habit of leaving office at five-thirty, the power he saved by turning off the lights in his office may have allowed him to somehow keep JJ.

Aaron pushes the door open and the surprised gasp that echoes in the office startles him. That's when he sees Reid sitting at JJ's old desk. Reid's left hand clutches the armrest of the chair while his right is wrapped around the butt of his gun. The weapon is partially pulled from its holster. Aaron could make a comment, something about hyper-vigilance or shooting the messenger. He doesn't. Instead, their gazes meet.

The sadness in Reid's eyes punches Aaron in the gut, and it makes him sway a little. Of all the things they talk about when they are together, JJ is topic they both studiously avoid. Aaron knows how much JJ's departure hurts Reid; after all, she was the first in the BAU to outright accept Reid, to take him in and immediately treat as one of the team. She never acted intimidated by Reid's phenomenal gifts, never saw him simply as "Gideon's pet project." She protected him in a way that wasn't too motherly or sisterly.

Reid heaves out a sigh and grimaces, but says nothing. He stands, slings his messenger bag on his shoulder, turns off the lamp, and walks up to Aaron. His lover doesn't disguise his sorrow and Aaron feels it radiating from him. They face each other but don't say a word.

Aaron briefly closes his eyes as he inhales the distinct citrusy pine scent that is Reid. He feels Reid's fingers brush against his own, quick yet lingering; it's the most touch they allow themselves. Aaron steps aside and allows Reid to pass, but it is Reid who closes the door to JJ's office.

It's like closing a casket at a funeral.

It makes Aaron's eyes burn a little.

They wordlessly walk side-by-side to the elevator. The silence continues as the elevator arrives, they get in, and ride down to the garage floor. They make their way to Aaron's car, put their belongings in the back seat, and then settle in the front. When Aaron drives past the security gate to leave the grounds and his right hand drops to the center console, Reid's hand settles over his.

It's a request to come home with Aaron, one that he answers by turning his hand palm up and giving a light squeeze. There are no exchanged smiles. No light laughs or bouncing their hands a little or anything like that. No. They simply hold hands until Aaron has to make a sharp turn.

They won't talk about what happened in JJ's office tonight, why Spencer was sitting there in the dim light and why Aaron ended up there.

Aaron doubts they ever will.

And he's okay with that. He really is.

Spencer's coming home with him tonight. It will be a good night.

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