A/N: Hello again, Friends! Hope you all are well. I know it's been a while since I posted anything. Sorry 'bout that. My muse is being difficult. But it finally let me finish this one, which has been in the works for weeks. This is a story about Aaron's fears with regards to the aftermath of "Lauren". It does involve an established Hotch/Rossi relationship. I do need to ask a favor of you guys. I'm rating this 'T', but if for any reason any of you think I should change the rating to 'M', please let me know and I'll change it. You'll see why as you read along. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this one!


Hotch walked into Little Creek a little after 11 pm. He'd spent the evening finishing the Grief Assessment Reports on his team. It was one of the hardest jobs he'd ever had to do, made even harder by the fact that he knew the truth but couldn't tell any of them. Not even David. He'd sat watching them all, feeling every emotion they were feeling but for different reasons. Penelope cried. Derek was angry. Reid seemed lost. David was sorrowful. And he had the key to take all their pain away, but couldn't. It hurt keeping secrets from his team, but keeping secrets from his lover was tearing him apart. He leaned back against the closed wooden door and sighed deeply, letting his head drop back and his briefcase and go bag drop to the floor beside the coat rack.

"I was beginning to wonder about you," Dave said as he walked into the living room. He took in the worn out appearance of his lover and shook his head. He knew what Aaron had been working on all night, and he knew it would take its toll on him. He didn't say anything else. He simply walked up to him and pulled him into his arms. Aaron dropped his head against Dave's shoulder, nuzzling into his neck and draped his arms loosely around him. He took slow, deep breaths, but Dave could hear the slight tremble in them. He knew Aaron was fighting to keep control over his emotions. In these hellacious few weeks since Emily's death, he'd watched Aaron remain strong for his team, but could see with each passing day that his control was slipping and he was starting to feel the strain of the situation. Dave ran a hand through Aaron's hair and gently rubbed his back. "It's okay."

They stayed that way for a few minutes before Dave broke their silence. "I doubt you've eaten anything all day. Do you want something?"

Aaron shook his head against Dave's neck before finally lifting it to look at him. He leaned down a placed a soft, almost tentative kiss to his lips and, resting his forehead against Dave's, he spoke softly. "I just want you tonight. Just you."

Aaron had never made love to Dave like this. He was torturously slow, yet desperate at the same time, needing to feel every inch of his lover's body. He wouldn't allow Dave to take any control. Whenever Dave tried to touch him, Aaron pulled his hands away and either held them in his own or placed them at their side. Dave realized that, after weeks of feeling like everything happening around him was out of his control, Aaron was desperate to feel in control again. Recognizing that need to feel in control of something…anything… he conceded and let Aaron control the evening. He was rewarded heavily for his concession. While Aaron both pleasured and prepared him simultaneously, it didn't take long for Dave's own control to come crashing down as Aaron took his body to new heights. As Dave slowly came down from his high, Aaron made slow, passionate love to him. Not even when his entire body tensed with need did he falter in his tempo. Dave wrapped his arms around him, whispered to him, encouraged him, told him he loved him. And when Aaron finally allowed himself release, there were no loud cries of pleasure. Rather, there was harsh breathing through his nose, and soft whimpers that, coming from any other person, Dave would have called sobs without tears.

Aaron continued to hold him tightly as he came down from his high. He shifted to Dave's side, still keeping as much physical contact with him as he could. He kept his head buried in Dave's neck, tangled one leg with his, and kept his arms wrapped tightly around him.

Dave knew all the subtleties about Aaron, down to slight changes in his breathing. He recognized as it changed from heavy pants of a blissful euphoria to shaky and filled with unspoken emotion and unshed tears. He held Aaron tight to his chest as his thoughts filled with worry.

"Aaron," he spoke softly, trying to lift Aaron's chin to look at him. "Are you all right?"

Aaron's response was to simply nuzzle closer and tighten his hold on his lover. Dave turned his head and placed a soft kiss to Aaron's neck. "I'm worried about you," he whispered in his ear.

"I need you," he finally answered quietly, never lifting his head from Dave's shoulder. "I just need you."

Dave was afraid this would happen. Emily's death reopened a lot of wounds for Aaron. It brought back all those feelings of unbridled guilt and pain he'd felt after Haley's death. It recharged his feelings of inadequacy at not being able to protect the people he cares about. It brought along a resurgence of Aaron's greatest fear - losing the ones he loves.

It had taken months for Dave to get him to finally open up and talk about Haley's death, and once he did, it was like breaking a dam or opening the floodgates. For hours, Aaron spoke of how often he'd felt like a failure to everyone around him, but especially to her. He felt he'd failed her as a husband, as a father to their son, and in the end, he'd failed to do his job and save her life. He'd cried, screamed, gotten angry, and by the end of the night he'd been so consumed by such overpowering guilt that he could barely stand up. Dave had never seen him so broken. And it was not a sight he ever wanted to see again.

"I'm right here, Aaron," Dave calmly tried to reassure him, strengthening his embrace. "I'm not going anywhere."

Aaron finally lifted his head to look at Dave. His eyes were glistening. Dave caressed his cheek and leaned up to gently kiss him. He held Aaron's gaze and infused as much conviction as he could muster into his voice and his eyes. "I'm here."

Aaron offered him a slight half smile and a nod before resting his head on Dave's chest and closing his eyes.

Two hours later, Dave woke up. Something didn't feel quite right. He reached for Aaron, but all he got was a handful of sheets. He sat up and looked around, worried. He noticed the soft glow of light emanating from the living room. He sighed and got out of bed, put on his flannel lounge pants and a t-shirt, and made his way to the living room.

He stood in the doorway for a few moments just watching. Aaron was also dressed in flannel lounge pants and a faded FBI t-shirt, and sitting in Dave's favorite recliner. Strange, he thought. Aaron never sits there. He was clearly lost in some troubling thoughts. The lines at the sides of his eyes told a story of worry. He held a glass of scotch in seemingly unsteady hands. He took a shaky sip and returned his glass to his lap, closing his eyes as the alcohol burned his throat. Dave could tell the alcohol was not having the calming effect his lover desired. He'd seen enough. He sighed and moved quietly into the living room, pausing briefly next to Aaron. He ran his hand gently through Aaron's hair and was not surprised when he flinched slightly at his touch before leaning into it. It wasn't often that Aaron Hotchner was caught off guard, but Dave knew his mind was somewhere else.

"Are you okay?"

Aaron shrugged. "I'm sorry if I woke you."

"You didn't. I woke up alone and got worried." He paused, still looking down at Aaron, who still hadn't looked up at him. He laid his hand on Aaron's shoulder and spoke quietly. "Something is obviously bothering you. I wish you would talk to me."

Aaron shook his head. "I wish I could," he whispered.

"You can talk to me about anything. You know that."

"I know," he finally looked up at him. "But I can't talk about this, no matter how badly I want to. I can't. It's classified."

"You do know my security clearance is higher than yours is, right?" Dave smirked in a feeble attempt to lighten the mood. But Aaron shook his head and dropped his eyes away from Dave's.

"Not anymore."

That caught Dave by surprise. "They upped your security clearance?"

Aaron nodded. Dave finally sat on the edge of the coffee table in front of him.

"How big is this?"

"Please don't ask me that," Aaron looked at him pleadingly. "Please, Dave."

Dave nodded, but he couldn't help but worry. Whatever this was, it was big enough to scare Aaron. And Aaron Hotchner did not scare easily. They sat quietly while Aaron continued to fidget with his glass. A few times he started to speak, only to stop again. It was incredibly unsettling to see him so out of sorts. Dave put his hand on Aaron's knee, hoping to provide a calming presence. "I understand. It's okay."

"It's not okay. Nothing about this is okay."

Dave tried to speak again, but Aaron cut him off.

"After Haley left me, I swore to myself that if I ever found someone again, I wouldn't keep secrets from them. I know all the secrets are part of what pulled us apart and drove her away. I swore I would never put someone I love through that again. And now here we are, and I finally have something sacred in front of me, and I'm doing it all over again. I'm keeping secrets from you, from the team, from everyone. And when this goes public, which I know it will eventually, there are going to be major ramifications for all of us. It's only a matter of time. The consequences are going to be huge. There's going to be a lot of hurt, a lot of anger, and I'm not ready for the fallout that's going to come. Not from the team, and especially not from you. And I'm afraid."

He finally stopped. He closed his eyes tightly and tried to take a breath. He couldn't look up at Dave. Instead, he kept his head down and swallowed hard against the lump in his throat.

"I'm so afraid."

He spoke so softly, almost fearfully, that Dave had to strain to hear him. Something in him sounded distressed, almost broken, and defeated. It took Dave aback to hear Aaron vocalize such fear and uncertainty. And then it dawned on him. Aaron's biggest fear – losing the ones he loves. The realization broke his heart.

"Aaron," he whispered gently as he took Aaron's hand in his own. "You honestly believe anything could make me walk away from you?"

Aaron finally looked up but didn't answer. The pain in his eyes spoke volumes.

"I want you to listen to me. I know this has been eating at you for weeks. You've had plenty of time to let whatever this is fester in you and distract you. Obviously this is serious, not just on a professional level, but on a personal one. You wouldn't be this panicked if it wasn't. And honestly, if you think there are going to be repercussions from the fallout, chances are you're right because you've analyzed this from every conceivable angle. Maybe we have some rough patches ahead of us. There will probably be some arguments, some fights, and maybe one of us winds up sleeping on the couch for a while, but there is one thing I need you to understand. I know what it's like, Aaron. I know how it feels to have to keep secrets from everyone who is important to you. I've been in your position. And it's not a position I envy, nor would I ever fault you for it. Even if I do get upset at what's to come, I would never blame you for it. Keeping secrets from me was not something you wanted. Your hands are tied. I understand that."

He reached out and cupped Aaron's face with his hand.

"I love you, Aaron. There is absolutely nothing about this job that could ever make me walk away from you."

Aaron leaned into Dave's touch and closed his eyes, finally allowing one solitary tear to fall. "I hope you're right."

Dave brushed the tear away with his thumb and leaned forward, his back protesting at the odd angle, and pulled Aaron into a strong embrace. "I mean it. I'm not going anywhere."

Aaron's arms tightened around Dave, holding on for dear life. They stayed that way for several moments before Dave sighed and chuckled.

"What's so funny?"

"I thought Reid was the one with abandonment issues."

Aaron couldn't help but chuckle as well. "So did I."

Dave finally broke their embrace and stood, groaning as his back cracked. He held out his hand to Aaron.

"Come back to bed. You need to get some rest."

Aaron took his hand and stood, but still looked a little uncertain. Dave ran his hand through his hair and kissed his forehead.

"We'll worry about the future later, okay?"

He nodded and looked Dave in the eye. "I love you."

Dave smirked. "I know."

Dave led them back to their room while one thought played over and over again in Aaron's mind. I hope you're right, Dave. I hope you're right.

The End