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***This is one I've been holding in the vault for awhile, guys. It was written months ago.
The First Lunch of the Rest of His Life
"Oh," Reid choked weakly, reaching for his glass of ice water. Nothing he'd done...nothing he'd done, he silently chanted to himself as he swallowed a healthy sip, ice cube and all. His secret was safe.
Shooting the younger man a worried glance, Hotch murmured, "Maybe this was a bad idea."
Straightening, Reid shook his head quickly. "No! I just...usually our team doesn't look to me for personal advice...that's all."
"Well," Hotch hedged, tilting his head, "It's a little more complicated than that, Reid. This involves us...both of us."
Us? Cocking his head, Reid looked inquisitively at his solemn faced Unit Chief. Since when was there an 'us'? "Then I think that you're confiding in the appropriate person. Especially if it already concerns me."
Meeting Reid's soft eyes, Hotch sighed. "The thing is, Reid...I've developed some feelings in the last few months. Feelings regarding our relationship."
"What relationship?" Reid asked blankly. If there'd been a relationship, he'd have been the first to notice it. Even he wasn't that clueless. Or was he?
"Exactly," Hotch murmured as he nodded. "I..I'm..." Hotch stumbled, cursing the insecurities coursing through him. "I want one, Reid."
"Want what?" Reid asked, desperate to understand. He hadn't felt this out of the loop since his third grade teacher made the entire class participate in what she euphemistically referred to as "cotillion training".
"A relationship," Hotch replied, swallowing the nervous lump in his throat. "I want a relationship with you. A personal relationship."
"I...You...," Reid stuttered, his throat working quickly as he tried to process Hotch's statement. "What?" he finally managed to get out, certain that his eyes were literally the size of saucers, as improbable as that feat might actually be.
"Please don't make me repeat it," Hotch shook his head, dropping his gaze to the table. "I never thought I'd get it out the first time."
"You want a relationship," Reid repeated slowly. "With me? Are you sure?" Reid asked suspiciously, almost certain that he had to have misunderstood the older man.
"I'm very sure," Hotch answered, raising his eyes to meet Reid's anxious gaze. "I've spent a lot of time thinking about this. Look, I'm not even sure about your sexuality. Until you, I'd never felt desire for a man, period. But, these last months...things changed for me. I know what I'm suggesting is against the rules. Both at the Bureau and in our friendship...and if you want to tell me to go to hell..."
"I don't," Reid interjected quickly, waving his hand in the air as if to erase some invisible whiteboard. "I mean, I don't want to tell you that. I'm just shocked. And gay," he added as an afterthought. "Very gay," he added clearly, so there could be no doubt about which side of the proverbial fence he sat on.
"Good to know," Hotch said with a small smile, feeling the knot in his gut loosen slightly at that oh so welcome admission.
"Yes, being straight would certainly preclude a more intimate relationship," Reid said earnestly, leaning forward. "You're sure you're serious? This isn't a practical joke?"
Leaning forward, Hotch met Reid's hopeful eyes squarely. "Reid, when have I ever been a jokester?"
"Uhmmm...never?" Reid replied, his heart hammering in his chest. Could this really be happening?
"Very good," Hotch murmured as he grinned openly, inclining his head slightly as he reached across the table to lightly touch the top of Reid's hand. "I'd never play with anyone's emotions like that. Especially yours. I don't know how or why this happened. I'm only certain that it has and that I need to figure out what to do with that knowledge."
"Do you have any idea how long I've had feelings for you, Hotch?" Reid whispered, steepling his fingers as he rested his elbows on the table.
"What?" Hotch gaped. It was his turn now to gawk at the other man, lost for words.
"Yes," Reid said firmly, ignoring the incredulous look he was receiving. "Yes, I want a relationship outside the confines of the Bureau. Yes, I'm gay. And yes, I've had feelings for you for years," he clarified, turning his hand unobtrusively to touch Aaron's hand. "You look like you might be going into shock," he murmured, his fingers tightening on the tips of Hotch's.
"I might be. And, I've been drawn to you for years...but I thought...I mean, I've never had any experience with another man...I wasn't sure what I'd been feeling. Or for how long. I just know that I do feel it. Deeply. And I'd like to explore it," Hotch replied, honesty filling his words as Reid's face softened. "So where do we go from here? A date?" he asked, drawing in a deep breath.
"I'd like that." Reid smiled openly. "Although I think this qualifies," he nodded toward the table at the mostly empty lunch plates. "After all, you did agree to pay," he noted.
Surprised how easy the younger man had made this on him, Hotch smiled gratefully. "Then I guess I should ask you for a second date, huh?"
"I suppose so. You can consider the invitation accepted," Reid grinned back.
"Tonight?" Hotch inquired, knowing he sounded eager and no longer caring.
"Tonight," Reid confirmed. "Come to my apartment. We'll have dinner."
"You're cooking?" Hotch raised an eyebrow inquisitively.
"No!" Reid shuddered at that very thought, then grinned widely at the other man. "I'm ordering out. I'd like us both to live long enough to have a third date."
"I like the sound of that," Hotch declared, finally relaxing completely. Perhaps fate had finally chosen to smile in his direction. Now if he could only ensure that those fickle bastards would continue their generous mood, he would be a happy man indeed.
And as he slowly raised his hand for the waitress, his eyes never leaving Reid's, Hotch realized that this could very possibly be the first lunch of the rest of his life.