Aaron Hotchner hadn't expected a sharp knock on the door at twelve past nine while he finished up that one last case, it was a Friday and he had expected his team to have departed for the weekend. He didn't expect to see his lover with two go-bags, one that was clearly his own.
"Pack it in, and leave the files here. We have a flight to catch."
"A what…?" Hotch said in disbelief, Reid came into the office and closed the door.
"I said we have a flight to catch, come on."
"Is that why Jack was suddenly begging me to let him go camping?"
"I have no idea," Reid stated, he had no plan to divulge information, just to wow his lover, "And we have thirty minutes to get to where we need to go, come on- hurry up."
Hotch shrugged and complied.
It took only twenty minutes for the pair to make it to the airport the BAU often traveled out of.
Reid took point and started to head toward Gate C, Hotch trailed behind him as he tried to read signs about potential locations. "Reid, where are we going and for how long?"
"3-Day weekend, and that's all I'm telling you." He smiled. "Well that, and that I hope you like it."
Reid handed Hotch a magazine as he went to procure two coffees. "Don't wander off, our flight leaves soon," Reid said.
Twenty minutes later, they were on their way. Hotch tried to gather just what Lehigh Valley International Airport was near, but knew he was coming up short. The man in the seat next to him continued his poker face and read through one of three scientific journals he had picked up.
Before take-off, Reid had already memorized all three, cover to cover.
It was just before midnight when the plane landed, Reid approached the car rental kiosk as he sent Hotch to grab the luggage, they met up outside the airport in record time, Hotch gave Reid a look.
"So are you going to tell me where we're headed?"
Reid smiled as he weighed his options, "Hmm… nope, not yet. Soon though. We have about a forty minute drive. Come on, Aaron, where's your sense of adventure? Don't you trust me?" His tone more tease than threat.
"I'm fairly sure my sense of adventure is about thirteen clicks to the north of yours." He gave his lover a peck on the cheek, "But whatever you have planned, I'll go along with."
Reid rolled his eyes a little at that, "Are you trying to say I'm boring, Aaron?"
"Not at all, Spencer, you are not boring… some of your interests can be a bit tedious, but never you," he goaded, Spencer huffed a little.
"I changed my mind. I think I'm keeping most of the itinerary from you now."
For a moment Aaron wondered if he bullied his lover a little too much, but when Spencer got behind the wheel and 'accidentally' squeezed his thigh instead of grab the transmission stick he knew all was forgiven.
By time they had gotten to their destination, the only clues Aaron had to the location was the two-lane roads, large pines and lush green grass, it was clear they were in a mountain resort area, but he wasn't certain where he was until they drove by the first of several very flashy hotels.
"Welcome to Mt. Pocono…" he read off a sign, he looked at his lover questionably as the man pulled off toward a more modest bed and breakfast.
"Don't worry, it'll be fun. I promise," Reid said as he parked the car. He leaned over to his lover and gave him a chaste kiss. Hotch leaned in and pulled Reid in close and into another kiss- a much less chaste version. When they parted Reid said breathlessly, "I'm going to check us in, I'll be right back."
True to his word, Reid was back and held a key within minutes. He started the car back up and drove to the rear of the building before he parked the car under some trees. "We're in 2J, it's a corner room with a balcony," he explained before he took the luggage from the trunk. Aaron took one of the bags from him as they made their way to the room.
Inside Aaron spotted the king bed and suggestive décor, his lover slipped a bottle from his pocket which he left on the nightstand beside the bed.
"Aaron, tomorrow we have an early morning, breakfast at 5:30 and something scheduled at 6:37AM. If you're tired, you should say so now."
"Mm, I don't think I'm tired just yet," he smiled back at his lover who gave him very clear bedroom eyes.
"All the same, I think you should get into bed," Spencer's voice was low, velvety with his intentions, Aaron toed off his shoes as he walked back toward the bed. Spencer had already stripped his tie and made it apparent that this was his show as he stalked toward the bed as he undid one button at a time. He had his shirt half off and caught at his elbows as he crawled onto the bed, he straddled Aaron's hips, he let Aaron pull it off him.
Aaron happily helped rid him of his white tee shirt. Reid undid his lover's tie and then unbuttoned his dress shirt. Reid smiled when he found no undershirt. Upon the discovery of just enough clavicle, Spencer's mouth met the sensitive skin and let his tongue wipe over it before he began to blow and then suck on the spot.
Aaron gave a small shudder, his fingers fumbled with the belt around Spencer's waist, Spencer was apparently more adept because Aaron's belt was already on the floor near his shoes, his pants unbuttoned and unzipped, his lover's hand already in his boxers as he stroked him to full hardness.
Spencer let Aaron pull his shirt off and took the moment to get out of his pants and underwear. Now, both mostly exposed, Spencer straddled Aaron's hips and leaned his face in close to his chest, he sucked on that spot that made Aaron's body shiver with delight before his tongue explored lower. His hands roamed up and down his sides, upon arrival at Aaron's waistband to his pants and boxers, he skinned them off. Aaron was finally brought to a proper state of nudity.
Spencer's tongue continued to lay trails over the slight sweat that graced Aaron's skin. He approached Aaron's hip, the point where the bone was closest to the surface and he bit and kissed until Aaron's cock throbbed with full force.
"That's the plan…" Spencer said as one hand traversed Aaron's hot-spots, the other cupped his balls and massaged him. He brought his mouth close to Aaron's full erection and breathed wispy puffs of air onto the sensitive skin, he let the heat warm his cheek as he nuzzled his face against it, his tongue drew up the vein on the underside of Aaron's penis then came to the head, his tongue moved up and down the slit as he coated it with saliva before he took it into his mouth. One hand had stopped ministrations over Aaron's favorite places to hold his hip, it kept him from an overzealous thrust that would knock Spencer off the bed. That had happened once and Spencer had learned, damn it. Aaron coaxed Spencer to shift positions as he reached toward Spencer's left thigh and knee, he gently tugged at it until their bodies were in the perfect sixty-nine pose.
"Wait, let me…" He purred into Spencer's cock, he mouthed Spencer's sac. Spencer's back arched tightly as he let out inarticulate sighs and gasps and words that sounded a lot like vowels.
"Oooh… uuuuhhhh… Uuhhh- Aaron-nnnnnn! Fuck, so good…" he finally managed to make his mouth and vocal cords work in unison, Aaron's mouth decided to work with something else entirely.
Aaron could feel that Spencer was close, so close, Aaron moved now to Spencer's cock; he licked off the precome. His hand steadied his lover, fingers clawed down his back as he sucked and licked and rubbed his stubble against his lover's penis- as his mouth came up to focus on Spencer's cockhead.
Spencer, for his part, at first focused on the cockhead with short bobs, his hand worked the shaft as he pumped and alternated between that and a cup and squeeze of Aaron's sac. Eventually his hand just continued on the scrotum and the sensitive skin around the erogenous zones, his mouth drew his lover's cock deeper into his throat as he created a vacuum to suck him off.
"That's so hot… Spencer, you're so beautiful with your mouth around my cock…"That earned him a deeper bob, his eyes sparkled for a moment. He began his own ministrations, he started to rim Spencer, and one hand stretched between them to Spencer's nipples to rub them to peaks, he moved from one to the other. His other hand pumped Spencer's cock but it stopped when his body shuddered in response to Spencer's tongue, he knew he'd come soon if Spencer kept up that pace.
"Spencer… Spencer stop…" Spencer smiled and reached for the lube. He moved between Aaron's legs as he coated Aaron's cock as it throbbed in his hand before he gave a slight squeeze.
"I'll go easy on you tonight… tomorrow you won't be so lucky…" he smirked as he lowered himself onto and guided his lover's shaft into him. It was a slow ride, but after a few long, slow slides, he felt his lover thrust up with more urgency. He pushed on Aaron's hips to slow his ride. "Oh no… I'm running this…" He hinted. "You are so un-fucking-believably hot…"
He let out his own breathy, deep sounds, the guttural cry that shuddered through him as he hit his own spot that made his cock twitch and rise even higher, it practically bounced off his navel as he moved up and down painfully slowly… Aaron reached forward to Spencer's penis and pumped him. And before he realized, Spencer was suddenly there, the golden fire in his blood. He came powerfully into Aaron's hand and over both their bellies and chests. As if the feel of that heat was all the additional catalyst his body needed, overstimulated and surrounded by the heat that pulsated through Spencer; Aaron came. Spencer kept his up-down movement for another few pumps as he continued the stimuli that made Aaron shiver and writhe. Finally, Aaron softened and slipped from him. Reid felt his body nearly melt back to the bed. He laid to face Aaron and his lover kissed him with earnest gentleness. They nestled together for a long time. Spencer grinned and slowly rocked his hips against his lover. Aaron gave him a doubtful look and put a hand on Spencer's hip to still him.
"I know, no more tonight… we'll regret it in the morning…" Spencer said, barely a tangible thought. Aaron roused himself enough to get out of bed for a wash cloth and to straighten up, he returned with sweat pants for both of them. "'m sleepy… come back to bed." Spencer complained playfully.
"You need to put something on, I don't want you catching a cold."
"Won't happen… human hot-water bottle…" he pointed at his lover. "C'mere…"
Aaron shook his head, "You're incorrigible," he wiped them both down with the warm towel and then hoisted up Spencer's sweat pants which thus ended an amazing view. He tossed his own sweats on as well before he pulled Spencer close, Aaron's arms wrapped around Spencer.
5:30 was as early as it had sounded the day before. Breakfast at 5:30 meant they woke up at 5 at the latest. Hotch definitely felt like something the cat hacked up, but he'd do about anything for Spencer. So he got them both out of bed and moved them in the direction of actually being dressed for breakfast. He considered not shaving, but knew it'd help him feel more awake if he did. The dark outside didn't help.
He was a little surprised at what Spencer had packed for sportswear, and looked ruefully at his open go bag. He couldn't remember the last time he'd worn a flannel shirt, blackwatch indeed, he sighed, it had to be part of Spencer's plans, whatever they were beyond breakfast at 5:30. He hummed to himself and realized he was happy. It came almost as a shock.
"Are you just holding that razor as a threat to your face?" Spencer grinned at him.
Aaron smiled at him. "I'd given some thought to going native." But with that comment he applied the razor to his face.
Spencer stood behind him as he used the mirror to try to bring order to his hair. His lover had vaguely mentioned a like for longer hair, and Spencer was good with that except for this in between state his hair was in. Of course this slightly long look was the look Hotch liked. He'd decided he'd spend enough of his life chasing long strands of hair out of his face. But when Aaron'd comb his fingers through it made every maddened moment worth it. He moved so that he was in contact with Aaron as the other man bent to rinse his face.
"Spencer, if we really are going to make it to breakfast you better not start."
"I can be fast." Spencer leaned further over him and whispered in his ear. "I really don't need much encouragement."
And Aaron could feel that was true. He finished his rinse-off and turned his head, he kissed Spencer. Spencer moved so Aaron could face him. "What would you like?"
"Just let me hold you."
Spencer moved suggestively against Aaron, his erection now between them. He moved himself against the older man. Aaron moaned with the sensuality of it, his own arousal only slightly behind Spencer's.
They moved together as they struggled for friction that would lead to a finish. Spencer true to his word was there within moments. He dropped to his knees and pulled Aaron's sweats as he went, took his lover's cock into his mouth. Aaron was already over stimulated and thrust mindlessly into that hot mouth. Spencer held his hips and sucked and licked without thought to what he was doing. He knew Aaron only needed the contact and not the skill. They both ended up knelt on the bathroom floor as they clung to each other.
"Breakfast?" Spencer queried.
"Yeah you are, but would you like food to go with that attitude?"
"Yeah, let me get into the shower, I'll hurry."
Spencer smiled. "Do your legs work yet?"
"There's a thought, might have to crawl to the shower." He used the cabinet for balance as he got off the floor, extended a hand and Spencer was up as well. "I'll hurry."
He started the water in the shower, checked it for temperature and got in. Spencer squeezed in behind him. Without much ado though, they soaped and shampooed and rinsed and hugged and enjoyed the water. "Let's go swimming today," Hotch said.
"Sure, it was kind of on the plan, if it warms up enough." Spencer wasn't so sure about it, he was rather shy of his physique and he knew Hotch felt strangely about his scars. But dammit if Hotch went swimming so would he.
"Breakfast," Hotch said as he tied his field boot.
Breakfast was timed so that they'd be out to walk toward the stables at sunrise.
The sun came up in a blaze of golds, pinks, and blues.
Aaron smiled and stretched with it came a small amount of warmth in the air. "Did you plan this too?"
"Well no, the sun would have come up anyway, I only planned the timing."
The other man nodded. "So horseback riding? Did you ride back in Nevada?"
"Not as much as I'd have liked to. Mom liked to keep me near, so I'm not so great at outdoor activities. But I have been on a horse before. You ride, don't you?"
"Yeah grew up with it, but I haven't for a while now. When I was first with the BAU we had a case out in Utah, we had to take horses into a canyon. That's it though. I don't think I could saddle a horse anymore."
"That's okay, we're going on a trail with a guide and some other people who are in B & B's around here. They say they have horses for all level of riders. Which is a really good thing..."
They arrived with time to spare. The wranglers and guides were still standing around and chatting, the arrival of the guests seemed to get them into action.
The two men walked up to a smallish woman with a clipboard.
She smiled at them and held up her hand and said, "Wait, let me try and figure out who you are. I'm pretty good at it."
They stood still for a minute, not at all uncomfortable as the woman did an instant profile of the two of them.
She looked at Aaron and nodded, then a look to Reid who she graced with a smile. "Okay so we have an intermediate and a beginner. Mr. Hotchner and Mr. Reid right?"
They smiled and played along. "How could you tell?"
"It's not as hard as it looks really, the person who signed you up wrote that Mr. Hotchner," she smiled at him, "had ridden more than a few times and Mr. Reid had ridden once or twice. Now you Mr. Hotchner look not at all apprehensive so you know one or two things about horses and Mr. Reid is a little nervous. Really though, we've got some outstanding horses here. Don't worry Mr. Reid we won't put you on Satan."
Reid's brows went up. "What else can you tell about us from just watching us walk over here, well besides what's on the application?"
"I'm Jean by the way, well I can tell that you aren't construction workers." She laughed, "Lawyers maybe," she gave Reid a second look, "Actors?"
"Cops," Hotch deadpanned.
Jean smiled at him, "Keep telling people that."
Hotch laughed suddenly, "We're with the FBI, but we are on vacation."
"So just for that Mr. Hotchner you get Satan. Seriously though, he's completely misnamed and he's the gelding right over there."
"Mr. Reid I'm going to put you on Reeses over there. She and Satan are buddies so there'll be no trouble if you want to stay near your friend. Just follow the wranglers' instructions and don't let Reeses think she's boss."
Spencer seriously doubted the wisdom of this outing. And now he was going to be the boss of Reeses, a giant of a mare, who looked at him disdainfully – as far as he could tell. He tried to remind himself he was doing this for Aaron. Aaron had certainly done as much or more for him.
"Come on," Hotch encouraged. "It's going to be fun, a nice ride through the trees in the early morning." He was perfectly attuned to Spencer's hidden fear. "Really they're like big dogs you can ride." Oh clever, he thought to himself, like that'll help.
He took all his courage up into his own hands, Spencer walked up to Reeses, "You and me, Reeses, we're gonna show them all. Right?"
And of all things, the horse nodded. Spencer put on his helmet with a little more confidence.
With the help of a mounting block Spencer pulled himself onto the saddle. It felt odd, but good. The wrangler adjusted the stirrups and gave Reid the standing instructions for how to ride a horse, "Keep the reins low, if you want to go left pull the reins that way, right pull right, to move squeeze your calves against the horse's side."
"How do I stop her?" Spencer thought this was the more important question.
"Just relax your whole body."
Yeah, right, that'll work, he thought ruefully. He tried to relax, and was rewarded by Reeses as she settled down and became seemingly attentive. Spencer grinned and looked over to where Aaron was swinging himself into the saddle. So not fair, he thought as Hotch caught the reins and a little click of the tongue the horse and rider moved fluidly and was now side by side with Reid and Reeses.
"You okay," Aaron worriedly asked. As usual he was seemingly telepathic.
"I'm hoping I am."
The guide led them through the trees and up the mountain. Every now and then he'd point out wildlife or tell stories.
Aaron watched Spencer, but soon felt confident enough in his lover's feel of ease on the horse.
Spencer's horse didn't like to go through small streams that flowed almost everywhere on the mountain, but he soon got the hang of how to insist she move through. He felt great. "Good girl," he whispered over and over.
He smiled as he watched Aaron ride, the man was obviously born in the wrong century. This time he smiled at his not fair thought.
As they rode along the trails, the guide mentioned that lunch was probably nearly ready and they needed to move a little faster so the cook wouldn't be too mad at them.
Spencer could smell the coffee, and his stomach gave a little jump for the joy of it. The pack all stopped for a lunch cooked in the open air and the opportunity to stretch their legs. For a little while after lunch the two men sat under the trees in silence. Both removed their flannel shirts and sat contentedly in t-shirts and jeans.
Hotch got up from the ground and gave Reid a hand getting up as well. "How's the leg?" He asked.
"Strangely well, I'm glad we waited till all the PT was done though. Your shoulder?"
"It's good. It just was fine one day."
"Let's go ride horses." Reid laughed and ran toward the corral, his flannel shirt fluttered from where he'd tucked it into the back of his belt.
Hotch followed at a more sedate pace. He knew that sometime over the next few days this ride would catch up with them both. For now, he enjoyed the sight of Reid as he talked to his horse.
The ride home was even easier, they were used to their horses and had gotten how to make their horses, more or less, follow commands.
When they got back to the stable they thanked and tipped the guide and the wranglers. It really had been a great experience. Though only a few hours after lunch they were once again hungry.
The B&B kept a coffee pot ready all day and night, so the two of them sat in the lobby with coffee and homemade cookies. Reid picked up brochures for the area, his mind focused as he built up tomorrow's itinerary.
Hotch stretched a bit and asked, "Did you want to swim? Or, I think I saw a hot tub."
"I am so about the hot tub."
After about a half hour the men were walking near the pool and the spa tub. Reid looked a bit spindly in his board shorts and tee, Hotch wore the Speedo trunks and muscle shirt Reid had packed and felt a little self-conscious. But there were very few people in the pool area so it eased his mind, not that his scars bothered him, well yeah because his scars bothered him. Still, he thought a swim would be great, though he could see his partner was headed right to the hot tub.
Hotch dove into the pool. It really was as cold as it looked. But he swam a few laps anyway. Reid watched him. "How's the water?"
To lie or not lie? Hotch grinned. "It's beautiful."
Spencer walked nearer and bent down to test the water. Aaron took the opportunity to pull him in.
"Jesus, fuck, Aaron the pool is freezing!"
Spencer narrowed his eyes at his lover. "No it's likely about 65 degrees, still not prime swimming temperature!"
They glared at each other and finally just started to laugh. "Let's get the fuck out of here and into the hot tub," Aaron mumbled, his teeth were already clattering.
The hot tub was paradise in comparison and they sat and wrinkled 'til they felt too sleepy to stay in.
They pulled themselves out of the tub, toweled off and went back up to the room. Aaron showered off and came into the room to discover Spencer already asleep. He laid down next to him and put his arm around him and dozed.
Spencer woke with a start. "We have reservations!"
"Wha…what?" Hotch felt like he was dragging himself out of a deep sleep.
"Yes," Spencer said as he ran to the bathroom.
"Good," Aaron said to himself. So we'll wear clothes where we're going, he pulled on boxers and socks and sat on the end of the bed for Spencer to give him more clues.
Spencer walked out of the bathroom in trousers and dress shirt. His leather shoes in one hand.
Aaron checked the closet for the garment bag and pulled out the suit that Spencer had packed for him. Ah… Canali, good choice. He dressed in just a few minutes.
They were out of the room and into the rental car in moments and headed toward the little village they'd seen as they came in.
The restaurant was part of an old town area; most patrons were dressed like they were, though there were one or two guests still in rustic wear. The Silk Purse was known for its fine dining and great atmosphere.
Spencer ordered. Aaron kept a small smile. Usually Aaron would order, he knew Spencer had simpler tastes and would not push him. But Spencer ordered things that would please them both. Spencer even tried the calamari appetizer, but stopped at the trout in paper.
As they ate a light dessert Aaron said. "Thank you for this Spencer, for all of this."
"We aren't done yet though. I have brochures for tomorrow. Is there anything you'd like to do while we're here?"
"I am in your hands. Are you sure all these outdoor activities are okay with you?"
"Life is about experience, right?"
By the time they got back to the B&B the ride was beginning to wear on their muscles.
Spencer had to put a hand on Hotch's shoulder to get back to the room, his legs hurt that much. "I heard it was exercise, but how could that sweet horse have done this to me?"
Aaron laughed and moved slowly with a limp of his own. "At least mine was named Satan, I should have known going in he'd try to kill me."
Aaron hung up his and Reid's suits and cleaned up a bit while Spencer first brushed his teeth and came back to bed. He lay there and moaned.
Hotch began to laugh, he couldn't stop himself when he tried. He lay next to Spencer in boxers and socks and laughed 'til tears streamed down his face. "Two fit FBI agents in a bed."
That started Spencer's own laughter and finally they turned to face each other, each wore as big a grin as the other. Spencer tried to straighten his back and that had Aaron start his laugh again.
Aaron finally stopped laughing and groaned from the ache that was setting into his legs and back.
"Not tonight, honey," Spencer teased. "Unless we want to call the medics now…"
Aaron rolled out of bed and tried to stretch, instead he nearly puked. "I think I'll see if there's a game on."
"I'll try to set up a quiet itinerary for tomorrow, maybe a little hiking to stretch us out, otherwise we're likely to stiffen up big time."
"Whatcha watching?" Spencer asked after he'd digested every brochure he'd brought from the lobby.
"Nebraska…. uh college football. Pretty one sided."
"Well I think I've found just the right place. It's says here it's a self-guided tour through natural bridges and mapped-out passages. What do you think, shall we go for it? It's a little walk in from the road to get to the site, but we should be okay."
"If you're up for it, can we not get up at 5 tomorrow though?"
"You obviously have no clue what vacation time is about. Yes, 7's fine." Aaron got up, turned off the television and walked over to where Spencer sat on the edge of the bed. He leaned down and kissed Spencer's hair. "I love you, Spencer Reid."
Spencer could feel his heart race. "Aaron, oh Aaron."
7 felt earlier than 5 had the day before. Spencer was up, showered, shaved, and teeth brushed before he kissed Aaron's ear as the man lay asleep.
"Please tell me you're just seducing me and don't want me to get out of bed…"
"If we get up now we can get breakfast and drive out to the park, walk in and they'll pack us a lunch, I already called them to do that."
Hotch sighed inwardly. "Ten more minutes?"
"Please, it's gorgeous out, the sun is up, it's incredible out there. Trees and birds…come on Aaron it's what you love."
"Want to go for a nice long drive? Get an early start before others show up there? We could have the trails all to ourselves…" Spencer smiled, he crawled back onto the bed and as he leaned down over his lover's mouth, took a quick taste before he hopped toward the bathroom.
"Alright, alright I'm up," Aaron mused as he ruffled his own hair. He went into the bathroom to spot his lover already affixed to his hair brush. Aaron put his hands on Spencer's shoulders from behind, he looked at his lover's reflection before he put a chaste kiss on his cheek and a not-so-chaste tonguing of his earlobe. "Breakfast first though, alright?"
Spencer nodded as he blushed like a fiend. "Gimme five minutes…" he managed as he dueled his hair, he finished with it firmly in place.
Aaron entered the bedroom suite and quickly changed into an undershirt, a dark blue polo, some khakis, tan socks and hiking sneakers, his belt and watch joined the ensemble as Spencer walked into the room to gather his own clothes. A stray sleep-shirt made its way to the corner of the bed as Spencer tossed it past his lover.
For a moment Aaron wondered if he should lose the belt, but realized he lost his chance after Spencer pulled on a collarless cotton muscle-t. It didn't seem right to call the shirt that, not on Spencer, but it was fitted and looked more like something Derek would wear versus Spencer, not like Aaron had any problems with the view though. His lover pulled a vest on over it and put on a pair of darker khakis himself. After he hoisted on a 'pair' of socks, one purple, the other mostly blue with thin mustard-yellow horizontal stripes, he pulled on his chucks and stood.
"Ok, let's get some breakfast then head out." Spencer grinned.
"How many bottles of water should we bring? Should we grab a lunch on the way over?"
A soft laugh played on their lips. "We haven't even had breakfast yet and you're talking about lunch, Aaron. You must be hungry. As long as they have coffee in that pot, I'll be happy."
"Oh, so it's a conditional with me, is that it?" Aaron opted to turn the tables on the jab, and as a result earned himself a reason to corner his lover and make him 'kiss to make up'. Spencer was more than happy to.
"Well, I wouldn't say it's a condition on our relationship, more like on my existence really. I always find days that have coffee in them to just go… better."
Aaron took hold of Spencer's hand for a brief stroll down the hallway after he double-checked his pocket for the room-key. His lover managed to snag his satchel and Aaron seriously wondered if his lover planned to use that to carry hiking supplies.
After an hour and a half car-ride the pair pulled into a parking lot surrounded by tall pines. The shady place was deserted of cars beyond their rental which only induced a larger grin from Spencer. "According to the brochure, from the parking lot we have about a half-mile hike until it gets interesting."
"Well, lead the way," Aaron offered, Spencer adjusted his satchel that contained two sandwiches, four bottles of water, an apple and a candy bar courtesy of their bed and breakfast inn.
"You know, I could carry that…" Aaron offered, but Spencer merely shrugged it off, he was used to larger loads in it, if anything.
"I have it." He smiled. They walked toward a packed-dirt trail that ambled between the trees.
Aaron felt incredibly free. He felt completely unencumbered. He smiled his uncharacteristic smile at his lover and at nothing at all. He moved along at a good pace as he enjoyed the coolness of the morning, the mottled sunlight through the trees. The half mile was completed before he realized it. The stiffness in his muscles from the horse-ride the day before had been barely worked out when they reached what looked like a cave entrance.
Spencer stared, dumbstruck at the trail as it stopped directly and without any tributary, in front of a massive cave. His brows narrowed, "This… can't be right. Maybe we took the wrong trail… did you see another one at the parking lot?"
"It's the only trail, Spencer, it was marked the whole way. It's just a short walk-through isn't it? Let's check the map." Aaron looked at Spencer; he tried to discern if the younger man was up to traverse through the cave. "Let's just go in, it'll be fine. It's not all that bad- and there's light through the whole thing."
He took a deep unsteady breath, "…Alright, fine… we are here… but still it's only an hour and a half drive back…"
"Oh, live a little," Aaron goaded, he could see the wheels in Spencer's head turn as he recalled something Aaron had said to him earlier.
'My sense of adventure is about 13 clicks north of yours…' He swallowed hard to get the knot in his throat to drop with it. This trip was for Aaron, a chance for the man to just get to relax and not worry about every little thing. If his lover really would enjoy a romp through a pitch black hole in a mountain… he could entertain that whim. Aaron had put up with some pretty outlandish ones of his, it was only fair.
He looked at the cave, okay, maybe not fair. It wasn't like it was pitch black in there though… he locked eyes with his lover. Aaron took hold of his hand and they both mutually started to move into it.
Spencer let out a tight breath he had held as he entered. This… was manageable. In the center of the spacious cavern was a well-lit map with the four sister chambers to the main entrance. By the size indicators, this was the second largest, the first largest was straight ahead after a narrower cavern that joined the two, to the left and to the right were two other smaller caverns, each interconnected and each with distinctive natural arcs and informational placards for guests to explore.
Voice covered with a hint of hesitance, Spencer pointed to the chamber on the left-hand side, it was a thinner, longer cavern, but it wasn't the thinnest of the possible choices. "We… could check out this one…"
Aaron did his best to 'ignore' the shrill rise at the end of the sentence, he gave Spencer the courtesy to assume he knew his own limits. He didn't, however, delude himself into thinking Spencer was happy about this.
With a shiver, Spencer went into the smaller chamber, his hands hugged his arms as he trudged forward. The map indicated this cavern would connect back to the other larger cavern through a small natural arc, but there was no way… not a one- that Spencer was going to look for THAT. As it was, only half the cavern was lit, as if to guide the eye in the direction of suggested travel. Had he thought it was for any other reason, he'd have hauled ass out of there and never look back lest he turn to a pillar of salt.
His breath drew in harder when the lights flickered.
"Aaron… what was that?" He turned around to look for Aaron, he could have sworn the man was just behind him! "Aaron…?"
He scanned around the cavern, the lights shone throughout more of it now, he was sure he saw more now than he had just before but he wasn't sure why. He could see his lover as he marveled at an arc in splendor. For a moment he felt foolish, worked up over a flicker in the lights, it wasn't like they even gave out or anything! He turned around to look at some of the natural stones he was closer to.
One looked particularly impressive, he called over his shoulder toward Aaron, "Aaron, take a look at this… I… I think it's a land-bridge." He smiled, his face suddenly vaulted as the lights did power down completely. He heard a distant sound, a rolling clap of thunder, except that he had checked the weather for the area this morning and there wasn't a cloud in the sky. He had a very, very bad feeling suddenly.
He heard a much louder clatter then, and felt the ground shift. The change in ground stability knocked him to his rear, in mere seconds from his fall he probed his hands and scuttled back against the first wall his hands could land on. When he felt cold and wet, he quickly withdrew his hands and tried another direction. He could hear the faint sounds of dust as it settled and fell from above head. Eyes wide, he couldn't make out in the pitch dark what exactly he was near, but he knew he wanted to get away from any entry-ways that might collapse given the shift. He hauled ass to the closest 'center' of the cavern he could manage then pulled his legs to his chest and covered his head.
"AARON! WHERE ARE YOU?" He closed his eyes tightly, this could not be happening! This was a cave in… a CAVE IN…! He forced in a deep, shaken breath again.
Aaron'd been staring in wonder at a forest of arches and niches. The colors were fascinating to him, he felt most of his life was too much black and white. His stomach dipped suddenly when he felt the cave shudder, the earth moved beneath him. Hotch felt his breath catch in his chest. "Oh shit," he whispered as the lights blinked and with finality, went out.
"Spencer?" he called, just then he realized that they hadn't stayed together once they got into the cave.
Aaron started to run toward where he remembered Spencer to be. The earth movement had brought down part of the room. He was trapped and Spencer wasn't with him. The entrance to the entry cavern was also gone, filled with rocks. It was completely dark. "Fuck," he whispered to himself. "Reid!" he called and realized his voice sounded muffled. He rubbed at his ear and then his eyes.
He rushed again to the rock fall that he just knew Spencer was on the other side of. If Spencer wasn't under the rock-fall, that was. He couldn't stop trying to get to Reid. He started to pull the rocks away from the fall.
"A…Aaron! This isn't funny… answer me!" Spencer tried for what felt like had to be the eighth time. "Aaron? Hotch!"
He pulled his arms tightly around his chest as his eyes scanned the pitch black for anything, any recognizable feature, but it was too dark. Much too dark to see, but not too dark to imagine the things that lurked there. He let out a shiver, "Hotch!"
He told himself to calm down, and when that didn't work, Spencer told himself that karrenfelds were solution grooves within a limestone surface within a cave and named after a Karst, which is a type of cave and a region in Slovenia where they were named after the common water-coursed caves therein.
"Aaron… Aaron where are you?" He let his voice carry, his body tightened at the way sound reverberated, it was all around him. He could swear he heard something squeak. "Caves are formed between the phreatic or saturated zone and the vadose or unsaturated zone. The vadose zone is where air and water mix while the phreatic zone is below the water-table…" He swallowed thickly, his mouth felt dry. "AARON! AARON COME ON!"
He pulled at his hair, it was taking too much time! Aaron should have heard him by now! "AARON!" he shrilled, real panic started to kick in. It wasn't just about the dark anymore… Aaron wasn't coming when he called… Aaron ALWAYS came when Spencer would call, therefore, the only reason Aaron wouldn't come when he called would be because he couldn't… and the only way Aaron would EVER leave Spencer in a situation like this… his mind refused to fill in the logic, it was already too hard to breathe. He felt his entire body tremble. "AARON! AARON WHERE ARE YOU! Damn it… Hotch… you have to be alright…" he let out a hoarse whisper, "…the fuck am I supposed to do, how am I going to get out if you're not here with me… AAR-ON!"
He closed his tear-filled eyes, it was cold, dark, wet, and god only knew what else!
"Spencer. Spencer," he yelled. He stopped himself to hone in on any sounds. His watch showed him he'd been a half hour. Spencer must be frantic, he thought. Fuck I shouldn't have talked him into coming in here. Why did I push him? "Spencer!" he repeated.
Then there was a far off whisper of his own name. Spencer was on the other side of this wall of rock. He kept at pulling down rocks and trying to push himself forward.
"Aaron!" Spencer clapped a hand over his mouth to keep from physically emptying his too-tight stomach. "Aaron, thank god… are… are you alright?"
"I'm fine, really Spencer. There isn't a clear way to get to where you are… I'm looking though, so hold tight."
Spencer could feel his heart clench in his chest at that, "You… you're not leaving me here are you?"
"Of course not, Vegas, I just …have to find a way to get TO you… Hey, would I ever leave you here? Come on Spencer this is me, it took me forever to get you to be with me, no way are you getting away from me so easily. You'll be fine love, you will be. I'll get to you and then we'll get out of here. You just have to hang in there while I get some of this rock out of the way. Fucking rock… Spencer, talk to me…"
"D…Did you know… in-n Limestone Caves s-sometimes carbon dioxide can be at c-caustic levels… it's the r-result of-f…" he swallowed thickly, "Of the carbon released from the ground water as it dissolves into calcite… w-which makes Karst formations in limestone…"
"You have to take deep breaths, Spencer. That's not what's happening…"
"I-I KNOW that… I… I'm having a panic attack, okay? I… I'm sorry, I didn't mean t-to yell…" He buried his face in his thighs and let a sob wrack through him. "I just… want to get back to the car… Aaron… I want to go home…"
"Hey, you know what to do with that right. Put your head down low, right. Breathe slow."
Aaron felt the rocks give way, He felt his ankle go as he slid down part of a rock fall. "Stupid," he called himself over and over as he sat and rubbed at his ankle, but forced himself to focus on how to get to Spencer... "Focus," he said aloud. He bent down and tightened the boot around the bad ankle.
"Just talk to me so I can find you," he rubbed hard at the ankle. "Stupid, fuck," he whispered to himself and kept moving the rocks.
"…Aaron?" Spencer lifted his head to look toward the source of the noise. "Aaron, what was that?" He swallowed thickly, his throat felt so tight. He could feel the bite of his shoulder strap from his satchel, "…W… We have four bottles of-f water, I… I need to t-take a drink… ok…?"
"Take a swallow, I'm on my way."
"A-Aren't you getting ahead of y-yourself…" Spencer said, as he desperately tried to calm down, he knew it wasn't working, but he just wanted to hear his lover respond, almost more than he needed that sip of water. His hand dug through his bag and pulled out the first bottle. With a quick twist he opened the new bottle and took a mouthful before he tightly recapped the bottle and slid it back into his bag. He let it stay on his tongue for a while before he gulped it down, he let out a soft wispy breath. With his eyes closed tight, he let his head loll back, he took in mouthfuls of air at a time, he had to calm down, he was getting light headed now.
"Aaron… say something…" his voice sounded far away even to his own ears, "…I don't want to be alone in this place, it's too much…" He could feel his heart jump back into his throat, he wondered if he was going to pass out.
Finally there were no rocks at hand. He hoped that the other side wasn't going to be a long fall. "Fuck it," he said as he pulled clear of the rock face. He felt around and didn't feel the floor where he thought it had been on the other side. Oh well, he thought, how far could the fall be? And right at that moment he thought of his phone. Light, he thought, oh man why hadn't he thought of this before. He fished in his pants pocket, and found broken bits of plastic.
His mood plummeted, as he assumed his body soon would when he pulled out to the other side of the wall. It would've been better if he could have done this feet-first. Too late, he nearly smiled to himself.
Without another thought he pulled his body through and allowed himself to fall.
There was a bare moment of freefall and the ground came up to meet him. He hit his chin and nose and hard on his chest. "Crap… Spencer? Spencer...?"
"Hotch," came a very small sound.
"Spencer please talk to me, I can't find you…"
"Hotch, oh Aaron, Aaron…"
Aaron dragged himself toward the muffled sound of Spencer's voice. It took seconds until he held his lover to him. "Shhh, shh, it's okay Spencer. I'm so sorry. So sorry… Spencer? Spencer, can you hear me…?"
His lover felt cold, and more frightfully, still. His hand traversed Spencer's neck, cupping his head near his jaw. With his hearing strained he could just barely make out the sound of very rapid, shallow breaths. He winced, Spencer was hyperventilating.
"Shh, shh Spencer, I'm here. I'm here, can you feel me here? Holding you, can you feel me Spencer? Please breathe for me Spencer. That's right. Good… Good."
Spencer's breathing seemed to even a little. He truly hated fucking passing out.
"Hotch, Aaron is it really you...?" He felt doubtful; sure only that his mind was still playing tricks on him.
"Right here, I'm right here with you."
Spencer smiled into the dark. "I knew you'd find me."
Not as sure, Aaron whispered, "Always, I'll always find you."
"We need to get out of here, Spencer. Can you remember a way out of here? I know the maps are in your head."
"I…I only had a glance at the layout."
"Come on Spencer, think, you're good at this," Aaron worked at getting his lover to focus on something other than his fear.
"I'm sorry, Aaron can you hold me just a little longer..."
"Of course, sure, you're going to have to help us get out of here, right. You can do that, I know you can."
His breathing started to feel tight and uncomfortable. He shook his head, he had to listen to his lover, his objective, calm lover. Spencer tried breathing slower. Better, it was a little better. He held onto the man who held him in his arms. He hid his face in his lover's shoulder, just for a moment he thought. In a flash he realized that Aaron's hands were wet, it was cold and really Aaron had the driest hands. Blood.
Suddenly completely calm he said, "Aaron you're bleeding."
"I… I'm fine. The walls are wet."
"No, that feels different. What's happening Aaron? You aren't okay!"
"Uhhh moving the rocks, some were sharp that's all. I'll be fine."
"Do you have any idea about how easily this can get infected? We have to get out of here…"
"I know." Hotch searched the dark again. And for just a split moment he thought he saw light. "Spencer, light, look," and he moved Spencer's face to the small pinhole of light.
"Oh man, we can go that direction. Let me think, let me think." His mind drew up a map of the caverns. "There's a natural arch- that should lead us toward it."
Aaron smiled unseen. "Great. Let's get ourselves together and move toward it."
Spencer stood slowly, still sensitive to and over-aware of the intense darkness. He looked in the direction he knew Aaron sat, where his lover had sat with him, where he held him like a small child. Spencer's heart ached with love. He reached out and touched Aaron's shoulder, only he missed a bit and instead found a slight scuffed chin then down to his shoulder and offered his hand.
It was only then that Aaron realized that his ankle wouldn't hold him. "I can't, you go ahead. My ankle, I slipped on the rock-fall."
"I'm not going by myself!"
"Please Spencer, go and get help."
"No, we go together." He bent down and touched Aaron's face, unseen in the dark. He felt the man shiver. Spencer quickly undid the buttons on his vest. "Here, put on my vest."
"No, I'm fine, you need it more than me."
"Put on the damned vest, Aaron. You go into shock, I'll get pissed off."
Aaron bristled and frowned, two useless occupations to consider in the dark. He was cold. He was tired. "Fine." He allowed.
Then to his horror, Spencer helped him into it. "You can't button it, but it should really help."
"I'll be perfectly fine." He struggled to his feet. He leaned on Spencer's shoulder and they slowly started toward what they hoped was the direction of the exit.
The pair moved through the rough outlines of the cavern, Aaron could feel the bound in Spencer's heart beat pressed so close to him. This was the working Spencer, the stand up and do something even when it felt truly impossible, he was proud of his agent and his lover.
Spencer made sweeping motions with his left hand, his right side and arm were being used to keep Aaron hoisted up-right. It would figure Aaron would injure his left foot, he was left handed, so his body would naturally lead with his left side.
"The term sinister is from the Latin term for left, the connotation of evil was probably based on the ability of a left-handed swordsman to get through a right-handed swordsman's defenses so easily and claim so many lives…" Spencer mentioned. Aaron gave a nod.
He had an idea where this came from, he also recalled a few teachers and rulers and a blatant disregard for his sidedness. Aaron kept his eyes locked on the opening; it had to be five hundred feet away.
"Are you suggesting I should take up fencing?" Aaron added, with each sentence his lover grew more confident, it was either the sight of the light or a task to focus on, but that didn't matter. Momentarily he allowed the thought to hit him that he was so incredibly lucky that he had heard Spencer before the man had passed out.
"…Hmm, I don't think you're supposed to take a sword to a gun-fight. Don't really recall where I heard that gem from." Spencer smiled faintly.
"Indiana Jones… Seriously, Spencer… we only watched it last month."
"Well excuse me for only having an eidetic memory. Last I heard, that was supposed to save the day though… so…" He stopped when he felt a column with his hand. "…We have to get around some obstacles."
Aaron did his best to hold more of his own weight. Spencer sounded winded, "You're still carrying your satchel aren't you?"
"Yeah… did… did you need some water?" Spencer stopped in his tracks, his right hand quickly dove into the bag.
"No, I'm fine…"
"…You're lying. Besides, you're bleeding. You should hydrate. And… and we should rinse your hand out… what was I thinking? We should've done this five minutes ago!" Spencer chided himself.
"Spencer, seriously my hands are fine, they're not bothering me at all." Aaron closed his eyes, as he tried to make that true. "Let's just keep moving."
Spencer stood still. "I'm not moving 'til you at least drink something and rinse some blood off your hands, you're bleeding through my shirt, Aaron."
"Oh, sorry, but its fine… we need to move more than I need to rinse my hands." He sighed deeply when he realized Spencer wasn't fucking moving.
"…Let's agree to disagree," Spencer deadpanned, not particularly thrilled, "Take some." He put the water in Aaron's hand and a few moments later Aaron returned the uncapped bottle.
"Thanks," Aaron said in a hushed tone.
"…You probably won't feel that way for long. Injured hand." Spencer put his hand out, in the dark it was impossible for Aaron to see where, but he felt the heat near him, Spencer felt hot actually. He wondered about that, if anything wouldn't his lover be more cold? He put his hand near Spencer's elbow and Spencer locked his forearm with his hand before he poured the cool water onto the bloody-wet hand.
Aaron gritted his teeth, he refused to make a sound of protest, he didn't want Spencer to apologize for helping him. He already felt like enough of a bastard for forcing the young man into this position. Why did he have to push Spencer? He knew he'd try it if Aaron had made it a request, Spencer rarely denied his requests. He felt so selfish, so loved… but selfish.
Spencer felt Aaron's arm tense, after he finished off the bottle of water on irrigating the hand he slipped the bottle back into his satchel and retrieved a handkerchief. He let it unfold with a shake and then wrapped it around Aaron's hand. He made a make-shift surgeon knot, something easy enough to do and secure even if he couldn't see it.
"…Alright, let's get out of here," Spencer said; he again took up part of Aaron's weight as they trudged around the column, Aaron continued to watch the light like a hawk and Spencer continued to grope blindly in front of them both for any additional obstacles.
After another few yards, Spencer stopped in his tracks. Aaron waited for him to say something as the young man continued to probe through the air. He heard it then, Spencer's breathing hitch so tightly.
"Spencer, what's wrong?"
He heard his lover swallow thickly. He waited for him to reply, he didn't.
"…T-there's an opening… but…but it's really narrow Aaron." Aaron reached forward and groped the cavern walls himself. The opening that led directly to the light had to be at best 20 inches, his hand dropped lower and realized it pinched in, it was an uneven terrain. He steeled himself, this was going to be fantastically painful.
"It's okay, we can manage this."
"No we CAN'T… Aaron… that… it… it's too much!" Spencer's breathing was getting much too shallow for Aaron's preferences.
"REID." The sharpness acted as a slap to Spencer's attentions. It seemed to work because he heard his lover take in a longer breath, "I need you to focus. We have a way out, you want to get out, don't you?"
Spencer nodded his head emphatically, "I do… I… I can't though… I can't… and y-you can't… there's no way with your ankle…"
"Try me. Come on Spencer, we need to get out of here, no question. Right? And this is the way out. We can do this. Listen, you have to help me do this Spencer. And I'll help you. Come on we're the best team out there. Between you and me, we can do anything. Please Spencer. Breathe deep for me Spencer. Help me."
Spencer leaned into the wall, he felt dizzy. Aaron let out another reminder for him to take deep breaths, recommendations his body refused to entertain. He took a double swallow of air, though, as if to steady himself.
"I… I have t-to go in first, r-right?" He said in a rhetorical tone. He let his back hit the wall and held Aaron's hand as he started to slide in. Once he got a foot in, he pulled Aaron's arm over his shoulder and tucked his right arm around Aaron's waist to pull their hips closer. He didn't mention how sore his own hip was getting after shimmying halfway through the tight impasse.
He halted when he felt a ledge of rock that hit his knee. "A…Aaron, the opening is getting… s-smaller." His hand went to grope to see how long it would go on like that, Aaron heard the sound of his lover dry-heave.
He fought valiantly to keep down his breakfast, "…It… we're… we're going to have to crawl." Spencer took Aaron's hand and guided it along the opening.
"You're doing great, Spencer. I know this isn't easy for you… how are you holding up?"
"I… am… never… going in… a cave… again. Ever." His body shook hard, "Case or no case."
Aaron let out a soft laugh, "You say that now, but…"
Spencer stopped moving forward. "No, I'm serious. I… I can't DO this sort of thing." He bowed his head, he felt ashamed and defeated. Here he was, closer to light but he couldn't feel closer to a cemetery in Georgia where he literally had to dig his own grave. His body gave another shiver.
Aaron wasn't sure if that was fear or cold, it was possibly both.
"Spencer, you have to stay focused now, we're almost out. Almost there, come on we'll get there, I'd lead us out if I could Spencer, you know that. But you've got to do this. You can do this. It's not much farther." Aaron felt his own energy start to fail him, but set his mind away from the feeling. "Move Spencer."
Somehow, Spencer continued to creep forward, he was sure the sound of his bounding heart, which made his chest ache terribly, was louder than anything Aaron may have said behind him. He could see it now, the rock-face with a crack of light. His hand touched forward.
"No… NO!" Spencer screamed. It startled Aaron to hear, actually.
"It… it's a crack in a solid rock…" His breathing was back to hyperventilating in an instant. "There's no way out… we're… we're in this tight little g…grave… we're gonna die… we're gonna…" He gave up talking to opt to breathe even more shallowly. He felt the sudden cold need for dilaudid move through him. It hit him all at once. If he could shoot up just this once he could face this…
"Snap out of it! I'm… going to climb over you, see if there's anything loose…"
Spencer curled toward the wall, Aaron was fairly certain it was fetal position, he softened his tone. "Come on, I would never let you stay in a place like this… we're going to find a way out, Spencer. Really. Wait… I… I feel something with a little give. Come on, Spencer, help me out here!"
Aaron worked to push some rocks, some crumbled, some pushed out which increased the light while some poured in, the hole grew even more, now it was two inches, enough for ambient light (after his pupils adjusted) to confirm Spencer really was curled in on himself, he looked more like a candidate for shock than Aaron.
"Spencer for god's sake help me! You have to help me do this!"
He moved to kneel behind Spencer. He placed a bloody and now filthy handkerchief covered hand on his lover's shoulder. "Spencer, if you help me I can get us out of here. You've gotten us this far, don't give up now. You can't fucking give up now that we're almost out."
Spencer straightened and got to his knees to face Aaron. He reached out to him and Aaron embraced him tightly.
"Let's do this." Spencer asserted.
Enough rock came down for Spencer to be able to shimmy out, Aaron looked at his lover with all seriousness. "Spencer, go. Help dig out from the outside."
"I can't just leave you in here!"
"Reid, it's an ORDER, go."
His lover shook, his hands were sore from how he had shifted the rocks and shoved them out, his arms were jelly, his legs and thighs were worse, he didn't even think he'd be able to stand up after he got outside, let alone dig more…
"I'm not leaving you behind." His voice was forceful, not an ounce of hesitation, and though he was afraid there was no fear in his voice at all. Aaron let out a sigh, he pushed more rock out and scooped at the hole as it grew. After another ten minutes it was large enough for Aaron to squeeze through, it would be tight, but he'd be able to.
"Spencer, come on, you need to go first." Aaron insisted, this time his lover complied, he spilled out of the hole easily then tumbled down the three foot decline and managed to tear his khakis and bloody up his knee a little. He staggered back onto his feet with the grace of a new-born deer, hand shaky with fatigue and loss of adrenalin, he offered it to Aaron and helped pull him through.
Spencer put his foot against the incline to give Aaron a pull to help get him through the tight fit, it ended with Aaron on top of him, sprawled on a pile of uncomfortable rocks with a wince.
"Sorry… sorry are you okay Spencer?"
"Will be…" He latched his arms around Aaron and buried his face into Aaron's neck.
They allowed themselves several minutes before they each looked over to the trail. The old entrance to the cave was no more than fifty feet away. A walk on the trail would definitely be easier on the bad ankle and the weary muscles than any more of that.
Spencer stood and helped Aaron up. Aaron's good ankle protested and he nearly fell over as he tried to compensate by a shift in body weight onto the bad one. He swore as he put a little more weight on Spencer's offered hand and they nearly ended up back on the ground. But Aaron and Spencer worked to stay upright and within moments they were cresting a small rise that would lead to the trail.
The Park Rangers seemed to appear from nowhere.
"You boys need some help?" the Park Ranger smiled. "That your car down below?"
Reid nodded, happier than he could remember being in a while. "Yeah, that's us. My friend here fell during the cave in, I think his ankle is severely sprained and he's got some serious cuts on his hands."
The Rangers helped the two men onto the trail and sat them both down gently. First aid was fast and efficient.
Spencer found it odd that the Rangers kept talking to him rather than Hotch. Then suddenly realized that Hotch had reached the point in exhaustion where his only answers were yes and no and he seemed to say them at random. Within minutes more rangers had arrived and Spencer and Aaron were helped down to the parking lot. It looked like a conference of park rangers down there.
After the quake, the entire ranger staff was on the mountain to check for evidence of slides. When they'd gotten to the entrance cave and saw the one car parked and the cave entrance blocked, they'd walked the mountain to look for Hotch and Reid. They thanked Reid for registering online for the morning.
Hotch finally seemed back to himself after they reached the parking lot and the IV the EMT had in him. They were rushed to an urgent care facility in the small village that they'd had dinner in the night before. Both were rehydrated, Spencer with cool water and Aaron with IVs and then with water once they felt he was well enough. They were released a few hours later with the park picking up the tab. Aaron with crutches, a stabilizing boot, hands that looked mummified in bandages and enough pain killers and antibiotics that Spencer's messenger bag seemed pregnant. Spencer walked out with his own set of bandaged hands, his knee wrapped and instructions to ice his shoulders and knee when he needed it. He was given some instant ice packs and more bandages, because they were both told to try to keep the bandages dry and visit their own physicians once they were back home.
The pair arrived back at the inn well after sunset.
"I suggest dinner in," Aaron mentioned, Spencer didn't even bother with a nod he just muttered what Aaron was sure was some variant of 'yeah.' He squeezed his lover's arm.
"So, what's on the agenda for tomorrow…?"
"Suddenly I get why my mom didn't want to leave her bed ever," Spencer said dryly, still shaken from the ordeal. "…I'm done playing planner. Whatever you want to do is fine… I'm partial to a quiet reading day before we head back."
"I get that too. So let's let tomorrow take care of itself. I did see a bookstore in the village, maybe when we get up we can check it out?"
"I can call room service for tonight."
Aaron looked with longing at the bathroom and the shower. "Let me shower first?"
"Give me a minute, I'll help. I just need to sit for a minute."
Aaron put his crutches against the wall. He took the one step to where Spencer stood silent, so isolated.
"Spencer, I'm here. You don't have to go through this alone. You got us out of there. I owe you."
"I was scared shitless, and you know that. You yelled at me, you were the one injured and you had to ask to be helped. I'm fucking useless."
Aaron held Spencer to him. Their near-matching heights made it easy to stand like this. He gently encouraged Spencer to rest his head on his shoulder. "Please, Spencer just please, know that I'm here and I love you. And I yell at everybody from time to time. I get you Spencer Reid, I love you for who you are."
"Ewww, but yeah, warts included," Aaron said he jutted out a little tongue.
"I'll start the water, you start undressing, can you?"
"I might need some help even with that."
He hugged Aaron to him. "Okay, let's get you unwrapped first." And he started to unwrap his lover's hands, the cuts looked only slightly pink, the few stitches on his right hand had a healthy look. He nodded to himself. "Aaron, back there."
Aaron looked deeply into his lover's eyes. "I know, but tell me."
"I kept thinking about digging my own grave, Henkel, you know…"
"Suddenly these years of being clean meant nothing. I knew if I could just take that one shot…"
"That everything would be easier."
"Yeah. That the fear, the pain, it'd all be gone."
He nodded again, "It'd be easy."
"It was so strong. I should be better, be over this by now."
Aaron held Spencer to him. "I know, I know. But you're here now."
Spencer smiled into Aaron's neck. "And I'm not going to beat you up for your Vicodin."
"Oh, thank god, because I am so going to need one or two really soon."
"Come on gimp, let me get you into the shower."
They both got out of bandages and plastic bagged hands and ankles and washed off the dirt of the cave. Spencer carefully washed Aaron's hair and Aaron wistfully watched as Spencer doused his own head.
Aaron worked to rewrap his hand back up because, "I can fucking do it," Aaron fumed.
Spencer ordered dinner and figured out how the gas fireplace worked.
They were both so cold.
Spencer woke to the sound of rain. He loved rain when he knew he didn't have to be out in it. But he got out of bed anyway, dressed, checked that his fitful sleeping companion was still truly asleep then slipped out of the room.
He went to the small on-site restaurant and ordered breakfast then made his way to the lobby where he'd noticed a small bookcase the first day of their stay. He scanned the titles of the books and selected several for himself and two classic mysteries that he thought Aaron might like. Then he tipped the bellhop to help him get two cups of coffee back to the room.
Spencer attempted to smell the brew once he set everything down but only managed a sniffle. He ignored the dull ache that ran through his body as he went over to Aaron with a cup of brew. "Morning Aaron," he breathed.
With a stir, Aaron sat up groggily, he vaguely recalled being hit by a mountain the day before and that explained plenty for him. He took hold of the coffee and took a deep drink before he cracked his eyes more. He ran the back of his left hand down Spencer's cheek. His eyes seemed to focus more when he felt how warm his lover was.
Spencer, who completely missed the point, smiled, "Oh really…?" He leaned over his lover.
"…You have a fever," Aaron tried again.
His lover gave him a look as if unfamiliar with that phrase.
Aaron tried again, "You have a fever, you should lay back down."
"I feel fine, Aaron. Maybe you're cold…?" Spencer asked, suddenly his nose itched fiercely, he let out a deep sneeze followed by a cough to clear his throat. "We have one day left here and tomorrow off before we're due back in the office. I'm not about to let this trip end on a sour note on the account of a cold. I've worked through worse," He said in a dead-pan. Aaron could see the minefield his lover had laid for himself.
"Fine, then let's go to the village, explore the local museums and find that bookstore."
"Ah, but I have everything arranged for a day indoors, we've been rained out of the museum day."
With a look toward their balcony window, Aaron realized that the weather had changed and instead of the expected blue sky was a low grey. He put his head back down on the pillow. "I concede," he said.
"Good," Spencer rumbled, "because breakfast is on its way, and I have books. I intend to start the fire over in the fireplace and I think there's football."
"You do come up with an outstanding itinerary." Aaron yawned and turned on his side, swore lightly then turned back to his back. "Damn foot."
Spencer laughed and sneezed at about the same time. "Oh wait," with a slight of hand produced a pair of flannel sleep-pants that had the words, Welcome to the Poconos emblazoned all over them. "They'll be easier to get into and out of."
Aaron had just a split second where he debated to say, ain't gonna happen, to a small smile of appreciation. He'd lose them in the laundry at home if he really had to.
With Spencer's help he slipped out of his boxers and into the pajamas. He had to admit he warmed up pretty quickly. When room service arrived with breakfast, they were both in the little sitting room near the fire.
After breakfast they sat and read until it was nearly time to leave for the airport.
"Thanks for this weekend Spencer."
"You are joking, right?"
"No, there were some really great parts."
Spencer still looked at Aaron as if in shock, he sneezed.
"Well the cold was unexpected."
Spencer shook his head. "Aaron you realize you're black and blue from chin to ankle?"
"It doesn't matter."
"Aaron Hotchner, I will never understand you. And what I really will never understand is that you actually do understand me."
Aaron shrugged, smiled slightly. "At least I didn't mess up my shoulder again."
With that Spencer got up and started to pack for them to leave. He started to sneeze and laugh and cough. "No one knows you're nuts, Aaron."
Sam Keen said; "You come to love not by finding the perfect person, but by seeing an imperfect person perfectly."