Misery & Co.

The entire team finished their reports at about the same time. And for one of the few times in the six years most of them had been together, every one of the seven was leaving at the same time.

Spencer took a step from his desk toward the elevator when Morgan grabbed him playfully by the back of the neck. "Hey pretty boy, up for a burger and a beer? We'll take a taxi."

"Uh, sure, I need to get this case out of my head."

Hotch in back of them was only slightly surprised, he wanted to do the same. His choice of course would be to see Jack as soon as possible.

Spencer slowed to walk a step or two with Hotch. "Look, I'm not coming home tonight, okay?"

"Sure, have a good time." He frowned and watched Spencer walk away from him. He shook his head then said, "Spencer?"

By then half the group was in the elevator and the doors closed.

CM1

Spencer laughed and drank some more of his beer. "This really is awful, Morgan."

"What, the beer? We aren't here for the beer, just the effects."

"Morgan what is this stuff? I've had beer before, this is just not the same. Think I'll get something that'll get me to the effects quicker."

"It's the house draught, it's supposed to be good." He took a sip. "You're right, let's go someplace where we can get a St Pauli."

"If I'm gonna drink it, it might as well be good, right?" Spencer was already feeling the warming effects of the beer. He grinned at Morgan.

They walked a short way up the road to another of the bars in the middle class neighborhood. "Now this place has great micro brews." Morgan hoped the walk would help clear his friend's head.

Spencer nodded only vaguely aware of what that might really mean.

"Your best, my man," Morgan smiled at the bartender and as expected, got a mini-Reid lecture on beer. They settled on a pale-ale and sat as they drank and spoke about the case and the plane. Morgan then bought a pitcher of a darker, heartier brew and gave Reid a look that set the younger man on edge.

"So what're you running away from pretty boy?" Morgan was fairly sure Reid had had enough to drink to talk to him about what was happening. He had been surprised when Reid had had the beer with his burger and even more surprised when he asked Morgan if he'd like a drink somewhere else. But if his best friend was throwing sobriety to the winds he'd be there to pick up the pieces, if he could.

"Not from anything, just wanting to drink, you know, to get over the case." Spencer drew circles in the condensation on the table. "Sometimes it's just a case like this is too much. I hate it when it's kids."

"Yeah, I get that. You know I don't believe that's all it is. I saw how you put Hotch off the last few days."

"Yeah well I just wanted to be on my own tonight. Sometimes I feel too closed in. Like he doesn't really trust me or really love me." He poured another glass of the beer. His sixth if Morgan hadn't missed any.

Morgan raised both brows. "I don't think drinking is gonna fix that, man."

"Well I can cert'nly give it a try."

After another round of drinks Morgan decided he now needed rest more than beer. "You want me to drive you home? Or we could share a taxi? I could call Garcia or Hotch."

"No, no don' call Hotch. M' god Morgan, I'm drunk. I can't go home drunk." He grinned and then winced.

Morgan frowned, "How about my couch for the night? But you've got to talk with Hotch, man."

"I need t' get my things. I's late they'll be asleep, I'll slip in an' get some clothes an' things."

"Not a great idea man. You've had a bit too much to drink."

Spencer could feel that he wasn't sober, but figured he could get into Hotch's place, get some clothes and slip out without Aaron or Jack noticing. He also gave a moment's thought that this might be drunk logic but dismissed it.

"I'm fine, I can just slip righ' in. Hotch'll nev'r know an' I'll talk to him tom tommer at work. 'Splain to him."

Morgan gave him a half grin, "I have a feeling you're gonna have a lot of 'splaining to do."

He could only frown at what Morgan thought was a great joke.

They caught a taxi just outside the bar and made the trip into Georgetown without any trouble. Spencer did feel an uncontrollable urge to nap against Morgan's shoulder, but only yawned and giggled at himself. He got a little maudlin when he thought about how Hotch really wouldn't understand at all. "Fuck Hotch," he said.

And Morgan lifted an imaginary glass in the air. "Fuck 'em all." He rejoined.

CM2

The house was completely dark and Spencer's mood seemed to change with it. He was about to go into the Townhouse he and Hotch had shared for over a year now. The first place he'd ever really thought of as home. The place he was sure that Hotch had loved him and where he was now equally sure that the man was about to leave him. That Hotch did not trust him was clear, that he would not love someone he did not trust was crystal clear to Reid's mind. Why should he trust me, Reid mumbled. Dr. Spencer Reid, addict with more issues than Scientific American.

It now occurred to him that if he left first he wouldn't deal so much with one of the issues.

He quietly unlocked the front door and tapped in the security code on the alarm system, on the second try the all clear light came on. Not so drunk I couldn't remember the numbers and punch them in. He was pleased with himself.

Keeping a hand on one wall he walked down the hall, he saw the nightlight was on. Jack, he thought. He made his way to the master suite, the door was ajar so he swiftly got in, though his shoulder seemed to be in the way, and then closed the door. It squeaked only a little. He held his breath.

"Spencer?" Hotch said sleepily. "I thought you were going to stay at Morgan's tonight."

"Don't worry Aaron, I'm only getting clothes for a while."

"For a while?"

"I'm going to stay on my own for awhile."

"What? What's happening Spencer?"

"Look Hotch..."

"Hotch? Spencer this is our house." Hotch got up out of bed, shirtless and still rumpled from sleep, his short hair standing nearly on end.

"Look Hotch, you don't understand what's happening."

"Tell me Spencer, tell me and I can make it better."

"You, you don't f'ckin' trust me anymore, you treat me like I c'n't do my job-!" Spencer was getting himself confused. His words slurred.

"Spencer, you're drunk."

"Yes, 'cause I thought you'd always love me, you, you..." Spencer stalled.

"I do love you Spencer, you have to know that!"

"Nope, I can't tell." Spencer leaned down to get a few shirts out of the chest of drawers. He felt slightly dizzy, slightly giddy.

Aaron moved over to where Spencer bent over the chest. Spencer looked at Hotch in the mirror, he was nearly lost in the sadness of his eyes. He leaned down to get a handful of socks and Hotch moved with him. "Tell me what I can say."

Spencer pulled the drawer out suddenly, so suddenly that Hotch didn't have time to recover to upright and Spencer's elbow caught him hard across his left eye. "Fuck."

"So sorry Hotch," Spencer felt like laughing, he knew it was inappropriate, so he grinned. "I am so sorry..."

Hotch hissed and said in anger. "You can't be here like this!"

Spencer nearly sobered at once, there it was. He was being thrown out. Hotch didn't love him. He backed away from Hotch, turned and as best he could, ran to the waiting cab.

"What if Jack saw you like this!" But Aaron was speaking to the air where Spencer had been just that moment before. He put his hand to his eye. "Fuck."

He stood in the kitchen, ice in a towel over his eye that was already a rainbow of color. He shook his head, he didn't understand what had happened. All he knew was that it was his fault. People left him and it was always his fault.

CM3

Reid propped his back against the wall as the conversation with Hotch went on, his right knee bent and right foot planted on the wall to expedite his exit when he'd finally get to walk away. He made sure his body language read relaxed, a-ok to anyone trying to watch him, the hardest part was to smile towards Hotch as he shot off the fiery words he had held back over the past few days.

"Why don't you just pick up on one of those women who throw themselves at you?" Spencer snarled.

Hotch went silent. He lifted his hand to his eye.

He felt horrible that he had hit him, he really did, but that didn't matter because he still had done it and the black eye sat there firmly to remind him of just what he had done. He was finally reprieved from the conversation he had honestly shut down listening to before half-way in, he couldn't even say what it was about. Instead, he spotted Garcia as she waved them over with a case-file in hand.

"Well, if you'll excuse me, I have to get to work," Reid smiled, his tone almost nothing like it had been before.

"Reid!"

"Hotch." The term was just as pointed. He didn't even glance up at the older man as he kicked off the wall.

Morgan shot a look up at his friend casually, and glanced to Hotch. He knew he'd have to check with Reid when he got a minute. He should talk to Hotch as well. This whole situation made him uncomfortable and guilty, if he was being honest.

For their purposes, Reid and Hotch both played the parts of a well-oiled machine when they presented. Everyone did their utmost not to call them out on the clear tension they were both masking.

"So far there are four victims, all male, in their late twenties or early thirties, all were brunettes with fair skin and lighter builds." Garcia raked her eyes over Reid who couldn't say he was a fan of it. He knew Hotch was doing the same thing, and his best friend wasn't exactly keeping his focus on him disguised. They all went to a bar in Quantico called Secrets & Co, paid with credit cards the same night they disappeared usually on a Friday or Saturday night.

JJ skimmed over the report, "Looks like their bodies were discovered anywhere from the Monday after they disappeared to the same day the next victim disappeared. All died within 24 hours of last being seen. Cause of death is a mixed bag, there are signs of manual strangulation, they were clearly beaten, but two were shot to death, the other two were shot but the cause of death was strangulation. Sexual fluids were found externally- and evidence suggests sexual activity after time of death on three of the victims. Their bodies were each found in garbage bags in front of different bars located on a bar-crawl circuit."

Morgan looked at Reid for possibly the tenth time.

"So by these timelines, the unsub will be in that bar tonight or tomorrow night hunting," Reid offered, he didn't miss the authoritative look Hotch sent him. He turned sharply, eyes dark as he warned, "I'll go." His tone, while it didn't read hostile did not match his crossed arms, the defiant air as he dared Hotch to challenge him, it was obvious that he had already drafted his argument for why it was clearly going to be him inside.

"Reid, a word." Hotch motioned to his office with a suggestive head-tilt.

The two stood up and walked out of the round room, neither had any false notions that they wouldn't be the topic of discussion once they left.

Hotch held the door open, Reid walked past him and seemed to bring his own cold breeze with him.

"You're not up to this."

"Oh, so now you know what I can and can't do? I have an IQ of 187, I can do a LOT of things, Aaron! Just because you don't trust me to do them doesn't mean I'm not capable!"

"I didn't SAY that! His face went stony, You and I both know this could turn into a physical altercation, the unsub clearly was able to subdue four healthy, fit young men who didn't have the extensive injuries you've had."

"Or the training I've had, or the life experiences, or the profiling skills, but who's counting? You know if I'm in there that I'll have a higher chance of identifying the unsub. You don't want me in there because you think I'm too weak to do it, I'm NOT weak." He didn't miss how the words resonated through him as he spoke. "No matter what you think, I'm not. Gideon wouldn't have doubted me. But if you think I can't do my job anymore? Fire me. Otherwise, I'll be there tonight. I'm leaving, I have to get ready."

"Reid... Reid! You're bordering on insubordination!"

"Oh, like you're being so professional yourself!" His hand stayed on the door for a moment, he bowed his head. "Hotch, I'm sorry I hit you. I really didn't mean to do that, but that doesn't change the fact that I can do this."

The door quietly opened and shut as Reid left the office. Hotch laced his fingers together as his elbows rested on his desk. He knew he was speaking to empty air when he said it, but Hotch let out a low, "Damn it Spencer don't leave me." He shook his head.

His mind supplied a picture of Haley all that time ago now, and heard her say clearly. 'The team doesn't need you, it needs Gideon.'

He needed to prep the team for tonight.

CM4

Reid entered the bar around 6PM, he wore a radio transmitter in his shirt-cuff and a receiver in his right ear. He glanced through the bar. This early, the bar was mostly empty but he could see Rossi in the corner as he scanned the crowd and kept eyes on him. The stake-out would likely go for most of the night, unless the unsub made his move earlier that was. The team would rotate who was in the van and who was on the floor every two hours. He spotted Morgan as the man walked in. For a moment he remembered how their own bar-crawl had gone.

He felt guilty of course, he had dragged his friend into his own bad habits. He had shown a side he had sworn to himself that he had gotten over, did that even count as sobriety? Could he really claim that wasn't just a more legal way to get high? And on top of it all, he had hit Aaron, he had hit him for Christ's sake! He was so afraid he'd stop loving him and his grand solution was to push him so hard away he could do anything but NOT trust or love him.

He really hadn't expected Hotch to look at him so calmly the next day, he had hoped for anger, actually. Anger meant he'd still care enough, didn't it? But that apathetic calm he shook his head, this was not the time or the place for this. It didn't matter anyway. Hotch didn't trust him. He stopped trusting him when they were on that trip, no, maybe even before then. It had been a damn long time since Reid had gone out into the field without Morgan or Hotch, as if he needed someone to babysit him.

On that note, he sat down at the bar, eyes scanned the crowd and found the bartender. He might as well ask the woman if she knew the victims, maybe she had seen who they had left with. He ordered a mineral water.

Apparently, it was shift change. He saw Hotch walk in, he smiled at Hotch's choice in undercover casual wear, a Marines sweatshirt, his eyes scanned the room. He didn't spot anyone else from the team; he did notice a man was looking at him intently though. He fixed his glance and mentioned into his cufflink, "At my eight-o'clock, the man in a fitted sweater and cords, he has eyes on me. I'm going to move and see if it's me or the bartender he's ogling. Rossi, did you make Hotch wear that?"

Reid walked past Hotch towards the bathroom. He leaned against the wall as he waited for the line to go down a little. Hotch made his way to the bar, probably to ask the same bartender the same questions Reid had, he scoffed at himself, he really didn't trust him at his job, did he?

He spotted movement, the man in cords approached the same line, Reid entered the restroom and two minutes later walked out, as he passed the man he could feel his eyes rake over him and did a take himself. He caught the slight bulge in the man's pants that was supposed to look like his package, but Reid knew better. He knew a concealed gun when he saw one. His eyes went wide, the man winked at him.

"Like what you see?"

Reid backed up, and gave an awkward smile, he had to play it cool and warn the others the man was armed. Your turn. He looked at the bathroom door suggestively then made eyes at the bar. "You know where I'll be."

The man smirked and went into the restroom. Thirteen seconds later, he came out, he waltzed behind Reid as the man was just about to make it back to the bar. Some guy in a Marines sweatshirthad his arm on the brunette's forearm.

"Hotch, he's armed." Reid whispered, he looked up when he realized the man was within a few feet, his tone dropped, eyes as well. He pulled his arm back. "I said, I'm not INTERESTED, pal."

Reid pulled back and started to walk backwards when he saw what he hadn't expected to see. The unsub had cocked his fist back and launched it into Hotch's jaw, the force sent him reeling back into the bar, he had been looking at Reid in the opposite direction of the unsub to see what he was whispering, Reid's eyes went large when the man made like he was going to adjust his shirt. Something flashed through his eyes, a fierce determination, he grabbed the man's wrist.

"We gotta get out of here! You just hit a cop!" Reid pulled the man toward the nearest exit, regrettably it was a side door they hadn't marked. The plan had never been for Reid to leave the place with the man, it was to identify him then leave through the front- grab him on the way out.

It didn't matter, if Reid didn't get him out now he was going to shoot the bar up, Hotch first. He could see Hotch blink a few times, he almost laughed to himself, that was probably the first time he'd ever seen Hotch blink in that kind of scenario, if he wasn't so horrified he might have let it out too.

Once outside, he let go of the man's arm only to feel his own wrist was being grabbed. "Huh- hey what are you-"

"Come on, we're leaving!" The man pulled him toward a separate parking lot.

"Woah, where are you taking me?" He felt the pressure on his wrist increase. He was shoved to the passenger side door of a car.

"Get in." Reid was flashed a bit of handle from a Taurus pistol and obliged. The man closed the door, which Reid immediately learned had child safety locks engaged. Not like he expected less.

He turned his transmitter on as the man got into the driver's seat.

"Where are you taking me?"

The man started up the car and didn't say a word.

As the car pulled out with a squeal, he saw Hotch stagger out the front door of the bar and head toward the van. They were down the stretch of road before Reid could tell if they made it in yet or not. He watched the road signs and side mirror in hopes to learn where he was going when the man pulled through a tight alleyway.

"Cops are tailing me, huh?" He turned to glare at Reid.

His eyes went wide, he could see the vivid details of the photographs and the man's intent as he devoured him with his own eyes. Within two minutes Reid couldn't see the tail anymore. The voice ringing in his right ear the only thing that could ground him from sheer panic, he heard Hotch and Garcia converse about his transmitter, they had his signal, they knew where he was.

Reid made a decision that he was not going to be some hostage the man could use to his advantage. He wasn't just going to let this man use him and put his friends' lives at stake.

The car stopped in front of an old house, the neighboring area was derelict, most of the houses seemed empty but some had the distinct earmarks of a crack-house. A strong arm gripped around his left bicep and pulled him through the driver's side door.

The man pulled his gun which instantly stilled Reid as he straightened up to stand.

"You don't want to do this. Put the gun down, I I didn't see anything. Let's just walk away."

"Get your scrawny ass inside." The man shoved him hard, Reid stumbled a half step backward but moved toward the house. He had to get some distance between himself, the unsub, and that gun.

CM5

Reid looked at the details of the house, it had to have been a Sears Catalog Home, it was popular from the early 1900's until the 1940's, this house probably was bought just before the Great Depression. He had leafed through some of Morgan's own 'home references' and found this style when he couldn't fall asleep last night.

He let his eyes flit toward the right as he pulled up the schematics he had read, if he was right, he'd enter a parlor and to the immediate right would be a closet with the stairwell to the second floor. That's where he had to move. That height and distance would give him a chance to grab the gun, his only chance. He looked at the unsub.

Calmly, he walked to the door and turned the knob, it gave under his hand and he opened it. His eyes locked with the unsub as if to challenge him, he pulled the door half open, slid in, shut it, locked it then made his run the three steps to the closeted stairwell and slipped in and climbed the steps hurriedly. On the top floor, he immediately tucked to the side to hide his presence.

With utmost stillness he waited for the door to be shoved open and closed. He heard things tossed downstairs then the door to the stairwell open. He heard the steps buckle.

"Oh you're feisty I like, this is going to be so much more fun." The man said, he slowly drawled as he took the steps even slower. Reid recognized the accent as a Carolina one, if he had to pin-point a region, he'd probably wager the Wilmington region of North Carolina. Did it really matter now? The team was going to come in and catch the man in the act, how did it matter who he was now? He took two deep breaths, he had to function, he couldn't panic just yet. He heard the last step give, it was his cue. He grabbed the man's right hand, instead of the pair falling down the stairs, the unsub charged upward, it proved he had at least 60 pounds on him. He hit the corner of one wall, his left hand kept a tight grip on the unsub's right hand, at first he had it pushed awkwardly past him to his right, but eventually they struggled and it was all he could do to keep the gun pointed up toward the ceiling. The struggle moved back toward the steps and he was stumbling as he was rushed down them, he barely kept his footing by time he made it to the bottom of the steps and crashed through the parlor again. The unsub moved him further from the front door and closer toward what would be the kitchen area.

He had been shoved into the wall between the parlor and the kitchen, it was clear this man had experience in football, for a moment he could think of the archaic looking padded tackle-dummies he'd seen in the sports' equipment locker he had had the pleasure of being locked into as a kid countless times. He felt like one, the sheer force being applied to drive him into the wall. The unsub's arm was pinned to his diaphragm as he was forced to lose more and more of his lung capacities.

With his right fist, he started to wail into the unsub's right kidney, his left arm felt tired, heavy from the force but he wasn't about to give up now. Suddenly, he was able to breathe. He took in a long gasp and immediately felt the fist land across his cheekbone, he had to admit, it was a pretty hard blow, but the others that followed- the knee to the hip- he had pivoted just barely avoiding it to the groin- had hurt like hell.

The radio in his right ear told him of the others' arrival. He readjusted his right fist to punch the man in the neck, anything to ease up the body shots he was taking. Then he felt it. The man stopped swinging, instead he grabbed Reid by the collar, he was retracted from the wall eight inches- and then he was right back- once, twice, his left hand went limp as his head made a jarring impact.

He heard the slam and wondered if that was the wall giving under him or if Morgan had kicked down the door.

He realized there was a gun to his temple, for a moment a sheer look of panic graced his dumb-struck face. He heard the hammer cock back to the semi-automatic and then the hammer fell. His breath caught, in that moment he knew he didn't want to go like this, he didn't want to die-

It took him a moment to realize he hadn't heard a bang, he heard the hammer fall again, the gun jammed. He took both arms and shoved at the unsub's throat to try, desperately to get him off- away- anything, but as a large booming voice filled the air- one that was distinctly of SSA Derek Morgan, Reid's wish was left un-granted. The unsub spun Reid into his arm, his forearm flexed painfully tight into Reid's throat. Reid could tell he was trying to clear the gun, his limbs flailed in loosely controlled blows up and down the man's sides to try to deter him from successfully clearing the jammed round.

Suddenly he was pitched forward, he sprawled to the ground and turned to right himself from belly-down to at least on his ass- his back to the floor as his elbows kept him from being truly laid out on the floor.

Hotch was grappling with the unsub.

"Reid!" Morgan snapped, but he didn't hear it- or at least register it. The gun jammed. It had jammed.

He felt a strong grip wrap around his shoulder and haul him back half-way through the room, the older man stepped in front of him, gun drawn.

Hotch had the unsub in an intense fist-fight. Apparently unhappy that he had been unable to answer the man's first fist-fall at the bar, he landed several successive punches to the face and jaw. Then as he held the unsub by the shoulders, he brought a hard knee to the unsub's center.

A fist came up into his own diaphragm but the adrenalin made it easy to ignore, the blow to his side was a bit more tender, "Shit." he groaned, but he pulled back enough to avoid the blow to the face the unsub had intended to land. "Morgan," he called.

"Hotch! I don't have a shot!" Morgan growled."Reid, man, snap out of it!" He knelt at his best friend's side who hadn't even tried to sit up or move from his position. Dammit

There was a loud crack as Hotch backhanded the unsub across the left corner of his jaw. He hit the ground hard.

"Is that all you got?" Hotch growled.

With a firm knee pressed into the softer organs below his ribcage, Hotch wrestled one arm around into a twisted position and slapped the first cuff on. He eased the pressure from the knee and rolled the man over and cuffed his opposing hand.

He hoisted him up. "Get UP." It was clear the unsub was seeing stars, Morgan locked eyes with Hotch then back to Reid.

"Reid, come on man, talk to me- what're the chances a gun would jam say something."

Reid shook his head then looked at the concern as it played through his best friend's face, Morgan shut up he let out a few uneven breaths as he tried to extend his right elbow and push himself upward, it didn't succeed, his arm slipped and he lost an inch on the propped up position he had had.

"Morgan, get him out of here." Hotch said with a suggestive push of the unsub toward the other man. Morgan nodded as he took hold of the bloodied-up unsub.

"Where'd you learn to fight so dirty?" Morgan grinned at his boss.

Hotch barked a tired laugh, "FBI academy, Rossi actually showed me a few things, you forget he's smaller than the rest of us."

"Should I call in a bus for him?" He asked with a shrug toward Reid. Hotch gave a nod.

"We'll wait in here." He brushed off some of the incredible amount of dust on Rossi's sweatshirt as he swaggered toward Reid and slid to the floor in a like position to Reid, breathless for a moment.

Reid had the presence of mind to wait until Morgan had led the unsub out before he turned to face Hotch.

"You came back for me." He locked eyes with Hotch in time to see his eyebrows crinkle then relax.

"Of course I did, I'll always come back for you Spencer. Always."

He raised his back a little further from the ground, propped up a bit more on his elbows to look at Hotch more evenly. "I thought you didn't trust me anymore but you did. You did even when I didn't trust myself didn't you?"

Hotch knew a rhetorical question when he heard one. He nodded anyway.

Reid put a hand on Hotch's bicep then shoulder to steady himself as he pushed up to help regain his footing.

"Spencer."

Reid staggered into the wall immediately regretting the upright position.

"Sit down, Vegas."

He panted a couple of breaths, his knees felt shaky. "Don't think I can." he winced a little, Hotch stood up. He pulled the younger man into a hug and then slid them back down the wall before he rolled back to Reid's right side.

"You'd be surprised what you're capable of." He smirked, "You're stronger than you look poor bastard didn't realize what he was getting himself into."

Reid smiled and bowed his head to hide the blush.

CM6

They sat next to each other in the rear of the ambulance. The EMT had given the all clear to take Reid home if he rested at least a day. Luckily, they had the weekend ahead and aside from the actual reports to write up for this case, they'd have time to rest.

"Just sit for a minute. When you're ready we'll take the van back to Quantico," Hotch said.

Reid nodded. He definitely felt like he'd been in a fight. He leaned against Hotch until his head started to feel clearer. "I'm okay now.'

The smile he received was blinding. Hotch raised an eyebrow, "We really should talk, you want to come home with me?"

"I so want to come home with you, Aaron. I want to walk in our door, and make coffee, and watch TV, and read James and the Giant Peach with Jack."

"Yeah." Aaron's mouth almost hurt from the broadness of his smile. He couldn't help himself. His Spencer, his own Spencer still wanted to be with him- that it was still their home.

Aaron put his hand on Spencer's shoulder and squeezed. "Let's go, I'll help you to the van."

"You sure you're recovered from the fight?"

Aaron stopped his grin, "I might be getting too old for this."

"You can't imagine how glad I was to see you and that shirt."

He looked down at the Marines sweatshirt and laughed. "I wasn't going for high-fashion."

"Rossi's gonna be pissed- you got it dirty"

"Ah, but I know how to do laundry."

"Sure you do- dry-clean only. I'll help."

"I'll hold you to that."

CM

They sat on the sofa together. Aaron leaned against the arm of the sofa and Spencer sat between his legs as he leaned back on Aaron's bare chest. Spencer squirmed as he made himself more comfortable. Aaron smiled, it felt nearly ticklish.

Spencer closed his eyes and sighed. "Are we okay, Aaron?"

"You tell me Spencer. I'm so sorry if I betrayed your trust."

"I know you were being protective of me, what with the cave in and the car accident, but I just misinterpreted it. It just grew out of proportion."

Aaron nodded invisibly. He played with Spencer's hair. "I know, but I could have been clearer, I could have told you how I was feeling, why I was doing what I was doing. It's not all you Spencer."

"Listen to me, Aaron, sometimes you do this martyr thing, let me be really clear on this- this is on me, I just didn't want you to stop loving me, and somehow, my reaction to that was to test you, to push you- to make you hate me- so I wouldn't have to worry about when you'd wake up and throw me out..."

"Spencer I don't know what you mean. Have I ever made you think I was going to stop loving you? Has the job made you think you aren't the most important thing in my life?"

"After Jack." His lover quickly corrected.

"No Spencer, with Jack. You and me and Jack; this is home, Spencer, this is who I am. When I'm here- this is us."

"But..."

Aaron turned Spencer to face him. "You know, you know that loyalty is what I am. I am with you Spencer, no matter what. If one day you leave me, it'll be because you want to, not because I've given up on you."

"I do know. It's hard for me. Love is something I'm not really good at."

"You're right, Spencer, you're excellent at it. Look at your life your mom, Elle, Emily, JJ, Garcia, Lila even, and Morgan who thinks the sun rises because of you- You're better at it than you think."

Spencer looked down, "You see me so differently from everyone else. Most people don't think I feel things much at all."

Aaron petted Spencer's hair. "Just remember you belong here, with me."

"Ahh, that sounds like ownership." He grinned at his lover, he snuggled in closer.

Aaron shrugged. "Yeah, whatever."

Spencer laughed. He turned to face Aaron and laid his hand on Aaron's chest. He loved the feel of the man. He put his head down and nuzzled into his neck and scratched his cheek against Aaron's stubble. "Never leave me."

"I'll always be here for you. As long as I can and you want me, I'll be here for you. I love you Spencer."

Spencer let his hair fall in front of his face. He moved up to kiss Aaron. "And I'll be here for you, at home with you."

"Spencer, I'm thinking we need to find a house together. Jack needs the stability, we need to find a good school district."

"You're asking me?"

"It'll be our home Spencer."

"What about Strauss? What about fraternization?"

"Are you saying you won't live with me?"

Spencer lifted himself so he could see his lover. "If you're asking, yes, yes I want a home with you Aaron." Spencer smiled, "now I need to get laid."

"Ahh, I knew you only came back to me for my cock."

Spencer laughed and hopped off the sofa, half-way down the hall he called, "come on Marine, time's wasting."

Mark Overby said, Love is much like a wild rose, beautiful and calm, but willing to draw blood in its defense.