Title: In the Aisles and Between the Pages
Author: writing2death
Beta: magi & wren
Word Count: 6,148 words
Pairing: Hotch/Reid
Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Alternate Universe and also an abundance of clichés.
Notes: This is technically my Chirstmas fic for this year. It's kind of more of an After-Christmas fic though, hence the late posting. Thanks to magi for the title
Thanks to wren for the prompt.
Summary: In which Reid is a used bookshop owner and not quite content. Hotch kind of knocks him right off kilter.

- In the Aisles and Between the Pages -

25 Days Until Christmas

The bookshop is small and cramped, squished between a busy coffee shop that gets twice the amount of business it does, and a bakery that doesn't. It's a good place for a used bookstore because people wander over with their morning coffee and browse while they wait for the bus that takes them to work and sometimes the regulars bring Spencer something sweet.

For a used bookstore they do all right, and Spencer likes working there. But sometimes - sometimes, he feels like there might be more, somewhere beyond the dusty pages. He sighs and finishes stocking the shelf.

"Are you finished?" JJ asks when she comes out of the back. She's holding a mug of hot chocolate in one hand and a stack of papers in the other. She's a temp he hired last month because business picks up around Christmas time but Spencer's pretty sure that they're not going to be able to get rid of her. JJ's sweet like dark chocolate - it takes away the sugar craving, and also it's good for you.

"Just about, yeah," Spencer says, breaking the seal on the bottom of the cardboard box and folding it up.

"Are you ready to close for the day?" JJ asks, leaning against the bookcase. She takes a sip of her drink.

Spencer frowns, "Got somewhere to go?"

JJ smiles at him. "Maybe," she says as she sets the mug down. "I have a date.

"A date," Spencer says, "really now."

She rolls her eyes. "Yes. Some of us do that, occasionally. Leave our homes and places of employment to socialise with other people." She pulls on her jacket. There's snow on the ground.

"I feel like you're trying to make a point," Spencer says, taking the inventory list and her dirty mug from her.

"That's because I was," JJ says, reaching up and patting his cheek in an affectionate way. "See you tomorrow."

"Bye," Spencer says to her back.

She turns the Open sign on the door to Closed on her way out.

15 Days Until Christmas

Their bookshop (called The Doctor's Office - Spencer's mom had a strange sense of humour and thought it would be cute when she opened the place) doesn't have a Christmas tree. It's one of those traditions that Spencer's family just never got around to including in their holiday plans and so their shop doesn't have one either.

A surprising amount of people remark on it, mostly children who are used to seeing all the decorations in department stores but sometimes old ladies and mothers as well. Once, it was this very large very muscly man who was wearing leather and buying a used Nicolas Sparks novel. That had happened two weeks ago- - JJ raised her eyebrows and made a suggestive hand gesture when he left. Spencer had glared at her. She subsequently told him that he looked adorable when he was wearing his glasses. He stopped wearing his glasses after that.

It is a Tuesday when he's in the back going over some paperwork when the little bell rings at the till meaning someone is there waiting for him. "Just a second!" he calls over his shoulder. He neatens the stack of papers a little and frowns at his desk.

It's an organised mess, really.

"Hi," he says, smiling when he comes out. "How can I help you?"

The man is roughly in late thirties or early forties, if Spencer is estimating right, and he's wearing a dark suit, perfectly pressed. A small boy is clinging to his leg. The coffee cup in his hand says that he's been to the café next door. A (very small) part of Spencer's brain notices that he is incredibly good looking. Spencer clears his throat awkwardly.

"Hi, I'm looking for a children's book," the man answers. "My son has a book report and we're pretty terrible with library due dates. A friend recommended your shop to me."

Probably married then, Spencer's brain supplies helpfully, completely skipping over the recommendation comment - he'll revisit that later. His brain is usually useful. It's a shame that sometimes it short-circuits like this.

"The children's sections is right over there," he says gesturing to the back of the store where most of the brighter books are kept. There are a few stuffed animals sitting on the selves for good measure.

"Thanks," he says, prodding his son into the direction of the selves. "C'mon, Jack."

Spencer attempts to focus on the clipboard at the counter but secretly watches them out of the corner of his eye. The little boy, Jack, is picking books up at random and putting them back exactly where he found them. He reaches one where he eyes it speculatively and wordlessly hands to his dad. His dad approves if the nod is anything to go by. Jack picks out three more books.

"Nothing for you?" Spencer jokes. The man doesn't even smile, not really. Not with his mouth anyway.

"I'm too busy to read," he says, like it's sigh worthy.

"Why don't you have a Christmas tree?" Jack asks as Spencer fiddles with the price scanner. It can be finicky.

"I don't know," he says, "we just never got one."

Jack looks unconvinced that this is an acceptable answer.

Spencer rings their books up and when the man pays with credit he manages to catch the name Aaron Hotchner.

12 Days Until Christmas

"What is that?" JJ asks when she walks in on a perfectly freezing and snowy Friday. She has a hat pulled over her ears and a huge jacket on. She looks like a marshmallow.

"It's our new Christmas tree." Spencer feels that this is obvious. There are Christmas tree lights strung on it and everything.

They both stand there staring at it for a minute, JJ holding the two cups of coffee she thoughtfully decided to bring.

"I feel like this takes the really pathetic Charlie Brown Christmas tree to an entirely new level," she says and hands him his coffee. It's too sweet, like usual. Put seven sugars in a coffee once and forever everyone thinks that you have an irreparable sweet tooth. He's sure that this coffee has reached it's saturation point.

"I think it's awesome," he says.

It is a book tree. Spencer spent the morning thoughtfully arranging their older books into a tree-like formation. It stands about up to his waist, propped on one of their heavier, larger boxes. Then he wrapped old lights around it and stuck an old green bottle on top to make it look like the top of a tree.

JJ shakes her head and peels her gloves off her hands.

This has nothing to do with Jack asking if why there wasn't a Christmas tree because that would be creepy and also weird. Spencer is not creepy. He might be a little weird but it's not his fault that he overthinks things until there's nothing left to think and a whole lot left to do.

That's the reason all of his novels are either unfinished or unpublished, of course. It's always the doing part that trips him up.

The fact that he managed to make a book tree probably shouldn't make him feel so proud of himself.

Later that day, Aaron Hotchner walks back through the door. At first, all Spencer can think is that there was something wrong with the books. And then he tells himself he's stupid because he flipped through and checked them before he put them in the bag. They were fine. He has an eidetic memory, he remembers this perfectly.

"Hello," Spencer says, smiling at him.

"Hi," Aaron says. Spencer notices that he is without Jack now. He also notices that a pretty woman with black hair and a no-nonsense look has followed him inside. He recognises her as one of his regulars, usually on the lookout for Science Fiction, Emily Prentiss. She and JJ have taken to getting caught up in conversations whenever she comes in here.

Not entirely unexpected, now that he's thought about it, since he did mention that the shop was recommended to him.

"Looking for anything in particular?" Spencer asks.

Emily shakes her head and grins, "Trying to get him over there to relax for three minutes. Reading helps, right?"

"You will never hear me discourage reading," Spencer says truthfully.

Out of the corner of his eye, he can see JJ looking at him curiously.

Maybe he might be smiling a little more than usual. It's almost Christmas, he can be happy, you know. This is ridiculous.

Aaron half-heartedly picks out a few things and brings them over to the counter.

"This is my boss, Hotch," Emily says. "Hotch, this is Spencer Reid, the bookstore clerk."

The bookstore clerk. This is his life, right there. On top of this, instead of shaking hands like a normal person, he waves. These things just happen, really.

Spencer bags the books and Aaron leans against the counter as Emily says hello to JJ. "I like your tree."

Spencer grins. "JJ made fun of me, but I thought it was pretty cool," he says.

"It is, for a tree made out of books." Aaron is wearing another suit again today. Emily is dressed nicely as well, under her jacket (not nearly as puffy as JJ's). It makes Spencer wonder what it is they do for a living.

"Less messy," Spencer says. "Real trees get needles everywhere. Plus, if I were a tree, I don't think I'd want to be in a used bookstore. One of those books could be me one day."

Aaron laughs and Spencer bites the inside of his cheek.

"You know, if trees could think or feel, I mean," he amends, after the fact.

"At least the books feel at home here," Aaron says before he follows Emily out the door, waving over his shoulder.

JJ is looking at him. Spencer is not looking at her, he is dutifully organising the counter.

Eight Days Until Christmas

The thing about the bookstore is that it's also Spencer's home. He realises that not very many people live above their shops anymore but he has ever since his mom passed away when he was twenty and he took it over. He loves his shop, because not only is it home but it feels like home too. There are books everywhere. Under his bed, on his bedside table, on the kitchen counter, on the side of the stairs, all over the place. He likes being surrounded by books.

He likes to think of his shop as the place where things go when they don't have anywhere else to go, like the used books. They're dusty and a little battered but he loves them anyway and they all get a little bit of shelf space. JJ's kind of been like that too. Him and the books have adopted her, really. He's under no delusions that she's going anywhere at the end of December.

He usually thinks of his regular customers as adopted as well. They're part of the family.

"What kind of book do you get a tech geek?" Morgan asks him on the following Tuesday. "Should it be science fiction or should it be romance, because she still is a girl?"

Spencer hands him something with both romance and sci-fi because you can't really go wrong with that. He doesn't say that Morgan's probably being a little stereotypical - who said all girls like romance?

David Rossi buys four cook books off of him that same afternoon. Spencer can never decide if he buys the cook books because he can cook and he wants to challenge himself or if he can't cook at all and is just too stubborn to give up.

"Back again?" he asks when Aaron walks in. Today he's in a brown sweater. Spencer had no idea a brown sweater could look so appealing.

"I ran out of things to read," Aaron says.

Spencer raises his eyebrows, "All ready?"

"We've had a lot of downtime at work recently, and I travel a lot." Aaron is browsing the bookshelf closest to him.

Sometime recently, Spencer realised that obviously all the bullying he went through in high school must have permanently scarred him or something. He obviously is still in high school, because twenty seven year old men do not get crushes.

"That's a really good one," Spencer says as he scans the books Aaron picked out.

"You've read it?"

"I've read everything in here," Spencer says. "Leave no book unturned."

Aaron looks around. There are a lot of books in the shop.

"I have a read-speed of 20 thousand words per minute," Spencer smiles. "So it goes pretty fast."

"I can imagine," Aaron says as he takes the bag. Their fingers brush slightly.

Spencer can't help but notice that there is no wedding ring on his finger. This is ridiculous. He tells himself to stop being an idiot. Regardless of the inherent paradox, he thinks that he's probably the stupidest genius he's ever met.

"Come again!" Spencer calls after him as he leaves. Aaron lifts one hand in acknowledgement and nods as he leaves.

Five Days Until Christmas

Every time Spencer sees someone he used to know when he was little, they ask how he's been of course. The answer is usually fine or good and How are you?. Sometimes they ask what he's doing with his life, and he tells them he owns a bookstore.

Then he gets the look. The one that says, why would you do that? You graduated high school at the age of twelve, and we know you have a couple university degrees under your belt, why are you doing this with your life when you could be out curing Cancer or something?

Well, Spencer likes it here. It's his home, of course. His mom got sick and then he came home and stayed there. That story's depressing though and he doesn't like it when people get depressed so he just shrugs and lets them think whatever they want.

It's different when Aaron comes in for three days consecutively though, and they spend time talking about everything. On Wednesday, he came in just before closing and didn't leave for an hour. Spencer had offered him coffee and JJ had given them both a ridiculously suspicious look as she left.

Yesterday, Spencer gave Aaron a stack of his writing to take with him. He's been bouncing between regretting it in this highest order and being really excited to hear what he has to say about it ever since.

Aaron brings him hot chocolate when he comes in from outside. It's snowing ridiculously heavy outside and Aaron is covered head to toe in white. "I look like the abominable snow man," he grumbles as he shakes the snow off.

"Actually," Spencer starts, "the abominable snow man -" and then he stops himself.

"It's like fun fact of the day," Aaron says as he pulls his hat off. "Facts are interesting, unless you're in the middle of some really dire circumstances and don't have time for them."

This is obviously not one of those times, which is the point he's trying to make.

"Right," Spencer says.

JJ comes out of the back then, dressed in her outerwear. "I'm taking off. Provided I can see my car in all of this," she says, pulling her hat over her ear muffs. "I'll see you tomorrow, Spence. Bye, Hotch."

Everyone calls him Hotch, even here. Emily started it. He blames her.

"So," Spencer says.

"Your writing," Aaron says, gesturing with the folder he's holding. He slides it across the counter to Spencer. "I liked it."

"That- that's good." He was kind of hoping for a little bit more, but he'll take what he can get. "Any improvements that I could make?"

Aaron apparently came prepared for this conversation. He has a list of things that are good and a list of suggestions. Spencer attempts to listen and heed them as best he can.

They're going over the second section of writing when Spencer catches the time on his watch and looks outside. He can't even see anything outside the door. It's like someone painted it white.

Aaron follows his gaze. "Could you turn on the radio?" he asks.

Spencer nods and flips the button.

"- all roads leading into and out of the city are closed currently. This isn't a usual occurrence, as you know. Virginia doesn't usually get this much snow! Regardless, take care and if you're stuck in the city, make sure you have a safe place to stay and be careful on local roads. The black ice out there is ridiculous."

And then they play Christmas music.

It's like a bad Christmas special, Spencer thinks.

"Do you - do you live close to here?" Spencer asks.

He shakes his head. "I work close to here," Aaron says, frowning.

They both stare out the window for a moment. "Well this sucks," Spencer says. "Not that you're not welcome to stay here, of course, but I'm sure that you'd rather be at home with your son. And no one likes to be snowed in. At least my house is upstairs."

When Spencer's nervous, he tends to ramble. It's a bad and a good habit. It's gotten him out of tough spots before and it's also gotten him into trouble. One day, he'll have to weigh the pros and cons of having this particular trait.

"Jack is with his mother this week," Aaron says, sighing. He scrubs one hand over his face tiredly.

"Oh," Spencer says. "Are you not…?" He wishes he could sew his lips shut.

"I have a demanding job," Aaron offers, and leaves it at that.

There's a pause in which Spencer considers the situation. "There's always scrabble," he says, and then, "At least the power's still on."

Aaron looks at him, "I wouldn't jinx it."

"That's just superstition," Spencer digs out the scrabble board under the pile of mess in the back office. It's pretty much guaranteed that he's going to win but he could just… not. He frowns at the box and decides that would be stupid. They should start keeping Monopoly in the back room instead. After a second of hesitation, he flips the kettle he keeps in there on as well. Hot chocolate seems like an appropriate beverage right now.

"We could always read," he offers, coming back out while the water boils. "Or, I do have TV upstairs. Unless you want to brave the snow and attempt to get to your office or something?"

Aaron's staring out the window.

He can hear the kettle flip itself off. "Do you like hot chocolate?" he asks.

That's when the power goes out.

"What were you saying about superstition?" Aaron asks dryly.

Spencer frowns at him in the dark. "It was a coincidence," he insists.

The flashlight JJ made him stash under the counter is inconveniently out of batteries. Well. What's the use of that, then? He makes a mental note to inform her when he sees her next.

"I might have candles somewhere in my office," Spencer mutters, and feels his way across the store. It's funny how you can know a room like the back of your hand but as soon as your forced to navigate it in the dark, you're suddenly unsure. He does have candles, one open packet of birthday candles from last year and one other candle that looks like it's had it's day. He frowns at them in his hands. They're okay enough for scrabble, though, providing that Aaron still wants to play scrabble.

His eyes falls on the stack of mugs he keeps in there. The water in the kettle is still hot. On impulse, he fixes two of them. Suddenly, though, he wishes that coffee makers worked without electricity.

Aaron has his cell phone out and is setting up the scrabble board on the counter with the dim light it's giving off. If that is any indication, Spencer can assume that scrabble is still a good idea. He looks up at him. "At least it's good for something," Aaron says, holding up his phone. "It's not like I'm getting a signal right now."

They play three games, long enough for them to empty the hot chocolate mugs and Spencer's stomach to growl. The first two go really quickly because Spencer read the dictionary when he was ten and remembers everything that was in it. The third game is more slow going though. Halfway through, Aaron takes loosens his tie and slips it off and Spencer's brain decides that it needs a vacation. So, Aaron probably thinks he let him win but in all honesty, he's just distracted.

Spencer clears his throat and hears the wind hitting against the front door of the shop. It's been dark outside for two hours now. He wants his fuzzy blanket upstairs.

"How do you feel about the leftovers in my fridge?" Spencer asks.

He hears laughter as he's putting the little letters back in their appropriate bag. "Sure," Aaron says. "Had enough of scrabble?"

Spencer's mouth twists into a smile but he's not sure that Aaron can see it from the crappy candles. "Something like that."

They decide against trying to bring the candles and blow them out instead. Spencer is clumsy and all he needs is to drop on and light his bookstore on fire. Aaron follows him through the door and up the stairs with one hand on the small of his back. He's not sure if he dislikes it or if he likes it.

He trips halfway up the stairs and Aaron pulls him to his feet again. "Sorry," he says, struggling to make his eyes adjust to the dark. Aaron's cell phone is really only a small light and it keeps turning off.

"It's all right," Aaron says.

Spencer's almost sure Aaron's looking at his lips. But he can't be.

He is. With one hand on Spencer's waist and one still holding his phone, Aaron leans in and kisses him. At first, it's chaste because Spencer hadn't expected it, not really but then he opens his mouth and grips the sides of Aaron's sweater. He coaxes Aaron's tongue into his mouth and sucks on just the tip of it before letting himself be pressed into the wall.

Spencer is half-hard in his pants. He pulls away just a fraction but Aaron follows and Spencer slowly backs up the stairs without tripping. In retrospect, he will probably ask himself how they managed this without anyone accidently killing themselves. He fumbles with the doorknob behind him, momentarily disconnecting himself from Aaron's lips.

Aaron pushes his shirt up his stomach and Spencer shivers. He bites at the edge of Spencer's jaw lightly, not hard enough to leave a mark, as Spencer reorients them in the direction of the bedroom. He pushes the jacket from Aaron's shoulders and it hits the floor just outside Spencer's bedroom door.

"Couldn't have worn a sweater today?" he asks when faced with the buttons of the shirt. Aaron bumps his hip into the side of Spencer's dresser.

"You're one to talk. You wear a sweater vest and button down everyday, don't you?"

This is mostly untrue. Sometimes Spencer wears a regular vest.

Spencer's sweater vest is the first thing to go and he makes quick work of Aaron's buttons as Aaron kisses him again, slow in comparison to how quickly Spencer's hands are moving.

"Sh-shirt," Spencer says to him, finally getting the buttons undone as Aaron cups him through his pants. He pushes that from Aaron's shoulders as well and presses up against him to kiss the skin near his ear. Their hips slot together and Spencer pushes against him, hands trailing down his sides and unclasping Aaron's belt. He can feel Aaron pushing undoing the button and zip on his pants and kisses him again, wrapping his fingers around Aaron's cock.

Aaron accidently bites Spencer's lip and he runs his tongue over it.

He steps out of his pants and pushes Aaron onto the bed flat, climbing on top of him so that his knees bracket his ribs and their cocks push together.

"Didn't think you'd be so pushy," Aaron says, hands clenched in the covers.

"Is it a bad thing?" Spencer asks.

"No, I like it. I - I can suck you off, if you want."

Spencer shakes his head. "I want you to fuck me," he says. He freezes a second later, when his brain has finally caught up to his mouth. "Is that okay?"

"Oh God, yes."

Aaron's lips are red and kiss-swollen so Spencer feels like he needs to kiss them again, leaning over and reaching through his bedside table drawer for condoms and lubricant (and this is exactly the reason he will always say that it never hurts to be prepared). He has to break the kiss for a second to see what he's doing. He's only done this twice before, and both times in his last year of university so he knows he should probably take his time. It's hard with Aaron looking like he does underneath him, though.

He places one of his hands on Aaron's chest to balance himself properly and slicks his fingers, reaching behind to press inside himself. He stretches himself carefully with one finger and then two, his breath hitching because it does actually hurt a little. He makes sure only to nudge his prostate once or twice. Aaron is avidly watching his face.

"Can I -?" he says in a strangled voice. Spencer nods and clumsily opens the condom foil as Aaron slides two fingers into him and crooks them.

Spencer moans and his cock jumps against his stomach. "Don't, don't, unless you want this to be over very quickly," he says, voice breaking a little.

Aaron rolls the condom on and slicks himself before Spencer sits up on his knees, holds the base of him and slides down slowly. He bites his lip hard because it hurts, a little. Aaron gasps and covers his eyes with his forearm. His other hand is clenched over Spencer's thigh. Spencer realises he never took his shirt off.

"Give me a second," Spencer says quickly, forcing himself to relax more than he is all ready. Then he rolls his hips up. He does it again, shifting slightly, and again, until he can feel Aaron's cock brush over his prostate. He bites the inside of his cheek and leans down to kiss Aaron, his nose brushing his arm, which is still in the way.

Four Days until Christmas

Things that Spencer did not expect to happen yesterday in order of least important to most important:

a. Snow storm
b. Ruining his shirt
c. Sex

And also,


Spencer wakes up to the annoying sound of insistent ringing. Immediately, Aaron sits up and gropes for his phone in his clothes on the floor.

"Hotchner," he answers. His voice is halfway between gruff and professional. He's already pulling on his clothes. "Yeah," he says, "I'll be right there, Garcia."

Aaron is completely dressed by the time he's finished the phone call. "Is that the demanding job?" Spencer asks when Aaron hangs up. He's not properly awake yet.

"Yeah," he says and Spencer is glad he had the foresight to get partially dressed before falling asleep. "The roads should be clear from here to where I work, my technical analyst checked. I'm really sorry about this."

The part about the technical analyst makes Spencer wonder just what he does, exactly. It's a little creepy. "No," Spencer says, "it's okay."

It feels like it's not okay, but that's stupid and Spencer tells himself so.

"I can walk you to the door." He gets up and starts getting dressed before Aaron stops him.

"It's fine, I know where the door is," Aaron says, almost smiling maybe slightly. "It's four in the morning, you shouldn't even be awake yet."

"Okay," Spencer says, sitting at the edge of the bed. "Be careful on the roads?" he says and it comes out like a question.

"I will," Aaron says. "Thank you."

When Spencer wakes up four hours later, he realises that they didn't even exchange numbers.

One Day until Christmas

The shop downstairs is closed. Spencer spends the day watching marathon Christmas specials in his apartment. His favourite is Mickey's Christmas Special.


The shop downstairs is closed. Spencer spends the day thinking about his mom, and loving JJ when she calls to wish him Merry Christmas. She's a wonderful person. He does not spend the day wishing that he could rewind his life to five days ago, because one would need a TARDIS for that and time doesn't work like that anyway.

365 Days until Christmas

Boxing Day is surprisingly not their busiest day of the year, but JJ offers to work it with him anyway. He thinks it probably helps that he's paying her. She also uses it as an excuse to give him three new books and a pair of mittens as a Christmas present.

Maybe it's not going to him stuck with JJ. Maybe it's going to be that JJ is stuck with the shop and with him, instead.

Spencer's always found that his bookshop is not the kind of bookshop one goes to when they want a huge sale. It's more for if you're browsing and really want something good to read, if you like the smell of book pages that have all ready been read a few dozen times. He puts on his usual sale of ten books for ten dollars anyway. They get five customers all day. Two of them buy ten books. One asks about the book tree with the lights still sitting in the corner.

363 Days until Christmas

"Is there a reason you're being a complete tool lately?" JJ asks, sitting at the counter and eating a doughnut from the café next door.

"No," Spencer says, shelving a box of books that he'd been putting off for a while. "Because I'm not."

"You've done nothing but snap at me for a week now. Also, you're putting the fantasy with the horror books again."

"They're fantasy-horror," Spencer lies. He feels bad. It's not JJ's fault that he's an idiot had had what is looking increasingly to be a one-night stand.

A couple people, a mother and a daughter, if he were to guess, walk into the shop and the door chimes. JJ gives them a wide smile before going back to staring at him suspiciously. He moves behind the counter and starts going over the clipboard.

Suddenly, "you slept with him, didn't you?" JJ hisses in his ear.

Spencer jumps. He didn't even realise she was right there. "How did you know?" Spencer whispers back viciously. "You left and it was dark!"

That thing he does where he opens his mouth and words come out? He wishes he could stop.

"You did!" JJ whispers so only he can hear. To make her point, she slams her palm down on the counter. The customers turn to look at them, startled. Spencer and JJ smile innocently. When they're looking back at the books, JJ turns back to him. "Spencer Reid, you complete -"

"Hey," he says quietly, "do I ask you about your boyfriend?"

JJ hesitates. "Are you dating then?"

Spencer stares at the clipboard some more. "No," he says.

JJ sighs and Spencer frowns at his clipboard seriously.

In the last couple days, the bookstore has gotten most of its regular foot traffic back. There are a few notable people missing. He hasn't seen Emily in a while and some of the people who browse while they wait for the bus are missing but largely, it's almost like any other time of the year.

Things are almost normal. Mrs. Baker brings him coffee from the café, and JJ makes him try the new M&M cookies from the bakery and he might be addicted now, and they get lots of donations, and the book tree is still sitting in the corner of the shop.

"You should come out with us for New Year's," JJ says that afternoon as she's leaving, winding her scarf around her neck. "Emily Prentiss, you know, the one who comes in here all the time is going to be there too. And you could finally meet Will. It'll be fun."

"I'm not sure what I'm doing yet," Spencer says, because it's the truth. He doesn't have any other plans currently though and he knows that he'll probably end up saying yes.

"Well, think about it," JJ says.

Ten minutes after she leaves, Spencer is just about ready to close everything when she rushes back in and almost knocks him over as he's flipping the open sign over.

"Hello," he says, steadying her. "Did you forget something?"

"No," she says smiling. "I was over at the café waiting for the bus and they had their TV set to CNN, right? So, you know who was on TV? Hotch! That's why he didn't call you."

"He didn't call me because he is on TV right now," Spencer repeats. "No, I'm pretty sure that it's because I never gave him my phone number."

JJ looks at him like he's stupid. "No. Look, he's in California right now. Did he tell you he works for the FBI?"

No, but it's not really like Spencer had asked either. They mostly talked about books, now that he thinks about it. And Spencer's writing. And Spencer's schooling. Actually, he asked a lot of questions about Spencer.

He frowns. JJ shakes her head at him.

360 Days until Christmas

It's New Year's Eve and it's completely dead in the bookstore. It's not horribly surprising. JJ isn't working today.

Spencer spends most of the day sitting at his laptop in his office and playing spider solitaire. It's a horribly addictive game, and he is very good at it.

He hears the door chime when he's in the middle of his twenty-second game. It's about four in the afternoon. The bell at the counter rings a couple seconds later.

"Just a second!" he calls, and closes the lid to his laptop. He stares longingly at his empty coffee mug for a moment before sighing.

"Hello, what can I – hello," he says as he comes out. The original end to that sentence was help you? but it's Aaron standing at the counter. His son Jack is running his hands over the books in the children's section.

"Hello," Aaron says.

"I thought you were in California?" Spencer blurts out. "JJ saw you on the news."

Aaron frowns. "There was a serial killer there. I profile with the Behavioural Analysis Unit at Quantico," he explains. Spencer nods because he knows what that is.

"Hi!" Jack says as he runs up and hugs his dad's legs. "I made you a star for your tree. Dad told me that you had a book tree but that there weren't any decorations so I made you this."

He hands Spencer a large, yellow, slightly misshapen star cut out of construction paper.

"Thank you," Spencer says, slightly amazed. He sticks scotch tape from his drawer onto the back of it and firmly presses it to the green bottle on top of the book stack.

"Go pick out three books, Jack," Aaron says, prodding him in the direction of the kid's books. He straightens up again.

Spencer twists his hands together under the counter.

"I left without getting your number," Aaron says. "That was not intentional."

"I know!" Spencer says quickly. "I mean, I didn't really know but I thought maybe. Um."

Usually, his brain has control over what comes out of his mouth. Not today.

Aaron smiles and Spencer stares because actual smiling. It's not something one sees every day from Aaron Hotchner.

"I was wondering," Aaron says, "if we could start over."

"Start over?" Spencer repeats.

"Hi," he says, leaning on the counter. "My friend Emily Prentiss recommended this bookshop to me. I've been here a few times before, though."

"Hello," Spencer says, slightly unsure. "Spencer Reid, I own this bookstore. It's nice to meet you?"

"Aaron Hotchner, but most of my friends call me Hotch. You can call me Aaron, though" Aaron says. They shake hands. Reid's hands are thinner, but Aaron's hands are rougher. He has callouses on his fingers.

Instead of dropping his hand, Spencer threads their fingers over the counter.

"Welcome to The Doctor's Office," Spencer says. "You should tell me about yourself sometime."

"I was hoping you were free tonight actually. Emily invited me to a party and I don't have a plus one yet."

Spencer's stomach tightens. "I'm pretty sure I don't have any plans," he says hoping for casual and possibly coming across eager.

"Good," Aaron says. He leans forward and brushes his lips against Spencer's. "Then it's a date."

Spencer turns the Open sign to Closed on his way out.