Title: Of Fathers and Fairly Godfathers
Warnings: Spoilers up to 7x10 Bittersweet Science.
Pairings: Still referenced: Hotch/Haley, Jessica/her husband, Reid/OC (past and present) and Reid/Canon Character. This particular chapter explores past and present friendship between Hotch and Reid.
Summary: Your son is working towards mastery in passive-aggressive art of manipulation, drives hard bargains and he also needs to cut off watching Fairly Godparents.
Word count: About 9200 for the chapter.
DISCLAIMER: The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios and CBS Paramount Network Television own Criminal Minds. I just took them out to play and I promise to put them back when I'm done.
Feedback is welcomed with open arms.
"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes—and ships—and sealing-wax—
Of cabbages—and kings—
And why the sea is boiling hot—
And whether pigs have wings.
Chapter three: Of Haunted Houses
To Aaron's relief Jack chattered all the way to THE house, through the brief stop at Krispy Kreme where Aaron purchased four boxes of donuts feeling that the kids would tear through two boxes, knowing that he himself will devour three-quarter of one of them and hoping that Reid would blitz through half of the other before caffeine and sugar will kick in.
True to Jack's words the house looked different from the outside already. For instance it was painted in a soft creamy yellow color, garage door were replaced, so were the windows (and Aaron had a sinking feeling that the glass was bullet-proof, talk about job acquired paranoia) and the roof-tiles. The front yard however didn't change very much since Aaron sold the house. All of Haley's flowers were still there and the only change Aaron could see was ivy that was slowly climbing up in the juncture between the garage and the side of the house (slowly because any solid help would mean easier access upstairs to any criminal that would have balls to try and access the house).
The front door were replaced too and the new were one of those burglar-proof ones.
Aaron looked down at Jack who looked up at him with his most innocent expression that still could pass for 'I told you so'. Aaron smiled at Jack to cover his initial nervousness.
But as he looked again at the door his deeply ingrained by his mother manners kicked in. He really should have called, it was common courtesy, sure it would give Reid few hours to prepare himself, not something that Aaron really wanted but Reid knew what happened inside this house and it was early enough for Aaron to actually wake him up...
Jack made a decision for Aaron and started pulling him in the direction of the house. Soon enough they were by the door on which Jack knocked as forcefully as he could before he stepped away three steps.
Aaron could hear a movement behind but didn't saw anything until the curtain covering the glass panel on his left side of the door was pulled slightly for a second and quickly dropped as bolts were turned, chain was dropped and the door opened.
The woman who opened the door was a bit taller than he remembered her being but not too much, no more than two inches, most probably around an inch and half and yet she still wasn't taller than him.
When they first met her hair were pulled into a tight knot but now, like yesterday they were down with front strands pulled away from her face in an attempt to keep the rest of her curly, black mane from her shoulders and were long enough to reach past her shoulder-blades.
Other than that she didn't change much. Her blue eyes like before were hid behind designer glasses and though the color of the frames had changed a little bit their rectangular shape didn't. Another thing which didn't change was her serene smile that played softly on her lips.
"Good morning Jack, Mr Hotchner," she said simply.
"We brought breakfast, Aunt Kate" Jack stated with a beaming smile.
Aaron felt that he really had coming the comment, 'At six twenty-two in the morning on Sunday?'
"'That's wonderful," she said with a smile which only grew brighter. "Do you want cocoa to go with it?" she added as she looked at Jack. "Coffee, Mr Hotchner?"
"Yes, thank you," Aaron said calmly doing his best to keep slight nervousness he felt from his voice. "Doctor..."
"Kate," she interrupted him. "Katherine or Cameron. I answer to either but I get to suffer from temporary deafness when someone uses Kat, Kathy or Kitty," she added quickly. "Come on in," she stepped back holding the door for them.
"Katherine," Aaron said as he followed Jack inside.
Kate would be too familiar, using Cameron established comradeship Aaron didn't felt and Katherine was official enough without being rude.
"Can I have vanilla-banana milk?" Jack asked eagerly as he quickly reached up and grabbed her hand.
Another sign of familiarity.
"Of course," she smiled at Jack as she closed the door with her free hand before she picked topmost box of donuts from Aaron and started leading the way towards the kitchen, still holding on Jack's hand and leaving her back open to Aaron.
She wasn't afraid of him, which was good. Aaron wasn't sure if he would completely be able to turn his back towards virtual stranger as she did. He quickly shook his head and followed her and Jack to the kitchen.
Jack was right, the house did change considerably since he was here for the last time. Kitchen, dinning-room, breakfast-corner and living-room were wide open even though the staircase (wider, moved and replaced) seemed to serve as a natural boundary between the living-room and the dinning-room. From where Aaron stood in the entrance between the dinning-room and the kitchen he could see only four doors. One right from the kitchen and one in the dinning-room (designed to lead to the garage, in the old days there was a mud and utility room there). The third door were on the other side of the house closer to the backyard and the fourth were on the same wall closer to the front-yard.
As he expected, considering that Reid was supposed to live here, all area around the stairs (at the very least from what Aaron could see) was covered with shelves, so were the walls of the dinning-room, though the shelves in the dinning-room hosted not books but china pieces and small trinkets in wooden and transparent cabinets.
The shelves surrounding the stairs were filled with a mixture of books, photographs and few small plants on upper shelves.
Aside from the small carpet by the door there was no carpeting Aaron could see which left the oak panels on the floor (he remembered them being in place when he and Haley purchased the house) and all furniture Aaron could see was matching the panels.
It was the same house yet it was a different house.
He smiled when he looked around the kitchen quickly recognizing Reid's most priced possession when it came to home appliances, professional espresso machine with grinder which Reid found about two months after he started working in BAU on a flea market when Haley and Jess made him, Aaron and Mike tag along to buy 'a good porch couch that could fit a lot of people' for Mike's and Jess's new house.
They didn't find the couch but all of them got something grin-worthy from this trip. Reid, his precious espresso machine, Haley her most cherished china with pink rosebuds, five cups set, Aaron two out of five coins he was missing from the 1973 series in his coin album (only because Mike commented 'Eagle Eye that's blinder than a bat spotted it, thought that you might want to... hey where you are dragging me?'), Jess the set of six silver goblets with hunting emblems and samovar and Mike with 'almost genuine' replica of Elvis's guitar.
It was a good trip, it was a good memory and it happened to be one of the best espresso machines Aaron happened to ever drink coffee from, especially when Reid was feeling particularly generous and shared his highly guarded bag of Kopi Luwac with them and if Haley happened to bring around cookies...
A bile caught in his throat and he tried to swallow around it without much of success.
This was a house in which he and Haley wanted Jack to grow up, house which Foyet desecrated, house which Aaron deserted and a house in which Jack happily accepted from Katherine a generous cup of vanilla-banana milk with a beaming smile directed at the woman.
Aaron turned away from the two of them after he set remaining boxes with donuts on the counter to blink away the persistent mist that started to materialize in his left eye. He didn't want Jack to see that he was crying now because Jack liked being here and he seemed to feel safe here and it was nothing short of a miracle considering the brutality of Haley's death.
So Aaron wandered away to the shelves by the stairs because wanting to inspect the photographs was a perfect excuse to turn his back at his son and Katherine to wipe his eyes.
In the end it wasn't one of his brightest ideas because the first photograph he laid his eyes on was a picture from that spring picnic eight years ago in which Reid who was wearing a pointy cap, seemed to be engaged in a very animated discussion with Haley who was wearing smaller cap like a bird's beak and even though the cap was covering her mouth it was visible that she was grinning behind it.
As Aaron looked around the shelf there were more photographs of Haley around, most on Jack's eye level and in majority of them was Jack himself, either like as a small bundle of blankets with barely visible cap or as a toddler between two and four. In few of them was Reid, in few others Katherine with a curly, black-haired toddler in her arms. In other few they were both in there. In one particularly as Garcia would term it 'ultimately cute' one Katherine and Haley were sitting on each side of Reid who held another toddler while Jack and Katherine's kid, Haley if he remembered correctly each gave Reid a sloppy kiss on the cheek.
Garcia would kill for the copy of that photo, Aaron shook his head.
Small hand wrapped around Aaron's hand and he looked down. Though the eyes that meet his were dark brown they didn't belong to Jack but to a curly and black-haired girl that seemed to have Katherine's nose and serene, though a bit tentative smile. The curious look on her face however reminded Aaron of Reid.
"Hello, Mr Jack's dad," she said politely and her smile widened.
"Hello," Aaron whispered. "Haley, am I right?"
The girl nodded eagerly before she said, "Elle is sleeping, she is like dad, can't get her out of bed if there isn't cocoa involved. Lily is like them too, needs cocoa. Mama says it's yello... geno... genocide... genie, no genetics."
"Haley Emerson Cameron where did you learn that word?" Katherine called out of the kitchen.
"When we were watching the movie about pyramids with dad," Haley said simply.
The mutter that followed was uttered in a language Aaron hazarded a guess was Russian and most certainly contained a very saucy curse under Reid's address, one he most certainly heard about two to a year ago from a very nasty argument between Reid and Prentiss which made him pull both agents to his office where it turned out to be a very convincing role-play of a vicious argument which lead to the death of a young, Russian married couple in Baltimore. The performance was Oscar worthy because he hissed at both, 'English only!' and he didn't let both of them from his sight for the rest of the afternoon.
"You said that it's a rude word," Haley gasped.
"Lastochka," Katherine said swiftly. "I know that it's not a nice word but when your dad is doing something stupid, especially if his stupidity concerns you and your sisters I have every right to call it by its name, in his face and/or away from it when I learn of it."
"If you say so, Mamochka," Haley sighed. "It's still not nice."
"Malyshka," Katherine quipped.
"Does she even know to which word you are referring?" Aaron asked.
"Trust me, she does," Katherine rolled her eyes.
"Genocide," Haley replied simply with the most innocent smile a child her age could pull.
"Are you Russian?" Aaron asked curiously, trying to change the topic of the conversation.
"No, though if I dug deep enough I would find an ancestor somewhere in Ukraine area and most probably Finland too," Katherine smiled quickly. "My mother and oldest sister were doctors of Slavic linguistics, eastern and south respectively and in my childhood only my middle sister used English around me, the rest of my family explored my supposedly supremely spongy linguistic talents as they pleased. I spoke fluently in five foreign languages by the time I was six and eight by the time I was ten."
"And Haley?" Aaron jutted his chin at the girl.
"She knows English, French, Russian and Hungarian," Katherine answered. "She is very fluent in Russian and Hungarian, getting there with French."
"Haley is spongy with French," Jack pipped up. "She can read in it, Uncle Spencer taught her. Elle is good with Spanish."
"Jack!" Haley pipped up as she let go of Aaron's hand and ran to Jack.
"Haley!" Jack beamed at her as he hugged smaller girl. "We came with breakfast."
"That's cool," Haley beamed. "Mamochka can we watch Jimmy as we eat?"
"Of course, Lastochka," Katherine said. "Take the plates to the living-room, I will bring your milk there."
Once Jack and Haley were watching the adventures of Jimmy Neutron on TV as they munched through donuts from they post at coffee-table Katherine brought two mugs of coffee to the breakfast-corner and set one in front of Aaron.
"Spencer will be up soon," she said.
"I'm surprised that he already isn't," Aaron admitted as he thumbed the rim of his mug that claimed DNETAFW.
"It wasn't distress," Katherine shook her head. "Trust me Mr Hotchner if it was distress he would be down in eight seconds flat and he would be armed."
"I'm taking your word for that," Aaron nodded.
There was a longer moment of uncomfortable silence before he spoke again.
"Jack knows where he is," he said quietly.
"I know that he knows," Katherine answered calmly. "So does Jessica and Spencer."
Aaron stared at her.
"He tried to not show that he recognized the house," she said quietly. "But first time he came here he didn't move between the playroom and the living-room without either me or Jessica or Mike by his side. The second time he came here he asked the twins to work the case with him and he made sure to inform Spencer that he needs to teach them how to work the case."
"And you are allowing it?" Aaron shook his head.
"G. K. Chesterton wrote, Fairly tales don't teach children that dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairly tales teach children that dragons can be killed," Katherine recited.
"I know that, but it's not an excuse," Aaron shook his head.
"He remembered about time-capsule," Katherine said quietly. "He wanted to find it but he also refused to tell us where to seek it. As for the rest I blame Cinderella."
"Cinderella?" Aaron asked.
"Cinderella's Fairy Godmother made her wish come true," Katherine said. "I wish to un-burry the time-capsule, Auntie Kate. Your son is working towards mastery in passive-aggressive art of manipulation, drives hard bargains and he also needs to cut off watching Fairly Godparents."
"Fairly Godparents?" Aaron asked pointedly. "Who coined the term?"
"Haley, that's why neither of us twitched a pinky to uproot it," Katherine sighed. "About a month after Haley died he found Winnie the Pooh we gave to him. With a dedication 'To Jack on his 3rd and half birthday. Kate and Spencer.' Haley signed under it; 'Fairly Godparents' with our cell-phone numbers," she added and then lowered her voice, "Let's just say that his first call cost Spencer few braincells."
"The first time Jack called us he ended pounding his head against the table for five minutes," Katherine supplied.
"What Jack wished for?" Aaron asked quietly.
"For daddy smile again, just once," Katherine said quietly. "I don't know what Spencer did but three days later Jack called to say ''Thank you'."
Aaron swallowed and he hoped that it wasn't audible swallow.
"Did he have many wishes?" Aaron asked when he was sure that he could control his voice again.
"A few," Katherine nodded.
"A few?" Aaron asked skeptically.
"A few that puzzled us. Plus a great deal of regular, possible wishes that were easy to make true," Katherine answered as she looked away.
Aaron followed her gaze and spotted Reid at the other end of the shelves, dressed up in worn out jeans and a purple long-sleeved shirt that claimed in bold white letters 'Knowledge is power, and power corrupts. So study hard and be evil.' which was just as equally worn out. On the pro side he was dressed, on the con side he looked barely conscious.
"Morning Kate," he mumbled. "Morning Hotch," he added as he shuffled into the kitchen and latched himself to the espresso machine.
"Stake out by the crib?" Aaron asked pointedly.
"That and relentless beast," Katherine muttered. "John Hombolt IV. Neighbor's dog. Yapping york with severe cat issues. He is also known under other names but none of them a children friendly. His owner is insomniac and let's him out into the garden at night. I adapted, Spencer still has issues."
"Skunk would work," Reid muttered from the kitchen. "But for the life of me I still can't figure out how to catch it without being sprayed before letting it lose at that yapping menace. How one can consider as a dog something that is smaller than an average cat? Originally the purpose of keeping a dog was helping with hunting and protecting the household. That thing neither hunts well nor protects home. It just makes noise and stinky piles of poo in neighborhood backyards."
"Can we get a doggie, daddy?" Aaron heard from the living-room.
"Something big, smart, children friendly, shepherding, obedient. Border Collie, Bernese Mountain Dog, Golden Retriever, Alsatian..." Reid continued muttering.
"What happened to Reid's effect?" Aaron asked curiously.
"Developed Stockholm's Syndrome and was committed to St Elizabeth's Hospital, for eternal stay. Kynophobic side of aforementioned effect is strongly connected to my past experience with evil, yapping dust mops and anthropomorphized hot dogs that come equipped with jaws they like to sink into my Achilles tendon," Reid retorted before he took a long sip of coffee. "And the term itself was coined by a very special agent who took me for an exploration of possible dumpsite and then spent thirty-seven minutes sitting on the top of the wall because of his deeply hidden intense aversion to rottweilers which happened to be really cute and very helpful to the investigation."
"I agree they were helpful," Aaron grunted. "They were also evil and you were mad and chivalrous and I hate you," he added grimly and then turned to Katherine and said, "He refers to an incident which happened two weeks after I was almost mauled by a very vicious rottweiler. I preferred to not take any chances to repeat it. But his self-preservation instinct fell on the other side of the wall than he did and he bribed them with Oreos. Then he made up running story that I braved the rottweilers while he was sitting butt-planted on the wall."
"Because I knew that no one would believe the truth," Reid said simply as he picked the cup and approached the table. "I'm not even asking when did you got there."
"Six twenty-one," Katherine answered regardless.
"Which means that we can take the discussion to the office," Reid nodded as he nodded towards the dinning-room.
"You don't find my presence here as surprising," Aaron said pointedly.
"It was six twenty-one, not two twenty-one," Reid shrugged. "Six years old's aren't champion secret keepers. Your sedan is parked in front of the house, judging by the noise Jack came with you, you didn't bring your backup, you are dressed down and yet within socially acceptable boundaries and you brought breakfast. You came here for answers, not for revenge."
"Caffeine started to kick in?" Aaron rolled his eyes.
"Not yet," Reid shook his head. "Come on."
Aaron picked up his mug and stood up. It was evident that Reid was waiting for him and unlike Katherine he wouldn't leave his back open to Aaron but then again Aaron knew that Reid preferred to not take any chances.
Reid led him to the room at the front of the house on the opposite side to the garage and let Aaron in before he closed the door.
The room had almost all available space covered with bookshelves. Under the windows were comfortably looking window-seats and in the center of the room were two long desks, both cluttered with books, journals and papers.
"It looks..." Aaron said.
"Messy," Reid quipped.
"Totally you," Aaron smirked.
"It's also Kate's office," Reid added as he looked down at the desk closest to him and said, "Oh so there it was."
He reached for the phone and pressed 2 on the dial as he reached for the receiver and said, "Hi, this is Supervisory Special Agent Doctor Spencer Reid from Behavioral Analysis Unit and I'm calling to inform you that I'm sincerely sorry for calling you an immature jerk driven by your testicles and the need to lavish your boyfriend. Apparently I was wrong, I just found the missing file. It will be on your desk by Monday morning. If you both feel like it Kate is making designs for beef and tomato casserole for Monday dinner, if not more for me. See you tomorrow Jazz. Oh, and for the record I did not enter Rolf's office this week so whatever suddenly materialized in there didn't come from me."
"Do I want to know what it is all about?" Aaron asked.
"I forgot that until Monday morning you are still Section Chief," Reid muttered. "You know that Thompson got his future replacement?" he asked.
"Yes, an Unit Chief of Organized Crime Unit and SSAIC of the office in Anchorage for last fifteen months. Name Jessie Cameron. Recently in transfer between offices..." Aaron said. "Cameron as in..."
"Yes, that kind of Cameron," Reid confirmed. "Kate doesn't know that he is transferring the offices, merely that he will be in DC next week for her birthday, hopefully I should add, because as far as I remember the list of comings and goings Thompson's team is in the middle of rotation list."
"Close knit?" Aaron asked.
"Very close," Reid nodded.
"I was asking about Katherine and her brother, not Thompson's team," Aaron said.
"They are," Reid nodded. "Sit down," he motioned at the window-seat that faced the front-yard. "So?" he asked.
"So what?" Aaron asked as he sat down.
"You want answers, so ask a question," Reid said simply as he sat on the opposite side of the seat with his coffee.
It wasn't a perfect opening but it was one so Aaron accepted it even if he knew that Reid was assessing what Aaron knew. It was a sign of how much Reid didn't trust him on personal level.
"You don't trust me anymore," Aaron said calmly. "Personally, not professionally. That didn't change. What did, was the confidence you once used to put in me but you aren't doing it anymore. Not since Canada, not since Foyet attacked me in my own apartment. Then I only showed you my inability to save your friends, my inability to save Haley, to keep JJ in BAU, to..."
"With all due and undue respect you narcissistic, masochistic, matricidal, paranoid jerk," Reid cut him off harshly. "Regardless of what you think the world doesn't resolve around you and you are not responsible for other people's actions or more specifically lack of thereof."
"You are making no sense whatsoever," Aaron snorted. "What could you possibly had done back then that stopped you from confiding in me after?"
"He fired from the canon and killed a sparrow," Reid muttered as he shook his head before he put his mug on the windowsill and stood up. "It's not about what I did, but about what I hadn't done," he sighed as he walked across the room to pick up his jacket.
When he turned around Aaron saw that Reid had his wallet with his credentials in his hands and Aaron frowned inwardly. It made no sense whatsoever.
"The worst kind of regret is not the regret for taking an action but the one that haunts you for not taking one," Reid said quietly.
"You couldn't predict that Foyet was going to attack me, I couldn't do that," Aaron said quickly.
"I couldn't predict his attack," Reid agreed as he sat down. "I know that," he added as he propped his left leg against the wall and massaged his knee. "Change of weather is coming soon," he added grimly.
"But you still feel guilty," Aaron said quietly.
Reid opened his credentials and pulled square, white envelope from behind his ID. He opened the envelope and pulled its contents out of it.
"I was supposed to make sure that you would get it," Reid said quietly. "I got them the night we returned from Canada. Perfect excuse to come over and considering..." he shook his head and passed the contents of the envelope to Aaron.
It was a pair of tickets to Disney World, in his and Jack's name for the three weeks stay starting 14thNovember 2009. All inclusive.
The tickets were accompanied by a note in Haley's slightly slanted handwriting that read:
I hope that you will enjoy your 3 weeks worth all-inclusive vacation and that you will bring back from it many happy memories, and Jack, as hard as it would be to drag him out of the dreamland by the end of it.
It's not only a birthday gift for Jack, Aaron but also a one from me to you as belated as it would end being. I know that last year had been very hard on you and I know that I didn't help a lot, strike that, I didn't help at all.
I know what you are thinking right now and no, you aren't paying me back because if you do I will be tempted to sick on you Jack's Fairly Godparents and they will be armed with cameras.
So sit back, relax and enjoy the thought of fast approaching vacation in one of the happiest places on earth with Jack. Now that's better, smile again.
P. S. Don't interrogate the messenger or do interrogate the messenger and enjoy the dissertation about the importance of positive role models in a child's life that will be concluded with 'I seriously don't have any faintest idea what she is referring to, I'm just a messenger'.
"You held onto it..." Aaron whispered.
"For two years, four months and twenty-two days," Reid answered quietly. "I told myself tomorrow," he added even more softly. "And not a day went by without me regretting that decision. I held on them because..."
"You needed a physical reminder that sometimes tomorrow is too late," Aaron nodded. "And you call me narcissistic, masochistic, matricidal, paranoid jerk while you are just as guilt of the same charge," Aaron gave Reid small smile as he patted Reid's arm. "I will be taking those," he raised the tickets and frowned before he added, "You had done all of this because you feel guilty?"
"Define all," Reid shrugged.
"The house?" Aaron asked.
"It's kind of complicated," Reid sighed before he took a sip of his coffee. "You wanted to get rid off it and get rid off it fast and I could afford freezing my assets for few months, even a year. Kate and I however had a disagreement over the level of financial involvement so we each ended putting one third of the price on the line."
"It still leaves one third," Aaron said.
"Jess and Mike paid half of it and …. Elle paid the other half," Reid said quietly.
"Elle?" Aaron frowned. "Elle as in... Elle Greenway?"
"One and the same," Reid nodded. "It's a long and complicated story and right now I'm telling it from the middle. But yes, Elle helped. We could afford the purchase this way and I needed to know... I know that it was paranoid but I need to know who was going to buy the house and I could afford to wait patiently..."
Aaron nodded and said, "But you didn't sell it. You moved in here."
"For starters the house was kind of a demolition zone for first six months after purchase. At some point all that was left inside was the air between the roof and the floor of the basement. Jess gets particularly scary with a hammer when she sets her mind on it," Reid sighed. "But once it was livable it went back on sale," he paused and quickly added, "You have no idea how many sociopaths you can find in real estate business, both between agents and prospective customers. I think that Mrs Lambert scared off all of the decent customers, Kate is slowly adapting to that belief. In thirteen months it was on sale we came close to selling it twice but the offers were withdrawn in the last moment."
"We kept it on sale until the end of July even though it was evident that we had no chances at selling it anyway. In the end renting two apartments was easier than selling one house," Reid muttered. "And by then we already knew that we were going to need something big."
"It's not really that big," Aaron said.
"Five bedrooms, four bathrooms and an indoor swimming-pool. I know what I put in here," Reid said pointedly.
"You utilized the attic and the basement," Aaron nodded. "And finished the tree-house, as Jack relayed."
"Side effect of two weeks worth of suspension," Reid said simply. "It was either that or losing few screws and as much as I despise John Hombolt IV I didn't want to be responsible for the death of that menace. So I fixed the tree-house, though Jess commented that I went overboard with the tree-house and made out of it a tree-mansion. It might or it might not eventually turn against me once the twins will hit their teens."
"Twins?" Aaron asked.
"That's what happens when you start telling a story from the middle of it," Reid sighed before he took a sip of his coffee and quickly put the mug back on the windowsill. "Haley and Elle aren't really twins but they are the same age, roughly four days apart and they treat each other as twins which I guess it's understandable considering the... I shall start from the beginning."
"Motion supported," Aaron nodded.
"I know that I have abandonment issues with negotiable levels of severity depending when, where and whom you will ask about them," Reid said simply. "Non-negotiable point however is, I know that I have them and I know that they do affect my relationships. I don't trust people easily but once I start trusting them I trust them blindly which more often than not comes back to bite me in the rear..." he paused and then added softly, "I kept in touch with Elle after she resigned from BAU."
"I guess that since I'm already admitting to a lot I might as well admit everything and it's not that you can punish me for certain aspects you might find less ethical than you would like to," Reid continued.
Something clicked in Aaron's brain and few distant and puzzling memories got new meaning in the current light.
"Contrary to Gideon's hopes to set you up with JJ you decided to remain friends with the blonde and shacked up with the brunette," Aaron muttered.
"Story of my life," Reid deadpanned. "I end up admiring cold beauty of the blondes from afar but I go dancing horizontal tango with fiery brunettes. Leona McGowan, once burned, twice shy, you have no idea how happy I am that she slept with my supposed best man, as much as it hurt at the time. I'm still glad that I didn't advertise that disaster, I think that Morgan would develop a twitch and I'm worried that Garcia would suck off her credit card dry."
"I know of your almost marriage," Aaron nodded. "And of Elsie, you were together for a year but you only lasted a month living together," he added. "But you stopped at admitting that you left fraternization rules on the doormat of your hotel room."
"Mexico?" Reid grimaced.
"Mexico?" Aaron rolled his eyes. "I think that I've heard you two in New Jersey, but I thought at the time that you've ended watching an adult movie alone and I hazard a guess that you were also at it in Philadelphia and New York City and of course Mexico."
"If you will keep doing that don't blame me for enlightening you that neither Mike nor I were particularly happy with assisting Jess in watching You've Got Mail but we went with it anyway," Reid snorted.
"So you and Elle were friends with benefits," Aaron said. "Did you..."
"No!" Reid shook his head vehemently and he did nothing to hide his horrified expression. "I have a self-preservation instinct you know. Never, not on your life, not my life, Jack's life, Kate's life, Haley's life, Elle's life, Lily's life, Mary's life..."
"Okay, I've got it," Aaron smirked. "You never slept with Haley."
"Glad we settled that record," Reid huffed. "Haley and I were friends, I've got benefits elsewhere," he added and then frowned.
"Elle," Aaron nodded.
Reid nodded slowly before he said, "After resigning from BAU she ended in New York PD, that's where I found her after I gave her few weeks to cool off. Let's just say that our first meeting was... a disaster and I didn't walk into any door like I said I did. But eventually we solved most of our issues without further damage and remained in contact. Until Georgia."
Aaron remained silent.
"It goes without saying that I wasn't really well for a longer while after Georgia, between 7th February and end of April and I suffered a relapse twice in that time," Reid said.
"Which roughly dates Elle's conception sometime during that time," Aaron nodded.
"Kind of," Reid nodded. "But Elle and I weren't sure of that. She wasn't exactly fine herself and there were few more likely possibilities. I was the one that stuck around and offered to help. How couldn't I? Elle was my friend and though I wasn't sure if Ella was my daughter I wasn't going to let her struggle with single parenthood."
"West Bune..." Aaron started.
"Don't West Bune me Mr Connecticut," Reid huffed. "Ella was born on 17th January 2008, West Bune was on 16th April, two weeks after Chester Hardwick. If I were to snap from the possibility of overwhelming responsibility trust me I would have snapped an awful lot earlier, most likely on that idiot Morrison... Did I?"
"Okay, fine," Aaron said quickly.
"But I guess that the period between and the aftermath of both helped me clear my head. Not from the cravings, at least not completely but it's easier to control one thing when you don't have to control another and anger blinds and blindsides you. Of course I had to take into account my self-preservation instinct, the wish to remain alive, in one piece and employed. Talking with Haley helped me back then, you were mentioned, few times, not favorably and we ended sulking over ice-creams to Jess's unhidden amusement. Next morning I had coffee and Haley dropped me at the 'movie theater'."
"Go figure," Aaron coughed. "That you would go to Haley."
"One of the three," Reid shrugged. "If I went to you right away I might not have been and you can take a pick: alive; in one piece; or employed. I bitched, I sulked, I got over it."
"Which kind of explains why Haley went out of her way to ensure that I've got three rather than two weekends with Jack per month," Aaron muttered.
"Actually that conversation had nothing to do with it," Reid shook his head. "I was sworn to secrecy because I was least likely to freak out and she didn't want a repeat of Chester Hardwick, elsewhere and apparently Trent turned out to be an ultimate coward and she needed to hold onto someone's hand otherwise she would freak out," he grimaced.
"Cancer?" Aaron said quietly.
"Presumably for a short while." Reid nodded. "Turned out to be a mere cyst, nothing harmless or cancerous. But eventually I quoted one statistic too much and Haley and Elle booted me out of the room because I was not helping. They both later decided that I actually freaked out in the end. If they only knew... Jess gave me fourth degree over it."
"Fourth?" Aaron looked at Reid pointedly.
"So let me get this straight, Haley had a surgery in a hospital two streets away from Aaron's hospital and all time long you were freaking out that she will learn that he almost ended blown up into tiny pieces?" Reid said swiftly. "The answer was, yeah, kind of, I freaked out big, so sue me. Luckily it were two different hospitals because if it was one I would have gone AWOL and later on MIA."
"You could have said something," Aaron glared at him.
"You were both supposed to be resting, neither of you would if the other knew," Reid shook his head. "And trust me I've got out of it third, fourth and fifth degree, I'm not getting sixth."
"Yet," Aaron muttered. "When Katherine came into the picture?"
"Later," Reid sighed. "Haley and I were talking about the change. The lease on my apartment was slowly coming up and she suggested that instead of renewing it I should try a different neighborhood. So she found my apartment and during the first visit she spotted Kate, actually she turned around because Kate was distracting Haley and I really have no idea what she was thinking but I'm sure that she had great fun at persuading me that by buying a flat I'm investing into my own future, saving the money, spreading roots. Actually she was talking a lot about the gardening; roots, seeds, fruits... Elle caught part of her propaganda and joined the preaching. Kate was kind enough to enlighten me later what they were really rooting for."
"I get the idea," Aaron smiled. "You folded under the pressure."
"Seemingly," Reid shrugged. "Kate was nice and she agreed to go out with me on the world's worst date ever. We had fun just making up reasons why we wouldn't work."
"You did," Aaron said. "At least it looks like it."
"Well between world's worst date ever and the morning after the night before few months went by and I really got a chance to get to know her better," Reid shrugged. "It worked the same way like Elle and I did for a longer while."
"But..." Aaron said.
"There is no but," Reid said simply. "Hadn't be for a very long while, at least it feels like it. All I know that through the duration of over past year I went to hell in a hand-basket, repeatedly and I know that without Kate's overwhelming support I wouldn't have any strength left to crawl my way back."
"Because of Emily," Aaron said quietly.
"Emily was just a part of the equation," Reid grimaced.
"Elle?" Aaron asked.
"On 23rd December 2010 around 6:57 in the morning Elle had an accident in Baltimore. The damage done by the accident was horrific Hotch," Reid said softly. "Elle lost her left leg in the accident, both kidneys, she almost didn't make it from the table but the doctors managed to stabilize her. For over thirty hours it was touch and go and then... then we learned that it was going to be go because Elle started suffering from slow multiorgan failure. She died at 23:47 26th December 2010 after three days and fifteen hours of agony. Agony I saw, agony I would have cut my left arm to spare her..." his voice gone even more softer. "There is also something else you should know. Elle was dying as Greenway but she died as Reid."
Reid became very interested in remains of his coffee.
"And even then you wouldn't come to me?" Aaron asked quietly.
"For what?" Reid snorted softly. "Bereavement leave? I managed with remains of Christmas break. Smoothing law issues? I acknowledged Ella as my daughter seven weeks prior to Elle's death and as her husband I got sole custody, there was nothing to smooth. Sicking one of those bureau's shrinks on me? Thank you I was accompanied by two board-certified psychiatrist for the most of the time. All I only wanted back then was making sure that my daughter was slowly adapting to a new life after a great tragedy and I know that I wouldn't have pulled it off without Kate. What else? Oh, I hid a mental illness, in the end major depressive episode but for a while I was worried about something bigger and more permanent, like a dissociative identity disorder or schizophrenic break. That would majorly suck."
"I'm sorry," Aaron said quietly. "But it's the very reason why you should have come to one of us."
"I went," Reid shrugged.
"And?" Aaron asked.
"She died, except not really," Reid said simply. "I didn't go to Emily with everything, just headaches at first. I thought that it would be the easiest to talk about Elle with her. Unfortunately I didn't take into account revengeful sociopaths," he shrugged. "Nor did I took into account that my alleged best friend decided to become a sociopath that gets a special thrill out of making me question my mental capacities. If I couldn't trust her with my sanity how I was supposed to trust her with my daughters?" Reid stared at Aaron. "What you would tell me if I came to you? If I came to you and told you everything I knew what would I hear the lie or the truth?"
"You chewed off JJ in Durant but when I confronted you later you couldn't look me in the eye," Aaron said quietly. Then the realization dawned on him and he said quickly, "You weren't ashamed, you knew. How long?"
"I had suspicions since we returned from Portland," Reid answered calmly. "Learning that you were doing grief assessments only proved my suspicions and between learning that you were doing them and my own assessment I was in Bathesda for completely different reason but with a very enlightening result."
"Then why you were mad at JJ? And why weren't mad at me?" Aaron asked.
"Because I know you and I know that if I brought to you everything I brought to JJ to you what I wouldn't hear from you would be that grief is affecting my perception, that I'm obsessing and that I'm not thinking straight," Reid said sourly. "I've got ten weeks of it, eight of which I was very much aware how much dead Emily was and where she was. I gave JJ countless openings for a single sign of confirmation. She made a choice to not answer and I made a choice to not bother with her anymore. Perhaps, if we had more time I would have went to you but with the reassignments I saw no sense in that, maybe one day... after."
"You were still pissed off at her," Aaron said.
"I don't want to sound like a petulant teenager but actions have consequences, Hotch," he added bitterly. "I can forgive a lie, what I cannot forgive, still, is a fucking tug of war with my sanity. You can't stab someone in the back, choke out startled sorry and expect that everything is going to come back to normal because it won't. I don't roll that way and that's why I couldn't be angry at you for what she had done. It's this simple."
"If it was only that simple," Aaron sighed. "I'm not sure," he added pointedly.
"I am," Reid rolled his eyes.
"What happened in Vegas?" Aaron asked.
"On or off the record?" Reid asked. "You read the copy of the reports so the first part you know. Other than that my father bought my step-mother a new Porsche and let her take him on a drive, Lily was with the sitter. The simple explanation is: she is here and they are not. The accident was Kelly's fault she was trying to speed by three cars and collided with a truck, DOA. Lily was with us since then and by then we knew that while we could fit in two kids into two-bedroom apartment, three would be a tight squeeze."
"And you already had a house that was big enough," Aaron nodded.
"Plus two, two-bedroom apartments are way easier to rent than selling one house. They pay the mortgages for themselves and we still have something left to pay part of the mortgage for the house. Elle's apartment in Baltimore was also rented, it's not much itself but between these and self-appointed, fairly cracked in the head godfathers it pays the college-fund for the girls," Reid answered.
"Have they even went to school?" Aaron deadpanned.
"Kindergarten," Reid shrugged. "Haley and Elle are going in the fall. Kate sees no reason in relaying on daycare since she will be staying home full time until the end of March at least and work only part-time until end of August, though I also heard the version about end of September but I wouldn't put it past Nikolai to drag her back to work earlier."
"You can afford having her stay home permanently," Aaron said.
"Financially, yes, I can," Reid nodded. "But that's the only 'ally argument for having her stay at home with the girls. All other allies point to the contrary and aside of a learning curve I also have well-developed sense of self-preservation. Women wanting to work for most of the time is not about financially merriment, it's about the sense of self-worth and feeling that they are more than what they feel they are at home, being more than wife, mother and maid."
Having Reid say that stung like hell but Aaron nodded slowly.
"I know Kate and I know that making her stay at home on long-term basis would have turned against me and because I know her and I know what she is capable of when majorly pissed off I won't end making that mistake," Reid shook his head.
"I heard that Howard is cutting on psychiatric department," Aaron pointed out.
"So did I," Reid shrugged. "But Nikolai will sooner resign himself before he would let any of his doctors go, especially Jess and Kate. Jess has experience and Kate has a potential, plus they happen to be core of his program of how to keep the department unaffected by financial difficulties. Not happening."
"Still," Aaron started.
"Morgan has a motto that says: don't sass a woman who is permitted to carry a gun. My motto says: don't sass a woman who has active AMA credentials in psychiatric medicine in all eastern states and can validate them in other states within one day," Reid said pointedly. "Don't. Argue. I don't."
Aaron nodded before he said, "Mary?"
"With Mary is like with Haley," Reid sighed. "It's almost exactly like with Haley. Kate and Jessie had two older sisters. The oldest, Emerson, Haley's mother and Jessie's older twin, Allison, Mary's, Nora's and Mona's mother. Both were murdered. Emerson by her husband and Haley's father when Haley was two months old and Allison... along with Nora and Mona, in November, by a stalker."
Aaron frowned because he remembered that Reid fled to Chicago on a consult two days after Monica's abduction and seemed to return the most disturbed.
"She lived in Chicago?" he asked.
"Yes," Reid nodded. "It was that case and no, I didn't come in contact with him because if I would he would be dead but he is not. He folded and admitted to committing the murder without me going into that room and threatening to fold him after turning him inside out," he added sourly. "Yes, I know that I could have said something. But seriously? Would you?"
"At the very least if you said something I wouldn't let you come alone," Aaron pointed out.
"Not happening," Reid snorted. "If you made it team's case most probably you would be agent down before we would catch him. You are forgetting that I know team's dynamics and I can hazard pretty strong guess that the agent interviewing Kate about her relationship with Allison would be JJ. When she learned of Allison's, Nora's and Mona's deaths Kate was in no state to compartmentalize for a longer while and because she knew everything I knew, she would have torn JJ into shreds, psychologically for sure and I preferred to not take chances with physically. JJ wouldn't stood a chance against Kate."
"JJ is more than capable to hold her ground with angry and distraught members of the victims families," Aaron said.
"I know that," Reid nodded. "I also know that JJ never had a profiler profiling her from the top of her head to the bottom of her shoes, she was never viciously and cruelly profiled, never had all of her vulnerabilities, her real or alleged mistakes thrown into her face all at the same time."
"Katherine would do that?" Aaron frowned.
"With almost sadistic pleasure," Reid confirmed. "Assuming that JJ would say something that would make Kate feel threatened, feel that her family was threatened..." Reid grimaced. "A mother's instinct is to protect her family and to Kate family doesn't extend only to children, I'm her family and she saw me falling apart because of what JJ had done. If JJ would make her feel threatened, she wouldn't think, she would act and trust me even emotionally disturbed she would have crushed JJ's mental shields in two minutes flat without even moving a finger and JJ wouldn't be able to defend herself."
"Like Eric Miller against in Karl Arnold's case," Aaron nodded.
"Minus compassion," Reid nodded. "I felt sorry for him but Mama's bear compassion turns off when her brood is threatened. What lead to that reference?"
"I've got a memo that he was found dead in his cell, brain aneurism," Aaron shrugged.
"Good for him," Reid shrugged.
"You are going papa bear?" Aaron asked.
"More like papa wolf," Reid said pensively. "Papa bears don't stick around to raise their broth, mama bears do."
"For all your qualms that you are not an alpha male..." Aaron started.
"I'm not," Reid blinked.
"You think that if you will keep blinking you are going to persuade me that parenthood didn't make you grow a backbone?" Aaron rolled his eyes.
"I always had a backbone," Reid said simply.
"It's not funny," Reid muttered.
"It is," Aaron grinned. "Especially since I happen know how exactly you spend your sabbatical."
"I hate you," Reid coughed. "Don't remind me of it."
"I'm proud of you," Aaron smiled. "Transfer, promotion..."
"Suspension," Reid deadpanned. "Lovely end to my days as SSAIC Reid. If you breath a word to anyone what I was doing in Vegas..."
"I won't," Aaron said simply. "It's need to know only."
"And you better remember that," Reid snorted as he glared at Aaron.
"You would be making better impression if you weren't wearing that shirt," Aaron quipped. "Backseat driver."
"At least I never managed to get lost with GPS navigation, map and an expert on geographical profiling in the car," Reid retorted.
"I didn't get lost," Aaron objected.
"How do you call it then?" Reid quipped. "Exploring new roads? Because I call it driving aimlessly around the country."
"Searching for a gas station," Aaron said quickly.
"We passed one on the way back then," Reid shrugged. "Try harder."
"How about next time we will have to look for a route you will be driving and I will be keeping the map?" Aaron offered.
"Does it mean that you are planning to check the efficiency of search and rescue teams in practice?" Reid asked innocently.
"You know that if you will keep it up I might actually persuade Strauss that in order to raise the spirits, retest team dynamics and improve the level of trust in leadership a temporary change of guard would be good idea?" Aaron echoed Reid's innocent demeanor.
"For what if I might ask?" Reid quipped. "How long it will take Morgan to suggest that we should have you drug-tested? Or evaluated for first signs of dementia? Unless you plan to handle the leadership temporarily to Morgan, then he will just freak out, the rest would freak out with him. Dave wouldn't have accepted the step up even if you held him at a gun point. JJ might have experience in leading an office, coordinating units and contacting the locals but I warrant a mutiny within a week, three days if we would get a case. Emily would manage in the field but paperwork would finish her off."
"Which leaves me with?" Aaron said.
"Drug-test," Reid shrugged. "Don't even joke about it."
I have known sorrow—therefore I
May laugh with you, O friend, more merrily
Than those who never sorrowed upon earth
And know not laughter's worth.
Feedback is love.