Title: Refuting the Data: Mars and Venus.
Warnings: T/PG-13 (pre-slash, mentions of character's death, mild profanities)
Pairings: Hotch/Reid, past Reid/Elle, references of Hotch/Beth and Reid/OC (completely innocent though not overly subtle hints done by an old lady with overactive imagination)
Summary: Following the events of The Widowers Hotch, Reid and Rossi get together and talk. Later on, after his misjudged attempt at helping Reid open up to the rest of the team Aaron meets two important women from Reid's kids life. Written as a continuation for hotchxreid promptmeme story Canada and its follow up The Widowers.
Word count: ~ 9 000
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.
Semi-important Author's Note: I was wary of reintroducing her in this verse but the more I thought about it the more I was convinced that at some point her involvement would be important to the changing relationship between Hotch and Reid. So yes, she is back but in the same capacity she was introduced in It Had To Be You, harmless sounding board for emotionally shaken Reid (and as my own bonus point, not here though, I get to write slightly Machiavellian Reid making fun out of Rossi with very uncooperative Hotch rolling inwardly with laughter in the background – you will understand what I mean when you will get to the end of this installment).
Happy reading and thanks for encouraging review.
Feedback is welcomed with open arms.
There are things that we don't want to happen but have to accept, things we don't want to know but have to learn, and people we can't live without but have to let go.
Refuting the Data: Mars and Venus
Somehow the invitation to lunch had turned into an invitation for 'come for lunch and stay for dinner' and consequently 'stay for dinner' extended into 'put your children in one of the guest bedrooms and have a drink with me'. In that regard Dave was a master of subtlety, but then again he was an experienced negotiator long before the idea of joining the Bureau started to be appealing to Aaron.
Of course Aaron could see through Dave's scheme easily and he could have put an end to it but he didn't really want to. Dave had a particular knack for narrating the stories with easy flow that made a person want to listen to him and his sarcastic, dry-witted comments never failed to bring a smile on one's face when he chose to indulge other people with his stories and something to smile about was what Reid needed right now.
"She didn't," Reid smiled as he shook his head.
"She did," Dave nodded. "I wouldn't believe it either if I hadn't seen it myself. Aaron, tell him," he signaled at Aaron.
"She did," Aaron confirmed. "I tried to tell him that the night of finalizing his divorce with Mrs Rossi number two didn't mean that he had to immediately start looking for Mrs Rossi number three but he didn't seem to listen and he said, 'I'm not looking for Mrs Rossi number three, I'm looking at Mrs Rossi number one.'"
"And she really did it?" Reid asked skeptically.
"Yep," Aaron nodded. "They almost convinced me that it was true and that's saying something."
"It makes me wonder why you divorced in the first place," Reid said pensively.
"There were many reasons," Dave sighed. "But two were predominant and intertwined with one another. Having children and adultery, BAU style. We tried, we failed, tried again and failed again, and again. She never lost hope, she kept trying, at some point it became painful to watch her growing excitement feeling, knowing what would happen. Blame started flying both ways and from there it spiraled out of control. One day it ended and that was a month before everything had ended. Craig Truman was a nice man, local banker, he traveled next to none, wanted to have a family and was there when I was not. She was happier with him more than I could remember her being happy with me for a very long time. It lasted a while."
"You looked for him?" Aaron asked.
"And you didn't?" Dave quipped.
"Leonard Gershwin, physical education major, former quarterback, wet-nosed middle school teacher. It lasted two months before he moved away with his fiancee to Seattle, hello irony," Aaron snorted into his whiskey.
"That's not the end of it," Reid muttered. "We had a Leonard Gershwin in spring semester in 2009, majored in PE, played quarterback in college, made a point of his pitiful existence blowing every single of my lessons about geographical profiling into tiny pieces but miraculously he passed the final test to my utmost shock and overwhelming relief. Every time I had lessons with his class Elle ended asking me why I'm coming back home with pockets full of pink paperclips and why I felt the deep, unyielding need to built a replica of a katana with them. It was shortly after we moved in together."
"What you told her?" Aaron asked curiously.
"That I once worked a case where a man slaughtered his wife with a pink paperclip and that my inner unsub feels greatly inspired to do the same an idiotic cadet who as the time goes by is getting more and more on my nerves. She told me that it was perfectly understandable that in order to stop myself from a murder I chose to built a replica of a weapon," Reid smirked. "Once I finished it she took it to work and left it in her office. They still have it."
"So where she worked?" Dave asked and when Aaron kicked him he added simply, "What? It's a pink katana."
"After leaving NYPD she moved back to DC and came back to FBI, ended in Crimes Against Children Unit in College Park," Reid answered and as he looked at Aaron he added, "We didn't fraternize on the clock, well aside of that one time when I was doing a consult with CACU and I encountered a probationary agent with lecherous ideas. In that regard I'm admitting to blatant disregard of fraternization rules and deliberate misuse of a federal property."
Dave barked out a laugh and Aaron's lips twitched.
"I will let it slide, this time," Aaron said. "Just don't do it again."
"Yes mum," Reid quipped.
"I have to ask," Dave said. "Helicopters?"
Reid's smile lost its whimsicality which gave way to wistful softness of a man who lost himself in a cherished memory and a minute had passed before he said softly, "On my twenty-ninth birthday I asked Elle how she would want to celebrate her fortieth birthday because it wasn't too early to test the waters and get a general idea..." he paused and took a deep breath. "Either way the helicopter was involved and so was..." he shook his head. "Apparently my butt looks great in a full body flight suit, at the very least that's what I had been told... I really hate NCIS agents and their masquerade parties and Elle promised me that if I will pull off I'm a FBI agent again she will skin me off alive and when Trinity from Matrix is telling you that you should definitely listen. At the very last the guy who ended being Neo sulked all evening long or so I heard because we didn't stay very long."
Dave barked out a laugh again before he sighed, "First few months? Of a serious relationship I mean."
"No," Reid shook his head.
"Foyet," Aaron said quietly. "Justified safety reasons," he added quickly.
Dave nodded slowly and said, "Elle is about four, isn't she?"
"Turning four in January," Reid nodded.
"13th January by my estimations," Aaron said.
"So you've got together about five years ago," Dave said.
Reid suddenly became very interested in his glass of whiskey.
"More than five years?" Dave asked. "Six years then?"
"Six years and thirty-two days ago," Reid muttered.
"When Elle was still with the team," Aaron said pointedly.
"As far as I remember there is a certain time limitation on the punishment for breaking fraternization rules," Reid pointed out. "It's not as if someone caught us in the act or our relationship status affected our judgment in the field and it wasn't as if we were seriously dating for following three years."
"Congratulations on having cojones," Dave said dryly as he looked at Aaron. "You didn't suspect a thing?"
"I suspected a thing," Aaron grimaced. "But I bought every simple and rational explanation he sprung at me. I sat on the TV remote, I have trouble sleeping, I forgot to turn the light on and walked into a drawer, I slipped in the shower... Take your pick."
"We broke fraternization rules only twice while on a case," Reid said simply. "And both times I was convincing Morgan not you, well one time you almost caught us but we were playing poker."
"Poker? Or poke her?" Dave coughed.
"Poker that might have lead to poke her if Snoopy didn't decide to butt in," Reid rolled his eyes. "Apparently once upon time my bedroom and his bedroom were one apartment and the wall between them was pitiful thin. I chose to discontinue the game."
"Snoopy?" Dave asked.
"I've been called worse," Aaron sighed. "And it served you right for breaking the rules."
Reid smirked before he said, "How about Christmas with the Hotchners and Brooks-Berkeleys. Never before I watched so many romantic comedies in one sitting nor I wanted to watch them again. I felt so traumatized that I had to watch original Star Wars trilogy in one sitting just to forget about it."
Aaron could stop the blush from creeping on his face. Reid knew where to hit.
Refuting the Data: Mars and Venus
It shouldn't have been this simple, except it was, he realized as he slipped under the covers. Since Emily 'died' he kept dreaming of empty shed in Marshall Parish and not even her return was able to put it to rest. It took him a while to realize and understand that the nightmare was never really connected to Emily. It took time and change in the grief counselors from Ms Pink Paperclip/I've Got My Alleged PhD in Psychology From a Cornflakes Box to level-headed psychiatrist who like Elle wasn't keen of taking any bullshit from him that a lot of his problems were born out of trust and abandonment issues.
Primarily he switched counselors when he realized that he had to accept that his migraines didn't have physical origins and he had to do it because his daughter and son deserved a real father not a shadow of a man who even when he was there wasn't really with them.
Major depressive episode. Anti-depressants. Recommendation for an extended leave of absence he fought tooth and nail to not succumb to but finally had to accept when the doctors informed him that Aaron needed second surgery.
The sabbatical didn't cure him from the depression but it gave him time to reset his priorities, regain the control over his life to a certain degree. He finally accepted that Elle was dead and not coming back and that Emily won't return either. He finally had time to be a real father for Elle and Aaron, he managed to find a little time for himself and his mum even though he avoided his father like a plague.
He was ready to walk away, ready to start a new life away from BAU but Elle's simple question brought him down to earth and made him second guess his choice which brought him to another conclusion that while he could leave BAU, BAU wouldn't leave him. His memory was just as much a blessing as it was a curse and while it would take a lot of time and many textbooks to drown the images of dismembered bodies, violated women, abused kids he knew that he wouldn't forget them. They will still be there, lurking in the back of his mind, calling him, asking him why he wasn't helping them.
Once when she was really pissed off with him Elle called him a slave of duty who put his job first and his family second. She apologized afterward but it didn't change how correct she was in her assessment. He missed his daughter's second birthday and didn't remember about it until the alarm in his cell phone went off. He promised himself that next time no matter what he wouldn't miss Elle's birthday.
But on Elle's next birthday it was Elle who wasn't there and unlike Spencer she wasn't coming back and little Elle wasn't an only child any more.
He hated Sam Withers with every fiber of his being and he had days when he regretted that the son of a bitch had died in the accident. But more than Withers he hated himself, for not being enough, for being unable to sooth his children pain and that what hurt the most.
"You aren't Sisyphus, Reid, no one is and no one wants to be," Cameron, his psychiatrist said once. "You are hurt, you are angry, you are grieving. You are trying to juggle between a demanding job and single parenthood of a handful toddler and needy infant. You got better but you are still struggling. You are climbing back up the hill and pushing your stone in front of you but you are getting towards the edge and you know that once you will reach it the stone might slip from your grasp again. No man is an island and you know it. The problem lies in your trust issues as well as in the need to be in the control of the situation. That's what really your nightmare is all about. You don't want your team to know the truth but there is a part of you that wants to admit it, to someone, anyone."
"I hate you, Crippled Bitch," he told her back then.
"I hate you too, Basket Case," she shrugged. "I'm not telling you to do it, I'm telling you to think about it a bit harder than you did until now. You might find yourself surprised if you would only try."
So he chose, not that Hotch left him much of a room for a real choice but being able to finally pour out the pain Elle's absence left was as much relieving as it was emotionally draining and Hotch more than anyone else would be able to understand how hard it was to be a profiler and a single father.
And once the fog had lifted with a clearer mind Spencer was able to bring them home before Christmas.
Hotch didn't leave him alone in past four days, he still hadn't returned to Spencer Elle's gun he took from him in Canada but Spencer wasn't ready to take it back, yet. Perhaps a bit later, not today and maybe not tomorrow but later.
He didn't expect to find Rossi at the cemetery but few days ago Rossi told Emily, within Spencer's earshot that someone was leaving white roses on Carolyn's and James's graves and that it bugged him because he didn't know who it was.
It was a chance for an opening, like Cameron would say, he got many of them since Emily returned, subconscious excuses to talk with someone who might understood how he was feeling. He brushed it off, he knew better that he didn't want to talk, he was just being sympathetic to a man in similar situation, that was all and there was nothing more to it.
Hotch and Rossi knew and for now it was enough, he though as he smoothed the ring with his thumb. It was enough.
He closed his eyes and burrowed deeper under the covers. It was enough, he wasn't going to dream off the empty shack in Marshall Parish, he hadn't dreamed of it for last four night. Baby-steps, one at time.
Elle was safe, Aaron was safe, they were sleeping down the corridor in a room next to his.
Refuting the Data: Mars and Venus
She nestled herself in his arms, with her back pressed against his chest. Her short dark hair tickled his ear but he didn't mind. He loved that time of the day and he simply couldn't get enough of it. His fondness for this kind of intimacy only increased with her growing belly because he knew that with the arrival the second baby moments like these would cease to exist for a longer while. He didn't mind that either but for now he settled for basking in the comforting intimacy of holding Elle in his arms.
He could almost see her smile when she moved his right hand from her tight and placed it on the right side of her belly. He felt a very gentle kick and he smiled into her hair.
"Someone is sleepy," he whispered next to her ear.
"We really should do something about that someone part," she said lightly. "As original as Someone Reid would be."
"Why not Someone?" he said lightly. "I like it and we can always say regardless of what would become of him in the future that we always knew that he would grow up to be someone."
"At the very least I'm not a mother of The Alien or It," Elle sighed. "But I still think that we should finally make a list of the names, Gold Hands."
"I see you brought spread sheet," Spencer chuckled which earned him a jab in the ribs with Elle's elbow. "Do we really have to take a look at the first sheet because I assure you that Someone will encounter at least one person with the names from that sheet in his life."
"I wasn't thinking about their popularity," Elle said simply. "Consider this sheet as a starting point. We can start off with crossing off the names we don't like and see where it will lead us."
"You can cross off first ten then because I assure you that Someone will have at least one of them in his class," he said.
"Bye-bye Jacob, Ethan, Michael, Alexander, William, Joshua, Daniel, Jayden, Noah, Anthony," Elle said as she crossed off the first column. Now between Christopher and Benjamin."
"Cross it off," Spencer shrugged.
"Pick one that will stay," Elle smiled.
"Matthew, none of them had ever picked on me," Spencer said. "And before you will tell me that there is something about Hugh Jackman no son of mine will end being called Logan."
"Leona McRowan, I'm not giving that supreme buttock the satisfaction of ever learning that I named my son after my alleged friend who slept with my fiancee," Spencer muttered.
"Now the third, what's staying?"
"Tyler probably, though I'm not a big fan. What's your choice?"
"John, old fashioned, wears well. Are we skipping over next tenth?" she asked.
"Yes we are definitely skipping that part," Spencer nodded. "As well as the next one, ones that I don't know personally are serial killers."
"What about Carter?" she suggested.
"Will majorly suck for Someone, no Carters, Chases or anything which also happens to be a popular surname."
"Fifty to sixty?" Elle asked. "How about Spencer?"
"Starting from the fact that Spencer isn't there and ending on my opinion on men who..."
"Let's skip that column for a moment, sixty to seventy?"
"Jeremiah," Spencer said and saw that Elle left also open 'Jason'. "Do you really want to?"
"Do you?" she looked at him.
"Naming my son after him would mean that to a certain degree I forgave him which I most certainly did not and you know it. I understand why he left but that doesn't mean that I'm going to forgive him easily the permission to struggle and leading to a situation when I've almost gone to meet my maker so to speak."
Elle crossed off Jason and she tapped another ten with her finger.
"Never ever, perhaps Nathaniel or Diego and maybe Dominic from the next column but I'm not overly convinced. What you think?"
"I like Josiah but I can live without him. Next? Hayden, Miguel or Kyle."
"Back to fifties then," Elle said. "Owen?"
"Suspect in a recent case. Zachary?"
"Victim in a recent case. Aaron?"
"Hotchner? I thought that we settled on not naming Someone after someone we know," Elle pointed out as she looked at him.
"It wears well as a second name and has everything a mother of an active toddler needs, it starts with vowel, actually has three of them, has a 'R' on which mum can put an emphasis..." Spencer ranted. "And it's the only one of my three names that I'm inclined to pass on to Someone. How about Robert?"
"Nice shot but Robert Reid? Kids are cruel, Spence. What about Hunter?"
"We hunt, our son doesn't have to," Spencer pointed out. "Thomas would wear well but Richardson and Wyatt already have sons named Thomas and no son of mine will be named after Bale."
"Cameron?" Elle suggested.
"Actual surname and we aren't naming someone after people we know."
"I will take that for a no," Elle smiled. "So out of one hundred twelve had been left. Are we crossing something off?"
"I can do without Nathaniel and Tyler," Spencer said.
"I could do without Diego and Miguel and I know that you picked them just because of me," Elle said. "So Matthew, John, Aaron, Robert, Jeremiah, Dominic, Hayden, Kyle. That's a nice, short list."
"Someone seems to like it," Spencer smiled. "Should we test if he reacts to one in particular?"
"Time to pick godparents now," Elle smiled back. "How about Gina?"
"Can I pick the godmother? And considering that I have to pick from three of them..."
"I was kidding, I would like Garcia to become the godmother," Elle said. "You are thinking about Morgan, aren't you?"
"He would make reliable godfather but... I can't really explain it... I was thinking... but for that I would need brass cojones and a shot of tequila, maybe two. But I'm not sure..." he sputtered.
"Let's agree on one certain godmother and two probable godfathers," Elle said softly. "Do you really have to go to work tomorrow?"
"I have to pick up what mysteriously appeared on my desk after I left and they all know that I will either stay in DC or head for Vegas if I will find a free seat and I promised Hotch that I would take a look at next months budget if I'm not flying to Vegas. Apparently a cadet from the academy costs just as much as a seasoned profiler if not more and when Hotch says that he feels like someone who watched Matrix one time too much it means that he really needs a fresh eye to take a look at the budget. All in all I should make it to College Park just in time for presents exchange."
"And don't forget to pick that elephant for Hannah," Elle smiled at him. "She is going to love it."
He remembered leaving the gift-shop from which he was picking the present for Elle's coworker when the phone rang. He remembered picking it up as he was approaching the car and saying, "Reid."
And that, "Mr Reid, there had been an accident..."
He woke up shaking like a leaf to the echo of his own screams, practically bathed in sweat with the sheets tangled around himself.
"Reid, calm down, you are safe," said a voice which was distinctively familiar as a hand gripped his shoulder. "Elle is safe, Aaron is safe."
He latched on the arm that was pressing him down and clutched it so hard that he felt his nails digging into the skin under cotton t-shirt.
"It's my fault," he whispered hoarsely. "It's my fault, I should have never... I'm sorry, I'm so sorry."
Refuting the Data: Mars and Venus
"I've seen reactions to many nightmares but it was the first time the reaction had been so violent," Dave sighed. "He didn't wear the ring at the office," he added.
"He put it on when we were in Canada, hadn't removed it ever since," Aaron said. "Most probably he wore it all the time when he was out of our sight. Especially after Elle passed away. Some profilers we are, he was falling apart right under our very noses and none of us..."
'It's just not fair that she's gone. It's like if we can't keep each other safe then why we are even doing any of this... Sometimes I think that maybe, maybe Gideon was right you know, maybe it's just not worth it.'
Contrary to his usual rambles in the field about different aspects of the case that he had found bothersome or interesting when it came to his emotions Reid did exactly the opposite. He never rambled, he was able to round up his feelings into one, maybe two sentences that carried profoundly overwhelming weight of his inner turmoil. He weighed every single word carefully and never used those he didn't think were necessary to express his emotions.
It didn't mean that Reid didn't mourn Emily's death. He mourned them both but Emily's 'death' allowed him to mourn more openly Elle's and those broken words during his grief assessment was the closest Reid had gotten to admitting the depth of his grief.
Aaron had everything right in front of his very nose.
"I accepted the obvious," Aaron said quietly. "I forgot how Reid reacts to emotional pain and I accepted the obvious, Dave. I should have looked harder, pressed deeper. Reid brought up Gideon's name which he rarely does."
"You aren't omniscient Aaron," Dave pointed out. "No one of us is, not even Reid. Did you see him wearing the ring before?"
"Have you seen her obituary?"
"Did he try to talk to you about her before she died?"
"You have the answer then."
"It still doesn't feel right Dave," Aaron sighed.
"We will be there and so will be the others once he will allow them to find out," Dave said.
"He told me only because I pushed him for answers in a place where he had no place to run and he was at his lowest," Aaron said pointedly. "Reckon how long telling the others is going to take?"
"As long as it's going to take," Dave sighed. "I just hope that we would be spared actual fireworks."
Refuting the Data: Mars and Venus
They took director's advice very seriously and didn't show up at the office for the rest of the year which was a small success considering that between Christmas and New Year's Eve usually all of the teams in BAU ended on local consults, even for one day.
Rather than heading south or west towards either warmer or colder climates they stayed with Rossi which was a vacation itself in a way and Spencer didn't delude himself by thinking that Rossi didn't enjoy cooking for more than himself or by making the meals kids friendly and apparently his pancakes being as good as daddy's was a very valued compliment from Elle.
Elle of course made further attempts at changing Aaron's diaper, this time with Spencer's consent and under his guidance, like first time around Jack helped her and at some point he even asked if he could help Spencer with bathing Aaron. Never-mind that after Aaron's bath Jack had to change his pajamas again but Jack was proud of himself and went to bed with a happy smile of a man who accomplished his aim which in return made Hotch smile and earned both Spencer and Hotch a comment from Rossi about growing kids.
Rossi, being in mood for not so subtle jabs and making Hotch and Spencer squirm uncomfortably managed to deliver, in a way dooming scenario for Elle and Jack that involved them being high-school valedictorians, Ivy League majors, federal agents, married to one another before turning thirty and having around two or three kids before turning forty. By the time he had gotten around to describe Grandpa Aaron and Grandpa Spencer devoting their retirement to raising grandchildren Hotch seemed to snap out initial shock and made not a very subtle move of raising the left leg of his jeans slightly to show Rossi his back up Glock.
But what made Rossi shut up for good about dooming scenarios was Spencer repeating the same movement as Hotch's but with raising both legs of his jeans.
"Are you trying to tell me that you need new pair of jeans because you outgrew this one?" Rossi asked dryly. "The pupil out-armed the master."
"Your gun safe can only fit four guns," Hotch said simply. "Your Springfield, your Sig-Sauer, my 17 and Reid's Smith & Wesson and I didn't brought my Sig-Sauer only because I cleaned it before leaving for Alaska and I left it at home."
"I hope that you don't usually carry all of them in the field," Rossi shrugged as he motioned at Spencer.
"I keep my 17 at home in a safe, Elle's 19 in my desk at the office and my Smith and Wesson on me," Spencer answered. "I don't carry all of them with me unless I'm supposed to be at the firing range or unless I'm planing to scare the living daylight of out incredibly bad grief counselors."
"With all safety measures?" Hotch asked.
"Are you familiar with the phrase armed to the teeth?" Spencer shrugged. "I was married to the best shooter from College Park and.." he paused realizing how much information he would have given if he didn't, "Elle liked collecting all kind of holsters, she had at least one of each kind and circled in and out of them, made me try a few. Take it as a a yes."
"I'm taking it as a yes Mr Glock Gaston m.b. H. advertisement," Hotch retorted.
"Look who's talking Mr I Suddenly Grew a Sense of Humor," Spencer deadpanned.
"Monday morning," Rossi said suddenly. "Nine thirty at the firing range, with all of your weapons."
"All weapons?" Spencer asked curiously.
"Don't tell me that you have a miniature tank parked in your garage, I beg you," Rossi groaned.
"I don't have a miniature tank parked in my garage," Spencer said simply.
Refuting the Data: Mars and Venus
When he entered firing range at the academy at five past nine on Monday morning Aaron already expected Reid to be there, after all his car was in the parking lot and according to Wally whom Aaron asked if he had seen Reid the younger man went in general direction of the firing range about twenty minutes ago.
What Aaron didn't expect to find was finding Reid with Agent Green, firearms instructor in the neighbor stations with Reid correcting his Green's position.
"Don't forget to let go of the blade in the right moment," Reid said dryly.
"Don't be a smartass Agent Reid, I'm a firearms instructor not a chief cook," Green retorted. "Okay, front sight, hand behind right ear and..."
Something zoomed through the air, definitely not a bullet, actually it sounded like a knife, before it stuck the target.
"Well," Reid took a breath. "At least you hit the target this time and I will give you a point for ensuring that your unsub wouldn't be able to run away in this case. It seems to me that an actual man would have lost his manhood."
"Hotchner is here," Green said. "You wouldn't mind if I stepped outside for coffee? I have cadets coming at ten thirty and I really need caffeine to deal with them."
"Hey Hotch," Reid said as he looked over Green's shoulder.
"Knives?" Aaron asked as he approached him.
"Rossi told us to bring all of our weapons," Reid said simply.
"Heart and head, Hotchner," Green said confidentially. "I remember the time when you were a wet-nosed cadet in the academy unable to hit your own target let alone pass firearms qualification. Where that Agent Reid went?"
"He learned how to pass his firearms qualification and improved his aim," Reid replied. "Go and get your coffee, you are becoming unbearable without it Green."
"Have fun gentlemen," Green grinned before he started to walk away.
"I will ask once again," Aaron said. "Knives?"
"Elle actually taught me that," Reid said quietly. "They are more personal than guns," he added. "Not to mention the fact that you have to go and fetch them after every throw."
"You practiced a lot in recent months," Aaron said pointedly.
"I practiced a lot in September and October," Reid nodded.
"Ready for warm up round?" Aaron changed the subject.
"Just let me pick my knife and I will join you."
Refuting the Data: Mars and Venus
"I hate you, both of you," Rossi proclaimed when Spencer finished summing up their results from each of their guns and coming with average result for all three of them.
"It's just one point Dave," Hotch pointed out.
"It's not you, it's me," Spencer said simply. "Me and that one millimeter he was missing to more punctuated area in the round with his Trusty McRusty."
"I will have you know that it's a perfectly good Smith & Wesson," Rossi tried to argue.
"We are not in wild, wild west," Hotch said. "We are in evened out east and Reid gets better results with his revolver than you, even if right now he looks like an armed Christmas tree."
Spencer rolled his eyes before he placed his knife in his its pouch and placed it on his left hip opposite to his already holstered revolver. He reached out again for his Glock 19 and crouched on the ground to put it in the ankle-holster.
"For a Christmas tree this sock is the only green thing I have on me today," he said as he stretched out. "Other than that I look pretty dull."
"Like someone's younger twin brother," Rossi quipped.
Spencer crossed his arms over his chest and glared at the older man.
"You are even scowling the same way," Rossi added. "All right I will get you that supposedly earned coffee with chocolate muffin. Just remember to not make a habit out of it, Tweedledee and Tweedledum."
"I'm not dull," Hotch muttered. "I'm..."
"If you say festive I swear that I'm going to laugh," Spencer interrupted him. "It's Monday, 2nd January, you are wearing that 'it's white and not washed off baby-blue' shirt with which usually goes dark blue tie, which this time is in a funny shade of purple. My guess is Jack was trying to help you and with your blue things he threw into the washer that horrid red tie from Helen Brooks you received ten days before we left for Alaska which means that this morning you realized that you have to embrace your inner weakness for purple."
"If that helps I have a plain black tie in my drawer," Spencer offered.
"What happened to moratorium on intra-team profiling?" Hotch asked.
"You could have simply said no," Spencer shrugged.
"You are profiling my dirty laundry," Hotch said.
"No, I'm profiling an overeager six years old that came in contact with your dirty laundry," Spencer retorted. "That's different."
This time it was Hotch who rolled his eyes.
Refuting the Data: Mars and Venus
For BAU standards first week of January had passed almost peacefully, they only consulted local cases and none of them warranted getting the full team into the field. During second week of January Aaron sent Reid with Prentiss to Chicago for a quick consult and following conference. Reid didn't appear to be pleased with the idea but then again Aaron knew that they both needed it. It wasn't that Reid continued giving Prentiss a cold shoulder following the team's dinner at Rossi's place, no, he was friendly again, to Prentiss a lot faster than to JJ but he no longer confided in either and it wasn't that Aaron really expected Reid to share what happened to him during last year with Prentiss right away but at the very least he had given Reid an opening which Reid might or might not use. But how bad his idea was he realized only when Reid called him on Friday morning to tell him that the consult might stretch over the weekend and that if Aaron would find some time to spare to come around to Mrs Sakura's place to give Elle a birthday kiss from him.
Aaron should have remembered and should have realized why Reid wasn't very keen to go to a consult which was more in Morgan's avenue of expertise and in his hometown no less. Aaron knew all too well how hard it was for a father to know that they won't be home on the most important day of the year in his child's life. Just the same year he barely made it home on Jack's birthday and he was lucky enough to schedule the initial big party for the weekend stretching out the celebration for two days.
It was his idea to send Reid into the field two days before Elle's birthday on a case which would make Reid miss it, most probably not for the first time because Aaron could swear that Reid missed Elle's second birthday two years ago in Atlanta.
He felt so guilty that he called Reid back five minutes later asking for Mrs Sakura's address and to warn her that he would come to pick up the kids in the afternoon. Reid of course protested that he was joking and it took Aaron ten minutes to persuade him to make that call.
Luckily for Aaron the rest of the team was out in the field on local consults when Aaron was leaving BAU at what was deemed as 'way too early to leave even though it was Friday'.
Mrs Sakura lived in Woodbridge and happened to be a nice Japanese lady who used to teach in kindergarten before she retired. She spoke of Reid warmly with the fondness of a devoted aunt who had no children on her own and dotted upon her dearest nephew. She was also very devoted to Elle and little Aaron and both kids were equally devoted to her.
It was obvious to Aaron that she loved to feel needed and she mentioned in passing that most probably soon Reid wouldn't need her assistance as often as he did now and that she was happy for him. Aaron understood what she meant when about twenty minutes after his arrival when the doorbell rang and she quickly ran out of the room the greet her new guest.
It was a woman of average height and built though in later she was a bit closer to the lanky side of average. She wore her long, dark-brown hair that curled natural way in a lose ponytail. Her blue eyes were hidden behind oval rimmed spectacles that completely didn't suit her but actually matched her worn down jeans and green woolen jumper that appeared to be two sizes too big for her. She looked like a woman who could be attractive if she made a little effort to take care of herself more but Aaron quickly reminded himself that beauty was in the eye of the beholder and that Reid might see in her something which Aaron did not.
Elle greeted her with enthusiasm and then quickly proceed to relay her day, in Japanese no less. The woman listened to Elle's story with undivided attention because little Aaron busied himself with building with his blocks in Aaron's lap and lost himself in his own world.
It was only when Elle finished her story when the woman looked up at Aaron and greeted him with a warm, friendly smile. "Kate Cameron."
"Aaron Hotchner," Aaron answered as he extended his hand. "Are you a friend of Spencer?" he asked feeling slightly weird about calling Reid by his first name in front of a stranger but if he wanted to establish the grounds for trust he had to give her an opening.
"Of course she is," Mrs Sakura answered for her. "You wouldn't come here otherwise, would you?"
"Actually I came here because I promised Reid," Aaron didn't miss how she accented Reid's surname, "that I would take Elle and Aaron to visit the ponies," Cameron answered.
"Ponies?" Elle squealed happily. "Can I ride on one?"
"I wouldn't offer otherwise," Cameron smiled at the girl. "Your dad feels really bad for not being here today..."
"He will make it up to me when he will get back," Elle answered simply. "He called me today to wish me happy birthday and he said that when he will get back we will spend whole weekend together doing whatever I want until I will grow bored with him and will decide that it's the time to kick him back to work," she said and then she paused for a moment to end asking, "Can Jack come with us to the ponies?"
"Jack?" Cameron asked.
"My son," Aaron explained. "Elle and Aaron met him few weeks ago."
"Sure why not," Cameron answered. "As long as Jack's dad would say yes," she added when she looked at Elle.
Elle wasted no time in turning towards Aaron with her normally big eyes growing even bigger as she clasped her hands in a pleading gesture.
"Are you a mother yourself?" Aaron looked away from Elle to stare pointedly at Cameron.
"No, but I like kids and I make a living from manipulating other people to do what I want, for their own good," Cameron answered simply.
"Who are you?" Aaron asked. "Mean real estate agent?" he quipped.
"Board certified psychiatrist and psychologist with MD in community and emergency psychiatry and PhD in clinical and counseling psychology," she explained.
"You can't be older than thirty," Aaron said. "And four specializations is a lot for someone who is under thirty."
"I have a lot of time to spare and I get bored easily," she shrugged. "And it's not that I had taken sudden interest in the curriculum of Eastern European Middle Age studies only to inform other students in the class that I already read three quarters of the curriculum in relation to my other studies."
Aaron smiled to himself, now that sounded like Reid he used to know.
"On the other hand I habitually bother the living daylight out of the pathologists at my hospital because anthropology classes would crash my working schedule. But since I'm working at teaching hospital it shouldn't really bother them that they are sharing their knowledge since that's one of the things they are paid for," she said simply. "About the ponies, Elle is starting to turn slightly blue so you better answer her right now."
Aaron looked back at Elle who clamped her teeth over her bottom lip and stared at him expectantly.
"Okay, we will pick Jack and we will go to see the ponies," Aaron said with small smile.
"That will be great," Mrs Sakura said as she looked pointedly at Cameron before she left to answer the phone which suddenly rang.
Cameron shook her head and rolled her eyes before she mouthed something the distinctly looked to Aaron like, 'Uncorrectable, hopeless romantic with no sense of subtlety'.
Refuting the Data: Mars and Venus
About an hour later on Mrs Potter's Little Ranch north from Independent Hill Aaron was leading one of the pair of two brown ponies by the reins with Jack seated happily in the saddle. Elle was sitting on the second pony which Cameron was leading by the reins. Little Aaron was wrapped in a purple carrier and was dozing softly with his head pressed against Cameron's chest.
"Uncorrectable, hopeless romantic with no sense of subtlety?" Aaron asked curiously. "Don't you think that comment clashes with what you are doing now?" he motioned with his free Aaron at the dozing infant.
"I'm carrying a dozing baby and it isn't exactly the best setting for a stroller you know," Cameron said simply. "And while Mrs Sakura is a nice and utterly wonderful woman whom people either love or hate because no one can stay indifferent about them my only problem with her is that she is harboring a slightly delusional notion that out of this flour one day will be a very tasty bread."
"And you are convinced that she is wrong," Aaron said simply. "That sounds like denial to me."
"I'm not convinced that she is wrong, Agent Hotchner," she said.
"Hotch," Aaron interrupted her.
"Hotch," she sighed and then continued, "I'm not convinced that she is wrong, I know that she is wrong. She was raised in times when people were strongly convinced that man and woman couldn't be just friends without harboring any deeper feelings for one another and even if they were just friends then for sure one harbored aforementioned feelings towards the other."
"Point taken, but why not?" Aaron asked. "Does Reid have something you feverishly dislike in men?"
"Yes, he does," Cameron answered bluntly.
"And that's?" Aaron pressed.
"What you have and I don't?" she asked.
"FBI credentials," Aaron said swiftly.
Cameron slapped her forehead with her free hand and she dropped it down quickly as she shook her head and muttered, "Men."
Aaron blushed slightly as it just occurred to him to what she might be referring and he stammered out, "Baseball equipment."
"Actually the bat itself," Cameron said simply. "I have no issues with balls themselves though I prefer slightly bigger version than baseball's and a bit higher at the front. And that's why no bread will come out of this flour but if it's any consolation if he was a she and he actually wasn't my patient I wouldn't really have problems with jumping his... hers bones."
"And what's his opinion about Mrs Sakura notions?" Aaron asked.
"That depends from the day, usually it goes labeled as 'ignore pointedly' but sometimes when he feels particularly mischievous during on and off coffee gatherings when there is just too many of Mrs Sakura male neighbors who just gotten turned down by a woman he can even go to 'paw the territory' mode. I don't mind because having him staking a claim on me saves me from their advances and when something actually happens he developes quite entertaining routine of 'me Tarzan, my Jane, move your hand from where it is or I will chew it off'. He never said anything but all of the wannabe Romeos just run away when he looks at them. That's probably the reason why Mrs Sakura is still hoping that there is something in there but I'm disinclined to get into a very long discussion with her about woman's role in man's life because I know that I will lose it."
"Still," Aaron said as he pointed at the baby in Cameron's arms.
"I live in the apartment above his and I knew them both," Cameron said. "They really helped me in a very difficult moment of my life. It was one of those when you really understand the meaning of a true friendship. I never felt like a third wheel when I was around them and I always liked taking care of Elle when she was smaller. It made me feel more like the girl I used to be before this... it happened. I made it through, I adapted to the life afterward with their help. I was on Emergency duty when the crash happened and I rode in one of the ambulances to the crash site. I found Elle..." she paused and cleared her throat, "I couldn't be objective, Elle and I grew close after my accident, not that kind of close which you may have in mind but she was my friend, sort of like an older sister whom I could tell everything without fear of being judged. And I wasn't objective, I made a nuisance out of myself at the hospital because I wanted to save her and I would have given everything to save her but... sometimes life gets ultimately complicated when we least expect it and then the only thing I could do for Elle was being there afterward for Reid. You didn't see him back then, I did and what I saw scared me, it scared me because I saw it before, in every single of my patients I was unable to save."
"I saw it," Aaron said quietly. "Back in Canada when he wandered away from my side. He had Elle's sidearm with him."
For a longer moment she didn't say a word until she said quietly, "He confided in you."
"I didn't exactly leave him any choice," Aaron said grimly.
"In all the years I knew him I learned about him one thing for sure, if there is something he doesn't want to talk about something he won't talk about it, period. It may seem to you that you bullied him into telling the truth and I can't blame you for feeling this way. But you need to know and remember that he made a decision to take a leap and that he trusted you to catch him. Word of advice, do not break it this time because if you do you will break him and he will never forgive you that," she said softly. "That confession cost him more than you can possibly imagine and he will trust you to honor it."
"He told you," Aaron said softly.
"Doctor-patient confidentiality," Cameron shrugged.
"And that was supposed to be an example of it?" Aaron asked pointedly.
"I'm sharing with you my observations not things that I have been told in confidence," she said pointedly. "At this point you need to tread carefully. Right now he is at his most vulnerable and he is going to hate it, trust me, even if at the moment he concentrates on what makes him feel good and that's knowing that someone understands that he might have better and worse days. But the time will come, sooner rather than later, when he would feel overly exposed and he will hate it. He will pull back and withdraw himself from everyone under a facade of whatever lie he will be able to spur in a moments notice and he is absurdly skilled with that. At that time you will have to navigate through a clearing full of bull poo and until he won't be ready to share it with the others you can't allow them to find out because it's the only thing over which he has ultimate control and the right to have this control. Remember, it's not yours, it's his."
"What I should do when it happens?" Aaron asked softly.
"Something I'm sure it's going to cost you a lot," she sighed. "Paranoid personalities by definition are distrustful but when they trust they tend to trust implicitly and more often than not for their confidants they pick a person with the same personality traits. Someone who formed this kind of relationship, for the lack of the better word, on the brink of adolescence and adulthood habitually tends to follow the example of the stronger personality if the confidant happens to be one. Sometimes they realize it, sometimes they don't but for the most of the time it's monkey see, monkey do."
"Nicely put," Aaron commented sourly.
"Darwin wouldn't mind," she shrugged. "You shouldn't either, I just complemented you and I rarely complement men off the clock."
"So if I talked with you during work hours you will be so sickeningly sweet that I would get cavities?" Aaron asked pointedly.
"I can get sickeningly sweet when I flirt and for that, chico, you have wrong equipment," she retorted. "And if I was going that way I'm quite convinced that you would start minding that within first two minutes."
"How can you be so sure?" Aaron asked.
"I can't tell a lot without getting in details but at some point Spencer discovered life after and that some people pay attention. It freaked the living daylight out of him and at this point a freak out of this proportions warranted a 'WTF is going on around me' kind of call and because sometimes when he gets this way throwing statistics at him helps him calm down a bit that's exactly what I did."
"What kind of statistics?" Aaron asked curiously.
"Statistically widowed men start dating much faster than females but there is nothing wrong with wanting to refute the data and consequently in given time there is nothing wrong with wanting to stop refuting the data."
Aaron stared at her pointedly before he muttered, "He got it from you?"
"I'm a grief counselor," she shrugged. "I know this kind of statistics and I don't have to be a genius to figure out what exactly means 'two years and nineteen days' followed by 'eleven months and seventeen days, now tell me that I'm crazy and that I should permanently change the coffee-shop.'"
"At least it wasn't overly hypocritical statement," Aaron snorted.
"It was," Cameron deadpanned. "He changed the coffee-shop but last week he came back there and made a complete buttock out of himself by inviting her for coffee at Starbucks. He called me later to sulk and swear off dating and told me that he will wait that thirteen months and two days."
Aaron couldn't help smiling slightly at that.
"Starbucks or not that's an improvement itself and I'm glad that he had given it a chance. When the right time will come he will need a boot and I think that he will take it more keenly from you rather than me. He knows me, sometimes he ignores me and it's not that I'm asking you to be his wingman..."
"Aren't you?" Aaron stared at her.
"I just want you to remind him once in a while that there is nothing wrong with wanting to refute the data and that there is nothing wrong with wanting to stop refuting the data. He will understand that and as a bonus point you will get to see him making a pretty good imitation of a goldfish," Cameron said simply. "Unless I'm completely mistaken and there is nothing there, then I apologize for my bluntness."
"It's not that there is something to refute..." Aaron started. "Or not refute for the matter. It has been two years and nineteen days and before that refuting or not refuting the data wasn't exactly very high on my list of things to do."
"The question is, do you want to refute the data?" she asked pointedly.
"Part of me wants to and part of me is telling that other part that there is nothing wrong with wanting to stop refuting the data," Aaron admitted. "I'm.. kind of lost and it's not that I have a lot of experience in... It has been a very long while."
"Just be yourself, if it's right you will know it and if not you will know it to and I'm pretty sure that another reason will come along soon. I might not be a baseball fan but I happen to know that good players get snatched quickly," she smiled. "Enjoy it and don't settle for less than you deserve."
"How do you know what I deserve?" Aaron asked.
"I don't, you do," she answered cheekily. "Don't tempt me to call you on Red Tuesday and ask me about your progress on stopping to refute the data."
"You wouldn't dare," Aaron rolled his eyes.
"You don't know me," she snickered. "And for that comment alone I might just call you."
"What's Red Tuesday, Daddy?" Jack asked curiously.
"A holiday for clinically insane people and their doctors with questionable mental health that don't know what's better for their own good," Aaron answered quickly. "Call me and you are going to regret it," he added as he looked at Cameron pointedly.
"That's so not working," she snickered.
Aaron glowered at her.
"Still not working," she shook her head. "Maybe I'm immune?" she smirked.
"No one is," Aaron snorted. "It has been tested and patented, it's infallible and you are not going to be an exception, I won't let you, at the very least take off the shield."
"Shield?" she asked curiously.
Aaron pointed at little Aaron who woke up at some point of their argument and was watching them curiously. Cameron shook her head but she also quickly transferred the boy into Aaron's arms before she wrapped the child in the carrier around Aaron's chest.
It felt oddly comforting to have the boy holding on him and when little Aaron nestled his head in the crook of Aaron's collarbone Aaron couldn't help but sent Cameron triumphant stare.
"Was it supposed to be an ending of this argument because that looked to me like a glower of Mama Kanga?" Cameron asked innocently.
"No, it's called temporary truce until we will get back on more solid turf," Aaron said as he ran his free hand over little Aaron's back.
"Your turf you meant," Cameron quipped. "I can live with that because it still won't work."
"If you are Mama Kanga then that means that Aaron gets to be a Roo," Jack commented.
"Dibs on the Tigger!" Jack and Elle squalled in unison.
For someone reason it sounded like the funniest thing Aaron heard in a very long while and Aaron couldn't help but laugh and it felt good. Besides in a weird sort of way he was Mama Kanga which made him laugh a bit harder and soon enough his laughter was joined by Cameron's singer and Jack's and Elle's crackling high pitched laughter.
The highest forms of understanding we can achieve are laughter and human compassion.
Feedback is love.