Title: Sleep Deprived or The Summer During Which Spencer and Aaron Fell in Love
Warnings: For the part: references to past character's death, profanity, angst, violence.
Pairings: Hotch/Reid, mentions of strong Reid/Elle friendship, others referenced in passing.
Summary: Non-established, Reid catches Hotch masturbating. After initial embarrassment they share one of the sincerest conversations they had in a very long time and from there they start their journey from friends to lovers. Eventual slash. Written for hotchxreid promptmeme.
Word count: ~... 17 000
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.
Chapter summary: While Aaron takes a painful trip down the memory lane, Spencer experiences no less painful confrontation with the ghost of George Foyet and his own insecurities.
Have you ever been in love? Horrible isn't it? It makes you so vulnerable. It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up. You build up all these defenses, you build up a whole suit of armor, so that nothing can hurt you, then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life... You give them a piece of you. They didn't ask for it. They did something dumb one day, like kiss you or smile at you, and then your life isn't your own anymore. Love takes hostages. It gets inside you. It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness, so simple a phrase like 'maybe we should be just friends' turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart. It hurts. Not just in the imagination. Not just in the mind. It's a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain. I hate love.
Sleep Deprived or The Summer During Which Spencer and Aaron Fell in Love
Chapter seven: Aftershocks.
It was once said that love is giving someone the ability to destroy you but trusting them not to. His mum said the same thing when he confessed, blushing just as hard as the raspberries she was adding to the pie for Sunday lunch his Father and Melinda were hosting in order to celebrate Sean's upcoming birthday, that Haley Brooks was the prettiest girl at school and that he dreamed about marrying her one day. His mum was smiling when she said that and that smile made him swear right away that he would never betray Haley's love if she would give him a chance to be with her.
It was one of the few promises he hadn't broken, not for the lack of opportunities, he had his share of them but staying faithful to Haley had meant more than the promise of temporary pleasure brought by the offering girl, and some of them were so pretty that he couldn't resist Pavlovian impulse to turn his head around and like Reid liked to phrase it, appreciate the view. But that was it, he looked but never touched and didn't desire to touch. Why should he when he had perfect girl waiting for him at home?
But that came to an end one day and in retrospect he should have taken it as a warning sign and he should have stayed away from Haley after Jess and Mike let them out of Becky's nursery. It would certainly make his life easier and would spare him the pain that eventually came when Haley left.
Except without Haley he wouldn't have Jack and without Jack he would became as jaded as Max Ryan devoting his life to catching the criminals until the only thing he would have left in his life would be the stack of cold cases that would haunt him, the shadows of unsubs that got away, they still did but to a lesser degree because Jack reminded him to live.
Jack knew that his dad was catching the bad guys when he wasn't with him but when Aaron actually was with Jack his son needed his dad to be with him fully without half-concentrating on playing war between the dinosaurs and the rest of the mascots and half-concentrating on whatever or not Reid was right when he commented that: from where I'm standing the map of Buffalo looks like a drunken game of darts, and whatever or not Reid's cranky comment had a hidden depth that would push the case forward (never mind that it did and that out of sheer gratitude for that comment Aaron spent a month going out of his way in order to stop by Reid's favorite coffee shop to keep the genius supplied with coffee goodies).
Jack needed his dad and Aaron needed Jack to remind him that sometimes one evening spent at building a fort and playing big bad dragon with intent to steal Prince Jack's favorite dinosaur had better effect on Aaron than spending two weeks lying flat on a beach and sipping virgin mojitos (the worst vacation ever).
He couldn't imagine his life without Jack just like he knew that Reid couldn't imagine his life without Lily. Aaron saw it in the moment the photograph of Lily, Elle and Reid marred by the eye of providence with a taunting question mark had fallen on Reid's desk. Right in that moment the ghostly shadow of George Foyet had made closing the case once and for good personal for Reid. The threat to his person Reid could stand, the threat made under the address of his daughter he wouldn't, even if it was made by a man long dead. It seemed that for a second or two Reid wasn't above going to the graveside where Foyet's body was buried in order to dig him up and beat him some more as irrational as it was. Aaron felt the same. They both wanted it to be over for good. It was probably the only thing that kept him from pulling a rank and sticking to it when Reid suggested that he should take the rest of the day off and sit this one out.
Aaron Hotchner didn't sit things out, period, and Spencer Reid of all people knew that. But Aaron Hotchner also trusted Spencer Reid's judgment, implicitly, especially when his own judgment was clouded by things he couldn't or didn't have enough time to compartmentalize. Reid proved, over and over that you didn't need a gun or a fist to kill someone because he wielded his empathy and his fury more efficiently than any other weapon. So no matter how miffed Aaron was about having Reid sending him home he also trusted his opinion that he didn't have to let Foyet torture him.
Walking away now wasn't a fail because Foyet was dead and Aaron was not and yes, Foyet killed more people right under their very noses but the fight was no longer Aaron's because there were other people to finish it and Aaron needed time to process what he had found, from Foyet of all people, and Reid wasn't going to let him avoid processing it so he could return to work with a clearer head.
Reid didn't want a repeat of Chester Hardwicke and neither did Aaron. That was the only reason why he stepped away when Reid suggested that he should. Not that Reid was counting on having Aaron stay with Jess for a little while longer before he picked Jack, Lily and their faithful Behemoth (seriously how fast prepubescent children were capable of bonding with an animal) and returned home.
He needed this, needed watching a movie in the middle of the day with a bowl of popcorn in his lap and the kids' heads wedged into his ribs because it made him feel alive, it reminded him why he needed to clear his head before going back to work. Though in retrospect he realized that picking Lion King of all movies wasn't exactly the smartest move as he watched how Simba agonized over the fact that returning to Pride Rock in order to claim what was rightfully his meant facing his painful past.
Did Reid left that movie on the top of the stack on purpose? Aaron shook his head deciding that Reid couldn't know in advance what was going to happen today and that the movie was left within easy reach by a pure coincidence
Oh yes, the past can hurt. But the from way I see it, you can either run from it or... learn from it.
He had to face the truth and the truth was that Haley had chosen Derek Morgan over him, he didn't know why, at the very least wasn't sure why but she did. What Morgan could offer Haley what Aaron couldn't?
Not money, Haley wasn't that shallow and even if she was Morgan had only spontaneous bouts of money between flipping houses and on FBI payroll he gained just as much as Aaron due to his position at the academy.
Attention? Aaron liked to believe that he devoted to Haley and Jack all of his attention when he was home and that he did his damnest best to concentrate on both the quality and quantity of his attention.
Just as Simba and his friends were plotting how to get past the hyenas in their path Lily snuggled even closer to Aaron's side and placed her small right hand on the top of Aaron's left hand and that was when it finally hit him.
Haley's less than subtle hints about not getting any younger... her adoration towards Jess's girls... the way she was always spoiling them. She loved Jack with all of her heart but just as much as she loved Jack she had yearned to give Jack a baby sister, the little girl Aaron couldn't give her because he ignored the symptoms of mumps when he still had a chance to take preventive measures against loosing his fertility. Why he couldn't see it? Why he had chosen to ignore it when he and Haley started drifting apart?
'Because you were handling it your way,' the little voice in the back of his mind that sounded a lot like Reid had pointed out. 'You dismissed it because you thought that you still had enough time to consider other ways of becoming parents again but Haley didn't want to hear about the adoption while it was the only way you were considering at the time.'
That was what Morgan could offer her, a baby, and maybe she would have one... but she didn't because he had to make the Reaper's case personal and by doing that he had placed his family, his team and their families in danger.
What could have happened if Foyet had decided to go after the families of his team first? What could have happened if he went after Elle first instead of Aaron, the easy target, one Aaron and the rest wouldn't have expected but one that would ultimately crush Reid, possibly even turn him against Aaron.
He could imagine that, Elle's and Lily's dead bodies on the tables in the morgue and Reid's accusing glare and spiteful words, 'It's your fault, you just had to make it personal. Why you hadn't taken that damned deal?'
What about JJ? They were gone for so long. It would have been easy to sneak into her and Will's flat and to overpower Will with the threat against Henry. JJ would have never forgave him if something happened to her boys because of him.
Elle killed William Lee because he was the threat to those who couldn't protect themselves and to certain extent because she knew she had failed them. She didn't hesitate, Aaron shouldn't have to hesitate. He should have put the bullet through Foyet's head when he still had a chance to save Haley, her dreams, his team, his family to which Foyet was just as much of a treat as he was to Haley and Jack.
Elle forever lived in her little girl just like Haley will always live in Jack. By accepting the glove left by Tom Shaunessy he put Jack, Lily and even Henry in danger because Foyet knew that loosing his family would ultimately crush Aaron, because the threat to Lily and/or Henry would crush and turn against Aaron the few people whose judgment Aaron would always trust. Perhaps that was Foyet's plan all along which had changed when Jack had gotten away and Foyet couldn't find him.
"Why are you crying?" Lily asked timidly as she shifted in his hold until she was kneeling against Aaron's side and wrapped her small arms around Aaron's neck.
"Because..." Aaron mumbled before he sniffed.
Because the movie made me sad? It was a very weak and shallow answer while he could give her the answer she deserved, the true answer, the answer he owed both her mother, and her father.
"Because I love you," he whispered finally as the new tears spilled from his eyes when Jack shifted in his position in order to kneel against Aaron's other side before he wrapped his arms around his neck over Lily's "I love you, I love you both and I can't imagine a life without you."
It was this simple. He loved Jack because he was his son but Lily had sneaked past his defenses as if they were made from a warm butter just by being where Jack was. Wherever he saw Jack he saw Lily too, smiling at Aaron, giggling with Jack over something that was supposed to stay secret until dinner or lunch if Papa Spencer had pulled that 'your mischievous expression bothers me greatly young lady so you better spill now or I will submit you to the torture of the tickling hand' he sometimes made when Lily and Jack looked a bit too mischievous.
She sneaked into his heart and made her place there because she didn't see him as a threat to her mother's memory. He was Jack's dad and that alone made him trustworthy, especially after he had taken care of her and her dad. It was too soon for her to have another woman take over her mum's place but a second dad? Her dad was awesome and to Jack his own dad was awesome, so having two dads had to be twice as awesome as having one. Besides with the way Jack was regarding Lily as his little sister he was including her dad into the circle so rather than loosing a dad he was gaining another one.
Aaron didn't want to imagine what he and Reid will have to put through once Reid would find a new place and move out.
It was an absurd situation but then again normal wasn't in his cards either. Normal sooner or later had turned against him. His normal marriage to his high-school sweetheart had turned in the end against him, with faults at both sides, so did his attempt at coming back to dating scene and moving forward because his normal girlfriend had found his issues incapable of getting past because they didn't fit into her ideal dream.
In so far normal life sucked and so did attempts to fix that.
He tried, God, he tried, but it seemed as if he was doing Sisyphean work. In the end he always got blamed when things didn't work out, he was never good enough, fast enough, strong enough. Nothing he ever did was just enough.
He couldn't give Haley what she wanted, he couldn't give Beth what she wanted and before that...
Before was a separate story and only few people knew that. Before had cost him the relationship with his brother because Melinda had found Aaron's choices and actions abnormal and she didn't want Sean to turn out like his brother.
Before was also one of the happiest points in his life, one where he could be just himself, where he and what he was doing was just enough. But even before had ended for him in tears and in deep denial that kept him from ever bringing before up in a conversation with anyone he'd met after.
Now before had seemed like an another life, life that wasn't his anymore. Not even Haley knew about it, Jess and Mike did but long before Haley had came back to his life he forbid them from ever bringing it up because it was just too painful.
When before had ended came after and Aaron's attempts to deny that before had ever happened, Grace knew about before and while she said she understood she did not and right in the moment Aaron thought he was on the way towards the happiness the world came crashing around him when he least expected it.
Her loss, Jess said, her loss and your gain, she said. Get into your head that one day you will be happy again and you wouldn't have to feel guilty about it.
She didn't mean Haley back then even though for a while he thought that she did.
After Haley left and it became painfully clear that she wasn't coming back Jess made a point of becoming the advocate of before, that part of before which Aaron from after wasn't planning to let resurface because once in a lifetime was enough and it had ended badly for him and he wasn't going to lose everything he gained over the years just because the little frizzly-haired devil on his shoulder was trying to tempt him into going after what he wanted when he knew very well that he wasn't going to get it.
Last few weeks felt like before and after when he knew that he wasn't going to get what he wanted but was content with what he could have. He brought it on his head all by himself and in so far he hadn't regret it.
He liked it, he even liked that slobbering fur-ball which made a habit out of chewing his running shoes and had gotten in touch with its inner cat in those moment of the morning when Aaron was fully dressed for work and didn't have neither time nor desire to pick up dog's fur from the pants of his suits.
He liked, he loved having Lily around and loved how much she and Jack together made the house fuller, a bit more chaotic, more lively, be it when they were finger-painting with such fervor that before lunch Aaron had to scrub the entire table from the paint because the pair decided to paint a long train or when they decided that Reid really needed their help with making dinner (especially at times when he really didn't need it).
He found himself humbled by the privilege of getting to know closer that side of Reid which Reid rarely showed, sassy, confident and prone to banter about variety of subjects as he cooked, played with Jack and Lily because watching Reid with the kids was utterly fascinating, like how he sat down on the carpet and allowed Lily to braid his hair even though Lily had absolutely no talent in hair-dressing department. But Reid patiently endured having Lily pulling at his hair without as much as a peep and even went out and spent the rest of the day sporting that eccentric hairdo because seeing her work made his daughter happy. When it came down to that Reid was ready to even make puppets out of carrot and parsley in order to make them dance and sing to Tu Vuo' Fa I'Americano reducing Lily and Jack into snickering puddle on the floor and effectively tearing Aaron for a longer while from his budget spreadsheet for next month.
This, it, was almost like before except in before the sound of childish laughter filling the room was nothing but a distant dream, dream without which he could live as long as he could have the happiness which before had offered.
Years ago when Doctor Reid was a wet-nosed rookie in the privacy of his office Gideon had told Aaron why Aaron was so hell-bent on bringing Cadet Reid on board. According to Gideon due to his less than stellar relationship with Sean a rather big part of Aaron found in Reid all the qualities he subconsciously wanted Sean to have and because they were roughly the same age by having Reid around and teaching him ropes was assuaging in Aaron the need to protect and teach his younger brother.
To certain degree Gideon was right, Aaron wanted to protect and to teach Reid how to be a good agent, good profiler but it wasn't the whole truth. The truth was that while Reid looked and acted completely different there was something in Reid's mannerism, those little trifling things like twirling his pencil the same way, the constant need to pull the strands of growing hair behind his ear, the way the curled fingers of his left hand were rubbing the underside of his chin that reminded Aaron of Matthew.
Reid wasn't Matthew. Matthew was a red-head while Reid's hair was dark, not as dark as Aaron but back then Reid was either dying his hair or lived the life of a vampire by avoiding the sunlight at all cost because sunlight brought the light in his hair. Matthew's hair were like Aaron's, short and easy to handle while Reid needed a bucket of gel for his curly mane to stay even remotely flat. Matthew's eyes were blue like the sky on a sunny day while Reid's eyes were brown. Matthew was graceful and Reid from those days had all the grace of a newborn giraffe. Matthew abhorred the taste of coffee and Reid couldn't live without it. Matthew was left-handed like Aaron while Reid was ambidextrous and predominantly right-handed. Matthew abhorred cooking and while Reid wasn't a chief he was efficient cook and he enjoyed cooking (not a single visit to Aaron's home went by without Haley getting out of Reid one of the family recipes since Reid managed to salvage Haley's burnt down chicken).
And in spite of all those differences there was something Reid which reminded Aaron of Matthew, Matthew at his best, his happiest and most mischievous. Matthew, who overcooked the potatoes, road-crisped the steak and dumped sugar instead of salt into tomato salad because he wanted to celebrate that Aaron passed his bar exam.
Back then Aaron believed that even though Matthew couldn't cook to save his life the two of them would grow old together, spend their retirement traveling around the world and in between Aaron would work his way towards the position of Attorney General of whichever state they would settle down while Matthew would work his way to the position of a professor or maybe even the dean...
Back then Aaron was blessing that he discovered Haley's betrayal because if it wasn't for that he wouldn't be with the man he loved and planned to grow old. He could see himself and Matthew visiting Jess and Mike and their unnamed, unborn at the time, children.
Matthew Thoreau met Aaron while Aaron was at his lowest and Matthew's gentle nature and patience to listen to Aaron's misogynous complaints about Haley and most women his age in general had first secured him in Aaron's life the position of a trustworthy friend, older, calmer... gentler... flawless...
Jess and Mike used to shake their heads when Aaron started talking about Matthew and very often they shared between themselves the look which only years later they confessed was their private ongoing discussion that resolved around, 'He really doesn't know what's going on?', 'Yep, still, bless him, he is so clueless that it would have been sweet if it already wasn't so painful.'
He and Matthew had spent ten years together, ten long, happy years of living together and hoping that they will be together forever and then... then everything had ended. One day Aaron returned home and hadn't found Matthew waiting for him with dinner but it didn't worry him back then because Matthew's students were preparing for their doctorates and the exams were getting closer and closer.
But when Matthew hadn't come back home next day he started to worry, he called his students and found out that Matthew not only hadn't showed up at their study session but also hadn't come to work on Friday morning nor he was seen at the campus through the rest of the day.
The last he ever saw of Matthew was the sight of his lover curled in their bed with a goofy smile on his face as he promised that Aaron should expect the retaliation for this morning's the world's best wake up call and that he wouldn't know the time or place.
And Aaron didn't know, neither the time nor place, not until it was too late to change anything.
It wasn't Seattle PD that found Matthew but a fellow agent from the field office, Tim Graves, one of the few of Aaron's coworkers who knew about Aaron's relationship with Matthew, and Graves wouldn't have found him if a completely different case hadn't taken him to the site where he had found Matthew's body with a Colt Matthew himself had bought in recent weeks from a collector, gun of which existence Aaron wasn't aware, gun which he hadn't seen neither in Matthew's hand nor anywhere in their home.
Graves further investigation had ruled out a murder, butchered robbery, and Graves really worked his ass off to prove that Matthew's death wasn't what was the most obvious explanation, premeditated suicide.
It was, but back then Aaron couldn't stand that thought, couldn't stand the idea that the man with whom he was planning to grow old had spent the last days of his life at planning how to end it in a way that would keep Aaron from stopping him.
Matthew's death was senseless and cruel, not to Matthew who made sure that his death was instantaneous, but to Aaron who was left on his own in the house they shared with the ghost of a man whom he loved. Matthew was everywhere Aaron turned, sitting on the windowsill and reading a book, he was in the clothes that were still hanging in the wardrobe they shared, clothes which Aaron couldn't bring himself to give away. He was on the photographs scattered around the house which Aaron couldn't bring himself to take down. He was even in that stupid cactus he was keeping on the windowsill in the kitchen, in a Cal-Tech mug he brought once from a conference in California in which they used to keep their pens at the desk in the living-room...
He was everywhere Aaron turned and he was gone.
Things that Aaron didn't know but was slowly finding out weren't making grieving process easier for him. Things like Matthew updating his last will and testament three months before he put a bullet through his head. Things like finishing already started articles and not starting new ones. Things like closing investment accounts and transferring the money to one account. Things like buying a plot at the cemetery and paying for that in advance, picking the brand of the coffin, suit for the funeral and writing that damned solitary note which was found in the breast pocket of the suit he was wearing when he died: I'll always love you, Aaron.
Matthew was planning his own demise for a very long time and Aaron didn't know why, was he once again not enough? Why Matthew didn't want to tell him what was wrong with him? Why he didn't turn to Aaron before he ended his life?
It was Jess who finally got through Aaron's despair and depression and what she had found didn't make Aaron feel any better but at the very least he had his answer.
The simplest answer was that Matthew loved him, loved him more than the life itself and that he was mortified that one day he would become the very reason of the end of Aaron's life.
It was Jess and Mike who drove to Matthew's hometown and spent their time at talking to people, asking about Matthew's family, they had found the friend of the family which adopted Matthew, man who also knew what happened to Matthew's biological family. Greg Gastroux, Matthew's biological father was a drunkard who beat his family at every chance he got until one day he left the town and never returned. Georgina Gastroux, Matthew's mother, was one of the gentles women in town when she was young but that had changed after she met his father, got pregnant with Matthew's brother, Mortimer, whom apparently she was blaming for the way her life had turned.
When Matthew had been five years old and his older brother was eight years old Georgina suffered from a psychotic break and she vivisected Mortimer in the middle of the night while Matthew was staying over with the neighbors before she ran away. She was found about a month later two counties over because one day she just walked into sheriff's station and confessed to killing her son but because she didn't have any ID or wouldn't give her name or that of her son she was transported to psychiatric hospital where she was evaluated and put on medication while the sheriff was looking in neighborhood countries for women that matched her description and whatever or not what she had told them was true about her murdering her son.
Eventually she was evaluated as a paranoid schizophrenic who killed her older son during the onset of a psychotic break and she was sentenced to spending the rest of her life at the hospital. She lasted there three years before she hung herself in her room.
In the meantime Matthew was placed in foster home and with time his foster family ended adopting him. They made sure that he was surrounded with love and attention and they moved away so Matthew wouldn't have to live with the stigma of being the son of a mentally ill woman who killed her own son.
Matthew found out the truth about his family only years later when his adoptive parents and sister had died in a car accident when he was eighteen and starting college. He was smart so he had done everything to get to the bottom of it and he spent hours at researching. He knew that schizophrenia was genetically passed and he knew that there was a chance that he would develop his mother's illness but until that happened he resolved to live his life as if the early years of his life had never happened.
Jess's and Mike's continued investigation that consisted from bordering on the thin line between breaking the law and calling old favors eventually had lead to the psychiatrist in Tacoma who diagnosed Matthew Gastroux with schizophrenia, considering the late onset most probably paranoid but because he never showed up again he wasn't fully differentiated. It was about three months before Matthew killed himself.
The truth about Matthew was the lowest of blows, a blow to his heart because Matthew didn't trust him with his illness and a blow to his ego because he missed the signs. It was no excuse that in the weeks leading to Matthew's death he was working almost all the time at the oddest hours of the day and that he didn't pay much of attention to things that weren't related to work.
At the very least knowing the truth allowed him to slowly move forward, move on. Matthew killed himself because he loved Aaron enough to remove the only threat to Aaron's life he had the control of: himself.
It wasn't fair and it hurt but Aaron had to believe that Matthew would want him to move on so along came Grace and even if it ended badly it was a step forward. After Grace for a while there was Kate Joyner and then his and Haley's lives had crossed again.
But it wasn't until he'd met and got to know Reid when he finally got the full closure over Matthew's death. It had taken Reid a longer while before he opened himself enough to speak of his mother and of his own fear of developing schizophrenia but in the end Aaron understood that neither for Matthew nor for Reid the fear of developing schizophrenia had fully went away, it was always there, deep in the back of his mind and the only difference was that they were scared of different things that the illness would rob them from. For Matthew it was Aaron and for Reid it was his mind, trusting it and the possibly passing the sickness on children he wasn't planning to have, ever.
Even now the only reason why Reid wasn't majorly freaking out that Lily was his biological daughter was that between his job and being home with Lily and Jack he literally didn't have time to majorly freak out in peace without having Aaron around to stop him from working himself out into a freak out of mythic proportions.
Freak out of this proportions almost always warranted that Reid would do so something stupidly dangerous, not to others but to himself. Freak out of this proportions meant that in order to not lose all control Reid stopped operating majorly on the familiar cold-headed logic and operated on the basic instincts, instincts to protect himself, protecting those who couldn't protect themselves or in one case revenge.
It was this Reid who allowed Aaron, Dave and Morgan to go on a merry chase after Owen Savage while the genius himself figured out right away that Owen would want to say goodbye to Jordan. It was this Reid who went after William Reid like a bloodhound after a fox wanting to pin on him the murder and rape of Riley Jenkins. It was this Reid who stayed behind with Adam Jackson and tried to talk Amanda into releasing Adam. It was this Reid who separated from the team on the case in Miami while he was suffering from an intense migraine. The same Reid who ruthlessly crushed JJ by implying that if he started taking Dilaudil again it would be because of her.
Even now, eleven months after Emily's return, Reid's and JJ's friendship hadn't fully recovered. They were friendly and they still cared for each other but Reid no longer trusted JJ the way he did before Emily's return.
It was a miracle that he still trusted Aaron. Perhaps that's why he hadn't fought as hard as Aaron expected him to fight when Aaron dragged him away from his flat. For some reason he still trusted Aaron to understand what he was going through and now he was trusting Aaron to understand why he didn't bring it up to Aaron when he had found out about Haley's and Morgan's affair.
It hurt, it hurt knowing that he wasn't enough for Haley. It hurt to think that the man he trusted with his life, his team and his family had betrayed his trust the way he did. It wasn't fair but Reid did have a point, it was over, Haley was dead and her last words were turned not to Morgan but to Aaron. In the last moments of her life Haley had the power to break him by throwing into his face that everything that happened and was going to happen, was his fault but she chose not to and extracted out of him the promise to save Jack and to show him that love was the most important thing in the world. In it's own way perhaps it was her last words to Morgan too, the confirmation that what they had before she died had mattered and the plea to move on.
It wasn't fair and it hurt but Reid was right, it was over. Aaron moved on, at the very least tried to even if it didn't work and Morgan sure as hell had moved on judging by how hard he went after Doyle, perhaps he himself hadn't acknowledged it at the time but he did care very deeply about Emily, enough to be angry at her when he had found out that she wasn't exactly who he thought she was, furious with Doyle for getting away.
While Garcia and Reid were mourning their friend, Dave was mourning one of the few closest women he had instead of the unborn daughters and Morgan was hounding the man who killed the woman he either already had fallen for or was falling in love with. It explained to certain degree why he was so ultimately pissed with Aaron but not with JJ. Because Aaron knew how much it hurt to lose the woman you loved and because, once again, to a certain degree, losing the woman he loved was Aaron's fault.
In retrospect it was the only explanation that was making any sense but the idea of continuing to ponder why Morgan did what he did was making Aaron's head throb. The man seduced Haley behind Aaron's back and instead of remaining pissed off with him Aaron was making excuses for him.
Reid was right when he sent Aaron home, his head wasn't in it.
He could always come back to Morgan's place and finish wrecking it until nothing but ruins would be left out of Morgan's house.
But as he hugged tighter the pair in his arms he decided that extracting a revenge on Derek Morgan wasn't going to cost him seeing how his son is growing up.
So he cleared his throat and asked, "Would you like to go to the park?"
Lily Spencer Greenaway-Reid was a force to be reckoned with even though said force was not even four feet tall and with her big, innocent, brown eyes and dark brown curly hair she resembled more a cherub than the spawn of Satan while in fact she was the latter and Aaron just didn't see that side of her before.
She only asked one question, one question but what a question...
Aaron always enjoyed spending the time outside with Jack and he quickly got used to having Lily around during their outings. He liked taking walks with Jack, holding on Jack's hand knowing very well that soon Jack will reach this age when holding on your dad's hand on a walk is uncool and for babies so Aaron resolved to enjoy it for as long as he could. Then along came Lily. On most walks which Aaron and Reid shared with their children she usually held on Reid's hand or Jack's but at times she ended holding on Aaron's hand.
Her hand was slightly smaller than Jack's, maybe a tiny bit softer and just as warm and grounding. That's what Aaron liked the most about holding Jack's hand during a walk, that grounding feeling of being anchored to reality in which his son simply existed giving Aaron reason to be who he was and to do what he was doing in his life.
Holding onto Lily's hand only grounded Aaron more even though he would be in danger of losing his ground if Moth, whose leash Aaron had wrapped around his right wrist to keep hold of not only Jack and Lily but also the dog, would decide to start running and would pull Aaron after him.
Luckily running was not very high on the list of Moth's favorite activities and the dog was perfectly content with walking few feet ahead of them between switching to walking next to Jack or Lily.
Aaron had to give Moth, and consequently Reid, that the dog was trained well.
"Aaron Hotchner?" he heard someone calling his name which tore him from his thoughts. "Aaron Hotchner!" this time his name came out as a definite and excited squeal.
He turned around to face the source and he almost cringed when he saw who was calling him and making their way towards him and the kids pushing before her a side-by-side pram and trying to follow it in her ridiculously high high-heels.
Barbara Baribaldi. The Barbara Baribaldi.
Fuck. Fuck. Fuck, ran through his head, as he gave her small smile and said as pleasantly as he could, "Barbara. It's nice to see you."
He shouldn't have left the house, he really should have stayed home, should have watched another movie with Jack and Lily, should have tried to figure out how to connect Playstation to the TV set so Jack and Lily could train Guitar Hero in order to beat Zoe in the upcoming tournament which was supposed to take place at Jess's house next time they would come to stay there. He should have done almost everything but he should not get out of his apartment.
Thirty years ago Barbara Baribaldi was an attractive girl even though just as attractive she was also just as mean and just as ignorant. With her father as a principal, efficient and very charismatic man (which was the very reason of why he stayed on the post for as long as he did), she became the most popular girl at school, quickly she got into cheer-leading team and was made captain of said team even faster. She was also the first girl in class to lose her virginity (even those who didn't want to hear that story had heard about it), first to date the captain of a football team (who stopped being a captain almost just as soon as he called it quits with her because he had caught her in the act with his best friend in football team's showers between practices).
She was an epitome of a mean girl and the very reason why stereotypes about intelligence of blondes existed in the first place. On the top of that she hated abnormalities and those who ignored her. No one ignored Barbara Baribaldi for long, if they didn't love her, they had to hate her.
Reid knew how bad was being a twelve years old child prodigy in a Las Vegas public high-school while Aaron on the other hand knew how bad was being a twelve years old child prodigy in a Suffolk public high-school (because the Hotchners don't go to private schools until they were supposed to go to college). The only major difference between them was that Reid was twelve by the time he was graduating from high-school while Aaron was twelve when he entered it. Either way fitting into a locker had majorly sucked at the time, so was being beaten by a girl older than you.
Luckily these days he no longer fit into a locker and was no longer twelve but forty-six, and didn't look it – Beth was really surprised when he admitted that he just turned forty-six years and told him that he didn't look older than thirty-seven or thirty-nine – which was something that couldn't be said about Barbara. She and Jess were the same age, fifty or on the verge of turning fifty and Jess still looked as if she had stopped aging ten years ago while Barbara not only looked her age but even her age plus five.
Her hair were still blond but the shade of it was not a natural one which meant that she was dyeing her hair and by the looks of it she was doing it for a very long time. She was dressed in a very tight, fitting summer dress which was doing a very good job of exposing what she considered her best quality, her cleavage, taking into consideration her real age definitely a work of a plastic surgeon.
Her face was also the work of a plastic surgeon in its abnormal attempt to look youthful, too full, too bright and too creepy with a smile that was showing her perfect teeth. She probably thought that she looked pretty but it reality she looked like a woman who was desperately trying to deny her age by looking younger than her daughter who by Aaron's estimations was around Reid's age of thirty, thirty-one.
"Aaron Hotchner," she repeated again. "Look at you. You hadn't aged since the last reunion we've seen you. How have you been?"
"Fine, Barbara," Aaron answered simply. "How have you been?" he asked. "You and Trent had an another pair?"
"Oh, no," she shook her head. "Mary and Mark are Bonnie's, I've just taken them for some quality time with their grandmother. I don't get to see them as often as I like with Bonnie and Greg living in the city and I'm not really big on traveling so far every week ever since Trent passed away, he was a much better driver than I am, more patient."
"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that," Aaron said politely.
"Heart-attack," Barbara sighed. "In a man his age."
Your age, Aaron wanted to say but only nodded.
"How have you been Aaron? How is Haley?" she asked with a smile.
"Dead," Jack answered quickly before Aaron could open his mouth.
"I'm so sorry to hear that," Barbara whimpered. "How that happened? How have you been coping? It must be hard bringing up two kids on your own. Did you consider remarrying? And what's your names sweethearts?
Too much questions he didn't want to answer, especially not in front of Jack and Lily.
"Jacob," Jack answered simply and the use of that name was a sign that Jack didn't like having Barbara around, he always introduced himself with his official first name when he was introducing himself to a person he didn't want to see ever again.
"Spencer," Lily answered swiftly making Aaron frown slightly as he looked down at her.
"But it's a boy name," Barbara protested.
"Not in England," Lily shrugged.
"Your parents aren't from England," Barbara chided her.
"My parents were born and raised in the states but dad's family originates from England, Russia, Czech and Germany while Mum's family comes from French family that for ages lived in Portico," Lily answered.
"Your parents were American, sweetie," Barbara said. "The Hotchners and Brooks had been in the states for ages."
"I'm not saying that they weren't," Lily shrugged. "But I'm neither Brooks nor Hotchner. I'm Greendale-Rozanov," the use of that surname caused Aaron to frown even harder. "Aaron is not my dad, Barbara, Walter Rozanov is, Aaron is my step-dad."
"Step-dad?" Barbara frowned.
"Yup," Jack nodded eagerly and said, "How cool is having two dads?"
"It's not cool," Barbara huffed. "It's abnormal. I expected better of you Aaron Hotchner."
"This is who I am, Barbara" Aaron said simply. "I'm happy, Walter is happy, Jacob and Spence are happy. We are like any other family."
"Can I ask you a question Mrs Barbara?" Lily asked quickly.
"Of course, poor dear," Barbara said gently. "Ask."
"Why aren't you wearing any panties?" Lily asked innocently.
Aaron drew in a breath in order to chide her while Barbara gasped and paled before she stammered out, "I'm wearing panties, Spence."
"You definitely do not," Lily said simply. "And your are forgetting that your shoes are so highly polished that if other people would look down at them they can see so far into your vagina that they are seeing your fallopian tubes."
Aaron's jaw dropped, so did Barbara's but she recovered faster than Aaron did and with a huffed "Little bitch!" she strode away angrily, almost falling over her feet in her high-heels.
"Lily," Aaron started sternly.
"What?" Lily shrugged her shoulders as she looked up at Aaron. "It's true, she wasn't wearing any panties."
"That's not the point," Aaron said stiffly. "That was rude and unnecessary and don't even get me started on..."
"What's a vagina?" Jack asked pensively.
Aaron motioned with his head at Jack.
Lily frowned then shook her head slowly as she mumbled, "Oh boy, he still believes in storks and cabbages."
"Lily!" Aaron coughed.
"I know that what I said was rude but she really wasn't wearing any panties," Lily protested. "She had a very tight dress and no panties line which means..."
"I know," Aaron groaned. "It's great that you notice things but there are things..."
"You wanted her to go away, Jack wanted her to go away, I wanted her to go away," Lily counted out. "She was creepy and rude and you don't like her but you were too nice to tell her the truth. You really need to ask dad to explain the rules to you, Aaron," she shook her head.
"Rules?" Aaron asked.
"Rule number one is: always do what your mum tells you to do. Two: always do what your dad tells you to do. Three: always do what the adult your mum or dad told you to listen to tells you to do. Four: never ever listen to or do what any other adult tells you to do. Five: if someone is giving you a bad feeling about them they are most probably bad. Six: if they are your age or around your age tell the teacher or any adult you trust. Seven: if they are not your age start running away and screaming 'pedophile'. Eight: don't take anything from strangers unless your mum or dad told you that you can. Nine: never wonder away out of your mum's or dad's sight. Ten: the dog is never lost," Lily recited making pauses between each rule before she said, "She was giving you a bad feeling about her and she was giving me a bad feeling about her so like mum said: to the hell she went, easy."
"What's a vagina?" Jack asked again.
"Do you know how the babies are made?" Lily asked simply.
"Yeah," Jack nodded. "When mum and dad really love each other they cuddle until they have a baby."
"Every time?" Lily asked pointedly.
"Only when they really want to have a baby together," Jack said.
"You so got an edited version," Lily sighed.
"Lily!" Aaron coughed as he felt the blush creep on his face.
"You look just like dad did when I asked him the same question," Lily said simply. "He turned the same kind of red back then. Anyway," she looked at Jack, "the babies are made when a man and a woman have sex, sex is an activity for adults only that consist from repetitive insertion of a penis into vagina and continued penetration of thereof done by – that's when Mum whacked Dad across the head with a dishtowel – aforementioned. Because it's a very pleasant activity for adults they like to do it together even when they don't want to have a baby, when that happens – that's where Mum threw a cushion at Dad's head but he ducked and she got the lamp instead – they put on a protective gear and when they want to have a baby together they just don't use the protective gear – that's when Mum said something about serving Dad human version of Rocky Mountain oysters for dinner which made him leave and come back ten minutes later with a book and that's when they explained everything."
"A book?" Aaron asked.
"It's called 'Where Did I Come From?'" Lily explained. "If you will ask Dad he will find it for you."
"When did they tell you?" Aaron asked skeptically
"When I asked," Lily shrugged. "It was 20th April 2012, I was four years, ten months old and a week old," she added.
"You even remember the day?" Jack asked.
"Why wouldn't I?" Lily asked simply.
"The more curious question is why would you," Aaron pointed out.
"I have no idea," Lily shrugged. "I just remember."
"Can we get that book, Dad?" Jack asked.
"Yes, we can," Aaron nodded.
'Where Did I Come From' sufficiently busied Aaron and the kids for the better part of the day even though Aaron was convinced that Jack could get through another year without more detailed answers about facts of life. But as Lily already proved it was better to explain them once and for all than deal with the damage already done by a more informed and cocky classmate like Ted Rogers who was the first kid in school who knew 'what parents were doing beneath the covers' and took a great pleasure from informing 'the bunch of babies believing in a cabbage and storks' about what he learned and because he didn't get everything right for the following months all parents were avoiding the Rogers like a plague.
Aaron unlike most of the kids got off easy because upon learning what Aaron learned at school his Mum sat him down and straightened out the facts Ted got wrong and confirmed those which were true. Not all parents were like her and quite a lot of kids, especially girls were informed that they don't need to know how babies are made because they weren't old enough to have them.
They started reading the book together on the floor with Aaron laying alongside with Jack and Lily who at some point changed the position to sitting on Aaron's back alternatively switching between digging her ankles or her knees into Aaron's ribs.
"That's what you and Beth were doing when you were having a sleepover, isn't it?" Jack asked pensively. "You were not making babies."
Aaron coughed and tried to stop that stupid blush from creeping on his face.
"And why did you stop?" Lily asked as she moved her legs so her ankles into Aaron's ribs.
That made Aaron turn red even more, he didn't feel like informing Jack and Lily about things and issues Reid himself had to drag out of him but he also had a feeling that neither Jack nor Lily would give up easily.
"When..." Aaron started and cleared his throat, "adults get together by testing their comparability... in all departments and because not all people like the same things they need to work on compromise between things they want..."
"And you and Beth wanted different things," Jack said simply. "That's why she is not coming here anymore, isn't it?"
"Yeah," Aaron nodded. "We were just too different to work together without problems and we... we split. She went her way and I went my way."
"Because you like Spencer more?" Jack asked.
"I like Spencer," Aaron said quickly. "But I like Spencer as a friend."
"You share a bed," Jack pointed out.
"A bed in which only sleeping is going on," Aaron explained.
"Why?" Jack asked.
"Because I like girls, Spencer likes girls..." Aaron started.
"And boys too," Lily said simply. "And you hadn't ask Dad why he was kissing one," she added with a shrug. "Never kissed another again when I was around but when we were reading 'Where I Came From?' he explained that it doesn't matter whatever you like girls or boys as long as you are happy with someone and want to make them happy because it's the person you love that matters not their body parts."
"Well, it's true," Aaron agreed. "But it's ultimately your choice to decide whatever you like girls or boys. I like girls, Spencer likes both girls and boys."
"Could you like a boy?" Jack asked curiously.
Aaron sighed and scratched his chin before he admitted, "I used to like a certain boy but it didn't end well."
"Why?" Jack asked.
"Because he fell ill and decided to leave and I never saw him again," Aaron said. "I hadn't liked another boy just as much as I liked him since then and I doubt that I ever will like another boy just as much. Maybe it was one of those things that happen to you only once in your life, maybe not. But it's a very old story."
"How old?" Jack asked curiously.
"Way older than you two together," Aaron said.
"Were you happy?" Jack asked as he pressed himself against Aaron's side.
"Very," Aaron sighed.
"Was he happy?" Jack asked.
"I hope so," Aaron sighed again.
Jack didn't ask another question for a longer while as he was watching the pictures of a baby developing in the womb. In the meantime Lily shifted so she was lying down on Aaron's back, with her head resting against Aaron's left shoulder.
"Do you have..." Jack started but stopped immediately when he saw Lily. "Oh, nap time."
"Is she really sleeping?" Aaron asked.
"Yup," Jack beamed.
"What you wanted to ask about?" Aaron asked.
"It can wait," Jack shrugged. "Can we read a story together now?"
Jack and Lily were sleeping for hours by the time Aaron decided to call Reid about coming home because ever since they parted their ways in front of Jess's house Reid hadn't called him even once which was unsettling.
Yes, Aaron was no longer working on the case but it didn't mean that he shouldn't be updated on its progress.
After two calls going straight to voice-mail Reid finally answered the phone.
"That bad?" Aaron asked quickly.
Instead of an answer he heard Reid closing the door before a different voice said, "Agent Reid's cell-phone, Samson Moffat speaking. How can I help you?"
"You can give back Doctor Reid his cell-phone," Aaron said.
"I'd rather not," Moffat said nervously. "Agent Reid was very adamant about not having anyone disturb him until half past five unless they have a serious break through with the case."
"Where is he?" Aaron asked.
"Sleeping on a sleeping-bag behind his desk with his jacket rolled up under his head, he fell asleep half of an hour ago and advised anyone who is staying at the office to do the same," Moffat relayed. "I was about to follow the example but I needed to borrow a spare blanket from his office."
"Why he didn't come back home?" Aaron asked. "He knows that it's a cold case, the unsub is dead and there is no pressure..."
"I'm really at no liberty to discuss it, sir," Moffat muttered. "Agent Reid's orders."
"I'm his direct supervisor and if you are answering to him you are also answering to me," Aaron said quickly. "What happened?"
"I really..." Moffat started. "In the light of recovering new evidence in the case of Goerge Foyet we discovered that a different unsub used Foyet's storage locker as a dump-site for three of his or hers new victims because the corpses we found there were too fresh."
"How fresh?" Aaron asked.
"ME narrowed the TOD to last two years, long after Foyet himself..." Moffat paused for a breath just as, "Moffat!" tore through the air. "I really shouldn't have..."
That was followed by, "Give it back Cadet. If I will..." which quickly became barked out, "Agent Reid, who the fuck are you?"
"Your supervisor," Aaron pointed out. "I'm coming to work tomorrow."
"You definitely do not!" Reid protested vehemently before he huffed, "Moffat, get lost."
Aaron heard a 'Yes, sir' in the background.
"I can help," Aaron said calmly.
"I know that, Hotch," Reid sounded much more calmer. "But I can handle that, it's not the first time I handled a murder investigation on my own and I really have all the help in the world. Having you here wouldn't change a thing aside of complicating things more."
"How so?" Aaron asked.
"I really don't want to talk about it now," Reid sighed. "You need time, take it, I can handle the investigation myself and it would make me feel much better knowing that you are with Jack and Lily at home."
"How bad is it?" Aaron asked.
"It's really bad, Hotch," Reid said tiredly. "I know what he is playing at and if I can help it until it's over I will be the only person affected."
"Reid!" Aaron hissed.
"We found six more bodies," Reid admitted. "Two males, one female, three children: two boys and one girl in locations I'm not going to discus with you. We found three more in that fucker's locker, male, female and a girl of about five, maybe four but they aren't Foyet's. I don't want you here..."
"Where?" Aaron asked. "Van Ness, JJ's street, my street?"
"I'm not going to talk about it now, please Hotch," Reid sighed.
"You need me," Aaron insisted.
"No, I need to not worry about you this time, I need agents who aren't affected personally by the case. I need someone who will take me aside and tell me to stop working myself into an exhaustion and I need to intellectually know that this person won't be hypocritical about it. I need Anderson, I need Strauss, they have personal distance from this case you don't have, that's why I need you to sit this one out, all of it, new evidence included," Reid said vehemently.
"You don't trust me to keep my head on the case," Aaron said.
"I don't trust myself to keep my head on the case, not fully at the very least," Reid sighed. "That's why Moffat is useful to me, I need to keep my wits around him, I need to look at this case the same way he looks at it and see what he sees, evidence, not its symbolism even though he makes me feel like a mother duck with a duckling following her every step."
"Where did you get him from?" Aaron asked to change the subject, it was obvious that Reid needed something normal to talk about, something that would take his head off the case for just a moment.
"Ursula Wurst brought him around asking if I needed a hand," Reid admitted. "She made it sound as if she was asking me for a favor I wouldn't want to refuse and I really didn't. I had to trust her Hotch, she trained me and in all the years I've spent in BAU she came to me a handful times asking me for an appeasement of certain trainees. This is no different, the only difference between Moffat and other cadets I've assessed is that he gets to work with me and in so far he hadn't screwed up anything but pushed the case forward. We know that another unsub used Foyet's storage locker as his or hers own dump-site thanks to Moffat bothering the hell out of ME about establishing the TOD so we could narrow down the victimology and we know that because he spent half of hour staring intently at each victim and reached the conclusions that murder weapons are different even though they were intended to look the same."
"Nice," Aaron admitted.
"It gets nicer," Reid nodded. "After he was done with ME he went to bother forensics and came to me with TOD and a murder weapon, well not the real one but the example of one which killed the last three victims. And I have no choice but to admit that what he is missing in experience he makes up in persistence."
In the background the door had closed as Reid continued, "I didn't exactly have a time to take a look at his files from the academy but since I'm awake..."
"Indulge me," Aaron said and waited as Reid was typing.
"Moffat, Samson Sigmund Solomon," Reid read and commented, "Someone had very big expectations about him right from when he was born. Speaking about DOB: 31st October 1988, Colorado Springs. Sixth out of seven children, the youngest is Bonnie Moffat, Beth might have mentioned her, she is an artist and a good one from what I've heard... And I know brother number four personally, DEA, I spend one stake out with him few years ago but I thought that he was the one who wanted to switch the agencies and that's why he was asking me what one needs to get into the FBI while he was just fishing. Wait, here we go, his father was in the army, brothers number one and two are in the Navy, number three is in ATF, four in DEA, five is a ME in NCIS, number six is in FBI academy with intent to stay on bureau's payroll and the sister gets to be an artist."
"They were raised respecting the authority and duty. Their father was probably very strict with the sons which is why they decided to work for the country but none of them wanted to follow their father footsteps exactly. He obviously dotted on the daughter and allowed her to express herself," Aaron said.
"And he really expressed himself," Reid commented. "Now I remember why the name was familiar. Turns out that Papa found out that Mama in her latter years liked to play rummy with her widowed neighbor a bit too much so four years ago while the younger kids were in college he went over to the neighbor's house and shot them both in the back of their heads before he dragged them from the neighbor's house to his home and threw them into his septic tank, then he cleaned the house and made it look as if they ran away together. Their bodies hadn't been found until the new owner of the house hadn't decided to change the septic tank about a year after the mother and the neighbor presumably ran away. Moffat and his sister were character witnesses for prosecutor's office."
"No wonder that he is so set on getting into FBI," Aaron said. "Speaking about FBI."
"I'm getting there," Reid said. "Nice, nice, very nice," he counted. "I've seen those records before, well they had better results in physical tests but his file reads almost like my file from the academy with the difference that my marksmanship was never this atrocious and even though at the very beginning I had a problem with hitting my own target I never actually shot someone's else target."
"You said you did," Aaron pointed out.
"I was trying to score a sympathy point and personal shooting lessons from the best shooter in BAU who was very set on getting me into BAU but not very much on permitting me to carry a gun," Reid quipped.
"Nice to know," Aaron snorted.
"Hey, it paid off," Reid protested. "After I got out of the academy I hadn't failed a qualification aside of that one time before L.D.S.K. case, I've just barely passed the ones before and I've been improving after. But I was never as bad as Moffat is because Green considers going from shooting other people's targets to missing his own target sheet as a vast improvement and he expresses his hope that maybe soon Moffat will start hitting the target. Hogan's Alley, I've got better results in Hogan's Alley even though I was barely passing. Hand to hand combat indicates that he can stand his ground against an opponent his size but relays on his instinct to survive rather on trained moves, he actually bit another trainee's ear during the fight and kicked another where no man wants to be kicked. He is doing rather well in an obstacle course, barely passed bureau's driving test, probably roped in his brothers to help him with that."
"Which means that Wurst is just as much set on guilty tripping you into offering to train him just as she is on showing him that he can improve with time because you did," Aaron summed up.
"Maybe," Reid sighed in resignation. "Did Wurst ever come to you asking for an evaluation of a cadet in regards of their first postings?"
"Once or twice," Aaron said.
"Did that once or twice had eventually ended in BAU?" Reid asked pointedly.
"Twice did, I'm talking with him," Aaron replied. "You think that Wurst is convinced..."
"That Moffat has something to offer to BAU and that this something is big enough to recompense his lack of experience because experience is an acquired thing?" Reid supplied. "Right now I'm staring at the invitation from cryptology where his vast knowledge could be used without letting him into the field, he didn't accept it. Neither he accepted the invitation from CSU. He holds a PhD in human biology and Master in Criminology and it turns out that he is that S. S. Moffat who for past three years had been bothering the hell out of me by challenging my expertise in cryptology in which he has a PhD and I never cared enough about to get a degree. Just wait until this case is over and I will give you a run for your money doctor who."
"Other than that?" Aaron asked quickly hoping to derail Reid's mild irritation over having his expertise questioned.
"Other than that I beat him by twenty IQ points but he beats me in official language tests, he passed with flying colors seven different tests and amongst the languages he knows fluently are Russian, Mandarin Chinese, Hebrew, Arabic, Hungarian, Dutch and German. I know more languages than he does but I never cared for official confirmation that I know them. We can also send him undercover as a musician because supposedly he has a lovely singing voice, he had been in a choir since he was a first grader."
"Wurst is completely guilty tripping you into taking him under your wing," Aaron said.
"And maybe I will once I will teach him a lesson about looking past official academic titles. I can certainly give him a run for his money at the shooting range, at the very least this is the only thing I can for sure do for him so he could get into the field if he wants to be a field agent so badly," Reid muttered before he yawned.
That wasn't what Aaron suspected Wurst was hoping for but Aaron knew Wurst for a very long time and in the years he knew her he learned to trust her gut feeling about agents she was introducing to their future mentors. After all she wasn't wrong about Reid benefiting from an additional training with Aaron because while Reid got his attention on his own it was Wurst who suggested that Reid could use few pointers from Aaron in his training.
"You really don't want me to go to work tomorrow, do you?" Aaron asked.
"If you show up I will lock you into my office and I will disconnect the phone and I will pickpocket your cell-phone," Reid said. "I can handle the case on my own and you really need time to process what you found out."
"If that's Doctor's orders then so be it," Aaron sighed. "Just don't forget that if one day the table will turn around I will do the same thing to you."
"Promise duly noted," Reid yawned. "Listen Hotch, I've got to get up early."
"Go to sleep," Aaron said. "We will be fine."
"Could you give Lily and Jack and goodnight kiss from me?" Reid asked tiredly. "I've been..."
"Okay, try to get some sleep," Aaron said.
"I will, and I will try to come back home for the night tomorrow," Reid said before he hung up.
The whole day went by without a call from Reid but it didn't worry Aaron, Reid was a capable agent and it wasn't his first solo investigation. The only difference was that he was on BAU's own turf on his very own not only as a profiler but also agent in charge and calling Aaron even for not work related reason could be seen as the inability to handle the case on his own, subject which still after all this years was sensitive to Reid because he was still under the standard age agents coming to work for BAU were and he was in BAU for nine years, more than many agents expected of him to last, definitely more than certain other agents could stand.
So while Reid was at work Aaron devoted his time to spending it with Jack and Lily, he took them, and Moth for a small bike trip in a Rock Creek Park, they shared a pepperoni pizza, feed ducks and they didn't run into anyone that would turn Lily into spawn of Satan. Once they got back Aaron quickly vacuumed the apartment while Jack and Lily were sorting through their dirty laundry which they divided by color and urgency to get it washed. After dinner they without much of a fuss had a bath and after getting into their pj's they watched the movie until they both dropped off towards the end of it.
It was half past ten o'clock in the evening when Aaron put them to bed and was about to call Reid in order to ask whatever or not Reid was coming back home for the night just as he heard the sound of the key turning in the lock.
Reid to whom Aaron opened the door was not the same Reid Aaron last seen getting into the Suburban in front of Jess's house. He hadn't shaved since yesterday's morning, looked as if he spent majority of the last night tossing and turning because the dark circles under his eyes were more pronounced. He looked deadly tired and lost in his own thoughts until he realized that Aaron was standing in front of him.
And then Reid had done something he hadn't done since that night they found him kneeling over Tobias Hankel's body in the graveyard in Marshall Parish. He took a step forward throwing his arms around Aaron hugging him just as ferociously as he did that night so many years ago.
"I'm sorry," Reid chocked out. "I'm so, so, sorry," he mumbled. "I never understood... I mean intellectually I knew... I thought that I knew but I never expected... I'm so sorry."
"Reid, Spencer," Aaron said gently. "What happened?"
"Nothing," Reid sniffled. "It's just..." he sniffled again. "It never occurred to me on emotional level what we are putting you through every time we place ourselves in danger, deliberately or not. I'm sorry, I'm sorry for every time I made you worried that this will be the time when you will have to tell my Mum that I'm not going to come back. I can't swear that I will never place myself in danger again but I promise that I will be more considerate if I ever will because if that's what you are going through every time... I don't think that I can do this job, your job I mean, it's overwhelmingly frightening."
"What happened?" Aaron asked again, even more gently as he tried to make his way back towards the couch.
Reid stepped out of the hug, closing the door with one hand while he was fishing for something in the pocket of his jacket with the other. Finally once he bolted the door he pulled out a small pack of Kleenex and wiped his eyes before he cleaned his nose. Only then he walked towards the couch and sat down next to Aaron sitting in a way which allowed them both to look at each other.
"We were able to identify the three victims we found in Foyet's storage locker, they weren't his. It was the Horn family, Terry, Gina and their daughter Molly, Gina and Molly were stabbed to death, Terry was shot. This very morning I interviewed Trish, Gina's sister, myself, she was upset about their deaths but also relieved because ever since they've gone missing she was worried that they will never come back and that she finally has their bodies to bury... She was so damn convincing Hotch!" he hissed. "We dug deeper, we found Gina's lover and I personally went to Fredericksburg while I sent Moffat to Trish to ask her if and what she knew about her sister's affair."
Reid's curled his fingers into a fist as he continued, "Gina's lover shed some light, I've learned that Trish was besotted with Terry, to the point she destroyed Gina's wedding dress, she was always envious about her, especially about her marriage which wasn't working well... I was there, I talked to her for fuck's sake, I didn't get any single vibe that something was off.. and I sent in there a rookie, an untrained, unarmed cadet serving under my command to ask Trish about subject that triggered the murders, I've... I've might as well paint a bull's eye on his forehead."
"And Moffat?" Aaron asked softly. "What happened with him?
"That's the only good thing," Reid snorted. "He profiled the crap out of Trish and got her to talk about their mother and Molly, how she loved her aunt, he read her like a book, guilty-tripped her all the way to hell and back so by the time we stormed in there armed to the teeth she was sitting cuffed with her own fluffy handcuffs to the rocking chair while he was writing her confession and calmly sipping the tea he made for them. I didn't know if I wanted more to hug the life out of him or kill the little fucker then and there myself because all the way from Fredericksburg to Alexandria I had a vission of myself telling his brothers and sister that their little brother had ended with a bullet in his head because I failed to protect him. The rest was yelling match, I yelled at him, Strauss and Wurst yelled at me, Moffat yelled on Strauss and Wurst which lead to Anderson yelling at all of us to stop acting like overprotective parents of miscreants in principals office, which in return led to Strauss and Wurst, and me yelling at him because it wasn't his business. I have to turn my report to IA on Monday, I hadn't slept a shit last night. On the top of that I was chased by an overeager state-troopers without a fucking clue with intent to present me with a speeding ticket, and you know what? Those fuckers were waiting for me in front of Trish's house and were ready to arrest me in spite of seeing me drive a government vehicle with lights flashing and sirens blazing like in a goddamn disco and if it wasn't for Anderson I would just scratch their eyes out. I officially hate your job, mine is hard enough," Reid snorted.
"Well," Aaron started. "You've got your unsub, the cadet made it out alive and unharmed, you've got a confession. Even if right now you are not very high on the list of her favorite people Strauss would get over by Monday enough to convince IA to your side of the story so you will get away with a slap on the wrist if you won't end being cleared from any wrong doing. She was the sister of the victim," Aaron patted his knee. "It happens Reid, to the best of us, and it's really not a reason to lose sleep over it because she is in custody and you have a confession regardless her intent to deceive you."
"I know that," Reid harrumphed. "That doesn't make me feel any better at the moment."
"It's not your conscience, it's your ego," Aaron sighed. "You've got tricked, your are the expert in reading people, you specialize in reading micro-expressions and she still managed to dupe you. It happens."
"And the state-troopers?" Reid snorted.
"Are idiots," Aaron said simply. "Do you want me to make some calls to ensure that they will never get promoted?"
"Anderson already took care of that, I caught the end of his call to their supervisor, he was chewing him off just as much as he chewed them off. He mentioned an official complaint against the office, brought up retribution and even intelligence tests. He was really getting off on this but then again he survived a car chase where we were the ones being chased with me as a driver and apparently it's a very traumatic experience which can only be erased with lots of good coffee for an entire week, he is also partial to peanut butter goodies," Reid sighed. "And I'm partial to supplying him with such for an entire month because he is a sanity saver, had been for me at the very least. I'm actually more worried about Moffat, he was gone by the time I left Quantico but I checked up with Kevin and his phone at the very least is at his home and I'm too damn tired to get over there and apologize," Reid mumbled.
"Bed?" Aaron asked.
"Bed," Reid confirmed. "Kids first, shower second, I'm skipping shaving and if someone over four feet and two inches tall will wake me up before seven o'clock I'll hurt them, I once worked the case where a wife strangled her husband with a quilt because he woke her up," Reid mumbled.
Aaron smirked as he stood up and pulled Reid into standing position as he said, "I know that case, I worked it with you and I do remember that she got off lightly, six months in the state prison and six years on a parole. When we were talking to her she still had bruises he gave her."
"Come to think about it, I do remember someone looming behind me when I was talking with her," Reid mumbled.
"Come on," Aaron said as he lead Reid to Jack's and Lily's room. "Be quiet, they just fell asleep when you got there."
Aaron woke up at a stupidly odd hour of a quarter after four o'clock in the morning, way too early to start a day off by getting out of bed and way too late to immediately fall asleep upon realizing how early it was.
He was on his side of the bed, with slightly dead left arm and a curly mane blocking his view at the room while someone's else left arm was wrapped tightly across his middle and when he tried to wriggle his way out of the clutch he was clutched even more tightly so he sighed softly and put his hand on the top of Reid's arm.
Reid was not only exhausted physically but also emotional thanks to Foyet and the new case. Aaron knew that Reid wouldn't bring up symbolism without a very good reason and in order for him to admit to that he had he needed to have a physical proof of Foyet's depravity, his threat towards his family.
Because when it got to you how close Foyet was to going after your family, someone's else family it didn't matter that he was dead and wasn't going to hurt anyone ever again. Intellectually you knew that but you also saw how close he was.
This case was Foyet's last chance at triumph from beyond the grave, the 'look what I could have done to you' and it was designed to haunt them because even though in different set of circumstances the case could have ended in another team's hand Aaron and the rest would have access to their reports and what they would have find.
Foyet didn't predict that he would be dead when they would discover his sick gifts, didn't predict that the only agent on the case would be Reid who not only withstood the threat Foyet handed to him through Helen Gideon but also once and for all proved that Aaron did the right thing by not letting Foyet stand up from the floor.
Reid withstood it all on his own and now in his subconsciousness he was desperately trying to cling to the reality, to the physical assurance that Foyet didn't get a chance to go after his family. Reid didn't have to say a single word about how the victims were arranged, Aaron immediately knew what he had found. Men with little boys close to Aaron's apartment and JJ's and Will's place, the woman and the girl in Van Ness. All as close by to their location as Foyet could afford without being caught by them, watching, waiting and planning his end game. If he lived and went to prison without a doubt he would try to dangle in front of them the new murders, he would try to crush and turn against Aaron every single one of them by starting with two the most vulnerable to the threat against their families people.
And Reid went through it alone, Aaron thought bitterly as he strengthened his hold on Reid's arm and shoulders. He went through all of this alone when he didn't have to, when he shouldn't have to and Aaron wasn't going to let him go through it on his own again.
By the time Aaron woke up again Reid was already out of the bed, curled in the big armchair in the living-room and balancing a big mug of coffee on his right knee. He hadn't shaved, didn't bother to run a comb through his curly mane which looked as if he just got out of bed. He was also dressed exchanging his usual slacks and button up shirt for a pair of jeans which most probably remembered the times when he was finishing his first or second doctorate, most probably the second since they actually fit him. He traded his oxford shirt for a normal t-shirt which was peeking out from under his washed off hoodie which once used to be black but these days looked more gray than black. He also traded his contacts for his glasses which he didn't usually do in front of the others, even with just Aaron, Lily and Jack around.
"Morning," Aaron said as he made his way to the coffee maker and checked how much coffee was left in the pot. "Refill?"
Reid didn't answer, neither to the greeting nor to Aaron's question so Aaron asked again which seemed to temporarily snap Reid out of his zombie-like state as he mumbled, "Sure."
Aaron poured coffee into two new mugs and added sugar before he approached Reid, it was only then when he realized that Reid's mug, the one he was balancing on his knee was almost full.
"You aren't done with this one," Aaron pointed out as he set both mugs on the coffee table.
"Oh," Reid mumbled before he took a big sip of his colder coffee. "Sorry," he added after he swallowed. "I was thinking."
"About?" Aaron prodded gently.
"The price of peas in Persepolis," Reid sighed. "Foyet, Moffat, Gideon, this case, our job. Not exactly in that order."
"Gideon was right," Reid admitted. "I don't have tools to do this job."
"Reid..." Aaron started.
"Let me finish," Reid interjected. "It was years ago, my first autumn with BAU, few days before Halloween, you and Gideon sent us home while you stayed to take care of the paperwork. I pretended that I went home while I bunked in the conference room because I didn't want you to know that the heating in my old apartment broke down and that the floor in the conference room was better than my cold hovel at the time. I woke up from a slumber around the time when you and Gideon had taken a break..."
Aaron nodded, he did remember that conversation but he also wanted to hear Reid's side of the story and his own thoughts on the matter.
"You were talking about the distant future of BAU, very distant in your minds at the time," Reid sighed. "Not very much so in reality because Gideon was guessing that he would be retiring in about ten years since then, I bet that it didn't cross his mind that he would be long gone from BAU by that time."
"No one expects that and you know it," Aaron pointed out.
"I know," Reid agreed. "You asked Gideon about who would take his place by that time... and now I know that at the time you were looking for his approval just as the rest of us did but what he said..."
"We are both familiar with reverse psychology," Aaron sighed. "He wanted me to defy his opinion that I felt secure in the position of Senior SSA and that I didn't want the responsibilities that came with the position of the Unit Chief."
"And you did," Reid said. "Maybe not right away, you hadn't said a word when he entertained you with that story of his... it was overwhelmingly terrifying and humbling at the same time and then it was just cruel but I guess that's what you get for listening to things you aren't supposed to hear. But instead of agreeing with him right away you said that ten years from then I will have the tools to do this job, his job, your job and that I will be good Unit Chief."
"I'm still not doubting in that," Aaron interjected. "If you will one day accept this position you will be a good Unit Chief because while you aren't big politician you are trained hostage negotiator and one of the most empathic people I know. Political saviness is an acquired skill..."
"So are negotiating skills," Reid pointed out.
"Nurturing is not," Aaron said. "You are natural caregiver, you are empathic and you use that empathy every day, you wield it more efficiently than any other weapon, you do the same with your fury. In the room full of agents armed to the teeth you are the most dangerous person in the room not because of the air of authority around you but because of the seeming lack of it. Because in the moment you make a choice to confront someone you crush through their defenses one after the other. I hadn't seen you with Doctor Malcolm but I saw you afterward, planning the recovery of hostages and executing the plan without firing a single shot because you knew what Samantha wanted and you gave her that, because you not only saw her as a psychopath she was but also the little girl who was hurt by the last person in the world who should ever hurt her. You are a son, a father, a genius, an agent, a profiler, a friend and depending from circumstances you use all of them to achieve your aim..."
"I'm not a leader," Reid said simply.
"Bullshit," Aaron snorted. "You are the leader every time you take the lead in negotiations, every time you give us a breakthrough in the case. A good leader doesn't have to lead all the time. You had the tools to be a good Unit Chief three years ago and that hadn't changed."
"I screwed up, Hotch," Reid protested. "I endangered the life of a cadet serving under my command, I let the unsub fool me..."
"That doesn't make you a bad leader," Aaron interrupted him. "Just the one who makes mistakes like anyone else does. More than that you not only make mistakes and you have the courage to admit to yourself and to others that you make mistakes but you are ready to crucify yourself for making them. In your early days in BAU you never failed to point out to Morgan that yes, you are a genius but it doesn't mean that you know everything."
"I know that," Reid sighed. "But like I said yesterday knowing that doesn't make me feel any better."
"It will pass," Aaron said as he patted Reid's right foot.
"I really screwed up," Reid sighed again. "Listen, Hotch, I need..." he was interrupted by a soft knock on the door. "Are you expecting a guest?"
"No," Aaron answered as he stood up and asked, "Are you?"
Reid shook his head before he straightened his legs, placed his mug on the coffee table and stood up just as Aaron reached the door and looked through the pep-hole.
The person standing on the other side of the door was a young man with chin-length wavy ginger hair with a freckled face. He was wearing a stretched out, woolen, dark green jumper that looked handmade and had a backpack hanging on his left shoulder. He didn't seem very tall or very threatening but since Aaron hadn't seen him before he turned around to look at Reid.
"Man, red-haired, heavily freckled, not very tall. Do you know him?" Aaron asked.
Reid frowned before he muttered, "Moffat but I have no idea what he is doing here."
"At the moment he is staring at his shoes and has the air of someone who would very much be somewhere else," Aaron answered as he unchained and unlocked the door.
Moffat's instantaneously moved his focus from his shoes to Aaron and he blurted out, "Good morning, I'm terribly sorry for the wake up call. My name is Samson Moffat, I'm a..." the pause was very brief, so brief that if Aaron wasn't trained profiler he would have missed it, "graduate student from Georgetown's psychology department and I'm looking for Doctor Spencer Reid whom I'm supposed to deliver my article for review. I know that it's dreadfully early and I'm really sorry but I really need to deliver this article as soon as possible..."
"Ever heard of e-mails?" Aaron asked pointedly playing into Moffat's scenario of a student in desperate need of seeing his professor as soon as humanly possible.
"Doctor Reid's laptop is at the shop and he doesn't keep any other computer," Moffat answered swiftly. "I've been told that I can find him here but if it's not true I'm terribly sorry for disturbing you and your family, sir. Is there any chance that you ever heard of a man called Doctor Reid living in this building? Please?" he finally stopped for a breath and his big green eyes grew even bigger, as big as Jack's or Lily's when they were giving the Puss in Boots the run for his money in pleading department.
"I might have heard of him," Aaron said. "But you see, here is the problem, the only Doctor Spencer Reid I know isn't employed by Georgetown but by Federal Bureau of Investigation. Are we talking about the same Doctor Reid?"
"Yes, you are," Reid snorted as he stepped behind Aaron and pulled the door to fully open before he looked at Aaron and chided him, "Stop torturing him. It's hard enough to wander into the belly of a beast, you don't need to scare him some more."
"Now, who is torturing him?" Aaron asked pointedly.
"Doctor Reid, sir, Mr. Reid," Moffat started swiftly looking from Reid to Aaron.
"Hotchner," Reid corrected him. "Cadet Samson Moffat - Unit Chief Senior SSA Aaron Hotchner."
Moffat opened his mouth managing to extract from it something akin to 'I..' before he faked a sneeze quickly covering his mouth.
"My supervisor and quite merciful roommate, you don't need to apologize for that assumption," Reid said simply.
"Assumption?" Moffat asked with a slight pitch in his voice.
"Jenkins is training you in hand-to-hand combat, isn't he?" Reid asked with a shrug. "Good trainer and Quantico's loosest mouth when it comes to gossip, I never heard even a grain of truth in the stuff he ends telling because if it was BAU would be hosting mandatory Orgy Mondays or Tuesdays of Debauchery and Decadence," he snorted.
"Is he still talking?" Aaron asked grimly as he started pondering how to relocate Jenkins from Quantico to Anchorage without much of a fuss.
"Oldest son out of ten boys, his mother had two sets of twins and he wasn't born with special talents. Exhibiting violence in relations with his peers was a cry for his parents attention, luckily for him it was channeled into boxing and was honed by further training. His younger brother's premature death in a butchered robbery lead him to police academy and to the position of a trainer, marriage which fell apart due to his infidelity with a man half his age plus five had lead him to Quantico. Use it or lose it," Reid said swiftly before he paused and pointed first at Aaron and then at Moffat as he added, "You use it, you lose it."
"Yes, sir," Moffat drawled out.
"I meant it," Reid said pointedly. "Lose it or you will be lost because I know for a fact that Jenkins has a hunting cabin in the deeps of West Virginia, acres of land stretching into the forest, helluva of a place to dump a body counting on the wildlife to get rid of the evidence before search and rescue party will find the sad remains of a genius with no sense of self-preservation. Big waste of a genius and resources."
"So it's a good thing that the genius has a well developed sense of self-preservation," Moffat said quickly. "Happens when one has five older brothers who made the attempts at getting rid of the competition to the bowl and mama's attention the work of art which brings me to why I'm disturbing you at this ungodly hour."
"Attention granted," Reid nodded. "Take a deep breath and speak."
Moffat did as he was told before he continued, "Doctor Reid, sir, I came here to apologize for my actions or more precisely lack of thereof in reassuring you that my life was in no imminent danger. I'm at fault just as much as that stupid smart-phone I received from my brother without any occasion and I know that it should have occurred to me beforehand that since he never gives without an occasion anything that works properly why this time it would be different and of course that damned battery had died in the most inconvenient moment and it hadn't occurred to me to memorize the number of your cell-phone, any phone, all numbers I've got were on that infernal device..."
"Breath," Aaron said.
Moffat paused only long enough to did as he was told before he resumed talking, "I know that it's not much after all the trouble you went through because of me but I'm terribly sorry that my incompetence got you in trouble with Chief Strauss and Agent Wurst and IA and I swear..."
"Stop," Reid said gently. "What happened yesterday wasn't your fault. It was mine..."
"Sir..." Moffat tried to interject but Reid silenced him with a raised hand.
"Samson," Reid said patiently. "You are highly intelligent young man, a genius and you can prove that, you have a terrific academic record that would make many people turn green with envy..." Moffat opened his mouth to interrupt but Reid silenced him by raising his hand as he continued, "You could have remained in the safety of the walls of university but instead you chose to join FBI, that speaks of your character, of your integrity and selflessness. You are stubborn and driven, you face obstacles instead of looking for an easy way around them. You decided that you want to be a field agent even though you were offered other, safer and no less intriguing jobs within FBI. You are all of that but you are also a not fully trained cadet that was placed under my command, cadet I failed to protect from harm because out in the field as a senior agent I'm responsible for you and for any harm that comes to your person. You went to Trish Glenn's house on my order, order I've given against the protocol and by doing that I placed your life in jeopardy. I'm fully responsible for my actions just like I'm fully responsible for what happens with you, to you when you are under my command and it's not you but me who should be apologizing for my actions and lack of thereof."
"You have nothing to apologize for, sir," Moffat shook his head.
"I beg to differ," Reid sighed. "I'm sorry Samson, I'm really sorry for putting your life in danger and for being not much of a..."
"You trusted me," Moffat interrupted him fiercely and quickly realizing his fierceness he added quickly, "Sir," before he paused and continued more calmly, "You trusted me to handle a simple task of speaking with a witness, and yes, it didn't turn out the way you expected it would turn out but you have to understand that to me you are the first person who trusted in me to do something else than being a messenger between, or a genius on loan to other departments and that it means a lot to me that somebody believes that I can be a field agent in spite of my less than stellar results in physical training. And it's me who is sorry for letting you down, and for being a... territorial ass who should have realized sooner that an academic degree or not I don't have a right to question your knowledge and expertise because..."
"It's fine," Reid said gently. "All scientist are very protective of their academic field and their expertise. I'm no better."
"I was an ass and I was wrong," Moffat said. "You can admit that."
"Did you learn the lesson?" Reid asked simply.
"That's enough for me," Reid said. "Would you like to stay for breakfast?"
Moffat looked from Reid to Aaron and then back at Reid before he answered, "Thank you for your offer Doctor Reid but I will have to pass, I'm having a whining baby for breakfast, well, not literally, but my brother offered to give me shooting lessons on DEA's shooting range and since I have training later he has to get up extra early which he doesn't like and between questioning my non-existent shooting skills he will be whining about having to get up early and skipping breakfast and he is a real baby when he is hungry and since he is doing me a favor I can't exactly gift him with a pacifier or duct-tape him."
"There is always strep-throat," Reid said.
"He had it, it didn't shut him up either," Moffat shook his head before he extended his hand towards Reid as he added, "Thank you, Doctor Reid and I'm really sorry," before he extended his hand to Aaron and said, "Agent Hotchner, I'm sorry for intrusion. Have a good day gentlemen."
With that he marched out and Aaron closed the door behind him.
"So what you think?" Reid asked once he settled once again in the armchair.
Aaron came back to the couch and picked his coffee before he answered, "His current hairdo is a retaliation for all of the military haircuts he was given in his youth, the length fits the criteria of a regular one for male agents but just barely. His posture around the figures of authority exhibits military upbringing, so does underlying that authority by constant repetitions of sir. They make him feel slightly intimidated which he is trying to cover by his posture but not enough for him to not speak his mind, especially when he believes in his opinions and he is fierce about defending them, too fierce in his opinion. He received strict upbringing but not an abusive one, at the very least the abuse wasn't physical and didn't come from the hand of the more present parent, in his case the mother. He loved her dearly, was never afraid of her and was used to bringing his issues to her attention..."
"He had a business with me, not with you," Reid interrupted him. "If you are implying that I bear some semblance to his mother..."
"I'm not implying anything," Aaron shrugged. "Your issues with regular haircuts aside it's clear that he feels comfortable when he is talking with you, he respects you but he is not afraid of expressing his opinions to you. That's something he learned in his childhood..."
"Are you implying that I need a haircut?" Reid muttered.
"Did I ever?" Aaron smirked. "In the field what matters to me is what is inside your head not on the top of it," he added. "Though that boy-band haircut..."
"It was not a boy band's haircut!" Reid hissed.
"Then what it was?" Aaron asked.
"It was my three years old daughter got her hands on the scissors haircut," Reid harrumphed. "I only tried to salvage the damage she'd done. I happen to like longer hair because not only I can tie them back if I need to but also because I don't need to spend a fortune on hair-care products. Besides hair-length regulations are misnamed, they are not regulations but merely guidelines, even Strauss admitted to that they are the testament of times when my person wasn't even a concept in my parents' minds and these days no one bothers measuring the hair length of agents in the bureau."
"The one you had after was nice and practical," Aaron said simply.
"It was chewing gum," Reid muttered.
"Chewing gum?"Aaron echoed.
"Chewing gum plus a toddler plus a midday nap," Reid clarified. "So in order to keep what remained from my hair I had to remove something from the equation. I happen to love the toddler and I'm fond of the midday naps..." he shrugged and for a moment it seemed that he wanted to say something but changed his mind.
"What you wanted to say?" Aaron asked hoping that Reid would say something about the case.
"It's nothing," Reid sighed tiredly as he rubbed his forehead with his left hand.
"Reid..." Aaron pressed as gently as he could.
"Promise me that you won't ask me about him today," Reid asked.
"Tomorrow then?" Aaron asked.
"Tomorrow," Reid nodded.
"Tomorrow it is then," Aaron nodded.
"Today is too soon," Reid said quietly.
And that's how Aaron realized that whatever else Reid had found had shaken him to his very core and once again Aaron decided that he did the right thing by not letting Foyet get up from the floor.
"Pancakes for breakfast?" Aaron asked.
Pancakes for breakfast was something normal and right now Reid desperately needed normalcy and a physical reminder that the man haunting him was no longer a threat.
"Maybe we can go to the park for a picnic?" Aaron added.
After a very long pause Reid said, "I'd like that."
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