Spencer Reid bit his lower lip softly as he watched the unit chief walk by with his trademark stern frown and a file in his hand. His eyes followed the older man's retreating figure before forcing them back to the sheets of paper now lying abandoned on his desk.
He tried to focus on finishing reading through the files but couldn't bring himself to do so, which was becoming an increasingly frequent incidence and quickly growing into a disaster. Reid sighed quietly and rubbed his eyes furiously with his hands.
It was official. He was losing it and didn't have a clue in the world how to get over it.
He had always respected the unit chief for his bravery, loyalty and capability. Aaron Hotchner was a man of many distinguished traits. An able leader, a loving father and a brave survivor of many horrendous events forced onto his personal life. After Gideon's disappearance, Reid revered Hotch as an almost paternal figure, someone he trusted to protect him, guide him and be there for him.
It wasn't until it was too late when Reid realized that respect had turned into affection and then into a one-sided love that tore him apart from within. Coming to acknowledging this unknown feelings was already bad enough. Knowing Hotch would never reciprocate his sentiment was downright painful and haunted him every minute of his waking and sleeping minute.
He wanted those strong arms wrapped around him, those deep eyes staring into his lovingly. He had never wanted anything more in his life, and it was starting to frighten him. He had even contemplated quitting his job, but couldn't bring himself to do it. Not only did he love the job too much, but he couldn't imagine himself not being able to even see the unit chief.
"Hey kid, you alright?"
Reid jumped and turned wide-eyed at Derek Morgan, who was staring at him with an expression of equal surprise. He knew Reid had a tendency to get jumpy, but it was usually never this bad.
"Woa, you OK?"
"Y,yeah, sorry...was just focusing on the files..."
Morgan frowned at the younger agent in concern. Reid was a terrible liar anytime outside of interrogating unsubs, especially to the rest of team.
"You must've been really focusing, because you've been on the same page for a very long time. You decided to start reading like us mortals now?" Morgan teased, trying to conceal his growing concern for the younger man.
"Are you spying on me?"
"You do realize that our desks are all next to each other, right?"
Reid blushed at the comment and began playing with the hem of his shirt. He knew that Morgan was very good at reading him and would know that something was bothering him. While there was no doubt that Morgan would support him no matter what, Reid couldn't bring himself to admit to exactly what was on his mind.
"I guess I was just blanking out."
"That's a first," Morgan chuckled, taking note of Reid's nervous behavior. "But if you ever want to talk to me about anything, you know where to find me, pretty boy."
Reid nodded shyly and rotated his chair back to facing the desk. He was glad that Morgan wasn't prying more information out of him, but then again, that's just how Morgan had always been.
The young genius peeked from his desk when he heard Hotch's door open again. The unit chief was outside his office again, reading a file as he walked briskly across the bullpen. Reid knew that Hotch had been under immense stress, stemmed from budget cuts and stuck-up bureaucrats who apparently had issued with the unit, in addition to a string of cases which nearly drove the entire team to a breaking point. While Reid had no doubt that Hotch was more than capable of handling the situation, he grew concerned. He couldn't even remember the last time he saw anything but a frown on the other man's face.
"The boss man looks stressed out."
Reid swung his chair around to the sound of Penelope Garcia, who had dropped by donning a number of colorful ribbons.
"Yeah, well, can you blame him?" Emily replied, closing a file she had just finished reviewing.
"I think we all need a break, pronto," Garcia mused.
"That we do, baby girl, but we all know that's just wishful thinking."
"We might actually get to go home early today, though. No new case so far," Emily commented, turning to the rest of the team. "I think I'm going to lock JJ up somewhere so we can all go home."
Morgan and Garcia chuckled as Emily crossed her fingers. Just then, JJ walked into the bullpen, a smile on her face, which most likely meant that they were in fact going back home on time for a change.
"I really, really need you to tell me we can go home," Emily groaned, leaning against her chair and swining about lazily. Garcia nodded with a hopeful twinkle in her eyes.
"Seems like you guys are free for the evening. Enjoy it while you can."
"I'm out of here," Emily blurted as she began packing up her bag and grabbing her coat off the chair. Morgan was quick to follow suit, as Garcia almost ran back to her lair. JJ chuckled and walked back to her office, leaving Reid to sit still by his desk with a small frown.
He knew that Hotch was most likely going to be staying late, and it wasn't as if he had anything to do once he got off work. In fact, he hated going back to his house, where he felt the loneliest.
"Hey kid, you not heading home?"
"No, just going to finish some things up and then go."
"Aw man, you really are something. I'll see you tomorrow, kid."
"Bye Spence! Don't work too late!" Emily called out before following Morgan out to the elevator. Reid forced a smile and waved them good-bye before turning to the files on his desk. A few minutes passed with Reid idly shuffling through pieces of paper, not even registering anything on the pages. All he wanted was to see Hotch one more time before heading home.
He nibbled at his lower lip again when he heard familiar footsteps approaching him. He forced himself to sit still and pretend to be focused on the file he's holding.
"What are you still doing here, Reid?"
Reid swung around in his chair and faced the man who had been responsible for the recent sleepless nights and his newfound habit of biting his lower lip. Hotch was standing with a questioning expression, holding a folder in his right hand.
"I, I was just finishing up some files," Reid answered, cursing inwardly at how obviously nervous he sounded. He was an excellent profiler, but for the love of all things holy, he couldn't get himself to at least appear composed in front of the other man.
"Did Prentiss and Morgan push their files to you again?"
"N,no!" Reid blurted flushing. "No, they didn't. Um, is there anything I can help you with? I know you've been very busy lately..."
Hotch stared at the other man silently, which made Reid fidget nervously in his seat.
"I wouldn't ask you to do something like this for me, but could you do me a personal favor, Reid?"
"Y,yeah, sure, Hotch. What is it?"
"I need someone to look over Jack for a couple of hours while I take care of some things. Could you do that?"
"Oh course. Where is he?"
"Jessica will be dropping him off at my house. Will you be able to head over there now?"
Reid nodded. All members of the team knew where each other lived, in case of emergencies. The young genius smiled inwardly as he was handed the key to the house. While he was quite fond of Jack, he had never been inside the new house, and as sad as it sounded to Reid, the idea of spending his evening at Hotch's house was more than perfect.
"Thank you, Reid. I'll see you at home. We'll all have dinner together, yes?"
The younger man nodded with a smile, amazed at how things were getting even better. He knew Hotch didn't mean anything romantic by it, but he couldn't help but feel almost giddy at the gesture. He was willing to fool himself for the time being.
Only a few minutes after entering the house, Reid heard the sound of the door opening, followed by light footsteps.
"Hey Jack," Reid greeted with a gentle smile as the young boy came bouncing towards him. Jessica waved at the young genius in a silent greeting, to which Reid replied with a polite smile and a curt nod.
"Hi Uncle Spence," Jack greeted back, grinning from ear to ear. The two had built a surprisingly close connection to each other.
"How have you been, Jack?"
"Good," Jack answered, drawing out his o's. "What about you, Uncle Spence?"
"I've also been good. A little busy, but good."
"Alright, Jack, you behave, OK?" Jessica gave the boy a quick hug before turning to Reid. "Thanks for doing this, Dr. Reid."
"Oh, no problem."
"OK, see you later Jack, Dr. Reid!"
The two walked towards the living room as soon as they heard the door shut. Reid was notorious for spoiling Jack by sneaking him a cookie or two when Hotch wasn't around, and today was no exception. Obviously, Hotch was well-aware of what's going on, but pretended like he had no idea. It was actually quite endearing that the two shared such "secret."
Reid rummaged through his bag and drew out a small chocolate bar and handed it to the grinning boy.
"Remember, you can't tell your dad," Reid whispered, even pretending to look around to make sure Hotch wasn't around.
"I promise, Uncle Spence!" Jack whispered back.
"But what do you have to do before eating it?"
"Wash my hands."
"And why do we do that?"
"Because of germs!" Jack answered confidently, filling Reid with a sense of pride. He had done a good job of educating Hotch's son of the importance of keeping "germs" away and staying healthy.
Reid watched Jack run to the bathroom to wash hands and return moments later. Jack was quick to devouring the chocolate bar, which made Reid quite pleased with himself.
"Hey Jack, why don't you go ahead and do your homework? We'll study together now and then play later," Reid suggested, to which Jack nodded and retrieved his backpack. Jack was an almost unrealistically well-behaved and calm child, and Reid just knew that he got that from his father. Reid briefly wondered if Hotch was like Jack when he was young. It did paint an odd but adorable image in his head.
The two sat at the dining table, with Jack quietly solving math problems and Spencer reading a book that he had been meaning to get to for some time now. It was peaceful. Everything seemed so perfect.
Reid wondered if this was what his life would be like if Hotch and he got together. Living together in this house, with Jack by his side, waiting for Hotch to come home so that they can have a nice family dinner. Reid flushed at the thought, feeling foolish for letting his mind drift so far into the realm of impossible.
Then it became painful knowing that this was a one time thing that was going to end in a matter of a few hours. It just wasn't fair that something so beautiful and perfect will never be his.
"Are you OK, Uncle Spence?"
Reid jumped at the voice and turned his attention to Jack, who had stopped working and was looking at him with concern evident in his big, gentle eyes.
"Sorry, I was just lost in thought."
"Are you in love?" Jack asked, propping his head up on his small hands.
"W,why would you say that?" Reid asked, trying his best to hide his surprise and embarrassment at being caught.
"Mommy told me that when people become lost in thought, it's because they're in love. I asked daddy and he said mommy was right."
Reid stared at the boy with raised eyebrows and then let out a sigh. Maybe it wouldn't be so bad to tell someone about what's been eating him away for the past few months. He wouldn't dare tell any of the members of the team, and he didn't have anyone he could confide in to talk about his romantic affairs.
"Can you keep a secret, Jack?" Reid asked in a hushed voice.
"I guess you can say that I'm in love," Reid continued and began blushing immediately, not believing that he let those words out of his mouth for once. It did make him feel better, but it really was quite embarrassing. Especially when he was talking about the boy's own father.
"Did you give her flowers?"
"No," Reid smiled at Jack's sudden enthusiasm.
"Daddy told me that men are supposed to."
"I'll make a note."
"Is she pretty?"
Reid coughed, trying to conceal his surprise at the question. Hotch was anything but pretty, but he wasn't about to explain to Jack that he was in love with another man.
"I think so."
"Are you going to marry her?"
The young field agent stopped and bit his lower lip again. The conversation was quickly turning painful for him, and he was afraid that opening his mouth would lead him to cry. And that was the last thing he wanted to happen. He had kept it bottled up inside him for so long, just talking about it with someone was making everything so much more real, leaving him feeling more emotionally vulnerable than he had ever been.
"I don't know, Jack..." Reid whispered, turning his gaze to the table.
"Well, she doesn't know that I love her."
"Why don't you tell her?"
"Because she will never feel the same way."
Jack paused momentarily before continuing, suddenly feeling sad now that Uncle Spence was sad.
"But daddy told me you're amazing."
Reid looked up from the table in surprise, but quickly reminded himself that Hotch probably didn't mean it the same way he was hoping.
"He likes you, and I like you, so she will like you, too, Uncle Spence."
"Thank you, Jack."
The two both stood up when they heard the doorbell ring. Reid carefully made his way to the door and quickly peeked through the peephole and sighed in relief when he saw Hotch. Once he opened the door, Jack ran past him to hug his dad, and Reid felt his heart skip a beat as he watched a genuinely happy smile spread across the usual stoic unit chief's face.
"You didn't give Uncle Spence here any trouble, did you?" Hotch asked his son, who shook his head vigorously.
"We studied together," Jack supplied, as he hopped back to the living room to show evidence of his hard work. Reid was glad that Jack wasn't bringing up the conversation they had.
"Well, look at you. Why don't I go get changed and we make spaghetti together for Uncle Spence?"
"Okay!" Jack answered excitedly and began clearing the table, tucking his books and homework back into his backpack. Reid watched in amazement and how the two worked so well with each other. He had no fond memories of such father-and-son moments.
Once Jack was in his room to put his backpack away, Hotch turned to Reid with a tired smile.
"Thank you for doing this. I hope it wasn't too much trouble."
"No, not at all. I actually really enjoy spending time with Jack," Reid replied, his hands playing with the hem of his shirt. "You two are really lucky to have each other."
The unit chief watched the younger man in silence. He opened his mouth to say something but decided against it and just nodded in reply.
My first Criminal Minds fic.
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