Title: The Throb of Silence
Series: The Sounds of Silence
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Year: Season 8
Category: Angst, Friendship, love
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid
Warnings: Relapse, Aaron as a cutter
“Fools, ” said I, “you do not know / Silence like a cancer grows / Hear my words that I might teach you / Take my arms that I might reach you.” / But my words like silent raindrops fell / And echoed in the wells of silence
Spencer had been at Charlie and Amita’s for about a month now. He was conflicted. He loved the research they were doing, it invigorated him, fuelled him like nothing had in a long-time. Not that he still didn’t love his job, he did, but he hadn’t delved in Math or Physics in a so long he almost forgot how much fun and frustrating it was.
The work also let him forget, at least for a while, leaving Aaron behind. Currently he was in Charlie’s basement staring at the old PvsNP that Charlie has been working on since they were young teens. Spencer remembered that it was sometimes the only thing that got Charlie through the death of his mother.
“Amita sent me down here to tell you dinner is ready.” Spencer was brought out of his thoughts and looked-up to see Alan, Charlie’s Dad.
“Thanks Mr. Epps.”
“Spencer, how long have you known me?”
Spencer tried not not smile as he looked at the man.
“Since I was fifteen.”
“I think that gives you the right to call me Alan.” Spencer pulled his legs to his chest and smiled softly at the man that had been more than his friends Dad. He had shown Spencer what family really meant. When he had spent time with the Epps family Spencer always felt welcomed and cared for. Margaret had taken him in and loved him. It had hurt him too when she passed, but he didn’t really talk about it much because he felt like he was cheating on his own mother. He watched as Alan took one of the chairs and sat near Spencer.
“Okay, Charlie isn’t going to push, but he knows something is going on with you. When you aren’t working, You are either down here or in your room, brooding. I know if Margaret was here, she would know exactly what to say, but I think I’ve gotten better over the last few years. What’s going on with you Spencer?”
Charlie and Alan knew about the previous relationship with Aaron, he had even come here for a few days when he had left. Don had come over that day and he too found out what had gone on. He was the one to talk to Spencer about the whole situation because he knew what it was to have to keep things secret from his team. He’d had to keep silent about a thing or two in the past, and it had pissed Colby off, but they talked it over and the two men worked it out.
“Aaron and I started to have sex with each other again. I…thought I was helping him through, something but all I did was let him slip deeper into his silence. He’s hurting Alan, he’s hurting himself,” Spencer had kept his feelings locked down tight but he felt safe here and he let the tears slip. Alan moved to the couch and pulled the younger man into his arms. He knew he was one of few that Spencer let in this close. The storm broke inside him and he let go. He fisted his hand in Alan’s shirt as he let his feelings out. “I’m so afraid. I’m afraid to lose him, but I couldn’t stay either.”
Charlie had come down the stairs to see what was going on and frowned at the scene before him. Alan shook his head, telling Charlie to go back upstairs.
“Spencer, you cannot be responsible for Aaron’s feelings. You have to take care of yourself first. You may have to let him fall Spencer. I know it hurts and I know you just want to love and protect him, but he has to stand on his own.”
Spencer felt the strong arm on his back patting him. He knew all that, but it was hard. He knew he needed to stay strong but that was hard as well. He just didn’t know what the right thing to do here was..
“Come on, before Amita comes down here herself.” Spencer pulled back and went to the little bathroom at the back of the basement and cleaned-up. By the time he came upstairs Don and Colby were there as well. That was a relationship that surprised Spencer. Don had been a bit of a heart-breaker with women. But, he knew, you couldn’t always help who you loved.
He couldn’t help being quiet during dinner. He wanted to be social, but he was grateful that they knew him well enough to not push him. He let the conversation flow around him.
“I’m sorry, I’m not very good company tonight. I think I’m going to go to bed early.” Spencer pushed away from the table and went to the guest room he was using for the time he was there. He grabbed his bag and pulled out a book that he had brought with him. It wasn’t Maeve’s, that he was finally able to let go of, this was one Aaron had given him when they were together before. He clutched it to him and closed his eyes.
Spencer was falling asleep when his phone rang. Reaching out he grabbed it and answered without even looking at it.
“Reid,” he said in a sleepy, slurred voice.
“Spencer.” The voice had him sitting up fully awake.
“I,” Spencer heard the hesitation but waited to hear what it was Aaron wanted. “I’m in a place. I.” Spencer was patient as his heart pounded hard in his chest. “I lost it on a case Spencer. The Unsub, he ah, he had a knife. I blacked out and when I came to Morgan had him in cuffs. He exorcised his right to take me out of the field. I was angry and scared. I’m sorry Spencer, I’m sorry I hurt you.” Spencer heard the tears and the quiet sobs on the other end of the line. His heart hitched in his chest as he gripped the phone tight.
“Aaron,” Spencer breathed in and out a few times trying to settle. “It’s okay Aaron. I made the choices I made to help you. You didn’t force me to do anything okay?”
Aaron was quiet so long that Spencer was afraid of he wasn’t going to say anything.
“I need you Spencer. I need you and it scares me.” Spencer heard him take a shaky breath and it made his heart hitch in his chest.
“What are you scared of Aaron? Please, talk to me.”
There was a long silence and for a moment Spencer thought Aaron had hung-up on him.
“I’m afraid you’ll leave me again. I’m afraid of going through that pain again. I’m afraid of how much I feel for you and it would shatter me to lose you a second time. I’m afraid…I’m afraid of not being good enough for you.”
Spencer closed his eyes and let the tears fall as he gripped the phone too tightly against his ear. His breath was shallow and his heart was pounding fast. He wasn’t sure what to say as he propped himself against the wall.
“Aaron, I made mistakes. I should have trusted you and I’m so sorry for putting that doubt in your head. I was selfish and I never thought of what keeping secrets was doing to you. I promise….” Aaron cut him off before he could say more.
“No, don’t promise me anything Spencer. Promises were broken, on both our parts. Don’t give me a promise. I know I need to be here, I know I need to work through this, but…can I call you? Can we talk more? I miss you, I miss our friendship.” Spencer was surprised at the rawness in Aaron’s voice. He knew it wasn’t easy for the man to make these kinds of confessions and it made Spencer wonder how long he had been wherever he was.
“Okay. I won’t promise. And, I miss you too. I miss our friendship as well Aaron. And Aaron you’ve always been good enough.” Spencer swallowed around the lump in his throat that had formed. “Yes, we can talk I’d like that.”
“I’m usually free after dinner and group. I hate group, but I’ve been told it’s part of the therapy.”
Spencer smiled to himself because he knew how Aaron hated exposing his feelings around others. He didn’t blame the man, he was the same way.
“I don’t blame you. I know how hard it is for you Aaron. I’m proud of you.”
Spencer heard a snort, “Don’t be. Morgan basically blackmailed me into this. But…the one-on-one, that’s helping.”
“I’m glad. Will you call tomorrow?” Spencer bit his lip hoping Aaron would say yes.
“I will. It’s getting late and this was my first privilege. Don’t want to abuse it. It hasn’t been easy for me.”
“I bet you were pretty pissed off at Morgan.”
“I was, but then I thought of you and I knew I needed to do…something.”
“Oh Aaron, please don’t be doing this for me. I want you to do it for yourself.”
“I am. I realize I’m hurting myself Spencer, but I hurt you too and, I think it was affecting Jack. He’s upset I’m in here and I don’t know how to reassure him. He’s missed you and keeps asking if you…if you were coming home.”
Spencer’s heart stopped in his chest. In everything that happened between them Jack got lost. He didn’t think he could feel any worse, but he did. He knew in that moment that he didn’t hurt one person, but two.
“Shit, Aaron. I’m sorry, I didn’t think, I never meant to stay away from Jack. I oh god.”
“Spencer, stop. You can make it up to him by calling him. Talk to him, Spencer it’s never too late, okay?”
“Okay. I’ll call him tomorrow. Goodnight Aaron.”
“Goodnight Spencer.” Spencer held the phone a moment and was about to put it away when he heard a faint almost whisper come through, “I love you.” Then nothing.
Laying back down he turned his face to the wall and attempted to stem the tears that had threatened to fall. His heart was pounding in his chest as he curled up on the bed, trying not to think.
The next month was a routine of working with Charlie in the mornings, going to the library in the afternoons, phone calls to Jack, dinner, then talking with Aaron. The talks with Jack were taking time, the boy was angry at him and Spencer didn’t blame him. He had a lot of making-up to do and though Jack was silent on the other end of the line it was a silence full of hope. When Jessica would call for him, Spencer didn’t notice any hesitation on his part. So, he let the boy have his silence, he talked, but he could almost feel the anticipation on Jack’s side. He knew the boy was going to break soon and he couldn’t wait for that day.
Everything seemed to be going fine. Aaron was opening up more to him, and he hoped, to his therapist. They talked at least four times a week and Spencer felt like progress was being made on them getting back to being at least friends. He had admitted to himself that he wanted more, but not what they had been, and not what they had become. He wanted that forever with Aaron, he just hoped it wasn’t too late.
He was sitting in Charlie’s empty classroom looking at their research getting lost in the maths and trying to figure out where their calculations were off. He was anxious because he hadn’t heard from Aaron for a few days and he wondered if he had said something wrong. He wasn’t going to call Morgan or anyone on the team because he frankly thought it wasn’t any of their business. He was about to call the center Aaron was at when his phone rang.
“Dr. Reid,” he was distracted by the equations on the board when he answered and didn’t pay attention to the number..
“Dr. Spencer Reid?” A woman’s voice asked which made Spencer sit-up and pay more attention.
“Yes. Who is this?”
“Dr. Reid, I’m Dr. Whittcomb at Harbor Point where Mr. Hotchner has been a patient these last couple of months.”
“Yes? Is something wrong Dr.?” There was a pause and Spencer started to worry.
“Mr. Hotchner had a relapse. We are still trying to figure out how he got a hold of something sharp but he’s in our hospital at the moment. He lost a lot of blood by the time we got to him.”
“What the hell happened?” Spencer didn’t even try to disguise his anger.
“I can only disclose this because Mr. Hotchner signed a release naming you as the contact we are allowed to discuss his therapy with. We were talking about his late ex-wife and what happened with Foyet..”
“Oh shit. Please tell me you didn’t push too hard.”
“You have to understand Dr. Reid that is part of his issues and yes I pushed because every time Haley was brought-up he shut down. I needed him to open up about this. I didn’t expect this.”
Spencer rubbed at his forehead as he walked away from the research and went outside to a more secluded area of the campus.
“You understand he had nightmares for months after that. He got counseling, and though I know he might have skirted around some of it, because god knows everyone on our team knows how to do that, he finally did work through it. The only reason it could possibly be an issue is if you’ve made him feel like it’s one.” Spencer didn’t even try to hide his anger at the therapist.
“Dr. Reid, the subject of his ex-wife…”
“No, you don’t get it, his nightmares were not centered on what happened with Haley, they were centered on the attack. Please tell me that you didn’t make him go through that again? Do you understand that what happened is akin to a rape victim? Did you make him relive one of the worst moments of his life?” Spencer was almost yelling into the phone.
“Dr. Reid, I need you to calm down.”
“No, I won’t calm down. You are there to help him, not send him into a fucking tailspin. I’m coming back and you and I are having a discussion. If and only if I feel you won’t pull this shit you can stay as his therapist. If I feel like you are going to harm him further I will demand someone new. And don’t test me Dr. Whittcomb, I know people with security clearances so high you would never even hope to lay eyes on them. So let me be clear. When it comes to Aaron I will do anything to protect him.” Spencer cut the call off and strode back into the University to go hunt Charlie down.
When he got back to the classroom he was pacing, angry and worried.
“Spencer? What’s going on?” Charlie walked in to see his friend in distress.
“Aaron had a relapse. I need to get back to Virginia. I’m sorry Charlie, but he comes first. I can send you anything I come up with by Skype or through an encrypted e-mail but I can’t stay.” Spencer was gathering his things in a frantic rush.
“Hey, Spencer calm down. It’s fine, you go do what you need to and we can do this later. I know what he means to you.” Charlie had stopped him and gripped his shoulders. “With you by his side, whatever is going on, I’m sure he will be fine.”
“Thanks Charlie.” Spencer didn’t say more as he rushed out of the college and got in his leased vehicle. First thing he did was get his bags from Charlie’s house, then he turned the car in. Calling for a cab he made it to Burbank airport where he was able to get an evening flight out. He hated that he had to wait, but it was the earliest available. By the time he was landing in Virginia at 3 am he was exhausted. He got a cab and got to his apartment where he fell face first into bed not even pausing to undress.
Spencer pulled up to Harbor Point and exited his vehicle with his satchel around him and his briefcase. He was still pissed off at the Psychiatrist for pushing at things that Aaron had already dealt with. The only reason he would have gone into a spiral like he has was if the Doctor had twisted him up somehow. He wanted to get to the bottom of what happened. If Doctor Whittcomb thought that she was dealing with some kind of amateur she had another thing coming. Having dealt with Psychiatrists all his life, first with his mother’s care, then during his first year of college and later in his professional life, Spencer knew exactly what he was doing.
He strode up to the front desk as soon as he entered the center.
“Yes, I’m here to see Mr. Aaron Hotchner, My name is Dr. Spencer Reid.”
“Let me just check that, and I will need to see some ID as well as have you sign in.”
Spencer took out his civilian ID as well as his FBI badge.
“I do have you on Mr. Hotchner’s approved visitor’s list, but there is a note that Dr. Whittcomb wants to see you first.”
“You can tell the Dr. that I will see Aaron first, then I will be seeing her. And, you can’t keep me from him as I am his medical power of attorney as well as on his approved visitors list. In fact, if you do keep me from him I will exercise my right to have him removed from this facility.” Spencer glared at the nurse
“Janet, can you take over while I show Dr. Reid to Mr. Hotchner’s room?” The relief nurse switched and the nurse at the desk moved out from behind to show Spencer where Aaron was.
“I’ll leave you two alone.” The nurse said as she walked back to her station. Spencer stood at the doorway and looked in, shocked. Aaron had lost weight, he had bags under his eyes and his complexion was pale. He looked down to see that his arms were bandaged. He was currently reading. He set the book aside and closed his eyes.
“Don’t just stand in the doorway and hover Spencer.” Aaron looked-up and it didn’t take much before Spencer was across the room and pulling Aaron into his arms. He sighed when he felt Aaron wrap his arms around him and pulled him in close.
“Aaron,” Spencer choked on the name as he pulled back then on impulse leaned in and kissed him. “I was so scared Aaron. What happened? I want you to tell me what happened, I have your doctor’s version, but I want you to tell me what happened.”
Aaron set the book aside and sat-up on the bed, crossing his legs. Looking down at his hands he didn’t want to look at Spencer while he told him what happened.
“Dr. Whittcomb, she brought-up Haley. Wanted to talk about it and I didn’t. I’ve put what happened behind me. She pushed and I told her that I had put what happened in our marriage behind me and let it be in the past. She didn’t believe me and kept picking at that scar. When I wouldn’t talk to her anymore she switched and started to ask about Foyet. I told her I didn’t want to discuss Foyet. That I worked through the attack with another therapist. She…she tried to intimate that I allowed it to happen. That I wanted Foyet so badly that I let myself get hurt.” Aaron’s breath hitched in his chest and Spencer tamped down on his anger. He didn’t want to upset Aaron but he had a few phone calls to make before confronting this Doctor.
“We talked about you. About when you left and I just, I,” Aaron’s eyes filled as he gripped Spencer’s hands.
“Oh Aaron. You don’t have to tell me anymore. I need to know, has she been your therapist from the beginning?”
Aaron shook his head no. “No, I started with a Doctor named Wilkes. He and I, we had a rapport. I liked him and I was feeling better. Dr. Whittcomb came in about two weeks ago and Doctor Wilkes was taken off my case.”
“That doesn’t sound right Aaron.”
“I complained. I’m not comfortable with her Spencer. I felt safe when I first got here, but I don’t know, I’m all twisted up. I don’t want her and I’ve refused to speak with her in the last few days.”
“I’m going to go make a few phone calls. I’ll be right back, okay?”
Aaron nodded and Spencer stalked away pulling out his phone. He called Garcia to try and get background information on Doctor Whittcomb and what she found after doing a deep search frankly shocked him. It didn’t take long after that to get even more information on what the hell was going on. He walked back into Aaron’s room madder than he’s ever been in his whole life.
“Reid, what is going on?” Aaron was in Unit Chief mode all of a sudden and it almost made Spencer smile.
“I believe Doctor Whittcomb is an Angel of Mercy. How she got here I’m still looking into it. Morgan and the team are delving into her history. She has bullied her way into seventeen clinics in the last ten years. In those ten years twenty-five people have committed suicide after being in her care for more than a few weeks. I’m meeting with the director of this place. You are to stay here and stay out of it, Morgan’s words, and frankly I think he’s right.”
Aaron paled as he thought back to the two weeks he’d been seeing Whittcomb.
“I knew something was off. I let myself fall into her mind games. How did I let that happen?”
“No, no don’t do that to yourself Aaron. You did not let this happen. Those who hired her did.”
“Hey Pretty Boy, we need you upstairs. Bring him so we can keep an eye on him and make sure he’s safe.”
“Come on.” Spencer grabbed his briefcase and made his way upstairs where the team was assembled.
Everyone greeted Aaron with hugs and hello’s. Spencer saw him relax as they all gathered around the table.
“How the hell did this happen?” Spencer looked at the map that JJ had pinned with the clinics and a list of victims at each one.
“She’s good, she’s forged papers and bullied her way into all these clinics. We’ve been speaking with the directors of each one. They didn’t have proof, but when there were enough suicides under her care she’d be either fired or pushed out. None of the clinics reported her, as they were embarrassed that they let themselves get conned by her.”
Aaron wiped his face and tried not to feel sick.
“When we leave today, I am taking you home Hotch. I am not leaving you here and they can’t stop me.” Spencer folded his arms across his chest and dared Aaron to protest.
When all he did was nod, Spencer raised a brow and was glad the man didn’t fight him on this.
The case didn’t take long and by the time they had enough evidence against the Dr. Whittcomb, she was taken into custody and was being charged with multiple counts of second degree murder.
Spencer had grabbed some things from his apartment and actually stayed with Aaron and Jack. He stayed on the couch, but some nights, when the nightmares had hit Aaron, he’d crawl into bed with him and hold him tight. Spencer again cursed the Dr. Whittcomb and the pain she had caused him.
“Spencer, you should go home.”
“I am not leaving you like this Aaron. It’s my choice to be here. You aren’t forcing me. I’m not making the same mistakes as I did before.”
Aaron swallowed hard against the lump in his throat.
“I want to trust this again, what’s between us…”
“It will take time. I’m not going anywhere and I know you don’t believe that right now, but I’m going to prove it to you Aaron. I’m going to prove that I love you and that I want to be with you.”
Aaron wrapped his arms around Spencer, burying his head against his shoulder.
“I love you too, don’t leave again. I don’t think I’d survive it.”
“Don’t say things like that Aaron. You’ve survived more than can be asked of anyone. You’re stronger than you give yourself credit for and you have Jack. You are a good father Aaron, you would never leave him.”
Aaron wanted to believe him with every fiber of his being. The fact that Spencer came back when he needed him the most went a long way to repairing the fracture in their foundation. He had things to make-up for too, he just hoped Spencer stayed long enough for them to try.