Christmas had always been a time of love and joy, especially since Spencer had come into his and Jack’s life. When he had finally made his move and asked Spencer out that first time, it was everything he had ever expected and he had been happy, he thought Spencer had been as well. He hated it when he was wrong. Especially when it came to his heart.
Aaron stood by the window in the darkened room, the Christmas lights the only currently on. He had his hands in his pockets, his tie long gone and his shirt opened at the top. The silence in the house was almost too much to bear, but he was glad that Jack wasn’t going to be there for this conversation.
He knew when Spencer came home, he saw the car parking, him getting out and grabbing his go-bag. Aaron lifted the drink that was in his hand and took a sip. He never had more than one, possibly two on the very rare occasions. He made it a vow to himself that he wasn’t going to be like his father. Aaron kept his gaze outside as Spencer made his way into the house. He heard the door open and close, the alarm was set, the shuffle into the bedroom. A few minutes later he heard Spencer calling his name. Part of him wanted to keep his silence, to let Spencer have what he wanted, but it was killing him. He knew he shouldn’t do this so close to the holidays, but he also couldn’t take another time watching the man he loved walk out the door to spend his time with another man. Even if it was his friend.
Aaron and Spencer had three good years together. The two of them inseparable, stupid in love, or so Aaron had thought. Spencer had come to him a year ago and told him he was developing feelings for someone, but that he loved Aaron too. So, he tried, he tried very hard to make it work, to be happy watching the love of his life go to this other man. But, he couldn’t pretend anymore, not when this was killing him a little inside each time.
He had asked Jessica to take Jack early in the day because he needed a night, a silent night, to sort through his feelings, to try to understand if he was being selfish and whether he should talk to Spencer or not. He was still working through it all till the moment Spencer pulled into the driveway. The blue Amazon almost making Aaron smile.
Aaron took another sip of his drink and hadn’t answered Spencer back yet.
“There you are, I’ve been calling. I didn’t see you in the dark there, everything okay?” Spencer shuffled towards Aaron who turned to look at him. The silence between them stretched on for several moments before Aaron drained his drink and finally moved from the window. He went to the liquor cart and poured himself another glass then turned to Spencer.
“I can’t do this anymore Spencer.”
Spencer cocked his head and took a step towards Aaron.
“What do you mean Aaron?”
“I know I said I’d try, and I did, for a whole year, I tried to share, to be understanding of your feelings, but it kills me every time you walk out that door to go to Dave’s. And Jack doesn’t understand where you go, he misses you, Spencer.”
Aaron’s frown deepened as he took a sip of his drink. His breath was shallow as Spencer took a few steps forward.
“What do you want Aaron?”
Aaron almost laughed as he looked at Spencer with tears in his eyes.
“What I want, again, I’m not going to get.” The repeat of the conversation from almost seven years prior wasn’t lost on either man. “But this time I’m making the choice. If you stay, with me it has to be me and Jack and no one else. But if you walk out that door, if you go back to Dave, I can’t continue this. I love you, Spencer, no, let me rephrase that, I am in love with you, but I don’t think you understand how much. So, I’m going to finish my drink, take a shower, then go to bed. The choice from there will be yours.” Aaron turned, he wasn’t going to let Spencer see his heart-shattering.
When he got to the bedroom, his drink finished he slipped into the shower and let the hot water cascade down his body, trying to ease the tension. When he got out and dried off he was just tired, mentally and emotionally. When he stepped out he saw Spencer sitting on the bed.
“He’s with Jessica.”
“Do I have to decide tonight?”
“I would think it would be an easy decision. But, no you don’t have to decide tonight. We can wait till the holidays are over, for whatever it is.”
“Aaron, I do love you.”
“I know, but I’m not sure you love me enough.” Aaron took a deep breath before he slipped into bed. “Whatever you decide I won’t keep Jack from you, he loves you like another parent. I’m going to bed, you’re welcome to stay.”
Spencer stood and silently slipped into the bathroom, not saying anything more. Aaron heard the shower turn on, then a few minutes later it turned off, and after a little while, Spencer was slipping into bed beside him. Aaron reached out and pulled Spencer to him, holding on a little too tight. The two men slipped into silence as they tried to fall asleep.
The holidays flew by, Spencer and Aaron kept all outward appearance that everything was okay. Spencer stayed at the house, Dave had flown to California to be with Joy and her family.
Christmas morning was filled with family, and friends as they celebrated together at JJ’s house. The tension between Aaron and Dave wasn’t lost on the others, but no one wanted to ask. Jack and Henry opened presents with abandon, which made everyone smile. After they all went home Aaron and Spencer were once again plunged into a night of silence.
New Year’s, another party, but this time it was at Rossi’s. Aaron almost didn’t go. But, in the end, he went anyway and smiled at all the right times, laughed at all the right things, kissed Spencer at midnight, toasted his friends and family, but the tension and uncertainty were still lingering. When Dave offered a room, Aaron almost declined but knew he had too much to drink and getting a cab would be expensive and petty. Taking a deep breath, he accepted Dave’s offer. No one noticed or questioned the growing cracks in their friendship.
The next morning Aaron had taken a shower, took some Advil and downed a couple of glasses of water. He felt almost human as he silently made his way down the stairs towards the kitchen. He heard voices and stood back and watched. Spencer was sitting on the counter and Dave was smiling up at him, he was giving Spencer a bite of whatever he was cooking, and the look he got was a look Aaron used to get. He stood there a moment and his heart shattered. As quietly as he could he went back to the room and grabbed his things then left. He couldn’t stay to watch, silent tears flowed down his face the whole time he was driving home.
By the time he walked into the house, there were several texts and missed calls from both Dave and Spencer. He shut off his phone, called Jessica to bring Jack home then took him out for the day. He focused everything he had on his son for the entire day. When they got home, it was late and Aaron was putting a very sleepy Jack to bed. A few minutes later Spencer was walking in the door, with Dave trailing behind.
“Aaron, I think we should talk.” Dave walked to his kitchen to pour a glass of whiskey each, Aaron declined his.
“There really isn’t anything to talk about Dave. I saw the two of you together as I came down the stairs. I can’t compete, the look he was giving you, that used to be me, and I don’t get to see it anymore. I hope you two are happy.”
“Aaron, don’t be some self-sacrificing idiot. I have a proposal. You and Jack move in with me and Spencer.”
Aaron closed his eyes and shook his head.
“You don’t get it, Dave. I love him. I love him as I’ve never even loved Haley. I fell and I fell hard. I thought,” Aaron looked to Spencer and tried to stop the pain in his heart. “I thought you loved me like that, but you don’t, because if you did you wouldn’t have wanted a relationship with Dave.”
“Aaron,” Spencer looked at him almost shocked by his words. “I do love you, I do.”
Aaron smiled sadly at the two of them.
“And you Dave? What do you feel?”
“I love Spencer,” Dave smiled as he looked at the younger man. “I feel wanted and needed again.”
“Then I hope you’re happy, I do. But I can’t live with you, I can’t knowing that Dave is the one you are in love with and it’s not me. I can’t be that third wheel, there just to satisfy some need you think you have. I won’t do that again.”
“But Aaron…” Spencer looked at him pleadingly. “I can’t not have you in my life.”
“I’m not leaving the unit. You’ll still see me every day, it just won’t be as your lover. You made your choice clear.” Aaron didn’t touch his drink as he left the two men in his kitchen. He closed the door to his room with a finality that broke his heart. He heard Spencer and Dave leaving as he slipped into bed and turned into the pillow and let the tears fall.
The months went by, Aaron tried hard to repair his heart. He went on a few dates, but nothing came of them. Dave and his friendship were fractured, but Aaron didn’t blame him for the choice Spencer made. He focused all of his energy on Jack and the two were growing closer than ever. Aaron decided that it wasn’t in the cards for him anymore. That him and falling in love always brought pain in the end and he felt too old to try again.
He would watch Spencer and Dave out of the corner of his eye and convince himself that he wasn’t pining, that it didn’t still hurt, but it did. He had given everything of himself to Spencer and somehow was found lacking. He threw himself into work like never before and missed the looks Spencer would sometimes throw his way.
Cases came and went, life moved on and Aaron sealed up that part of his heart that was Spencer. Then it all came crashing down, and all it took was one UnSub to upend his life yet again. Mr. Scratch, identified as Peter Lewis, played with his mind, made him believe his team was dead, made him believe, for even just a moment, that he had killed Spencer as he came in the door. It was his sheer strength of will that he was able to break through the fog of the drugs enough to shoot Lewis. Though he wasn’t dead, he was taken into custody, and Aaron was taken to the hospital.
“Aaron, you want to tell me what happened?” Dave asked as he came into Aaron’s room and sat down on a chair next to his bed. He glared up at the ceiling and knew he’d need to make his report, but he would write it out. He didn’t want to talk about it, at least not with Dave.
“No. You’ll see my report.”
“Aaron, don’t be stubborn, you need to talk about whatever happened in that house.”
“No, I don’t.” He knew he was being a stubborn jackass, but he was determined not to be vulnerable in front of Dave.
“Is this about Spencer? Because you and I have not been talking for months now.”
“You really think this is the time to bring that up? I just want to rest so that I can be released tomorrow and go home.”
“This is a perfect time because you aren’t going anywhere, and you dodge me every time I come to talk to you.”
“What do you want me to say, Dave? That it kills me to watch you two? That the man that became the love of my life is with you? That I can’t move on, even though I tried? Is that what you want to hear?” Aaron turned his glare on Dave as his heart was pounding in his chest.
“Aaron,” Dave didn’t know what to say as he watched his friend falling apart in front of him. “What happened tonight?”
Aaron took a shuddering breath and closed his eyes. He fought with himself not to tell Dave what happened, but in the end, he couldn’t keep it inside. He told Dave everything from the moment he stepped foot in Lewis’s house till the moment the team found him. In the end he finally turned to look at Dave, who was sitting there in stunned silence.
“I’ll write the reports, Aaron, you just rest.” Dave stood and didn’t say anymore, Aaron could tell he was affected, but he wasn’t sure by which. The feelings he just couldn’t shed for Spencer, or the mental torture he had gone through in that house. At the moment he just didn’t care. He laid back and closed his eyes and all he wanted was to get some sleep.
It was the middle of the night and Aaron bolted upright in bed, the heart monitor he was hooked up to was going crazy. He was trying to reach for an imaginary gun while his mind was still in the dream.
“Aaron!” The voice finally got through as he looked over at Reid. A cool, wet cloth was wiping his forehead. “You’re safe, it’s okay Hotch, you’re safe.”
Aaron closed his eyes and took a few deep breaths before he found his voice.
“Reid, what are you doing here?” Aaron asked as his stoic mask was set firmly in place.
“Dave didn’t think you should be alone. He let me read your statement. I didn’t think you should be alone either.” Spencer pulled the cloth away and sat back in the chair.
“Go home Spencer, please?” Aaron’s heart was in his throat. When on cases he could set aside his feelings and with the rest of the team around it was easy to stay professional. But, here and now, like this after what he had just gone through, it was painful. He wanted to reach out and hold onto Spencer, wanted to wrap his arms around him and be reassured that everything was going to be okay.
“No. I’m not leaving you alone.”
“I go home tomorrow, what are you going to do? Come home with me?” Aaron chuffed as he laid back in the hospital bed. “Because these nightmares aren’t going to go away, tomorrow, or the next day or the next. I saw myself…” Aaron wiped a hand down his face trying to stop the tear that escaped. “I saw myself kill you, that isn’t going to go away for a while.”
“I’m sorry Aaron.” Spencer looked to the wall as he frowned.
“It’s not your fault Reid. It’s Peter Lewis’.”
“Not about that…just about everything, I’m sorry.”
Aaron closed his eyes and turned his head for a moment. “I don’t want to talk about that, not tonight, I can’t tonight.”
“I’m not leaving you alone.”
“Fine, stay, I don’t really care.” Aaron turned on his side and ignored Spencer, closing his eyes he attempted to go back to sleep.
The next time he woke, there was a warm body wrapped around him and as much as he wanted to tell Spencer to leave, he couldn’t. He felt shaking and laid a hand on Spencer’s shoulder.
Spencer turned and buried his face against Aaron’s shoulder and held on even tighter.
Putting his anger and pain aside for the moment, Aaron buried his fingers in Spencer’s hair and gently massaged. It was something that they used to do, and it always helped to sooth Spencer during some of the worst cases.
“What’s wrong Reid?” Aaron tried to soften his voice and not let his pain take over.
“I made a terrible mistake. Nothing is right and it’s all my fault. I asked something of you that any other person would have flat out said no. That should have shown me just how much you loved me. But I wanted, I don’t know what I wanted, but things aren’t what I thought they’d be.”
Aaron somehow knew this conversation was going to happen with Reid staying the night with him. It wasn’t the best timing, but that seemed to always be their M.O.
“What’s going on Spencer?”
“Dave, he’s…we aren’t compatible. I knew it, deep down, but I just didn’t want to see it. He spends most of his time either researching, writing, or at his club. He doesn’t even try to be interested in the things I like. I thought we were good, and for a short time, we were. But, gradually I started to feel like I was just there for when he wanted me.”
Aaron rubbed Reid’s back and it made his heartache with so much want and need, but he didn’t say anything for the moment.
“David Rossi, though a good person at heart, is a vain, self-centered, peacock. He may be one of my best friends, but I see the faults, Spencer. You never really lost that hero worship and, I think, when he wanted a relationship with you, it was because it fed his ego.”
“When we’ve gone out together, it’s like he’s trying to show me off, and I want no part of that. I lost you, the person who always let me be me. I was never an afterthought or a boost to your ego, I screwed up so badly. I miss you, all these months, I’ve missed you, Aaron.”
Aaron took a chance and bussed a kiss on Spencer’s forehead.
“I don’t know if I can go back there, Spencer. It hurt when you chose Dave. It hurt because I thought you loved me enough to choose me. I know I don’t have David’s shine, but I don’t want that. I’ve always just been the guy who loves what he does and wants to be with my family on the downtime, and I had made assumptions, that you and Jack were my family. I assumed that you would always want that because you never said any different.”
“I want to come home, Aaron.”
Aaron was quiet for several long moments, his thoughts a whirl as were his emotions. He really wanted Spencer to come home with him, Jack wanted Spencer to come home with him, but he wasn’t sure if he could go through this all again. He loved Spencer still, was in love with him, but he had hurt him deeply.
“I don’t know Spencer. We have a lot of work we have to do. I don’t know what I did Spencer…”
“No…no Aaron you didn’t do anything. It was me. I was selfish and didn’t see what I really had. I had you and Jack and I got scared. It was everything I ever wanted and it scared me. I turned to Dave…because…because it was easy, he was easy.” Spencer buried his head against Aaron’s chest and curled his fingers in the thin gown he was wearing.
“Family isn’t supposed to be easy Spencer. It’s supposed to be complicated and hard, but we love as well. It’s how we learn, how we grow. I love you Spencer Reid, but am I going to be able to trust you again? To bring you home I have to trust you, Spencer.”
“Please Aaron, please give me a chance?”
Aaron sighed and closed his eyes. He knew it might be foolish, he knew he might get his heart get broken again, but then when was he ever smart about love.