“You knowingly jeopardized your life and the lives of others! I should fire you! You’re the smartest kid in the room, but you’re not the only one in that room. You pull something like this again, you will be! Am I clear?” Spencer knew he had screwed up and knowing Hotch was this upset with him made him realize just how badly he had screwed up. Spencer swallowed back the moisture that had gathered in his mouth and felt bad that he had disappointed the one man he never wanted to.
“Yes, Sir. It won’t happen again.
“What were you thinking?” The concern in Hotch’s eyes made Spencer fidget with the handles of his messenger bag while he tried to get his thoughts in order.
“I was thinking that would have been the second time a kid died in front of me.”
“You’re keeping score, just like Owen.” Hotch softened his voice and his frown deepened and Spencer could see the concern written all over his face.
“It was my turn to save one.”
“It doesn’t work like that.”
“I know it’s painful when the person you identify with is the bad guy.” Spencer had to wonder what Hotch meant. He knew the case with Evan Abby had hit close to home for him, but Abby was the good guy. Then there was Perotta, who everyone talked about, but no one asked Hotch what he had meant by his statements. Spencer could infer a lot of things even though they weren’t supposed to profile each other. It was hard when you lived in each other’s pockets pretty much most of the time.
“What does that make me?” Spencer asked biting the inside of his cheek wanting and not wanting an answer at the same time. Hotch was more than his boss, he had stepped up as a mentor, and friend after Gideon left. That was a pain that still had not gone away, but Spencer was learning to live with it, to let it go because the crushing weight of grief he could no longer stand.
“Good at the job! I know it’s none of my business, but when we land I think you should go catch the rest of that movie.” Spencer knew Hotch wasn’t fooled by his trying to be covert at where he really was. He was the only one on the team that had tried to help him, even if only covertly. Flyers for meetings had been left on his desk after the case with Abby and at first, Spencer tried to get angry that someone was interfering in his life, but when he saw Hotch watching him, he knew who they were from.
“I will, Hotch. I promise.” This was a promise that Spencer could easily keep. He never wanted Hotch to be disappointed in him. Not now, not ever.
“If you ever want or need someone to go with you, I’m always willing. I care about you Reid, I don’t like seeing you struggle this much.”
Spencer fidgeted with his bag a moment and felt the heat creep up his neck as he took in those words from Hotch.
“Thank you, I promise I’ll be fine.”
“All right, but the offer stands for any time. I know it isn’t easy to do something like that on your own.” Hotch grabbed the files out of his briefcase and went to work. Spencer knew there was more there, but he was not going to push the man for answers. He knew how private Hotch was. It was also what made him a great Unit Chief. He kept the team’s secrets and did his best to help them where he could. Spencer settled into his seat and pulled out a book and got down to reading. The plane would be landing back in Virginia soon and he wanted to relax.
Hotch offered to drive him home, but it was one of the rare days that he drove his car in. He thanked his boss, settled into his Amazon and decided to take the longer, scenic route home. Spencer stopped to get some takeout, he didn’t want to cook. He was too tired physically and emotionally.
A couple of hours later had Spencer dozing on his couch with an animal documentary playing in the background. He startled awake when his phone rang. Spencer really hoped it wasn’t a call for a case, they had been promised a couple of days in between.
“Reid,” Spencer heard his own tiredness as he answered his phone.
“Wow, you sound wrecked.” Reid sat up as he held the phone in his hand a little closer.
“Thomas, I thought you were going to be gone for a few more weeks.”
“The book tour finished. They had to cancel a couple of dates, but overall we hit all the right places. Now I’m just glad to be back home. Wanted to know if you want to do brunch this weekend.”
“Sure, if we have no case, I’ll call you on Saturday and we can make plans.”
“Sounds good. I’ll wait for your call. Now go get some sleep. You sound like you need it.”
Spencer didn’t even try to keep the smile off his face as he said his goodbyes to his friend. Setting the phone back on the table, Spencer fell asleep.
The rest of the week went by and no new cases came in. Spencer went to a meeting at the Beltway Clean Cops group he had been attending. He spoke about the case and Owen, how he felt a kinship with the young man and didn’t want to see him killed. He also spoke a little of his reckless actions, and while it felt good to talk about, he still felt a little lost.
The weekend came and Spencer was glad that he might actually be able to go out with Thomas on Sunday.
Thomas Wilkes had been a surprise to Spencer. They met at a local writers group that Spencer had started to attend. It was a mix of professional and amateur writers, which he had been looking for. Spencer was trying to find an outlet other than studying and academic papers, or the occasional guest lecturing with Alex Blake or other professors he had good relationships with. The group ended up being a mixed bag. Most nights they got together was fun, but sometimes they would not take no for an answer when Spencer didn’t want to talk about some of the cases that he investigated. Thomas had come to his rescue. Spencer was quite aware of the writer’s fame but didn’t fawn all over him. He learned his lesson after his excitement over meeting Rossi for the first time. Though he had not expected the man to be a pompous ass over it. Spencer was glad they had gotten past it, and while he respected Rossi, they were still working towards some kind of friendship, he hoped anyway.
On Saturday, Spencer called to let Thomas know that it looked like brunch for Sunday was on. They made plans, and after Spencer settled down at his personal laptop and worked on his writing. The day flew by, he ate, wrote, drank too much coffee, and watched a little television. By the time he was getting ready for bed Spencer was grateful for the quiet day, he was settling more from the Owen Savage case and his emotional upheaval from it.
Sunday dawned bright, and Spencer made his way to the restaurant where he had made the reservations. When he saw Thomas waiting for him, Spencer smiled and thought the man looked better than he should, given how much time he had spent on his book tour.
“You look good, Tom. Rested up from the tour?” Spencer asked as he approached their table.
Thomas stood and gave Spencer a chaste kiss on the cheek. The two men had a loose agreement, and when neither of them was in any type of relationship they were not opposed to some recreational sex. Both were adults they could handle it. Spencer knew what his team thought of him, no one wanted to acknowledge that he had a healthy, if not spotty sex life. He was no blushing virgin, and Spencer knew Morgan was the worst at putting him in that box. Spencer had tried once to talk to Morgan about it, but the man refused to believe that Spencer ever had sex before. He wasn’t sure what that was about, other than Morgan seeing Spencer as a little brother.
Spencer could admit that he often felt awkward around people he was attracted to, and in large crowds, or clubs he had a hard time flirting or even making eye contact. He could also admit that he had a healthy dose of social anxiety, but he tried not to let it stop him from enjoying things on his own. But, pubs and jazz clubs, or game pubs Spencer usually did alright.
“The tour was exhausting, but I’ve had some downtime to recover. Though I don’t think I can say the same thing about you. What’s going on Pen?” Thomas had been there through the first stages of Spencer getting sober. While Ethan had pointed out to him how he was looking, it was Thomas who actually pulled him through and went with him for those first few meetings.
Spencer waited till their waitress came over and took their drink orders.
“This last case. I can’t get Owen out of my mind, Tom. Every time I close my eyes I have these dreams, not quite nightmares, but I see myself in him. This time, though, no one is there to stop me and Hotch and Morgan kill me. I don’t know how to get it out of my head.”
Thomas studied Spencer for a while as he sipped at the champagne that had been poured for him earlier.
“I’d like you to accompany me to a party on Friday, that is if you don’t get a case.”
Spencer scrunched up his expression and narrowed his eyes and wondered what Thomas Wilkes had in mind. While the two casually dated, he had never invited Spencer to any type of party other than a book party. This could prove to be very interesting.
“And what kind of party am I being invited to?”
Thomas’s grin was almost Cheshire cat-like as his eyes sparkled mischievously.
“A very exclusive one. In fact, you will need to pull out your tux. I think the charcoal gray one with the black velvet pinstriping on the jacket. Wear your lilac button down and bow tie. And Spencer?”
“Wear dress shoes, not your converse.”
“You seem confident that I’ll actually say yes.”
The waitress came back to take their food order after placing the coffee in front of Spencer. When she left, he turned his focus back to Thomas.
“There is a club I belong to. It’s one that I joined long before we met. It’s very private and very exclusive. It’s called Club Sesso, and to even get in the door you have to break their code, and pay a ten thousand dollar entrance fee.” Thomas took a long drink of his champagne and smiled as he watched Spencer work on figuring it out.
“Club Sesso,” Spencer’s eyes got comically wide as he leaned forward on the table. “Club Sex? Thomas, you belong to a sex club?”
“Not just any sex club, Spencer. This one is highly exclusive like I already said. The people there are a mixture of movers and shakers, not just from Virginia or DC, but some are international. It’s all above board, Spencer. The money for fees is mostly used for charities outside the club, only a portion of it is for the upkeep of the club itself.”
“And why do you think I would want to join?”
“I didn’t say you should join.” Thomas’s grin grew as he sipped at his water. “I’m just asking you to accompany me to a party.”
“Right. You forget I’m a profiler, Tom.”
Thomas laughed as he drummed his fingers on the table and dropped his head, shaking it. When he looked back up at Spencer, he didn’t even try to hide his amusement.
“All right, you got me. Yes, I am taking you to introduce you to the club and some of the people in it. I think you need another outlet, Spencer. While your writing is coming along wonderfully, and the book you are working on has potential, you are still keeping yourself entrenched in crime. I think you need to get out of your head, explore something a little on the wild side. You like sex, and everyone who is part of the club not only keeps everyone’s secrets, they are a dynamic and diverse group. I think it would be good for you to try something very different.”
Spencer sipped his coffee for a moment and thought about what Thomas said. When his plate of hash and eggs was placed in front of him, with a side of toast, Spencer hummed at how good it looked. His stomach growled as he tucked into his food. He took his time to consider Thomas’s offer and found that he was not wholly opposed to the idea. There was little talk as the two men consumed their brunch and drank their coffees. By the time they were done, Spencer had an answer for Thomas.
“I’m intrigued. I’ll go with you to this party and only after will I make a final decision.”
Thomas tried not to look smug as he popped the last bite of his food in his mouth. After chewing and swallowing the smile was back.
“Oh, I knew you would say yes. Your curious nature would let you do no less. So, barring a case, I will pick you up at 7:30 on Friday.”
“Friday then.” Spencer wondered just what he was getting himself into.
Aaron was still debating whether he was going to go to the party or not. His invitation sat on his dresser, taunting him. Holding it in his hand he tried not to think of all the good times he and Haley had at the Club. Dave was trying to encourage him to move on, but it still felt too soon. Recent events, though, had him wanting to get out of the house, and out of his head. It was only Tuesday, he still had time to get his tux dry cleaned and back in time for Friday.
Pulling the garment bag out that he had his more expensive suits housed in, Aaron pulled out the vintage Brioni tuxedo that had been his father’s. Aaron had it expertly tailored to fit him and he knew how he looked in it. Sighing, he hung it on a hook just outside the closet door and stared at it. Grabbing his phone, he dialed and waited.
“Aaron?” Haley’s voice over the phone had Aaron wondering just what he was doing.
“Hey. Look, I know we are still trying to figure us out and what we are now, but Friday is the annual ball at the Club. I know you wanted to stop going, and my pushing the issue didn’t help. Haley, I was wondering if you wanted to go with me on Friday. No strings, just us having fun at something we used to enjoy together.”
Aaron waited patiently as he heard Haley shuffling around, then a door closing.
“No strings. We enjoy the party, we each do what we want while there, then I take you home.”
Aaron heard a deep breath and knew Haley was considering it.
“You know what? I’d love to go. I need the break and Jessica keeps trying to get me out of the house. So, if you don’t get a case, what time can I expect you?”
Aaron tried not to look at this as anything more than two friends going out for the evening. He wasn’t going to give-up the BAU. Haley had been right, after Minneapolis, there was another case, and another. The BAU felt like it was the place he was born for and as much as he tried to think about giving it up, he couldn’t.
“I’ll pick you up at 7:00.”
“Black tie as usual?”
“Are you wearing the Brioni?”
“Good. It’s your best one. Call me and let me know if you get a case, Aaron.”
“You know if you want to go, you don’t need me.”
“I know, but I think you’re right in that it would be fun to go together.”
Aaron tried his hardest not to read too much into Haley’s words. He just smiled inwardly as he finalized plans with her then hung up. Getting up he grabbed the bag he used for his dry cleaning and put the tux in it and left it hanging. He would leave for work early enough to be able to drop it off at the cleaners.
Grabbing a book from his bookcase, Aaron went out to his living room where he waited for the take-out he had ordered. After it came, he settled in and spent the night trying not to anticipate Friday night, but it was going to be hard.
Wednesday a case dropped in their lap. Spencer sighed as he flopped down on the bench seat next to Hotch after boarding the plane.
“Something wrong?” Hotch looked at Spencer worried.
“I had plans on Friday, I hope we can wrap this case quickly.”
“Plans with a stack of books, Pretty Boy?” Morgan teased as he sat down at the four top.
“Nah, probably an obscure film marathon,” Prentiss teased as she slid in across from Morgan.
“I say he is going to some scientific lecture on the brain chemistry of serial killers.” JJ sat on the bench seat on the other side of Spencer.
“Hey, what if we are all wrong and the kid actually has a date,” Rossi smirked as he sat next to Prentiss. All of them had their case files in front of them.
“What do you think, Hotch?” JJ asked as she smiled over at her boss.
“I think it isn’t any of our business and whatever Spencer has planned is important to him, and don’t you guys think it’s a little rude to talk about someone when they are sitting right here?”
The team gaped at Hotch, while Spencer felt a little spark of pride that Hotch would defend him to the others.
“Thank you, Hotch. And if you nosy, busy buddies really need to know, I have a date.”
Morgan gaped at him, while Prentiss just smiled.
“Okay, I think we need to talk about the case and hopefully we can catch whoever is doing this so we can get Spencer home and on his date in time.” Hotch let a small smile grace his lips which earned a brilliant Spencer smile as they all opened up the case files ready to bounce ideas off of each other.
Spencer slid his eyes over to Hotch and felt more than grateful to his boss for steering the conversation away from his personal life. Spencer threw out ideas along with the others and when they had exhausted all of the maybes, Aaron stopped them.
“Okay, Rossi and Prentiss I want you two to go to the latest crime scene. Morgan go to the ME’s to see if they have anything new on the past or current victim, JJ I need you to get ahead of the press on this. So far no one has printed a story yet, and we need to control the information. Reid, you and I will go to the station and start on victimology, and the geographic profile. Okay, get some rest everyone, we should be in Chesterfield soon.”
Hotch stood and went to his normal spot at the back corner of the plane. Instead of getting the files out to look at once again, he pulled out a book. Spencer watched him out of the corner of his eye and knew something was up, he wasn’t sure if it was his place to approach him to ask about it or not. A moment later the decision was taken out of his hands when Rossi approached and sat down across from Hotch, needling the man. Spencer shook his head and laughed to himself before he stood and went to the small kitchen to get himself some coffee.
“So, who’s the lucky girl?” JJ asked as she snuck in next to Spencer making herself a cup of tea.
“JJ, who said anything about a girl,” Spencer smirked as he sipped his coffee.
“Okay, okay, don’t tell me. Just…I want you to be happy Spence and with everything lately, I can see you haven’t been.”
“Jayje, I’m fine. I promise and my date is someone I met a while ago and we hit it off really well. I just wish you guys would take me out of that innocent, blushing virgin box you’ve stuffed me into.”
JJ looked a little taken aback at the frank admonishment from her friend.
“If you say you don’t do that, then you are lying to yourself. Look, I may not always get some of the cultural references you guys make, but it doesn’t mean that I’m as naive as you believe me to be. I don’t do well at the clubs Morgan drags us to because they make me nervous and they aren’t places that I always enjoy. But have you ever seen me like that at the pub?”
Spencer knew JJ was going through all of the times that they had dragged him out to some loud, noisy nightclub compared to the times they went to quieter places.
“I guess I just never noticed before.”
“That’s because you, and them, didn’t want to. I know my own limitations, as well as my likes and dislikes. Try to remember that next time you think I need a social life. I have one, it just doesn’t conform to everyone else’s.” Spencer grabbed his coffee and left a bewildered JJ behind. He decided to grab his bag and settle in next to Hotch who was looking rather put out with Rossi who walked away to another seat.
“Why is everyone so invested in my social life?” Spencer blurted out as he leaned back after grabbing a book from his bag.
Hotch snorted as he turned his head to look at Spencer.
“Probably the same reason Dave is so invested in mine. They think we aren’t happy unless we are dating.”
Spencer furrowed his brows and looked at the back of the four-seater where the rest of the team was sitting and talking quietly.
“That’s just stupid.”
Hotch laughed. An actual genuine laugh that made Spencer smile.
“Yeah, it is.”
Spencer opened his book and started to read, then set it down.
“Happiness cannot be quantified in another person. I’m beginning to understand that each of us makes our own happiness. Only we as individuals are responsible for our own feelings. Trying to find that in someone else is just cause for pain. How many times do we see in this job someone trying to find their happiness in another and it goes terribly wrong?”
Spencer watched Hotch out of the corner of his eye and noticed all those micro-expressions he had seen before and cataloged them away. Hotch was more expressive than the team thought, you just had to look for it.
“I tried to be happy for Haley, but you’re right. It doesn’t work that way.”
The two men fell into a comfortable silence as they read.
Spencer took a moment to weigh the words that were on his mind.
“The movies are helping.”
Hotch nodded and went back to reading. A few moments later he gave Spencer a sidelong glance.
“Good.” Nothing more needed to be said between them as they fell into a comfortable silence.
The plane landed and everyone went to their assigned duties. Spencer wondered what he and Hotch were. If they really were friends, or just boss and subordinate. He put those thoughts aside to focus on the case to try to get it solved quickly. He really looked forward to Friday and didn’t want to miss it.
Aaron arrived at the house he had bought for himself and Haley a little after they arrived in DC. He sat in the car a moment and tried to reconcile the fact that it wasn’t his home anymore. He wasn’t going to press for Haley to sell, he wanted Jack to live and grow up there, it was as much their home as it had been his. Aaron didn’t dwell on what might have been and took a deep breath before he got out of the car. He grabbed the flowers and smiled as he walked up to the door and knocked.
Jessica opened the door and smiled at him.
“Well, If you are trying to woo her back, this is definitely the way to do it, Aaron Michael Hotchner.”
Aaron blushed and he felt like the awkward fifteen-year-old the first time he had asked Haley out.
“Not trying to woo her back, Jess. Just going out as friends to a party.”
“You better come in.” Jessica opened the door wider to let him inside. “Jack is still up if you want to see him.”
Aaron set the flowers down and didn’t even hesitate as he ran up the stairs to go into Jack’s room. The toddler was in the middle of his bed that had been converted from the crib.
“Daddy,” Jack cried and held out his arms. Aaron sat down on the bed and let the boy crawl into his lap. He could already tell that he had been bathed. Aaron gently pulled him into his lap and felt his heart stutter a little.
“Hey Buddy, I’ve missed you.”
“Miss you, Daddy.” The two-year-old laid his head against Aaron’s chest and sighed. That only lasted a moment then, he was babbling away about his day and in true parent fashion, he understood almost everything the boy babbled.
The click of a picture being taken had Aaron looking up at Haley. His breath caught for a moment as he took in the sight of her. She had artfully swept her hair up in some kind of complicated bun at the back of her head. Little tendrils framed her face making Aaron smile. The dress looked new and it hugged her curves then flared out just a bit as it swept down to her feet. The color was a jeweled purple.
“You just looked too adorable I couldn’t help it.” The smile she gave him was one he had not seen in a long time. Aaron stood with Jack in his arms, then set the boy back down on his bed.
“You look beautiful, Haley.” Aaron leaned in and kissed her cheek.
“You look gorgeous yourself, Aaron. That tux always did fit you absolutely perfectly.” Aaron didn’t even try to hide the blush staining his cheeks.
“Are you ready?” Aaron asked before the moment got out of hand. He wanted to enjoy himself, he hoped that Haley did too.
“I just need to grab my bag which is downstairs.” Aaron fell into step next to his ex-wife, laying his hand on the middle of her back as they made their way down. Haley grabbed her bag and noticed the flowers in a vase.
“Aaron, they’re beautiful. You didn’t have to.”
“I know, but it felt right. Ready?”
“Okay, you two have fun, wherever you are going looking like that.” Jessica crossed her arms and raised her brows as the couple smiled at her and said their goodbyes.
Once they got outside, Aaron held the car door open for Haley, then he got into the driver’s side. He drove and noticed that for once, the silence wasn’t as awkward as it had been in recent weeks. When they arrived at the club, Aaron let the valet take the car as he gave over his invitation to the doorman. They were waved inside.
“You know, I wasn’t sure how this was going to go between us, but it feels good, Aaron.”
Hooking Haley’s arm with his, Aaron smiled as they walked inside to absolute decadence.
“It does. I want us to be friends again, Hales. This distance between us, I don’t want it to affect Jack.” Aaron smiled at some of the people at the gala as they walked through the main part of the club.
“Aaron,” Haley turned in his arm and turned up her mouth in a half smile. “Let’s not talk about the state of our relationship tonight. Let’s just decide right now to have a good time and be friends for once.”
Aaron nodded as he gently pushed a piece of stray hair behind Haley’s ear, he felt his expression soften as he saw the girl he had fallen in love with so many years before. Aaron knew they couldn’t go back, the couldn’t fix their mistakes, but they could move forward, be something new, something different to each other, even if it was just good friends.
“I would very much like that, Hales. Now, how about a drink?” Haley lightly laughed and turned towards the bar, while Aaron followed her. This was going to be a good night indeed.
Spencer had a brandy in his hand as he walked around the club, Thomas beside him telling him the names of the people he didn’t recognize. There were many there that he did recognize and it ramped up his excitement.
“The decor reminds me of old photos from the elegant speakeasies of the 1920’s. The red and gold on the walls are reminiscent of some of the more infamous speakeasies that were hidden all around Chicago predominantly. Even the crystal appears to be from that era and not some of the more modern designs of today. Did you know…”
“Spencer, that’s because the Club is fashioned after one of those infamous speakeasy’s. Tonight’s musical entertainment is The Squirrel Nut Zippers. They are very much influenced by early New Orleans Jazz. I think you will like them.”
Spencer was shown the different areas of the club. One room was the bar and lounge, one was normally a full-service restaurant, and the last was a library and game room. The library Spencer immediately loved. It was a combination of Steampunk and Art Nouveau, the combination was striking. The books that lined the bookcases were all ones that looked well read, but taken great care of. Heavy tables and comfortable chairs were placed all around. There was a coffee and tea bar in the corner that was made of deep rich wood, the coffee machine was brass and steel and looked like it came out of an H.G. Wells novel.
“You look like you have found your Heaven, Spencer.” Thomas led him towards the coffee bar, where he knew Spencer was dying to try.
“This place is amazing. I did not expect this when you told me the name of the club.”
“It’s all about letting go and being decadent for a while. Most everyone here had to have been invited in and vetted. Not all members are here, but you can see they are from all walks of life. You have the right to refuse anyone, Spencer. No one will make you do anything. Except for the initiation.”
Thomas smiled wickedly as Spencer placed his order with the barista.
“Yes, but that can be explained to you if you decide this is something you want to join.” Thomas waited with Spencer until he received his coffee in an elegant glass mug that sat inside a brass sleeve with a long looped handle. Spencer was charmed as he took the coffee.
“Upstairs are rooms that members of the club can use for their liaisons. But, you have to be careful because there are some that have observation windows. Small cubicles are attached that let others watch. If that is something someone desires there are forms to be signed that you agree to the terms of the club, and to being observed. If you don’t want that, there are plenty of private rooms.”
Spencer walked to a table that had a chessboard laid out and he sat. He silently asked if Thomas wanted to join him. Thomas sat and made the first move.
Music wafted in over the speakers cleverly hidden in the walls. The entertainment portion of the evening had started.
“Want to go see them?”
“Sounds like fun.” The two men made their way towards the room with the bar where a stage had been built in the front. The band was playing some lively jazz and stylish couples were dancing. Spencer decided that he would stay on the peripheral and watch. Thomas had been wooed away by a gorgeous woman in a blue dress and Spencer could not help the laugh that bubbled up.
“You thought of Devil in a Blue Dress, didn’t you?” A voice beside Spencer said. He turned his head to look who had joined him.
“Yes, actually I did, how did you know?” Spencer watched the stranger as he turned to look at him.
“I observe people. I saw you when you walked in with Thomas and wondered if he would dare leave you alone for a few minutes.” The man smiled and tilted his head just a bit and Spencer didn’t even try to stop the smile as he looked over at the gorgeous man standing there.
“Malcolm Merlyn, and you are?”
“Dr. Spencer Reid.”
“Dr., that’s quite impressive for someone so young.” Malcolm’s smile made Spencer shiver. There was a dark, predatory look to the man.
“Maybe that’s because he’s a genius.” Thomas handed a brandy snifter over to Spencer.
“Genius. Well, maybe the Genius would like to accompany me to the dance floor. Don’t worry, it’s a slow song, I’m sure you could manage.” Spencer took a sip of the brandy then handed the glass over to Thomas.
“I should warn you I’m not very good.”
“We shall see.” Malcolm took Spencer’s arm and guided him to the dance floor. It took a few minutes then Spencer finally fell into the rhythm Malcolm set. “See, even Genius’ can learn something new. So, tell me, Dr. Reid, what do you think of our little exclusive club.”
“It’s actually quite fascinating. You know there is actually a rich history of gatherings such as this where people indulge in sex and sexual fantasies. While Pompeii had prolific prostitution, and in some cases sexual slaves that were forced into it by the rulers of Rome, there were also many bathhouses where mostly men would trade sexual favors with each other. The higher up the caste system you got, the more decadent the sexual activities became. Some even believe that Pompeii had some of the first BDSM clubs. With the way Pompeii was preserved we’ve been able to decipher and interpret much of the preserved art and symbolism.” Spencer stopped when he saw the amused look in Merlyn’s eyes.
“I’m sorry, I don’t usually do that when I first meet someone.”
“I’m not complaining. It was fascinating. Are you saying that there is a possibility you might join?” Merlyn led Spencer around the dance floor expertly. Spencer didn’t even try to hide the fact that he was thoroughly charmed.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t considering it. Maybe I now have an incentive.”
“Aaron, Haley, it’s been a long time since we’ve seen you two.”
“Tom, how are you?” Aaron hugged the man, then so did Haley. “Are you with anyone tonight?”
“I brought a date. Left him in the library while I got myself a drink. You two look amazing. Tell me how is that little boy of yours?”
Aaron beamed as he thought of Jack.
“He’s great, Tom.”
“Tell me, is it true about you guys?” Thomas asked as waited for his drinks to be served.
“What did you hear?” Haley moved to the bar to place her own drink order.
“That you two divorced. I can’t imagine it. We all thought you guys were the it couple.”
Aaron looked at Haley and smiled as he took her hand.
“I have to take some of that blame. My job, it came between us. But, we are trying to work together for Jack’s sake.”
“If either of you needs someone to talk to or a shoulder, you know how to reach me. Don’t be strangers.”
“We won’t. Thank you, Tom.”
Aaron wrapped an arm around Haley’s waist and held her close like he used to. Haley didn’t resist as she leaned into him, her wine glass in one hand, but the other was around Aaron’s waist.
“I’m sorry about that Haley. If you feel uncomfortable at all we can leave.”
“Aaron, I’m not stupid, I knew we would get questions. I wanted to come and despite the third degrees, I’m actually enjoying myself.”
The couple spent the night talking with old friends and acquaintances, sitting in the dining room nibbling on the food from the buffet, and doing some dancing. They danced with each other, as well as other club members. Aaron didn’t remember being this relaxed in such a long time.
After the charity auction and some more music, the party started to wind down. Aaron drove Haley back home and after parking, she turned to him and laid a hand on his.
“I had a good time, Aaron.”
“So did I Haley.”
“Why don’t you come inside? Stay the night.”
Aaron swallowed back the emotions that welled up inside him.
“No strings, Aaron. I find I don’t want the night to end. It doesn’t have to be any more than that, does it?” Haley smiled that smile that was just for him, and Aaron was lost. Nodding, he turned the car off and followed her in the house, past Jessica who was asleep on the couch in the living room. Haley grabbed the baby monitor then took Aaron’s hand and pulled him upstairs with her.
Entering the bedroom they once shared for so long was a strange experience for Aaron, but he wasn’t going to dwell on that. After sliding the zipper down, kissing the back of Haley’s neck all thoughts of what this meant or didn’t mean fled from his mind. Aaron took his time in helping Haley out of her clothes, touching and tasting as he went. He had missed this, the gentle intimacy of them being together. He would do as Haley asked, be with her, take the night for what it was and worry about the rest of it the next day.
After Aaron and Haley had left, Spencer went to Merlyn’s hotel with him and was currently spread out on the bed, naked and aching, needing a release. Merlyn was buried balls deep inside him, slowly undoing him thrust for glorious thrust. When Spencer finally came, his mind blanked, his vision grayed and he went limp on the bed. He had no idea that the night with Malcolm Merlyn was just beginning.
Spencer would, much much later laugh at the irony that he and Aaron had been at the same party the whole night and neither of them ran into each other. If they had, Spencer might not have had the same experiences or made the same choices he was to make in the coming months. Spencer would reflect on how two people could be in the same place at the same time and yet not really see each other. They had both been blinded by their pasts, and the future was so uncertain that they almost let something slip by them. Spencer would write it all down, as much of the story as he knew, and see how they had both needed the time to grow and to change. For, if they had met that night, Aaron might have ruined Spencer and Spencer would have let him.