Same Time, Next Year

Title: Same Time Next Year
Fandom: Criminal Minds, White Collar
Category: Crossover, Canon-Divergent
Ratings: NC-17
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid, Aaron Hotchner/Neal Caffrey, Spencer Reid/Austin
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Spencer Reid, Neal Caffrey, Peter Burke, David Rossi
Spoilers: For Both Shows
Summary: Aaron had not realized he had slowly been falling in love with Spencer until it was too late. He shored up his feelings and put them away as best he could. Until the Hardwicke incident and those feelings were awakened. What started out as innocent, drunken fumbling, became a yearly rendezvous that was breaking Aaron a little at a time. He thought the affair with Neal would help him put Spencer behind him, but even that didn’t last long and now Aaron had a difficult decision to make.
Words: 11,177
Warnings: Cheating, angst, heartbreak
Tags: Married Reid, Widower Hotch, Explicit Sex
Beta: None. No non-consensual Beta
Notes: This story came about because I read an amazing MASH fic version of the movie Same Time, Next Year (which coincidentally also stars Alan Alda) . It inspired me to write this story in all its heartbreaking glory.


April 2008

Aaron was frustrated in more ways than one. The confrontation with Hardwicke and how his adrenaline pumped up, stripping slowly, but keeping the tie in his hand, just in case, had been a culmination of several different factors all at once. Haley’s phone call, her demands he sign the divorce papers, Reid rattling off useless facts to keep Hardwicke from trying anything more until guards arrived, and his own heightened fight or flight response, which was fully in fight.

The apology to Reid in the car ride to the hotel where they were going to stay that night felt hollow and empty to him, but Reid just smiled and nodded. He asked the question that Aaron had not known how to answer, what do you want?

Trudging up to their room after arriving, Aaron took off his coat and tie, then flopped down on the bed and rubbed at the headache that was forming behind his eyes. He wasn’t sure what was happening to him, all he knew was the stress of the last few months was weighing on him heavier than it ever had been before.

“Want to join me for dinner?” Aaron asked as he looked at Reid who was curled up on the bed with a book in his lap, smiling at whatever it was he had read on the page.

“Sure. That sounds wonderful. I just need to call Austin.”

Right, Reid was married. Aaron sometimes forgot that the younger man had married soon after joining the BAU. They didn’t see Austin much, but of course, no one on the team saw Haley much. Aaron sighed before plastering on a smile and nodding. He went into the bathroom to take a shower, washing off most of the grit and grime from the confrontation and the car ride. After stepping out of the shower he looked in the mirror and felt all of his thirty-five years. He was also trying to forget the attraction he had to Reid. 

Aaron had been no stranger when it came to male lovers, they were his college flings. Exploring that side while away from his family and the constraints of ‘polite’ society. He indulged and had fun doing it. But, after getting his law degree, and then his JD, he and Haley had met-up again and the sparks were still there. They married shortly after and all thoughts of men were put behind him, that was until Reid joined the team.

Shaking himself out of his thoughts, he dressed and left the bathroom to find Reid ready to go.

“How about that pub we passed by just a couple of blocks away?”

“Sounds good. I could use a good burger.”

Aaron smiled, and Reid smiled back making Aaron’s heart betray him once more. He knew he could never have the younger man, it didn’t mean that he could help how his heart wanted the younger man. Aaron was going to have to live with what he had. Reid’s friendship.

“Do you mind if we walk? It’s a nice night.”

“All right. Let’s go.”

Aaron opened the door letting Reid out first, then Aaron followed. They walked in silence, but it wasn’t uncomfortable. Both men were usually private, quiet men. Many misinterpreted Reid’s personality, especially when he went off on tangents that were used to impart information he was excited about, but he was more often a quiet man who enjoyed reading as much as he enjoyed other people’s company. Aaron was lost in his thoughts, his adrenaline still up, as they walked into the pub. They immediately got a seat and ordered their drinks, which Aaron hoped to calm himself down after the crappy day they had endured. 

The conversation was easy, if not strange and winding like many of Reid’s conversations were. Aaron felt himself smiling, and drinking more than he probably should. He also noticed that Reid had several drinks as well. By the time they were walking back to their hotel, both men were laughing and stumbling just a little. Collapsing on one of the beds still clothed, they were still laughing at something Reid had said, Aaron already forgetting what it was. It didn’t matter what in the long run, all that mattered was that Reid had made him feel good. As they laid there, inebriated, laughing at nothing, Aaron noticed how Reid’s eyes sparkled with humor, his mouth turned up in a smile that made him look younger than he really was. Aaron was on his side, as he stared into Reid’s eyes. He wasn’t sure how it happened, but at one point in their silliness, his hand was on Reid’s hip with Reid’s hand on his stomach. 

Aaron made a bad joke, but it made Reid laugh anyway. The kind of belly laugh that they often hadn’t heard from him often, their jobs left marks on all of them that would probably never heal. Reid flopped onto his back and Aaron’s hand slid down and landed on Reid’s cock, which to Aaron’s surprise was half hard.

Aaron’s mouth went dry and was loathe to remove his hand. Reid turned his head and the heat in his eyes was unmistakable. Aaron’s breath hitched and he moved closer, almost as if he was doing it out without his own consent. Reid’s breathing was hard as he too began to lean in. Aaron squeezed Reid’s growing hardness as he was inches from Reid’s mouth. If they got any closer Aaron knew they would kiss. If they did, it would be the catalyst to so much more.

“Hotch…” The strangled sound in Reid’s voice had Aaron breathing hard.


“I don’t know what’s happening here. But…” Reid struggled for words and Aaron knew the moment was over. The spell was broken and heat filled Aaron’s face. He was embarrassed and his own erection was straining against the jeans he was wearing.

“Yeah…yeah. I ah, I get it Reid.” Aaron took his hand away and fled into the bathroom, grabbing his nightclothes on the way. He slammed the door shut and leaned over the sink, trying to get his breathing under control. Taking deep breaths, he slipped out of his clothes and put on the sweats and tshirt he had grabbed. Closing his eyes he thought of anything that would make his erection go away. Crime scenes, dead bodies, grieving families. He had those images in spades he could call upon to help. By the time he had composed himself, even if he was still a little drunk, he was able to make it back out and into the bed opposite Reid.


“I don’t want to talk about it, Reid. It never happened.”

Reid was silent for a while and Aaron heard him moving around the room changing. Trying not to picture the man unclothed, Aaron turned into the pillow and tried to drown out the images in his head and to stop his traitorous heart from breaking.

“Just so you know, there’s a part of me that would have gone through with it.”

“It’s okay, Reid. I understand. You have Austin. I know you love her.” And not me, Aaron wanted to say, but he wasn’t that cruel. He turned off the light on his side of the room and attempted to go to sleep.

* * * * *

The ride home the next day after an awkward breakfast was equally as awkward. Just to fill the silence Aaron turned on the radio to a classic rock station and let it play. They made it back to Quantico in less than two hours where Aaron went upstairs to his office and shut the door. The first thing he did was pull out the envelope with the divorce papers. He signed where indicated. He didn’t fight much on anything. There was a prenup in place and Haley would get the things outlined in the prenup, nothing more. Aaron had alternate weekends and as many days during the week as he wanted with his son Jack. 

Silently he pulled up to Reid’s house and Austin came to the door when Reid stepped out, he smiled a smile that Aaron knew well. It was the smile of someone in love. Aaron remembered those days with Haley and it brought home the fact that he would no longer see that look on someone else’s face, most especially Reid’s. 

Reid turned to him and Aaron wasn’t sure what look he had on his face, but Reid gave him a sad smile and gently rested his hand on Aaron’s arm.

“I’m sorry.”

“You aren’t responsible for me, Reid. And, why didn’t you tell us Austin was pregnant?” The unmistakable swell of her belly was another blow to Aaron’s heart.

“Oh. We wanted to wait until after the first trimester. If anything was going to go wrong, it would be then.”

Aaron knew all to well the pain of miscarriage. It hadn’t stopped them from trying, and Jack was their little miracle. 

“I can understand that. For the record, I think you’ll make a great father.”

“Really?” The bright smile and enthusiasm on Reid’s face had Aaron giving back a genuine smile. 

“Yeah, yeah I really think so.”

Reid took off his belt and leaned forward and pecked Aaron’s cheek so suddenly that Aaron wasn’t sure what to think.

“Thank you. That means a lot coming from you, Hotch.” Reid pushed out of the car, grabbed his bag and started up the walkway to his house. He turned back and waved goodbye, once again smiling before turning back and engulfing Austin in a hug. The pain of that small domestic scene shattered Aaron’s heart. He took off towards home and tried to forget about the last two days, realizing that it was futile. He would always have that memory, as fuzzy as it was, of his hand on Reid’s cock and the look in the younger man’s eyes. It would haunt his dreams for years.

* * * * *

The weeks went on as if nothing happened. Aaron devoted himself to spending as much time with Jack as he could and trying his hardest to not fight with Haley. Nothing helped stem the tide of loneliness he was beginning to feel. And it cut to the bone when Reid began to show pictures of Austin as her belly rounded out more. Aaron said all of the right things and made all of the right gestures, but his heart still longed for Reid. 

He found a comfortable working relationship and even a good friendship with Reid. He had begun to put his feelings in a box inside his heart that he locked up tight. It was something he learned to do as a kid. So, it was a shock when he got to his apartment one night and there was a note in Reid’s familiar scrawl. Aaron lifted it off his door, walked in, set his things down, took off his coat, jacket, and tie, then sat down in his reading chair, putting his feet up before he opened up the note.

Same Time, Next Year? 

Aaron frowned at the words wondering what they meant. When he unfolded the note, the address of the hotel they stayed at after Hardwicke was scrawled across the page. Aaron swallowed hard wondering what the hell this meant and if he would actually follow through. He wasn’t sure if Reid was playing some kind of game with him, but then remembered that Reid would never do that.

Maybe it was nothing, and it wasn’t like they could talk about this at work. Setting the note aside, Aaron reached for his phone and added the date to his calendar.

* * * * *

April 2009

Aaron took a deep breath and wondered what the hell he was doing. He had spent the last year trying to put his feelings for Reid aside. It didn’t help that they worked so closely together and after the events of the last few weeks, Aaron wasn’t sure where his head was really at. South Padre Island didn’t help any of them, especially Reid where thoughts of Hankel came forefront of his mind. Austin had called Aaron because Reid was inconsolable. He thought he had failed Adam. Now, here was the moment of truth and Aaron was scared. Lifting his hand he curled it into a fist and lightly knocked as his nerves got the better of him.

The door flung open and Aaron was pulled roughly inside, the door slamming behind him as he was pushed against it and lips that he had been dreaming about for the last year pressed to his in a kiss that caught him off guard, but was making him moan in the back of his throat. Hands curled at his waist, but Aaron was afraid to touch, afraid that what was happening would end too soon if he did. 

When Reid pulled back his forehead fell gently against Aaron’s.

“I’ve never actually kissed a man before.”


Reid chuckled as he pulled his head back to look in Aaron’s eyes.

“Yes, really. I never had thought much about men before, you know…”

“The thing we don’t talk about?”

“Yeah. It…made me look. Mostly at you. I’ve tried so hard not to think about it.”

“What are we doing here, Reid?”

“Can…can you call me Spencer? At least for right now?”

Aaron swallowed hard and looked into Reid’s eyes. There was a depth of sincerity that made Aaron’s heart flip a little. He tried not to open that box of emotions that had Reid’s name on it, but it was difficult. 

“Yes. Spencer.” Whatever was in his voice had Reid kissing him again, holding onto his hips once more, but this time, Aaron went all in. He cupped the back of Reid’s head while he wrapped an arm around his waist. Tilting slightly, Aaron deepened the kiss with the new angle. Flicking his tongue inside, testing how far he could push, he almost crowed at the noise of appreciation Reid made. 

Taking another chance, Aaron pushed off of the closed door and began to walk towards the bed. He had noticed it was one king instead of the two queens from the last time they were here. In a few steps, they were falling on the bed with Aaron blanketing Reid with his body. Reid wrapped his legs around Aaron’s waist, neither man broke from the kiss. Feeling bold, Aaron pressed down against Reid, their groins rubbed together through the cloth of their trousers, each of them getting hard quicker than Aaron thought possible. 

“I want to touch you, Aaron. Please. Please let me touch.”

Aaron lifted up off of Reid, stripping his clothes off while Reid began to do the same. Aaron stopped him. 

“Let me. I want to see you.”

Reid smiled and nodded. Aaron took his time, exposing each exquisite inch of Reid’s flesh, kissing each area as it was exposed. Then, his jeans were pulled down freeing the heavy erection which made Aaron’s eyes go dark with lust. He knew this might be the one and only time he was going to get this. He had no illusions that he and Reid would have some epic love story where they ended up in a grand gay romance. But, for the here and now Aaron would make every single second count and the time with Reid would assuage his loneliness for the short time they had together.

“Aaron, god.” Reid looked down at him as he kissed around Reid’s groin, hands slid up his legs, touching everywhere, committing as much as he could to memory.

Lifting up he encouraged Reid to slide back on the bed, his hazel eyes were blown wide with need and it made Aaron feel special that he was putting that look on Reid’s face. He kept his eyes on Reid as he took the man’s erection in hand, the hiss he got in return made him bold. Aaron had not given a blowjob to another man since college, but as soon as he wrapped his lips around the head of Reid’s cock, the memories of the act came back to him and he was able to give pleasure to Reid.

“Oh, shit, oh fuck…” Reid let out the filthiest expletives yet Aaron didn’t change the pace or the pressure. He kept Reid right on the edge. He didn’t want him coming just yet. He wanted to be inside Reid, to feel him when he orgasmed.

“Condoms?” Aaron pulled off and looked into dark golden eyes. 


Aaron slid off the bed and grabbed his bag. He had been hopeful, but he wasn’t sure. Slipping on a condom, he grabbed the lube and came back to the bed.

“Are you absolutely sure about this, Spencer? There is no going back.”

A crooked smile crossed Reid’s lips and a look came over his face that Aaron did not want to interpret. If it was anyone else, and in other circumstances, Aaron would say that look was love. But, he couldn’t hope or even wish. All he could do was give this to Reid, and to himself. The memories of this weekend would have to be enough.

* * * * *

Aaron almost forgot what lazy morning sex was like, or eating junk food together in bed. There was an intimacy of both that spoke to their friendship. At least Aaron hoped they were still friends. Spencer was putting his clothes on after he had taken a shower to get all of the sweat and come from their night of sex off of him.

“Spencer…” Aaron started to say something, he wasn’t even sure what he had the right to say. “Was it, you know…” Wow, that’s the dumbest thing you could say, Aaron.

Reid walked over to Aaron, bent down and kissed his forehead.

“Better than I even imagined.”

It should have made Aaron happy, but it didn’t. It made him incredibly sad, but he held back the tears that began to fill his eyes. 

“Are we…still friends?”

A soft smile crossed Reid’s face as he gently caressed Aaron’s cheek.


The moment was broken when Reid’s cell phone rang. He looked down at it and a regretful smile crossed his face.

“Hey, honey. What’s going on?”

It was like a splash of ice water was thrown in Aaron’s face. He quietly got off the bed and made his way to the bathroom where he quietly shut and locked the door behind him. Turning on the shower he slid down against the cold tiles and hung his head. Reality crashed inside of him as he heard Reid on the other side. There was a hasty, I have to go Hotch. Not Aaron, but back to Hotch and for some reason that broke Aaron more than he thought it would. There was nothing further other than the closing of the hotel room door. Aaron slowly stood, quickly took a shower washing off the evidence of what had gone on the last two days. 

The memory of Reid’s joy and laughter was replaced by an ugly bitterness inside Aaron that he would have to learn to deal with. Stepping out of the shower, drying off quickly then dressing, Aaron knew he needed to leave, it was nearing noon and the hotel would charge another day if he stayed too long. Grabbing his bag, Aaron said goodbye, not really sure what he was saying goodbye to.

* * * * *

May 2009

Cases came and went, Foyet was still on the loose and everyone was on edge. Reid showed off pictures of his new baby, this time a little girl. His boy was only a few months old, but he had said that he and Austin didn’t want to wait. James was adorable and the light of Reid’s eyes. But, Emily, named after Emily Bronte, made Reid soft in a way that Aaron had never seen him.

He was happy for Reid, even if it tore little pieces out of him to know that Austin and his children got a part of Reid that Aaron would never have. He worked hard to be happy for the younger man with his young family. It was also a balm to Reid’s soul after the horrible events they had just endured in Canada. The horrors of the last few days would stay with them for a long time.

Everyone in the plane had found things to help them sleep, but Aaron couldn’t. He was looking out of the window and wondering if Haley would let him come over, just for a while so that he wasn’t so alone after what they had all been through.

Aaron also wondered how much more his team could take. The last few cases had been some of the worst and each time Aaron knew it took pieces out of each of them. Though, they all had ways to cope. Derek went out dancing and often found a woman who was willing to share a bed with him for a night or two. Emily had friends that she saw and went out with, Dave had his club, JJ had Will and little Henry, who Reid was Godfather too. Even Garcia had a boyfriend. 

Aaron, he had no one to lean on. He wasn’t even sure if Haley would understand what he needed, she never truly did. He would go home to a cold, empty apartment and try his hardest not to drink.

“Hey, are you all right?” Reid sat across from Aaron, watching him.

“I will be. She’s beautiful.” Aaron was able to say without choking on his own words. The smile that lit up Reid’s face hurt right down to his very soul. 

“She is. I didn’t get it, Hotch. Not until I had James in my arms the first time. But Emily, a girl is so different. I just hope I can be the father she needs.”

“Well, you’re doing a great job with James, I’m sure you’ll be equally as good with Emily.” Aaron plastered on the expected smile. 


Aaron looked up from the book that he was mostly ignoring and looked in Reid’s eyes.


“I never said anything after…you know. But, I just want you to know that I’ll never regret it.”

Aaron nodded, too choked up with emotion to properly answer Reid. 

“You don’t have anyone, do you?”

“I’ll be fine, Reid. Don’t worry about me.”

Aaron knew Reid was going to say more, but he just shook his head and looked back at his book and attempted to read. Thankfully, Reid didn’t say anything else. He curled up in the chair across from Aaron and went back to his book. The conversation ended, the conclusion to questions left unanswered about that weekend. 

After getting home, Aaron saw a note was taped to his door. Reid must have come by before Aaron had left the office. He stuffed the note in his pants and unlocked the door. Throwing his coat to the side after setting his briefcase down, Aaron went to his drink cart and grabbed the bottle of scotch, poured more than a generous portion and as he looked up into the mirror he saw the thing that haunted his nightmares. The Reaper. Aaron locked eyes with him as he downed his drink and as soon as he set it on the drink cart a shot rang out and Aaron retaliated.

* * * * * 

Waking up in the hospital took effort. He looked to the side to see Reid asleep in the chair. Looking up at the ceiling Aaron wanted to tell the man to go away. To go back home to his wife and kids. 

“Reid,” Aaron called out. His voice wasn’t as strong as it normally was and he was in a lot of pain. Reid stirred awake and looked at Aaron, relief on his face. 

“Hey. I got a call from the hospital and that’s how I knew you were here. As soon as I knew I called the others. What happened, Aaron? They wouldn’t tell us much other than you were hurt and needed surgery.”

“Foyet. He was waiting for me in my apartment. What did he leave?”

“I…I don’t know. There was a bit of chaos because Strauss tried to make us work a case when we only had a couple of hours sleep. I went to the AD and he told Strauss to back off, and he sent Major Crimes out to take care of it.”

Aaron wasn’t going to ask why Reid knew the AD well enough to get him involved, but if it kept his team from a case they didn’t need to handle, he was okay with that. Now he just needed to know what Foyet left him.

“Where…where are my clothes?”

Reid jumped up and grabbed a hospital bag. He handed it to Aaron.

“They took your clothes for evidence, but your other things are in here.”

Aaron pulled everything out and noticed the wallet was thicker than it should be. Opening it he saw Morgan’s credentials.

“Call Morgan.”

Reid started to leave the room, but first, he laid a hand on Aaron’s shoulder. Leaning down, Reid kissed him. 

“I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t pulled through.” Reid pressed his forehead to Aaron’s then just as suddenly he was gone. His heart stammered in his chest while he stared after his youngest agent. Every time he thought he had put his emotions for Reid in that box in his heart, the man did something to bring it all up once again. Attempting to take his mind off of Reid, Aaron looked through all of the things in the bag and saw the note, which was now bloodstained. 

Same time, next year?

Aaron had known what it was, but he wasn’t going to hope. He crumpled it up and threw it in the wastebasket. There was no way now that he could keep that rendezvous. With shaking hands, Aaron opened up the wallet and looked at the contents. When he saw the picture of Haley and Jack with the eye of providence over them his heart literally stopped. Aaron was breathing hard when Morgan came in on a near panic attack.

“Hey, hey, hey, take a deep breath.” Morgan ran over to Aaron and laid a hand on his chest. “Hotch, calm down.” 

It took a few minutes, but Aaron was able to get back under control. He handed Morgan the picture as Reid and Dave came into the room.

“We need the Marshals.” Aaron looked at Morgan who nodded and said he would take care of it.

Aaron leaned back and went back to sleep. He was exhausted and knew the next few hours chaos was going to ensue. 

* * * * *

Haley was gone. There was nothing he could have done. He tried to get there as fast as he could, but it was to no avail. Aaron was sitting on a bench at the end of Haley’s grave, Jack was home with Jessica. Dave had been by and Aaron still didn’t know what he was going to do. 



“I’m sorry for what happened.”

Aaron turned to look at Reid who was playing with his wedding ring. Aaron knew it was a nervous habit, he had seen Reid do it before, it hurt more than Aaron could handle. 

“It wasn’t your fault, Reid.”

Aaron wanted to go home, even if at home there was no one there. Standing he looked down at Reid and did something he knew was probably not the healthiest idea he ever had, but he wasn’t exactly thinking clearly.

“Would you like to have dinner with me? Jack is with Jessica and I…”

Spencer stood and smiled.

“I’d be happy to come to dinner with you.”

Reid followed Aaron home and when he got inside he pulled some things out of his fridge and started to make some chow mein and stir fry. Reid was a comforting presence even if they didn’t talk much. 

“Thank you, for being here.”

“I’d like to think we’re friends.”

“What about Austin?”

“She knows I’m here and she agrees that you shouldn’t be alone.” 

They ate in silence and Aaron looked up after a few minutes to see Reid watching him.

“And, yes, Reid, we’re friends.” That put a smile on the man’s face, but it made Aaron even more aware of those feelings he had locked away. He knew he was emotionally fragile and having Reid there Aaron made some decisions.

“Thank you again for being here.” Aaron let his gaze settle on Reid, drinking the man in at the same time his grief welled up hot and uncontrollable. Looking away, he took a deep breath hoping to settle the pain of loss and grief as well as other, more difficult emotions.

“I didn’t like the idea of you being alone right now.”

Aaron moved to the kitchen and made some coffee. When it was done he poured some for the both of them. Sitting down in the living room, with Reid following him Aaron turned to look at him.

“I’m thinking of making some changes. I have to think about Jack and I want to be here for him as much as possible.”

“Are you leaving the Bureau?”

Aaron stared straight ahead and tried not to think about how close Reid was to him. He wanted to reach out and touch but knew he didn’t have that right. 

“No, I don’t know. I just know I have to consider what’s best for my son.” Aaron almost said, and what’s best for me and my heart, but he didn’t he knew he had to keep those words he wanted to say to himself. 

“You know everyone will support you no matter what you decide, Hotch.”

“Yeah, I know. Listen, I’m just going to go to bed. You don’t need to stay.”

“How about I stay just long enough until you go to sleep.”

“All right. But, when you leave please lock up and you have the alarm code.”

“Don’t worry, you just go rest.”

Aaron slid into bed and worked to close off his emotions. He knew it had been a bad idea for Reid to be there, but he tried to justify it saying to himself that it chased away the loneliness when in reality it just made it worse. As he drifted off to sleep Aaron realized that he was in love with Reid. There wasn’t anything he could do about it, Reid was married and they would never be together. It was a fantasy of Aaron’s, but that fantasy was broken. Silent tears slid down his face knowing that not only had he lost the woman he had loved for almost half of his life, but the person he was in love with now he could never have. It made Aaron’s decisions easier to bear.

* * * * *

April 2010

Aaron sat at his desk in the White Collar division, a satisfying case had closed. It wasn’t nearly what he was used to in the BAU, but he could go home at night and be with his son. The only time he needed to be away was when a case took them out of the state, which was rarely these days. 

Aaron had a case come up that had crossed over into New York. He had gotten to meet the infamous Neal Caffrey and reconnected with Supervisory Special Agent Peter Burke. Aaron got to see how Caffrey and Burke worked together and was surprised by the camaraderie. It had been an interesting case of pottery forgery. But not just any pottery, but fakes of the likes of Robert Arneson and Beatrice Wood. 

There in the middle of his desk was a familiar crumpled piece of paper that still had the bloodstains on it. The date on it was for the next weekend. Aaron had not seen Reid in almost six months and he had been able to put the man out of his head. Now, he was wondering if he was lying to himself. He set the paper aside and contemplated the foolishness of following through on the promise that the note held.

When Friday rolled around Aaron surprised himself as he flew down the highway towards the hotel he had told himself he wasn’t going to go to. But, he wanted to see Reid. They hadn’t talked, and Aaron knew it had been for the best at the time. Now, though those long buried feelings drove him. 

Parking, there was a part of Aaron that wondered if Reid wasn’t going to show because they had a case. The other part of him knew he would be crushed if Reid wasn’t there. Shoring himself up Aaron got out of the car and went up to the room. Knocking his heart was pounding in his chest as he waited. When the door opened the relief Aaron felt was almost palpable as he stepped inside and grabbed Reid, kissing him. 

“Spencer,” Aaron sighed as he pulled back breathing hard.

“I wasn’t sure if you were going to show.” Reid looked nervous as they stood there looking at each other, Aaron itching to touch.

“There isn’t anywhere else I want to be.” He smiled then pushed Reid down on the bed. Stripping, but leaving his shirt on because he was still a little self-conscious about the scars left behind from Foyet.

“Aaron, it’s just us. You don’t have to hide.”

“I don’t want to talk, Spencer.” If they talked, Aaron wasn’t sure if he could keep his feelings locked down. At least with sex, he could say with his body what he could never say with his words. Getting them both almost naked Aaron took Reid’s hands and pinned them above his head. It didn’t go unnoticed that Reid wasn’t wearing his wedding ring. Aaron wasn’t going to mention it, but for the short time they were together, he could pretend. 

Sliding inside of Reid was a wonder that Aaron knew he could never get tired of. When he moved, Reid gasped and began to move with Aaron. Bending down, Aaron kissed Reid, trying to keep his emotions under control. The kiss was tender and sweet, Aaron was paying more attention to how he was making Reid feel, giving him all he had to give. 

He knew when Reid slipped his hands under his shirt and gently touched one of the scars. 

Aaron stopped moving which made Reid look at him. 

“Aaron, you don’t have to be ashamed. I think you’re beautiful no matter what.” 

Aaron pulled out of Reid and  laid down on his back staring up at the ceiling, his dick only half hard now. Reid straddled his waist and pushed the tshirt off him. Aaron neither hindered, nor helped Reid take it off. When those long fingers that Aaron had secretly loved to watch began to caress him Aaron felt that hard knot that lived inside of him begin to loosen a little. Being touched on his stomach and chest, even just a little had Aaron shaking. 

“Talk to me, Aaron. Why are you so afraid of being touched like this.”

Aaron looked in Reid’s eyes, the compassion and emotion swimming there had Aaron choking up with his own emotions. Grabbing Reid by the hips he pushed the man off and bolted out of bed. Wiping a hand down his face, he began to pace. 

“Because…” Aaron couldn’t form the words. What had been done to him, what Foyet had done to him was a violation. There had been a sick sexual thrill that Foyet got from stabbing Aaron and those memories haunted his dreams. Night terrors, actually, but he tried his best to keep them away from Jack.

“Because, why?” Reid was sitting at the edge of the bed, watching Aaron pace.

“Because it was rape, Spencer. Don’t you get that? I was raped.”

Reid sat there in shock as Aaron confessed something that he had not told anyone else. 

“Aaron, what- what can I do?”

Aaron looked at Reid, he looked beautiful and all Aaron wanted to do was to take him, hard and fast. To purge these ugly emotions he had inside of him, to make Reid feel him for days. Before he knew what he was saying, Aaron was speaking out loud, telling Reid his darkest desires. 

“So, take me. Do with me what you want. If it will help you, if it will let you purge some of that pain you’re carrying around, then do what you will. I give you my full consent.” To drive his point home, Reid got on all fours and laid his head down on the bed so his ass was on display. Aaron’s heart pounded hard in his chest at what Reid was offering him and Aaron took the chance. 

The sex was fast, filthy, and hard. Just what Aaron needed. He also felt safe. Reid was giving his consent to be used and abused. When it was over and they were lying together, Aaron wrapped around Reid holding him close in the now darkened room, he let hot silent tears flow. Aaron was thankful that Reid didn’t say anything because if he had, Aaron would have fled and not come back.

* * * * *

The next morning over coffee and an adequate hotel breakfast in their room Aaron watched Reid. He knew Reid had questions but were keeping them to himself.

“Before you ask, no I haven’t talked with anyone yet. I don’t…”

“You don’t want to.”

“No. I don’t. I’ll work this out, Spencer. You don’t have to worry about me.”

“But, I do, you know. Worry about you.”

Aaron ate his food and polished off his coffee before he sat back in his chair. He had news that he knew he should share with Reid. 

“I’ve taken a new position. Jack and I are going to move to New York. The White Collar office has been operating without a Unit Chief for the last couple of years. While, Peter is good, there are some concerns and they want me to go up there to oversee the office.”

“New York?”



“I don’t have anything keeping me here, do I Spencer?” Aaron waited with bated breath. If Reid said the word, Aaron would stay. He would stay for even the small chance to be with Reid, but he knew that was a pipe dream. 

“No. I ah, I guess you don’t really.”

“I don’t know if I can do this again, Spencer. I lo- care about you too much. You need to be with Austin and you’re family.”

“Are you saying you want to end this?”

“What is this, Spencer? Is it just sex for you? I can admit that I guess I’m addicted to you. There has been too much between us over the years that it was difficult to say no to you. But, I need to move on, to not do this again. It…” Aaron trailed off not saying what he wants to really say. I love you Spencer. I love you and I don’t want to give you up, but for the sake of my own heart, I have to. No, Aaron didn’t say it, he just let those thoughts go because to dwell on them was a level of pain he wasn’t ready to acknowledge. It was hard enough that he had admitted what really happened with Foyet, and while it crippled him sometimes at night, during the day Aaron soldiered on and tried to make his life as normal as possible.

“Are you leaving right away, then? We still have some time.” Aaron wasn’t going to interpret Reid’s emotions. He couldn’t, Reid was an infinitely more complex man than anyone wanted to admit. 

Aaron smiled softly and nodded. He would take the few hours they had left and cherish them. 

Getting home later that night, the apartment was in the first stages of getting packed up. He had already gotten a place in New York that was an easy commute to work. It helped that he had money from the sale of the house he had previously bought with Haley. Aaron also had a couple of trust funds he could pull from if he decided New York was where they were going to stay.

This wasn’t running away, this was preserving what was left of his dignity. New York would be a fresh start, or so he hoped. Maybe being away from Reid would help him to move on.

* * * * *

April 2011

In the year after moving to New York, Aaron had actually tried to go on several dates, but many of them were over before they really started. Few wanted a single father who was a widower and a workaholic. 

Jack had adjusted to his new private school rather well. The curriculum was fun and varied which kept Jack, even at his young age, engaged. Aaron knew what month it was, even though he had not called or written to Reid, a small part of him wondered if he would get a letter. Almost as quickly as he thought it, he pushed it aside. He wasn’t going to get his hopes up.

Standing on a balcony, pajama pants on, no shirt and a cup of coffee in his hands, Aaron looked out at what he could see of the New York skyline. The view was impressive. Arms wrapped around him as a kiss was placed on the nape of his neck.

“You seem rather pensive this morning.”

“Just trying to work something out in my head.”

“Hmmm. Is this going to be a breakup talk?” Aaron turned around and leaned against the railing to look at Neal, who stood there in just a robe. Admiring the man’s beauty had not been a hardship. When the two of them had ended up in bed together after a rather successful con they had pulled about five months prior, in which a dangerous counterfeit ring had been broken up and several arrests made, they ended up at Neal’s where Aaron had fucked the man’s brains out. Ever since Aaron came over often. Usually when Jack was in bed and Jessica was done with her work for the day.

“Why? You planning to break up with me?” Aaron smiled crookedly as he sipped his coffee.

“You’ve been a little distant the last couple of weeks. Look, I know we both know what this is. It’s more than sex, but we aren’t exactly going to fall in love because you, Aaron Hotchner, already are.”

Aaron set his cup down on the small patio table and walked over to Neal, undoing the robe he was wearing then pushing it off his shoulders. 

“That may be, but its someone I can never have. I have a knack for falling for people that are unattainable.” Aaron walked Neal towards the bed where they both fell on it, Aaron kissed Neal, fingers touched, sliding over soft flesh, and firm well-defined muscles. Neal Caffrey was technically a criminal, but Aaron didn’t really care. Pinching a nipple, he made Neal moan and arch into his touch. Sliding down Neal’s body Aaron took his morning erection in his mouth and gave into the pleasure of another man’s cock in his mouth.

“I think I’m right there with you, Aaron.” Neal’s voice was hoarse from returning the favor, both men sated and curled around each other. They were deriving comfort and pushing away the pain of loneliness for another day. Aaron knew Neal was in love with someone that had hurt him deeply, there was a kinship between them of shared heartbreak.

“I don’t know that I want to stop being your lover. I know you see other people, but I like being with you. I don’t care, Neal.”

“I don’t have anyone else right now Aaron, and I would tell you if I did. I don’t want you to stop being with me. I like what we have. It’s…uncomplicated.”

Aaron laughed a slightly bitter laugh, but Neal wasn’t offended. He gently touched Aaron’s face as they lay together.

“I like that as well.”

“You know if you stay here much longer, Peter is going to find you here.”

Aaron pushed up and leaned on his arm, taking one of Neal’s hands, he kissed the palm.

“Maybe it’s time he caught me.”

“You think it’s wise to tell him?” Neal slid off the bed and grabbed clothes that he started to put on. Aaron liked watching Neal dress. The man’s taste was beyond impeccable. He had even upped the ante on Aaron’s own wardrobe. 

“I’m tired of lying to him. I’m essentially his boss and I’m sleeping with his CI. I think he should know and I’ll deal with whatever fallout it causes.”

“Aaron, I can’t be the downfall to your career. You’re good at what you do. You’re kind to the victims, and you have this level of compassion I had only ever seen in Peter. If…If we need to end this so you don’t lose….” Neal was cut off mid-sentence by Aaron kissing him and pulling him close.

“I can handle it.”

“Okay. I won’t argue.”

Aaron knew Peter came every day to pick Neal up. The only time he didn’t was when they had an op going on. Right now they had nothing and Aaron had timed this on purpose. He wasn’t lying to Neal that he was tired of hiding from Peter. 

After getting dressed in the suit that Aaron had brought along the night before after a quick shower, Aaron was once again sitting out on the small patio sipping coffee and having an omelet that he had cooked for the both of them. 

A knock on the door and Neal looked once more at Aaron who nodded. Peter walked in and stopped dead when he saw Aaron.

“I have a million thoughts going through my head right now and the first one is that I hope you maybe thought about picking Neal up and taking him into the office. Because the other thoughts I have, I’m not sure what to do with.”

“Coffee? Because I suppose we need to talk.”

“I’ll be down in the car.” Aaron laughed as Neal grabbed one of his hats and left his small apartment.  Peter grabbed a cup, poured some coffee and came to sit at the bistro table with Aaron.

“Yes, Peter. I am and have been sleeping with Neal. It started after the Brandenburg case and we just kept seeing each other. Sometimes we go to dinner together, but we almost always end up back here.”

Peter sipped his coffee and scrutinized Aaron for a few moments before he set his cup down on the table.

“You know this is incredibly stupid, Aaron. What the hell are you doing?” 

Pushing up from the table, Aaron once again leaned near the railing. “Neal…”

“Is charming, attractive, smart, and if he wasn’t a consummate con man, he would be an amazing person. But, no matter how hard Neal tries to go straight, I know he never will. He thinks I don’t know that he has done jobs behind my back, but I’m not stupid. I let him have the little things because frankly, I haven’t actually caught him. 

“I care about him. Probably to an unhealthy degree, and yeah he gets away with a lot, but Aaron he is still who he is.”

“You know I’ve tried dating. Tried putting myself out there, but I’m nearing forty, a single father, and in love, with someone, I can’t have. Neal…he doesn’t care about any of that and makes me feel like life just might be worth it.”

Peter stood up and leaned against the railing next to Aaron.

“I know you’ve had more than you share of crap thrown at you in the last few years. You know this thing won’t last.”

Aaron turned around and looked at Peter. “I’m not naive. I know it will burn out at some point. If you feel you need to report me, do it.”

“I’m not going to ruin your career over this, Aaron. Just, be careful.”

Aaron watched Peter leave, and a moment later he left as well. He knew, just like Neal did that he would be back in the man’s bed, even if this quasi relationship was on borrowed time.

Getting to work just moments after Peter and Neal, Aaron went up to his office, shut the door and leaned back in his chair. There was a part of himself that wanted to call Reid. To talk to him like they used to, but being in New York, Aaron felt more out of touch with the man than he had ever had.

When he looked down at the stack of mail on his desk, he saw it. The letter, now Aaron needed to figure out what he wanted to do.

Looking down into the small bullpen, Aaron watched Neal go through some cold cases. He had been good for that and actually helped them close a few. Looking back at the note, Aaron knew he wasn’t going to say no. The pull to see Reid was too strong as Aaron noted the dates in his calendar and set it aside, then got back to work. They had cases to close and Aaron was determined to keep the office’s closure rate as high as possible.

* * * * *

“I didn’t think you were going to show up,” Reid said as he pulled back from the heated kiss shared between himself and Aaron.

“I almost didn’t.”

“Why?” Reid’s look was of genuine confusion. Almost like he didn’t understand why Aaron would say no. Which Aaron had thought about it. He thought about it when he was buried balls deep inside Neal. But, in the end, his traitorous heart won out. Aaron had told Neal about what was going on and there was no admonishment from the man. He just held Aaron and let him talk.

“Because,” Aaron looked away from Reid for a moment and Neal’s words from just a few nights before pounded in his head. You need to tell him what you really feel. “Because I love you and this fucking hurts.” Aaron stood there breathing hard as he looked in Reid’s eyes.

“You love me?” Reid sat down and looked up at Aaron. He looked blindsided and Aaron didn’t care at that moment. This was years of frustration and denial that needed to be said, needed to be brought out in the open.

“Yes, Spencer. I love you. I have loved you since before Hankel, but I buried it because I was married, then you, you married and have your children, but every time we’re here, I believe the fantasy that we can be together for a couple of stolen days. Then reality hits and you go home to your family and I go home….to emptiness.” Aaron closed his eyes and turned away to try to get his emotions under control.

When arms came around him and a cheek laid on his shoulder Aaron wasn’t sure how long he was going to hold it together. 

“I….care about you, Aaron.” The almost hushed tone in Reid’s voice had Aaron bowing his head wondering if he could put himself through this again.

“I’m seeing someone. I am supposed to start opening up and being honest with the people in my life and I thought you should know.”

The weight of Reid’s arms around his waist fell away and Aaron immediately felt the loss.

“Do you love them to?” The tone in Reid’s voice shocked Aaron as he stood looking at his sometime love.

“You don’t have the right to be jealous, Reid.” Aaron purposefully used the man’s last name as he turned around so he was face-to-face with Reid. Something dark came over Reid’s face as he crossed his arms and looked at Aaron like he would look at an Unsub.

“Who is she?” Reid’s tone was still hard as he asked the question. Aaron knew that tone, it was his interrogation voice.

“That’s my business isn’t it?” Aaron growled, his temper was up and that wasn’t what he wanted this weekend to be.He didn’t want to fight, he wasn’t sure what he really wanted. There was a part of him that told himself he should end this affair once and for all, but then he would look at Reid and his heart beat hard in his chest and the emotions he felt would spill over and keep him from saying the words he knew he should say.

Aaron watched as Reid walked away to stand on the small balcony of the hotel. The place had gotten an upgrade and the rooms had all been remodeled in the years that he and Spencer had been coming here. 

“You’re right. I have no right to ask, and I have no right to be jealous. Let’s just forget that and have this time together.”

Aaron stood at the sliding door and watched as Reid turned around, the smile on his face didn’t quite reach his eyes and Aaron knew Reid was lying about something, but he wasn’t going to call the other man out on whatever it was. Aaron stepped outside, cupped Reid’s cheek and kissed him. This was different than all the other times he had kissed Reid. He poured his emotions out into that kiss. He put everything into him, all that was in his heart, then slowly pulled back. Tears fell from Reid’s eyes and Aaron gently brushed them away. 

Later, Aaron for the first time since their affair started made love to Reid. It was nothing like the hard fucking that was their usual for these weekends. He touched, caressed, kissed every inch of Reid’s body. When Aaron pushed inside it was with all of the love he had for Reid and after, he knew he needed to leave. He had to be the one to end things, because if he didn’t this affair, these weekends away would keep tearing little pieces of his heart and there would come a time when there was nothing left of him.

Aaron waited until Reid was asleep, silently he packed away his things, left the prepared letter for Reid and walked away. He kept it all together until he was back in his own place in New York, the pain breaking him like not even Haley’s death had. He knew he needed to move on, he just didn’t know how.

* * * *

April 2012

Aaron knew the affair with Neal couldn’t last, but he never considered that Neal would run. The commutation hearing had gone rather well, and Aaron’s input had gone a long way, but the man disappointed them all, especially Peter. 

Standing at the window, looking out at the New York skyline, Aaron felt more disconnected than he had before. He felt he had let down the FBI, and the New York office specifically. They had been doing rather well, but as Peter had advised him, Neal couldn’t be trusted. 

The knock on his door startled him, he turned to see Peter standing there, hands in his pockets.

“This is all my fault. I knew deep down that I shouldn’t have trusted Neal, but I guess I got roped in by his charm and his seemingly genuine want to change.”

Aaron turned, shut down all emotions and became hardass Hotchner once again in that moment. The office had never seen that Aaron, but since Neal’s disappearance, it came out and he was riding the team as hard as he rode the BAU team once-upon-a-time.

“If you’re wondering if I’m going to throw you under the bus, Burke, I’m not. Neal played all of us. Now, we need to find him. I’m tempted to a call in the IRT, they’re good at this, but I feel we should do this on our own. 

“You found him once, you’re good enough to find him again. We’ll keep things in house for now, but, Burke, you need to find him or this comes down on all of us.” Aaron walked to his desk, sat down and pulled out a couple of files. “If you need help, these agents are not only some of the best, but they can keep things discreet.

“I’ll be gone this weekend, but if you need me text me.”

Peter stood there a moment before moving forward and taking the folders. He raised his eyes at the names, but Aaron gave not further information.

“I’ll find him. I promise.”


That was the extent of the conversation as Peter turned and left the office. Aaron felt like a little bit of an asshole, but he knew they were in trouble and he needed to be the Unit Chief he had been in the BAU. He had gotten too close to them over the last couple of years and knew he needed to pull back a little. The weekend he was going to Rossi’s, Jack had been wanting to do some camping and fishing and Rossi had said he wanted to spend time with Aaron and Jack. It was the perfect storm. Aaron needed to find his footing again, he hoped a weekend away would help. Sighing, Aaron shook his head and got back to what he was doing, which was writing up the reports about the investigation into Neal’s disappearance. He wrote up an action plan and knew that it would keep his bosses at bay for the time being. He was trusting Peter to find Neal and drag him back to the US.

The afternoon had the team in their weekly conference, where they talked about ongoing cases and new cases. Aaron essentially did what JJ had done. The White Collar unit didn’t have a liaison, he was their liaison. He had sent a budget request to try to get someone that could help them cull cases and handle the media as well as other small duties around the office, but he had been denied. They handled things best they could, and the higher ups had been impressed by how Aaron had turned the numbers around for the unit. Of course, he gave much of the credit to Peter and Neal. They just needed someone to direct them and focus them better. Now, they were under scrutiny again with Neal disappearing.

After the meeting, afternoon mail came through and sitting there on his desk was a letter addressed to him in an all to familiar script.

Slowly, Aaron sat at his desk while he picked up the letter. He had no idea why Reid was writing him, he had made his position clear. Setting it aside, Aaron worked to clear his desk while his agents went out into the field to do what they did best, even without Neal Caffrey.

Getting home to Jack, seeing his son thrive made everything worth it. When he saw the small duffel and backpack sitting by the door, and Jack in his traveling clothes, Aaron laughed to himself. His son was excited to see his Uncle Dave.

“Hey, Buddy. I take it you’re ready to go to Uncle Dave’s?”

“I can’t wait, Daddy! We haven’t seen Uncle Dave in forever.”

Aaron laughed as he ruffled his son’s hair after giving him a hug. Jack was still that age when Aaron could still hug him and snuggle with him. He knew the time was fast approaching when Jack would no longer want that.

“I think you also want to see the puppies he was telling us about.”

“So, we can really get a dog, Dad?” Jack’s eyes were wide with anticipation. Jack was still at times lonely when he got home form school. He had friends, and after school activities, but they couldn’t replace how empty the townhouse felt sometimes. Aaron often felt it himself and mused that maybe a pet would be good for the both of them. 

Some days Aaron hated that Jack was turning into a latchkey kid, but Jessica was still there as much as she could be. The move had also helped her in many ways as well. She had found a great job that she could work remotely, and she could also pick-up freelance projects as her time allowed. She was able to buy a place close to Aaron and Jack. Though, Aaron had helped her with some of the money for her apartment, it was nice and kept her out of the tiny efficiency apartments that were within her normal budget. Jessica had protested at first, but Aaron had told her it was what Haley’s half of the house would have been, and he was glad to do it. 

Now, everyone was settled enough that Aaron had agreed that Jack could have a dog. Dave had mentioned to Aaron that a hunting friend had an English Cocker Spaniel that just had puppies that would be perfect for Jack.

“If the puppies are old enough, and if one of them seems like a good fit for us, then yes we can get a dog. Aunt Jess is even willing to help.” Aaron smiled at his son’s enthusiasm.  “Okay, I’m going to go change, then we’ll get on the road. Uncle Dave is cooking a late dinner for us.”

Aaron had a bag of snacks he had packed up for them to have on the way to Dave’s cabin. He quickly changed into jeans, tshirt and a flannel jacket as the evenings were getting cooler. He grabbed his travel bag, backpack, and the cooler in the kitchen. Jack wanted to take his own bags, and Aaron choked up a little at his show of independence. Jack was growing up so fast that it was sometimes hard to keep up with him.

They got the car packed and were on the road in no time. It was a good eight hour drive to Dave’s cabin, but Aaron had left work early that day and new they would get there, barring traffic, around nine at night.

“Daddy?” Jack sighed as he looked out of the window. He was a little fidgety and his voice was serious.

“Yeah, Buddy?” Aaron wondered what was bothering Jack.

“You never talk about Uncle Spencer. We see Uncle Dave, Auntie JJ and Uncle Will all the time, and even Uncle Morgan when he comes to visit. I talk to Auntie Penny on Skype all the time, but you never talk about Uncle Spencer.”

Aaron sighed and new at some point Jack was going to ask. He stared out the window and took a few moments to get his emotions under control.

“I know you don’t understand, Jack, but there are some things that are too grown-up for me to explain. I miss Spencer too, but he and I…” Aaron stumbled over the words and took a few moments to clear his throat. “Look, maybe you’d like to spend some time with Uncle Spencer. I can see what we can work out.”

“But not you, Daddy?”

“Not right away, Jack. Okay?”

Jack nodded and Aaron knew he didn’t understand, but he always tried to respect Aaron as the parent. A few moments later, Jack was pulling out the e-reader Aaron had bought him before leaving the BAU. Reid had put a few books on the reader and Aaron knew once a month a fresh batch of books were loaded onto Jack’s account. Aaron wasn’t going to stop the man from doing it, but it made Jack miss Reid and spending time with him. He had liked Reid’s kids as well, especially James. Aaron knew it would be brought up sooner than later.

* * * *

Jack was in bed after the late dinner Dave had prepared for them, Aaron was sitting out on the patio with a scotch in his hand. He had also brought Reid’s letter, which was sitting on the side table next to the lounger he was currently stretched out on.

“So, how’s New York treating you?” Dave asked as he lowered himself in the chair next to Aaron. 

“You ask me that everytime. Are you hoping for a different answer?”

“Maybe. You know you’re missed, Aaron.”

Taking a long drink from the scotch, Aaron let the smooth burn of the alcohol settle in his stomach before he answered.

“I know. I just- Jack is still young and he’s thriving in New York. Making the move was the right thing to do.”

“For Jack, maybe. But I still see that look in your eyes, Aaron. Yet you won’t talk to me.”

Aaron stood and leaned against the railing of the patio deck, looking out at the Virginia wilderness. He sipped his drink, then felt it when Dave stood next to him.

“There’s too much, Dave. I don’t know even know where to begin.”

A light touch on his arm had Aaron turning to look at Dave. Thoughts of a time long before, when he first joined the unit and an ill advised evening after a particularly difficult case came to mind. He had been honest with Haley and told her what had happened, the guilt he felt was too much to bear. What shocked Aaron was she wasn’t surprised. She had thought Aaron was already having an affair, but he reassured her it was once, and it never happened again, with anyone. She believed him, even with everything they went through, she believed him.

“You know you can talk to me and I won’t judge. I may have teased you in the past, but not when it’s important, and not ever when you’re hurting.”

Aaron closed his eyes and took a moment before he started talking. He told Dave everything he had kept inside of him for the last four years, everything he held secret and close to his chest. When he was done, he felt hollowed out and emotional.

“That’s a lot to keep inside, Aaron. I never would have figured Spencer to cheat on his wife, and I never would have guessed that you would go along with something like that after what happened with us.” 

Aaron closed his eyes and shook his head. He downed his drink, then got another one.

“We were drunk, Dave, frustrated, and emotionally drained. And, I never let it happen again. With Spencer- I…” Aaron downed his drink and slid down back onto the chair. Letting his head fall into his hands, Aaron sighed. 

“You’re in love with him.” Dave sat across from Aaron and handed him another drink.

“And I ended it. I needed to, for my own mental health. Except Jack keeps asking about Uncle Spencer and why he doesn’t come to visit like everyone else.”

“Which means you have to figure out a way to have Spencer in Jack’s life while keeping him out of yours.”

Aaron didn’t know what to feel, all he knew was that this would hurt either way, but for Jack, Aaron would do just about anything.