Title: Searchlight
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Category: Romance, Alternate Universe
Ratings: PG-13
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Spencer Reid, Jack Hotchner, OC’s
Spoilers: None
Summary: Aaron Hotchner was a Ranger with the Mojave Desert Preserve. Spencer Reid was an eccentric who Aaron had come to care for more than he wanted to admit. Aaron hoped that Spencer’s visit this time around was the time that their friendship turned into something more.
Words: 2355
Warnings: None
Tags: Eccentric Characters, Ranger!Hotch, Professor!Reid, Aaron has 3 children, Alternate Universe
Beta: None. No non-consensual Beta


Aaron leaned back in the Adirondack as he propped his feet up on the porch frame with his two dogs at his feet and a cup of coffee spiked with a splash of bourbon watching the sunset. He had not taken off his Ranger’s uniform when he got home, he just grabbed the premade sandwiches and a bag of chips because he had wanted something quick to eat as he contemplated the day.

He was one of the law enforcement sides of the Mojave Desert Rangers. He worked on the California side of the Mojave Desert but made his home in the small town of Searchlight, Nevada. The border wasn’t far and Aaron didn’t mind the drive. When he was on rotation he stayed at the station twenty-four seven in case of any problems that might arise from visitors to the National State Park. 

He watched the brilliant colors of the sunset and smiled to himself thinking how much he had come to love what he was doing now. It was a far cry from his previous life as a lawyer and family man. After his wife had divorced him and tried to take as much of his estate as she could get away with, Aaron needed something different in his life and getting away from everyone and everything had seemed like a good idea at the time. He got custody of his three kids and Haley received a settlement from the Hotchner Family Trust that she had no choice but to be satisfied with. The prenuptial agreement was the only good advice Aaron’s mother had ever given him. 

It wasn’t that Haley was a bad mother, she was great when she was around. Haley wanted something different than Aaron had wanted, which was the wife of a politician. She got her wish and went on to have two more children with her second husband. Senator Robert Wilson was a good man and Aaron was happy that Haley had found what he was looking for. The Senator had put in his bid for Presidency and early on in the campaign trail the plane they were using had crashed, killing everyone aboard. The kids grieved, it took a while and some counseling to get them through it. Jack was only four at the time, Tyler was almost ten, and Faye was eight. It was a rough couple of years, but they got through it. Aaron always kept things around the house for the kids to remember their mother.

Aaron sipped his coffee and thought about how Tyler was in college now, Faye, was out with one of the other Rangers who ran a program for Junior Rangers. They were akin to the Boys and Girls Scouts, but without the religious leanings and rampant bigotry in those organizations. She wanted to become a Ranger like her father, she was a tomboy through and through and a junior in High School. Aaron’s youngest, Jack was at a house party that was going to be a sleepover. Aaron knew the parents well and he was promised they would be there all night. Jenna was going to cook breakfast for all of them while her wife, Sam was going to keep them all entertained with scary movies and other activities. The party was for their daughter who Jack was good friends with.

Searchlight and several of the other unincorporated towns in the area had become havens for the LGBTQIA+ community. Aaron thought it was good and liked that even though the town was a little isolated, the kids grew up surrounded by a lot of diversity.

The first time Haley had come to visit after Aaron went through what was essentially Ranger School, she had been shocked. But, the kids had grown to love the area, even if Tyler had rebelled quite a bit as a teenager. Aaron reflected on all of this and realized that he had been happier the last thirteen years than he had been in his previous life as a high-priced, fast-paced up and coming prosecutor.

The sky darkened some more and the colors that the waning sun cast out on the desert landscape never ceased to amaze Aaron. The day slowly faded, the dogs stood and ran out and started to play some before Aaron went inside the house to get ready to go to bed. After about an hour he called the dogs in, took a shower and crawled into bed after drying off. It was times like this that some of the loneliness crept in. He wished he had someone to spend his nights with, but he never felt alone. For the most part, Aaron was happy. 

There was one person he knew he could be happy with, but they never stayed past September and never came to visit any other time of the year. They exchanged letters and emails from time to time, and Aaron would take the friendship that built up over the last few years, but nights like this when he was alone in the house, the kids all doing their own things, he wished he had someone to talk to, to wind down with, to hold and be held. Sighing, he curled up with a pillow as the dogs jumped on the bed and boxed him in. It was comforting, just not in the way he wished for. Scratching a head, Aaron was able to finally doze off into sleep.


May was always an interesting time for the Mojave Desert Rangers. It was the beginning of the tourist season and it also meant the beginning of heavy traffic in and out of Las Vegas. Aaron could tell stories on the number of drunk idiots who ran their cars off the road and onto the desert. There were really no barriers on the I-15 other than in the major cities, but out where he lived and patrolled, it was still a bit wild and uncontrolled, which Aaron was grateful for.

Today, however, was one of his days off. He decided to wander into town to get some breakfast, then he would head out into one of his favorite spots and let the dogs run and play. Tyler would be coming home from UNLV in a couple of weeks as classes were winding down for the semester. Faye would still be out until Sunday with the group, only Jack would be coming home later that day. Aaron had his jeep loaded up with water, food, a couple of books, a blanket, and a few other things to have a day to himself. The dogs he had leashed and they were content to wait outside of the cafe with bowls of water and kibble.

“Mornin’ Hotch. Got yerself a day off?” Edna, the cafe owner asked as he walked in and sat at the counter.

“I do. Going to take the dogs with me and spend some time out by Cinder’s Rock. Need some time to think.”

“Mmm-hmm. Has nuthin’ to do with your young man comin’ soon.”

“Edna. He isn’t mine. He’s just a friend.”

“Right, you keep right on tellin’ yerself that, Aaron Hotchner. Here’s yer coffee. Sit.’

Aaron laughed as he took his seat at the counter. Spencer had emailed and gave Aaron the day he was going to be at his little cabin in the middle of the Mojave about twenty miles from Cornerstone Park. It was just past the edge of Henderson. Spencer liked the quiet and Aaron didn’t blame him. 

Aaron was never sure what it was that brought Dr. Spencer Reid out into the middle of nowhere, but he could say the same of most folks that lived in the area but isolated themselves. As he waited for his breakfast he thought back to the first time he had met Spencer five years prior.

The day had been fairly normal but a call on the Ranger’s SAT line had piqued Aaron’s interest. Only the very remote residents ever used it, and only in emergencies. The Mojave was vast and the kinds of people that made their homes in isolation were some of the stranger people Aaron had ever met. And that was saying something as he had put his time in as a lawyer.

Picking up the phone Aaron had his first encounter with Dr. Spencer Reid. The call was because some Coyote cubs had made their home under his front porch and he was concerned the mother either abandoned them, or she had died. Aaron was no stranger to the various wildlife out in the desert, he had been specially trained to deal with all kinds of animals since Fish and Game often took their time to help. The first thing that had struck Aaron was the number of books he had in his home. What started as an animal rescue ended with them having an impromptu picnic lunch not far from the lake in Cornerstone Park. Chuckling at the memory, Aaron finished his coffee and signaled that he wanted some more. Coffee and food came out at the same time and Aaron didn’t waste any time on making quick work of his meal.

Getting back into his jeep, dogs in the seat beside him, the Beatles blasting out of the car radio, Aaron smiled as he made his way out into the desert.

It wasn’t hard to find the trail he wanted, he knew this part of the desert quite well. Cinder’s Rock was an enormous painted rock area that was both beautiful and well preserved. Few knew it was there and one needed to have not only knowledge of the desert, but experience in hiking and self-preservation.

Aaron found the area he wanted to make his day camp and let the dogs off their leash. He set up the half tent, his trifold bed he set-up as a couch, and had his cooler with waters, a couple of beers, iced coffee, sandwiches, and a few sides from Edna’s. Stretching out he pulled out his kindle and started to read. The dogs he would keep his eyes on and check them every so often. If they ventured too far out he whistled for them to come closer and without too much fuss they loped over. Laughing at the mutts, he scratched their heads, then grabbed the frisbee from the bag of toys he had for them and threw it. Aaron didn’t even have to pay too much attention to them as they played.

Around lunchtime, the SAT phone Aaron had brought with him rang.

“Dad! Riley’s Mom’s throw the absolute best parties! They made us all goodie bags. And this isn’t like those cheap ones that Tony’s Dad used to make, these are awesome. I can’t wait to show you.” Aaron laughed at his son’s enthusiasm.

“Hey, buddy. So, I assume you are having fun?”

“The best! And we’re going to go swimming at Riley’s Grandparents just up the street. Misses Jenna wanted me to call you to let you know.”

Aaron had already been told that the kids might go swimming, but he appreciated that Jenna had the kids call the parents to let them know.

“Well, you have fun. I’ll be home in a few hours.”

“Dad, Misses Jenna said we could stay the night and she would take us all to school. I already have all my homework and I did pack a second set of clothes just in case. Can I stay Dad? Please?” Jack dragged the word out and Aaron was picturing the face he was making. He knew his son’s begging face and it always made him laugh.

“All right. I know you got your homework done. Be good for Jenna and Sam. Then maybe tomorrow night we’ll go into Henderson and get dinner at SetteBello for some pizza.”

“Dad! That sounds awesome! Alright. Gotta go change and get my stuff. Love you.” And like that the phone went dead. Aaron shook his head and looked out at the desert and sighed. His son would be out for the night which meant another night alone. Aaron took a deep breath, then got back to reading his book. The solitude was nice, but he again longed for a human companion he could share these moments with. 


Aaron’s SAT phone rang, waking him from the nap he was in the middle of.

“Hotchner.” Aaron’s voice held that tinge of sleepiness he was feeling.

“Hey. I tried your house phone and you weren’t there. Then I called the Ranger station and they said it was your day off. I thought I’d give the SAT a try.”

“Spencer.” Aaron sat up and almost regretted the sound of longing that he caught in his voice.

“I got here a little early. I wanted to let you know.” 

Aaron took a drink of water before he could speak again, and it took him a moment but he thought he heard the same kind of longing in Spencer’s voice.

“What do you have planned for tonight?” Aaron asked as he sat back on his little makeshift couch.

“Thought about throwing some chicken on the grill with some corn and veggies. Just relaxing and watching a movie.”

“Sounds nice.”

“And you?” Aaron sat forward and frowned to himself. He wasn’t sure what it was in Spencer’s voice that had him listening closer than he normally would.

“I don’t know. Jack is at a friend’s house and will be staying the night. They went swimming at his friend’s house and I know he’s going to just conk out. I haven’t made any plans beyond packing up and driving back home.”

“Oh, so you’re out?”

“Yeah, out by Cinders Rock. Letting the dogs run off some of their energy.”

“Um, do you want to come by?”

Aaron smiled to himself and took all of two seconds to make up his mind.

“That sounds good. You’re sure?”

“Yeah, I’m quite sure. Anytime you want to show up is fine with me.”

Aaron knew no one could see the smile that came over him, but the idea of spending time with Spencer was not an unpleasant thought.