Spencer had decided to take a few days off for the Holidays. He wanted some time to plan a Christmas get-together at the house he had just bought a few weeks before Thanksgiving. Moving in was quick as he had not had a lot of stuff, to begin with. Books, yes, but not a lot of furniture. Spencer wanted to do some shopping and planning. He had his tablet with him where he had put a home decorating program on it and was able to play with different colors and styles until he got exactly what it was he wanted.
Spencer had been happy in his apartment for a long time, but the rent was going to go up, and the owner had talked to the tenants about his plans to convert from rental units to each tenant owning. Spencer had looked at the prices that the owner wanted and decided to look around to see if he could find another place when he stumbled on the cottage that had been for sale. It was just precisely what Spencer had wanted if a little bigger than he had thought that he would ever need. The biggest plus for him was that the house was easy driving to and from work.
The three bedrooms two bathroom cottage was a for sale by owner. The elderly couple had wanted to sell quickly because their son was moving out of state and the couple didn’t want to be far from their Grandchildren. Spencer and the couple met, and they had instantly hit it off. Spencer had saved well, following some of Rossi’s advice on investing, and with the publication of his latest book doing well, Spencer had more than enough to make a cash offer. The couple jumped at it, and the closing on the house only took a short while.
Now, Spencer was walking the streets of the downtown neighborhood. He had already discovered a new favorite coffee shop, the library, restaurants, and other shopping. Spencer looked up from the tablet and saw that a relatively new shop had just opened. It looked like a recently opened bakery cafe. The smell from the outside was already enticing, and Spencer’s stomach rumbled from hunger. He also needed more coffee.
Slipping inside, Spencer was assaulted with the most delicious smells of fresh bread, baked pastries, and fancy chocolates, as well as coffee. The bakery was in three sections. The bakery counter, the cafe that had a chalkboard menu for that day’s selections, and a specialty shop. Spencer went to the shop side to look around and noticed that all of the items on offer were imports from Great Britain. When he saw real Jelly Babies, Spencer couldn’t hold in the squeal as he grabbed two bags. Looking around for some kind of basket, on appeared in front of him.
“You look like you want to purchase a few things. The baskets are near the door, but seeing as I was coming back to check stock, I thought I’d grab one for you.”
Spencer turned to smile at the man that was next to him, but his mouth went completely dry and his pulse quickened as he looked up at the deepest chocolate colored eyes he had ever seen. The English accent didn’t help the sudden attraction.
“Oh, uh thank you.”
“You’re very welcome. Whenever you are ready, just see me at the counter.”
Spencer nodded not knowing what to say as he turned back to the shelves displaying things Spencer had always wanted to try, but never could find locally, or were too expensive online to justify buying it.
Spencer selected a variety of teas, biscuits, and some staple items that looked interesting and took it all to the counter. He was looking over the selections on the chalkboard menu and smiled when he saw they were serving a croque madame. He paired it with the wild mushroom soup.
“Excellent choices. Anything to drink?” The man, whose name tag read Aaron, smiled at him again and Spencer felt his cheeks heat up.
“Um, what is the cafė bicerin?”
“That is a lovely Italian layered coffee. It’s espresso, good drinking chocolate, and a smooth, warm foam. I like it when I want to indulge a little bit.”
“That sounds delicious. I’ll try it.”
“I see you have Bakewell Tart. I’ll take a slice of that.”
“Excellent, here is your number. I’ll bring it out when it’s all ready.” Aaron bagged Spencer’s things then handed back his credit card and the bag. Spencer looked around again and noticed that there was a section of the pastry case for several Christmas themed cookies, pastries, and chocolates. He made a mental note to come back and pick up a few things to try.
Sitting at one of the charming tables Spencer pulled his tablet out once more and began playing with the decorating program. He had already had the painting all done. Morgan had come throughout the course of a couple of weekends and helped him with paint choices and getting all of the rooms done. Floors had been redone, Spencer had wanted a unique pattern in the living room, the kitchen was straight bamboo. The hallway, bedrooms, and bathrooms were a salvaged oak flooring that Spencer kept some of the looks of. The only thing he did was seal it after having it minimally cleaned up.
His food was brought over, and Spencer almost moaned in appreciation at the look of it. The taste was exquisite. He wondered who the chef was, he wanted to give them compliments. The coffee was rich but incredibly delicious. Spencer knew he had found a new favorite. The place wasn’t far from home or work, and it would be easy enough for him to stop on the way in to get something. Smiling to himself he waved goodbye to Aaron and left already looking forward to the next time.
Spencer found an excuse almost every day to stop at his new hunting ground. Aaron was there every day as well. There were other workers here and there, but for the most part, Aaron was usually the one working. As it neared closer to Christmas Spencer wanted to put in an order for some pastries and cakes for the open house he was going to be having now that he was mostly all set.
“Good morning, Spencer. What is it I can get you today?”
“I ah, I wanted to see if it was too late to put in an order for this weekend? I know your chef is probably really busy, but I’m having an open house Christmas party and wanted to get a few things.”
“Why don’t we go back to my office and we can talk?”
“Oh. Um, all right.”
Aaron smiled that smile then beckoned Spencer to follow him to the back.
“Betsy, can you watch the counter please?”
“Yes, Boss. I finished up that batch of cookies you had in the fridge. And I got the new batch of starter going. I know you wanted that ready for tomorrow.”
“Thank you, love. I’ll be a few moments.”
“Take your time. I got this.”
Aaron led Spencer back to an office that had a table with four chairs at one end, and a desk with a computer at the other. A bookcase behind and to the side of the desk was filled to the brim with recipe books. Some looked well worn while others barely had their spines cracked. A double shelf was opposite the table and held a variety of photo albums.
“Now, Spencer what would you like? Here, let me grab the Christmas albums, and you can peruse them to get an idea of what else that I do.”
Spencer looked up at Aaron and if finally all clicked.
“You are the chef?”
“Chef and owner. Aaron Hotchner Paddington. But, if you’d like you can call me Hotch.”
“Oh- I just assumed- I’m sorry-I- I shouldn’t have.”
“Do I not meet your expectations of a pastry chef?” Aaron’s smile did things to Spencer that he often didn’t know what to do with. The amusement in his eyes had Spencer laughing and blushing.
“I must admit that I made assumptions that I shouldn’t have. You look like you should be wearing a suit and intimidating people for one reason or another.”
Aaron laughed, and something about it had Spencer once more all in knots.
“Well, I must admit that for the first part of my working life, I did wear a suit and intimidated terrible people. But, we are not here to talk about me, we’re here to find out what you want for your Christmas get-together.”
Spencer looked down at the photo album and looked through it seeing several things that appealed to him. The cookie platter wasn’t an ordinary platter. These were gorgeously decorated cookies that looked equally delicious. There were sticky toffee puddings, figgy puddings, elaborate trifles, highly decorated cakes, braided and embellished loaves of bread, and a variety of petits fours that looked amazing. Spencer was having a hard time deciding.
“Is your party going to be formal or informal?”
“Oh, uh well it’s going to be an ugly Christmas sweater party. But, on the more formal side.”
“May I make a suggestion?”
“The cookies can be customized, here is a photo of some that I’ve done in the past. I’ve even done some that are ugly sweaters. It’s quite a popular theme. Even back home.” Aaron showed Spencer some pictures, and he had to laugh at some of the decorations.
“Those are perfect.”
“And maybe a couple of trays of the petits fours. I have a list, and you can choose between four and six. If you give me a headcount, I can give you an estimate of cost.”
Spencer took a moment to count in his head everyone he had invited, and if everyone came, it would be close to about thirty people.
“And, I’d like something unusual for a centerpiece. I don’t really want a cake. One of my coworkers is bringing a chocolate cake that I like.”
“You want something showy?”
Aaron stood up and went to the shelves by his desk and pulled out another photo album.
“These are some centerpieces I’ve done over the years. I think what you and your guests might like is a croque-em-bouche. The choux pastry can be filled with a variety of flavored pastry creams. I do a gold and silver white chocolate coating for something extraordinary. Then, of course, the iconic spun sugar. Here, this is an example.”
Spencer looked at the beautiful pastry tower and knew that was precisely what he wanted. The spun sugar was like icicles hanging off the lovely profiteroles that had a sparkle to the gold and silver. There was also an elaborate spun sugar star at the top and intricately detailed thin chocolate ornaments.
“Oh, this is perfect. It’s gorgeous.”
“Let me get you a list of the petit fours and the list of the types of cookies and the flavoured royal icings. I love creating unusual combinations.”
Spencer took the sheets Aaron handed him, and he immediately went for the shortbread cookies with half a mocha royal icing and the other half eggnog flavored. The petit fours took a little time as they all sounded delicious, but eventually, he chose what he wanted. The croque-en-bouche he picked out the pastry cream fillings and at the last minute he added a festive yule log cake.
“That should do it.”
“And, did you want any savory items or just the sweet?”
“Oh! You do that too?”
Aaron smiled once more as he pulled out a catering menu from his desk.
“I have a full catering staff. I anticipate we are going to get a few last minute party requests. Here.”
There were delicious sounding finger sandwiches, hors-d’oeuvres, soups in small cups, and more. The pricing was reasonable, and Aaron walked him through an easy menu that he knew everyone would enjoy.
“I don’t have my license for alcohol as of yet, I am still waiting on that, but I am able to provide wine and champagne.”
“A variety of whites and reds would be fine. You’re discretion on what would pair well. I have some sparkling apple ciders I’ve bought already as well.”
“Good. Well, I’ll work up the price list and e-mail it to you?” Spencer had filled out his information on one of the forms and Aaron took them and stapled them all together after making notes about the wine.
“That sounds fine.” Spencer was almost sad to go. He had fun talking and planning his party with Aaron.
“Now that that is completed, I wanted to ask you something.”
“Oh? Um…what…?” Spencer was stumbling over his words. He hoped that it wasn’t about his books. He tried to keep a low profile even though his publisher had wanted to get him to do a tour. With his day job, it was often difficult to get away for any length of time. Plus, he didn’t want his face out there any more than it already was. The periodic photo shoots were enough for now.
“I wanted to see if you would go to dinner with me sometime this week.”
Spencer’s heart sped up, and his stomach fluttered. He knew that he was attractive to some people, and he had a relatively robust social life, despite what Morgan and JJ had thought. But, Aaron Hotchner Paddington was on a whole different level from the people he had dated in the past. It took a moment for his brain to process, then a moment longer to realise he had not answered.
“Oh- um- yes…yes I will go out with you. Pending something coming up at work, that is.”
“How about Monday? I can pick you up around 6:30? And, dress warmly.”
“That sounds perfect.” Spencer’s pulse raced in anticipation already of being able to spend time with Aaron outside of the pastry shop.
“Good, until Monday…Spencer.” That damn wicked grin again. Spencer knew he was completely screwed.
“Are you absolutely out of your mind?” Spencer stared in shock at Aaron who had the crazy idea of a picnic. In December. In DC. Aaron smiled again and just picked up the picnic basket, a rolled up blanket and what appeared to be some kind of battery powered heater.
“I am not crazy, and you are going to love it. I promise.”
“Fine. I’m trusting you.”
Spencer felt terrible that he wasn’t helping and took the picnic basket from Aaron who then slung the rolled blanket over his shoulder by the strap holding it together. Aaron then reached out a glove covered hand, which Spencer only hesitated but a moment to take.
“I wanted to ask you out almost immediately that first day you came into Rolling Scones. But, I admit I was nervous.”
“You? Nervous? You always seem so confident.”
“At the shop, yes. In my social life, not so much. I’ve had a few disasters when it comes to relationships, and it’s made me a bit shy. My brilliant second, Bertha, she kind of pushed me. She noticed how much I noticed you.”
“Then I must thank Bertha next time I go in.” Spencer didn’t hide his smile as the two walked hand-in-hand along the snow-covered park that Aaron had brought them to. It wasn’t until they got to the center of the part that Spencer knew why Aaron had picked this spot. The small lake had frozen over, the trees surrounding the lake had been decorated with colored lights. There were benches, but much of the area around the frozen man-made lake had been plowed, and the grass glistened with frost. Even with how cold it was, Spencer saw the magic in it all. There was even hidden speakers that were playing modern Christmas music on low.
“I read about this place and that they do this every year. They have a lot of free events during the season, but then it’s open to the public on certain days of the week. Would you like to sit closer to the lake? Or the trees?”
“The lake. You can look up and see the sky better.”
Aaron walked toward the area Spencer had indicated and found a perfect spot that had no snow. He laid out the blanket first, which Spencer saw that it had a protective vinyl backing that won’t let the frost seep in. The top was a thick fleece with warm padding.
Aaron laid it down, then at one end he set-up the portable heater. Spencer sat on the blanket and found it to be soft and comfortable.
“This is nice.” Spencer breathed deep and let it out slowly enjoying seeing his breath in the air. The music was low enough to where it wouldn’t hinder conversation. Other couples were out as well, a few even skating on the lake.
“Here, I have a chicken curry soup, some hot chai with a little cream and sugar, grilled vegetable sandwiches.” Aaron took those things out and set them down between them. Spencer picked up one of the soup bowls and unscrewed the top. The scent wafting up had him breathing in deep and making yummy noises. He took a sip of the soup and moaned at how good it tasted.
“This is delicious.”
“I’m glad you like it. It was a specialty back home.”
Spencer slowly sipped at his soup enjoying the rich flavors as well as the warmth. He was more comfortable than he expected for a picnic at the cusp of winter. The sandwiches were equally delicious as was the tea.
“Can I ask why you made the move to come to the US?”
“It was actually my Brother. He needed a fresh start, and frankly, I did too. My former profession was rather…soul bending. I had to make certain life and death decisions, and it took little pieces out of me. It doesn’t mean that what I was doing wasn’t worthwhile, it was, but it was difficult, and it’s now a younger man’s game.
“I decided to retire and got to pastry school. Sean had already gotten his training as a chef but got into a spot of trouble. We both decided to open a shop together and make the move out here.”
“You’re very vague about what you used to do so I can only assume that you were in the Intelligence game.”
Aaron finished his sip of tea and nodded his head.
“I’m an FBI agent. I work with the BAU.”
“Yes, I know.”
Aaron laughed at the look on Spencer’s face.
“I was very good at what I did. But, you are also Albert Christie Doyle, and I’ve read every one of your brilliant mysteries.”
“Oh, ah, thank you.” Spencer pulled back a little. Aaron knowing his writing pseudonym had his mind spinning in all kinds of directions.
“Spencer, hey, look at me.” Aaron gently lifted Spencer’s face with just two fingers under Spencer’s chin and smiled softly. “I did not ask you out because of your literary accomplishments. I asked you out because you are an intelligent, funny, engaging man who I’ve gotten to know just a little over the last couple of weeks. I want to get to know you, Dr. Spencer Reid. Not, Albert Christie Doyle.”
Spencer smiled and felt his cheeks heat up with the blush.
“And you blush rather prettily.” Aaron leaned in, and Spencer only had a moment for his brain to catch up to what Aaron wanted. “Just one kiss.”
Spencer nodded, and the press of lips on his might have been chaste, but it was no less wonderful.
“Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Oh, yes. I am.”
The two talked as they finished up their dinner, then Aaron pulled out another thermos, this one had hot chocolate. Aaron had maneuvered to where he was sitting with his legs stretched out, and Spencer was in between with his back against Aaron’s front. They sipped their hot chocolate and watched as the night sky changed from early evening to full dark. The stars shone bright, and the air was crisp. The music changed a little, something soft and romantic and Spencer thought it was the most magical date he had ever been on.
The next time Spencer made it into the bakery, it was for a final tasting of the menu Aaron had put together for him. The front may have looked neat as a pin, but the large kitchen was a controlled mess. Aaron was directing the pastry chefs, while another man was directing the savory side of things. To the untrained eye, it looked a mess, but Aaron appeared to revel in the minor chaos. He looked up and smiled to see Spencer there.
“Come on over, Spencer. I have your tasting plate ready. Now is the time to tell me if you want anything changed, but for the most part it’s all ready.”
Spencer looked at the plate, and his eyes took in all the colors, shapes, and scents of the food. He ate each thing and savored it. There wasn’t anything he didn’t like.
“It’s perfect. Everything is delicious.”
“Good. Then we will be ready for your party.”
Spencer wanted to kiss Aaron again, but he wasn’t sure if it would be okay in front of his staff.
“Come here,” Aaron beckoned and pulled Spencer to him giving him a not so chaste kiss this time. “That should hold you over for a bit.”
Spencer smiled and felt his cheeks heat up.
“It’s a bit chaotic around here. I’m looking forward to Sunday.”
“You’ll be working.”
“Yes, but I’ll be with you.”
Spencer blew out his breath and started to walk out of the kitchen to get back to work. He wasn’t paying attention when in his daze he crashed into the edge of one table and sent pans falling, a bag of flour that went everywhere, and a full cookie sheet of unbaked cookies.
“Oh god! Oh, I’m so sorry…” Spencer felt embarrassed at his clumsiness. Aaron just laughed as he came over with a broom in hand.
“Spencer, it’s fine. We have all done something like this a time or two. That’s why extra dough is always kept in the cooler. Things happen.”
“It’s okay, Spencer. I promise.”
Spencer wanted to further protest, but Aaron just laid his hands on Spencer’s shoulder and led him outside of the kitchen.
“Spencer, please do not worry. Everything can be cleaned up. In fact, I think you should use the loo before you head out.” The look on Aaron’s face had Spencer frowning. He went into the customer bathroom and saw that he was covered in a fine dusting of flour.
“Great. I’ll never live this down,” he muttered to himself, and he tried to clean up as best he could, but he needed to get back to work. Thankfully he had a set of extra clothes in a locker at the Bureau. Of course, that was going to garner a lot of questions and some teasing from his co-workers. Spencer groaned as he tried to clean himself up as best he could. He would just ignore their questions until he felt like talking.
Spencer laughed at something Morgan had said his eyes shined with happiness that he had not felt in far too long. The table with the food looked beautiful, all of the hor-d’oeurves, finger sandwiches, and small cups of soup were laid out in a way to catch everyone’s eye. The centerpiece was the croque-en-bouche. Later all of the desserts would replace the savory foods.
Christmas music was playing in the background, and Spencer was mingling with his all his friends and co-workers. Every so often his eyes would catch Aaron’s as he directed his staff and made sure platter were refilled.
“So, you keep looking at the very gorgeous caterer, Spence. I think there is a story to tell,” JJ sing-songed as she snagged another glass of the sparkling apple juice.
“We met at his bakery. You should check it out, they have the most amazing coffee’s and pastries.”
“Oh ho, is that why I don’t see you at your normal place.”
“Spencer Reid, speechless?” JJ chuckled, and humor shone in her eyes. “You like him, and does he…”
“We went on our first date on Monday.”
JJ pulled Spencer into a hug and kissed his cheek.
“You look happy. I’m glad, and I hope it works out.”
“Me too, Jayje.”
Spencer let her go to wander around the party. Gifts had been slipped under his hybrid Halloween-Christmas themed tree. He had tried to discourage people from giving him gifts, but his friends didn’t always listen to him. He would wait until Christmas day to open them.
“You look like you are enjoying yourself.” Spencer turned towards the familiar voice and couldn’t help the smile that came over him.
“I’ve never done anything like this, but it seems like everyone is having a good time.”
“If I didn’t have to work, I would take you in my arms and dance with you around the room. You look absolutely ravishing in your bespoke suit.”
“What? I can’t compliment that man I’m dating?”
“So, we…we are dating?” Spencer’s heart filled as Aaron reached out and pushed a stray strand of hair behind Spencer’s ear.
“I certainly hope so. I had fun on our date, and I want more, Spencer.”
Biting his lip, Spencer got his emotions under control.
“I want that too, Aaron.”
“Good, I have plans for us for after Christmas is over.”
“I look forward to it.”
Aaron smiled that dimple popping smile of his before he walked away to start clearing the table for the desserts.
Hours later after everyone had left and most of Aaron’s staff had cleaned up, Aaron found Spencer standing at his picture window looking outside and sipping a glass of wine.
“You know, when you walked in my bakery, I never thought you might accept my invitation of a date. I’m glad you accepted. I’m almost packed up and ready to go, but I just needed one more thing.”
Aaron moved in close to Spencer, wrapped his arms around him and pulled him into a kiss.
“That. I look forward to many more dates, Dr. Spencer Reid.”
Aaron didn’t let Spencer respond as he left and went out the kitchen door. Spencer touched his lips with his fingers and had very high hopes for the year to come.