Title: Lost And Found
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Category: Romance, Angst, Loss
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid, Aaron Hotchner/OMC
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Spencer Reid, Jack Hotchner, OMC
Summary: Aaron is devastated by the news of a plane crash that takes the life of the one he loves. He’s not sure if he will ever heal from the loss he suffered that day. He leaves the Bureau to start over and hopefully heal from his loss.
Words: 15, 445
Warnings: Temporary character death, depression
Tags: , loss, grief, coping, HEA, character disability
Beta: None. No non-consensual Beta
“Oh my god,” JJ yelled as she watched in horror the news report that played on one of the screens in the bullpen. Morgan looked up, he hadn’t paid attention and when he saw the look in her eyes he started to panic.
“Jayje? What’s goin’ on?” He got up so he could move closer to the pretty blonde.
“Derek….” She pointed to the screen and turned up the volume on the television. That was when Derek noticed they were talking about a plane crash.
“Oh my god…no, no, no…” Derek looked horrified as JJ slowly got up from her chair and let herself be pulled into Derek’s arms. They both stood there holding on tight to each other as the shock started to set in.
“Henry…oh god, how do I tell Henry?” JJ said as she buried her face in Derek’s chest trying to hold it together till they found out more information.
“JJ, we don’t know anything, okay? Until we do we have to be calm”.
A few minutes later Penelope Garcia rushed into the bullpen, she looked like she’d been crying for some time now, “Derek, Derek, please, please tell me it’s not true, please…” Her eyes were wide and glassy from her crying and panic had started to set in.
Derek let go of JJ and reached for his wife, “Penelope, we don’t know anything yet, okay? Let’s not panic until we know more”.
Derek and JJ were trying to process what was going on when Dave Rossi came down from his office and started to walk towards them. He had been on the phone with the FBI offices local to where the plane had crashed trying to get more information on what had happened. With a heavy heart he walked up to the small group, but Derek knew just from his expression that their worst fears were about to come true.
“No Dave no…”
“It has been confirmed. It was Jet Now flight 162 from Chicago to Las Vegas. So far there have been no survivors.” Dave’s eyes were wet with unshed tears. He was doing his level best to hold it together for the rest of the team, and especially for Aaron, who he suspected hadn’t heard the news as of yet.
“Oh god Rossi, Hotch. Do you think he’s seen or heard the news?” JJ asked, she was still dazed because the full realization that her best friend might be gone had not hit her yet.
“He called and said he was going to be late, something to do with Jack’s school.”
It was at that moment that the man in question walked into the bullpen. He had a rare smile on his face and a bit of a spring in his step. His team looked at him walking in with horrified expressions on their faces and knew. He hadn’t heard. He saw the looks on their faces and frowned slightly, he just knew that his good mood was going to be spoiled.
“You guys alright? Did something happen? Garcia, do you have a particularly difficult case for us?”
Derek looked at him wide-eyed, “Hotch, you haven’t been listening to the news?”
“No, it’s been hectic. I had to go to see Jack’s teacher, he’s getting a writing award for one of his essays.” He grinned, “Spencer has been such a good influence on him….” He had heard JJ’s voice hitch when he mentioned Spencer. He narrowed his eyes at his team as worry started to set in. “What’s going on?”
Dave intercepted and gently wrapped a hand around his friends arm and started to steer him towards the stairs. “Aaron, come to my office.”
Hotch’s face fell, “Dave, just tell me what is going on.” He started to fall into his Unit Chief mode, but Dave wasn’t deterred.
“Aaron, please, come with me.” The two men stared each other down for what seemed like a long time to Hotch but was only a matter of seconds,
“Fine, but you better tell me what the hell is going on.”
A shadow passed over Dave’s face and he knew telling his best friend about the plane crash was not going to be easy.
“I will, but let’s not do it here.” Dave’s eyes automatically went to the ring on Aaron’s left hand. It was his wedding band. The quick gesture didn’t get past Aaron and his heart rate started to speed up. Suddenly he didn’t want to hear what Dave had to tell him.
Dave gently grabbed his arm again and led Aaron up to his office. Once inside Dave told him to sit down. He grabbed the scotch he kept in his desk and poured out two glasses and passed one to Aaron.
“Aaron,” Dave took a deep breath, “There has been a plane crash.” He had no way of telling Aaron delicately so he decided to just rip the bandage off and tell him all at once. “It was Jet Now flight 162 from Chicago to Las Vegas. Aaron, they haven’t found any survivors”.
“Dave, what…what are you telling me?” He knew, he knew but it wasn’t registering. Dave was just looking at him trying to find the words when Aaron shot up from the chair and stormed into his office and retrieved the bureau assigned cell phone to call Spencer.
“Pick up Spencer. Come on dammit pick up. Come on, come on, come on….” no one answered. He tried for a full ten minutes never receiving an answer, only voicemail. Aaron stood in the middle of his office in shock. The phone fell from his hands and crashed to the floor. His heart was beating too fast and his mind was whirling, the same thought going over and over in his head, no, no, no it’s not true, it can’t be true. He slowly sank to the floor on his knees and curled in on himself while he tried to hold the tears at bay. He felt arms come around him and he leaned into whoever it was.
Dave’s voice caught in his throat as he closed his eyes and tried to keep his own composure while he watched his best friend fall apart.
Aaron grabbed Dave’s arms and looked up “Dave, please, please tell me you’re wrong, you have to be wrong. I can’t…” the look on Aaron’s face broke Dave’s heart. He was trying to hold back his own grief because he wanted to try to be strong for Aaron. He didn’t know if Aaron would be able to come back from a second major loss. “I can’t…Dave, please, please be wrong. Jack, Sarah, oh god, Dave…”
“I’m so sorry Aaron,” he didn’t know what else to say, what he could say. He thought no man should have to endure this loss twice. Can he come back from this?
While Dave was trying to comfort Aaron, the team stood there in shock. Kate had come in after being out for her first custodial alone. She saw the team standing there with devastated looks on all their faces.
“Hey, what, what’s going on?”
JJ had been crying when she looked over at Kate, “You didn’t hear the news?”
“No, most of the drive back had very poor radio reception.” She frowned, then looked up at Hotch’s office and saw her Unit Chief on the floor with Dave trying to coax him off the floor. “Guys, seriously what’s going on?”
Derek walked up to her and placed a hand on her arm, “Kate, a plane went down earlier, it was a Chicago to Las Vegas connection…”
Kate looked at Derek confused. She shook her head slightly like she wasn’t sure she understood the words. “Derek, what are you saying?”
Morgan took a deep breath. “It was the connecting flight that Spencer was taking to go see his mother in Las Vegas”.
Horror filled her face, “Oh no, oh no Derek…Hotch?”
“Dave’s with him,” he pointed up to Hotch’s office as if that explained everything.
“Derek this has got to be killing him, what, what do we do?”
“Kate, I really don’t know. He almost didn’t come back from losing his wife.” Derek closed his eyes and looked up to his Unit Chief’s office. “I really don’t know if he’ll be able to come back from this.” They were all feeling the devastation of losing not only a teammate, but someone they each deeply cared about.
Section Chief Matteo Cruz came into the bullpen and saw that the news had already reached the members of Alpha Team. The BAU’s elite team of profilers had just lost one of their own and he felt like he was intruding. He walked up to the small group and laid a hand on JJ’s shoulder. She immediately spun around and let herself be engulfed in his arms.
“JJ, everyone, I’m so sorry. I can’t even imagine,” he took a deep breath before he continued. “I’m putting you guys on temporary stand down. Go home, all of you we’ll be okay around here without you.” The team was grateful for his compassion and understanding. For a long moment they were just standing there frozen to their spots. It wasn’t until Cruz started to speak again that they were brought out of their shock.
“I’ll go up and help Dave with Aaron. I don’t want to see any of you for the next few days, understand?”
They all thanked him while they silently gathered their things, each wanting to go home to the comfort of their respective families. They all looked up to their Unit Chief’s office wanting to go to him but knowing he wouldn’t want them to be there right now. They all knew they needed to give him some distance. Each member of the team hoped Aaron would come to them and they could help him through this tragedy.
Matt made his way up to Aaron’s office and saw the man on the floor with Dave holding him by the shoulders. Matt got down on one knee and put a hand on Aaron’s shoulder.
“Aaron, come on, let’s get you up.” With the help of Dave they got a reluctant Aaron Hotchner up off the floor and onto the small couch in his office. He hung his head in his hands as fresh silent tears started to roll down his cheeks.
“I can’t…How do I tell Jack? How do I tell Sarah? Dave, how do I tell my children they’ve lost another parent? I can’t, I can’t do this.” He practically yelled out in his grief. Aaron closed his eyes against the overwhelming pain in his heart, he didn’t want to feel he just wanted to fade away.
“Aaron, let me take you home. Do you want me to talk to Jack and Sarah with you?”
Aaron’s eyes flashed in anger, “No, I want to go to the crash site. I need to go Dave, Matt…”
“Aaron, I don’t think that’s…”
“God dammit I need to go. This can’t be true Dave, it can’t, I need to go and find out for myself.”
Dave and Matt each took a deep breath, “Then I’m going with you,” Matt exclaimed.
“And so am I,” Dave held up his hand before Aaron could protest, “We aren’t going to let you do this alone.” He stared at Aaron till the younger man conceded.
“The jet isn’t being used.”
“Matt, I can’t let you do that.” Aaron protested. He would book the earliest flight out to find out what happened and if it was true that no survivors had been found.
“Just like JJ or Garcia, I can make anything a BAU case. We can go and offer our services and you can try to find out about Spencer.”
Matt quickly made the arrangements and within a couple of hours they made their way to the plane. When Hotch and Rossi arrived they saw the rest of the team there. Dave could only guess that Penelope figured out what was going on and she told the rest of the group.
Aaron frowned, “What, what are you guys doing here?”
Morgan stepped forward, “We aren’t going to let you do this alone Hotch, we’re going with you.” He then pulled the ever stoic unit chief into a hug. In a rare display Aaron let himself be comforted and he hugged Morgan back. By shear will he held back the tears that wanted to spill.
Then each team member in turn gave Aaron their own show of comfort. He felt honored that they wanted to be there for him and he didn’t want to break, not yet, not till he had the full truth of what happened. He needed to confirm for himself that Spencer was actually gone. Aaron was more than grateful that the team, his friends were going to be there for him. He wasn’t sure if he would last if he had to do this all on his own.
The plane ride was made in silence. All of them were feeling raw with grief and thinking about how Spencer should be with them.
After landing and making their way to the crash site the team was still shrouded in silence the whole way there. Aaron obviously didn’t want to talk so everyone was giving him the space he needed. They found out more about what happened and were horrified. The plane had been ambushed. No one saw it coming. An explosion in the middle of the plane had brought it down. Unfortunately for those passengers that had been in the blast radius, there was nothing left to identify. The bomb was being analyzed but what the team had discovered wasn’t good. An engineer that had a grudge against the airline had snuck a very sophisticated bomb on board. The parts were all plastic and looked rather ordinary under the x-ray scans at the airport. They also never registered through the metal detectors. The bomb was presumed to have been assembled on the plane then planted, and set-off about an hour into the flight.
Aaron had shutdown. Many of the bodies were burned beyond recognition and it would be weeks before all the remains were identified. It was confirmed, however, that Spencer’s seat was in the blast zone and it destroyed Aaron’s whole world. Dave got him to the hotel, but the man was a walking zombie and nothing anyone said to him helped.
Slowly, almost mechanically Aaron stripped, took a shower and crawled into bed. It was then and only then that he let himself break. The pain he felt was worse than how he felt after Haley’s death. He had loved Spencer so completely and openly it was unlike any of his other relationships. Aaron knew when Dave came in the room but he didn’t acknowledge the older man and when his friend tried to talk to him, he closed off even more. Closing his eyes he hoped that Dave got the hint that he didn’t want to talk. After about an hour he fell into a fitful sleep, a part of him hoping that all of this was just a horrible nightmare.
When he woke-up in the morning the next day Aaron didn’t know how he was going to tell his children. They had already had too much tragedy in their lives and Aaron wanted to just protect them, but he couldn’t do that not with this. He dressed automatically, packed his go bag and as he was doing that his eye caught the glint of light shining off his wedding ring. Sitting heavily in a chair silent tears fell as he held his head in his hands. If it wasn’t for the children, Aaron knew that he would’ve ended his life out there on the crash site. He just didn’t know how he was going to take that next painful step. How he was going to live each day without Spencer by his side.
Dave tried to talk to him again when he came back in the room with some coffee from the café down in the lobby, but Aaron was silent. He couldn’t talk to anyone even though he knew they were hurting too. Spencer was important to them all but they hadn’t been there thorough the tough times, through the nightmares, and caring for him when his knee acted up or when his mother had bad days. They didn’t make sure he kept his inhaler close and took his asthma medicine, a holdover from being exposed to Anthrax years prior. They didn’t hold him at night when the kids were asleep and it was just the two of them. They didn’t hear his ideas, the things he wanted to do or accomplish in life. They didn’t see him with the children, curled up in Jack’s bed with Sarah on his lap and Jack cuddled next to him with Spencer reading to them. There was so much that Spencer didn’t share with them, so much of who he was that only Aaron saw it made him being gone even worse.
“Aaron, talk to me don’t shut me, shut us out,” Dave tried to plea with his friend but when he turned and looked at Dave it was with haunted, hollow eyes. They met up with the rest of the group and made their way back to the plane with heavier hearts than when they had arrived. Coming out here there had been a small sliver of hope but that hope was dashed once they made it to the crash site and saw the raw wreckage and devastation. Everyone boarded the plane and sat away from each other separate in their own grief and they tried to make sense out of what happened.
Aaron had retreated to the back of the plane and sighed heavily when Dave sat in front of him pushing a fresh cup of coffee on him.
“He’s gone, nothing you say can make this better so don’t even try,” Aaron practically hissed at his friend. The pain and anger was there and it settled deep within his heart.
“No, nothing I can ever do will make this better, but don’t retreat Aaron. You need your friends.” Aaron just laid his head against the wall of the plane and stared out the window looking more lost than Dave had ever seen him before.
Dave just shook his head and moved away, sensing that Aaron didn’t want his presence there. Nothing he said or did was going to bring Aaron out of his grief, it was too raw, too primal and Dave had a sinking feeling that he was going to do something crazy.
When they finally landed JJ, Morgan and Kate tried to approach Aaron but he brushed them off. Matt stood back and knew that nothing was going to help his Unit Chief. He had witnessed Aaron pulling away from the very people that wanted to help him.
“Aaron, I’m giving your team two weeks. If there is anything you need, please let me know.” Aaron just stared at the Section Chief and nodded once before he headed to his car. Getting himself to Jessica’s was torture. Telling his family had been even worse. Jessica broke down in his arms. She told him it wasn’t fair that he lose someone else important to him. He just closed his eyes and held her tight as she purged herself in his arms. The children, god the children flung themselves at him begging for him to be lying to them. Aaron wanted more than anything to tell them that he was. He wished it was a cruel joke but it wasn’t. His husband, their father was gone and there was nothing at all that he could do about it.
Thanks to Jessica helping him the memorial service was quickly planned. Aaron didn’t know how he got through it, but he did. He was hanging on by a thread and that was only because of his children. He had asked everyone for privacy. He didn’t want any big get-together and there was technically nothing to bury. When it was over he bundled up the kids and made his way home. Eschewing the normal rituals of most funerals he didn’t speak to anyone except Jessica or the children. He had completely distanced himself from everyone but his immediate family. The team was at a loss, none of them knew what to do or how to help their boss, their friend. The all hoped that he would eventually turn to them for help.
Aaron had made several decisions in the three days that Jessica helped him plan the service and the next day he put all of those plans into effect.
The day after the funeral Matt Cruz came to see him at Aaron’s request.
“Aaron, are you sure this is what you want?”
“Yes Matt. I can’t,” Aaron schooled his emotions, he wasn’t going to break down again. “I’m broken Matt. Spencer…” He looked away as tears gathered in his eyes yet again.
“It’s okay Aaron. Are you going to tell them?”
“I think that’s a mistake,”
“I can’t go back Matt. I can’t walk in that office. I-“ His breath hitched and he felt the edges of a panic attack coming on. Matt laid a hand on his arm and that quiet gesture soothed him and stopped him from breaking down.
“Okay, I understand.” Matt left and hoped the man was making the right decision, and not one just solely out of grief.
The Monday after their leave JJ walked into the office and noticed that Aaron’s light was off but the door was slightly open. She walked up and opened the door and as she turned on the light she was shocked by what she saw. Everything was gone. The office was empty and on the desk was Aaron’s gun, badge and credentials. There were also several letters spread out on the desk, each one marked with a team member’s name. With a shaking hand she picked hers up and read it. Slowly she sank in the chair in front of the desk and closed her eyes. She wasn’t sure quite how long she sat there when the rest of the team filtered in. They all made their way up to the office, each one picking up their letter and reading.
“Son of a bitch,” Morgan growled out as he ran out of the office. He jumped in his car and went straight to Aaron and Spencer’s house to see what the hell was going on and when he got there what he saw left him in shock. The house was empty and taped to the door was a note for him.
Somehow I know that it will be you and not Dave who comes to the house first. I know you’re going to be angry but please understand I can’t be there anymore. I can’t be the Unit Chief you need me to be. I’m broken Morgan and I know it. Spencer was everything to me, even before Haley died I knew I loved him. I can’t do this again, I need a clean break, I need to go where no one knows me and no one will take pity on me. I’m sorry if you think I’m being a coward and maybe I am but here and at the office, Spencer’s ghost is everywhere. Please don’t look for me, don’t let Garcia look for me. Give me the space I need, we need. Jack has retreated and Sarah Jane, she hasn’t said a word since I told her that her Papa is gone. I need to do this not only for me, but for them.
You’ll make a great Unit Chief. Even though we always butted heads, you were always my friend first.
I’m serious Derek, don’t try to find me I don’t think I could handle it, at least not right now.
“Oh Hotch, we would’ve been there for you.” Morgan closed his eyes and laid his hand on the door said a silent prayer that his friend and former boss was going to be okay.
Making his way back to the BAU his heart was heavy as he made his way back up to the sixth floor. He showed the note to the rest of the team and they were silent for a long time.
“He doesn’t want us?” Penelope finally broke the silence as she looked over at Morgan, the heartbreak written all over her face.
“Mama, he’s lost more than anyone should have to endure. He doesn’t want to have to come here and be reminded of that loss every day. And, please do as he asks, don’t try to find him, at least not yet. We’ll give him some time, then maybe we’ll try to find him. Okay?”
“Okay,” Garcia looked like she wanted to cry again but she held it together. The team needed each other more now than ever.
Aaron closed his eyes as he sat in the car gathering his courage. It had been three months since the plane crash and Aaron was trying to move on as best he could. He knew leaving like he did was as bad as what Gideon did, but he couldn’t think about that, all that he could think about was his children and what was best for them. Leaving the Bureau was the right thing to do because Jack and Sarah needed him now more than ever. Leaving and starting over he hoped that was also the right thing to do.
Sighing he exited the car while he grabbed his briefcase and headed towards the school that he would be teaching at. As he entered the small school he headed to the Principals office. He already had a letter of recommendation from the school board, this meeting was more a formality than anything. Aaron had always liked teaching and this was a good opportunity. He could be there for his children every night and do something he liked. It wasn’t chasing after serial killers, but that part of his life was dead. It only truly mattered when Spencer was there by his side. Spencer, Aaron took a deep breath and let the pain wash over him till he got control over his emotions. When he was settled he walked into the waiting area for the Principal as ready as he was ever going to be.
“Michael Reed?” The Principal came out of his office to greet Aaron by the name that he had spent the last three weeks in court to get changed. He also had the Judge seal all the records citing possible danger to him and his children based off his former profession. The Judge readily agreed. Aaron Michael Reid-Hotchner became Michael Sean Reed, he wanted a clean break from his old life, to disappear and not be found. He hoped that the team respected his wishes to not look for him. He didn’t think he could face them, to see them and his husband not be there would be too much.
“Yes, Principal Marquez thank you for meeting with me.” Aaron stood and shook hands with the head of the school. He was lead back to the office where they would have some semblance of privacy.
“Mr. Reed, I see here that you have included a name change affidavit and that these records are sealed with the court.” Principal Marquez was reading over the file in his hands.
“It was a necessary procedure. I broke from the Bureau and needed a fresh start. I wanted a way to protect myself and my children. I hope that isn’t going to be a problem?”
“No, not at all. And I will make sure these records stay confidential.” The Principal put the affidavit in a small safe that sat next to the filing cabinet. Aaron breathed a sigh of relief when Marquez closed and locked the door sealing the affidavit inside.
“Now, it says here that you are still a practicing Lawyer and that you have additional degrees in Psychology, Sociology and Abnormal Behavioral Studies.”
“Yes, I was already a Lawyer when I joined the bureau but added the other degrees as I worked my way up to the BAU.”
“You have an impressive record Mr. Reed, why do you want to leave all that to come to this small town to teach?” The Principal clasped his hands and leaned forward on his desk and looked over at Aaron with a confused look on his face.
“The truth is I ah,” Aaron took a deep breath and played with the ring he still wore on his left hand. He knew in his heart he was never taking that ring off. Spencer had been it for him and the pain was still so fresh. “I lost someone. We worked together as well as having a personal relationship. When they died, I-“
“It’s okay Mr. Reed, you don’t have to say anymore. And just so you know we are a progressive, tolerant school. I don’t know what the school board told you about us but we are an experimental school. We take in the kids who have not found acceptance at other schools in the area. Some of these kids live up to an hour away but we strive to provide a warm safe environment for them. Whether it be gay, trans-gender, genderfluid, straight but bullied for some other reason we take them all. A few of our teachers are gay and in the five years that we’ve been operating we have had a 96 percent success rate in graduating and moving these kids on to higher-education, many with a greatly improved self-esteem.”
“Yes the board did tell me about that. It is one of the reasons when they gave me my choice of one of three positions they had available I decided to come here. I was also impressed by the overall curriculum. You have implemented a much higher standard than most schools. How do you get around the state mandatory regulations?”
“Oh we still work within those regulations but we believe that to make better people we have to teach above what the state demands. We are very careful to still take care of the standardized testing but we are not slaves to it like most schools. We work on the model of what most tuition based schools expect of their students and we have been thriving. I hope you do like it here Mr. Reed, your level of education is exactly the type of person we are looking for.”
Aaron smiled as he stood, sensing the meeting was coming to an end.
“Thank you Principal Marquez for meeting with me today. When would you like me to start?”
“Monday morning would be soon enough and welcome to our school.” The principal smiled as he shook Aaron’s hand. They said their goodbyes and Aaron left. He wanted to delve into the lesson plans that the previous Psychology teacher had outlined before her car accident. It saddened him that an obviously passionate teacher lost her life in such horrible circumstances he only hoped that he could inspire the kids much like she had.
He drove home and just sat in his driveway staring up at his house for the longest time. The small three bedroom home was perfect for the three of them. The Georgetown house sold quickly when he put it on the market and that sale let him buy something else right away. Packing up had been painful, especially Spencer’s books. Aaron didn’t have the heart to get rid of them, he had spent a weekend building some new shelves and outlined the den that he made into an office with them and put all of the books there within easy reach. Some he would never be able to read, but it didn’t matter, they were Spencer’s and they were precious. He kept one book on his desk though, The Diary of John Smith, sat on the edge within his grasp. It had been gifted to Spencer by a woman that had loved him, then Spencer had turned around and gave it to him when they had married. It would always have a special place in his heart.
Aaron looked up at the house as he felt the silent tears slide down his face. He didn’t think the pain and loneliness would ever fade the best that he hoped for was to be able to cope.
Aaron was settling in nicely in his role as a high school Psychology teacher. He often looked around at his students and thought of how Spencer would have been ecstatic that a high school like this existed. It didn’t matter that this was a small town in the far north of Virginia, it was still a step in the right direction. There was one student, Andrew Phelps, who reminded him so much of Spencer that it almost hurt. He was only thirteen and already doing senior coursework at the school. He had been bullied so badly at his old school that his parents made the brave decision to leave their city and sought out a place where Andrew would thrive. The boy was brilliant and in the three months since his transfer he thrived at Moscone-Milk High.
The bell rang and Aaron had asked Andrew to stay behind a moment.
“Andrew, your work far exceeds even the standards of this school. Have you and your parents thought of my proposal?”
“That I take some community college classes? Yeah. They’re worried about bullies though, and frankly so am I. I feel safe here Mr. Reed I don’t know-“
Aaron smiled softly and Andrew was taken aback. The students enjoyed his classes but he always had such a stern look on his face they often wondered what life had thrown at him to foster that look. His demeanor often belied that of his stoicism and he fostered a positive atmosphere, but they all saw a deep sadness that most of the students were afraid to ask about it.
“Andrew, I’ve spoken with the Dean of Students at Lord Fairfax Community College and many of the classes that you want to take are available online. You could take at least one a semester, then when you feel more comfortable take an on campus class later.”
Andrew frowned a moment before he looked up at Aaron, “Why are you helping me like this Mr. Reed?”
Aaron took a moment to settle himself then pulled out his wallet. He pulled out a picture of him and Spencer, a candid shot that Garcia had taken years before but it was one of his favorites.
“Because of him,” he smiled softly as he ran a thumb across Spencer’s picture and took a deep breath. “He made me understand kids like you Andrew. There were times he pissed me off in defense of bullied kids, but more often he made me stop and think. You are a lot like him.”
“He was important to you?” Andrew regretted the question as soon as he asked it. He could see the hurt in his teacher’s eyes and it made him uncomfortable. “I’m sorry Mr. Reed, you don’t have to tell me.” His cheeks pinked with embarrassment.
“It’s okay Andrew. Yes, he was important to me. He was my husband and we worked together many years. I um, I recently lost him.” Aaron closed his eyes to help school his emotions. Taking a deep breath he put the picture back in his wallet and placed it carefully in his briefcase.
“I am so sorry I sometimes just blurt things out and I don’t mean them. Then I ramble and say stupid things or spout useless facts that no one really cares about but I can’t help it I just get so excited. Like did you hear about the new species of human that was found in South Africa in the last couple of years? The fact that the scientific community kept it quiet for two years to make sure is really something and I hope to study up on it because it’s just so fascinating.”
Aaron smiled to himself again just like Spence he thought.
“Crap I did it again,” Andrew sighed and looked so defeated in that moment that Aaron’s heart broke a little for him.
“Andrew, it’s okay. Don’t let anyone silence you. You will eventually find what’s right for you and you will find friends. Spencer did and he cherished them and kept them close to his heart.”
“Thank you Mr. Reed. No one has ever taken the time with me like you have. I’ll talk to my Mom and Dad tonight and see what they say. If they want to talk to you about this can they call you?” Aaron took out the small notebook that he habitually carried with him, another holdover from his days at the bureau, and wrote down his home phone number and handed it to the teen.
“Your parents can call me anytime with whatever questions they may have. You better get going or you are going to miss your bus.” Aaron stood and grabbed the stack of papers he was going to have to work on grading and shoved them in his briefcase.
“Alright, thank you again Mr. Reed.” Andrew took the piece of paper and shot Aaron a wide smile before he ran out to catch his bus.
Aaron watched the boy leave and was glad he was coming out of his shell. Andrew started to interact more with the students around him and Aaron hoped that he would find friends. A support group for these kids was so important and the school fostered the ideas of close friendships and stopped any bullying issues before they got out of hand. Aaron had a soft smile on his face knowing that he had a small part in that.
“Well Mr. Reed, I don’t think I have ever seen you smile like that.” Thomas Yeats, the History teacher had been trying to strike up a friendship with the new Psychology teacher. He liked the look of Michael Reed and a part of him wanted to help ease the obvious sadness that permeated the stoic man’s demeanor.
“Thomas, come on in.” Aaron had been packing-up to leave but he would make time for his colleague. He had been keeping so much to himself he knew he had retreated. He was still having trouble connecting to anyone and anything outside of his children. “And please I’ve told you before call me Michael,” he almost said Hotch but caught himself at the last minute.
“Thank you. I wanted to see if you’d like to join us for a drink? There’s a few of us that get together once or twice-a-week and have a beer or two, and try to talk about anything other than these little terrors.” Thomas smiled at Aaron hoping he’d say yes.
“I’m sorry Thomas, but I have to get home. The kids are still having a hard time and I want to be there for them as much as possible. I actually have an appointment with Sarah’s therapist in about,” he looked down at his watch and saw he was running late. “Damn, I have to go; I should have been there five minutes ago. Raincheck?” Aaron quirked up a brow at Thomas.
“Sure, we usually go a couple of times a week.” Thomas couldn’t quite hide the disappointment off his face but he knew that Michael’s children always came first.
“I’m sorry, I really have to go but maybe tomorrow?” Aaron grabbed his briefcase and coat as he waited for Thomas’s response.
“Sure, sounds good. I hope everything goes well.”
Aaron just smiled as he nodded then ran out the door. He called Dr. Trainor to let her know that he was running late. Luckily the Doctor understood and said that she would wait for Aaron to arrive.
Dr. Samantha Trainor was a lucky find for Aaron. She specialized in helping children that have had multiple traumas in their life. When she took on Sarah Jane Reed she knew it wasn’t going to be easy. The young girl had shut-off completely and only interacted with her brother. They did make progress though in Sarah using sign language to express some of her wants and needs. Dr. Trainor was going over her notes on Sarah Jane when there was a knock on her door. She quickly got up from behind her desk and smiled to see that is was Michael Reed.
“Mr. Reed, thank you for coming,” She shook his hand and led him to the two chairs off to the side of the room. She did not like to have these kinds of meetings with parents sitting behind a desk. She liked the more personal one-on-one touch. It helped not only the children to trust her, but the parents or guardians she worked with as well.
“You said you wanted to talk about Sarah’s progress?”
“Yes Mr. Reed. Sarah, as you know, is a very highly intelligent girl. She’s also emotionally cut off from her feelings about losing her father.”
“Yes, I haven’t been able to get her to open up at all. I know I’m probably not helping-“
“Mr. Reed don’t ever feel guilty about what it is you are going through. Sarah Jane understands more than you think. She’s just having a hard time losing someone she was quite close to. I’ve been teaching her sign and I want to set-up some appointments with you to teach you the signs as well. I know she can hear and speak perfectly well but we don’t want to push her. However, we also want to make sure that her needs are being met. She has surprisingly taken very well to it.”
“I’ve seen her do some of it at home. Of course, I’ll do whatever it takes to get her through this.”
Dr. Trainor was silent for several long moments before she said what had been on her mind for several weeks.
“Mr. Reed, I know you want to do everything right for your children, but how are you dealing with this loss?”
Aaron’s face darkened. He wasn’t going to talk about himself and what he was going through with this woman. He didn’t with Haley’s death, but then again he had Spencer to help him thorough that.
“Dr. Trainor I’m dealing with it,” Aaron said as his expression turned hard as he stared at her.
“Mr. Reed, I don’t think you are and your pain, grief and sadness are bleeding off onto your children. The longer you go on without dealing with it, the longer it will take Sarah Jane to deal with it. I can recommend a few grief counselor’s that can help.”
“I appreciate the concern Dr. Trainor but I’ll be fine.”
The Dr. knew enough not to push at this point she knew that Michael wasn’t fine but she was going to bide her time. She’d know when it would be time to push him and hopefully get him into counseling as well.
“Okay Mr. Reed, but I think it would be good for you to talk to someone.” She looked over at him and sighed when she saw the hard look come over his face. “Anyway, how about on Tuesday’s after Sarah’s sessions? That way she can be here while I work with you on the sign.”
“That sounds fine. I’ll see you next Tuesday.” Aaron grabbed his coat and left the Dr.’s office more than ready to go home.
When he got there he paid the babysitter, put his things away and got started on dinner. While he let the sauce simmer for the spaghetti he made a quick salad and got the garlic bread ready to put in the oven when the pasta was half-done. He went out to the dining table and set it, then went back in and finished dinner. When everything was ready he called for Jack and Sara Jane.
Jack stopped at the table and frowned, “Dad.”
“Yes Jack?” Aaron started to fill their bowls with salad as Jack slowly slipped into his chair.
“You,” Jack took a deep breath as he looked at the table, “You set four plates again Dad.”
Aaron looked down at the table and swallowed. Closing his eyes he settled his emotions as he picked-up the plate and went back in the kitchen to put it away. Standing over the sink Aaron gripped it tight fighting back the tears that wanted to spill. He knew he was taking too long when Jack came in and wrapped his arms around his waist.
“It’ll be okay Dad,” Jack said as Aaron stooped down and grabbed his son in a hard hug. After a couple of minutes he stood back up, wiped a hand down his face and went back out to the dining room.
“Come on, let’s eat,” nothing more was said about the plate and Jack wondered if his Dad would ever be okay again.
Aaron went to work every day and got lost in teaching. He learned the sign that Dr. Trainor suggested and Sarah was communicating better. Jack was thriving. He had new friends and loved his new school. They all still missed Spencer but slowly life was moving on.
It was the little moments, like in the early morning when Aaron was slowly waking from a dream he would reach out for Spencer. When no one was there he woke-up and the ache of knowing his husband was gone was there. Or the times he would set four places at the table and not three. The scientific journals that would flood his e-mail because he forgot to cancel their subscriptions. The times he sat in his study and looked over the pictures of their lives. There was more, so may little things every day and Spencer wasn’t there. Sometimes the grief was just a dull ache, sometimes it was overwhelming and Aaron would close himself up in his bedroom and let it over take him. He knew he couldn’t go on like this that something had to give and he had to try to push forward and move on.
It happened one day when Thomas had yet again asked him out for a drink. Aaron looked up at his colleague and finally decided to take him up on his offer. That night he let himself be in the company of a new friend and for the first time in months he actually smiled.
“So, Michael, it’s been almost six months since you’ve started teaching at our little experimental school, what do you think of it?”
“I think it’s actually a pretty good thing. I wish more schools would take this approach. There were too many times that I saw what bullying could do to someone.”
“Yeah, you never talk about what you used to do.” Thomas sat forward and smiled.
“I ah, I worked in law enforcement. First I was a lawyer, then I was in SWAT for a couple of years then moved up into the FBI.” Aaron wasn’t sure why he told Thomas all of this but it felt good to tell someone.
“Wow, I bet you have some great stories.” Thomas kept that smile on his face as Aaron watched him, not quite knowing why that smile intrigued him.
“It was a difficult job but when my team,” Aaron frowned and thought of the people he had left behind. He knew he had hurt them but he just couldn’t face every day with them around and Spencer not be there as well. He cleared his throat of the emotion that welled up in him before he continued. “Any way, when we had the chance to save the victim, it was worth it.”
Thomas sensed there was more but he didn’t push it. He knew that Michael had suffered a deep personal loss and that he was trying to move on from it.
“Michael, if you ever need to talk I’m a good listener.” He reached out and gently touched the back of Michael’s hand.
Aaron took a long drink of his ale before he looked back up into a face full of compassion and understanding but no pity. He couldn’t take it if anyone looked at him with pity.
“Thank you Tom, I do appreciate it.” Aaron smiled as he took a deep breath trying to settle himself. He wasn’t quite sure what he was getting himself into when it came to Thomas Yeats.
“So tell me what it is that you like to do when you aren’t teaching.”
“We like camping and I’ve been known to do triathlons. Biking and running are my favorite parts and I have more time now so I’ve taken the kids on some of the biking trails. It’s been good for them.”
“Well I’m a big outdoors-man myself. Hiking, biking, camping, and fishing I love it all and this area is perfect for a lot of that. Of course in winter we get a lot of snow but I’ve been known to do some winter camping here and there if the weather stays consistent.” Thomas took a sip of his beer and gave Aaron a smile.
“Then maybe we should go on a hike one of these days. I can have the babysitter watch the kids, leave early and come back for lunch.” Aaron bit back what else he was going to say because he couldn’t believe that he was making a possible date with this other man.
“Aaron, look,” Thomas pushed his glass around the table a bit before he looked back up, “I like you but I also understand that you had something happen to you, that you lost someone. I’m not going to push for anything other than being a friend, okay?”
The relief on Aaron’s face didn’t upset Thomas, he knew what it was like to try to move on from personal tragedy. He did want to get to know Aaron on a personal level to see if there was a possibility for more but he didn’t want to push the man before he was ready.
“Thank you Tom, I,” Aaron closed his eyes and sighed before he looked again at Thomas, “I could use a friend.” It was difficult for Aaron to admit but he knew he needed to make connections again. He wasn’t ready to go back to DC yet. The only person he told where he was had been Jessica. He didn’t want to sever her connection with Jack and Sarah Jane and he was more than glad that she supported his decisions even though she didn’t like it she still supported him.
“Good, and I think I like the idea of a hike. How about next weekend?” Aaron gave him a small smile and nodded his head yes. Settling back into his chair he thought that he could be comfortable with Thomas. It would be good to at least have a friend.
Aaron smiled when Thomas showed up at the house. The kids were at a friend’s house and Aaron had a nice dinner ready by the time the other man had arrived. Aaron was loathe to call him a boyfriend, he honestly didn’t know what they were. It had been almost three years since losing Spencer and even though his heart would always belong to his love, he knew a part of him had needed to move on.
Greeting Thomas at the door Aaron pulled him in and kissed him softly.
“You know when I first asked you out for drinks I thought you were just blowing me off but here we are.” Thomas fisted his hand in Aaron’s hair and deepened the kiss. The two men had dated quietly for almost six months before Aaron first kissed Thomas. When he finally did it was sweet and soft and wonderful.
“Here we are,” Aaron’s fingers ghosted over Thomas’s face as he kept him in an embrace. He didn’t know what this relationship was, but he knew he had needed something. It had been so long since anyone had touched him and that more than anything was what he was looking for. He was honest with Thomas when he told him months before that he wasn’t interested in marriage or commitment. He’d had that and Spencer had been it for him. Thomas understood but decided to take the risk to see if they even had something worth trying for. Now they had a good casual relationship which suited both men fine, even if Thomas found that he had fallen in love with Michael, he didn’t let his feeling be known. He knew where Michael stood there was nothing that could make the Psychology teacher fall for him. He would take what he could get, at least for now.
“Well, I think I need to get back in the kitchen.” Aaron broke the embrace and went back to put the finishing touches on dinner.
Later, after they were sated and sipping wine watching a movie Aaron pulled Thomas into his lap. There they spent several minutes thoroughly kissing each other, their arousal thick around them. After a few minutes they found themselves in Aaron’s bedroom where he proceeded to make the man under him come completely undone. Panting heavily Aaron collapsed next to his partner while he wrapped his arms around him.
“Michael,” Thomas was making lazy circles along Aaron’s chest and it suddenly made him think of how Spencer used to use his fingers to write scientific symbols across his chest. He closed his eyes at the well of emotions that sprang up as he thought of his lost love. The pain may have faded a little over time but it was always there sitting on the back of his heart.
“Yes?” Aaron grabbed Thomas’s hand and held it, he didn’t want any reminders of the man he lost, not during such an intimate moment with another man.
“You’ve never talked about these scars.” Thomas sat up and frowned a little as his hand was held keeping it still. He wasn’t sure why Michael wasn’t letting him touch him like he was before, but he didn’t want to cause any arguments so he let it go for now.
“It happened a long-time ago in another life.” Aaron’s expression told Thomas that he wasn’t going to get the story and a part of him wondered how much he really knew about the enigmatic Michael Reed.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to bring up a painful memory. But it seems like you keep so much closed off from me. I want to know you better Michael and I can’t if you don’t open up.”
Aaron closed his eyes and took a deep breath, “Tom, it’s not that I’m keeping secrets on purpose, but there are things I just can’t talk about. Please try to understand. Let’s just enjoy what we have and not make it complicated.”
“I care about you Michael and even though we’ve been together for two years I feel like I still don’t know you.”
“I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say. I care for you too but I was never anything other than honest with you when we started this relationship.”
“Yes, you were brutally honest about that.” Thomas didn’t know what else to say, he had hoped that Michael would open up more to him but he was obviously mistaken. “Let’s just get some sleep, we have that hike in the morning.” Thomas smiled and kissed Aaron before laying back down.
Aaron took a deep breath and wished that he could give more to Thomas than he was but he couldn’t. Spencer had been his soulmate and nothing was ever going to change that. Closing his eyes he slowly fell asleep while he held the other man close to him secretly wishing it was someone else.
The early sun was bright as it filtered into the bedroom. Aaron was waking-up a soft smile on his lips as he ran light fingers down Thomas’s back but thoughts of Spencer plagued his mind. Quietly he made his way out of bed and threw on the jeans and casual long-sleeved shirt he was going to wear on the hike Thomas had planned for them. Aaron went into the kitchen to start coffee and get a light breakfast ready for the two of them.
What he wasn’t prepared for was his whole world to be tilted on its axis.
There was a knock on Aaron’s front door. He slowly moved towards the front room as he looked out the frosted glass on the door. He frowned deeply as a tall, thin figure stood there on his porch. Quickly he went to the bedroom and opened the gun safe and grabbed the Glock 9 he kept in there. Moving back to the front room he raised the gun as visions of his husband swam through his head but he knew it couldn’t be. With a shaking hand he unlatched the door and pulled it open.
His breathing was shallow and his heart stuttered in his chest as he looked in shock at the figure that stood before him.
“This is some kind of cruel joke and I don’t appreciate it.” Aaron’s voice was hard as he looked at the man who was looking at him but not quite seeing him. He kept the gun trained on the man before him and clicked the safety off.
“Hotch,” The man smiled wide as he reached out to touch Aaron. He clearly heard the gun but decided not to mention it yet.
“Where did you hear that name?” Aaron stepped back as his voice hardened even more, he kept the gun trained on the man.
“Hotch, it’s me. It’s Spencer.” Tears were rolling down Aaron’s face as he tried to understand what the hell was going on.
“You can’t be. Spencer Reid died in a plane crash two years, seven months, eighteen days and seven hours ago. I should know I count every goddamn hour he’s been gone. Now tell me who the fuck you really are.” He kept the gun steady and put his finger on the trigger.
“Hotch, let me in, put the gun away, and I’ll explain everything.” The man was still looking slightly off to the side and not seeing Aaron.
“Not until you prove to me you are who you say you are. Tell me something that only Spencer would know.”
“After Georgia I was addicted to dilauded. You came over one day and stopped me from shooting-up. When you burst into my apartment and saw me on the couch you said you had a feeling something was wrong. You were right. The dilauded that my dealer had given me was cut with pure heroin. It could have potentially killed me. Dilauded is already a medical grade heroin so being cut with more heroin made it deadly.” This was something that neither man had ever talked to anyone about. The fact that Aaron had felt something was really wrong and he came rushing over they never discussed even with each other.
“Spencer?” Aaron’s eyes widened as he stumbled back into the room, his pulse racing as his heart shattered looking at the man he had called husband. Lowering the gun he put the safety back on and put it on the small table and stood there in pure shock.
“Michael, what’s going on? And why the hell do you have a gun?” Thomas came out of the bedroom dressed and stopped dead in his tracks.
“Aaron, what’s going on? Who’s there?” Spencer using an extended cane he walked into the house. Aaron could tell there was something wrong but he was in too much shock to register what was wrong with Spencer.
“Aaron, whose Aaron? Michael, what is going on?” Thomas saw the panicked look on Aaron’s face and the panic attack that was starting to come over him.
Spencer knew exactly what to do as he made his way over to the where Aaron was standing. He reached out and grabbed Aaron’s shoulder then ran his hand across till he cupped the back of Aaron’s neck pulling him into his arms. As soon as Spencer engulfed Aaron in a hug a flood of emotions burst forth as Aaron pulled Spencer to him even closer and kissed him almost violently. Breaking the kiss Aaron buried his face in his husband’s neck and cried.
“How? I don’t understand,” Aaron whispered between violent sobs as Spencer stroked his back trying to calm Aaron down.
“Shhh, love, it’s okay.” Spencer closed his eyes as he let himself be pulled into Aaron’s embrace. “I can’t even imagine what you’ve been through.” Spencer laid his head on Aaron’s forehead, his fingers softly stroking along his husband’s jaw. “I’ve been looking for you for a while. I took a chance that Michael Sean Reed was you Aaron.” Tears spilled from Spencer’s eyes as he let himself be held close.
“What happened? I thought you were on that plane. There was no evidence that you weren’t. This doesn’t make sense. I thought you were dead. Almost three years Spence, I thought you were dead.” Aaron once again wrapped his arms around Spencer and pulled him in close. The two men stayed like that for what seemed like an impossibly long time. It was the clearing of a throat that brought them back to reality.
Wiping his face Aaron looked up to see Thomas still there. Reluctantly he let Spencer go because he owed Thomas as much of an explanation as he could give.
“Thomas Yeats, this is my husband, Dr. Spencer Reid.” Aaron was still confused but he knew that Spencer would tell him everything eventually.
“You’re telling me that this is your supposedly dead husband?” Thomas’s voice hardened as he looked at the two men.
“Tom, I assure you I didn’t know. God, if I had known there is nothing, and I mean nothing that would have kept me from finding him. I thought he was dead, I went to the crash site myself. Nothing and no one survived it. I’m so sorry Tom I never meant to hurt you.” Aaron reached out as Thomas turned and grabbed his keys and wallet from the front table where he had dropped them the night before.
“Just tell me one thing, who the hell is Aaron?”
Aaron took a deep breath, “My name used to be Aaron Michael Hotchner. I changed it before I came here and had those records sealed. I never lied to you about my name.”
“Right, well I guess that hike is off the table. I’m just going to go.” Thomas wasn’t going to let Aaron see him break as he gathered up his briefcase and backpack. “I love you Michael. I would have been happy with whatever you wanted me to be but obviously I will never be competition for what you have here. Goodbye Michael.” Thomas swallowed hard as he left Aaron’s house. Slamming into his car he peeled away, keeping his emotions at bay. Michael Reed would not see him fall apart. Not now, not ever.
“Aaron?” Spencer asked softly, “Who was that? You can tell me the truth and I won’t stand in your wa-“ he was cut off from whatever he was going to say by lips sealing against his. Aaron pulled him towards the couch and continued the assault on his lips as the other man’s hands fisted in his hair.
“There is and never will be competition for you Spencer.” Aaron once again pulled him in close, melding their bodies together Aaron couldn’t get enough of touching Spencer. “I thought I needed to try to move on, to live again. We’ve been dating for two years but I couldn’t let him be more. You have always been everything I’ve ever wanted.” Aaron closed his eyes as he held Spencer close to him. “What the hell happened? And why did it take so long to come to me?”
“I was rushing to catch my connection in Chicago. As I was running through the terminal to make the plane someone grabbed me and jerked me into the restroom. They locked the door and I didn’t have my gun on me. It was Dr. Arthur Malcolm. Remember him? His daughter was Samantha Malcolm?”
Aaron closed his eyes and shuddered slightly thinking about the man that had so twisted his daughter from his abuse that she turned psychotic herself.
“I remember Spencer.” Aaron didn’t think he wanted to hear anymore, something terrible happened to Spencer and it broke his heart.
“I don’t remember what exactly happened. I woke-up in the hospital I didn’t know my own name. I had no credentials, no identification whatsoever. I had broken bones, fractured ribs, a skull fracture and more. They didn’t know who to call, frankly they didn’t know if I was going to make it at first. I was in therapy for months.” Spencer closed his eyes as he again turned towards Aaron but the older man knew something terrible was wrong.
“Spencer, why aren’t you looking at me?” He didn’t want confirmed what he suspected to be true.
“Aaron,” Spencer took his husbands hand in his and tried to smile, “I’m blind.”
Aaron was devastated. This was one of Spencer’s worst fears and it had come true. “Oh god Spencer,” Aaron cupped Spencer’s cheek and schooled his emotions. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I should have looked for you, I should have known something was wrong.”
“Aaron you couldn’t have known. My memories were all jumbled. I didn’t know who or where I was. From what I could piece together Dr. Malcolm had been stalking us for months. He’d had counterfeit credentials made and when he took me and hurt me he made it look like I got on that plane. He was suicidal after getting out of jail but he wanted to ruin me first. I don’t think he knew about the engineer and the investigators suspected that he was going to do something on the plane but the bomber beat him to it. I didn’t start to remember things until about ten months ago. Little things started to come back. The first thing I remembered was Jack.” Spencer smiled softly thinking about the boy that he had adopted shortly after him and Aaron had gotten married. “I’m just sorry it took me so long to remember. Then when it did all I could think about was how long you thought that I might be dead. God, Aaron I can’t imagine,” Spencer stopped talking when Aaron pressed his lips against his. Spencer melted against the man he loved as his arms came around Aaron, fingers fisting in the back of his shirt as he pulled him closer.
“It’s been a living nightmare Spencer. I’ve tried to move on but all I could think about was you. Sarah Jane hasn’t said a word since the day I had to tell her you were gone. Jack, “Aaron choked on his son’s name, “Jack was angry for a long-time. I have no idea how they are going to take this.” Aaron gently wiped the silent tears that fell from Spencer’s eyes, “Spencer,” Aaron curled his fingers around his hips and pulled him even closer to him and held him tightly against himself. “I need you Spencer. I need to feel you, to make myself believe that this isn’t some cruel dream.”
“God yes. Please Aaron, touch me let me feel you too. When I started to remember you all I’ve wanted was your hands on me.” Aaron stood and led Spencer to the bedroom. There was a desperate air surrounding them as they both hastily threw off their clothes and when Aaron wrapped his arms around him Spencer all but melted into that body. Aaron’s hands gently roamed Spencer’s body, one that he had once known so well. He closed his eyes as he let himself feel Spencer. As he laid Spencer down on the bed he took his time kissing and caressing every inch of the man he loved. When he slowly made his way up Spencer’s body, relearning everything there was to learn about him Aaron was overwhelmed with emotion. Here was the man he loved more than anything in the world. The man he had thought dead and it was almost too much. When he slid inside and Spencer’s legs wrapped around his waist it was almost like the first time they were together. Sitting-up slightly he drank in the sight of his Spencer as he sank in deeper, his movements becoming frantic as his husband met him thrust for thrust. Silent tears rolled down his face as emotion swamped him and when he came it was to a cry of Spencer’s name on his lips. When his hand slipped between them and he took Spencer’s erection it didn’t take much for the man beneath him to find his own release. Panting slightly Aaron bent over and kissed Spencer, his lips a sensual slide of tongue as he slowly deepened the kiss. All too soon he was breaking away.
“I never thought I’d ever feel this with you again. I never thought I’d ever make love to you again, or kiss you or touch you. You were lost to me forever. I love you Spencer Reid, I’ve never stopped loving you.” He kissed Spencer again and there was a hint of desperation to it this time. After a couple of minutes he slowly and reluctantly got up to dispose of the condom and get a washcloth to clean them up. When he got back in bed Aaron pulled Spencer to him and buried his hand in the long curly hair.
“I love you Aaron, I Iove you so much it hurts.” Spencer buried his head in Aaron’s shoulder and held him as close as he could. “All I’ve thought about for ten months was you.”
“How did you find me?” Aaron was more than curious as Spencer used a finger to trace the pi symbol across Aaron’s chest. Aaron didn’t stop him it was so achingly familiar that he let Spencer do whatever it was he wanted.
“Who do you think?” Spencer smirked as he sat up in the bed looking, but not looking at Aaron. This was something he was going to have to get used to, but it didn’t matter Spencer was there, in his bed, in his arms, the rest would eventually work itself out.
Aaron smiled as he shook his head, “Garcia?”
“Yes. I went to the house with my occupational therapist. She didn’t want me going alone. When it was a different family there I was so confused. I then had her take me to the bureau and you should have heard JJ scream. And like with you I had about seven guns pointed at me. I heard them all. I think I made Garcia faint, I’m still not sure on that one, no one wanted to tell me.” Spencer smiled and Aaron’s breath caught in his throat as he watched the beautiful smile widen.
“I should have been there,” Aaron whispered as he reached out to Spencer. “I should have gone with you like you wanted. I am so sorry Spence-“
“Shh, none of that now. I’d gone to my mother’s by myself for years, you know that. I understood your reasons for staying Aaron.”
“But,” Aaron gently touched Spencer’s eyes and felt tears prick the corners of his own. “This wouldn’t have happened.”
“I’ve had time to get used to it. I can’t read as fast as I used to, but I’ve made do.” Spencer cupped Aaron’s cheek as he sat there looking towards his husband. “I’ve never blamed you Aaron, not once. Don’t blame yourself. This was someone bent on revenge, that is who is to blame.” Spencer leaned down and gently kissed Aaron.
Aaron pulled Spencer down on top of him and wrapped his arms and legs around him, holding him close glutting himself on the feel of his love. He never thought he’d ever have this again and it was overwhelming him.
“Aaron,” Spencer sighed as he wrapped himself around the man under him. “I don’t want to ever leave you again.” Spencer laid his head on Aaron’s chest, the emotions in both men overpowering.
Aaron closed his eyes and held Spencer tight against him not wanting to let him go.
“God Spencer, I never want you to leave.” Aaron carded his hands through Spencer’s hair as they lay there together for a long time not saying anything. Aaron didn’t think he could speak as he kept his arms around Spencer.
It wasn’t until several hours later that they realized neither of them had moved and they had actually fallen asleep. Opening his eyes Aaron just stared at Spencer as he ghosted his fingers over Spencer’s face. When the younger man opened his eyes and looked back at Aaron it hurt a bit to know that Spencer wasn’t actually seeing him. But if that was the price he had to pay to have his husband back in his arms he would gladly pay it.
“I thought it was a dream. I thought you were a dream,” Aaron said as he carded his fingers in Spencer’s hair.
“No, I’m right here Aaron and I’m not a dream.” Spencer touched Aaron’s face with the tips of his fingers slowly learning how to ‘see’ Aaron all over again. “Still gorgeous Aaron,” Spencer said as his fingers moved to touch Aaron’s lips. Slowly he leaned down and kissed his husband.
“Spence,” Aaron smiled as his hand curled around Spencer’s neck while his other hand rested against his hip, holding him there returning the kiss. “We need to talk about how we are telling the kids.”
“Do you want me to leave? That way you can talk to them first?”
“No, no I don’t want you to leave. I don’t want to lose you ever again Spencer.” Aaron frowned as he held his husbands face in his hands.
“I don’t want to leave you either Aaron. We’ll get through this together.”
“Together.” To Aaron that single word was the most beautiful word in the world.
Spencer agreed to stay in the den for a short time while Aaron worked out how he was going to tell Jack and Sarah Jane that their father was still alive. The whole time that Aaron spent driving to the sitter’s house and back he was ruminating on what he wanted to say. When they got inside he told the kids he needed to talk to them. He sat them down on the couch and pulled a chair closer so he was sitting in front of them.
“Hey guys I need you two to listen to me for a few minutes okay?”
“Okay Dad,” Jack frowned as he watched his father and thought back over the last few days to try to remember if he had done anything wrong.
Sarah signed as worry clouded her face.
“No, no baby you didn’t do anything wrong, neither of you did. But, what I’m going to tell you may be difficult for you to understand. I’m still having trouble too but,” Aaron smiled
as thought of the man in the other room, “This is a good thing.” Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly he worked to get his emotions under control.
“Jack, Sarah, Spencer is alive,” he waited a moment for that to sink in before he continued.
Sarah Jane signed fast as furious as her eyes widened and confusion was written all over her face.
“Honey, slow down, yes your Papa is alive. No I didn’t know until a few hours ago-“
“Dad, what….I don’t understand.” Jack looked on the verge of tears.
“It’s complicated but I’ll explain okay?” He waited till the children sat back on the couch and looked at him expectantly. “When your Papa went to go see your Grandmother he had a connecting flight. When he was in Chicago a very bad man from our past hurt him. He didn’t remember who he was, it sometimes happens with people who suffer trauma.”
“Like when my friend Lena was in the car accident with her Mom and she didn’t remember what happened?” Jack asked as he waited for his Father to finish.
“A lot like that but more. It took him a long time to remember us and he may still have some problems, okay?”
Sarah had tears in her eyes thinking that Spencer’s memory problems might be permanent.
“Honey, we have to wait and see, okay? There is something else you need to know, in the attack Spencer was hurt badly, he’s blind and he will need all of our love and support, okay?”
Sarah Jane looked devastated as she thought about her bright wonderful Papa who couldn’t ever see her again.
“No honey, he can’t so this means you are going to have to start using your words now. I know it’s hard but he’s going to need to hear your voice, okay?’ Aaron stroked a hand down Sarah’s hair as she slid off the couch and wrapped her arms around Aaron. Holding her against him Sarah buried her face in his neck and shuddered as her emotions took over.
“I’ll try,” She whispered against Aaron’s neck as she held on tighter.
“That’s all I ask sweetheart.” Aaron held her for a few minutes then let her go, “He’s in the den shall we go see him?”
“Yes,” Jack jumped off the couch and practically ran ahead of Sarah and Aaron. “Papa,” Jack yelled as he burst into the room and saw him sitting there running his hands across the pages of a book.
Spencer’s head shot up at the sound of Jack’s voice, he turned in his chair in the direction he had heard Jack come in and opened his arms wide to let the young boy fall into them.
“Papa,” Jack cried as he crawled into his lap and flung his arms around Spencer’s neck. “I missed you Papa, I missed you so much.”
Spencer closed his eyes and wrapped his arms around the young boy and pulled him in close, “Jack.” He choked back a sob as he held him in his arms.
“Don’t ever leave us again Papa,” Jack sobbed out as his emotions got the better of him. Holding on tight Spencer let Jack purge himself. When he felt Jack slow down he pulled him forward and cupped his face, slowly wiping the tears away.
“I won’t ever leave you again Jack.” Spencer smiled as his fingers danced across Jack’s face, recommitting what he looked like to memory.
“Papa,” Sarah Jane’s voice was soft and full of sadness and happiness all mixed together. Aaron was overcome hearing Sarah talking for the first time in almost three years that he put a hand over his mouth as he tried to calm the storm of emotions that welled up.
“Come here baby.” Spencer put Jack down so the little girl could be caught-up in his arms and held tight. Sarah held onto Spencer trying not to cry.
“I missed you so much Papa.”
“I missed you too Sarah. I missed all of you.” Spencer couldn’t help the tears that fell as he held his little girl in his arms once more. After a few minutes Sarah sat back on his lap and put her hands on his face.
“Papa, Daddy said you can’t see,” She practically whispered as she hung her head.
Spencer ran his hands up her arms and lightly curled his fingers around her shoulders and smiled softly.
“Yes Sarah sweetie, I am blind, but it doesn’t stop me from reading and doing many of the things I’ve done before. We just have to do it differently.” He took her face in his hands and ran his thumbs along her cheeks, nose and jaw trying to ‘see’ her as well.
Aaron left the den for a few minutes to get himself under control. He also took the time to order dinner for them.
“I ordered some pizza’s for us,” Aaron’s heart was full watching his family reconnect. He didn’t know how this day could get any better.
Jack and Sarah ran out of the room to get ready for dinner. Aaron walked around the desk and pulled Spencer up and into his arms.
“Aaron.” Spencer buried his face in Aaron’s neck as he let everything he was feeling out as he held his husband close.
“Shhh, love I’m here and we’ll get through this, together as a family.” Aaron kissed Spencer’s forehead before releasing him and guiding him back to the living room. The food arrived shortly and the family spent time reconnecting as they ate. The kids were telling Spencer all about their schools while Aaron just smiled and stayed silent through the whole evening.
Later after the kids fell asleep Spencer and Aaron crawled into bed and wrapped themselves around each other too emotional to do anything else.
Aaron slowly awoke to Spencer stroking Aaron’s face, his eyes closed and his face wet with tears.
“Don’t cry Spencer.” Aaron cupped his cheek and sighed.
“I’m just so happy Aaron. It wasn’t easy without you. It took so long for me to remember, which I’m sure you can understand how hard that was for me. When I did all I wanted to do was find you but my therapists made me wait. They wouldn’t release me before they thought I was ready.”
“We’re here now and all we can do is move forward.”
“I can’t go back to the FBI. I mean I could. Cruz said he would make concessions so I could work consults, custodials, and other in-house paperwork, but I can never go back in the field. If I can’t be in the field I don’t know if I want to go back.” Spencer took a deep breath as he sat-up. “I just don’t know what I want to do.”
Aaron sat-up in the bed next to Spencer and thought about it for a moment.
“You know the school I’m teaching at has an opening for an AP Science teacher.”
“You mean you don’t want to go back either?”
“As much as I miss it, I’ve created a life here that I like Spencer. The kids love their schools and I don’t want to take them from their friends once again. However,” Aaron took Spencer’s hand in his and held it, “We’ll do whatever you want. If you want to try to go back to DC we will. It hasn’t been easy without you Spencer and I feel like I’ve been given a gift, a second chance.”
Spencer thought about it for a while as Aaron patiently waited to hear what he might want to do.
“What about Thomas?” Spencer bit his lip as he bowed his head. He wasn’t sure if he truly wanted an answer to that question.
“Spencer,” Aaron turned his body slightly so he could reach over and cup Spencer’s chin with his hand and raise his head back up. “I meant every word last night. No one could ever take your place.” Aaron leaned in and kissed his husband letting his lips slide across Spencer’s closing his eyes as he felt warm lips press into his. After a moment Spencer pulled back and smiled.
“Then we’ll stay.” Spencer smiled softly as he rubbed his thumb on the back of Aaron’s hand.
“Are you sure? I don’t want you to make any rash decisions because of me Spencer.” Aaron looked down at their combined hands knowing that he would follow wherever Spencer wanted to go.
“Aaron, I’ve been on my own for too long I want to be wherever you are, I want my family again. If that means we stay here and make a life for ourselves together, then we stay here. I love you Aaron and nothing will ever change that.”
The next few weeks were hectic. Aaron petitioned the courts to have his named changed back, they also needed to have paperwork started showing that Dr. Spencer Reid-Hotchner was indeed alive. Once all of that was taken care of, Spencer was able to get a meeting with the school board to talk to them about the opening for a science teacher. Spencer, like Aaron, was technically over-credentialed but the school board saw it as a boon to have someone of his caliber teaching in one of their schools. They didn’t care that he was blind, they worked out a budget to have one of the classrooms retro-fitted for equipment that Spencer could work with for his lectures.
The family was healing from the pain of losing then getting Spencer back. There were days it wasn’t easy. The children had to adjust to the fact that their parent was blind. Aaron would sometimes stand in front of the bookshelves and try not to let it get to him. The feelings of guilt would creep up on him until he felt those arms he knew so well wrap around him and assure him that there was nothing to feel guilty about. It would be a while before Aaron started to truly believe it.
Spencer realized that he loved teaching. Over the years at the BAU he had learned to get over his fears at public speaking, but it was the kids that really brought him out of his shell more. These were kids he could fully relate to. He understood what they were going through and many of them had similar struggles to his own early childhood. The more time Spencer spent at the school the more he fell in love with teaching.
Thomas had decided to stay. Part of him had wanted to leave, to get away from the hurt and pain of seeing Aaron with the man he had thought he lost. He knew, though, that it was a coward’s way out and he didn’t want to be that coward. He even approached Spencer and worked on getting to know him. It wasn’t long before he realized what it was that Aaron saw in the awkward genius. His warm compassionate heart, his intelligence, and the quiet grace that surrounded the younger man were all qualities that Thomas himself could appreciate. Watching the two of them together was a revelation. The love they had for each other knew no bounds and Thomas knew that he could never compete for Aaron’s affection. It didn’t mean that it was easy, it wasn’t. He had fallen in love with Michael and would have been happy with whatever the man had given him. But, he had to admit that Aaron was a different person. Aaron with Spencer was a whole other person altogether. He smiled more, laughed, and was more open and willing to share. This Aaron wasn’t for Thomas and it had hurt like hell to realize it. But, he knew that as much as it hurt he didn’t want to lose the friendship. It took courage on his part to set aside his pain to reach out and accept Spencer into his life as a friend. And to his credit Spencer knew what it took for Thomas to reach out like he had. The beginning was rocky but over time their mutual respect for each other won out and they became friends.
Aaron watched his husband and former lover at dinner one night as they debated over the battle strategies employed by the allies when they stormed the beaches at Normandy. Aaron sat back and just smiled. For the first time in over three years Aaron was more than happy. He was content and the depression and sadness he had lived with for so long lifted more and more every day. He still marveled at the miracle that was given to him. Spencer, alive and them back together. That was worth any struggles they had to go though, any adjustments they had to make in their lives. Spencer there in the home he had built for him and their children, in his arms every night. Waking up and seeing that beautiful face every morning was worth it. There were some days when Aaron woke from a dream and almost didn’t believe that Spencer was there. He would reach out and wrap himself around his husband and let himself cry. The emotions sometimes too much to bear. Spencer was patient with him because he could only guess at how much pain it had caused Aaron to think that he was dead. He knew there was a possibility that Aaron would never get over that and that was okay, as long as they were together they could work on it and Aaron was grateful for his husband’s patience with him in working through and reconciling his emotions.
The children had adjusted quickly, though Sarah Jane sometimes panicked when she couldn’t see where Spencer was. She became prone to panic attacks if she didn’t know where he was. They kept her in therapy to help her work through her issues and every day was a little better.
Jack was the one who adjusted the quickest. He was just so happy to have his Papa back that he worked through his own emotional state fairly quickly. It was as if the previous three years had never happened for him. Spencer easlily slid back into their lives and his heart that Jack was going to make the most of every day with him. The family healed, together.
Aaron and Spencer were at a nice restaurant, Thomas had agreed to babysit for them. The conversation was lively and Aaron was at his most content. He patted the pocket he had the small box in and smiled. He waited through all of dinner and signaled the waiter that they were ready for coffee and dessert. When the decadent flourless chocolate cake was put before them Aaron was ready. Getting up he moved towards Spencer’s chair. Putting a hand on Spencer’s thigh he got down on one knee, he grabbed Spencer’s hand to let him know where he was.
“Aaron, what are you doing?” Spencer scrunched up his face as he looked towards his love.
“Spencer, the last three years I was living in a nightmare. I was barely hanging on and the only thing that kept me going was our children. When you walked back into our lives seven months ago it was like the cloud I was living under was lifted. I know it hasn’t been easy and we’ve had our struggles but I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love you Spencer, I’ve never stopped loving you.” Aaron took the box, opened it up and took out the ring he had inside. Taking Spencer’s hand he pulled the old ring off and slipped the new one on, “Dr. Spencer Reid-Hotchner, will you marry me again? Will you once again say those vows and promise me forever?”
Spencer was taken aback as he lifted a shaking hand to cup Aaron’s cheek. There was only one answer to that question and he didn’t hesitate to answer.
“Yes, yes Aaron I will marry you again.” Aaron lifted up and pulled Spencer down to him and kissed him. The patrons around them exploded with clapping and cheers. There were a few that sneered at them in hatred and disgust but Aaron ignored them. The waiter brought around a bottle of champagne to celebrate.
“I love you so much,” Aaron said as he rested his forehead against Spencer’s trying to get his emotions under control.
Spencer took a shaky breath, “I love you too Aaron. I love you so much.” Spencer smiled that brilliant smile that Aaron loved so much he couldn’t help the tears that leaked from his eyes. Finally standing up he moved his chair closer and relished in the happiness that settled on the both of them.
Later that night Aaron slowly made love to Spencer, drawing out their pleasure his husband was practically shaking and begging as unspoken need shuddered through him. When they both were finally spent and satisfied Aaron pulled Spencer in his arms and kissed him. They fell asleep cuddled together with thoughts of a bright new future ahead of them.