January 1980 Spencer was sitting back in his darkroom looking at the set of photos that had landed him in the middle of a court battle. There was nothing wrong with them. All he saw when he looked at the prints were men and women showing love and affection for each other. He had moved away from his normal landscapes and single portraits and wanted to do something different. He had put out a call for homosexual couples and briefly described the project he wanted to do. Some of the photos were nudes, some they were clothed but all the couples had been in long-term loving relationships. He wanted to show the world that there was nothing wrong with homosexuality and he wanted to do it through his art.
His favorite was the photo of a football star that had recently had the courage to come out. His partner was not only male, but a white male and he was black. The partner was stretched out on the bed, hair mussed and smiling while the former football star laid half on him with his hand over his partner’s heart. They were both nude and though the lighting was a bitch to get right Spencer was able to contrast the beauty of their skin tones and how it didn’t really matter, that what mattered was the emotions that came through in how they were touching and the look of love on both of their faces.
There was also one of he and Aaron. They had gone to the beach when it was early fall. The wind was gently blowing, the children were playing, and Aaron was leaning back on his arms stretched out on a towel. Spencer had quickly set-up his camera then he sat in the v of Aaron’s legs. Aaron sat forward and wrapped an arm around his waist and while they both least expected he started to snap pictures with the remote. When later he developed them, one stood out. Aaron was wrapped around him and the children had run up behind Aaron and peaking over each shoulder they were smiling mischievously. With Aaron’s permission he had included it in the show.
The trouble came when a conservative group had invaded the opening day of the showing and started making trouble for the gallery. They were finally escorted out when the police were called in. Spencer thought nothing of it until he received a summons to appear in court on obscenity charges. Now he was looking at those same photos, knowing he did nothing wrong but having been made to feel like he had.
“It’ll be okay Penny. Jackson is the best lawyer at the firm for this kind of thing and you know they don’t have a leg to stand on.” Aaron wrapped his arms around his partner and held him close.
“I know. It’s just frustrating sometimes Aaron. I know the world gets there eventually but here and now it’s hard for me to see it happening.”
“I know.” Aaron moved to stand in front of Spencer. “Penny, do you, do you ever regret staying?” Aaron asked as he looked at Spencer with worry and fear in his eyes.
“No, no Aaron I never regret coming back and staying with you.” He lifted his hand and softly stroked Aaron’s cheek. The spell was broken when their doorbell rang. Spencer stood to answer knowing who it was that was on the other side.
“Mr. Grimes, thank you for meeting with me here.”
“Dr. Reid, it’s no problem at all. Now let’s go in the living room and I’m going to tell you what you are going to do.” When Spencer just raised a brow at the lawyer Jackson chuckled softly. “I’m here to do a job Dr. Now if you want my help, you’ll do exactly what I say. Okay?”
“Yes.” Spencer frowned but found himself following the lawyer’s orders. They quickly settled in the living room and Aaron was bringing them drinks a short time later.
“Now, I’ve seen the supposedly offensive photos and I can already tell you that you have broken no laws. Even though many of the couples are nude you do not show anything that could be misconstrued as having a pornographic nature. There is no penetration, of any part of anyone’s body. In fact, some of these are more modest than many of the late Renaissance paintings, or even many of the early photos of the late 1800’s to early 1920’s.” They talked strategy for over an hour with Jackson taking copies of the photos in question. Spencer’s head was swimming with everything that they were going to do and though he still had questions he couldn’t seem to think about any of them now.
“So, what does that all mean?”
“That I’m going to get this case thrown out before it even starts. I’m going to argue that the only reason you are being called to court is because all of the couples in question are homosexual. In fact, I’m going to use many examples of artists like Man Ray, Betty Page and others. There are far worse photos from Man Ray than what you have here. You, Dr. Reid are being unjustly singled out.”
“Okay. Thank you, Mr. Grimes, for everything.”
“Please, call me Jackson. Just trust me and everything will be fine Dr. Reid.” He then turned to Aaron and smiled. “Walk me out Aaron.” The two men turned and walked out then Aaron was returning a few minutes later.
“Aaron, what’s wrong?” The look on his partner’s face had Spencer worried.
“I am being offered a partnership. Jackson said the new partners were appalled that I hadn’t been offered before.” Aaron looked stunned as he stood in the middle of the living room.
“That’s great Aaron. We’ll celebrate after this fiasco is over.”
“Yes, yes we will.” Aaron couldn’t help the smile that came over his lips as he pulled Spencer in for a hug.
Two weeks later the couple along with their friends and co-workers were celebrating not only the charges against Spencer being dropped but Aaron finally making partner in his law firm.
September 1984 and the day was cold with clouds that were heavy with the threat of rain. Aaron and Spencer stood hand in hand unashamed in what they meant to each other. They were standing at the end of the grave of yet another friend who had died in the wake of the emergence of AIDS. Steven had become a good friend to them over the years someone they found a kindred spirit in. Chris and Aria stood on either side of them their own grief evident on their faces. Spencer knew the children often had a hard time growing-up when other kids had found out about their parents. He and Aaron fostered open communication with their children, and they were rewarded with their love and gratefulness.
“I can’t do this anymore Aaron. I can’t watch more of our friends dying like this.” Spence frowned and was angry by the cuts in AIDS research by the government. That somehow if they cut the research the problem would just go away.
“I know love. But for now, there is nothing we can do.” Aaron held him close and tried to be there for him.
“I’m going to publish that article. I don’t care what the other magazines have said to me. LIFE has given me an offer and I’m going to take it. People need to see, need to understand that everyone is at risk.” Spencer had spent the last three years documenting through photos and interviews the spread of the AIDS virus not only in the Gay community but in the heterosexual community as well. He was angry that people were trying to push the blame on the Gay community when the initial spread wasn’t their fault. It just infected them faster. LIFE had approached him when he was still researching and said they wanted to see what he had so far. The meeting with the editor went well and Spencer was offered a position documenting the cases and writing articles about the people he had already interviewed. They wanted to put real faces to the issue at hand and hopefully force the government to open their blocks on the research.
“I’ll support you in whatever you want to do Spencer.” And Aaron was true to his word. Not only was the series of articles gaining attention both controversial as well as supportive, but he was given the opportunity for an art show. He called it Looking AIDS in the Eye. They were the faces of young, old and ages in-between that had become infected.
There were protestors of course but the show of support was much greater than even Spencer could imagine. There were death threats, which were taken very seriously by the police after Aaron encouraged Spencer to go to them.
Later that night after the show was over Spencer purged some of his demons in the body of the man, he considered his spouse. When he finally came, his voice crying out hoarse as he collapsed on top of Aaron, he finally let out the emotions he had been holding on to. Aaron held him tightly as Spencer cried for all those they had lost as well as those they would lose in the future. He couldn’t help that his thoughts went to his son James and it made Spencer cry even harder. All Aaron could do was hold on and let him work through it. Finally, when he had purged himself, he held onto Aaron tightly as he fell into a fitful sleep.
November 11, 1989 and Spencer was glued to the television as was the rest of the Reid-Hotchner household. Chris and his girlfriend, Aria and her boyfriend were all there as they sat with rapt attention as the first stones of the Berlin Wall were being demolished. Though none of them had family in Germany it still didn’t diminish the emotional impact it had on them. After watching the stories and seeing the Wall being brought down Spencer took a deep steadying breath.
“I want to go.”
“To Germany. I want to go. I want to take pictures. I want to speak to the people. I want to tell their stories in my own way. I want to go.”
“Okay. So, we’ll go.”
“Really? You mean it Aaron?”
Aaron chuckled slightly as he watched the passion and fire light-up his partner’s eyes.
“Yes, I mean it Spencer. We’ll go.”
That was all it took. Less than a week later Aaron, Spencer, Aria and Chris were on a plane. The men hadn’t expected that their children wanted to come but Aria wanted to do some sketches and Chris just wanted to talk to the people. The family stayed for three weeks. Many times, they were invited into the homes of many of the people that had been affected. Spencer listened to their heart-breaking stories. Spencer took many rolls of film, he recorded hundreds of stories. Aria sketched and painted while Chris just listened. The family came back closer together realizing just how good they had it. Life hadn’t been easy, but they had always had each other.
When they got home Spencer immediately went to work compiling the stories and working on the prints. He put feelers out to several of the larger galleries and they were immediately intrigued. Spencer had ‘borrowed’ Aria’s sketchbooks and when he went to meet with gallery managers he told them his idea. In less than a week he had four bids for his work. He chose two and they set-up the same installation one in December and the other in March of the next year. It was a combined show with Aria’s sketches, Spencer’s photos and Chris narrating the stories to go with each piece. When opening day came around the family stood together proud of the work they had done.
Several magazines had written about the show and while they were standing there, Spencer was hit with a moment of déjà vu. He started chuckling softly to himself and shaking his head.
“What is it Penny?”
“You know I grew-up hearing about a Spencer Reid and I often wondered if my mother liked the name so much that she not only named me after the author but the real person as well. I never, in all my life put it together.”
“That you are that Spencer Reid?”
“I was born in 1981, I’d be only eight right about now. That Spencer was so isolated form the world. It would be another year before Mom, and I moved in with Uncle Rob. But still I went to school and was so focused on science and math that I never looked at what was happening in the art world. I remember reading articles, but I never thought it was me. Maybe it took until now for me to put it together.”
“Maybe. But I’m glad I have this version of you.”
“I just wish I could help them. I know I can’t, that my life must play out as it does because it leads me to you and to this. Our family, together.”
“Yes, it does. I love you and I’m proud of you Penny.”
Spencer turned and took Aaron in his arms as he kisses the man he loves in public. There were several flashes of cameras and when he looked over at the small crowd, he laughed to see it was several friends and acquaintances.
“I love you so much Aaron. I couldn’t have done any of this if you hadn’t believed in me like you did. If you hadn’t shown me what it was to have love and a life again. This night isn’t just for me. It’s for all of us.”
“Dad, Papa,” Chris had a smile on his face as he practically ran to them. “She said yes.” He yelled across the room as he flew at his fathers. Spencer grabbed his son and held onto him tightly. Then Aaron hugged Chris and congratulated him.
“Our family is amazing.” Spencer wrapped an arm around Aaron’s waist and laid his head on Aaron’s shoulder. He knew the homophobia was still alive and well, but it wasn’t as terrifying as it had been in 1963. Though they still had threats and discrimination around them Spencer didn’t fear touching Aaron like he had years earlier. He let himself bask in the moment as he watched his son and future daughter-in-law with that same look of love and hope that he once had with Maeve but truly found in Aaron.
February 1993 and it was Chris’s 30th birthday party. Spencer was sitting at the head of a long table where his son sat at the other end with his wife Angela and their two young daughters on either side. Spencer couldn’t help the smile that came across his lips. For over twenty-three years he hadn’t thought once to travelling back in time. Chris wasn’t a replacement for James, in fact he had told both Chris and Aria about the son he had lost. The pictures around their home were unmistakable. Spencer and Aaron always tried to make their children feel special and being here celebrating they could feel the happiness all around them.
Later that night Spencer was standing in front of one of James’s pictures sipping at a glass of scotch. When he felt an arm come around him Spencer leaned back into Aaron and tried to smile.
“What are you thinking about Spencer?”
“How happy Chris looked today. And how Aria is getting married in a couple of months. It made me wonder what kind of man, father, brother James would have been.”
“Well, seeing the kind of man you helped raise in Chris, I think he would have been amazing.” Spencer turned in Aaron’s arms and laid his head on his lover’s shoulder.
“Did you ever think we’d be together thirty years Aaron? That we’d be here in our sixties, cusp of retirement making plans for that retirement?”
“From the moment I saw you I just knew we’d somehow be together the rest of our lives.” Aaron bent down and kissed Spencer and held him close.
“Aaron, I want to ask you something.”
“What is it love?”
“I want; no, I need to go back. I can’t explain it, but I need to go back one more time. James will be born in a few days’ time in 2003, I need to see. I know it’s asking a lot Aaron, but something is telling me I need to go.”
Aaron pulled away and started pacing the room. “Why now Spencer?”
“I don’t know. You know I’ll come back, that I always come back.”
“But you’re not 30 anymore Spencer, what if there are side effects. What if something happens and you can’t come home?”
“I promise Aaron that nothing is going to happen. I’ll come back like I always do.” Spencer moved back into Aaron’s arms and kissed him, reassuring his love that he would always be there.
Aaron reluctantly pulled away then came back a few minutes later with the amulet in his hand.
“I’m trusting you that nothing will happen to you.”
“I know. I’ll be back and I’ll be fine.” Spencer smiled at Aaron before he set the date for April 08, 2003. Spencer looked-up in time to see the tear that slipped from Aaron’s face.