Love’s Cruel Hand

Title: Love’s Cruel Hand
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Category: Angst, Hurt/Comfort
Ratings: PG-13
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Spencer Reid, Jack Hotchner
Spoilers: None
Summary: The night should have been like any other Thursday night. Hotch followed Spencer to his apartment after picking up their favorite Italian food. He walked up those familiar stairs and into familiar surroundings. He took his lover in his arms and ravished his mouth because he couldn’t quite get enough. He could never get enough of kissing Spencer. He pulled away and gently cupped the younger man’s cheek but didn’t speak, didn’t say a word. Inside he was a storm of emotions that wanted to break free but he was standing in the eye on the breaker just waiting for the other side to hit.
Words: 5515
Warnings: None
Tags: Angst, Emotional Hurt, Secrets, Hurt him to save him, Stalking
Beta: None. No non-consensual Beta
Notes: LJ Prompt: “Hurt him to save him.”
So basically I want Hotch to be really cruel to Reid and break off their relationship, but he’s only doing it because there is someone threatening to get revenge on him by killing Reid. So rather than lose the love of his life, Hotch crushes Reid and his self-worth/esteem by destroying their relationship in the hopes that Spencer will be so mad/hurt that he falls out of love with Hotch. Happy ending or not is up to the author.

The night should have been like any other Thursday night. Hotch followed Spencer to his apartment after picking up their favorite Italian food. He walked up those familiar stairs and into familiar surroundings. He took his lover in his arms and ravished his mouth because he couldn’t quite get enough. He could never get enough of kissing Spencer. He pulled away and gently cupped the younger man’s cheek but didn’t speak, didn’t say a word. Inside he was a storm of emotions that wanted to break free but he was standing in the eye on the breaker just waiting for the other side to hit.

Keeping his stoic mask in place he served up their dinner, poured the wine and played the movie. Just like any other Thursday. After they were done and the movie was over Spencer led Hotch to the bedroom and they peeled themselves out of their clothes. Aaron took the lead. He wanted to take his time, wanted to commit every part of Spencer to memory, every touch and taste. He wanted to remember the smell of old books and aftershave. The musky scent of his sex, the taste of his smooth skin, the feel of the downy hair on his legs and arms. All of it he committed to memory. And when he took Spencer, slid inside his warm tight heat he committed that to memory too. Usually when he made love to Spencer he could undo the genius, make him fall apart in beautiful surrender, just like any other Thursday.

What Hotch wasn’t prepared for was how he was the one to break apart. In fact, hidden from his lover was the fact that he was shattering inside. Each touch and taste was like a knife pushing ever deeper inside him for he knew the betrayal to come. When Spencer came it shattered Hotch’s very soul to watch the beautiful man surrender himself to the pleasure and Spencer would never know. He’d never know what this was doing to him, how it was killing him deep inside. The genius fell asleep curled around Hotch, giving, loving and trusting. Carefully Aaron extricated himself from his lover’s body. He checked and could tell that Spencer was fast asleep which let him dress in silence. He left the note on the pillow gathered his things and left. This was not a normal Thursday night.

Aaron quietly closed the door behind him and barely got to the first step on the stairs when he sank down and silently cried. No one, especially Spencer, could know just how much this was killing him but he had to do it, he had to keep Spencer safe while he tracked down the one forcing him to give-up the best thing in his life besides his son. He vowed to find the son-of-a bitch and destroy them. Then, then he would try to make this right, if he even could, if Spencer could forgive him he just wasn’t sure. All that he was sure of was that he had to let the love of his life go in order to protect him, to save him, even if it meant destroying himself in the process. Slowly Aaron stood on shaky legs and finally made it home where he crawled into bed and let himself fall apart.

Spencer woke early and found his bed empty. Sitting-up he looked around and didn’t see Hotch anywhere. He looked to his nightstand and no cup of coffee waiting for him, no sound of the shower nothing. The apartment was utterly quiet. He reached out for his glasses and turned to the side usually occupied by Hotch and saw the note. All it said in Hotch’s neat bold scrawl was It’s Over.
Aaron took that Friday off. He knew he needed it to collect himself to harden himself against the tropical storm named Spencer Reid he knew was coming. By the time he woke-up he had a slew of texts and calls from Spencer demanding answers. It took every ounce of courage in him not to return those calls. He planned a weekend trip with his son. Camping out in the middle of nowhere to help further harden himself. He hated doing it, hated every single moment he had to be away from his lover. When Jack asked where Spencer was Aaron almost broke but he didn’t he held fast and kept saying to himself this was all for Spencer that he had to keep him safe.

Monday morning, he knew the day was going to be hell. He got in early and sat at his desk going over the new possible cases that Garcia had flagged. He was sorting them out when he heard the knock on his door. Here it comes. He thought to himself. He knew the lies he was going to have to tell and the pain he was going to cause but he had to stay strong, stay the course. Nothing mattered except protecting Spencer.

“Come in,” he said without even looking-up.

“What the hell is going on Aaron?”

“What do you mean Reid?” There it was the first disconnect. The first separation.

“You just leave like you did and ignore me all weekend? A note and all it says is, it’s over? Do these last three years mean nothing to you?”
Aaron pressed his lips together in a hard line and started to say what he had rehearsed all weekend in his head.

“You’re just too much Spencer. I can’t do this anymore. We are too different and I need a break from you. Need a break from you’re incessant rambling, the constant facts that go over my head and you don’t even realize it. Your need for reassurances all the damn time. The fact that you get lost in your head and don’t listen to me when I need it. I just need a break from all of it.” The tone was right, the words dug deep, the devastation on the genius’s face told Aaron he hit every mark, every vulnerability. He did what Gideon had told Spencer all those years ago, use their profile against them.


“Hotch. We are in the office and you will address me as your Superior, not your lover.” Fuck, fuck, fuck was repeating in Aaron’s mind. His left hand, thankfully was under the desk because it would betray him and he couldn’t afford that. Couldn’t afford for Spencer to catch-on to the charade. He needed to make this count.

He saw Spencer’s expression harden, his eyes go cold and flat, the genius was stronger than he had been and Aaron was impressed by his restraint. The anger rose as he glared at Aaron.

“Fine. Hotch. What the hell is really going on? Because I know you Aaron Hotchner. You are not a cruel man and this? This isn’t you so whatever the fuck is going on with you I hope you get your head out of your ass soon then, maybe just maybe I’ll forgive you this. Until then fuck you and fuck off.” Spencer stood so fast that the chair overturned and he didn’t even pick it up.

Aaron curled his hand into a fist and took Reid’s anger, he knew he deserved it.

“Just so you know if you want to see Jack you’ll have to do it at Jessica’s. I’ll box up the stuff at my house and leave it with her,” Aaron said as he kept his head down over his reports, not even looking at Reid.

“Screw you Aaron,” Spencer growled as he stormed out of the office slamming Aaron’s door behind him.

Aaron sighed almost in relief when Spencer left. He had almost broken there for a moment but he had to stay strong. Had to play this out even if it killed him.
The next few weeks were torture. Aaron had kept the distance between him and Spencer. He even told JJ not to assign them the same room when on cases. Rossi had figured out something was going on but he kept his own counsel and didn’t confront his best friend quite yet. The letter finally came. And when he read it, it still didn’t reassure him.
I see you did as you were told Aaron. Good. Your man will be safe as long as you stay away. Soon, we’ll meet and you’ll understand everything.

He pressed his lips to keep from shouting and raging at whoever was orchestrating this. He wanted to crumple it up, throw it away, but he didn’t. he unlocked the file drawer and set it with the others as well as the unwanted gifts. Locking the drawer back up he sat down heavily in his chair and tried to get back to work.

He was surprised when Morgan came to him. The man barged in his office, shut and locked the door then sat in front of him glaring.

“What the hell is going on Hotch?”

“I don’t know what you mean Morgan?”

“You and Reid. He’s been over at my place every night for the last few weeks trying to figure out what he did wrong. What he did to push you away or make you angry at him.” Aaron saw that Morgan had more to say but was keeping his temper in check for now.

“I needed a break. Things were getting to be too much and I had to distance myself from him.”

“He bought a goddamn bottle Hotch.” He couldn’t help it. He let the crack in his armor show. He didn’t think Spencer would go there. Thought he had been stronger than this. His breathing stopped and he knew something flashed across his face because Morgan was giving him that look. The look that he gives to an unsub when he’s figured out their secret and how to crack them. “What is going on Hotch?” Aaron was surprised at the gentler tone, something more must have shown on his face because all of Morgan’s anger was deflated.

“I can’t Morgan. I need more time. Please just give me time.”

“You broke him Aaron. He is devastated. I have no idea how he keeps coming in everyday to look at you. I don’t know how he hasn’t fled this office.”

“Because Spencer Reid is the strongest person I have ever known.” Aaron said softly under his breath.

“Get yourself together Hotch. Make this right, if you even can.” Morgan stood and glared once then stalked out of Aaron’s office.

Closing his eyes, he tried to tamp down on the pain but it wasn’t working. He reached in his drawer and took out the bottle of hidden scotch, poured himself a drink and downed it in one go. He really didn’t care that he was in the office. He just wanted this over but he was nowhere near understanding what was going on, who his stalker was. All he knew was to keep Spencer safe.
Hotch didn’t do what Morgan asked, he couldn’t. He was hard on Spencer and the young man backed off even more. He only spoke to Hotch when necessary. He sat as far away from Hotch as he could and when he tried to even give him a smile Hotch just glared at him. Hotch hoped that Spencer would finally stop trying.

A new case and this time Hotch was screwed. There was a mix-up with rooms and Spencer ended-up in his. He had a suspicion that it was a conspiracy between Rossi and Morgan to put them in the same room. This was not good.

“Well, you don’t have to talk to me, in fact I’d rather you not so just drop the wounded animal act and let’s get through this case. Okay?” Spencer stalked past Hotch and went to the bed farthest from the door.

Hotch didn’t even say anything, he hardened his expression. “Fine. But we’re sleeping with the light off.” He growled out.

Spencer narrowed his eyes at Hotch as he bunked down in the bed and glared. The staring contest went on for what seemed like forever but it was only moments when Spencer finally looked away.

“Fine,” Spencer ground out between clenched teeth.

Hotch changed quickly into casual pants and a sweater, turned on his heel and went down to the bar. He found the farthest, darkest corner he could and ordered a double scotch. He was on his third when Dave sat down in front of him.

“Drinking on a case Aaron?” Dave sat back and crossed his arms waiting. He had been waiting for weeks for his friend to confess what the hell was going on but he hadn’t. He and Morgan had hoped that putting Hotch and Spencer in the same room something would finally break.

“None of your business Dave.” Hotch glared as he went to take another sip of his drink. Dave put his hand over the glass and took if from his friend.

“Whatever the hell is going on with you, you had better tell someone Aaron because all you’re doing is hurting yourself and that young man. Spencer loves you. Oh he’s more than hurt and angry with you but he still loves you so whatever the reason is that you are being this cruel to him, you better come clean.”

“Like I said. None of your business Dave.” Aaron grabbed the glass and downed it in one go. He got up on unsteady legs, threw down some money on the table and made his way back to the room. As soon as he entered he went into the bathroom, locked the door behind him, quickly stripped and stepped into a scalding shower. He took his time hoping to wash away his guilt.

When he finally stepped out the lights were off and Spencer’s breathing was even, his body seemed to be relaxed in sleep. Hotch couldn’t help himself, he dropped to his knees and stared at the face he knew so well. He wanted to reach out and card his fingers through the hair he knew was soft and smelled of coconut. His hand itched to touch, his lips quivered in the want to feel Spencer’s lips against his. He held back. Got up on shaky legs then fell into bed silently crying. It took a while but he fell asleep with those memories he had stored up from weeks ago.

When he finally heard the soft even breathing of Hotch, Spencer ended his pretense and sat-up. He had known Hotch was there, had watched as the hand had reached out to him but stopped. He wondered what the hell was going on and why Hotch was torturing the both of them. Finally, he laid back down and fell into a fitful sleep.

The case took its toll on everyone. The tension between Hotch and Spencer was so high that everyone wondered when someone was going to break. Thankfully they found their Unsub, had enough evidence against him they were confident leaving him in the local’s hands.

The plane ride back to Virginia was painfully silent. No one knew what to do or say. They all sighed in relief when they landed and each person could get home and try to forget about the cracks in their friendships.

“I don’t want to see any of you till 9 tomorrow.” Hotch stated as he started walking towards his car. “Actually 9:30,” he said as he turned back to the team.

On the way home he called Jessica to ask her to keep Jack for the night. He needed time to figure this all out and to shore-up his armor. When he walked in his house he was less aware than he normally was. He didn’t see the person coming up behind him and when everything went black his last thought was how he never got to say he was sorry to Spencer.
The team all made it in at 9:30 and Spencer frowned. He looked-up at the darkened office and began to worry.

“Has anyone seen Hotch?” JJ asked as she looked around the bullpen.

“No, he hasn’t shown-up.”

No one really starts to worry right away everyone knows that sometimes Hotch has difficult mornings with Jack that can make him late. When it turns noon and Hotch still hadn’t shown up they all started to call and text him. By two they were outright nervous about what was going on.

The team was piled into the conference room going over what they all knew about Hotch.

“He’s been acting strange. I think Rossi and Spencer you two go to his house, Prentiss and I are going to go through his office. JJ, keep trying to call him and call the area hospitals.” No one wanted to say what they were thinking because this was just too much like the Reaper to be comfortable.

The team dispersed and Prentiss started in on Hotch’s office. When she got to the locked cabinet she was at first going to leave it. She understood that the Unit Chief needed to have some private files. Something nagged at her about it though. She looked through his drawers to see if she could find a key. When she didn’t find anything she hurried down to her desk and got her lock-picking key.

“What’s going on Prentiss?” Morgan asked as he walked to her desk.

“I’m not sure. There’s a locked file in Hotch’s office. I know he needs to keep some things in there locked but it’s not in his immediate reach. It’s the last file to the far left in the long cabinet behind him,” she says as she walks back to the office with Morgan trailing behind her.

Using the lock pick she easily breaks into the file drawer and is shocked to see the unopened presents and the thick file. Pulling the file out her and Morgan start to go over what was in there.

“Why the hell didn’t he tell us he had a stalker? Damn it. This is just as bad as when he kept quiet about Foyet.” Morgan stalked around the office trying to tamp down on his anger.

“I think he didn’t say anything because of these here. Morgan, they threatened Spencer. They even have specific references to Spencer’s apartment. They were in his place. I think Hotch we scared of what they might do and that’s why he pushed Spencer away.”

“So, what are we thinking here? The stalker finally made their move?” Morgan’s eyes widened as he turned back to Prentiss, “If something happens to Hotch. Especially like this? The kid won’t survive it.”

“We have to tell him Morgan.”

“Tell me what? What’s going on?” Spencer walked into the office and saw the wrapped gifts as well as the letters. Picking one of them up he read through it. Before anyone could stop him he was quickly going through each and every one. After he got done clutching the last one in his fist Spencer sank down into a chair.

“No, no this can’t be happening.” His breath was shallow as painful memories flooded his mind.

“Spencer, we’ll find him and he’ll be fine. We’ll get him back.”

“That’s what you promised me before.” He shoved out of the chair and practically ran towards the bathroom.

JJ had seen him running across the office and wondered what the hell was going on. She crossed over to Hotch’s office and stared in shock at the things on the table.

“What’s going on?”

“Hotch has a stalker. They’ve been sending him gifts and letters for a while now. Here look at these.” JJ read through the ones demanding Hotch leave Spencer and her heart broke.

“We have to find him. If we don’t…” She didn’t want to think of what the consequences of that would be.

“We will. This is not going to end up like Maeve.”

The team gathered everything and took it to the conference room. They set-up a case board and got to work doing what they did best, finding people.
Aaron woke with a splitting headache. Slowly he opened his eyes and tried to focus on where he was at. When he was able to finally focus he saw a woman sitting across from him and frowned in confusion.

“Beth? What the hell is going on?”

“Did you like my gifts Aaron?” She stood and walked over to the chair he was tied to. She laid a hand on his cheek and the smile she gave him made him recoil from her.

“I didn’t ever open them.”

“Oh come on, not even one?”

“No.” He kept his voice flat and even as he glared at her. He didn’t expect the slap across his face, or the sharp nails that cut into his cheek.

“I gave you those to make you happy. I love you. Don’t you see that? I did all of this for you. I had to get you away from him don’t you see? How can a man ever love you like I can?”

Hotch took a deep breath and knew at this point there was nothing he could say, he knew the odds of getting out of this alive. Even if he went along with her delusion he knew he couldn’t keep up the pretense for long, he was just going to have to try to buy some time. The team would know by now that he was missing, he just hoped they figured it out and could get find him in time.

“Beth, it was one bike ride. I told you from the beginning I was involved with someone and that all we could be was training partners. You were the one that mixed up our relationship.”

“Don’t you see Aaron? We could be good together. You just need someone to take care of you. I’ll take care of you.”

“And my son, Beth?”

“We’ll find a good boarding school of course. Then you would be free too and not have to worry about anyone.”

“No. My parents did that to me. I am not doing that to my son. If you truly cared about me Beth, you would know what Jack means to me.”

“But he’s her child.” The look that came over her face made Hotch fearful for Jack. This woman had seriously come undone. He knew no negotiation; no profiling tricks will work. He glared at her then her next words just turned him cold. “I could give you another child. They would be ours Aaron. You and me. Wouldn’t that be perfect?” She climbed into his lap and bent her head down to kiss him. He kept his lips closed and didn’t give in.

“If you touch me like that Beth it will be rape. I don’t love you, I don’t want you, hell I don’t even really know you. It was one bike ride.”
Beth stood and stalked off to another room. When she came back she had several things in her hands. Things that made Hotch’s heart stop but he wouldn’t give in, wouldn’t give her the satisfaction.
Aaron opened his eyes slowly trying to take in his surroundings. The bright white light hurt too much so he closed them again and fell asleep.
The second time he opened his eyes he was able to see more and this time hear something. He heard beeping and tried to understand what it was but he just couldn’t wrap his head around it.

The third time he opened his eyes he was able to open them all the way. The white light came into focus as did the sounds in the room. He tried to swallow but his mouth was dry and everything hurt.

“Hey. Welcome back.” The voice was female and he slowly turned to see who was talking.

“Jess. Where am I?” His brain still wasn’t quite catching-up.

“You’re in the hospital. You’ve been in and out for about four days now.”

“Spencer, oh god Spencer,” he tried to cry out but it came out more like a moan. The monitors went crazy as he tried to sit-up.

“Aaron, calm down Spencer is okay, he’s fine. Nothing happened. You need to relax.” Two nurses and a doctor rushed into the room to see what was going on. The doctor gave him a light sedative to help calm him down and only left when the monitors stayed steady.

“Aaron just rest. We’ll talk when you’re more stable okay? Just go to sleep and rest.” Jessica sighed as she sat back in her chair and watched her brother-in-law for a while.

The next time Hotch woke he was more coherent and was able to sit-up in bed. The doctor was able to go over his injuries, fractured left leg in two places, broken arm, several cuts and deep bruising. He had broken ribs and a severe concussion. Jack was able to come see him after a few days and the boy didn’t want to leave his side. He was told he was going to have to stay in the hospital for at least a couple of weeks. The team, one by one, had come to see him to spend time with him. Well, all except Spencer. Hotch knew he had hurt the man terribly but he was just trying to keep him from harm.

The team told him how they unwrapped the gifts and it was that combined with the letters they were able to narrow down where he was being kept. The house had been in Beth’s parents name and once they had that they found him.

When Hotch finally was able to go home Rossi was there to take him. When he got inside all he wanted to do was lie down and sleep. Jessica was going to keep Jack for another week, long enough for him to learn how to maneuver around the house a little more. Most of his injuries were healing well but it was his leg the doctor was worried about. If the fractures didn’t heal correctly it could cause complications and he’d have to retire from the bureau. And still Spencer didn’t come.

After a week at home he was able to get around easier. He learned quickly how to use the crutches and was able to do a lot of things for himself. Jessica had come by and helped when she could. He could even drive because his right leg was still fairly intact. Beth hadn’t had time to do anything to it when the BAU showed up. He went to physical therapy, was given a soft cast after four more weeks and didn’t have to use the crutches anymore. He had left a few messages and texts for Spencer but still he didn’t come see him. By the time he had to go see the doctor about how the leg set it had been almost six weeks. Hotch knew by then that there was no hope. He screwed-up things so badly that Spencer was never going to forgive him.

Jack had been asking him when Uncle Spencer was coming back and Hotch had to tell him that it was likely that he wasn’t coming back. Jack still got to see him through Jessica, but from what he understood Spencer never asked about him.

Jack was at a weekend camping trip with some friends while Hotch was alone. He was lying in bed and knew intellectually that depression had set-in. He knew this was a hell of his own making, he just wasn’t sure how to fix it. He was contemplating just getting out of bed, which became an everyday struggle at this point, when he heard a knock at the door. He didn’t even want to get-up so he just let whoever was there knock. After a few minutes the knocking stopped, then it was his phone. Letting out a frustrated sigh he reached over and picked-up his phone without even looking at the number.

“Hotchner,” he said with a weariness he had started to feel in every part of him.

“Hotch it’s me. Let me in, please?”

“Two months Reid. Two months and now you want to see me?” He knew he had no right to be angry but dammit he was. It didn’t matter what they had been to each other he had needed all of his team around him.

“I know. I know I should have come before but please Hotch let me in.” Aaron shut off his phone and crawled out of bed, threw on a robe and grabbing his cane made it to the door. He opened it and moved off to the side to let Spencer in.

“Hotch,” Spencer breathed in sharply at his appearance.

“What did you want Spencer? Did you want to see me like this? To see me in pain? Well, you’ve seen, now you can go.” Hotch walked over and sat down on the loveseat elevating his leg on the ottoman he had been using. He didn’t even try to hide his emotions. The last few months had taken their toll and he was having a hard time crawling back out of the emotional pit he had found himself in.

Spencer closed his eyes as he sat down. He wanted to be angry still but looking at Hotch, the thin frame, the sunken cheeks, dark circles under his eyes he felt guilty.

“I should have come to see you.” Spencer bowed his head and tried to hold himself together.

“I know I hurt you Spencer but I didn’t believe that you’d ignore me all this time after you found out the truth. I didn’t think you’d want to hurt me back like this. I know this is all my fault for not telling you but I was trying to keep you safe. It didn’t matter what happened to me as long you were safe.”

“I know. I was just so angry with you. You kept this from me when you shouldn’t have. Did you think sacrificing yourself would have saved me Aaron? Did you really believe that if something happened to you I would have survived it?”

Hotch clamped his jaw shut against the emotions that wanted to break free. “I would have done anything to keep you safe. Even having you hate me.” The tears came unbidden to his eyes as he kept that stoic mask in place.

Spencer put his bag aside and walked over to Hotch. He kneeled down and laid a gentle hand on his face, his thumb tracing the scar left behind.

“For someone so brilliant you can be very stupid sometimes. Don’t you know that I couldn’t hate you Aaron? Don’t you think I know you well enough to know something wasn’t right with you? I was angry you left like you did but the more I watched you the more I saw you falling apart. Oh, you hid it well from the team, but you forget I know you.”

“Then why did you stay away? I needed you and I know that’s selfish but even just to see you, to know you were okay, I needed that.” Aaron closed his eyes and shook with how much he was trying to hold back.

“I know. I was angry with you for keeping things from me. For trying to do this on your own.” His breath turned shallow as he laid his head on Hotch’s good leg. “You almost died Aaron. You almost died and all I saw was you being lowered into the ground in my head and I couldn’t do it. Seeing you on that bed it broke me.”

“Then why are you here now?”

“Jack is afraid He’s scared Aaron. He’s scared he’s going to lose you.”

“Is that the only reason?” Hotch was afraid of the answer as he stared at the other man.

“I think we both have things to be sorry for and I think we need to work on forgiving each other.”

“What are you saying Spencer?”

“I’m saying I love you Aaron. I love you and I want back in your life. But, if we do this there are no secrets. We can’t do this to each other again.”

Hotch couldn’t believe what he was hearing. After everything he had done to this beautiful man he still loved him and wanted him. He knew they had a lot to talk about, a lot to work through and it was going to take time for the both of them to forgive each other. But, he was miserable without Spencer in his life and he wanted this more than he wanted to take his next breath.

“No secrets. I love you so much Spencer. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry.” Hotch couldn’t help it when the dam finally broke and he was no longer fighting it. Spencer carefully slid onto his lap and held him close.

“Then we’ll try,” was whispered in Hotch’s ear and for the time-being that was all that Aaron asked for.