March 2019

Title: To Breathe Free Once Again
Author: rivermoon1970
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Warnings: No Beta, mentions canonical character death, pre-relationship
Word Count: 498

The itch to get out and just drive sat under Aaron’s skin almost like a living thing deep inside of him. He was not even sure where this need came from, just every once in a while it flared up and he had to get out and leave everything behind. He glanced over at Jessica who was curled up on the couch reading while his son Jack was in his room playing by himself.

“Go. You’re making me  nuts with your pacing.” Jessica did not even look up from her book as she made a shooing motion. “And if you aren’t back in a couple of days, you know I’ll understand.”

The relief he felt was almost palpable as he kissed his sister-in-law on the cheek, grabbed his extra go bag, kissed his son and told Jack he would call if he was gone longer than a day. Then, Aaron was sliding behind the wheel of his old jeep he kept in perfect condition. It was made just for what he had in mind.

The day was cool and clear with a fresh fall of snow from the early morning. Aaron took a deep breath and started out of his driveway. It wasn’t long until he was flying down the backroads of Virginia, no particular destination in mind.

The temporary freedom from responsibility had his shoulders relaxing and before he realized it he was singing and tapping his toe to the bluegrass music blaring from his car stereo. Thoughts of cases, the BAU, and Haley’s death all left behind for the few hours out on the open road.

Aaron drove down mountain roads, the snow thinning and deep canyons of forest were on either side of him. He knew the terrain would change again and the roads would wind up and down the Virginia mountains. He could breathe again as he found his center once more.

Aaron had no idea how long he had been driving, but as he flew by the beautiful landscape, getting in touch with everything around him, a sign loomed in the distance. As he drew closer he saw it was for a nature preserve. Smiling to himself, Aaron pulled up to it, parked, paid his way inside and started up the winding staircase carved out of the hard granite of the mountain. As he took each step another care left him and by the time he was at the top, barely winded, Aaron felt a peace inside of him that he had not ever truly felt.

“Hotch? Is that you?”

Aaron turned his head at the sound of his name and the familiar voice. When he saw who it was the smile he gave was genuine.

“Reid? This is…a strange coincidence.”

“Yes, it is.”

“You could say it’s almost kismet.”

Reid lifted a brow as he brushed his hair behind his ear and blushed.

“Maybe it is.”

Aaron smiled as he stood next to his colleague, a thousand possibilities spread out before him as he reached out and wrapped his hand around Reid’s.