Title: The Crash of Silence
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Spencer Reid
Pairing: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid
Genre: Angst, Past Relationship
Beta: DarkJediQueen, no non-consensual beta
Warnings: Self-harm, depression, recovery
Word Count: 3201
And the people bowed and prayed/ to the neon god they made/ And the sign flashed out its warning/ in the words it was forming/ And the signs said “the words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls/ and whispered in the sounds of silence.
Silence. Aaron had been living in a world of silence for so long he wasn’t sure how to crawl out of it. He thought his time at the rehab center would have been the answer, but he was more confused than ever. He didn’t trust easily and he let his guard down in the hospital, reaching out for the help he so desperately knew he needed. And it crashed down on him, ruining whatever trust he had tried to build.
He was standing on a precipice, he knew if he did this thing, again, if he fell, again, he could lose everyone and everything. It was in these moments that he knew what Spencer had gone through, knew the pull of addiction and his love and admiration for the man grew. His hands shook as he looked at himself in the mirror holding the blade in one hand, his arm over the sink and the pain, god the pain pierced him through the gut and still he didn’t do anything.
“Reid,” he called out but his voice cracked and caught in his throat. Shaking he dropped the blade in the sink and gripped the sides of the cold porcelain. “Reid,” he called out again, his voice stronger and he waited. He was on the verge of screaming when the bathroom door opened and there he was. He hated this, hated himself in this moment, hated this weakness and when his eyes locked with Spencer’s in the mirror he sank to the floor, but Spencer was there to catch him.
“Hey, I’m here, I’m right here.” Spencer sat next to Aaron and pulled him close.
“I don’t know what’s wrong with me,” Aaron let his head fall on Spencer’s shoulder and the tightness in his chest eased a little more with each breath he took.
“Aaron, I know it’s only been a couple of weeks since you’ve been home, but what about a support group? I know you’re wary, right now, of any other type of help. I can understand that, but you can’t go on like this. We can’t go on like this.” Spencer held on tighter as his fear for the man he loves grows.
“I,” Aaron paused a moment and thought about it. He could still come home, it wouldn’t be in a hospital and this silence was crushing him. “I think I need to do something.”
“And I’ll help you. I’m not going to leave you, I promise.” Spencer took a deep breath and held his lover. When he felt that Aaron was settled he stood and held out his hand. “It really is one day at a time Aaron. You have to take each day as it comes, and I will be there for you every step of the way.”
Nodding his head Aaron stood and took Spencer’s hand knowing it was going to take time.
The last few weeks of his leave went by quickly and Aaron was starting to get his life back together. He was in a support group, it was still hard for him to talk about what triggered his behaviors, but little by little he was opening up more. It felt good, it felt right and there was a part of him that knew he might have to make some hard decisions. Decisions about his future that would affect not just himself, but Spencer, Jack and the team.
Walking into the BAU on that Monday morning felt odd to Aaron. He felt different, disconnected and he had never felt that before. As he settled at his desk and saw the e-mail from Cruz, he knew. He knew what was to come and he couldn’t say that he didn’t see it coming. He grabbed a cup of coffee and made his way to Cruz’s office.
“You wanted to see me Matt?” Aaron had knocked on the open door and responded when Cruz had looked up at him.
“Come in, sit.” Aaron took a deep breath and sat down in a chair in front of Cruz’s desk. “In light of recent events-” Aaron put up a hand and never let his gaze leave his boss’s.
“Are you firing me Matt?”
“I don’t want to Aaron. But, you had a breakdown on a case, were admitted to a mental health facility and became the target of an Angel of Mercy. The Director wants me to offer you White Collar again. He believes that, and so do I, you’ve been the head of the BAU for too long.”
“You think I’ve got burnout.” Aaron took a sip of his coffee and sat back in his chair.
“Yes, frankly, I do.”
“And if I don’t want White Collar?”
Aaron closed his eyes and blew out the breath he had been holding. He wasn’t stupid, he had seen the writing on the wall for a while now. It was just really bad timing.
“How long do I have to decide?”
“The end of the week.”
Aaron stood and didn’t say anything as he grabbed his coffee and left Cruz’s office. The team was filing in and he stood at his window looking down on them. A lot happened while he was gone and he felt like he no longer filled the role he was supposed to.
Sighing he went to his desk and got back to work, putting off the hard decisions for the time being.
Unfortunately Aaron couldn’t give his answer at the end of the week. A case came up and the BAU was pulled into a manipulative killers mind games. When SWAT invaded his home and had Aaron on his knees in front of his son, well he didn’t know what to think. The hard interrogation by the DOJ had Aaron pissed off, when he finally convinced Agent Richie that he was innocent Aaron and the team were too late. Thirteen killers has escaped from several prisons and Aaron knew a shitstorm was going to come down on him. Antonia Slade had targeted him and he fell for it.
“Aaron, this isn’t your fault.” Spencer had tried to reassure him once they had gotten back home. He closed his eyes and fought against the urges and knew he needed to distract himself.
“I was the focal point of Slade. And now thirteen serial killers we put away are out. The Bureau already wants me gone Spencer. I don’t know if I can effectively lead this team anymore.” He sat on the edge of the bed and scrubbed his hand over his face. He was about to tell Spencer his decision when his phone rang.
“Hotchner,” Aaron answered with a weariness he hadn’t felt in a very long time. He listened to Cruz on the other end of the line, but thought that his boss was right, he had burnout. He was exhibiting some of the same signs as Gideon just before his fallout. He didn’t want that. He didn’t want to keep pursuing these people at the cost of his life or even his son’s life.
Aaron closed his phone and set it aside.
“There might be a local case that looks to be related to Peter Lewis.”
“They want us to check it out?.” Spencer had asked him and Aaron stood, tired of it all. He once had conviction and passion, but the last year had been an eye opener to him. He thought of the Pig farm and his own thoughts after they came back. He thought about looking into the abyss and now being targeted twice in a year by serial killers made him pause and really think about what he was doing.
“Aaron? Are you okay?”
Aaron almost responded with his denial, his normal words of, everything is fine, I’m okay, or whatever would placate those who were asking. But, he was learning in group how to open up more, let those feelings out and not internalize. When he turned to Spencer, he knew he couldn’t lie or sweep it under the rug anymore.
“No. No I’m not okay Spencer. I don’t know if I can do this job anymore. Seeing Jack’s fear when SWAT broke into our home, being accused of terrorism. Just coming back and trying to get my life back together, I’m not in a good place.”
Aaron watched his lover as he moved close and wrap his arms around him. Aaron lifted his arms and held Spencer close.
“That’s one of the first honest things you have said in a while. I’ll stand by and respect whatever decisions you make Aaron. I’ll be here and I’m not leaving.”
Aaron buried his nose in Spencer’s hair and took a deep breath. The scent of his lover always calmed him, centered him.
“I’m going to help with Lewis, then I’m taking retirement. I think it’s best for Jack and for myself. I don’t want to slide back Spencer and this? Going after those we already put away? It’s too much. I’ll consult, but that’s it.”
Spencer pulled away and kissed him softly as he touched his face.
“I understand Aaron, and I respect your decision. I don’t know if the rest of the team will.”
“I’m going to talk to Prentiss. She was making noises about helping us out more. I think she actually misses it. Maybe I can convince her to come back, you and her are equal for next in line.”
“I don’t want to be Unit Chief. I…” Spencer stepped away and went to his pile of mail and pulled out several letters. “I have all these offers. They come to me almost everyday. After these killers are put back where they belong, I think…I think I’m seriously going to accept one of them. I think we both need a clean start.”
“Spencer, don’t do this for me…” Spencer cut him off and stepped up to him and cupped his cheek.
“I’m not. I’m doing this first for Jack, then for me and us. I want us to be a family Aaron, like we used to be and this job, look what happened. It’s broken both of us in big and small ways. I think, I think we need to do this. For us.”
Aaron wrapped around Spencer once again and felt comforted. He took a moment for the both of them before he broke the embrace and called Jessica. Luckily Roy was asleep and Jessica had safety measures in place for him with Aaron’s help. As soon as she arrived Spencer and Aaron left to find out just what was going on.
Peter Lewis was in the BAU interrogation room. It didn’t take them long to figure out he was going to go after Aaron. That was the final straw. He knew if he kept going it was just going to be one hit after another. After they finished their investigation and handed Lewis back over to the State, Aaron went to speak with Cruz.
“I’m signing the retirement papers. However, I am in no way taking responsibility for the actions of the terrorist group that facilitated the escaping of these serial killers. Though I was targeted by Slade, this was in no way my fault and I will go on record for it. The DOJ can go to hell as far as I’m concerned.”
“I understand Aaron. Here are your papers, it’s a much more generous package than what Strauss originally offered. I don’t like that it’s come down to this.”
“The Bureau has wanted me out of the BAU for a long-time now. I’m just giving them what they want.” Aaron signed where he needed and left Cruz’s office without saying another word. He walked with his head held high into the bathroom and leaned over the sink, closing his eyes. Taking a deep breath he tried to calm his shaking hands. He never thought he’d go out like this, but he knew it was time. It didn’t stop the craving, the need and want. When he felt a hand on his shoulder and looked to side to see Spencer he took a shuddering breath and stood.
“Its done. Now, I just have to tell them. I know it isn’t going to go over well.”
“No, but you are doing what you need to do.” Aaron nodded and then followed Spencer back out to the bullpen where he was going to have to make the hardest announcement he ever had to make in his life.
“Can I see everyone in the conference room?” Aaron announced as he made his way upstairs. He looked back to see Spencer calling someone, he figured it was Garcia. When they all got settled Aaron took a moment to look at each member of his team. He would miss them, with everything he had, but deep down he knew he was making the right decision.
“I’m leaving the Bureau. With everything that’s happened lately, I feel that it’s in not only my best interest, but Jack’s as well. He needs me more now than before. I will miss each and every one of you and I want to thank you for always giving me your best.”
“That’s it? We have all these people out there doing who knows what to who and you are just giving up?” JJ stood and crossed her arms and glared at him.
“Jayje, I’m sorry. I need to do this. I know it’s bad timing, but you guys will be fine. You always will be. Luke, I’m sorry we couldn’t work longer together. I know you are going to do well. These are the best people in the bureau, I wish you luck.” Aaron shook the hand of the newest member of the BAU. He was sorry he wouldn’t get to work with him, but knew he was going to fit in just fine.
Aaron hugged Kate and JJ, but it was Garcia that was breaking his heart.
“You can’t go, we just lost Derek, you can’t go too.” Aaron pulled her into a hug and held her close, letting her cry.
“I’m sorry Penelope.” He didn’t have any more words as he let her go and moved into his office. Prentiss wasn’t there yet so Reid was going to be acting Unit Chief till she arrived. He was going to take several days to clean out his office, his last official day was going to be the end of the week.
“You know these kids are going to drive me crazy.”
Aaron snorted as Dave walked into his office.
“You’ll keep them in line.”
“Why are you really doing this Aaron?”
“I didn’t have much of a choice Dave. It was retirement, White Collar or get steamrolled and be blamed for the outbreak. Seeing what Jack has gone through, I thought it best to retire. I didn’t want to, but I’m recognizing the same signs in myself that Gideon started to exhibit. I’m letting it in too much and with other personal factors, I need to take care of myself. I don’t want to end-up like Jason, Dave.”
“I’m not going to let you drift away this time, you hear me?”
Aaron smiled that boyish smile that was so rare as of late, “I’m counting on it.”
The end of the week came too quickly and Aaron was all packed-up. Garcia held to his wishes with no big fanfare, but just a small goodbye from the team. Spencer and Luke helped him with the last of his boxes and Luke went back up while Spencer lingered.
“Hey, you are going to do fine. You’ve led before, I have every confidence in you Spencer. And when Emily arrives, you can step back.”
“I know, it’s just not going to be the same without you. If we need you, I’ll call.” Spencer kissed him and walked back into the office. Aaron drove home torn. He was happy he was going to be spending more time with Jack at home, but his heart was broken that it came to this, that he went out this way, but he counted his blessings that Spencer was still there, even all these weeks later. When he pulled into his drive Aaron felt a sense of peace begin to settle over him. He went inside and waited for Jack to come home while he sorted through all of the job offers trying to figure out what he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“And how are you feeling about these changes Aaron?” Dr. Jones asked as she led the group.
“I’m coping. I haven’t self-mutilated in nine weeks. Spencer, he’s been supportive and there for me. It’s hard, though, seeing him leave, going to be with the team that used to be mine.”
“Have you had any urges?”
Aaron lifted his brow at the Doctor, “That’s like asking if I’ve taken my next breath. Of course I have, but I’ve been doing what many of you have suggested. I redirect to either my son, or some project around the house.”
“That’s good and that’s healthy. Okay, anyone else want to share tonight?” Aaron sat back and listened as others shared their weeks. He rubbed his arm as his anxiety had spiked a little. But he took a few breaths and it passed. When he got home he was pleasantly surprised that Spencer was there. His lover, partner, boyfriend? He wasn’t sure what to call what they were, was sprawled on the couch, asleep. Aaron smiled and walked over and gently shook him awake. They had been taking things slow, getting back to more than friends before they brought sex back into the relationship.
“Hey, you’re home early.”
Spencer lifted up and smiled at Aaron. He lifted his hands and framed Aaron’s face, bringing it closer and kissing him.
“I am, lets go to bed.” Spencer stood and kissed him harder. Aaron’s breath caught in his throat as he wrapped his arms around the younger man. It took a moment to break away to catch his breath.
“Are you sure Spencer?”
“Take me to bed Aaron Michael Hotchner.” Spencer pulled him along towards the bedroom. After stripping and laying Spencer out on the bed Aaron took his time. He wanted to show Spencer that he was so much more than how he had treated him before. When he slipped inside and felt that warm heat wrap around him Aaron almost couldn’t control himself. He took his time, making love to Spencer, showing him with his body just what it was he felt for the genius. When he came he held Spencer close worshiping him with kisses and caresses.
“Aaron,” Spencer breathed out as he touched Aaron’s face. “There you are.” He smiled.
“Here I am.” Aaron knew in that moment that they were going to be just fine. No matter what was going to happen in the future, they had become stronger, together.