The State of Being

Title: The State of Being
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Category: Romance
Ratings: PG-13
Pairings: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Spencer Reid
Spoilers: None
Summary: Aaron just really wants Reid to be happy, even if it means giving up any chance at his own happiness with the genius agent.
Words: 8011
Warnings: None
Tags: Angst, Pining, Stupid Men, LiveJournal Prompt Meme,
Beta: None. No non-consensual Beta
Notes: Originally for Reidemption
Yup, another Live Journal Prompt Meme.
I see a lot of fics/prompts where the team tries to make Hotch jealous so that he’ll finally give in and show his affections, but I don’t really see Hotch being that rash. So, how about a fic where the team tries various things to make Hotch jealous but instead Hotch acts happily for Reid, even though inside he is hurting really badly he wants Reid to be happy. Obviously, I would prefer a happy ending where eventually Hotch gets clued in on what’s going on and admits his feelings. But I want the majority of it to focus on the team and Reid’s confusion at Hotch being happy for Reid when they want to make him jealous.

The State of Being – The condition of a person; any mode of existence; a philosophical idea of a person’s ideal state and what that may entail. To be In a state of some particular emotion or physical condition.


Aaron was sitting in the back of the bar sipping his scotch watching the room much like he watches most things, with eyes that take in everything and his quick analytical mind that processes what he sees. His mind wasn’t wandering; he was laser-focused on the men around him. He analyzed them with absolute ruthlessness, quickly profiling everyone around him. The man at the bar obviously was looking for a one-night stand. The bartender quietly listening to his patron’s stories, the group that was trying a little too hard, their rainbow colors making their choices obvious. The businessmen with their younger male companions playing out some kind of Platonian fantasy. He could see the subtle movements of the men taking off their rings. He chuckled softly and shook his head, too many of the cases he worked over his long career were over cheating husbands. He sipped his scotch and continued watching.

He immediately zeroed in on the newcomer, looking awkward and unsure. The new arrival approached the bar and sat, ordered a drink, his hand shaking and Aaron’s senses were pinging. That thing inside him, that intelligence that made him so good at his job, that little burning in his gut when he was positive he was right were all on over-drive. His focus zeroed in completely on this stranger. A few minutes later someone sat next to him and he looked relieved. He smiled up at his companion and they leaned in together, a soft quick kiss shared between them. He still felt some recognition in the man, something inside him knew the man was straight and it played with his own emotions that the man could let go just enough for that shared kiss.

Closing his eyes, he took another sip of his scotch and wondered where his courage had gone and why, when in his job he was so sure of himself. It didn’t take much for him to find his courage when facing down an Unsub because the stakes were too high. Or a victim’s life hung in the balance. It didn’t mean that he didn’t fear, he did but he could dig deep and find that needed courage. It was a different story however when it came to his own heart. He knew love, he had loved Haley, though it wasn’t perfect and it had soured over the years with them ending in divorce and her, well, he didn’t want to dwell on Haley’s death. It would always be a wound that would never completely heal.

He also loved another. It slowly developed over the years, first in mentorship, then in friendship and lastly in easy companionship. Though he could admit that they weren’t as close as they used to be. That the person had grown up, grown confident and didn’t need his mentoring anymore and there was a part of Aaron that missed that. Missed their long talks over coffee, or late at night after work. Sometimes during a case, when they both couldn’t sleep they would end up in whatever diner was close, drinking coffee and talking. Aaron wondered when that stopped. When did they drift apart? Was it his forced lies over keeping Prentiss safe? Was it after Haley’s death and he kept himself back from the team? Was it his short affair with Beth? He wasn’t sure, he’d never delved too deeply into the why of it and maybe, maybe he should have. He looked back-up at the couple at the bar and he felt the wetness in his eyes. Sniffing back the emotion he took another drink of his scotch, draining the glass completely, signaling the waiter for another.

He was frowning into his drink when the couple he had focused on so intently left, wrapped around one another and smiling. He took a deep breath and slowly let it out trying to keep his heart somewhat intact and failing miserably.

“You look like a man who is quite unsure of himself.” A voice said as they slid into the banquette across from him.

“I’m sorry?” He looked up and tried not unleash his full glare but he was upset that a complete stranger would intrude on him like this.

“I’ve been watching you off and on while you’ve been sitting here watching us. You really don’t look like a man who frequents gay bars often, or really at all. So, it made me wonder.”

“A part of me should ask you to leave.”

“Yet you haven’t, why?”

“Maybe I need to talk to a stranger and don’t know how.” He admits both to himself and the man across from him.

“I could tell you my name and we’d no longer be strangers.”

“Maybe I want the anonymity.”

“Hmm, do you? Want the anonymity I mean.”

Aaron took a moment to consider his options. He could talk to this person with the safety of anonymity, he could tell the stranger to fuck off. They could exchange first names only. Aaron knew he was jaded from his work. Too many cases in bars with strangers killing the avatar of their real obsession. He didn’t think, though, that the man across from him was an Unsub, he just couldn’t help it that his mind went there immediately. He took a sip of his scotch to give himself a moment to decide.

“Yes, I think I’d prefer that.”

“Okay, then let me make a few guesses and you can tell me if I’m wrong. You are a straight man. Probably straighter than an arrow, straight and you are having a crisis of not only questioning your sexuality but maybe the feelings you have for someone in your life.”

Aaron closed his eyes and quirked up his lips in a wane smile. He wondered who this stranger was but he wasn’t going to ask, wasn’t going to break the rule he set down between them.

“That’s a very accurate assessment of the situation.” Aaron swallowed as he sat back against the plastic back of the banquette wondering why he was still lingering when really he should be home taking care of his son.

“I’ve seen it before you know. I’ve always been of the opinion that not everyone is truly one-hundred percent straight. That sometimes that one person can come into your life that belies any convention that you have about yourself. I have even seen gay men fall in love with a woman. No one is bound completely by what they consider their normal sexual identity. So, tell me, what is it about this man that has made you question yourself?”

Aaron looked-up in the face of this stranger feeling oddly safe. He didn’t know why, he didn’t trust easily, his job and circumstances had made him that way.

“I once considered him my best friend. We’ve been through so much together. We’ve seen each other at our absolute best and our absolute worst and he always was there. He’s brilliant and I don’t say that lightly. He really is a genius. While some we work with have often made fun of his quirkiness because of his mind, I’ve always admired it. There were times we’d talk, argue, debate for hours on end and it never got old. Unlike me.” He closed his eyes again as emotions that he thought he had long buried deep rose to the surface.

He looked-up to see the stranger staring at him, “I don’t see an old man. I see a very handsome, vital man, one who may have let his insecurities rule him for too many years.” The stranger took a sip of his drink then set it aside and leaned forward. “I can only assume that you haven’t talked to this man to let him know that, whatever happened between you, it’s hurt you that this friendship is now not so prominent in your life.”

“Are you sure you don’t secretly work in the BAU and I’ve just never met you?” Aaron curled his lip in a smile and huffed out a bitter laugh.

“No. I don’t work in the FBI. I will be honest and tell you that I am a psychologist and I’ve spent much of my life studying human behavior. You may hide the pain fairly well from your colleagues and those that care about you but, here, now you’ve opened yourself a little and I see what it is you feel.”

“I don’t know how to fix it. I’m not a man that does…this.” He waved his hand between the two of them indicating the impromptu psychology session.

“You keep things pretty buried and that is not always a good thing. If you didn’t you wouldn’t be here in this bar, sipping your second scotch and watching trying to figure out your own feelings. You’d be having this conversation with the man that you obviously want in your life but don’t know how to do it.”

“It doesn’t matter anyway. He’s as straight as I am and has started dating someone.”

“Yet you only assume you know. That tells me that you have not talked to him. Do you want to tell me what really brought you in here?”

Aaron sighed and thought that maybe it would be good to tell someone, to get everything off his chest to get a new perspective on the situation.

Four Months Prior

Aaron stood at the end of the grave alone. Everyone else was gone, or so he thought. He felt it when someone came to stand next to him and when he looked it was Reid. The man’s emotions were so open, he hadn’t let himself retreat and back away from them, not like he was often known to do.

“You know; everyone sees how much I’ve grieved over Jason’s death. It’s still so unreal to me. I keep hoping, foolishly, that it’s some practical joke and he’s going to show up and tell me he’s sorry for making me upset. But, I know he isn’t.”

“I’m sorry Reid. I know what Jason meant to you.”

“And I know what he meant to you. I know he argued with you, frustrated you, but I also saw the close camaraderie between you. They all chose to ignore your own pain and focused on me and that isn’t fair Hotch. You take everything so stoically they forget that you feel just as deeply as any of us do. Even Rossi focused on me after your short talk at his cabin. What do you need Aaron? No one has asked you that have they?”

Aaron frowned as he looked back at the grave trying to figure out what he did need. He wanted to say I need you. I want to hold you, I want to let myself cry in your arms, I want to make love to you till I can no longer feel this pain. He was my mentor once to goddammit. But he didn’t say it. He didn’t say what he really wanted, he buried it deep down until those thoughts and feelings were almost forgotten.

“I’ll be fine Reid. And thank you. Jason did mean a lot to me.” He took one last look at the grave, saying his silent goodbye, then he lightly brushed Reid’s shoulder and turned around walking back to his car not really understanding what it was that Reid was offering him. He laid his head on the steering wheel for a moment getting his emotions under control because it was just so hard to walk away anymore. He looked-up and saw Reid getting into his car and frowned at his own inertia, his own state of being, whatever that was. He pushed all thoughts of Reid aside and finally started his car ready to head, wherever. He found himself driving towards the bar that everyone was meeting up at. He wasn’t sure why he did it, it wasn’t conscious on his part but he figured that maybe he needed to start interacting with the team again. Losing Jason made him realize that time was short and he didn’t want to live his live separate from those that cared for him any longer. He parked and sat there looking at the bar, gathering courage around him he went inside. He looked back once towards his car and let a small smile grace his lips as he watched Reid park the old Amazon then get out and stride towards him. The smile on his face should have told Aaron everything but he just didn’t want to go there. This was a friend, a colleague and he didn’t want to fracture whatever was left of that friendship. It had taken them a long-time to get to even this point after faking Prentiss’s death. He smiled back and the two men walked inside and sat down at the table that Rossi had commandeered for them.

The team raised a toast to Jason, Kate even got into the spirit, though she didn’t know the man, she had seen the love and emotion from everyone around her. They traded stories, anecdotes and cases with each other. Celebrating the life of Jason Gideon everyone drank to him and hoped that he was in a better place.

“Hey Reid, that girl over there, she has totally been checking you out. Why don’t you go say hi?” Morgan encouraged him by bumping his shoulders. Reid smiled shyly as he looked over at the girl.

Aaron looked up and saw the young woman who was smiling at Reid, and lifted her drink acknowledging him.

Reid, who over the years had gotten bolder when it came to women, stood and walked over and started talking to her.

“Aww, look our boy has grown-up and left the nest. He has listened to our resident love guru and is putting himself out there.” Garcia smiled softly as she sipped an ungodly bright blue drink.

“Yeah, he’s gotten a little bolder lately. At least when I can get him to go out.”

There were more quips and jokes about Reid’s dating and Aaron stayed quiet. He watched as Reid showed the girl a magic trick or two and thoroughly charmed her. Every word, every action, every laugh coming from the couple was like a dagger in his heart. But, he knew all that ultimately mattered was that Reid was happy.

Several hours later and the team was leaving one by one. Reid had invited the young woman to dinner and Aaron couldn’t help watching them leave.

“Aaron, why don’t you just go after him and tell him how you feel?”

Aaron was brought out of his thoughts by Dave sitting next to him and handing him a drink.


“You can fool them Aaron, you can’t fool me. You have feelings for that young man, you have for a long time. Don’t you think it’s time you admitted it and went after what you want for once?”

“Dave, I’m fine. I just want Reid happy. He hasn’t had a lot of it lately.”

“Mm, hmm. Well, when you decide to stop being an ass and admit what you feel, we’ll come back to this conversation.” Aaron glared at his friend as he got up and left. He was the only one still at the table and he knew he should get home but something was keeping him there. He switched to iced tea and sat back trying to get a handle on the swell of emotion at seeing Spencer with someone else. Part of him truly just wanted Reid happy, but that deeper part of him, that little voice he had been ignoring for years told him he was being stupid. Finally, when he felt he was sober enough he got in his car and headed home.

What Aaron didn’t see was the team filtering back in with Reid.

“Well, that didn’t work, what now?”

“Why are we doing this again?” Reid asked as he looked towards the exit hoping Aaron got home okay.

“To try to make him jealous, to get him out of his head and finally confront what he feels about you boy genius.”

“I don’t know. I feel like we’re manipulating him and it doesn’t feel right.” Reid slowly let out the breath he was holding, got up said his goodnights and left.

“We are holding him to the plan, right?” JJ watched Reid leave and her heart hurt for both men, so unsure of themselves.

“Yes, mama, we are.” Morgan said as he got up and paid the check. They all then left knowing they had to come-up with another strategy.

Bombs, why the hell did it have to be bombs. Aaron was sitting in his office trying to write up his reports on their last case and his hand shook just a little. There were times, like now, that bombs still triggered too many bad memories for him. He stilled his hand by sheer will and continued writing.

He looked-up sharply when a fresh cup of coffee was put on his desk and someone was sitting across from him.

“Reid,” Aaron looked at him a little confused. “What are you doing here so late?”

Reid smiled as he crossed his leg over his knee and looked like he was gathering his thoughts together. It was a look Aaron knew well and waited for the younger man to speak.

“I wanted to make sure you were okay. I know how much bombs are a trigger for you Hotch. You tried to hide your shaking hands from the team but I noticed. I didn’t want to say anything but I noticed.”

Aaron took his cup and slowly sipped at the dark rich coffee. “This isn’t the normal coffee.”

“No. My own personal stash. I thought you could use something better than the just passable stuff the bureau springs for.”

Aaron looked down at the file he was working on and tried to hide the smile on his face.

“Thank you Reid. And, thank you for the concern. I’m fine, really.”

“Somehow I think you are lying to me, but I won’t push. Just know that if you need to talk, I’m here.”

“I ah, I thought you had a date with that forensic specialist who decided to apply to the bureau. I heard you say she was coming to DC for a few days?”

“That’s for tomorrow. She is sweet and we have a lot in common. I really enjoyed working with her.  I think they’ll snatch her up, she was pretty brilliant. Means she’d be working here.”

“That’s good. I ah, I hope your date goes well.”

“Thank you Hotch.” Reid smiled sadly as he stood-up from the chair he was in, walking towards the door he stopped and turned to see Aaron once again working on his files. “It ah, it would be nice if she did work here. Would make things less complicated if our date goes well.”

Aaron smiled at him, “Yes it would. Good luck Reid, it’s nice that you can find someone who likes the same things you do.” It cut him to the core saying these things but he knew, that in the long run he could eventually be happy for Reid. That everyone deserves to be happy and in this job it was difficult enough to find someone who understood.

“Thanks, good night Hotch.” Reid frowned as he walked out of Aaron’s office.

Aaron went back to concentrating on the file he was working on trying not to think of Reid out on a date with someone else. He knew he had to try to let go of this crush, for surely that was all it was, wasn’t it?

Aaron thought their last couple of cases were bad but nothing prepared them for Citadel Corrections. Aaron and Reid were going over the files of the prisoners and a part of Aaron wanted to stay and watch Reid work. It always fascinated him to watch the genius when he was in his element and paper files, deciphering and looking for the anomaly was Reid’s specialty. Aaron indulged himself and watched him for a moment and wondered if any of the women that Reid had dated recently really understood him at all. Aaron didn’t want to think about that, at least not at this moment.

“We need to complete our profiles, the answer’s in there. How much time do you need?” Aaron asked as he stood to leave so he could conduct some of the interviews from their short-list of suspects.

“Uh,” Reid flipped quickly through the files quickly, Aaron curled up the sides of his lips in a slow smile, knowing how fast he was calculating, “126 minutes approximately.”

“Okay, keep at it, I’ll be back then.”

Aaron left and shook his head as he headed off to speak with the Warden again and then interview some of the inmates. After he got back to Reid a deeper mystery was found and they were trying to quickly solve it, thinking that it had a direct correlation to the correction officers that were killed. No one expected the prison riot.

Aaron’s heart was in his throat and his immediate concern was Kate, then his mind quickly went to Reid. He hated this, being split but he needed to keep it together and power through so everyone got out of there okay. Luckily Reid was fine and the breakout was confined to one area. Aaron and Reid acted quickly to subdue the officer at the center of all the problems. Though he had barricaded himself in one of the security offices, they were able to finally get to him and get the situation under control. Aaron knew everyone was a little shaken, especially Kate, but once they got to the plane everyone felt they could relax in the familiar, safe surroundings.

“Kate, are you alright?” Aaron heard Reid ask as he slowly sat next to their teammate.

“Yeah, yeah Reid I’m okay.”

“Because I know, and if you ever need to talk about it, I’m here.”

Aaron was working on files but was surreptitiously watching the interaction. His heart hammered in his chest knowing exactly what Reid was talking about and an old guilt crept up and burned his cheeks.

“I don’t understand.” Kate frowned as she turned slightly to look at Reid.

Reid swallowed a few times then looked down at his hands. He took a deep breath and did something that surprised Aaron. He rolled up his sleeve and let Kate see the scars.

“I was taken and held. My kidnapper did this. I know what it’s like to have your control taken from you. I know what it’s like to not know where your team is and how you’re going to get out of the situation you’re in. I also know that it isn’t good to keep inside what you went through and how it made you feel. For me it was two days and it might have only been a couple of hours for you but you should talk about it. And I’m here if you need it.”

Aaron knew that if he didn’t already have feelings for Reid, this, this could have easily made him fall. Reid’s courage never ceased to amaze him. Reid never talked about Georgia and what happened to him to the team. He had to Aaron on some of their late-night talks, which were less frequent in the last couple of years and it made him wonder whose, if anyone’s really, fault that was. Aaron’s mind drifted and he thought about the one night Reid had called him, scared and almost mindless when he was in the throes of his addiction. Aaron dropped everything and went to Reid stopping him from an accidental overdose. He had stayed the night helping him clean himself up as well as his apartment. Aaron was going to sleep on the couch, but Reid had begged him to stay with him, which he did. When he had woken-up in the morning with the younger man curled up against him his heart stopped in his chest and he didn’t let himself feel. He just extricated himself from Reid, made coffee and left it on for him then quietly left. Neither one of them ever mentioned it. Aaron often wondered if he should have, then maybe, just maybe he wouldn’t be in this state of being that he was in. He didn’t have a name for it, didn’t want one so again, he pushed it all down and just reminded himself that they were only friends.

When Reid later on called someone named Caitlyn his stomach twisted and ached, but he wondered again, if Reid was happy and what it was that kept him from finding that one person he could be happy with.

“So have you ever, you know, done something outside the norm?” Reid held up the book Bare Reflections and it looked like he had read it. A couple of times.

“Why are we having this conversation?” Aaron asked as his hand faltered in the middle of writing his report, a frown on his face.

“Because it’s late and no one is here but us and I am genuinely curious. You know, scientific study.” The mischievous smile on his face had Aaron softly chuckling. He didn’t know what to make of the question or the fact that Reid had read the book. He tried not to swallow hard as his ears burned thinking thoughts he knew he had no right to think.

“Come on Hotch, it’s not like I’m going to tell anyone.” Reid sat there with that damned adorable smile on his face and Aaron had to school his expression. He narrowed his eyes as he pursed his lips then sat back fully in his chair giving up on doing any work at the moment.

“Once. Haley and I tried to experiment a little. I ah, I used my tie and tied her wrists to one of the slats in our headboard.” The heat creeped up his face as he thought of that night. He had enjoyed it immensely but Haley didn’t. Afterwards they argued fiercely over Aaron enjoying something like that and it made him retreat a little more within himself. It wasn’t that their sex life became boring after, but it was never as satisfying as it had been when they stepped out of their comfort zone. Of course he wasn’t going to admit any of this to Reid. And the images and thoughts he had of his subordinate he pushed right out of his head.

Aaron couldn’t believe that he was admitting this to Reid in the first place. He blamed it on the late night and too much coffee. It had nothing to do with those images in his head. Images of Reid tied to his headboard and his mouth…yeah he wasn’t going there. Those thoughts would just land him in trouble.

“You know; they say a little experimentation in your life is healthy. Wouldn’t you agree?” Aaron knew deep down that what he wanted and what he felt for Reid wasn’t and wouldn’t be an experimentation, he’s worth more than that in Aaron’s eyes.

“Are you saying that you’ve experimented?” Aaron knew he should really stop this conversation because he knew he could blow his whole career when it came to Reid.

“Maybe I have.” Reid teased as he lifted the corners of his mouth in a shy smile.

Aaron narrowed his eyes once again at the genius as he reached for his coffee cup, wishing it was scotch instead. He was having this very inappropriate conversation while being entirely too sober to have it.

“Then spill genius. You got me to admit my one-time foray into…. experimenting, what’s yours?” Aaron knew he was in trouble and by the time he got home there was going to be no sleep for him. His thoughts were pinging all over the place as he struggled very hard with himself to keep his outward demeanor calm and controlled.

“Let’s see, there was the one time in college when I was tied to to a bed.” Reid wanted to laugh at the expression on Aaron’s face, but he didn’t. “Don’t worry I was over 18 Hotch. And it was fun, but I can only imagine what it would be like with someone I trusted, you know?”

“Maybe you should try it with your friend Caitlyn then.”

It was Aaron’s turn to suppress the laugh at the comical expression on Reid’s face, but he didn’t. He smiled into his coffee cup as he drained the contents then set the empty cup carefully back down on his desk.

“I just want to see you happy Reid. You’ve been smiling more since this girl came into your life.”

“She’s fun and she does make me smile but I just don’t know.” Reid stared pointedly at Aaron as he bit his lower lip.

“Don’t let something like that pass you by. If you’re enjoying her company just cherish the moments you have with her. Maybe something more will eventually come of it.”

Reid frowned as he shook his head, “Maybe. It’s late I should be getting home and you should to. Jack is probably missing you Hotch,” he said as he stood, the frown still on his face as he left Aaron’s office.

Aaron watched him go and wondered at that frown. He also wondered what prompted these late night talks at the office with Reid. Why he suddenly after years of them drifting apart why was Reid reaching out to him like he was? Aaron wondered, not for the first time in the last couple of months, if Reid missed their friendship as much as he had. He slowly let out the breath he hadn’t realized he was holding before he got back to work. It didn’t take him long to finish up and close down for the night.

Getting up he grabbed his briefcase and coat then started out the door of his office. When he passed by Reid’s something on the top made him stop to look. It was a group of film canisters. Aaron chuckled as he picked one up thinking back to easier days before tragedy and personal horror had entered both of their lives. He hadn’t see Reid do any of his physics magic, though he learned the trick of it a long-time ago, in too long a time. There was a part of him that missed that Reid. The one whose confidence was still growing, the one that came to him with easy conversation. When did everything get so hard? Was it that too much had happened in the last eight years? Did they drift apart because Reid no longer needed him? Aaron thought it was rather pathetic of him to want that Reid back. Maybe he needed to make an effort to know the Reid that stood before him lately. The Reid that kept coming into his office when they were alone at night and wanting to talk. Was he reaching out? Was this Reid’s way of telling Aaron that he was still needed and on some level wanted? Aaron sighed as he gently put the canister back on the desk, held onto his coat a little tighter then walked out of the office to head home to that glass of scotch and a cold bed.

Reid and Agent Loker were at Reid’s desk laughing. A part of Aaron was horribly jealous as he watched the two of them as he stood in the little kitchenette. He knew the two agents had connected when they were looking for the Senator’s wife. Aaron still not wholly unconvinced that the Senator was innocent. They only had evidence against the mother, but couldn’t prove that the husband had anything to do with her kidnapping. But at least they found her and even the scandal of his affair didn’t affect his approval rating too much. Not when the reunion was seemingly so heartfelt. Aaron could feel the falseness in it but his job was over there was nothing more he could do.

“They look cute together, don’t they?” JJ had come in to fix herself some tea and saw him standing there looking towards Spencer’s desk.

Aaron smiled a genuine smile as he watched the couple for a few minutes.

“As long as he’s found someone he cares about JJ, that’s all that matters.” Aaron grabbed his coffee and headed-up to his office.

As he was working on filling out the monthly budget reports Dave came in and sat down in one of the chairs in front of his desk.

“Seems the kid really likes this girl. Did you know they did half their surveillance speaking only Russian to each other?”

Aaron furrowed his brow and chuckled softly as he smiled, “Why does that not surprise me. It’s good to see him laughing.”

“Dammit Aaron.” Dave sighed in frustration as he glared at his friend.

“What?” Aaron asked in confusion as he set his pen aside.

“That young man cares about you and you sit up here acting like you aren’t jealous every single second he spends with that agent.” Dave gave him one of his ‘I got you’ looks.

“Dave, if Spencer is happy with this young woman than I’m happy for him. Why can’t you just believe that? I’m not jealous. Yes, I’ll admit that I miss the friendship we once had, but I’m not pining over something that never was.”

Dave worked hard to keep the frustration at Aaron off his face, but Aaron saw through the guise.

“Why can’t you believe that I am genuinely happy for him?”

“You really are too selfless Aaron. Why can’t you just take something for yourself for once?”

“Dave, I really don’t want to have this conversation. Yes, I care about Reid, just like we all do. I wish you’d stop trying push something that isn’t there.” Aaron knew he was lying, he even thought that Dave may know that he was lying, but also knowing Dave like he did the man was going to take him at his word. Hopefully. Though, it was killing him inside every second that Reid was with the young woman. He turned his head when he heard a deep hearty laugh and smiled softly. A part of him really did just want Reid to be happy, even if it meant it wasn’t with him.

“Fine. I just hope you know what you are doing.” Dave stood and walked down to the couple and talked with them for a few minutes before handing Reid some money and practically pushing them out the door. Aaron chuckled low to himself and shook his head. He figured that Dave was buying them dinner and pushing them out to actually get out of the office to go on a date.

When the office emptied and it was just him Aaron closed his eyes and tried to keep his emotions in check. This conflict in him, he knew he had to resolve it one way or another. He had to either put his feelings for Reid aside once and for all, or, like Dave said, finally go after what he wanted. Tonight, though, he wasn’t going to do anything. He was still stuck in that state of being that he had been stuck in for quite literally years now. But something had to give and soon.

“And now, here I am.”

“Tell me right now, without thinking about it at all what do you want?”

“I want Spencer.” His eyes widened not realizing he had finally said out loud what had been in his heart for far too long.

“And what do you want from this young man. Sex? A relationship? A one-off so you can figure out if you are compatible, or that you can handle a same-sex relationship? That is what you have to figure out.” The stranger sipped his drink as he stared at Aaron.

“I want him in my life. I want a real relationship. Not this half-assed back and forth we’ve been doing with each other for years. But…” Aaron wiped a hand down his face then took another drink of his scotch.

“But, what? The fact that you are two straight men who find each other both physically and emotionally attractive? That you want to have sex with a man and it’s screwing with how you always thought of yourself and what you wanted in a partner?”

“Yes. I don’t know if I’m ready to let go.” Aaron blew out a breath as the hammer of the truth of his own words hit him upside the head. “Well hell. I don’t know if I am the one who can let go.” He said softly as he pushed his drink around on the table.

“That, I believe, is the crux of your dilemma. You don’t know if you can let go of those conventions of who you are supposed to love long enough to see that you are in love. And with someone of the same gender. It scares you that if you make a move and he doesn’t return those affections you’ll lose a friendship that you’ve cultivated and cherished over the years you’ve known him.”

“So, how much do I owe you?” Aaron smiled sadly as he took a sip of his scotch savoring the burn as it slid down his throat, trying to warm those places inside of him that had turned cold.

The stranger chuckled softly as he signaled for a refill. “You don’t owe me anything. I was the one that intruded on you and your solitude.” The stranger looked up at him as if he was thinking, “You never said what it was that brought you in here?”

Aaron took a moment, “It was this last case we were on. The father and son fought over his choice of partners. It isn’t like we haven’t seen homophobic attitudes before, but this one, for some reason really hit me hard.”

“Did you see something of yourself in it? Or was there something else going on?” Aaron’s eyes were wet as he held back the tears that were fighting to break free. Taking a big swallow of his drink he opened up to the stranger about what happened with his wife and his father-in-law’s condition. He talked about how Roy still blamed him for Haley’s death and how, on some level he still blamed himself.

“That’s quite the responsibility to take on. Why do you think you hold onto that guilt so tightly?”

“If I had just taken the deal, then maybe Haley would still be alive.”

“And if you had taken whatever deal this psychopath wanted you to take, then your career would have been over. And, maybe something else, something out of your hands would have happened to your wife, and maybe not. You cannot dwell on what could or could not have happened. You have to accept that what happened was not your fault. The person who did this used you and your vulnerability to hurt you, destroy you, that is on them, not you. You have to forgive yourself and let it go.”

“That’s the crux. I thought I had. But Roy, he throws it in my face every time I have to be around him.”

“And why do you have to be around him?”

“My son loves his grandfather. I would never take that away from him.”

“Then let your sister-in-law be the one to deal with taking your son to see him. Stop putting yourself in a toxic relationship. Forgive yourself and maybe then you talk to this man that you have such deep conflicting feelings for.”

Aaron tapped the table and looked at his watch noticing the time. He knew he probably shouldn’t drive so he called for a cab.

“I want to thank you. I’m still not sure what I’m going to do but thank you.”

“Your welcome. Just think about what I’ve said, you might be surprised if you just let go and talk to him.”

Aaron nodded as he slipped out of the bar and met the cab that arrived almost as soon as he walked outside. He was still conflicted, still didn’t know what to do but it felt good to have been able to talk to someone, even a stranger. He knew he kept things too much inside him, knew his introversion was not necessarily a good thing and he wondered just when it was this had become his normal state of being. He shut his thoughts down because he’d had enough introspection. When he finally got home and stumbled into bed after checking on Jack he was both mentally and physically exhausted. He fell into an uneasy sleep with Spencer firmly on his mind.

“I lied,” he blurted out as the door opened and Reid stood there in sleep pants and a rumpled t-shirt looking thoroughly disheveled.

“What?” Reid squinted as he tried to see the man standing in his doorway.

“I lied to Dave. About what happened with Lewis. I, I, couldn’t tell him.” Aaron couldn’t help the fear that had settled in his stomach which was making him physically ache all over.

“Hotch, it’s late and I don’t understand what you’re doing here.” Reid frowned as he watched his boss, his friend trying to unsuccessfully hold it together.

“Please Reid, let me in.” Reid shook his head and walked away from the door, leaving it open. Aaron hoped that it was an invitation to enter Reid’s apartment because he did it anyway. Turning he closed the door behind him, took off his jacket and tie and threw them off to the side. Reid had disappeared somewhere, possibly his bedroom. He came back a moment later with his glasses on and he shuffled into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. When it was finally brewing he turned around, crossed his arms over his chest and half-glared at Aaron.

“What is this about Hotch?”

Aaron moved into the kitchen and invaded Reid’s personal space. The genius didn’t try to move or leave his spot. He watched and waited trying to understand what his boss wanted at this ungodly hour of the night.

Aaron lifted his hand up and laid it gently on Reid’s neck, curling his fingers he slowly ran his thumb on the underside of Reid’s jaw.

“Lewis, he made me see you coming through the front door and I shot you. I raised my gun and I killed you. Even though I knew intellectually that what I was seeing wasn’t real, I saw you die in my head and it, it about destroyed me Reid. I thought in that moment all the things I should have told you, all the things I wanted to tell you but was afraid to.” Aaron didn’t notice the tears that slowly slipped down his face till he felt a hand gently wiping them away.

“When you entered the house for real, I almost did it Reid, I almost…” Aaron didn’t get a chance to finish his sentence because before he knew what was happening he was pulled into Reid’s arms and soft lips met his. He closed his eyes a moment trying to stop his out of control thoughts. He pulled back to take a breath as he looked at Reid with fresh eyes.

“I’m not dead Aaron. You didn’t do those things he made you see and you didn’t pull your trigger at me, or any of us. You fought back and I’m here. I’m so sorry Aaron, I’m so sorry for what Lewis did to you.” Spencer laid his hand on Aaron’s cheek and gently caressed under his eyes wiping away the tears as they fell.

“I love you Spencer. All I ever wanted for you was for you to be happy. Even if it was without me, I just wanted you happy.”

“You didn’t see it Aaron. We…I kept trying to get you to see it. I am happiest when we are together. I don’t when it happened, it was probably gradual but I realized I had feelings for you and when I saw the way you would watch me I knew you had feelings for me but you were just so damn honorable. God it was frustrating.”

“Spencer, I’m a straight man in love with a man. I didn’t know what to do with these feelings.”

“You think it’s been any easier for me? I’m straight too, despite what Morgan and anyone else at work thinks. But I also know love doesn’t care. It’s a human construct that you must be either or to love. It truly doesn’t work that way. I don’t see other men the way I see you, the way that I love you. And I do Aaron, I love you. I have for a while and I despaired of you ever owning up to your own feelings.”

“I’m old Spencer. I don’t know when it happened, but I got old. You’re still young, you could find someone that you can have more time with.”

“Aaron I can’t even believe I am hearing these words come out of your mouth. You are not old. And I don’t want anyone else. So let’s just stop wasting time and energy trying to understand what this all means and just let it happen.”

Aaron wanted to run, wanted to let Reid go while at the same time he wanted to get lost together with Reid. He stood there trying to define what they were to each other, trying to slot them into some kind of category but it was just too much. Then, Reid smiled, slow and sure, and his hand drifted up and under his shirt. He didn’t know when it had been lifted from his pants but at this moment he didn’t care. What he cared about was the feel of those warm, delicate fingers sliding against his flush skin and he knew. He knew he couldn’t run, even if he had wanted to. He wanted to stop fighting this, stop fighting what it was between them, he fought against that horrible state of being he had been in for far too long and leaned in and kissed the man he had so many complicated feelings for. It was slow and started softly then built as the fire inside him was ignited. Mouths opened, tongues twined, hands fisted in each other’s hair or clothes, bodies pressed in closer and Aaron felt like he was on fire. Maybe he was and if this was what it felt like to be burned, he never wanted it to stop.

Pulling back, he laid his head on Reid’s, breathing in his air, the coconut scent from Reid’s shampoo filling his nose. His breath was shallow and hard as his heart pounded wildly in his chest.

“What do you want Spencer? Tell me please because I’m so lost.”

“Just you Aaron, that’s all I’ve ever wanted.”

“I have so much baggage.
“And I don’t?”

“I have a son and as much as I want you, want us he comes first.”

“I’ve always know that and you know I feel about Jack.”

Aaron swallowed hard as he wrapped his arms around Reid and pulled him in even closer.

“Then yes Spencer, yes I want this.”

Aaron looked at the man in his arms and smiled as he let all those insecurities go as he began to let himself feel all those feelings he had locked away years ago. He changed his state of being in those few moments the two men had confessed their feelings. He knew what it was now, and it was the state of being in love.