Title: The Whisper of Silence
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Characters: Aaron Hotchner, Spencer Reid, Derek Morgan
Pairing: Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid
Genre: Angst, Past Relationship
Beta: DarkJediQueen, no non-consensual beta
Warnings: Self-harm, Depression
Word Count: 3476
“And in the naked light I saw / Ten thousand people, maybe more / People talking without speaking / People hearing without listening / People writing songs that voices never share/And no one dared / Disturb the sound of silence”
He’s gone repeated in Hotch’s mind over and over again. It was all he could do to get out of bed. The warmth of Spencer had penetrated the cold that had settled deep inside him. Had eased the pain, fear and frustrations he felt building up time and time again. He slid out of the bed, Spencer’s bed and took that first tentative step without him. He had read the note at least a hundred times and every time was like a stab in the heart. He needed Spencer like he needed to take another breath but his fear, that fear of fully giving Spencer his heart was always there. He tried to show the genius what he felt, but often he knew it came out as him clinging to something…..ephemeral. That wasn’t quite the word he wanted but it was the best he could think at the moment. He collapsed back on the bed, the note rumpled in his hand.
He’s gone Hotch bowed his head and clenched the sheets of the bed underneath him and shook. He shook so hard that he didn’t think that he’d ever stop shaking. The stabbing pain in his heart didn’t help. Did he do this? Was he solely responsible for Spencer leaving? Oh he knew intellectually it was temporary, but, but…but, was there a possibility he wasn’t coming back? And if he didn’t come back how was he going to cope.
He’s gone it pounded through his brain like a staccato that was stuck in a discordant rhythm. He wrapped his arms around his waist and tried to control his breathing. He knew he needed to get himself together. He needed to hold himself together for Jack, for the team, for everyone else just so they all saw everything was okay, everything was normal. It was all normal. It had to be, they had to be, he had to be, normal.
He’s gone kept hammering at him as he finally dragged himself off the bed and into the bathroom. Under the hot water it didn’t matter if he let a few tears slip out, no one saw, no one was around. He was alone. Even surrounded by the team, he felt so alone. Only Spencer had ever been able to pull him out of that darkness that continually pushed at him, edged him closer and closer to just giving-up. He looked at the scars on his arms and the need was there. He fingered them as he sank down and pulled his legs up to his chest and tried to stop the shaking that started up again. Finally, when the hot water ran out and only cold was coming through did he move. Turning off the water he stepped out of the shower, dried off and looked at himself in the mirror. I can do this. I CAN do this. He repeated to himself over and over again in anguished whispers.
Straightening up he moved into the bedroom and tried not to think of Spencer being gone.
Hotch walked through the doors of the FBI building and made it to his desk. No one was there yet and wasn’t that the kicker? He looked down at Spencer’s desk and sighed. Scrubbing a hand over his face he shored-up his feelings and pushed them down. He had stopped going to his therapy after he and Spencer started to see more of each other outside of work. Well, more like he started to lean on Spencer. Using him as his anchor. He set his briefcase aside, turned on his computer, grabbed his coffee cup and gave all outward appearance that everything was normal.
He made his way back to his desk and enjoyed the couple of hours of silence till he knew first Dave would show, then the rest of the team. They were going to have questions and he wasn’t ready for any sort of truth. He would have to give them what he was comfortable sharing. He was deep in reports and scheduling annual evaluations that he was startled by the knock on his door. He looked-up and the smile that crossed his face was genuine.
“Ashley, come on in.” The woman that he and Rossi had watched, counseled and at one time mentored had really matured as not only a woman, but as an agent. She walked in and self-confidence just poured out of her. Time in Andi Swan’s unit had been good for her, thought Hotch as he held out his hand for her to take.
“Hotch, it’s so good to see you. Looks like we’ll be working together again, that is if you approve the temporary transfer. Andi is all for it. She thinks I could use the break as well.” Ashley smiled as she took Hotch’s hand and settled in the chair in front of his desk.
“Yes, four months contingent on any of your ongoing cases in trafficking that need your attention.” He looked back down at the file and was impressed with her track record with her unit.
“Honestly Hotch, I really could use the break.” She leaned back in the chair and Hotch could see the tiredness around her eyes.
“And you chose the BAU?” He raised his brows as he looked over at her.
“It’s different. I know it’s intense and what you deal with is some of the worst of the serial crimes, but, I think it’s that these people really don’t see others as anything other than a dollar sign. Especially kids and teens. Don’t worry, I can handle it.”
“Okay, then go ahead and set-up at the desk in front of JJ.”
“Thanks Hotch.” She rose and left. He watched her find the desk that he indicated and started to get settled in. He’d have to have Garcia set her up with the programs the BAU uses exclusively but that could come later in the day.
He knew the team was going to have a lot of questions and he tried not to think of what he would tell them.
Thank god they had a case. Something to distract him but it also brought home the hole left by Spencer leaving. The talk with the team went better than he expected, though Morgan kept watching him off and on throughout the day and it made him wonder just how much he knew.
Ashley slotted in well and she paired her with Dave. They were close and he would keep an eye on her and give Hotch his honest opinion. He was holding together well, it wasn’t till he had to begin the geographic profile that he hiccuped. He stood there looking at the map and ached for Spencer to be there. The door to the conference room was closed and Aaron laid his forehead against the map.
“Spence….” He let slip from his lips as he frowned. A moment later, after getting himself under control he worked on the profile. He let his mind empty and didn’t notice anyone around him. When the team came in he went over what they found and he went over what he found in the geography of the crimes. They worked for several hours trying to narrow down all the copious amounts of information that they had received. Which was unusual and make them pause.
When it got too late Hotch ordered everyone to go back to the hotel and get some sleep. He knew he was rooming with Morgan and though it had never been a problem in the past, he was apprehensive for some reason.
Hotch was in the bathroom standing at the sink, gripping it tight as the urge came over him. He wanted to be strong. I can do this repeated in his mind once again. Now that night had fallen and he didn’t have the case to distract him his thoughts started to turn dark. That thing that was always at the back of his mind urging him to hurt himself, knowing it took the pain away, even if just for a few moments, was screaming at him.
He pushed off the sink and sat on the edge of the hotel bathtub. He itched to rummage in his valise for them. He wrapped his arms around his waist as he bowed his head and tried to get himself together. When the urge finally passed, he stood and washed his face then stepped out and walked to his bed.
“Everything okay Hotch?” Morgan asked as he set a bag of food on the table. He had run out and gotten sandwiches for the two of them. Neither was terribly hungry but they knew they needed to eat.
“I’m fine Morgan, why?” He knew he was glaring but he just wasn’t in the mood for anyone prying into his life.
“Nothing. You just look frustrated with the case. Wondering if you wanted a sounding board.”
“Actually I just want to try to get some sleep.” He softened his expression as he sat at the table and lazily ate the sandwich. Afterwards, though the silence in the room was deafening, he just didn’t want to talk. After he was done he thanked Morgan then crawled into bed.
Sleep wasn’t easy. He tossed and turned all night and finally around four he just gave it up. Getting up he dressed in his running clothes, took his phone and a few dollars and decided to go on a long run. He hoped it would clear his head of any thoughts of Spencer. By the time he got back he felt a little more in control, sort of. By the time he was taking his shower he heard Derek moving around and wondered if he would have to dodge any conversation that the man would want. In the past it was never a problem, but lately even just a simple conversation with a friend was a chore.
He was very grateful that Morgan had kept his own counsel till they got to the station and back to work.
The case was frustrating. They’d already been there a week and nothing. It was going cold quickly and the local police captain was almost ready to call it quits. That was until they got their break from a surprising source. The Unsub’s son. He called the police station telling them his father had a woman in his ‘secret room’. Hotch was the first one out the door. Morgan and Dave both tried to stop him but he wasn’t listening.
He made it to the house and waited the few seconds that Morgan was behind him to breach the house. He ran up to the door, announced himself then went in. He told the boy to go to the waiting vehicles after he was shown the room. The adrenaline rushing through him was pushing the pain and anxiety that had been building up over the last few days deep down. He took a few deep breaths, and using his lockpick he opened the locked door then moved quietly down the stairs. He wasn’t even waiting for back-up.
“Terrance Whitaker, this is the FBI. Step away from the woman you are under arrest.” Aaron saw the knife in the Unsub’s hand and his breath quickened. He hesitated which made Whitaker lunge at Aaron and slash him across the arm making him drop his weapon. He grabbed Whitaker’s wrist and twisted like he had learned in his hand-to-hand but that knife….that knife and the cut on his arm had felt so damn good. His eyes glazed over and he was no longer thinking Unsub, his mind was solely focused on the knife.
“Hotch,” he heard someone yelling behind him and when his vision cleared properly he was breathing hard and letting Morgan take the suspect into custody. He looked down at his arms and saw no one, but several small cuts. He had absolutely no memory of what happened.
“Aaron,” Dave said quietly as he approached his best friend. “Come on, let the medics clean you up.” Thankfully Dave didn’t say a thing. Just led him out to the ambulance so the Paramedics could look him over. Dave left him to get treated and he just felt numb. He didn’t say anything till someone was standing in front of him. When he looked-up he saw Morgan standing there.
“Write what you need to Morgan. I won’t fight you on it.” Aaron was tired, just so fucking tired of fighting himself, his pain and anger at this horrible numbness that came over him.
“Write what? That you went into the house knowing back-up was just behind you and we apprehended the suspect with no loss of life? That you were engaged in a fight with said suspect and hand him pinned and handcuffed by the time we got there?” Morgan kept a steady gaze on his boss as he gave the verbal account of what was going to become the official report.
The Paramedic signaled that she was done and Aaron stood so she could close up her van and head out. He took a deep breath and walked a short-ways away from the crime scene trying to get his head together. He wasn’t surprised to find he had been followed.
“Why what Hotch?”
“Why would you lie on an official report?”
“I only know part of what’s going on with you. Reid didn’t want me to tell you that he told me. He did it so I would understand the context of his relationship with you and why he left.” Aaron slowly sat down on the bus bench that was in front of where he was standing. He bowed his head and wrapped his arms around his middle. He was trying to keep it together, trying not to fall apart and every day that Reid was gone pushed him more and more towards that edge.
Morgan squatted down on his heels in front of Aaron and laid a hand on his knee.
“Hotch, what’s going on? There’s no one here, just us.”
“I….I….I need him Morgan. I can’t do this anymore.” Tears pricked at the corner of his eyes but he wasn’t going to break, not here and not now.
“Come on Hotch. Let me take you back to the hotel and we can talk.” Morgan waited till his boss stood and took a few shaky breaths before that mask slipped on and he once again became SAIC Aaron Hotchner. He strode with purpose towards the SUV, but Morgan took the keys from him and said that he would drive them back. Thankfully they got inside with no one approaching them. Which Aaron was eternally grateful for.
When they got inside the room Aaron went to go change. He left the bathroom door open, which Morgan figured it was a show of trust on his part. A few minutes later Hotch hesitated leaving the bathroom, but he did. It wasn’t lost on Morgan that he was wearing a short-sleeved shirt and jogging pants. Since Morgan knew, he wasn’t going to hide from him. He made his way to his bed and sat down with his legs curled up against his chest and his arms around his legs.
Morgan hated this. He hated seeing Aaron this lost and broken. He had been watching Aaron closely since Reid left and he could honestly say he was afraid. This was as much his family as his Mother and Sisters were and though he and Aaron had rocky times, they were still underneath it all friends.
“Aaron,” he started to ask as he sat on the bed in front of his boss, “What happened back there?”
Aaron laid his head on his knees and tried to control his breathing.
“I went in, I knew you guys were behind me, but I just, I couldn’t wait. The boy showed me the room and I used my lockpick to gain entrance. When I went downstairs I heard crying, held my gun out. I announced myself and Whitaker turned. I saw the knife and hesitated. He lunged and sliced my arm then everything from then till you were handcuffing him, I don’t remember Morgan. I don’t remember.” He felt the wetness on his face but he was loath to stop it. He started to shake and knew he couldn’t continue like this. He was falling apart. His silence was making him reckless.
“Hotch, what is going on with you? I’ve seen you barely holding it together, and when did this begin?” Morgan hovered his hand over Aaron’s arms. He knew the man was showing him his secret, telling him something without saying it.
“Reid and I, we, we were living together. We wanted to tell the team everything but then the case with Prentiss and the decision by the State Department to hide her and how I was forced to keep quiet about it. When she came back, Spencer he, he,” Aaron wiped his face and laid his head back against the headboard as his heart constricted as it always did when he thought about that time. “He didn’t want to listen. Saw it as another betrayal. We argued and he left. Said he was leaving and that he didn’t want my excuses for lying to him. He didn’t want to hear my side at all. That I was forced to keep quiet, he just….”
Aaron shook his head as he tried to stop the tears born of frustration and anger.
“Can I ask what happened with Beth? I understand if you don’t want to talk about this but Hotch, I think you need to talk to someone.”
“Beth is gone. She didn’t want to deal with the long-distance anymore so she took a job in Hong Kong.”
Morgan wanted to curse. They all understood Reid’s abandonment issues and how much he hated when people left him, but for profilers, they had all been blind to Aaron’s own pain. It wasn’t like he was an open book, but truthfully they all assumed he was fine and would always bounce back. But how much can a person really take before they break? Right here and now Morgan was witnessing Aaron’s breaking point. While he knew why Reid left, and that it might have been the right decision, he couldn’t understand him leaving Aaron in this state.
“I know I hurt him. I know I’ve been leaning on him but….he’s the only person that’s kept me together. I have to keep it together, I have to Jack needs me.”
Morgan closed his eyes a moment trying to stay calm. One wrong word, one wrong move and Aaron would clam up, close off and he would never get this close again. He knew he had to tread carefully. The man was fragile, more fragile than any of them wanted to believe. It made Morgan wonder if he truly ever came back whole from Foyet.
“Aaron, I think you need to talk to someone. Not the team, not Reid but someone that can help you. I can’t, as your 2IC let you go back out in the field like you are now. Look what happened tonight.” Morgan laid a hand on Aaron’s knee and made him look at him.
“What do you want Hotch? What is it you really want from all this?”
Aaron swallowed hard as he looked down at his hands trying to get control of himself.
“I love him Morgan,” he whispered it and if Morgan hadn’t been paying attention he would not have heard it. His heart broke a little at the defeated tone in Aaron’s voice. What he wanted to do was wrap the man up and stop the damn world from fucking with him, but he knew Aaron wouldn’t accept that kind of comfort.
“What are you afraid of? Hotch, what are you really afraid of?”
Aaron looked up at Morgan, “Always being alone. Always the one left behind. That, I..” Aaron scrubbed his face and looked away. He looked down at his arms and that need to feel, or not feel was overwhelming and he started to shake with it. He didn’t know if he could actually confess to Morgan his deepest fear.
“Aaron, you have to open up to someone. What are you afraid of?”
“That I’ll always be lacking, that I’m not enough for someone to love. That I’m not enough for Spencer.” He shut down, closed off and tried so hard to hold it all in. He just needed to hold it in, just needed to get through one more day.