Fandom: Criminal Minds
Rating: R (FRM)
Word Count: ~ 1,800
Disclaimer: All characters belong to their copyright holders. No profit is intended.
Summary: Aaron is frozen inside.
Author’s Note: Contains SPOILERS for Season 5 through Episode 5.17 “Solitary Man”, including spoilers for Episode 5.09 “100”. This was a bit of melancholic angst that grabbed hold of me tonight and wouldn’t let go until I wrote it.
The Frozen Core
Every morning, the first thing Aaron thinks when he wakes up is, “I killed Haley.”
He knows, technically, that it’s not true, that George Foyet aka The Reaper is truly to blame. He knows, technically, that he would never have forgiven himself if he had taken Foyet’s damn ‘deal’ and let the psychopathic bastard run free. Although, to be honest, Aaron is not entirely sure he can live with himself now.
He wonders, sometimes, when Jack will begin to hate him. He knows he deserves it.
He returns to work with little fanfare and acts as if nothing is wrong. He knows that he’s hiding the truth, but he was always excellent at repression. (Just ask Haley, oh wait, you can’t anymore and it’s all his fault). He only came close to breaking once, his first case back, when the team listened to Joe Muller’s wife’s message and her pleas to save the lives of herself and her children. Aaron made a damaged sound and turned away, but then faced the team again, his mask firmly in place.
He’s not sure whether he’s proud or ashamed of that fact.
He keeps up his granite exterior after that. At least he believes he does. But his team is filled with excellent people who know him too damn well. Flying back from Evanston, Wyoming after solving the case of the apparent teenage suicides, JJ approaches him and talks about her sister who took her life. JJ is full of kindness and wisdom and sorrow, and tells him that one day he’ll remember Haley and it won’t hurt. He thanks her, he does, but he wonders at the small part of him that hates her in that moment for making him feel. All he’s done is try to avoid feeling since he watched Haley’s coffin being lowered into the ground.
Sometimes Aaron holds Jack close or watches him sleep and he thinks that everything is right in the world. But then he remembers that it’s not. Sometimes he just pulls Jack in for a tighter embrace. But Jack doesn’t mind, it seems, because he too knows that everything is not right in the world. But sometimes they can pretend.
His team has been handling an inordinate number of cases involving children and he feels like he is ready to explode. Not that he will, of course, but sometimes he just feels that way.
He knows Jack heard the shot that killed Haley; sometimes Jack cries out in his sleep as if awakened by the noise and then his sobbing is inconsolable. Sometimes Aaron wishes he could sob like that too, but no tears come. No tears come when Joe Muller’s wife and kids are rescued, no tears come when the Florida con artist’s son watches as his father is gunned down, no tears come for Paul Collins’ daughter who saw her father’s throat slashed in a church in Rhode Island, no tears come for the children who were kidnapped in and around Virginia (none for the three who were saved or the ones who end up dead anyway), and no tears come for the truck driver’s daughter in New Mexico whose father killed himself as Prentiss held the child tight.
Aaron sometimes thinks he has no tears left.
But it is on that flight back from that last case, as the team sleeps and Aaron broods, that Spencer Reid, of all people, comes and sits across from him at the back of the jet. Reid doesn’t speak, not at all. Instead he reaches out and grasps Aaron’s hand.
It’s so unexpected that Aaron doesn’t speak either.
But, before he even realizes, the tears start to fall down his cheeks. The tears for all those children and their parents and for Jack and for himself. He cries, silently, with shuddering breaths, clasping Reid’s hand.
When it’s over, Reid hands him a tissue and strokes his palm.
Aaron falls asleep on the jet for the first time in months.
They solve the case and they’re back in some nameless motel in some small town in someplace in the middle of nowhere, and Aaron can’t sleep. Not at all. It’s late and no sleep comes and when he closes his eyes he hears the sound of Haley being shot. So he strides down the hall and knocks on Reid’s door, softly so as not to wake the man if he really is asleep. A few moments later the door opens and Reid blinks in surprise and Aaron makes his way into the room, uninvited but, perhaps, not unwanted.
Reid goes to ask him what is wrong.
And as if his body has its own volition separate from his mind, Aaron finds himself stepping forward and cupping Reid’s face and pressing their lips together and kissing him as if his life depends on it (and maybe it does, Aaron just doesn’t know anymore). He can sense a slight hesitation in the younger man, as if Reid is as surprised by Aaron’s actions as Aaron is himself. Aaron goes to pull back and walk away and, if he’s lucky, die in embarrassment, but then Reid grasps him and they’re kissing and they’re kissing and they’re kissing.
And then they’re doing more than kissing.
Aaron wakes up as the cold grey dawn light leeches the color from the room and he thinks, “What have I done?” (which, he supposes, is different from his usual thought of “I killed Haley,” but he’s not entirely sure it’s better). Reid seems even paler than usual in the bleached light and Aaron stares at him in shock and wonders how the hell he’s not going to get himself fired over this. (In hindsight, he really should have taken that offer for early retirement).
Then Reid awakes and stretches and blinks at him owlishly. Reid’s face takes on a slight frown and he reaches for his glasses and he stares at Aaron in puzzlement. Aaron realizes that he’s holding his breath but he can’t make himself breathe and he wonders how long it will be until he passes out from a lack of oxygen.
“You’re not a dream,” Reid says with a tone of wonderment.
Aaron shakes his head no, unable to speak.
“Good,” Reid declares and pulls Aaron in for a kiss. And Aaron knows that he’s still likely to pass out, but this time from surprise (and, if he’s honest with himself, pleasure). But that doesn’t stop him from pulling Reid in tighter.
So he starts to see Reid – Spencer he corrects himself – and the team turns a blind eye because they know, they have to, and they must think that Reid – Spencer – is good for him (which is probably unfair because the lord knows they can’t believe that he could be good for anyone, let alone Spencer Reid). And Jack likes Spencer and Jessica hasn’t said a thing and there are even some mornings when Aaron wakes up and his first thoughts aren’t about his ex-wife and death.
Aaron knows – he knows – that he’s doing better, but he also knows that he doesn’t deserve such benevolence. So he does the only thing he can do – he shuts down and he pushes away.
On the one year anniversary of Haley’s death, Aaron tells Spencer – tells Reid – that he can’t continue this farce any longer.
It’s one of the most damning lies Aaron has ever told in his life. And Aaron has had to tell far too many lies.
They continue their work and Reid is nothing but a consummate professional, but it’s amazing how a simple, “Yes, sir,” can carry a mammoth amount of recriminations.
Aaron works and he mourns and he holds his son (who still, by some miracle, doesn’t hate him, even though he asks, “What happened to Spencer?” almost as much as he had asked, “Where's mommy?”) Aaron wishes, sometimes, that the sun could reach his frozen core, but he knows that such a thing is not possible for the likes of him.
Aaron visits the cemetery and stands by Haley’s grave and talks to her. He talks about everything and nothing and he tells her how he feels. And he doesn’t miss the irony that he’s had more conversations with her now that she’s been dead than he did in the last few years they were together. “No wonder our marriage failed,” he whispers in sadness as he walks away.
It’s late and Jack is asleep and there’s a knock on his door and Spencer is there and he pushes his way inside and states, “This is bullshit,” and Aaron stares at him in astonishment and Spencer says, “Look me in the eyes and tell me you don’t want me.”
So Aaron looks him in the eyes and goes to say, “I don’t want you.” He does, he really does mean to say that but instead, “I don’t deserve you,” is what comes out.
“You’re right, you don’t,” Spencer says, but it’s with a smile and then Aaron can’t stop (doesn’t want to stop) the kiss or his moan or his trembling as Spencer lays him down on his bed and they kiss and they touch and they join together and they love. And Aaron feels his frozen core shatter – shatter – and he thinks he should be empty inside but he’s not – he’s not – and he’s never made love before with tears streaming down his face but he knows there’s a first time for everything (and there have been so many, many firsts with Spencer).
And Spencer holds him through the night as he trembles.
It’s not as if all his problems have been solved and his life has suddenly become rainbows and ponies and shooting stars. He’s still the stoic, cranky, moody, inflexible man he always was and Spencer is still the brilliant, awkward, sometimes annoying, temperamental man he always was, but it works – it works – and Aaron is grateful. And some mornings he wakes up and thoughts of death don’t even enter into the equation until much, much later in the day (not counting, of course, la petite mort).
On the second anniversary of Haley’s death, Aaron visits Haley’s grave and tells her how proud she would be of Jack (“He won first prize in the science fair,” he says, adding how Spencer instilled a love of science in Jack through physics magic.) Spencer waits for him in the car and clasps his hand when he gets back and greets him with a peck on the cheek. And Aaron smiles, just briefly, as Spencer rambles on about some psychology study and then about a scientific find and then about flowers in the cemetery. Spencer rests his hand on Aaron’s shoulder as Aaron drives and then, briefly, at a stoplight, strokes Aaron’s cheek. Aaron turns to face him and, just for a moment, they smile genuine smiles.