Fandom: Criminal Minds
Rating: PG-13 (FRT)
Word Count: ~ 2,500
Disclaimer: All characters belong to their copyright holders. No profit is intended.
Summary: On the flight back from Idaho, Hotch realizes that he has to talk to Reid about the similarities between this recent case and Reid’s torment at the hands of Tobias Hankel.
Author’s Note: SPOILERS for Episode 5.22, “The Internet is Forever” specifically and Season 5 generally (including events from Episode 5.09, “100”). Also SPOILERS for Episode 2.15, “Revelations”.
This takes place in my Five Dinners universe, specifically in the timeline between dinner #4 and dinner #5. (All “Five Dinners” stories can be found here).
My only real disappointment with Episode 5.22, “The Internet is Forever” was that it really didn’t make the connection between the current case and what happened to Reid when he was kidnapped. This is an attempt to rectify that.
Connections to the Past
Aaron sat at the front of the plane as they flew back from Idaho, ostensibly writing his report. However, he was actually watching the team out of the corner of his eye and their delayed reactions to the events of the case. Aaron noticed that everyone’s attention (except Rossi’s) was on Reid, whereas Reid was sitting in the back of the plane as far from everyone else as possible. His posture was extremely defensive; he sat with the table down, book in front of his face, and messenger bag clutch tightly to his lap. The few times anyone had tried to approach him, he stood abruptly and hurried to the lavatory or kitchen area. It was quite apparent that Reid did not want to talk. However, that did not stop the rest of the team from glancing worriedly at him and from nervously refusing to interact with each other.
Aaron cast a surreptitious glance at Reid. Reid just clasped his bag closer.
Rossi came and sat across from Aaron. Rossi indicated the team with a quick thrust of his chin. Aaron could almost feel the nervous energy radiating off the others, like hungry animals caged in a zoo. Aaron thought that they would actually be pacing if they weren’t on the jet (and would have incurred everyone’s wrath, Aaron’s included).
Rossi cleared his throat and Aaron’s attention went back to him.
“You want to tell me what’s going on?” Rossi asked. “Everyone is kind of acting like they have pants full of fire ants.”
Aaron gave a slight, amused snort. “It’s the… case,” he answered.
“I gathered that,” Rossi said with a touch of impatience. “But what’s so different about this case. We even rescued the killer’s last victim, which is as close to a win as we get.”
“Yes. But we had to watch over the Internet as he killed his fourth victim.”
“O-kay. And why is that causing this?”
Aaron glanced at Reid. “It brought back some bad connections.”
“Such as? Help me out here, Aaron.”
Aaron sighed and forced himself to not look at Reid. “There was a case in Georgia a few months before you came back. I’m sure you’ve heard about it – it was the case where Reid was captured by an UnSub with dissociative identity disorder.”
“Ah. Yeah. He was held captive for…”
“Two days. The UnSub had posted all of his killings online. He watched his victims through their webcams, which he gained access to them by doing technical service.”
“And… he forced us to watch over the Internet as he beat, tortured, and actually killed Reid.”
“Yeah. That’s not all. He tried to force Reid to choose the next victim from the screens in front of him. Reid refused, but then was forced to choose someone to live, not die. Reid had to watch as the UnSub killed someone he hadn’t chosen.”
“He felt responsible.”
“And everyone here remembers what it was like to helplessly watch Reid in the killer’s hand.”
“Yes. And to watch the death of his last victims.”
“Well, that does explain why they’re all freaked out.”
Aaron snorted. “Yes.”
“Are you going to talk to Reid?”
Aaron looked at Rossi in surprise. “What?”
“Are you going to talk to Reid?” Rossi repeated slowly and patiently. “He’s the one who really suffered and the one who could use the most support. He’ll accept it from you even if he won’t accept it from anyone else.”
“I… don’t think so…”
“Look, you can’t keep avoiding him.”
“I’m not avoiding him,” Aaron said, a bit too defensively he realized.
Rossi just gave him a steady look. “Talk to him, Aaron. He needs you to.” Rossi smiled briefly and grasped his shoulder as he walked away.
Aaron swallowed, glanced at Reid again, and realized that Dave was right, both with the fact that Reid needed him and by the fact that Aaron was avoiding Reid. He had been ever since he had essentially dumped Reid… Spencer… after Haley’s death. Aaron had ended their brief intimate relationship and, frankly, he wasn’t sure how to interact with Reid now. He appreciated it, he truly did, that Reid was striving to keep some sort of friendship intact and was making efforts to provide distractions for Jack. Aaron also appreciated it that Reid made sure that they were never alone. Aaron was a profiler, after all, and it was pretty obvious what Reid was doing, ensuring that there were no expectations for further intimacy, no matter how much Reid might want it. And one thing Aaron could tell is that Reid… Spencer… still had feelings for him. Or else he would not have gone so much out of his way to help support Aaron.
Aaron looked at Reid again; the young man was miserable. It was easy to see that he had been heavily impacted by this case.
If Aaron was honest with himself, he had to admit that he still had feelings for Reid… Spencer. Even if he couldn’t, or shouldn’t, or wouldn’t be intimate with him. Aaron gritted his teeth. Dave was right; Aaron had to talk to Reid. What sort of supervisor, what sort of friend, hell, what sort of man would he be if he just let Reid suffer through this alone. He’d done that once before, after the whole Tobias Hankel debacle. He regretted that decision. He knew he couldn’t do it again.
And so Aaron found himself on the tarmac after they had landed, watching as Reid began to stalk off. He knew that he had to act now or never. Aaron called out, “Reid, I’d like to speak to you for a moment.”
Aaron could sense Reid’s reluctance as he fell back. The rest of the team continued forward; there was almost a sense of relief emanating from them.
“What?” Reid asked. His tone wasn’t quite petulant, but it was pretty damn close.
“I’m going to give you a ride home,” Aaron said.
“I’d rather take the train.”
“Actually, that was an order.”
The last thing, the absolute last thing, that Spencer Reid wanted to do was talk to Aaron Hotchner. But he knew better than to actively disobey a direct order. Whatever else they had (or had not) been to each other, Hotch was still his boss and Spencer respected him too much to not do as he was told.
Spencer slid reluctantly into the passenger seat of the car. Hotch began driving. He obviously remembered the way to Spencer’s apartment. Spencer thought that was almost a tragedy.
Spencer felt raw. He had felt raw since they had watched the live Internet footage of the UnSub as he murdered his victim. It was too much like Tobias Hankel; being forced to watch someone die and knowing there was no way to stop it. He knew it and the whole goddamn team knew that he was struggling with it (except Rossi, of course, for which he was grateful). He wanted to scream at them to leave him alone, to stop profiling him, to stop wondering if he was okay. Instead, he did his job.
He knew, however, that he wasn’t okay. And, sadly, the team knew that too.
He thought, briefly, of trying to score some dialudid, but decided he wouldn’t give any of the UnSubs the power over him to make him start using again. It was, however, a damn tough decision and one he hoped he could abide by.
Spencer glanced over at Hotch, but the man was silent as he drove. Spencer wanted to scream, to demand to know what Hotch wanted, to demand to be let out of the car. He did none of these things. They drove in silence.
Hotch drove to Spencer’s place and then parked in front of the building. He turned off the engine. Spencer went to open the door. Hotch briefly touched his arm and then let go.
“I’m crap at this,” Hotch said. “But you know that. I won’t ask if you are okay. I know that you’re not. I won’t ask if you’ll be okay. I am fully confident that you will be.”
“So then why are we here?”
“Is there anything I can do to help?”
“No,” Spencer said immediately and far too quickly.
“Talk to me, Reid,” Hotch said.
“There’s nothing to say.”
Hotch silently raised his eyebrow.
Spencer sighed in frustration. “Yes, this case obviously brought back memories of my time with Hankel. Yes, I’m upset. No, I’m not going to do something stupid.”
Hotch nodded. “Why are you upset?”
Spencer looked away. “I don’t like being reminded just how weak I am.” He went to get out of the car.
Hotch grabbed his arm. “No. I will not let you leave believing that about yourself. I told you… before... when we were…” together, Hotch didn’t say, but Reid heard it. “I told you,” Hotch continued, “that you were one of the strongest people I know. I fully stand by that statement.”
“Hotch, I’m the only agent you have who actually got himself kidnapped.”
Hotch scowled at Spencer. “Let’s see. Just briefly, off the top of my head, Morgan was knocked unconscious by Foyet and the only reason he wasn’t killed was because he was out cold; Elle was held hostage and shot; Garcia was shot; Prentiss has gotten numerous concussions, including when she was knocked in the head by the UnSub in Milwaukee who was using his son as bait; and JJ was recently hit in the head and almost knocked unconscious and killed by the UnSub in the Dante case in L.A.”
Hotch looked Spencer directly in the eyes, his expression hard.
“And then there was me,” Hotch continued, his eyes boring into Spencer’s. “Foyet, essentially, beat the crap out of me, stabbed me nine times, among other things, and dragged my half-dead, bleeding body to the hospital. Not to mention the other horrors he caused. ”
Spencer swallowed. “Hotch, I didn’t mean… I—”
“Any one of us, at any time, could be the victim. Any one of us. So far, the only member of the team who hasn’t given me a heart attack yet is Rossi. I expect him to do something ridiculously stupid soon. I’m sure he’s planning it right now.” Hotch smiled briefly, but it quickly faded. “Look, I know that watching what you went through will never compare to actually having gone through it, but you don’t know what it was like watching as Hankel played Russian roulette with you, telling you to choose one of us to die. Had I been there, I would have told you to choose me, just to stop what he was doing to you. And then you did – you did choose me – and you sent me that message as to where you were. That was exceptionally impressive work. I was proud of you.”
Aaron clasped Spencer on the shoulder. “You are a damn good agent, Dr. Reid. It has been both my privilege and my honor to work with you. Don’t let any UnSub… or anyone… ever make you doubt that.”
Spencer felt a lump in his throat. He blinked rapidly as he tried to emotionally process Hotch’s words. He could hear the unfeigned pride in Hotch’s voice. “I don’t know what to say. I… thank you.”
“You’ll be fine, Reid. I know this was rough, but you’ll be fine. Go home and get some rest. Call me, and I mean that, if you need to talk.”
Spencer nodded. “Good night,” he croaked. He managed to get out of the car and walk toward his apartment building. He then heard Hotch’s car door open and turned around to face him.
“Reid… Spencer,” Hotch began, “I also wanted to tell you that…despite the ‘boy band’ remark I made, I like the haircut.” Hotch looked like he was blushing slightly under the streetlight. “You look… good.” Hotch was looking at Spencer with an intense stare, but the intensity was different from the look he had given in the car. This look reminded Spencer more of when… they had made love and Hotch had looked at him as he moved inside of Spencer.
Spencer licked his lips.
Spencer felt arousal slam into him. He gasped slightly.
Hotch’s breath caught.
They stood silently for a moment, and Spencer would have sworn that he could feel desire radiating between them. Hotch finally said, “Good night, Reid,” and then got back into his car and drove off.
Spencer took a shuddering breath and then forced himself to turn around and head into his building. He knew, no matter how much he wanted to avoid it, that he would be jerking off to thoughts of Aaron Hotchner that night.
Aaron wondered what the hell he had been thinking. He had managed to go six months without letting Reid… Spencer… know that he still wanted him. And then Aaron had blown that in about 15 seconds tonight.
But the problem was that Aaron did, if he was honest, still desire Spencer.
Aaron sighed as he drove. He couldn’t do that. Not to Jack, not to Spencer, not to anyone. He couldn’t subject his son to the ridicule of growing up with a ‘gay’ dad. He couldn’t subject Spencer to his still deep rooted sense of loss and guilt over Haley. He couldn’t subject Jessica to ‘replacing’ her dead sister with a male lover. He couldn’t subject his team to his blatant breaking of the fraternization rules. He couldn’t do any of that. Could he?
Besides, Spencer was too young. Aaron was 15 years older – 15 long, hard years that had certainly taken their toll on his psyche. Spencer deserved someone… better.
But a small part of him, a niggling part of him that sounded, strangely, like Haley, told him that the only time he had felt true contentment in years had been during those few evenings with Spencer, especially the aftermath of their lovemaking which was, in some ways, more intimate than the actual sex. And that Spencer had chosen him and had said he had wanted Aaron for years. Besides, didn’t Jack deserve to have a father who was actually happy and could show him that love should not be so strictly defined.
Aaron realized that he had no idea what he should do. He just knew that the ideas he thought were ‘right’ may, in fact, actually be completely wrong.
Aaron knew he had to think, seriously, and be very certain before he approached Spencer again. His pain over Haley’s loss was still too raw and he refused to hurt Spencer any more with his uncertainty. And Aaron knew that the one lasting legacy that Foyet had on his life was to make him uncertain about so much. Aaron’s confidence had been shaken, badly, even if the team didn’t truly realize the extent of it. He knew he could not rush into any decision. And there was a lot to think about.
Aaron drove home to his son, thinking all the while.
Author's Note: There are several more stories in this universe. All of them can be found at the "Five Dinners" tag here (scroll up from the bottom of the page).