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Untouchable

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Title: Untouchable

Author: theblackrose16

Beta: elsa_kallan

Summary:  In a world where 67% of the world finds their soul mate, Spencer Reid didn’t even bother hoping that he could find someone to spend his life with – forget about finding his soul mate.

He meets Aaron Hotchner when he joins the FBI’s BAU and it is all downhill from there.  Sure the man is gorgeous, kind, everything a person could want in a mate and Spencer felt extremely drawn to him but there were some problems.

One: When they first met Hotch was married.  Even when he was no longer married there were other issues such as…

Two: Hotch was straight and had a jock type personality.  Why would he want to switch teams for a skinny genius that was socially awkward?

Too bad that he fell in love with his boss anyway.

Series: Part 1 of Longing For You

Pairings/ Characters: Spencer Reid/Aaron Hotchner, Derek Morgan/Penelope Garcia, Jennifer Jareau/William La Montagne Jr, David Rossi, Emily Prentiss

Genre: AU | Pre-Slash | Romance | Drama/Angst

Warnings: sexual situations, language, canon character deaths, violence, sexual harassment, canon cases references (abuse/child abuse/non-con nothing described in detail) basically what you find in the average episode plus sex and language, reference to mpreg

Rating: Explicit

Written For: Rough Trade November 2014

Word Count: 15542

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author’s Note: I decided to make this a prequel to the main story (which will be considerably larger but I’m still working on it)

~XOX~

“To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements.  Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  To love is to be vulnerable”

                                                         – C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

Love according to Dr. Spencer Reid was a little different than what it was to the average person.  Love was commonly defined as a feeling of deep affection for another person whether sexual, familial or friendly.  It’s trusting someone completely and wanting them to be happy no matter what.  Once – a long time ago – he’d read a quote by Victor Hugo that said “The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”  While love sounded wonderful in theory and on paper, in reality it was a bitter disappointment for Spencer.

 

Reid loved his parents but his had father packed his bags and walked out one day never to look back despite how much his son loved him.  It was one of the harsher lessons on love that he received but it was definitely not the last.  That day was the day his heart began to harden.

 

Spencer’s love of learning and sweet nature did not help him.  In fact it did the opposite.  He became the target for every bully within miles of wherever he went.  He learned to bury his emotions, to deny his tormentors his tears.  It didn’t always work but as time went on and the bullying continued, Spencer’s heart continued hardening.

 

It had only been a crush, not love, but then crushes eventually grew into love.  One girl in school – Alexa the prettiest girl in school, however, made sure that Reid wouldn’t trust a romantic interest again when she helped the football team lure him outside, strip him naked and tie him to the goal post leaving him there until the grounds keeper found him shivering hours later.

 

His love was not enough for his mother either.  Day after day as he grew up, Spencer watched helplessly as his mother deteriorated into her schizophrenia slowly leaving him behind in the real world.  When he turned eighteen, he broke his own heart and had his mother committed.  Listening to her screaming as she was taken away, his heart that had slowly been hardening against the world; turned to stone.

 

Ultimately, growing up all Spencer Reid learned was that love was painful.  It made you vulnerable so that other people could inflict immeasurable damage without a care.  All through university, Spencer never allowed another person to get close to him.  He’d learned his lessons very well and he was by far from stupid enough to make the same mistakes repeatedly.  The only person that remained behind the stone wall that his heart had become was his mother.  He didn’t see her often after having committed her but he did write to her.  A letter everyday.

 

By the time Spencer was twenty, he had three doctorates in Mathematics, Chemistry and Engineering and was working on getting his degrees in Psychology and Sociology.  He had no friends and no social life which suited him just fine.  There was less chance of being hurt that way.

 

And then one day Spencer attended a guest lecture by Supervisory Special Agent Jason Gideon on the elementary behavioural analysis of serial killers.

 

The lecture was fascinating and captured Spencer’s full attention.  Listening to Gideon speak, he was filled with excitement and a sense of direction for the first time.

 

“Does anyone recognise these faces?”

 

“They’re victims of the Footpath Killer.”

 

Up until now, Reid had merely been collecting degrees and PHDs in whatever caught his attention until he was old enough to be employable.  Nobody wanted to hire someone that looked like they still belonged in school and were still nearly of a school going age.

 

“…We refer to him as the Unknown Subject or Unsub…”

 

Profiling and criminal psychology was actually something to work towards.  Working for the Behavioural Analysis Unit at the FBI would be a worthwhile goal to work towards for himself.

 

…Look where the murders occurred…”

 

Getting into the FBI might prove a bit of a challenge though.  The physical aspects were not something that he ever excelled in.

 

“Thank you everyone.”

 

Spencer stood back a several people went up to Gideon to speak with him or ask him questions.  He watched as the profiler expertly fielded questions until everybody else had left the hall except for himself and SSA Gideon.

 

“Agent Gideon, My name is Dr. Spencer Reid.  I was hoping to talk to you about how to go about getting into the BAU.”

 

Reid watched as Gideon’s eyebrows rose in surprise as he spoke.  He was used to getting that kind of a reaction by now though.

 

“Dr. Reid?” his tone conveyed his scepticism.

 

“I hold PHDs in Mathematics, Chemistry and Engineering, have an IQ of 187, read twenty thousand words a minute and have an eidetic memory,” Reid stated matter-of-factly with no traces of bragging.  It was simply the way he was.

 

“Impressive,” Gideon murmured.  “And you want to join the BAU?  Why?”

 

Reid took a moment to gather his chaotic thoughts.  “With my abilities, I’m aware that I could go into anything.  Studying and profiling human behaviour is the first thing that has truly interested me and I want to help people.

 

Spencer was never sure exactly what it was that made Gideon decide to take him as his protégée but the older man did.  With his capabilities the FBI made a special allowance for him and let him in with only a short course at the academy.    Gideon became a mentor of sorts to him but Spencer had learned his lesson early on in life and he’d learned well.  Gideon was only allowed so close and no further no matter how appealing having a father figure might have been.  It was slightly depressing how quick and easy it was to pack up his life in Nevada and move to Virginia. There was no one beside his mother to say goodbye to and she was not at all happy about his decision to work for the ‘enemy’.

 

The abridged version of training that he received at the FBI academy went about as well as he had expected.  What did surprise everyone was his level of fitness and the speed as well as his endurance in regards to his running.  Turned out that all the running from bullies had led to Spencer discovering his love of running.  Now days, he tried to go running every morning when possible.  There were of course snide comments aplenty but Reid had long since learned to ignore them.

 

Firearms training took a bit of work but once he understood the mark behind it, he managed to hit his target seven out of ten times.  The basic self defence classes were his weakest point.  It was something to work on.

 

All in all, the FBI academy didn’t even register as one of the top ten worst things he’d had to do.  Gideon had arranged it so that he could collect his gun and badge the day before he was due to officially start.

 

The older man had also warned him that the team’s leader had been away on annual leave during the last few weeks so he was not aware that he had gained another team member.

 

To Spencer, it did not sound like the kind of thing you kept from a team leader but then he hadn’t ever been on a team so what did he know?

 

All too soon, it was Monday morning and Reid found himself in the elevator at the FBI offices going up to the fourth floor where the BAU was located.  He’d only had contact with Gideon so far and would be meeting his new team imminently.  The doors opened with a soft ping.  The young man took a deep breath, walked out the elevator and through the glass doors to the BAU as calmly as he could manage.

 

He’d barely taken two steps before someone moved to stand in front of him.  The man was nearly as tall as him, African-American and was built like the old members of his school and varsity football teams.  Which considering history was not the best thought to be having upon just meeting someone.

 

“SSA Derek Morgan.  You Dr. Spencer Reid?” the agent asked.

 

Reid automatically clutched his bag strap tighter as he replied.  “Yeah, that’s me.”

 

Derek eyed the new ‘kid’ – and if ever that term was applicable it was now, he looked so young – doing a quick preliminary profile so as to ensure that he wouldn’t get off to a wrong start with the newest member of their team.  The young man was clearly uncomfortable and unsure of how to act.  If he was even half the genius Gideon had made him out to be, he probably had deplorable social skills.

 

“Great to meet you, man.  Let me show you to your desk and then I’ll give you the five cent tour,” Derek offered but made sure not to get too close or try to make any physical contact – not even a handshake.

 

His own desk.  Spencer had to admit that it sounded appealing but he was wary of leaving anything behind while touring the building.  Experience had taught him that people were petty and if he left things lying around they tended to disappeared or become mysteriously damaged.

 

“This desk will be yours and the one adjacent to it is mine.  Over there up those stairs is Gideon’s office and next to his is our team leader’s office, SSA Aaron Hotchner,” Morgan pointed out each one as he mentioned them.

 

“Is it just the four of us?” Reid was curious to know.

 

“Before you, there were only three of us on the actual team but we do have a technical analyst.  Her name is Garcia and then there’s JJ who is our communications liaison.”  Morgan watched as their newest agent smiled at the sight of his desk but didn’t put any of his things down.  There was a story there but the first day on the job was not the time to pry and a rule had been implemented a long time ago about profiling team members and that was what Dr. Spencer Reid had become.  A team member.  “Ready for that tour?” he asked cheerfully.

 

Reid nodded and was grateful that Morgan didn’t comment on the way he was still holding onto his bag.  It would definitely be a plus to working with profilers if he didn’t have to field endless questions and in some situations like this, he wouldn’t even need to say a word.  They’d get it anyway.

 

Morgan showed the younger man around the building, pointing out JJ’s office, the bathrooms, the break room, the vending machine that only accepted $1 bills and other various things that the agent thought he might need to know.

 

“Next up is Garcia.  Now I have to warn you, she’s a little…. different,” Derek cautioned.

 

“Different how?” Reid asked confused.

 

“She’s eccentric and unlike anyone you’ve met.  Don’t mind her though.  She’s the sweetest thing.”  There was a bright, fond smile on Derek’s face when speaking about Garcia and it was obvious that he cared about her.

 

“You busy, Princess?” Morgan called out, opening the office door without even knocking.

 

“I’m never too busy for you stud,” a feminine voice sassily replied immediately.  The figure in the chair swung round to greet them.

 

“Baby girl, there’s someone I’d like you to meet.”

 

The room was covered in computer monitors but it was not the first thing that Spencer noticed.  His attention was caught by the young woman sitting in the office chair.  Derek was right.  Garcia was not like the other girls he had come across – which was limited.  She had blonde shoulder length hair that was pinned by a bright pink butterfly shaped clip.  Her glasses’ frame was an almost luminous pink.  A pink and white shirt and skirt completed the ensemble with bright pink heels to match.  All in all, Garcia seemed to wear her personality for everyone to see.  She was confident and comfortable in her own skin.  Reid envied her that.  He didn’t think he had ever been comfortable in his own skin.

 

“Who is this delicious piece of sugar?”

 

“Mama, behave.  This is Dr. Spencer Reid, our newest team member.  Reid, this is Penelope Garcia the go to girl for all things technical,” Derek introduced them.

 

Garcia clapped her hands excitedly.  “You’re our new Junior G-Man.”

 

“I… ummm… guess so,” Reid stuttered, completely flustered.  Nobody in his life had shown such enthusiasm at the thought of meeting him.

 

“Phone,” Garcia demanded holding out her hand expectantly.

 

Reid glanced at Morgan, received an encouraging nod and cautiously handed his cell phone to the bubbly blonde.  She fiddled with it for a few moments before handing it back.

 

“Umm… what did you do?”

 

“I made sure that you are able to contact the goddess of all knowledge – moi.”

 

It took Spencer a moment to decipher her statement.  “Ah… thank you.”

 

“Come on man, you still gotta meet the rest of the team.”

 

Reid followed Morgan back to the main bullpen of the BAU and then up to an office.  Morgan knocked on the open door and called out “JJ you got a minute?”

 

Spencer saw a young blonde look up from the file on her desk.  “Sure Morgan.  This must be Dr. Spencer Reid,” she extended her hand to the younger man as she spoke.  Reid hesitantly shook her hand barely making contact before he was pulling back already.

 

“Reid, you’re here.  Good.” Gideon’s voice came from behind the trio.  The older man was standing in JJ’s doorway.

 

“I was just showing Reid around, introducing him to his new team,” Morgan informed Gideon.

 

“Has he met everyone yet?”

 

“Just Hotch is left.”

 

“Ah, he’s in his office.  I was there earlier and he’s doing paperwork.”

 

Reid watched the byplay between the two agents but didn’t say anything.

 

“Time for you to meet the last member of our team – our fearless leader.”

 

Spencer followed Morgan back through the bullpen and up a couple of steps.  “He’s not that bad is he?” the young man couldn’t help but ask hesitatnly.

 

“Nah man.  Hotch is cool, just don’t get on his bad side,” was Morgan’s advice.

 

“How do I avoid doing that?”

 

Derek never answered him, instead the other agent half shoved Reid into the open office without knocking.

 

Years later, Reid was able to pin point that moment as to when everything changed and the world shifted on its axis for one Dr Spencer Reid.

 

The man sitting behind a neatly kept desk was the textbook definition of dark and broodingly handsome with his black hair, brown eyes and serious face.  Spencer was stunned for a moment and then ruthlessly suppressed it.  Never in his life had he been attracted to another person and now was definitely not the time to start.

 

Neither Morgan nor the other man appeared to have noticed his distraction.

 

“Hotch; this is the new agent that Gideon brought in, Dr Spencer Reid.  Reid this is the last member of our team and our unit chief, Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner.”

 

~XOX~

 

“What the hell do you mean you brought in a new agent onto the team while I was away on leave, Jason?” Hotch bit out.  When Hotch was angry, he didn’t shout but rather spoke in an even tone with each word as biting as the last.  He could make a person feel like they were standing completely starkers outside in the Antarctic with a well placed glare and a few choice words.

 

Gideon though didn’t seem the least bit repentant.  “Exactly what I said Hotch.  I found Reid while I was guest lecturing.  He is brilliant at what he does and is a genius in every definition of the word.”

 

“One month,” Hotch conceded, “He gets one month to prove himself or he is gone.”

 

Gideon nodded and stalked out while Aaron sat at his desk to get a start on the paperwork that had accumulated during his leave.  Two hours later he heard Morgan’s voice before said agent pushed someone into the office ahead of him.

 

“Hotch; this is the new agent that Gideon brought in, Dr Spencer Reid.  Reid this is the last member of our team and our unit chief, Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner.”

 

“Just Hotch will be fine,” he said extending his hand to the younger man.  He’d thought he was prepared but damn, the kid was young.  If he didn’t know Gideon so well, he may have jumped to the conclusion that Gideon was having a midlife crisis and wanted a pretty young thing at his beck and call.

 

“Thank you for allowing me this opportunity,” Reid murmured softly.  Hotch nodded and replied, “Welcome to the BAU Dr Reid.”

 

~XOX~

 

“Tis better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all” – Alfred Tennyson, In Memoriam

 

Spencer was very surprised that from the start when his new teammates welcomed him, they actually sounded like they meant it.  Even more startling was that the team accepted him with open arms and his first year with the BAU passed by quickly.

 

Reid met Hotch’s wife, Hayley, at one of the team dinners which served to reinforce that his crush was utterly hopeless.  Morgan, Garcia and JJ became the first friends outside of Ethan that Spencer had.  It was a nice feeling to know that others cared about him and not what he could do for them.

 

Team dinners felt like how he had imagined having a family dinner would.  Over the first year Morgan became an older brother while JJ and Garcia became like sisters.  Gideon filled a mentor role but not a paternal one – Reid would not let anyone close enough for that.

 

Hotch though… Hotch was an entirely different story.  He was a friend but he was also a whole lot more to Spencer.  It was after his first year with the team that he came to a horrifying realisation.  He was in loved with Aaron Hotchner – his married boss.

 

It had been during one of their quiet weeks that everybody was using to catch up on their paperwork when it happened.  Hotch had already been in the break room when Spencer walked in.  By now, the team knew full well that their youngest agent required a minimum of three cups of coffee to be functioning coherently in the mornings – not that anybody else was much better.

 

Reid had had a cup of coffee before leaving his apartment that morning and was going to make another before even approaching his desk.  “Morning Hotch,” he mumbled.

 

The team leader chuckled at him.  Reid looked to still be half asleep.  Luckily he had been anticipating this.  Wordlessly he held out a cup of freshly brewed coffee to the younger man.

 

Spencer smelled the coffee before he saw it.  He made grabby hands at the mug before grasping it with both hands.  Within minutes he had downed the hot liquid.

 

A soft laugh reminded the young man that he was not alone.

 

Reid looked up and for the first time that morning saw his boss clearly thanks to the caffeine.  The sight of Hotch laughing – even if it was softly – his eyes carefree and crinkling in the corners; caused Reid’s heart to stutter for a moment.

 

It suddenly hit him with all the subtlety of a ton of brick that this was not just some silly crush.  He, resident genius that he was, had gone and done something incredibly stupid.  He’d fallen in love with Hotch and he could never be with him.

 

Something must have shown on his face, especially to a profiler of Hotch’s calibre.  “Reid, are you alright?” he asked concerned taking a step towards his agent.

 

Reid buried his feelings at the back of his mind to be dealt with later when he was alone.  “Yeah, sorry.  The caffeine is only hitting me now.  I was a bit asleep there.”

 

Hotch nodded understandingly.  “If you’re sure that there’s nothing wrong-”

 

“I’m fine.  Seriously Hotch,” Spencer cut in.

 

The senior agent seemed to accept his reply and walked out the kitchen to his office, carrying his coffee.

 

Reid took a few moments to call upon all of his years of experience to lock away his feelings before he left the kitchen and got started on the day’s paperwork. He was so successful at hiding his feelings that it was another two years before something had to give.

 

The BAU team had become a single unit with a highly successful solve rate.  They were often now handed high profile cases so it came as no surprise that they were called in for the Boston Bombings.

 

The night before their new case, they had had a team dinner at Hotch’s place.

 

Everyone had just sat down when their leader stood up.  “Everyone.  We have an announcement to make,” he declared pulling Hayley up to stand beside him.  “We’re going to have a baby.”

 

The team immediately started offering their congratulations and were hugging the happy couple.  They were so distracted that nobody noticed how Spencer had frozen for a few moments.  All of his repressed feelings came bubbling to the surface.  He’d tried for more than two years to get over his boss but no matter how he tried, he remained in love with Hotch.  And now the man was going to be a father.

 

Reid plastered a smile on his face, adding in his own congratulations.  It wasn’t until later when he was home and sitting in the dark in bed that reality settled in for him.  These days it hurt being close to Hotch, watching him interacting with his wife all the while that Spencer felt that unequivocal draw towards the other man.

 

Maybe the only thing left was to take some time off and see if that helped.  Reid considered the option while sitting at his desk.  In the next moment, JJ swept through the pen rounding the team up.  “Boston has a bomber.”

 

He’d put in for some time off after this case, Reid decided.

 

The case, however, turned into a living nightmare and everything went to hell in a hand basket.

 

The bomber turned out to be Adrian Bale who took a hostage.  In the end, Bale killed his hostage along with other FBI agents when Gideon appeared to have talked him down.  He was a real sociopath.

 

In the aftermath, Gideon couldn’t deal with the guilt and decided to take some time off to go back to teaching.  Reid saw it as an opportunity and grabbed onto it with both hands.  The team thought that he was being loyal to his mentor by following him back to academia and Spencer allowed them to.  It was better than them knowing the truth.  He was taking a break to put some distance between him and Hotch, hoping that a bit of space would allow his heart to heal and move on.

 

Reid kept up to date with the team by e-mail and the occasional phone conversation.  He put his time to good use by doing research towards another PHD.

 

Six months went by quickly and just when Spencer thought his life was back on track, reality decided to laugh at him in the form of Hotch appearing in the doorway of his and Gideon’s office.

 

“Reid,” a voice greeted him, a voice he would recognise anywhere and still caused his stomach to flutter at the mere sound after all this time.

 

“Hotch, what are you doing here?”

 

The older man took the question as his cue to enter the office.  “We need you and Gideon to come back.  We have a case,” he informed him, handing over a BAU file.

 

Reid accepted the file with a sigh.  “I’ll go and get Gideon.”  He was almost out the office when he heard Hotch.  “It’s good to see you Reid.”

 

And just like that the last six months of ‘progress’ went down the drain.  It appeared that absence did indeed make the heart grow fonder and not forget.

 

Twenty minutes later, the team, minus JJ – who was out with bad flu – and Garcia who always stayed at Quantico, were together again in the FBI SUVs on their way to their latest case.  They did solve the case, rescued Heather Woodland and even gained a new team member.

 

The bad thing about taking six months off was that Reid had to redo his firearms qualifications.

 

His qualification was on the Friday so Spencer went in early on the Wednesday to get in some target practice before work.  The shooting range was empty except for him and another agent.

 

Spencer picked one of the booths towards the end of the range.  He’d just donned his protective gear and taken up a stance when someone spoke from right beside him.  “You’re Dr Reid aren’t you?”

 

Reid lowered his gun and muffs to answer, “Yeah I am.”

 

“I’m Agent Phelps.  I’m going to be your assessor on Friday,” the other agent introduced himself.  Agent Phelps was a tall man with curly brown hair and built like a jock.

 

“Nice to meet you.”

 

“I can give you some pointers if you’d like.”

 

Reid’s silence as he considered the offer was taken as consent.

 

“Take up your stance again.”

 

Figuring that it couldn’t hurt to have some help, Spencer once again took up position.  He did startle when in the next moment, he felt Agent Phelps standing directly behind him.  His right foot tapped Spencer’s until he shifted an inch.

 

“Good. Okay, try it.”

 

Spencer took several shots, most of them hitting the edges of the target.

 

“Here,” instructed Phelps reaching round to adjust the young man’s arms, effectively trapping Spencer.

 

Reid was beginning to feel uneasy.  Phelps was making him uncomfortable.  “I need to be going or I’ll be late,” Reid excused himself.

 

“I’ll see you on Friday then Agent Reid,” Phelps called out.

 

The next day, Reid chose to go to the range after work hoping to avoid Agent Phelps.  He did manage to do that but every time he took aim and fired, he could feel the phantom warmth of another body standing behind him and he began to feel queasy.

 

As a result his shooting was not at its best.

 

Friday morning Reid felt dread as he made his way to the range.  It was stupid for someone who claimed to be a genius.  Agent Phelps had not done anything wrong.  He had merely been helpful.

 

Agent Phelps was standing waiting for him with nobody else in sight.  “Morning, Agent Reid.”

 

“Morning.”

 

“Let’s get started then.”

 

Reid took a deep breath and prepared to shoot.  A moment before he pulled the trigger, however, Phelps interrupted him.

 

“Wait, you need to adjust your stance.”

 

Phelps was then plastered against his back from shoulder to knee.  The other agent put his arms around the young man to adjust his hands.  Reid was rigid at the invasion of his personal space.

 

Morgan had also touched him when he was teaching the young man some self defence tricks but this felt different.  Spencer had a second to register the erection pressing against his hip before Phelps stepped away.

 

“You can begin,” he ordered.

 

Reid managed to pass his qualifications but only barely.  He all but ran to get off the range and away from Phelps.  The thought of reporting Phelps for sexual harassment crossed Reid’s mind but was just as quickly dismissed.

 

Phelps hadn’t actually really done anything and maybe he was making a big deal out of nothing.

 

The team noticed that he was a little jumpy but he just said that he’d had too much coffee and they believed him.  Unfortunately due to the fact that he had barely scraped by, the bureau required him to redo his firearms qualifications again three months later.  Reid managed to push the thought to the back of his mind and loose himself in their cases.

 

The team found out that Hayley was on bed rest and that her time was approaching during the kidnapping case with Trish Davenport.  Three weeks after the case was closed and the Davenport twins were rescued, Hayley went into labour.

 

They gave Hayley a day before they went to visit her and meet Jack in the hospital.  When Reid arrived, the rest of the team were already in the room.

 

“Hi Hayley, how are you feeling?” Spencer asked handing her a bouquet of flowers.  He’d read that it was customary to bring the patient something when visiting in hospital.

 

Hayley smiled at the young man.  “Much better thank you.  You should meet Jack.”  She pointed to Hotch who was holding a tiny baby in his arms.

 

Spencer’s breath caught in his throat for a moment at the picture Aaron made holding his new born son.  He looked so happy and at peace.  Spencer was happy that he was happy.  He’d heard that when you truly loved someone you wanted what was best for them and wanted them to be happy – even if it wasn’t with you.  That definitely applied now.  Aaron was happy with Hayley and his son and that was all Spencer could ask for no matter how much it felt like his heart was breaking at times.

 

Hotch beckoned Reid closer and the young man cautiously approached.  The team joked about the ‘Reid Effect’ but this was one of the few times that Reid desperately hoped that it wouldn’t hold true. Jack looked up at Reid.  Everyone held their breath waiting for him to start crying but he never did.

 

With a shaking hand Reid reached out and touched Jack’s cheek with a finger.   The baby turned slightly at the touch and grasped Reid’s fingers in one of his hands.  Reid felt like his heart stopped.  Everyone was surprised and Hotch was pleased.  Jack didn’t seem to care about the ‘Reid Effect’.  Hotch noticed the look on the young man’s face and realised how much it meant to him that Jack wasn’t crying when he was near.  The senior agent was reminded of Spencer’s childhood and understood then that although he put up a good act he was still young and sensitive.  Aaron made a promise to himself to try and be more supportive of Reid and to have a word with his team about the way some of their comments could be taken.

 

~XOX~

 

A week before the requalification, Hotch approached Reid in the kitchen before work.  “Reid, I know that you’re worried about your firearms qualification.  If you’d like, I can help you every morning before work this week,” the older man offered.

 

“Yes,” Reid jumped at the offer.  “I’d appreciate the help Hotch.”

 

“Alright, let’s go then.  We don’t have any new cases yet.”

 

When Hotch stood behind him and touched him to gently correct him, Reid didn’t experience any uneasiness or queasiness like he had with Agent Phelps.  It didn’t help with his aim though.  It was almost as if he now had a block on his ability to shoot.

 

Aaron noticed the discrepancies between Reid’s current shooting and his ability when he first started with the BAU.  It was puzzling since by all rights he should be getting better not worse.  He didn’t, however, want to say anything to the young man until after he had spoken to Morgan.

 

Which is exactly what he did upon returning to his office.

 

“Hotch, you wanted to see me?”

 

“Yes, come in and close the door please.”

 

Derek frowned but did as instructed and sat in one of the chairs before his leader’s desk.

 

“Is everything alright with Reid?”  Hotch got straight to the point.

 

Morgan was confused now, “As far as I am aware, yeah.  Why?  Did something happen?”

 

Hotch was disappointed but when had anything ever been easy?

 

“Reid’s shooting has declined considerably.”

 

“What?” Morgan burst out.  “How is that possible?  He should be getting better not worse.”

 

“Exactly my thoughts on the matter.  I was hoping that you would know why.”

 

Derek shrugged.  “Sorry Hotch, haven’t got a clue what’s going on with that kid.”

 

“Let me know if you hear anything.”

 

“Will do Hotch.”

 

Over the next few mornings, Hotch helped Reid and noticed that he was getting marginally better so he held out hope that Reid would be able to pass.  He would continue to help Reid even after and hopefully figure out what was causing Reid’s decline in his shooting ability.

 

The morning of the re-evaluation, Spencer walked onto the range with confidence until he noticed that it was empty except for one person.

 

“Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”
                                                                        ~James A. Baldwin

 

“Agent Reid, good to see you again,” Agent Phelps greeted him.

 

Reid was so very tempted to turn around and walk out but he needed to do this. The young man tried his best to ignore the other agent as he got ready. Unfortunately it didn’t do him any good but it did annoy Phelps into a more aggressive approach. He was once again plastered against Spencer’s back as he prepared to pull the trigger.

 

“How about we skip this test, you come home with me for the night and I pass you in the morning.” Phelps emphasised just what he meant when he said going home with him by rubbing his denim covered erection along Spencer’s ass.

 

Spencer jerked away from him and shot blindly at the targets missing all of them by miles. “I’ll take the fail.”

 

Phelps sneered at him. “You think too highly of yourself Dr Reid. You don’t mind getting on your knees and putting that pretty mouth to use on Hotch or Gideon to get into the BAU but you refuse so that you pass your firearms qualification. I’ll make sure that I’m your only assessor. You’ll give me what I want sooner or later.”

 

Spencer shuddered at the very idea. He felt suffocated and fled the range. He couldn’t bring himself to tell Hotch or Gideon what had happened. He knew logically that it wasn’t his fault, that statistically speaking sexual harassment happened all the time but he just couldn’t tell anyone. He was scrawny, had barely any self-defense training and now he’d failed his firearms qualification. There was no need to draw more attention to himself, and show exactly how weak he was.

 

The team of course found out that he had failed. Morgan teased him mercilessly but what the other agent didn’t notice was that his teasing had hit a nerve with Spencer, especially with Phelps so fresh in his mind. Hotch noticed but was unsure of what exactly was going on.

 

The team caught a LDSK case and it provided Reid with the distraction that he needed. The case ended with Reid using Hotch’s gun to put a bullet between the unsub’s eyes. Reid made a joke about aiming for the unsub’s leg that everyone took at face value. What the young man didn’t say was that his fear for Hotch’s life had been enough to overcome the feelings of disgust that he usually felt these days holding a gun.

 

Having Hotch say that as far as he was concerned, Reid had passed his firearms evaluation carried the young man until they arrived back at Quantico. He still had to officially retake this test.

 

Hotch began to get an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach upon seeing Reid’s wide, panicked eyes when he had been given the news.   Hotch lasted twenty minutes after ordering Reid to the range before he gave in to his instincts and decided to make his way down to the range to check on the young man.

 

Things were not adding up. Reid’s distaste for the shooting range, his failed firearms qualification, his near perfect aim on their last case, and now his panic.

 

What immediately struck Hotch as odd was the quiet and that there was nobody else around. Tacked on the door leading to the range was a sign stating ‘Range closed until 10:00am’ Hotch frowned. He had never heard of closing the entire shooting range while evaluating one agent. Furthermore, it should not take an hour for the test.

 

With no little amount of trepidation, Hotch silently let himself into the range. He could hear voices and walked down the main isle past several empty booths before he found Reid with another agent. He was horrified at the sight before him

 

Reid was on his knees with blood running down the side of his face. The other agent had his back to Hotch but the senior agent could clearly see the gun the other man was holding.

 

“…little whore,” the other agent was ranting. “Look at me,” he yelled backhanding Reid who had squeezed his eyes shut.

 

Hotch drew his gun even as Reid cried out softly at the hit. The young man reluctantly opened his eyes and immediately spotted Hotch. He felt a combination of relief and shame but did nothing to give away Hotch’s position.

 

“…you really should just do as you’re told and put that pretty mouth to good use if you ever want to pass your firearms qualification.”

 

Hotch was now close enough to press his gun at the base of the other agent’s skull. “Hands where I can see them,” Hotch spoke calmly, completely hiding the fury that he felt.

 

Reid kept his eyes on Phelps. He knew the other agent was essentially a coward given his need to blackmail and/or force sexual partners but you could never know what a desperate man may do.

 

Slowly, Phelps held his hands out to his sides and held his gun out.

 

“Place it on the floor and kick it away from you.”

 

Once Phelps had followed the instructions, Hotch grabbed him and roughly handcuffed him. Keeping one hand on the other agent, Hotch dialled Morgan with the other.

 

“What’s up Hotch?”

 

“I need you down in the shooting range to secure a prisoner.”

 

Derek’s good humour disappeared to be replaced by a serious tone. “I’ll be right down.”

 

Hotch backed the other agent up against the wall. “Don’t move,” he barked out.

 

Hotch knelt before his youngest agent, gently reached out to take hold of his chin and tilted his head to get a better look at his face.

 

“You little whore,” Phelps spat out moving to charge at Spencer. Hotch was up and intercepting him in the blink of an eye. “You little bitch.”

 

“Shut up,” Hotch shouted but it didn’t deter Phelps in the slightest.

 

Morgan burst in as Phelps continued shouting abuse at Spencer. “Whore!Only thing you’re good for is being on your knees or flat on your back.”

 

Hotch literally threw Phelps at Morgan. “Get him out of here.”

 

Morgan wasn’t stupid. He took in Hotch’s fury, Phelps’s abusive words and Spencer’s rumpled, bruised and bloodied appearance and put two and two together. “Shut your mouth,” Morgan ordered grabbing Phelps and bodily dragged the other man out to a holding cell.

 

Aaron carefully knelt before Spencer again. He was worried since the young man hadn’t said a single word yet. “Reid? Spencer?”

 

Reid focused on his boss in front of him. “Hotch? I’m… okay. I’m fine. Don’t worry about it.”

 

Hotch stared at the young man in front of him in disbelief. “Fine? Spencer that man hit you. He would have sexually assaulted you if I hadn’t walked-” Hotch broke off suddenly. He had realised that just because Spencer still had his clothes on didn’t mean that he hadn’t been assaulted before today or in other ways. Much more gently, he asked “Spencer, how long has this been going on?”

 

Spencer bit his lip. He didn’t want to answer but it was Hotch and he could never deny the other man anything. “A… a little over six months.”

 

Fuck,” Morgan’s voice echoed through the range. He had returned from seeing Phelps to a cell in time to hear Reid’s last statement.

 

“Reid,” Hotch sounded like he was the one in pain “Why didn’t you say anything before now?”

 

“I know what people say and think about me. To give them more ammunition by making myself a victim? Not going to happen. Besides, he’s a senior agent and until recently there was never anything definite I could actually come forward with. You know how I am with social cues. I just thought that maybe I was missing a few things like normal until he started getting really physical,” Reid muttered staring at the ground rather than look up at his boss and his teammate.

 

Hotch reached out and put his hand on the young man’s shoulder. “Reid, I need you to know that I will always listen to you. Even if it is just a hunch or a weird feeling. I don’t ever want you to feel like I won’t listen. Now I think you need to go to the hospital and get checked out.”

 

Spencer grabbed Hotch’s hand.   “No hospitals, please. It’s okay. I’ve been punched and pistol whipped before. And I know that there is a first aid kit in your office. Please can we go there instead?”

 

Hotch and Morgan shared a look before coming to an agreement. “Alright. We can go to my office first. But if I determine that you need the hospital, you have to go. Deal?”

 

Reid eyed them both suspiciously. “Deal.”

 

Spencer kept his head down with his hair covering his face as he walked between Hotch and Morgan up to Hotch’s office. Luckily they managed to get there without being weigh laid.

 

Morgan closed the door as Hotch prodded Reid into one of the chairs and then retrieved the first aid kit from behind his desk. “While I’m cleaning your face up, is it okay if Morgan records this?”

 

“Yes, I only want to have to go through all of this once,” Reid admitted.   “I met Agent Phelps a week before my previous firearms qualification a couple of months ago,” he began as Hotch started carefully cleaning the blood off the side of his face. “He offered to give me a few tips and I figured that one can never have too many points of view. The first day he didn’t do anything but each day he would stand closer and closer. He would stand pressed up against me from behind and correct my stance. I started feeling uneasy but he never really did anything untoward that I could call him out on. He complete threw my concentration off and I barely passed.”

 

Hotch’s face had become completely blank as he continued cleaning Spencer up while Morgan looked as though he was a second away from exploding.

 

“At my last qualification, things escalated. He actually made a direct move on me,” Reid muttered.

 

“What did he do or say Reid?” Hotch asked gently but firmly.

 

“He offered to pass me if I went home with him for the night. I refused and he got a little ugly.”

 

Morgan put a hand on his shoulder, “Kid, we’re not going to blame you for anything he said or did. Just tell us everything.”

 

“He was angry at my refusal. Said that the only reason I was on the team was because I put my mouth to use on both Hotch and Gideon. He accused me of the same today. He was furious that in his mind I would do that to get on the BAU but I wouldn’t show him the same favour to pass my firearms.” Reid looked down at his hands folded in his lap. He couldn’t really look at either Hotch or Morgan at that moment. “Today, I didn’t see it coming. He just hit me with the gun out of nowhere. Agent Phelps continued to shout abuse at me and when I wouldn’t look at him, he backhanded me. That’s when Hotch intervened.”

 

Hotch hesitated to ask but he knew that it was necessary. “Reid… Spencer… were you at any point forced, blackmailed or coerced into any sexual acts with Phelps?”

 

Spencer blushed and shook his head. “I… there was a point… where I might have considered it but… I just couldn’t… I didn’t want my first time to be like that,” the last part was said so quietly that he didn’t intend for the others to hear. Morgan and Hotch shared a look over Reid’s head. There was no need to let the young man know that they had heard his confession.

 

“I’m going to take this to the Director and then we can deal with the team. Would you prefer to tell them or should I?” Hotch offered.

 

“What? Why do we need to tell them?” Reid was not happy about telling the rest of the team.

 

Morgan answered him. “If he tried this on you then I can almost guarantee that he has done this to other agents as well. It would be best if the team found out now instead of later when they are caught by surprise and the gossip makes it sound worse.”

 

“Alright,” Reid sighed. “Hotch can you do it please?”

 

“Sure Reid. Gather the team by the round table in an hour.”

 

~XOX~

 

JJ was horrified listening to Hotch explain what had happened to Spencer. “I am so sorry Spence.”

 

Reid looked up at her confused at the apology. “Why?”

 

“I thought Phelps was a bit of a creep and he made me uncomfortable so I ensured that I always got a different examiner but I didn’t think he’d go this far.”

 

“JJ it’s not your fault.”

 

Hotch looked round at his team. “I understand not wanting to make a big deal of something or making yourself vulnerable but it ends here. Any situation that is making one of you uncomfortable or worried, any issues and you tell someone on this team. If there is a real danger or problem, I expect to be notified. This is not meant as an invasion of your privacy. We are more than a team. We are a family and family protects its own.”

 

~XOX~

 

In the weeks that followed, it was clear that the team was trying to follow Hotch’s request/order. The case with the Fisher King and then the rapist in Ohio hit the team hard but none harder than Elle. In the end, it proved to be too much and Elle walked away.

 

A new agent joined the team in her place. It took Spencer a little while to warm up to Emily Prentiss but she fit right in with the team and in no time she was a part of the family like a missing puzzle piece that had been found.

 

Although it had only been a few years, Reid could honestly not picture his life without the BAU. Even his unrequited love for Hotch. Since coming back from leave after the Boston Bomber and meeting tiny Jack, Reid had made peace with being in love with Hotch. It was now so ingrained in him that it was a part of who he was.

 

And then the case with Tobias Henkel happened. The entire time he was held by Tobias, Reid trusted that Hotch would find him. His clues were tailored for Hotch to understand. Not Gideon his mentor, Derek his brother or any other team member but for Hotch.

 

Left with only his thoughts for company, he considered the fact that he may actually die alone in the middle of nowhere. It wasn’t that he doubted Hotch. He knew Hotch would find him; it was just a matter of whether it was dead or alive.

 

Thinking of dying and Hotch reminded Spencer of something he had heard once before by Sean O’Faolain “Love lives in sealed bottles of regret.” He was lucky. He had found a family and had fallen deeply in love. Granted it was unrequited and he was going to be an absolute cliché by dying a virgin but it was more than he’d had before in Vegas.

 

Tobias forced him to dig his own grave. However, instead of being buried in it, Reid put his kidnapper in it.

 

Moments later, Hotch grabbed him in a hug and all Reid could do was cling to his tack vest and mutter, “I knew you’d understand.”

 

The drugs were irresistible though.

 

A few weeks later when he was in New Orleans and asked Gideon indirectly for his help, his mentor spouted nonsense that was quite frankly unhelpful at best.

 

New Orleans did bring a change for JJ though.

 

The lead detective, William La Montagne Jr, was a very interesting man. She had never felt so attracted to someone before in her life. On their last night in New Orleans Will asked her to dinner and she accepted. The attraction between them was so strong that before the night was over the pair found themselves falling into bed together.

 

The next morning JJ woke up in a strange bed, a naked Will sleeping beside her and a soul mate mark on her left wrist.

 

Hotch was understanding when she called him. “Hotchner.”

 

“Hotch, it’s JJ. I’m not going to make the flight back to Quantico this morning,” JJ sounded odd to his ears.

 

“Is everything alright, JJ?”

 

“Yes… I just… Detective La Montagne is my soul mate.”

 

Hotch was surprised. It was unusual that not a single member of his team had a soul mate but he hadn’t really dwelled on it. “Congratulations JJ. I’ll take the team back with me and put us on stand down for the next two weeks so you can think about what you’d like to do,” Hotch told her thinking quickly.

 

“Thanks Hotch,” JJ sighed in relief.

 

“Take care of yourself and remember that I’m a phone call away if you need anything.”

 

“Thank you,” JJ whispered before hanging up.

 

Hotch gathered the team in the hotel lobby to tell them all the news. “JJ will be remaining behind. She had found her soul mate in Detective La Montagne and they have a few things to work out.”

 

“What?”

 

“Wow, that’s great for her.”

 

“I’m happy for her.”

 

On the plane, Reid stared blankly out the window. JJ had found her soul mate. It was something that everybody dreamed about finding at one point in their life. To have that one person who would be a perfect fit. He had never heard of a soul mate pairing that hadn’t eventually fallen in love.

Then again that was probably not something that people would want to make public.

 

When he was younger, he used to entertain the idea of finding a soul mate. Someone who would love him for who he was, and would be there for him. Someone who wouldn’t mind his awkwardness, lack of social know-how and tendency to ramble, or get lost in his head. Then he had met Hotch and fallen in love with the older man. He was content loving Hotch from afar. He honestly couldn’t imagine loving anyone more than he loved Hotch and wasn’t any in rush to try.

 

“Have you ever been in love?  Horrible isn’t it?  It makes you so vulnerable.  It opens your chest and it opens up your heart and it means that someone can get inside you and mess you up.  You build up all these defences, you build up a whole suit of armour, so that nothing can hurt you then one stupid person, no different from any other stupid person, wanders into your stupid life… You give them a piece of you.  They didn’t ask for it.  They did something dumb one day like kiss you or smile at you and then your life isn’t your own anymore.  Love takes hostages.  It gets inside you.  It eats you out and leaves you crying in the darkness so simple a phrase like ‘maybe we should be just friends’ turns into a glass splinter working its way into your heart.  It hurts.  Not just in the imagination.  Not just in the mind.  It’s a soul-hurt, a real gets-inside-you-and-rips-you-apart pain.  I hate love.”

                        – Neil Gaiman, The Sandman Vol 9: The Kindly Ones

 

JJ and Will decided that they would live in Virginia.  Will applied for and received a transfer to the local police department.  The team was glad not to lose her and Will was happy with the move.  He hadn’t had any ties in New Orleans with his daddy dead.  To the detective it was simple.  His soul mate, her family and her career were at Quantico so he moved to be there too.

 

Unfortunately, the happy moments in life are always followed by the bad ones.  Frank came back and murdered Gideon’s friend in his own apartment and then started on the list of all those the Gideon had saved.  The case was one horror after another and then there was the case with the college murders.  Strauss suspended Hotch for two week while the rest of the team took some time off.  Reid felt like he had been swept up by a tornado and his only solace was the Dilaudid.

 

The final straw that broke the camel’s back was Gideon’s departure with nothing more than a letter.  Instead of sending Spencer on a binge though it served to prove that he had to rely on himself first and foremost and he couldn’t do that if he was compromised by opiates.  He slowly cut down on the dosage he used until it was low enough that he could detox safely at home for a couple of days.

 

Ironically enough, it was the case of the psychologist killing his patients with their fears that made Spencer decide.  They would have the next three days off once they got back to Quantico and completed their paperwork and he was going to use them to detox.  Reid did fear that he wouldn’t be able to do it alone though, that it would be too much and that he wouldn’t be able to go cold turkey alone.

 

His team wasn’t stupid.  They were highly skilled profilers and by now all of them knew he had a drug problem but they were giving him space to try and deal with it until he asked for help.  The question now was who?

 

Spencer snorted at himself.  He didn’t even need to consider it.  His choice was made a long time ago.

 

As the team were getting off the plane, Spencer took a chance. “Hotch?”

 

The team leader turned to face him.

 

“You told me once that if I needed help all I had to do was ask.  I’m asking now.  The next couple of days that we have off I want to detox.  I’ve been cutting back on the dosage and its safe now if I try cutting it off completely.  Would… would you possibly… be willing… to stay with me?” Reid asked softly.  He’d been staring at the floor the whole time he had been speaking.  He didn’t want to see Hotch’s reaction to what he was telling him – admitting out loud that he had a drug problem.

 

“I’ll put the team on stand down for the next week,” was Hotch’s calm reply.

 

Reid looked up startled.  He didn’t intentionally do it but found himself profiling Hotch and his non reaction.  The older man genuinely wasn’t judging him, wasn’t going to kick him off the team and in fact seemed almost… proud of him for asking for help.  “Hotch?”

 

“There are a few things that I need to take care of but I will meet you at your apartment in three hours.  Go home, take a bath and put on your most comfortable clothing.  The next couple of days are going to be rough but I will help you get through this Spencer.”

 

The young man was shocked.  It was very rare that Hotch called him by his first name.  It showed just how serious he was and that he was willing to help.

 

Even though he had figured that he had maybe a fifty percent chance at most that Hotch would agree; he still found himself speechless at the immediate agreement.  It was so different from Gideon’s response.

 

Aaron watched the youngest member of his team seem to struggle with his swift agreement.  Reid was obviously a little overwhelmed.  “Go home Spencer.  I’ll meet you there soon.”

 

Reid nodded slowly and quietly left the plane.

 

Hotch took a deep breath after he left before gathering himself together.  There were a few things that he needed to take care of first.

 

~XOX~

 

Just before the three hour mark there was a knock at his front door.  Spencer got up off the sofa and opened his front door.  Hotch walked in carrying two bags of groceries and set them down on the kitchen counter.

 

“What is all of this?” Reid asked in confusion.

 

Hotch’s reply was matter of fact.  “The next few days are going to be hard on your body.  We’re going to be stuck in this apartment for days.  I made sure that we will be well stocked with all the necessities.”  He pulled a few things out of one of the bags.  “I brought some movies to occupy us when you’re feeling up to it.”

 

Reid was speechless.  He’d expected Hotch to maybe sit with him through the first night or two but this… He almost wanted to cry.  This was so much more.  Hotch was making it very plain that he was settling in for the long haul and wouldn’t leave until he was back on his feet.

 

Hotch noticed Reid’s reaction but didn’t comment.  The younger man deserved to at least keep some of his dignity especially since in all likelihood it would go right out the window when the first withdrawal symptoms hit.  “Come on, I’ll let you pick the first movie.”

 

The two settled on the sofa to watch the movie in companionable silence.

 

Spencer wasn’t sure how much time had passed when he started switching between feeling cold and then hot.  He’d deliberately removed his clocks to stop from trying to literally watch time pass.

 

Hotch gave him a concerned look from beside him.

 

“Just chills and hot flushes,” Reid answered the silent question.  “It’s only the beginning.”

 

Reid’s words proved to be very true.  Next was nausea, the shakes and then vomiting.  Hotch was there and at times held him through the worst bouts.  Reid was disgusted that the older man was seeing him at such a low point but if there was anybody he was going to be this vulnerable with, it was going to be Hotch.

 

They managed to sleep periodically for a couple of hours at a time.  By the end of the first night, they were both sleeping in Spencer’s big bed.  The couch was uncomfortable to sleep on and Hotch preferred to be close at hand for Reid.

 

Slowly and with an aching body, Spencer’s symptoms began to ease off.  His colour started coming back and he was able to sleep longer and longer each time.

 

He’d done it.  He’d stopped.  Now he just had to ensure that it never happened again.

 

Hotch’s help didn’t stop at just that week.  Without saying a word, the older man continued to help and support him.  Pamphlets for law enforcement support groups mysteriously appeared in his desk drawers.

 

On their first day back, Reid felt nearly overwhelmed.  His fingers itched to get a hold of a vial.  Just a little bit to help him settle in his own skin.  The team decided to go out to lunch since they weren’t on a case but Hotch remained behind to continue with his paperwork.

 

Spencer didn’t feel up to going anywhere either.  Something must have shown on his face when he declined or maybe… just maybe his team knew him really well because there was none of the usual prodding to get him to join them.  They left to lunch with the promise of bring back something for Hotch and Reid.

 

Hotch eyed him for a moment before seeming to come to a decision.  The older agent reached over Reid’s shoulder to pick up one of the books that the young man always had sitting on his desk.  Spencer got a brief whiff of Hotch’s aftershave and instantly some of the tension left his body.  It was musky with a hint of gun oil and pine trees.  Over the years on the team he’d come to associate the smell with Hotch and a feeling of safety and comfort.

 

Reid silently got up and followed Hotch into his office.   The older man didn’t say anything, merely put the book down on the sofa in his office and returned to sit behind his desk.

 

Cautiously, Spencer sat down and opened the book.  He stared blankly at the pages, darted a look up at Hotch filling out some papers then looked back down.

 

Despite the fact that Spencer could read twenty thousand words a minute, he spent the next two and a half hours sitting on the sofa in Hotch’s office ‘reading’.  The desperate itch faded to the back of his mind and his thoughts slowed from chaos to coherence.

 

When Morgan, Emily, JJ and Garcia returned from lunch, none of them commented on him sitting in Hotch’s office.  They behaved as though it was the norm and from that point onwards it was.

 

If Spencer felt overwhelmed or had a craving, he picked up a book or three, sat on Hotch’s office sofa and read until he was once again back in balance.  Hotch never said a word but he never left his office during those times.  He seemed to pull endless paperwork to do from who knew where, lending his silent strength to Reid.

 

Just like the first time, the team never said a word.  They also didn’t tolerate anyone else so much as commenting on it.  The first time a junior agent made a remark about favouritism and implied Spencer was sleeping with his boss was also the last time that anybody in the building said a word about it.  The fate of the junior agent was spread instead of gossip about Reid and Hotch.

 

Morgan used his position as one of the self defence instructors to soundly thrash the young man.  It was a case of two birds, one stone.  The young man learned a few moves but Morgan also got to make his point very clear.

 

Every electronic device the agent owned went on the fritz at the drop of a hat.  The ring tone for his cell phone randomly kept changing to the most embarrassing tunes such as breaking out in “I’m a Barbie Girl” while he was doing paperwork in the bullpen.  One day when he tried typing on his computer, each key he touched emitted a different animal sound and nobody in the tech department appeared to be able to fix it for the whole day.

 

Needless to say, after two weeks – he cracked.  He approached Agent Reid’s team and swore he would never utter another word in regards to the young man.  The team could see that he genuinely regretted it and relented.  The rumours and gossip persisted and grew though.  Every agent learned not to cross SSA Hotchner’s team and all new agents were warned before setting foot near the BAU.

 

Hotch was aware of what occurred but never said a word.  He trusted his team to not allow it to get out of hand and Reid never learned a thing.

 

~XOX~

 

SSA David Rossi was a legend.  Reid was excited to learn that he would be joining the team.  The older man got off to a bit of a bumpy start with the team but soon enough he found his place with them, fitting like the last, missing piece of the puzzle.

 

While Reid admired Rossi, he wasn’t ready to open up to someone new.  He’d let Garcia, Emily, Morgan and JJ close to a degree and Hotch deeper still, but Rossi was going to take some time.

 

Rossi had been with them two weeks the first time he noticed Hotch and Reid’s little ritual.

 

Morgan immediately dragged him aside and warned him that it was one of the few things that were to be left alone.  In time he’d learn all their secrets but until then there were some things that were beyond prying into.

 

The team got better and better with every case, adjusting the way they worked to include Rossi until it was as though he’d always been there.

 

It lasted three months before things went to hell in a hand basket again.

 

Love is friendship that has caught on fire.  It was quiet, understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving.  It is loyalty through good and bad times.  It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses.                                                          ~Ann Landers

 

Derek was utterly frustrated.  He and Garcia were currently having a Cold War since he’d accidentally offended her with his choice of words in regards to the coffee shop guy that had asked her out.  From the moment that they’d met, he’d been drawn to her.  They spoke every day including when they were on leave.  Hell, half the time Derek spent his leave with Penelope anyway.  To have her give him the cold shoulder was unsettling and left an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach.

 

Their latest case was horrific.  The unsub turned out to be a cannibal, and Garcia was still not speaking to him by the time that they returned to Quantico.

 

Reid watched as Garcia successfully avoided Morgan as everyone headed home for the next couple of days.  Nobody knew what exactly had happened between the two but it was obvious that they were having a serious argument.  Their normal arguments consisted of very loud shouts that were resolved quickly and then they were back to bantering and flirting.  To see Garcia and Morgan at odds even for a couple of days bothered Spencer.

 

Spencer retired early that night and as he drifted off, he made a promise to himself to see if there wasn’t anything that he could do to help them sort whatever it was out.

 

Barely three hours later, the shrill ring of his cell phone woke him from sleep.

 

“… ‘lo?” he mumbled sleepily.

 

“Reid, it’s Hotch.  Garcia’s been shot.  She’s in surgery at Hope Memorial Hospital.”

 

Spencer went from half asleep to wide awake in a second.  “I’m on my way.”  He hung up and threw on the first items of clothing he could find and quickly made his way to the hospital. When he arrived only JJ and Hotch were already there.  Minutes later, Emily and Rossi arrived but nobody could get hold of Morgan.

 

Reid couldn’t believe that after all the things that they had seen, all the evil that they had faced and now the police suspected a botched robbery might take one of their own.

 

JJ eventually got a hold of Morgan.  Reid silently wondered just how many traffic violations Morgan would commit reaching the hospital.  He couldn’t stand the waiting.  The entire team was tense and on edge.

 

Derek arrived minutes before the doctor came to update them on Garcia’s condition.

 

To hear that the bullet missed her heart by a centimetre nearly stopped Spencer’s heart for a moment.  He couldn’t imagine how Derek was feeling.

 

“David and I will go to the scene.  I think that the rest of you should be here when she wakes up.  I don’t care about protocol or whether we are working this officially.  We don’t touch any new cases until we find out who did this.”

 

Hotch’s orders were always followed but this time they were taken to heart.

 

The news that Garcia was awake was all the cue that the team needed to file into her hospital room.

 

When she started talking and described her attacker as deliciously normal, everyone stiffened.  That could only mean that Garcia had been shot by someone she knew.  Derek looked like he was the one that had been shot when it turned out to be the coffee shop guy that had caused Morgan and Garcia to argue in the first place.

 

Reid followed Morgan out of the room and watched him punch a wall.  A few years ago, he wouldn’t have been able to understand what the other man was feeling but he did now.  Penelope was his friend but her and Derek seemed to have their own special bond.  Spencer supposed that the closest would be if Hotch was shot and the thought alone was so horrible that he didn’t dwell on it for longer than a few seconds.

 

When Garcia was discharged, Morgan took her home and camped out on her couch.  A few hours later, they were all extremely grateful for that when he prevented the unsub from finishing the job.  Deputy Battle was an angel of death that had already killed three people and was aiming to put Garcia at number four to prevent her from connecting the murders to him.  It came out that Garcia had been flagging ongoing files and had encrypted all of their personal files which led to her being suspended pending an investigation.  Seemed no one at the Bureau except her team had forgot that she used to be a professional hacker.

 

Reid, Prentiss, Morgan and Garcia arrived at the BAU just after JJ shot Battle when the Deputy had taken the IAB agent hostage.

 

Spencer watched as Derek tried to talk Penelope into letting him take her back to the hospital.

 

“It’s really over.  Now can we please get you back to the hospital?”

 

“I…,” She began glancing at the IAB agent.

 

Emily caught her look.  “Oh, don’t worry about your reinstatement papers.  He’ll sign them as soon as his hands stop shaking.”

 

Reid watched as Morgan wrapped an arm around Garcia’s shoulders and steered her towards the elevator.

 

Hotch put the team on stand down for the next week.  Morgan informed everybody that he would be staying with Garcia for the time being while she healed.

 

In what seemed like no time at all, Garcia was back but Morgan didn’t seem to be in any hurry to go back to his own apartment.

 

Their latest case was different.  The amount of violence was on a whole other level, but the unsub was just a young man who had been forced to watch his pregnant fiancé be assaulted and killed which caused him to snap.  The things that humans did to one another disgusted Spencer sometimes.

 

Reid was sitting opposite Hotch on the plane heading home, watching the older man dial and then hang up his phone after several rings again.  Over the past couple of days, he had noticed that something was bothering the other man but was unsure on how to broach the topic.

 

Derek’s voice interrupted his brooding.  “Just leave it alone until I get there.  Hey, hey, hard head.  Don’t make me spank you when I get back.”

 

Reid couldn’t help snorting in amusement and chipping in.  “Don’t listen to him Garcia.  He’s all talk.”

 

It earned him a head slap from Derek but was worth it.

 

He never did get a chance to talk to Hotch before their next case with the young girls that were killed that was connected to an old cold case.  If the case proved one thing it was that a person could choose who they become.  It was not all genetic.  Robert Wilkinson was the original unsub who had two children by different mothers.  One son grew up to be a good man who loved his mother while the other grew up to follow in his father’s footsteps of raping and killing young women.  They managed to rescue two of the girls and Wilkinson Jnr’s own pregnant wife was the one to put a bullet in him.

 

When they returned to the BAU and had filed their paperwork for the day, the team unanimously decided that drinks were in order.

 

They had nearly made it to the door when Hotch was presented with papers that he had to sign for.  Their team leader had a blank face as he informed them that they were divorce papers and then left without another word.

 

Spencer’s heart broke for him.  He knew and had seen how much Hotch loved his family.  Needless to say that their night of drinks was postponed.

 

Sitting at home on the sofa and staring at his bookshelf, Spencer felt useless.  At any point in his life when he needed someone, Hotch had always managed to be there for him.  Now that the situation was reversed, the young man had no idea what to do to help.  He knew that nothing would be able to make it right but just as Hotch provided him a distraction for a few hours by letting him read there, he wanted to give the same back.

 

It was then that his eyes fell on a book about Ancient Egypt that he got an idea.  During the time that Hotch had stayed with him during his withdrawal, Spencer had accidentally found out that Aaron was fascinated by Ancient Egypt.

 

The museum was hosting the Lost Treasures of the Nile travelling exhibition.  An idea began to take hold in Spencer’s mind.  It might just be what he was looking for.

 

A week later, Reid knocked on Hotch’s office door nervously.

 

“Come in Reid,” Hotch beckoned him.  “What is it?”

 

“I… um… a friend and I were going to attend the Lost Treasures of the Nile exhibit on Saturday but had to cancel last minute.  I now have an extra ticket and was wondering if maybe… you wouldn’t mind going with me?” Reid asked softly.

 

Hotch eyed him seriously for several moments seeming to weigh his answer.  “Okay.  What time did you want to go?”

 

“I was thinking around nine?”

 

Hotch nodded in agreement.  “I’ll pick you up around nine then.”

 

Reid nodded and then darted out the office.  Hotch had actually said yes.

 

The rest of the week seemed to drag and go by all too fast at the same time for Spencer.

 

Hotch picked him up on the Saturday morning and as soon as he was buckled in, the older man was pressing a cup of warm coffee in his hands.  “Thanks Hotch.”

 

The ride was relatively short and mostly in silence.  It was comfortable silence not an awkward one though.

 

Walking into the exhibit beside Hotch, Spencer couldn’t resist smiling a little.  He’d read up extensively on Ancient Egypt in order to give the older man the best experience possible.

 

“From what I’ve read Ancient Egypt was divided into three periods.  The Old Kingdom, during which the pyramids were built, the Middle Kingdom and then the New Kingdom.”

 

Spencer was not prepared for Hotch to turn give him a smirk and respond with, “The Pyramids were built for three Kings: Khufu, Khafre and Menkaure.  The biggest one took over twenty years to build.”

 

The young man felt his mouth drop open.  This had never happened before.  No one had ever responded to his facts with facts of their own.  Hotch noticed the look on his face and chuckled.  “In this area, I may not be able to recall as many facts as you but I could probably come close.”

 

There really was only one way to respond to the challenge in his words.

 

“Pharaohs were buried in the Valley of the Kings instead of in pyramids from 2150 BC.”

 

And the game was on.  As the pair walked around taking in the artefacts in the exhibit, they traded facts.

 

“Tutankhamen’s tomb was discovered by Howard Carter in 1922.”

 

“The temple at Abu Simbel is built in such a way that on two days of the year, the sun’s rays make it look like the statues of the gods are lit up.”

 

“”Ramses II ruled for more than sixty years.”

 

“He was also the father of ninety six boys and sixty girls.”

 

Hotch laughed in surprise.  “That is something of a nightmare I imagine.”

 

“He is also responsible for building more temples than any other, such as the Great Hall at Karnak and Abu Simbel.”

 

“The first to rule a united Egypt was King Menes.”

 

“Cats were considered sacred in Egypt after the goddess Bastet.”

 

They spent a couple of hours at the museum before Hotch drove Reid back home.  As he was climbing out a hand on his arm stopped him.

 

“Thanks Reid.  Today was good.  I was able to forget everything for a little while.”

 

Spencer beamed.  “Anytime.”

 

That night he went to bed with a smile on his face.  He may not have been able to do much in the scheme of things but he’d provided a distraction for a couple of hours.

 

~XOX~

 

From the moment Spencer climbed into the SUV to interview Chester Hardwick he knew something was bothering Hotch.  Watching Hotch almost literally pick a fight with an inmate was unsettling.  He was trying to figure out how to broach the subject on their ride home when Hotch himself beat him to it.

 

“Hayley wants me to sign the divorce papers uncontested.”

 

Reid winced internally.  He really did not know how to respond to that so settled for asking, “What do you want?”

 

“What I want, I can’t have.”

 

Now that was a sentence that Spencer could relate to.  It basically summed up his relationship with Aaron Hotchner.  From his admittedly limited experience, Spencer knew that there were no words that would really help so he remained silent.

 

That evening he went to a nearby bookstore and made a purchase.  The young man made sure to arrive early, snuck into Hotch’s office and left his offering on the senior agent’s desk.

 

Hotch arrived half an hour later and Spencer looked up in time to see the look on his face as he picked up the book was sitting on his desk.  There was a soft smile that appeared and disappeared just as quickly.

 

Spencer was surprised though when during the late afternoon when he retreated to sit on Hotch’s sofa with an unopened book on his lap that the older man came out from behind his desk to sit beside him.

 

Neither said anything for a few moments.  Spencer blurted out the first thing that came to mind, “Egypt used to be called Kemet which means black land after the dark soil left behind from the Nile.”

 

“Noble women sometimes wore animal fat in their hair to keep it styled with spices and herbs added to give it a supposedly good fragrance.”

 

They were speaking softly and if Hotch and Reid shifted slightly until their shoulders were touching, neither of them drew attention to it.

 

Sometimes all you needed was to be reminded that no matter what you weren’t alone.

 

“Love is now, is always.  All that is missing is the coup de grâce – which is called passion.”                                                         ~Clarice Lispector

 

Life continued.  They had cases, profiled unsubs and Spencer still spent time sitting on Hotch’s office sofa silently reading.  If Hotch occasionally joined him on the bad days – nobody said a word.

 

New York was something of a mess.  The team was surprised to learn that JJ was pregnant.  Reid could see that it had hurt Hotch that JJ had initially considered hiding it in an effort not to upset the recently divorced father.

 

With every bomb detonation, their stress levels climbed higher.  Not knowing if any of his team had been caught in the latest blast left Reid feeling antsy.  When Garcia finally got them in communication with each other, it was discovered that Hotch and Agent Kate Joiner had been caught in the blast when their SUV blew up.

 

The night just went from bad to worse when Morgan drove an ambulance containing the final bomb away from a populated area.  Garcia was utterly beside herself until she heard his voice again.

 

The reality of the situation only hit Spencer once he was safely home.  Aaron had come very close to being killed.  And one day they may not all make it home.

 

It was an unsettling thought but aside from watching each others’ backs (they did) minimising the risks (they tried) and trusting the team (they all did already)there was nothing else to be done.

 

Upon returning from their week off, Reid immediately noticed that there was a change in Morgan.  A glimpse of a mark on the older man’s left wrist explained what had changed but it only led to even more questions.

 

Last Spencer had heard, Derek still hadn’t moved out of Penelope’s apartment after the whole Battle incident.

 

Hoping his suspicions were correct, Spencer made his way to Garcia’s office with a cup of coffee as an excuse for his visit.

 

“Junior G Man.  Is that coffee for me?” Garcia greeted the youngest member of the team enthusiastically.

 

“Hey, Garcia.”  Reid handed her one of the coffees.  She took it with her left hand and Spencer’s eyes were instantly drawn to the soul mate mark that was clear as day etched in black on her pale skin.

 

Derek

Penelope

 

The blonde noticed his look and couldn’t help smiling and blushing slightly in happiness.

 

“I’m happy for the both of you,” Reid congratulated her softly.

 

“Thanks Spencer.”

 

Sometime later, the young man sat at his desk staring blankly at the paperwork.

 

Reid had seen soul mate marks before.  Hell, JJ was one of his best friends, his sister, so he’d seen her mark plenty of time but Garcia and Morgan were altogether a different story.

 

The new couple had been close friends for years, they’d basically been in each other’s pockets and now they had been given the gift of being soul mates as well.

 

He was happy for them.  Truly, he was but for a few minutes he’d been hurt and jealous.  It just wasn’t fair sometimes.  Reid didn’t intend to sound dramatic but he truth was that he’d only been attracted and in love with one person in his whole life.

 

By this point, he’d accepted the fact that there would never be anyone else.  It didn’t stop him from being lonely or cold in bed at night.

 

The only other option was to cut Hotch out of his life and that was not something he would consider.  Better to have a friend than to press for more and loose it all.

 

Months passed.  JJ had her baby and named him Henry.  Spencer was shocked when she asked him to be Henry’s godfather but was determined to embrace his role.

 

Being exposed to Anthrax was a nightmare.  Spencer could only be thankful that he had been the only one that had been exposed instead of other members of his team as well.

 

The last thing he could remember was losing his ability to talk in the ambulance, coughing up blood and then everything went dark.  The first time he woke up after being given the cure it was to see Morgan sitting beside his bed eating his jello.  He was able to stay awake for half an hour before drifting back to sleep.

 

The next time he woke up, it was darker and Morgan was gone.  In his place was Hotch.  The older man noticed that he was awake and helpfully passed him a glass of water.

 

“You gave us all a scare Spence,” Hotch told him softly.

 

“Sorry,” Reid muttered.  He understood why Hotch hadn’t come to the hospital immediately upon closing the case though.  “You speak to Jack?”

 

Hotch looked surprised at the question but answered with a small smile on his face.  “Yes.  He built a fire truck from lego today.”

 

“Everyone gone home?”

 

“Yeah.  And we’re all on stand down until you’re back with us.”

 

This time Reid was surprised and it showed on his face.

 

“You’re a part of this team Reid.  We’re all in this together.  Only time you get left behind is when it’s for your own good.”

 

A warm feeling spread through Spencer’s chest and his eyes began drooping.  He felt more than saw Hotch pull the blanket up to cover him properly.

 

“Sleep Spencer.  I’ll be here when you wake up,” Hotch whispered.

 

Reid was somewhere between sleeping and awake.  It felt like Hotch kissed him on the forehead but that couldn’t be.  Before he could think about it further, sleep claimed him fully.

 

~XOX~

 

Reid had been back for two days before they got a case that would be haunting his dreams for some time.

 

William Hightower got the BAU involved when he crossed the American/Canadian border claiming to have killed ten people.  In reality all the man wanted was help finding his sister and several other homeless people that had vanished from the streets.

 

They tracked the unsub to the vehicle that was spotted, along with the medical equipment that he stole when kidnapping his victims.  It led them to the Turner brothers.

 

Something that was taught early on was that serial killers had patterns and often took trophies.  Seeing the five or six wedding rings that a killer was holding onto was bad enough but when Morgan found the trophy box on the Turner farm, Reid actually felt sick to his stomach.

 

The box was filled with the shoes that each victim had been wearing.  Once unpacked, the crime scene unit pulled out eighty nine pairs of bloody, muddy shoes.  Which meant that there were eighty nine dead victims and one hopefully still live one, missing.  They were never going to find the bodies of the victims either.  Reid tried not to throw up as he told his team that pigs were omnivores and would eat anything.

 

With so many missing people and only the shoes to identify them, it was next to impossible to ID all of the victims.  They couldn’t even be sure that there weren’t other victims that just hadn’t had shoes.

 

They did manage to find Kelly alive.  Both Lucas and Mason Turner were killed as the BAU had tried to get them into custody.

 

All in all, the case was horrendous.  The team spent the flight back to Quantico in a sort of shell shock.  They were in the office for ten minutes before Hotch ordered them all home and that the paperwork could wait until they came back from their week off.

 

Spencer had been home just long enough to eat; shower and change into something comfortable when his phone went off calling the team back out.

 

Despite several attempts throughout the day, nobody had been able to get through to Hotch.  It was setting Reid on edge until Emily left to check on him.  Getting the phone call from Emily that something had happened to Hotch made him slightly frantic.

 

He wasn’t fast enough to stop Dr Barton from trying to leave his house to fetch his son which resulted in Reid having to tackle Dr Barton as their unsub pulled a gun on the front lawn.

 

There was the sound of shot being fired and a burning sensation in his leg but Reid refused to focus on it.  Even when the rest of the team arrived and Reid had to shoot the unsub, the young man refused to pay attention to his leg except to keep pressure on the bullet wound.

 

“Call Emily.  Call Emily.  Something has happened to Hotch,” he pleaded with the others.

 

They were able to take Reid to the same hospital that Hotch was in, making it easier to get updates for both men.  Reid wasn’t able to see Hotch immediately due to his own surgery but once they were moved to the general ward, a nurse arranged to have them share the room.

 

Knowing that the Reaper had stabbed Hotch forcing him to send Hayley and Jack into Witness protection was horrible.  Spencer also knew that there was nothing anyone could say to reassure Hotch or make things better.  Only capturing the Reaper and putting him away for life would help.

 

“I’m not going to tell you that I’m sorry because I know that while it’s a nice sentiment, it doesn’t actually help.  So instead I’m going to say this.  Whatever you need – I’m here.  I, as well as the team, will not stop until we get him.  Files that need reading, leads that need following up on, just say the word and I’ll do it.”

 

Hotch looked truly surprised at Reid’s passionate declaration.  “Thank you.”

 

True to his word, Spencer spent hours going over files and reports.  Sometimes Reid and Hotch would go to the older man’s apartment, spread case files across the living room and eat take out.  It wasn’t always the Reaper case files after the first few weeks that they went over.  Past cases, the latest studies, case interviews and even a few files that they got from JJ’s office on open cases were discussed sitting on the floor accompanied by the take out of the evening.

 

They weren’t any closer to finding him but Spencer noticed that spending so much time together was positively affecting them both.  Just having someone around probably played a big part.

 

Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months but they still had no progress or breakthroughs.

 

It was JJ who finally cracked it while getting medicine for Henry’s cold.

 

They found Sam, the US Marshall assigned to Hayley’s case lying bloody but alive on his living room floor.They were too late, and Foyet found Hayley and Jack first.  Hotch figured out where they were first with the team following fifteen minutes behind.  Garcia was able to hack into the phone call between Hotch and Foyet.  They were all able to listen to Hotch and Hayley say goodbye after Jack had run upstairs.

 

“You’ll hurry right?”

 

“I know you didn’t sign on for this.”

 

“Neither did you.”

 

“I’m sorry for everything.”

 

“Promise me that you will tell him how we met and how you used to make me laugh.”

 

“Hayley.”

 

“He needs to know that you weren’t always so serious Aaron.  I want him to believe in love because it is the most important thing but you need to show him.  Promise me.”

 

“…I promise.”

 

The sound of the gunshots echoed through the car as the team listened to Hayley’s last breath.

 

Reid wasn’t a religious person but he could only silently pray to whoever was listening that they would get there in time to save Jack and Hotch.

 

Hotch and Foyet struggled and Foyet was killed in the struggle.  Everyone was utterly relieved to learn that Hotch had been able to get a message to Jack on where to hide so that only his daddy would be able to find him.

 

Reid felt completely helpless.  He had no idea on how to help Aaron.

 

Watching Jack blow his mother’s coffin a kiss to say goodbye broke Spencer’s heart.  It was even worse that they were called away on a case halfway through the lunch after they buried Hayley.

 

When they returned, Reid lingered in the bullpen.  Although Hotch’s office had no light on, there door was mostly closed and there was no reason for him to be there, Spencer couldn’t shake the feeling that he was there regardless.

 

He was right.  Aaron was sitting in the utter darkness on his sofa.  Soft moans and an occasional harsh breath echoed through the office.  Spencer didn’t say a word.  He merely sat down beside Hotch on the sofa and waited.  Barely two minutes later, Hotch buried his face in Reid’s shoulder, his whole body shaking.  Reid may have been smaller but it hardly mattered in that moment.  He wrapped both of his arms around Aaron and pulled him close.

 

In the darkness, Hotch allowed himself to break.  He clung tightly to the younger man, his body shaking with his sobs, his tears soaking Spencer’s shirt.

 

Spencer didn’t offer any words of comfort.  They wouldn’t do any good in that moment.  He just sat and quietly held the love of his life while the man shattered into a million pieces, his own heart aching in empathy.

Note: Both the hospital and exhibition are made up and do not exist in real life.

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