The Ache for Something More – 2/9 – DarkJediQueen

Title: The Ache for Something More
Author: DarkJediQueen
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Genre: Drama, Established Relationship, First Time, Het, Hurt/Comfort, Menage or More, Slash
Relationship(s): Aaron Hotchner/Haley Hotchner, Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid, Haley Hotchner/Spencer Reid, Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid/Haley Hotchner
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Violence – Graphic, Canon Drug Use Discussion of Canon Typical Cases Canon Torture
Author Notes:
Beta: Alpha-greeneyesblue, Beta-ScarsLikeVelvet
Word Count: 244,735
Summary: After rescuing Spencer Reid from the hands of Charles Hankel, Aaron invites him to live with him and his family. It starts a journey that none of them were prepared for but none of them want to let go of either.
Artist: Starkindler

Chapter 4

Aaron sighed as he looked at the file from Erin about the full details of the evaluation that Jason had undergone. It didn’t look good. It wasn’t good at all and Aaron wasn’t even sure that Jason was going to be able to stay as an agent, even doing classes at the Academy. Aaron had hoped that it would come to that, but it was in stark black and white that Bale and the death of the agents at Bale’s hands had broken Jason more than anyone thought. Aaron wondered if anyone was going to attempt to save him or were they going to let Jason just fade into the background. Aaron just hoped that it was fading away.

The desk was clear of everything that he had to work on. Aaron had been thinking too hard about Reid the day before. He had worked through more than he usually did, his mind focused on that and nothing else. JJ and Strauss had added more for him that day but not enough to keep him busy. Aaron looked at the time. He would arrive at home just in time for lunch if he left in the next ten minutes. Aaron picked up his phone.

“Section Chief Strauss,” Erin said.

“Erin, it’s Aaron,” Aaron said with a small quirk of a smile on his lips. He heard Strauss laugh a little bit and it seemed maybe that she needed that. Aaron just hoped that she kept on changing into the Section Chief that they needed. Aaron had already made AD Richmond aware of what had happened when they talked. AD Richmond was looking into training her instead of replacing her. Her appointment had been political, Aaron found out. She played good politics but hadn’t learned how to handle the delicate politics that was involved in the BAU. There was also the fact that she had been picked because she was a woman and the FBI had been under some looks at not enough Section Chiefs that were female. Aaron didn’t care about the gender of anyone that he worked with. He cared about one thing if they could do the job.

“What can I do for you?” Erin asked.

“I’m going to take the afternoon. My desk has been cleared of things, and I want to talk to my wife about moving Reid in with us. He’s not doing well there and is getting bored.”

“That’s not good, right? The bored bit?” Erin sounded worried not like it was going to affect her but worried in general.

“Reid told me a story once that he blew up a lab at Caltech when he was working on his Chemistry degree and was bored because the professor was out and not giving lectures and he read through everything already. The TA was boring.”

“Oh, dear, that doesn’t sound good at all. Well, I can head down and get a feel of things down there if you want.”

Aaron wasn’t sure what she meant by that. Erin going to where Reid was, was not a good idea. “I’m not sure what you mean, Ma’am.”

“I can spend the day in your office. Work on my files there. Get away from this phone and get to know the teams without there being a case hanging overhead. I’ve had a long talk with AD Richmond about what I was not trained to deal with. It seems that there were a few above who didn’t want me placed here and I can see why but they set me up to fail.”

Aaron thought about the things that he did that were supposed to be her job, but the other teams had never questioned it because they would rather deal with him than her.

“I don’t know what to say to that Ma’am,” Aaron said after nearly a minute of silence.

“I don’t either, and I have to wonder exactly what your opinion of me is.”

“Well, Ma’am I was under the assumption that you didn’t care to do the job the way it was supposed to be done.”

“I’m also aware of what you and the rest of the Unit Chiefs do that I am supposed to be doing. I’m glad you were taking care of everything, but I want to learn to stand on my own two feet, slowly.”

“You got it, Ma’am. Next week if I don’t have a case come up, you can spend a day with me, and I’ll teach you what I know from working with the gentleman before you.”

“Gentleman. He was no gentleman. There is a reason they wanted a woman for this spot. Even if I wasn’t actually qualified for it. I don’t like that I was given a job that I wasn’t qualified for. I want to do the work, Aaron. I want to be what this unit needs.”

“Good. We can work on that next week.” Aaron felt a lot lighter at leaving the BAU, his team in Erin’s hands.

“That sounds good. I’ll clear my schedule, and I can spend the week down there, at least in the mornings so that the agents don’t get too worked up with me being there.”

“That sounds good, Ma’am,” Aaron said.

“Go take care of Doctor Reid and try and enjoy the weekend.”

“I will. You have a good one too,” Aaron said. He hung up the phone when Erin said her goodbyes and then started to finish up getting his desk sorted.

The drive home was quick until he got to DC proper as the lunch rush was starting around the city, not that the city’s traffic ever really died off. He pulled into his parking spot at the house and steeled himself for what was to come. He knew that it was going to be hard on all of them, but Aaron refused to let Reid’s demons inside of him destroy the man’s life. He was too used to being on his own and Aaron knew that if he was on his own, he would be more inclined to relapse, even just once to feel that nothingness inside of him.

While living with Aaron and Haley wasn’t going to be any closer to living alone, at least he would be able to do more of what he wanted. Aaron hoped that Haley would be willing to take Reid to the library either on their way to or from his visits at Freedom. Aaron had already looked into what they offered as far as outpatient went, and it was a good one. Reid would have more frequent tests to make sure that he didn’t relapse, but that wasn’t going to be hard. The only sticking point that Aaron could think of was the whole Jack thing. Reid wasn’t dangerous. Even when he had been high as a kite when Aaron had found him, he hadn’t been dangerous. He had been lethargic and not all there.

Aaron still remembered the sound of Reid hitting the floor and the fear in Aaron’s heart that he hurt himself. Then Reid hadn’t moved. Aaron had lost his ability to breathe until he watched Reid’s upper body move up and down as he took a deep breath. The younger man hadn’t even tried to get himself up and then he was out like a light. The drugs took him under.

Spencer Reid had no one in his life that cared for him, not really. His father was absent, and Aaron had not figured out what happened there. He was afraid to ask really. Diana Reid had tried her hardest to be the best mother that she could be but her ability to be anything more than a burden was not possible. Reid talked about family, but none of them ever were mentioned more than in a passing manner.

Haley appeared in the front window of the house, looking at Aaron with a confused frown on her face. Aaron reached over and grabbed his briefcase from the passenger seat and got out of his car. Aaron gave her a big smile, and she left the window. Just as Aaron was getting onto the front porch, the door opened. Haley was dressed in her cleaning clothes. Aaron frowned as she didn’t get into them for the light cleaning she did every single day. They were used for her deep cleaning like when she moved around an entire room to get under everything.

“Hello,” Haley said it like she was worried about why he was home.

“I cleaned off my desk, and Strauss said I could go home. I wanted to do lunch with you, so I rushed home.”

“Jack was hungry early. We already ate. I have plenty of salad leftovers, though, and I can make one for you.”

“I can do it. You go about what you were doing when I creeped you out.” Aaron was a little disappointed, but he could understand. Haley looked like she was busy.

“Are you sure?” Haley asked.

Aaron just gave her a look. He kissed her cheek before he started to move toward the stairs so that he could drop his briefcase in his office before heading down to the kitchen to get his lunch.

Everything that was needed for the salad was in the fridge. The veggies were cut up, and the lettuce head was there to cut up. There was also a bag of various other greens. Aaron found the large salad bowl that he used to eat a salad out of before he added the green leaf lettuce into the bowl before adding the other greens. He grabbed the veggies next and added a healthy helping of each to the bowl before finding the cheese that was in the fridge and adding a little. The chicken was grilled and was covered in spices. Aaron’s stomach growled. He looked at the dressings that were on offer and found the Italian that he liked. He added just enough to cover everything and tossed the salad before adding just a little more to make sure it was all covered. A fork and a beer were next. Haley had stocked his favorite beers in the fridge, ones that before had never been allowed because they were not what she wanted to be seen by people who were visiting.

Aaron was a little startled by that. He had a fridge in the basement that held his beers. There was also a drink cart down there for when he wanted a drink. The cabinet that had been bought for the living room was still down in the basement in a box as Aaron had never figured out where Haley wanted it in the living room.

Wandering around, Aaron tried to find his wife. He speared a bite of salad as he went up the stairs. He knew that she wasn’t on the first floor as he hadn’t heard her moving around down there. He stopped as he realized that all of the bedroom doors were shut, that meant she wasn’t on the second floor either. Aaron frowned and started down the stairs. He looked out into the backyard to see that Haley wasn’t there either.

Aaron looked to see that the door into the basement was open. He hadn’t noticed that when he had been in the kitchen before. He moved to the door to see that the light below was on. He carefully walked down the stairs to see that the light in both rooms was on. The basement had been half unfinished when they moved in so Aaron had worked on getting the half-finished side finished so that they could turn it into a second guest room and that had just never happened. He saw that the unfinished side was more organized as well as just more full before he walked to the other side.

Haley was working on washing down the painted concrete block walls. Haley had wanted them purple, a shade somewhere between standard purple and lilac, Aaron couldn’t remember the name of the paint, but he did agree it softened the look of the walls better than if they were white.

“So what’s all of this?” Aaron asked.

“Well, we don’t have a second guest room at the moment, so I wanted to make sure that we did.”

Aaron knew the tone that Haley used when she wanted to evade something. He smiled as he chewed, watching her work. She could be covered in muck, and Aaron would still want her.

“That’s a good goal. So is the guest room cleaned as well?” Aaron waited for Haley to answer.

Haley finished up the wall and dropped the sponge down into the water before she picked up a towel. Aaron watched her dry off the wall in s few spots and pulled the towel away to look at it. It was clean. Aaron had taught her that trick with a white towel. She beamed at the wall before turning to look at Aaron.

“Yes, I got the room ready for a guest but…” Haley bit her lip and sighed. She dropped the towel down onto the plastic sheet she had to catch water from getting onto the rug and started to walk toward Aaron. “I don’t want him to stay there for a long time. I want him down here where he can do what he wants and not worry about bothering us or waking up Jack.”

It took Aaron a few seconds of chewing for him to figure out that Haley wasn’t talking about someone like her father coming to visit for a few days and getting things ready. He chewed after that until his mouth was free before he set down the bowl on a shelf of the bookshelf that had held random things but was now totally empty.

“Hales?” Aaron asked.

“He’s so unhappy there.”

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the he Haley was talking about was Reid. Aaron had always wondered why Haley was so cold to the team, but he had to wonder if that was partially because of him keeping work and home life very separate. He knew that Haley hated hearing about the nitty-gritty of the cases. Aaron could understand that. If he could, he would save the world from every hearing about that shit ever again. He wasn’t able to though so it wasn’t going to happen.

“Honey are you wanting to move Reid into the basement.”

“Yes, I want to move Spencer into the basement at least here he can do what he wants. He can sit outside and do what he wants. Watch TV without having to fight for it.”

“Haley, why do you want to do this?” Aaron wanted it too, but he didn’t want Haley to just want to do it because he wanted it. He hadn’t even said it but the discussion they had the night before could make Haley want to move Reid in to make Aaron happy. Aaron wondered if she was trying to mother Reid. That would not go over well at all.

“Because he needs someone who cares about him and can do what you can’t. He needs a friend and after talking with him and spending time with him showed me that he’s really interesting and I think we can be good friends. He will also not feel like he’s under a microscope here. He can do what he wants, when he wants and be happy.”

Aaron still wasn’t sure, but he could only take Haley at her word. “If we do this, there will be no going back. You can’t decide that you don’t want him here anymore and have us ship him back. Unless he becomes a danger to you or to Jack.”

“He’d never hurt Jack. He might be a little clueless around babies, but you said it after that time that I brought Jack to work that you don’t think that he’s ever been around babies outside of cases. He’s going to have to get used to Jack quickly if he’s here. If he’s still horrible with him after, then I will just make sure not to leave them alone. I don’t think he would ever hurt Jack on purpose. He’s good with kids on cases, you’ve said that. He’ll get good at this.”

“When do you want to go and get him?” Aaron asked. He was quite shocked that he wasn’t going to have to fight to get what he wanted. He really couldn’t even tell Haley why he cared so much other than he saw a little bit of Sean in Reid. Reid though was willing to accept help where Sean was more than willing to go his own way and not care about what it did.

“Well, this room is as good as it’s going to get until we go and get things for him. I thought that tomorrow I could take him shopping for stuff and have it delivered later that night or the next day. I know you have that round of golf for that charity for Jessica’s work. I thought while you were doing that, I could take Spencer around. He told me that there are no mandatory things for him to do on the weekend. So let me go get cleaned up while you eat and then we can get Jack up and get him ready, and we can go and get him.”

“That sounds perfect.” Aaron pulled Haley into a hug and wrapped his arms around her tightly. He wasn’t sure what really had happened to change Haley’s mind about a lot of things, but he was willing to ride it out and hoped that it was enough to save the marriage between them.

Spencer wasn’t sure what he was going to do for the weekend. It was going to be torture, and Spencer wasn’t sure he was ready for that. There were not nearly as many activities that he could get into on the weekend, and that made Spencer’s skin crawl. He had started to pace in the halls, which really wasn’t pacing to most people. He was doing laps, which some of the other patients did but for Spencer, it was pacing. He couldn’t stay in his room, he was sick of running on a treadmill. He was sick of reading. Which wasn’t something that Spencer had ever said in his life. He was just sick of being in there.

With his elbow joint starting to crawl, Spencer picked up the pace, stepping in time to the bass of the track on Hotch’s MP3 player. He could almost do it with his eyes closed if there was no one else around. This place was kind of packed at the moment, and that was also getting to Spencer.

“I think he’ll do better,” Hotch said from a distance away. It was perfect timing as the MP3 player was switching songs. Spencer looked around and realized that there was a vent above his head that probably had direct access to wherever Hotch was. Spencer had no idea why Hotch was even there. They had gone out to dinner just the night before, and really Hotch should be at home with his wife and his kid if he wanted to keep his wife. Spencer followed the sound of his voice until he found the room that they were in. It was a conference room, and Spencer could hear Doctor Freya’s voice coming through, but it was muffled enough to where Spencer couldn’t understand him.

“No, we fully realize what this would entail. Your last progress report to me, just yesterday, said that he was backpedaling. He’s bored. I had hoped that he wouldn’t get bored here, but he is, and you know that.”

Spencer knew that he wasn’t ready to go home. He knew that he wasn’t prepared for having to do everything on his own. It wasn’t that bad there, but he was bored. He didn’t want to just leave though because he would go out and score the first time a nightmare woke him up, he knew that. He wasn’t shocked that Doctor Freya was keeping Hotch updated. Spencer had signed those papers Wednesday, to allow him to know more than just the standard, he’s doing okay.

“You have to understand that I have to do what’s best for him, and going home alone is not.” Doctor Freya’s voice got louder as he spoke, so he had to be getting closer to the door.

“No, I agree,” Hotch said.

There was the sound of movement, but it wasn’t from the room that Hotch and Doctor Freya were in. It was behind Spencer. He could just hear it over the headphones still in his ears. Spencer spun around and saw that it was Haley and Jack. Jack was in Haley’s arms.

“Hello, Spencer.”

“Hello Mrs., I mean Haley.”

Haley smiled, and it wasn’t one of the indulgent smiles that he got from people all his life where he had done something that ordinary people wouldn’t do, but it was understandable because he wasn’t normal. This was indulgent in that she was happy that he was calling her by her preferred name but that she understood why he was having trouble.

“Spying are you?” Haley nodded her head toward the doorway behind Spencer.

“I heard Hotch and was tracking down where I heard him from. Shouldn’t he be at work?”

“He finished early and wanted to come and see about bringing you home with us for the rest of your treatment.”

Spencer swallowed as he tugged his headphones from his ears. He wasn’t sure that he had heard her right at all. There was no way that they were really wanting to take him home. Not with Jack there. Spencer knew that he wasn’t dangerous, he knew that Hotch knew that, but still there were issues around everything. It would also be strange as hell.

“Reid?” Hotch asked.

Spencer looked over at Hotch and frowned before he turned to leave. Hotch was used to that kind of thing. When Spencer needed time to think, or to just be away from people. Spencer didn’t stop until he was in his room. He left the door cracked as a sign that he didn’t mind having company as he knew Hotch would not come for at least a few minutes.

Hotch wanted Spencer to live with him, and Haley didn’t seem to care. Spencer wasn’t sure how he felt about that. He dropped down into the chair in the corner and tucked his legs up to his chest. It was a thinking pose for him that the team rarely saw. Hotch had seen it a few times, especially in the wake of Des Plaines and Spencer killing Phillip Dowd. Spencer had sat like it in Hotch’s chair in his office when the bullpen got to be a little too much.

The soft snick of the door had Spencer dropping his head down onto his knees. He didn’t hear Hotch or Haley, but he knew that they were there. He knew that he would have to talk to them at some point about this all. He just wasn’t sure what he wanted. He wanted to go home, but he didn’t. He wanted to go with them, but he didn’t. He was too many emotions, too many thoughts. He felt that urge start to come back, that his body, his mind knew what would give him peace, and he just needed to give into it. His brain would stop, and he could just float.

There was a soft murmur before there was a loud squeal. Spencer felt something on his feet, and he parted his knees to look down. It was Jack. Jack had tottered across the floor and was pulling himself up to grab at Spencer’s socks. He was wearing a bright blue sock with red swirls on his left foot and a red sock with orange dots on his right. Spencer moved his feet forward so that Jack could actually grab at his socks a little, his tiny fingers barely felt on Spencer’s leg. Spencer watched as Jack chased dots that didn’t move but still laughed like he was. Jack was holding onto Spencer’s pant leg with one hand, his grip strong for his age and used the other hand to chase the dots.

After a few minutes of watching Jack, Spencer looked up. Haley was sitting on the edge of the corner of Spencer’s bed with a smile on her face as she watched her son. Hotch was standing near the door, his gaze also on Jack.

“See, he likes you,” Hotch said.

“He likes my socks and the bright colors of them. It’s just like when babies and toddlers look at fans. It’s the stimulation, not me that’s making him happy.”

Hotch laughed. He uncrossed his arms and walked over to grab a chair from the desk and turned it around to where he was leaning against the back while sitting on it. It wasn’t a move that he often did while on cases, but in social situations, he did it more. “Do you want to leave here? I would never pull if you didn’t want to leave.”

“I mean…I want to leave, yes, but I know that I can’t be alone. Even just the stress of this isn’t helping me.”

“Well, I wasn’t expecting you to hear us talk about it. I was going to come in and see you and talk to you alone about your options. You will have a guest room, and Haley’s already offered to take you to and from here. Doctor Freya can move things around to where you come here for a few hours each day. It’ll give Haley a small break and you a break from them.”

“I don’t know,” Spencer said. He propped his chin on his knees and looked at Haley. She seemed earnest, but Spencer knew that things had not been well between them and adding Spencer into the mix wasn’t going to help, it was probably going to hurt more than anything.

“You don’t have to decide today, but I would like you to come home with us. Try it out over the weekend. If at any point you know that you don’t like it and want to come back, we can do that. It’s not going to be a forever thing if you don’t like it. You aren’t going to get in trouble here or with me. Moving in with a married couple and their nearly eighteen-month-old son is not something that most people would look forward to. The guest room is all set up.”

“We are working on a second guest room,” Haley said with a smile, drawing Spencer’s eyes to her. “It’s in the basement. I was hoping that tomorrow you and I could head out and see about getting some furniture for it.”

“Sure,” Spencer said. He felt a little hope inside of himself at the thought.

“We can also go to the library closest to the house and get you more books,” Haley offered.

“We are also going to stop and drop off the ones that you have that you are done with. The room will be held for you through Monday, and then when you do your visits here that day, you can clean out your things and bring them back home.”

Spencer knew that Hotch was calling his place home, but to Spencer, it felt like he was calling it Spencer’s home. Spencer buried his face in his knees and let his emotions just wash over him. He knew that he was overreacting but then he had been out of control emotionally since he had been taken. He knew that he was still working on working through everything that he should have worked through in his life up to this point and that it was going to take time.

Jack babbled at Spencer, his hand on Spencer’s sock becoming more insistent. Spencer parted his legs again to look down at him. Jack looked like he was sleepy.

“Um, he’s tired,” Spencer said.

“Then pick him up,” Hotch answered as Haley looked like she was getting ready to come over and take him.

“Pick him up?” Spencer questioned. He swallowed. Spencer looked down at Jack again and frowned. The boy was making a grabbing motion with his hand and seemed like he was about to let go with his other hand, and that wasn’t going to end well because he was bouncing up and down. As much as kids, especially babies, scared Spencer, he really hated it when a baby cried, and it wasn’t just a cry of “I need attention” but the cry of “I’m hurt.”

Spencer carefully let his one leg drop down so that Jack was able to grab onto that pants leg. Then Spencer lowered the other after he untangled Jack’s hand from his pant leg. Spencer used that hold to steady Jack while he got a hand around the area under Jack’s armpit. When he was sure of that hold, he lowered the other hand to the opposite side. He lifted up Jack, shocked by how much weight the boy had on him. He knew that baby fat was a thing, and it was a good thing to help Jack as he grew, but he was a very solid baby. Jack blinked at Spencer a few times before he started to wiggle at just being held up in the air.

Seeing other people holding babies and holding one yourself was very different. Spencer tried to find all of the memories he had of watching people with their infants and toddlers and wondered at the best way to hold Jack. In the end, he went with the easiest, even if it meant baby drool and/or worse on his clothes. Jack turned his head toward Spencer’s neck and seemed to settle there. His body went limp, and Spencer freaked out a little. Kids weren’t supposed to trust him. Wasn’t that what the Reid effect was? Kids and dogs didn’t like him. Though the mutual dislike between him and dogs was okay with Spencer. He was more happy with cats who would disdain him but demand love at the same time. Spencer had never got along with dogs, even when he did everything that people told him to do.

“Looks like he likes you,” Hotch said.

“That’s his dad in him,” Haley said.

Spencer didn’t say anything in answer to that. There wasn’t anything really to say. Hotch was giving him a fond look, but that had to be just for Jack. Spencer wasn’t worthy of that kind of fond look at the moment. He knew that Hotch didn’t look down on him for his failings. Hotch understood that people were human and that Spencer asking for help showed that he did want to change.

“So when do you want to leave?” Spencer asked.

“Well, I was thinking of that, Doctor Freya said that on Fridays lunch is served a little late as breakfast is, so that means you haven’t eaten lunch. Haley and I have, but there is that little bistro three blocks over that we love the pie at. We can walk over and get you something to eat, I think you’ll like the soups there.” Hotch gave Spencer a smile at that.

Spencer felt the blush creep up on his face from those words. Hotch was the only one that Spencer had ever told about his love of all things soup. JJ had noticed that he got soup from a lot of places but had never questioned it.

“I’m not that hungry,” Spencer said, and he really didn’t feel that hungry. He was too emotional for that.

“Well they do smoothies as well, you can sip on one of those to see if your hunger comes,” Haley said.

Spencer wondered if Haley was going to mother him. He had a mother who had never really mothered him. He wasn’t sure that he was equipped to be mothered.

“And what about Jack?”

“Well, he’s asleep, so that’s why I offered walking.”

Spencer tried to figure out how to get the kid off of him without offending Hotch or Haley. He really did want to go and stay with them. He hadn’t thought that he would, but at that moment, he felt that urge. He didn’t figure that he would get more time alone while out than he did now, but at least he knew Haley a little better than the revolving door of chaperones that Spencer had over the last week. There were a few that didn’t like to take him to the library and had canceled on him the day before.

“I have thirty books to return. I didn’t get to go and get more yesterday, so I had to reread them,” Spencer said. He nodded his head toward where the large cloth bag was that held his books. He had been allowed to purchase that since the plastic bags that the library gave out were not the greatest. The bag was purple, and Spencer really liked it.

“Then I guess I’ll drop you two off at the library and you can find some books while I go to the store and pick up things for dinner,” Haley said.

“You don’t have to. I’m sure I can read Hotch’s law texts that he has.” Spencer really didn’t want to inconvenience them at all on the first day of staying with them.

“It’s not a problem. I need to go shopping to get things for dinner. The grocery store and the library closest to home are on the same block. It won’t be that big of a deal. They have a play area for Jack in case he wakes up and he can make a little noise while you find some books to read.”

“If you are sure,” Spence said.

“Reid, neither of us will ever offer something we don’t want to do for you or for anyone. Now, there are a few things that I do want to talk to you about. Given that your cost of treatment is going to go down since you are not going to be living here, Strauss has made it so that the funds to cover that will be going to your living expenses in our home. She’s going to fight it so that it’s covered. Even if it comes out of the BAU’s pocket. Your team failed you that day, and while we know that it was mainly one person, it’s still a failure. You will have a few tasks to do during the day if you agree to them, but those will center around Jack. Haley likes to clean so instead of her hauling Jack around room to room, when she’s cleaning, if you are there, you can watch him. Blocking off rooms and moving things around to where he can’t hurt himself is a little hard and time consuming. He’s still taking pretty good naps so most of the time she cleans while he naps.”

“I can do that,” Spencer said. Morgan had told Spencer about faking it until you could make it and Spencer figured that when it came to watching Jack, it was going to be the way to go. It wasn’t like Haley was going to leave Spencer alone with Jack and go somewhere. Spencer was sure that there needed to be paperwork to make sure that he was monitored almost like he was here.

“Good. Also, Doctor Freya says that running has been helping you. When I am in town, I run every single morning. I’d like you to run with me before I go to work.”

Spencer nodded at that one. He wasn’t sure that he was going to like that one at all. He knew what time Hotch got up in the mornings. He really, really didn’t want to do that but if it was part of being released from the treatment center, he could. He had done a lot of things in his life that he would rather not do just to keep people happy.

“I’ll pack up the bag you will need for the weekend. I don’t want to wake up Jack at the moment.” Hotch’s eyes were on Jack’s face.


Spencer blinked at the ceiling and waited for his alarm clock to go off. He had been awake for an hour and didn’t like it. He knew that sleeping in a strange place with strange noises would keep him up, but it had also been that he was in Hotch’s house.

The blare of the alarm had Spencer reaching over to shut it up. He sat up in bed and started to get dressed for the run with Hotch. He really wasn’t looking forward to the run. When he was dressed for a workout, in heavier clothes than he usually would wear given they would be running outside, Spencer crept from the bedroom and hoped that he didn’t wake up Hotch, Haley, or Jack.

Spencer hoped that they had instant coffee so that the smell wasn’t going to wake anyone up either. He stopped at the kitchen door though because Hotch was standing at the stove stirring something and Haley was in the fridge grabbing something. Spencer was staring at them and frowned.

“Good morning, Reid,” Hotch said. He gave Spencer a grin. He was already dressed for running as well.

“Morning,” Spencer said back. He took a tentative step into the room. He wasn’t sure if they wanted him in there. He looked at the coffee pot to see that it was empty. He didn’t want to go looking through the cabinets with them in there, so he just stood there because he didn’t know what he wanted to do. He could just back out and head out to the living room to stretch, but he really wanted coffee. He didn’t think he was going to make it without coffee.

Spencer kind of hated that he had never lived with anyone before. He didn’t know what to do, and he didn’t like it.

“Here you go,” Haley said as she came up and out of the fridge with a smile on her face. She was holding a bottle of Spencer’s favorite creamer, another thing that only Hotch knew.

Spencer stepped up to take the creamer and wondered what he was supposed to do with it. Coffee would take a few minutes to make, and the creamer would be better served in the fridge. Hotch stepped away from the stove and picked up a coffee mug before handing it over to Spencer. There was steaming hot coffee inside of it and just enough room for the amount of creamer that Spencer liked.

“Thanks.” Spencer walked to an area of the counter that didn’t have anyone standing at it and worked on getting his coffee ready for him to drink. He took a sip when he was done and found that it was a good blend.

“Breakfast will be ready when you two get back but not if you don’t get your asses moving. Aaron, be gentle don’t make him run like you do every morning. We don’t need to take him to the ER for exhaustion or anything else.”

“I won’t,” Hotch said with a smile on his face as he walked past Haley and kissed her cheek. Spencer looked away from that to give them privacy.

Spencer focused on his drink and getting it down as soon as possible.

Spencer wasn’t sure what he was going to do at the moment other than just try and keep up with Hotch. He wasn’t sure what kind of runner Hotch was. Did he talk? Did he like silence? Spencer hadn’t spent enough time with Hotch outside of work to even try and figure out what kind of person Hotch really was.

“I have a three-mile path that I generally run every single morning, and I do it twice. I’ll swing us by here and drop you off after the first round.”

“Okay,” Spencer said. He followed Hotch out the door, and they stayed on the concrete path from the sidewalk to the house, and both stretched. Spencer kept his eyes looking around the neighborhood. He wondered what the neighbors were going to think about him staying there. He wondered if people were going to think he was Sean. Spencer knew that he and Sean were around the same age. He had never tried to talk with the man the one time that he had come to a team thing after the whole yelling in the bullpen that Sean had done. They might be around the same age, but they were different in almost every other way.

Hotch was silent the entire run. He didn’t go too far in front of Spencer, even at the end of the three miles when Spencer was lagging a lot. He would love to get up to where he could do the run with Hotch, but that was going to take time.

“There is a group of runners who start at around 8 am, and they pass by here on their way to the park, they do about four miles. Do you remember Stevenson?” Hotch asked as he started his cool down stretches in the middle of the yard. He had chosen not to do the second lap it seemed. Spencer wasn’t going to question it.

Spencer wanted to just fall down to the ground and soak up the cold from it, but that would probably get him yelled at.

“Counter terrorism that consulted with us that one time?”

“Yes. You can join them if you like on the days I am not here.”

“Ugh, sure.” Spencer wasn’t sure that he wanted to, but he knew that he couldn’t go alone. He didn’t have a lot of familiarity with this end of DC, but he was sure that if he really tried, he could find drugs.

“You don’t have to,” Hotch said.

“No, I want to run and try to stay doing it daily. I just…” Spencer shrugged.

“Stevenson knows a little about the case and knows that you are going through some stuff. It came up in a Unit Chief meeting. There are a few who are worried about you. He’s not going to ask, and he’s not going to allow the others to bother you about it. I’ve already warned him.”

“You’ve been busy.”

“Just last night with this. I wanted to make sure while I was gone, you could still run. I go with them when we have late in times after getting back late from cases. I do want to talk to you about something.” Hotch didn’t start to talk anymore so Spencer figured it would be something for when they were inside. Spencer finished up his stretching and started for the door.

“I was talking to Doctor Freya,” Hotch said as he fell into line behind Spencer. “If you do well here over the next two weeks, I’ll start to bring home some cold cases for you to work on.”

“Oh,” Spencer said as he turned around to look at Hotch. “Really?”

“Yes. He agrees with me that keeping your mind busy is going to be the best thing as long as keeping it busy isn’t you hiding from dealing with things. I know the cold case unit will love to have you for a little while so I’ll talk to Strauss about seconding you there on paper for the next little while until you can go back into work and everything. How does that sound?”

“Really good.”

“Hungry?” Haley called out from the kitchen.

“Starved,” Hotch said. He passed by Spencer and clasped him on the shoulder, tugging him along with him.

Spencer’s stomach growled, and Hotch laughed.

Haley watched Spencer as he moved around the room, eyeing things. Spencer had been in the basement for the past two hours. Shopping with him had been painless, though Haley was sure that it was because he didn’t realize that this was going to become his room the next night, or even that night given that the room was ready long before Haley thought it would be.

“Aaron will be home in about an hour. He wants to go out to eat. Then on the way back, we will swing by and get his car.”

“His car?” Spencer asked as he looked up at Haley.

“It seems that the charity golf event turned into drinks in the bar on the grounds, and now Aaron is a little drunk. He’s going to be dropped off here by David, and then you can drive his car back if he doesn’t think that he’s sober enough when dinner is done.”

“Um, sure.” Spencer looked around the room again, and there was pride in his eyes. It was something that Haley was glad to see. The trip to the library before Aaron had gone to the golf course had been interesting to see. He had grabbed books seemingly randomly off the shelf, but Aaron had told her that he memorized where they all were the day before and was grabbing new ones that he hadn’t that looked interesting. Haley had also learned that he went off of the title when it was books he didn’t know that well.

Haley had been glad to see Aaron share his books with the younger man too. Aaron never let people borrow his collection of spy books, but Aaron had shown them to Spencer right off the night before.

“So are you hungry?” Haley asked.

“Um, yes.” Spencer wasn’t able to do much more than get the words out when his stomach growled.

“Well, I’m glad. Seafood sounds good?”

“Sure,” Spencer said. He wiped his hands on his pants before picking up the hammer that was on the dresser. He worked on cleaning up the tools that Aaron had shown him the location of before going golfing.

“Then when you get back you can move your things down here.”

“What?” Spencer asked. His hand went slack, and the screwdriver in it fell down. Thankfully, the rounded handle part was what fell on Spencer’s socked foot and not the point. It looked like a Phillips which meant it would have a sharper point. “Fu-dge.”

Haley laughed.

“Aaron cusses when he’s home, don’t worry. I tend to have a potty mouth when driving, and I’m sure that those words sink in well to his little brain. He said a very close version of fuck as one of his first words that wasn’t Ma or Da.”

“Still, it’s not nice to say around-” Spencer stopped and pursed his lips together.

“Women? Aaron said that you read a lot of much older books. It’s fine to cuss, Spencer, I don’t have that delicate of sensibilities. If I did, I wouldn’t have stayed married to Aaron for long at all.”

“I guess I’ve never heard him cuss outside of yelling at Morgan to get his ass somewhere, usually to safety.”

“See,” Haley said. She heard Jack let out a happy squeal from up in the playpen that he was in. Either Aaron had come home, or Jack had found something fun. The last time it had been a moth.

“Is Hotch home?” Spencer asked.

“I don’t know. Let’s go find out.” Haley knew that Spencer would wait for her to move before he did. He wasn’t as socially awkward as he had been right after he had joined the team, but he was still pretty bad at a lot of things. Haley was going to slowly work on getting him to be less that way. It was going to take a lot of work, but they had a lot of time.

Haley heard Jack babbling, but it didn’t seem to be his babbling at his father. When she rounded the corner, she saw that there was something in the playpen with Jack. Jack was almost too big for the playpen but it was good when Haley couldn’t be in the room with him.

“Spencer,” Haley said as she slowly approached. It was fluffy and white. Haley was afraid of scaring it and it hurting Jack.

“Oh, it a Maine Coon kitten,” Spencer said. He crouched in front of the playpen and made a weird clicking noise. The kitten made a noise and turned to find the new human. It wasn’t but a few seconds and not only did the white kitten move but a black one that Haley hadn’t even noticed moved as well.

“Those are kittens?” Haley asked. She saw how big they were, and even for accounting for a large amount of fur, they were still big.

“Oh, yes. Maine Coon cats get big.” Spencer scratched up the netting, and the two kittens climbed up and out. The black one stayed perched on the rail at the top while the white one jumped down to play with Spencer. “Where did they come from though?”

“Well, I opened up the back door to let in some fresh air when I burned my toast earlier. I did leave the room. I bet they snuck in.”

“Toast? This late in the day?”

“It became a habit to eat a piece of toast in the afternoon when I was pregnant with Jack. I kind of like it so I’ve kept on doing it.”

“Ah, to stave off morning sickness that lasted longer than the morning.”

“I’ll call the local vet. I mean Maine Coon kittens that are white and black are not exactly easy to forget. They must belong to someone.” Haley walked toward the cordless phone and picked it up. She turned back to see that Spencer had coaxed the white kitten into his lap and the black one was back in the playpen with Jack. It was curled up at Jack’s feet, but Jack seemed too interested in Spencer.

“Wanna play with the kitten, Jack?” Spencer asked.

Jack babbled a nonsensical answer back and reached down to dig his hands into the fur of the kitten.

“No, no,” Spencer said softly. He gently set the white kitten down and reached over the playpen to untangle Jack’s fingers from black fur before he scooped up the kitten and set it down with the white one before picking up Jack. Spencer settled on the ground with Jack in his lap. Spencer grabbed Jack’s hand and gently ran it down the white kitten’s fur when the kitten got close. Jack babbled at the kitten next, and the black one seemed jealous so it got in between Jack and the white one so it could get pets as well.

“- hospital, Amanda speaking.”

“Amanda, hi, my name is Haley Hotchner. I live at-” Haley rattled off her address as he watched Spencer and Jack. She wished that Aaron was there to capture that on his phone so Spencer could see that kids and animals didn’t hate him. “I have two kittens here that had snuck into my house. A white and a black Maine Coon.”

“I bet those are Geraldine’s. Hold on please, Ma’am,” Amanda said.

The line went to hold music just as the front door opened up.

“Shut up, Dave!” Aaron yelled, and then there was the thump of shoes on the floor. Two seconds later, Aaron was appearing in the doorway. His face was flush, so Haley knew that he was a lot drunker than he had sounded on the phone. He stopped and looked at the two kittens that were playing around Jack while jack sat in Spencer’s lap. Aaron reached up and rubbed at his eyes for a few seconds and frowned.

Haley couldn’t help the little laugh that escaped.

“Mrs. Hotchner?” Amanda said as the hold music disappeared.

“Yes, I’m here.”

“Those would be Geraldine’s two kittens she has left from her last litter of kittens. Curiosity is the white one and she’s very adventurous, and her sister Midnight likes to tag along. She’s at work until five-thirty, but after that, she can come by.”

“My family and I are getting ready to go out to eat. I have a bathroom that I can trap them in and remove anything that I don’t want them in. I’ll leave a dish of water on the floor.” Haley gave over her cell phone number. “Have her text me when she’s leaving work and then when I get home I can text her.”

“She’s on the other side of your block so that will work. This is not the first time that Curiosity has escaped. What were they doing?”

“Playing with my nearly eighteen-month-old son in his playpen.”

“That sounds about right. Geraldine watches her grandson, and that’s what they like to do with him as well.”

“You said the last of the litter.” Haley watched as Aaron settled down on the floor as Jack was making grabbing motions and starting to demand his father’s attention, some of it was whole words. Jack was good at talking when he wanted but the rest of the time he babbled. Spencer handed over Jack but didn’t let go until he was sure that Aaron had a hold of him. Aaron only ever got drunk like that when he was around David Rossi, and while most of the time it wouldn’t be good, as little as Aaron did it, Haley was glad he let his hair down on occasion as it were.

“Yes, Ma’am. She’s trying to find a home for them. It’s the last litter her mother cat is going to have, and while she wanted to keep two, there was only one she was attached to and the others have found homes, but those two are a package deal, and they don’t like her that well.”

“Well, we have a man staying with us, and I think that they like him just fine.” Haley smiled as Curiosity climbed up into Spencer’s lap before stretching and dropping down to fall asleep.

“Oh, really? Then I’ll let Geraldine know that you might keep them. She’ll still come by tonight and check on things.”

“That’s fine. I think two cats will do us all good.”

“She’s got them well trained on everything that they would need, and they are up to date on shots.”

“Thank you,” Haley said her goodbyes and hung up. She watched Spencer and Aaron playing with Midnight, who was having fun running around for the hand that was petting her. The barrier between Hotch and Aaron was very thin at the moment when it came to Spencer, and Haley was glad of it. She knew that it would take time for them both to settle into living together. “So Spencer, how do you feel about adopting two kittens?”

“Um, me?” Spencer asked, and he looked up at her.

“Yes. The lady who the cats live with is looking for a home for them. I think they like you.”

“I’ll have to see about finding a new apartment then when my rehab is up.”

“No pets allowed in your current place?” Aaron asked. He looked like he was sobering up quick enough. Which was good. Haley didn’t mind driving him around, but she was going to stick him in the back seat with Jack, and Spencer was going to ride up front. Aaron was a horrible backseat driver when he was drunk.

“No. Are you sure I can keep them?”

“They don’t like the lady who owns their mother, so she’s looking for a place. I think they like you and you obviously like them.”

“I have always loved cats, but mom thought they were soul-sucking demons most of the time. I tried to hide one in my bedroom once, but mom found it and freaked out.” Spencer said it like it was a normal thing.

Haley looked at Aaron to see him shake his head. Haley swallowed down what she wanted to say. She knew what he was in rehab for, why he needed to talk about it, but she could also understand that he had just made a random comment, not started a dialogue on talking about it.

“Well, we both love cats,” Aaron said.

“Are you sure? If we stop at the store, I can get everything that is needed.” Spencer looked at Aaron first and then Haley.

Haley had Spencer’s credit card and was only supposed to give it to him when he was checking out and then take it right back. She didn’t mind doing that.

“Yeah, we are sure. We can lock them in the bathroom on the ground floor until we get back from dinner. I’ll give Aaron your card and you and he can go shopping when I drop you off at the golf course. I can come home with Jack.”

“Okay.” Spencer looked down at the sleeping kitten in his lap.

Haley had to wonder if any of what happened was on accident. Having someone to take care of, even if it was two kittens, seemed like it might be part of what Spencer needed to get on his feet again.

When Aaron and Spencer entered the door to the house, Haley wasn’t sure that Spencer hadn’t bought out the entire place. Aaron was very, very sober at this point in time and had been since dinner but he still had Spencer drive at least as far as Haley had seen at the golf course.

“Those are going to be very spoiled kittens,” Haley said. She bounced Jack on her hip a little to make them laugh.

“There is actually not a lot here that is not essential for Maine Coon cats, according to the book I read at the store. They will cause issues if they don’t have enough things to keep them entertained.”

Haley raised an eyebrow at Aaron, and he just gave her a grin and nodded his head. It seemed that Maine Coon cats were the perfect animal for Doctor Spencer Reid.

“There are a few toys that were not needed, but they were too cute to pass up.”

Haley laughed, and Jack laughed with her. Two seconds later, a bolt of black fur went across the floor, it tried to stop on the hardwood and Haley could hear the claws on it as the kitten tried to grip but didn’t. Midnight went crashing into Spencer’s foot. A few seconds later, it was like a repeat with the color flipped as Curiosity did the same.

“The only way that could have been better was if we got it on camera,” Aaron said.

“If you just set things down at the bottom of the stairs, I’ll carry it all up.”

“You mean down, right?” Aaron asked.

“Down?” Spencer looked shocked, but then his face changed, and Haley realized that he remembered. “Oh, that’s right. We got distracted by talking about cussing in front of each other and Jack and then it was the kittens making Jack make noise. I did forget about that with all of it. Are you sure about the room? It’s bigger.”

“And that’s better for a long term guest. Plus you can set up the cat boxes in the unfinished side, and we can move things around making room for them.”

“I have three. The book said it was better to have one more litter box than the number of cats.”

“That’s fine. We can spend part of tomorrow doing that after lunch.”

“Sounds good and I’ll take the bags down, Spencer. There is no need for you to make two trips and I need to grab a few things from the storage down there anyway.” Aaron waved for Spencer to go first. The two kittens trailed along behind them, and even Haley followed the little procession. She watched as Aaron went down the stairs first, Spencer, and the kitten seemed to wait until they were all the way down before they started down. It was adorable.

Chapter 5

Aaron knocked on Reid’s door, and it opened up, so he looked inside. Reid was sprawled out on the bed with the covers half off him. Curiosity was laying on the pillow beside his head, and Midnight was nowhere to be seen. She was probably up on the main floor of the house, sleeping in a spot that made her invisible unless she looked at you. It had been an adjustment with the kittens in the house, but they were wonderful with Jack, and even when Jack had gotten really excited and gripped Curiosity hard, she hadn’t attacked him. She had just hissed and spit and then took off when she was unhanded. They had been trained well on how to deal with children. Still, Aaron didn’t push his luck, and if Jack was out of the playpen, there was an adult in the room with him.

Reid had been with them a week, and while Aaron knew that he was still being a more gracious guest, he was doing well at socializing with Haley during the day and was helping with a lot more than Aaron had asked him to. Aaron’s daily jobs were usually done before he got home, which he enjoyed, but he wasn’t going to get used to it. That would stop when Reid went back to work, which wasn’t as far off as Aaron thought it was going to be based on the assessment that he had got from Doctor Freya last night. Reid was doing leaps better and as far as Doctor Freya could tell he wasn’t faking any of it. Aaron did want to talk to him.

Aaron had gone through some training to deal with grief on the team after Max Ryan had left the BAU. He had been the one to do the grief assessments for the BAU, so Aaron wanted to take that over. David Rossi had been on the way out, and there was no way that Aaron was ever going to trust Jason Gideon with the emotional burden of the team. Aaron had known he was flawed before he had even met him, the word got around that he was a good profiler, but he lacked the depth needed to connect with anyone that wasn’t a serial killer.

A sharp meow had Aaron looking around to see that Curiosity had woken up and was staring at Aaron from Reid’s second pillow. Reid’s hand moved out and petted down Curiosity’s body before ruffling her fur.

“You have food. I fed you an hour ago when you were demanding it. Don’t try and tell me you ate it all. I know you, you little beast.”

Aaron knocked on the door, and Reid rolled over in bed and blinked at Aaron for a few seconds before reaching over to grab his glasses. He had been wearing them a great deal of the time in the house, not bothering with the contacts anymore. Aaron thought he looked better in glasses, but it was not his preference that needed to be taken into account.


“Breakfast out this morning, so we are going to run a little earlier.”

“Ten minutes and have coffee.” Reid rolled over onto his front to stretch. Aaron had seen it enough on cases that he wasn’t shocked.

“Haley’s already got the coffee going. Jack woke her up hungry, so she’s feeding him.”


Aaron kept his laugh to himself, but he did smile. Reid was fully awake, but his brain was going over things, and when he came up to get coffee, he would tell Aaron that he meant he understood what was being said to him. Aaron had roomed with Spencer long enough to know what he meant even when he wasn’t being the most understandable. He shut the door behind him, looking at the rush but good job that he and Reid had done on adding the door so that Aaron and Haley could go down into the basement and get things from the other side and not disturb Spencer’s privacy. It looked good, and there had been enough paint leftover that was still good from the last time that Aaron had refreshed the paint on the walls in the basement that he had been able to prime the new wood and paint it. The door was sturdy but light enough that the cats could slip in and out with it cracked. The cat boxes were all on the other side, and it had been simple to get those set up over there in a place where it wasn’t in the way of the rest of the things.

Food and water were in Reid’s room, and Aaron thought that best. If for some reason the kittens needed to be locked into Reid’s room, one of the litter pans would be moved over. More if the time period was going to be longer.

Haley was at the stove working on getting a few bits of vegetables steamed to be cut up for later use for food for Jack. Haley had been making Jack’s food like that since he had been a baby. Aaron hadn’t been that shocked at the books that he had come home to one day when Haley had been pregnant. There had been three books though that Haley bought on homemaking baby food and even freezing blocks of it for use later since it was hard to make just enough for a baby to eat on his own. Haley had started Jack off with peas and applesauce.

The shopping trip after to get ice trays had been a little shocking as well, but those were used to make single-serve portions of things that could be frozen easily. The garage freezer had been taken over, at least a shelf, for foods for Jack. Aaron gladly moved everything around in there for her. It was used to store various things that Haley got on a good deal for meals like huge hams and the like. Aaron knew that Haley liked to shop like that for food, even though they didn’t need to. Aaron was looking forward to having the freezer back soon though. Jack was attached to Haley’s pureed and chunky fruits that she made for him so it was hard to wean him off of them.

Aaron knew that Haley and Jessica had grown up with a lot less money than Aaron had and it was part of why Haley wanted the better things, but when it came to food, she was hardwired to always buy cheaper when she could. Aaron liked to go shopping sometimes just to get the more expensive things. Before Jack, Aaron had gone shopping as much as he could with his job. He might try and pick that up again since Reid was doing his things around the house.

“Good morning,” Aaron said as he walked up behind Haley and wrapped his arms around her waist after checking to make sure he wasn’t going to knock anything out of her hands or burn himself.

“Morning,” Haley said, and she set down the spoon she was using to stir the peas before she turned off the fire and set the peas over on a different burner. She turned in Aaron’s arms and wrapped her arms around his neck.

“Are you really okay with going out to breakfast with Reid?” Aaron asked. He didn’t want to push it all on her. He could easily just tell Reid he was too tired after running and was just going to grab something on the way to work and Reid could eat cereal.

“Of course, Jack and I will go in the SUV, and you and Spencer can go in yours and then I will take him to Freedom.” Haley leaned in a kissed Aaron soundly on the mouth. Aaron slipped a hand under Haley’s shirt and pulled her close to him. He was looking forward to having a lie in the next morning. He had plans to ask Spencer to watch Jack after he woke up so that he and Haley could get some alone time.

“Ready?” Reid called out from the doorway. Reid didn’t enter rooms a lot unless he was sure that nothing was going on in there. He had yet to catch them making out anywhere, but he was still cautious.

“Sure,” Aaron said as he reluctantly pulled away from Haley. He gave her a grin and kissed Haley’s nose before he let go of her. He turned to see that Reid wasn’t in the room at all. He reached out for Reid’s cup and saw that Haley had already added in the cream and sugar to the cup. Aaron walked to where he could see Reid’s shadow and handed the cup over. He watched Reid down the coffee in a few large gulps. Aaron was glad that Haley had seemed to allow for Reid’s horrible drinking habits when it came to coffee. Aaron had seen him drink coffee when it was still steaming. Usually, that was after being woken up after not enough sleep during a case.

Reid looked wide awake, even before the coffee had been able to actually affect him. He handed back the mug and gave Aaron his thankful little smile that Aaron had been seeing more and more as they spent more time together.

“So are we doing the full six miles?” Reid asked as he moved out the front door to start his stretches to get ready to run. It was still cold as hell outside so Reid was wearing a thick pair of running pants. Aaron had been glad to pick them up for him so he could stay warm.

“If you want to.”

“I want to try. My foot is good, and I’ve been doing some more running on the treadmill at Freedom in times between my meetings since I had to change one around to allow Doctor Freya to meet with a mother whose person in charge of watching her kids had to change shifts at jobs.”

“Haley told me about that.” Aaron pulled up out of his stretching to see that Reid was on the ground, stretching out his legs. Aaron could see his cording on his leg muscles from the running that he had been doing. Aaron wondered if Reid would be willing to go through some of the tests that he had been passed through again. Aaron figured that he would do better at a lot of them.

There were few words spoken as they got fully ready to go. Aaron took off first, he knew that Reid would follow behind him. It was preferred for Reid but not as much for Aaron. He would be happier if Reid ran beside him. Reid didn’t like it, so Aaron put up with it. Aaron could hear Reid’s footfalls behind him while they ran so it was just fine as far as security went.

Aaron sighed as he felt the first few drops land on them about halfway through the run. The temperature was in the forties since they were in the middle of what was to be considered a heatwave for March. Aaron was all for it, and he hoped that the weather didn’t take a turn for the cold again.

Reid started to make his grumbling noises, and Aaron knew it was about the rain, but they would both be showering when they got back. There was a full bathroom in the basement that had been taken over by Reid and Aaron had made sure that it was all working fine before they had allowed Reid to stay down there. There was only a stand-up shower, but that was more than enough for Reid who didn’t like taking baths anyway. Aaron had heard his rant about germs in the bathtub. Haley had kept a smile on her face and laughed the entire time, silently.

“Why does it have to rain?”

“Weather happens in nature, Reid,” Aaron said as they rounded a corner.

“Nature sucks.”

Aaron kept his laugh to himself even though he was going to tell Haley about it all when he got home. It was something that she would find adorable as hell and Aaron wasn’t going to deny her that image in her head.

The final stretch of the run had Reid slowing down a little, so Aaron did as well. He could hear as Reid’s steps slowed and he moderated his to match. Just as they rounded the corner closest to the house, the heavens opened up and started to pour down rain on them. Aaron picked up his speed a little, hoping that Reid did as well.

Before Aaron could yell at Reid to pick up the pace, Reid was passing Aaron, making a full-on sprint to get up under cover of the porch. Aaron picked up the pace a little more, but nothing that was close to what Reid was doing.

“Was that really needed?” Aaron asked with a grin on his face.

Reid looked up at him through his wet hair and flipped it back, spraying Aaron with a stream of water. When he had that tamed and looked at Aaron again, Aaron’s breath got caught in his throat a little bit. He knew that Morgan called Reid Pretty Boy, but Aaron had just figured it had been a way for the man to boost Reid’s confidence in himself, but the young man who was standing in front of him did look pretty to Aaron. Adorable as well but pretty. Aaron hadn’t ever really looked at other men, not really women either since he had married Haley. He hadn’t needed to look at anyone else, ever, in his mind, but someone should not be pretty or even adorable while also looking like a drowned rat.

Aaron wasn’t sure what the look on Reid’s face was until the man started to shake like a dog, spraying Aaron with water.

There was a screech, and Reid turned around. Haley had opened the door, and Spencer had got her a little bit.

“Sorry,” Reid said, and he sounded like the kid who had got caught with his hand in the cookie jar.

“No, it’s fine I just wasn’t expecting it. You two get your asses inside and get into the shower. You are both going to catch your death.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Spencer said as he slipped past her when she opened the door more.

“Yes, Hales,” Aaron said. He stopped long enough to give her a kiss and not drip anything on her.

“Men,” Haley said just as Aaron started to walk up the stairs. She said it with a laugh in her voice. If Aaron didn’t have to be at work and had time, he would have tried to talk her into joining him in the shower. He would have to see about that maybe on Sunday morning. Reid didn’t take long ones, no matter what as far as Aaron could tell. Even when they were on cases and the hot water beating down on him would feel good, he was in and out in under ten minutes. The rest took longer for him with his hair and shaving and the like, but the shower part was always so damned quick. Aaron wondered if it was something he had learned as a child or he just didn’t like to prolong the shower. Aaron made a mental note to ask one day, maybe when Reid was a little drunk so that his defenses were down. Reid was always more honest about personal things at that time. Aaron would never abuse it, but he hoped that maybe one day Reid would open up to him without it.

Spencer let himself in the apartment and looked around. It had been the only place where he had ever lived alone, really. Even at Caltech, he was in a dorm, and he saw no reason to leave the dorms even after he turned eighteen. Summers were spent in Vegas, and he had bunked down with a neighbor who was happy to have the help in return for driving him places before he was eighteen and then after, letting him take the car as long as he did her shopping. Arriving in DC, Spencer had found a place that wasn’t too expensive but also was in a safe area. Spencer hadn’t been all that proud about where he lived, but it was his, and that was enough to have some pride in it.

“This is very you, Spencer,” Haley said as she entered the apartment after him. Jack wasn’t in her arms like he had been when they had been going up the stairs. Haley had been worried about Jack tripping as the stairs weren’t carpeted like he was used to.

“Thanks, it’s-it was home.”

“You don’t have to leave, Spencer if you are that attached.”

“No, no. This was the first place I ever lived that I was alone, but I don’t…I don’t have that kind of attachment to it anymore. I want to find a place that I really like, and it feels like a better home.” Spencer left off that he wanted a place that felt like Haley and Hotch’s house did. It wasn’t just that it was theirs; it was that it was a house. Spencer had more than enough money to put a reasonable down payment on a home and make the payments. His credit was excellent as he had started to build that as soon as he had got out of college. His credit card was well used and paid off as quickly as possible. Even the issues with his current rehabilitation and therapy had not stopped that.

Hotch had done well on taking care of Spencer’s finances. Hotch had made sure that everything was good with all the things that were in Spencer’s name. Now that Spencer was living with Hotch, Hotch let Spencer have a little more freedom when it came to what he did, but Hotch also watched him like a hawk with any cash that he was given.

For someone who didn’t understand, they would look at this and see someone who was controlling, but Spencer didn’t. Hotch cared enough to make sure that Spencer didn’t have the disposable money on hand to do something stupid while he was getting better. Spencer’s books were easy to buy, and Spencer wasn’t upset at having to make his purchases where Haley could see if he was out with her. It was a change in his way of life that wasn’t always going to be. He had to earn trust again. He was more than willing to earn it back, too.

“The first house that Aaron and I moved into was a rundown, beat-up place, but it was home. Aaron thought he would have more time than he did to fix it up. When we moved back from Seattle, I made sure we bought a place that was in top condition. I did not want remodeling hanging over our head. That’s the house we are in now. The only thing we had to do was finish up a few things in the basement between the two parts and update a few appliances. It felt like home in a way that nothing else had, so I understand, and you take as much time as you need.”

“My lease is up at the end of March. I need to be out a week before that to make sure that the landlord has enough time to deal with little things.”

“Oh, you’ve already told them you aren’t signing another?” Haley asked.

Spencer thought for a few seconds that he had done something wrong. That he had overstepped. Then he saw the look in Haley’s eyes until she looked down at Jack.

“I did,” Spencer said.

“Good. Change might be good for you. We can pick up some listings soon and see about finding you a new place. Aaron says that given how well you are doing now, you might be able to move out in April but finding the perfect place is much more important, for you and for the kittens. So don’t rush on our account.” Haley looked down at Jack again and swung his arm a little. Jack giggled, and Spencer saw him try and get his hand free.

“How about you go down and get the boxes and the packing peanuts, and I’ll see about moving things up to where Jack can have free rein all over the place?”

“Sure.” Spencer laid his keys down on the table before he slung his messenger bag over the coat rack. He watched as Haley took in the place before he chose to leave to get what she asked him to get.

It took two trips but only because the bound set of boxes were unwieldy and so was the giant bag of packing peanuts so he couldn’t take both up the stairs at the same time. He took the peanuts up first and dropped them in the hall before doing the same with the boxes so he could go down and make sure that Haley’s SUV was locked. They had a goal of getting things boxed up today as well as sorting through things and Spencer getting rid of anything that he didn’t want. They would then take a load in the SUV to the storage unit that Aaron had rented for Spencer in a good area of town. It was climate controlled, so Spencer wasn’t worried about his books.

“Aaron mentioned that he was going to talk to the team today about coming over tomorrow?”

“Morgan has a truck, and he’s offered to help me move before when a rash of burglaries hit the area, but it never hit this building, so I stayed. I like it here, but I want the kittens in my life more than I want to stay here, so I need a place for them. I’d also like to have two spare rooms so I can turn one into an office. I’ve been working on more papers for the curriculum at the Academy and various things for even other units so I would like a place that isn’t the bullpen to work on it.”

“Do you have a computer?” Haley asked.

Spencer looked at her for a few seconds, trying to figure out why she would ask that.

“OH!” Spencer said when he got it. He laughed. “Yes. I have an excellent desktop computer.” Spencer walked over the desk in the corner and opened up the area where the monitor was and pulled it up. He opened the door for where the tower was hidden. It was vented at the back. It even had a fan that sucked the air out of the back of the desk area. “I like to write things out by hand first and then as I am typing I flesh them out more. I also need a spot to write mom her letters, so I bought a sewing desk and modified it a little. I can understand why Hotch might think that I don’t like technology with my reluctance to read on computers for cases, but it’s just that I read and remember things better in paper format. My brain doesn’t quite equate a screen with the written word, so I have trouble sometimes unless I am paying very close attention.”

“Oh, that’s interesting. Do you want to move your desktop to our house?”

“I was going to see about that tomorrow. I don’t need it today. We are going out to dinner, and this is going to take all afternoon. That desk we found will work for it now so this one can go into storage. I’ll have plenty of room to write to mom in the kitchen or the dining room so I won’t feel like I’m crowded.”

Spencer watched Haley look around again, and she noticed the main difference between Spencer’s apartment and most others. There was no table to eat at. Spencer didn’t have friends over, and he ate alone when he did eat at home so he saw no reason to have space taken up with a table that would be empty. He ate in the living room, usually while watching TV.

“I see.” Haley gave him a big smile, and then there was the sound of books falling over.

Spencer looked around to try and find Jack, seeing the stack of books that had fallen over, he felt relief when he saw that Jack was uninjured. He was almost petting the cover of a book though.

Jack had learned how to run quickly, and even the three of them had a hard time keeping him corralled when he was running around the living room. There had not been a learning curve at all. Spencer had marveled at seeing it happen over the past month as well. Jack had been moving around so much lately that his baby fat had been dropping off of him a little more than it had been before. Though Spencer knew that he could be getting ready to go through a small growth spurt as well.

Spencer felt a weight leave him that he hadn’t even noticed had settled on him as Jack started to giggle and babble at the book.

“I guess I didn’t get everything,” Haley said with a laugh. She walked over to pick up the books but left Jack with the one that he had been petting. Jack was careful with books, more so than Spencer thought a baby his age would be. He figured that he would be hell on them, but Spencer had found a book that his mother had read to him often as a child in the bookstore. It was a new edition with art on every other page. It was beautiful, so Spencer had bought it. When Jack went down for an afternoon nap, Spencer had started to read to him. The art at first would keep the boy awake, but after a few pages, the soft sound of Spencer’s voice put him to sleep.

It was a stark change from every other kid that he had been around. Jack liked him, and since Spencer had moved in, there had been a few times where the boy wouldn’t stop crying until Spencer was holding him. It felt strange to have the boy be that attached to him. Spencer had never been someone that any wanted when they were hurting.

“Pen,” Jack said.

Spencer tried to look around for the object that Jack was asking for. Haley and Hotch didn’t let him play with them, but Spencer really didn’t want Jack to start to cry.

“Pen!” Jack said more forcefully.

“I-” Spencer looked at Haley, and he just didn’t know what to do. Haley was giving him a smile that wasn’t entirely happy. “I don’t know what he wants.”

“He wants you,” Haley said.

“What?” Spencer asked. He tried to figure out how asking for a pen and asking for him was the same thing.

“He can barely say Mom and Dad. Do you think he can say Spencer?”

“The Sp sound is hard for kids.” Spencer took the S off, and it was Pencer. Shortened to Pen in only a way that made sense to a baby Jack’s age. He looked at Jack and walked over to pick him up. Jack sighed and snuggled into Spencer’s body, laying like he always did when he was in Spencer’s arms.

“See he wanted his Pen,” Haley said.

“But I can’t do anything like this. Not anything meaningful.”

“Then let’s work on the living room here. You can sit down on the couch, or a chair and hold him while I start to sort through things and pack them up. We have all the time in the world, and you can do the heavy lifting when he goes down for a nap. I brought the bumper pad to stick on your bed.”

“Bumper pad?”

“It was something that Jessica saw in a magazine, but she refused to pay what they wanted, so she made it. It’s a soft pad on the bottom with soft lining, and that goes to thick padded edges that Velcro together on the outside to make sure they don’t collapse down onto him. It folds down pretty small to where I can stuff it into a bag that she made to go with it. We use it a lot, especially when we are staying in hotels. It’s been a lifesaver.”

“Oh, that is interesting.” Spencer walked over to the couch, and Jack settled onto him more. The naps that were happening on Spencer were a little out of the ordinary, at least Spencer thought so, but he enjoyed it.

Spencer had never thought that he would want kids. He didn’t see him starting a relationship like that with someone. It was a lot of trust, and he had seen it fall apart too many times. The statistical divorce rate for the country was overall, some areas, some generations, saw more or less than that standard rate. During his childhood in Vegas, Spencer had seen more divorces than he had marriages that lasted.

“So, I’m assuming that anything that I can see, you want to be packed up?” Haley asked.

“Yes.” Spencer looked around his apartment. He was attached to what was inside of it but not the apartment itself. He wondered if that was normal. He knew of people who were stable in life that were attached to their houses or apartments. Spencer wondered if he would ever feel that way about somewhere. He wanted to but still hadn’t found that place. He really hoped that he would find that kind of place while looking for a new apartment.

The rest of the morning passed quickly with Spencer finally settling Jack onto the couch while he helped Haley. Lunch was at the deli down the street from Spencer’s apartment.

“This is good,” Haley said as she pointed at the macaroni salad that she ordered.

“I like their stuff. Sometimes for the weekend, I would just get a loaf of their bread, enough meats, cheese, and sides to last and didn’t leave my apartment at all. Binge reading or watching.”

“Aaron and I used to do things like that, before Jack but especially when Jack was a baby and slept. It was nice to just feel like you were alone in the world. At least, when you were just overloaded on people.”

“I bet it was hard when people came around more after Jack was born.”

“It was. I wasn’t used to so many people, and Aaron hated it, but he put up with it. He has always liked to keep home, home. He prefers to go to other people’s places for events and the like, but he wasn’t all that upset with you coming to live. I don’t think that he told you, but he wanted to ask me at the same time that I asked him about you moving in with us until you were better.”

“Better,” Spencer said.

“I know that you’ll never be cured. Even if it’s just emotional instead of physical. I know that, but you will get better. You’ll get to where you don’t wake up craving, where emotional upset won’t send you to a meeting. Aaron wanted me to make sure that you understood that this wasn’t a time limit thing. You are not going to be kicked out as soon as you are okay-ed to move back into a place alone by Doctor Freya. This is an ‘until you are ready to move back alone’ thing.”

“I know. Hotch said that to me, but I just…I value his friendship and the one I am building with you. I don’t want to ruin that.”

“And you won’t. Spencer, I don’t even notice you are there half of the time when you are in the basement. You give Aaron, and I time to spend together but also make sure that you aren’t just hiding away. I know that when rehab is done for you, you will want to pay rent and the like and we will cover that when it’s time but for now, you just need to focus on what you need.”

“Okay.” Spencer gave Haley a smile before he looked at Jack.

Jack was chowing down on some macaroni salad that had been picked free of veggies. It was just the sauce, and the noodles as Haley said the rest he hadn’t been tried on yet. Spencer was learning more about kids, babies really than he had before and it was interesting. It wasn’t something that he would have ever wanted to study, but he could see that child-rearing really was more of an art than a science. Haley was a good mother, and Hotch was a great father. The way that Jack’s face lit up when he saw his father was the perfect show of that.

Spencer heard the doorbell ring just as Morgan made a joke that had Hotch laughing. Jack was laughing as well, but it was more a mimicry thing than anything else. There was no way that he understood the joke, even Spencer didn’t get it. It was Saturday, and they were going to try and get as much as they could done on getting Spencer out of the apartment before the weekend was over.

“Hello,” Spencer said as he opened the door and grabbed the stack of money that was by the door for the pizza and drinks. The delivery lady handed over the bag of 2-liters just as Spencer felt someone come up behind him. Hotch’s hand settled on his upper back, fingers splayed over the base of his neck as a way of letting him know that he was there. Spencer handed the drinks back and then turned for the pizza as he handed over the money. The lady took it and counted it to make sure that she had at least enough.

“Thanks,” she said as she held up what was her tip money.

“You are welcome. Drive safe,” Spencer said as he shut the door. He turned around with the pizza in hand to see that nearly everyone was staring at the food with starved looks on their faces.

“I think I feel a little like Timon and Pumbaa in Lion King,” Hotch said.

“Okay?” Spencer asked.

“Jack loves watching that so we will have to do that sometimes so soon you can see,” Hotch said.


“Hand over the pizza, and you won’t get tasered,” Morgan said as he walked up to take the top one.

Spencer just watched him as he opened it up. There were three pizzas between all of them, and two were just straight pepperoni while the third was Hotch’s favorite. Hotch moved to grab the next one, and he opened it up first, smiling at what was inside.

“You ordered this for me?” Hotch took the box and started to walk over to where Haley was seated on the couch. Morgan and Prentiss were fighting over who got the first piece of their box of pizza.

“I figured that Haley was used to eating it and I like it too. Everyone else can have just plain pepperoni.”

JJ walked over and handed Spencer a glass of dark pop as she took the last pizza box from the pile. She gave Spencer a one-armed hug, she had hugged him seven times so far.

The whole team had been a little off with him at the start, but as they all settled down, it was closer to what it had been before Georgia. Before everything had changed.

“So how are things going?” Spencer asked. He had talked one on one with everyone about personal things as they had worked on getting things out of the apartment and down to the ground floor, rotating who he talked to. He sat down on the couch beside Hotch so that the man was trapped between him and Haley. It was the normal way that they sat in the living room at the house when they were watching something. Hotch had added a science channel tier to the cable package, and there were things on there sometimes that they watched together.

“It’s been oddly quiet at work,” JJ said, and she looked at Hotch with a sidelong glance.

“We are getting back into the rotation soon. At first, they didn’t want to send us out with being two people down, but now they are finding filling Gideon’s place on the team a little hard. So they are backing off on that and will send us with the next case that warrants us going out. I was told this last night when Strauss called me.”

“She’s been weird, man,” Morgan said.

“Weird how?” Spencer asked.

“Helpful,” Prentiss said.

“Strauss was laboring under a few assumptions that turned out to not be true, so her view of the BAU as a whole has changed.” Hotch’s tone was soft, unlike every other time that Strauss’s name was brought up.

“Well that’s diplomatic for she didn’t know her ass from a hole in the ground,” Morgan said.

“Hotch is too much of a gentleman to say that about anyone who is above him at work,” JJ said as she shoved Morgan for his crass terms.

Spencer let the team’s talking wash over him as he enjoyed just being around them. He was looking forward to going back to work when it was time, but he didn’t want to rush that.

Finishing off the last slice on his plate, Spencer reached down into the box and brushed his hand over someone else’s. He looked over to see that it was Hotch. Hotch waved at him to take the slice.

“No, no, you go ahead.” Spencer sat back and looked at the two boxes of pepperoni. There were two slices left in each, Morgan eating a good bit of pizza on his own.

“No, I’ll get a slice of pepperoni,” Hotch said.

“Are you sure?” Spencer asked, but he lifted out the last slice of the pizza and closed the lid.

“Yes.” And if by the magic of him saying the words, a slice of pizza appeared on Hotch’s plate.

Haley had nabbed it from the box that JJ had been eating out of. Spencer noticed that it seemed Haley had eaten two slices of the pizza Aaron and liked and then had swapped to pepperoni. Jack was eating a cut up a slice of pizza that had the peppers and onions picked off, but the pineapple and pepperoni were still on there. The pineapple was smaller, so Spencer figured that Haley had cut it up. He hadn’t seen that, but then he had been focused on so much else and just existing around the team.

Jack stuffed a very small bite of pizza into his mouth and grinned at Hotch as he chewed.

JJ’s phone rang and Spencer looked at her. She picked up the phone from where it had been on the coffee table. She shook her head, and everyone in the room seemed to deflate. JJ was quick on the phone, and then she hung up.

“Portland needs us now. Sorry, Spence.”

“It’s fine,” Spencer said.

The team started to shove food in their mouth, and Morgan was the first up. He handed Spencer the keys to his truck.

“You can empty it, and then Haley can pick you up from my place when you drop it off. Shove the keys through the mail slot.”

“Sure. Thanks.”

Prentiss gave Spencer an awkward hug before JJ gave him a bigger one. Morgan patted Spencer’s shoulder then they were all gone. Haley had her SUV, and Hotch had brought his car with him, and Spencer was glad of that, or he would be driving all the way to Hotch’s to get Haley’s SUV after Hotch swapped for his car as there was no way Hotch was going to be able to take the SUV to Quantico.

Spencer didn’t like seeing the team leaving. He didn’t like knowing that they were going on a case without him. At least for the time until now, he knew they were safe. Spencer couldn’t shake the feeling that he wasn’t there to help protect them, and things were going to go bad.

Haley was almost worried about how Spencer was going to be when he woke up. Haley had been up since five worried about him and about Aaron. Aaron had texted last night after they had landed in Portland. It had been after midnight DC time, but Haley had answered him when she had found the text after going to the bathroom. Aaron was a little worried about him too.

It was different for Spencer and Haley understood that. She hadn’t ever been anyone but someone who stayed behind. She had always worried, and now she was worried about more. Spencer had been withdrawn last night after the team had left. It was the team’s first case, and he wasn’t going to be there. He was going out with them, and he wasn’t going to be able to help. Haley hoped that he would be allowed to work again, even just giving over the phone consults to teams soon.

The sound of feet on the stairs told Haley that Spencer was coming up. He was always so quiet that most of the time he scared Haley during the week when she was working on breakfast. Today she wasn’t cooking breakfast. She had run out with Jack to get some doughnuts. She knew that they were a favorite of Spencer’s, so she hoped that it helped him feel a little better if he was still a little depressed.

“Morning,” Spencer said before Haley could say anything to him. His eyes were bright, and he had a big smile on his face. It wasn’t a fake one either. It had not taken long at all for Haley to learn what a fake smile was on his face.

“Good morning. Hungry?”

“Yes, I am. Did you want me to cook?” Spencer was eyeing the empty stove.

“No, I went out and got doughnuts.” Haley pointed to the box on the kitchen table.

“Oh?” Spencer asked. His eyes were shining with happiness. He was already dressed in running clothes, so Haley handed over a single glazed doughnut from the box. She knew he would eat more when he was back. It was just now getting on time when the other set of runners were going to be passing the house. Spencer walked over and made himself a cup of coffee. Haley had washed up the mug and set it beside the pot. JJ had bought Spencer a new mug and had given it to him. It was full of random physics equations that when the cup was full of hot liquid, the answers to the equations appeared. It was kind of cool, even to Haley. Spencer turned and raised the mug before he took a sip. “Thanks.”

“Welcome, I figured that for now, it can be your mug here.”

Spencer nodded as he had his mouth full of the doughnut, and he washed it down with coffee. His eyes darted to the clock on the wall. He started to nearly shove the rest of the doughnut into his mouth and chewed quickly. He washed it all down with his coffee, taking large drinks of it until he was tipping it up to get every last drop.

“Thanks! I’ll be back when I am done.”

Haley followed Spencer to the door and shut it behind him before she walked to the living room to look outside from the picture window in there. Spencer was stretching but kept an eye on the street. Haley noticed the small group of three runners coming up the street, and she recognized Stevenson from a quick little meeting between them one morning when Aaron had run with them. He hadn’t wanted to run alone in case his leg injury acted up, so he had waited to go with them.

Spencer was gone just over an hour, and when he got back, he went right down to the basement to shower. He came up in a change of clothes that Haley hadn’t seen him in yet. It had to be part of the clothes he had brought back from the apartment. There were a few more boxes of them at the apartment that needed to be brought over, but they had both been too tired after getting things from Morgan’s truck into the storage unit to go back and get them. It was on the plans for that day.

“Did you have fun? Well, as much as you can going for a run?”

“Yes. They are not quiet like Hotch, but it wasn’t bad. Hotch texted Stevenson that he was on a case, so they made sure that they came this way.” Spencer settled in at the table and picked up the carafe with the coffee and started to get his coffee made.

Haley opened the box of doughnuts and watched Spencer’s eyes as he looked them over. She knew that Spencer would eat any doughnut. Aaron had told her that but that his favorite was Bavarian Creme or sprinkles. It was a strange set of likes, but Haley wouldn’t fault him for them. They were both good in different ways. Haley had got him two of each and another glazed while she had got a mix of ones for her. If he wanted one of hers to try, she wouldn’t be put out as she liked the two she had got for him as well.

Breakfast was silent, but then Haley wasn’t all that worried about that. It usually took a cup or two of coffee to really get Spencer talking, and he was probably still a little out of it from the run.

“What did you want to do today? Today is a free day. A do whatever Spencer Reid wants day.”

Spencer looked at her and Haley had a feeling he was trying to figure out if she was doing it to make him happy or she really wanted to do it.

“It’s Sunday, and the mall can be busy sometimes. Why don’t we go there? There is a play place that Jack can play on with other kids right around his age. There is a coffee shop and a bookstore right beside. I can stay in the bookstore and you can watch Jack, and we can drink coffee. Even after I’m done looking at books, we can just sit there until he wears himself out.”

“That sounds good. It’s getting a little warmer, so I want to pick up Jack a lighter coat so how do you feel about that in the middle of all of that? We can find somewhere to eat lunch while we are out as well. Somewhere that Aaron wouldn’t go.”

“I’ve never seen him turn down places before.”

“It was a figure of speech, Spencer.” Haley smiled as Spencer gave her a smile back.

Spencer had calmed down a lot when it came to getting used to being around her without Aaron around. She had been afraid at the beginning that he wouldn’t. He was still awkward in some ways, but in many, he was coming out of his shell. Haley knew that part of that had to do with Aaron’s unwavering faith in him. Aaron was sure that Spencer was going to beat this and it seemed that when Spencer was at his lowest, it just took a few words of encouragement from Aaron and Spencer was ready to go again.

Haley didn’t have a lot of feelings about Jason Gideon before this. She knew that he was a good man, or she thought that he was. She now saw him for the wrecked man that he was. Too many years of fighting the darkness alone, and it was just helping her in her resolve to never leave Aaron like that. To leave him to the darkness alone. That was more than she was willing to take on that front.

Spencer was in good spirits the rest of the day, he played with the kittens in the living room and with Jack when it was bath time. He even bathed Jack, it was a first for him. Haley found it cute and took a few pictures, especially when Spencer made a foam beard and had Jack giggling so much that he was squealing.

“Hey,” Haley said as she laid in bed and her call to Aaron connected.


“You got a few minutes?”

“Yes. We are eating an early dinner as we were up way too early this morning. What’s going on?”

“Nothing is going on. I just sent a text to your personal phone.” Haley listened as Aaron dug out his phone from his inside jacket pocket. It was a picture of Spencer looking at her with the foam beard on his face and Jack’s happy face behind it. “He’s doing okay, Aaron.”

“I can see that. Jack is quite enjoying that as well.”

“He did. We had a full day. Spencer took us to a mall we’ve never been to before, and there is a play area that is just perfect for Jack. It’s got things for his age, and nothing that will fall over and the older kids aren’t allowed. There is a book store right beside as well as a small coffee kiosk area. I got Jack that new coat I have wanted to get for him. It was a really, really good day out for all of us. He was a little off this morning, and I’ve already texted Doctor Freya like you told me to and told him that the team is on a case so they can talk about that tomorrow. I really do think that moving him in here was a great idea, Aaron.”

“Good. Good. I’m glad you still think that. Is Jack asleep?”

“Spencer fell asleep reading to him just about two minutes after Jack was asleep. I had to shake him awake, so I could get Jack from him. When I checked on him, he was asleep in bed on his front with Curiosity asleep on his back and Midnight on his pillow like a crown.”

“I wish I could see that. Thank you for calling and telling me, Hales, but I’ve got to go.”

“Sure. I just wanted to touch base so you could stop worrying. I could feel that all the way here from Portland.”

Aaron laughed, and then he said his goodbyes and his I Love Yous, then they were hanging up. Haley rolled over in bed and grabbed Aaron’s pillow before she tucked it in close to her body. It smelled like Aaron, and for a few seconds, she could believe that he was wrapped around her, his scent everywhere. She was asleep in seconds.

Chapter 6

Aaron checked his tie in the mirror again as he listened to Haley take her shower. He glanced at his hair and found it was sticking where he wanted it to. Aaron hadn’t felt this much anxiety in a little while. He looked at the small clock on the counter and knew that Reid would get finishing up his shower from the run they took. Aaron wanted to be in the kitchen with the coffee going before he was able to get up there.

A check on Jack who was sound asleep before Aaron made his way down to the ground floor of the house. Aaron looked outside to see the sun finally fully rising. Reid’s shuffling feet on the stairs told Aaron that he was a little slow but that it seemed to not matter as Aaron could smell coffee. He smiled as that meant Haley must have come down and started it while Aaron and Reid begun to get ready for the day.

“Good morning,” Aaron said as Reid’s head appeared in the doorway from the basement.

“Good morning, Hotch.” Reid gave Aaron a smile before he walked right over to the coffee pot to get himself a cup.

Aaron walked to the fridge to grab out the bagels. Haley had bought them for their breakfast for the week, and Reid had seemed happy about that. Aaron knew that Reid would eat anything given to him unless he really hated it, but Aaron wanted him to get a good meal in before they went to work, so he wanted him to eat things that he liked. Aaron grabbed the egg pucks, bacon, and cheese out next. Haley had set out the frozen egg pucks so that they could make breakfast sandwiches instead of just eating a bagel with cream cheese or peanut butter.

“What do you have there?” Reid asked as he stepped up to stand beside Aaron at the microwave. He set down a mug, and Aaron looked down to see that it was for him.

“Thanks. Breakfast sandwiches.”

“Oh, that’s interesting. Pre-cooked bacon?” Reid was eyeing the food.

“Yes and Haley cooks and then freezes the eggs herself for mornings like this.”

“How come you guys have never done this before now?”

“Haley’s wanted you to have freshly cooked food, but I talked her into this for this morning since she was up with Jack late into the night.”

“I heard her with him when she was pacing around the house with him while I was reading before bed. She didn’t keep me up,” Reid rushed to say.

“I’ll make sure that she knows.” Aaron knew that once Reid was asleep, little woke him up unless you shook him. He had an alarm on his phone that did, but if it was before the alarm, he was sleeping through it. It made it helpful for cases as Aaron didn’t have to worry about him not getting enough sleep. “Are you ready for today?”

“Yes and no.”

It was the same answer that Reid had given every time that Aaron had asked him over the weekend.

“Will you expand on that?” Aaron asked as he leaned back against the counter to look at Reid. They had plenty of time to work on breakfast, Aaron made sure of that when he had told Reid to wake up a half an hour early for their runs.

“I’m looking forward to having something that will keep my mind busy more than just reading and writing various papers and guides for the Academy. I am not looking forward to seeing you guys go on a case without me. I know you have been given approval from Doctor Freya to consult with me if needed, even before now and you have, and that’s felt good. I’m also not ready for the looks from other teams and people we work with after I’m left behind while you go on cases.”

“I’ve already warned everyone that pity is not something that you want and to make sure that they keep it to themselves,” Aaron said. He turned back around to get the bagels down. “One or two?”

“Two, please. What do you need me to do?”

“Change over the coffee and get another one going?” Aaron asked.

“Sure.” Reid walked over to get started on that. There was a new carafe that held nearly an entire pot and Aaron kind of loved that Reid had wanted to buy it for the house. It made Aaron feel like Reid felt comfortable there. He was spending more time out of the basement as well as he got used to staying there. It was nice to have someone around that Aaron knew was okay with watching Jack a little bit to allow Aaron and Haley to have time together, even if it was just cuddling on the couch.

Haley had bought a pack ‘n play for the basement so that Reid wouldn’t have to lug the other up and down. It was a little bigger so that Jack could nap in it as well as play. It had all taken a rather domestic turn over the past month, and Aaron wasn’t sure that he was looking forward to when Reid wanted to leave. Doctor Freya was keeping Aaron up to date on that, and so far if this week went well, Doctor Freya was going to release Reid to be allowed to do what he wanted without a chaperone during the day but not entirely release him to go live on his own yet. The support system that he had going with Haley was something that shocked all of them.

Aaron loved his wife, and he loved the changes that she had been going through when it came to all of this. She was acting more like she had been when Aaron had fallen in love with her and married her. She was taking to Reid well as well, a secure friendship building between them. It was more than Aaron had ever hoped for. Haley still went on her visits to the support group for spouses and partners of law enforcement. Reid just watched Jack those nights if Aaron was out of town for work. It wasn’t technically supposed to happen as Reid was never to be left alone, but the confidence boost seen in Reid had been drastic after Haley had left him like that. Aaron could understand Doctor Freya’s want to cut temptation, but Aaron figured that he knew Reid well at this point and could figure out when the program was still lacking a little. Aaron didn’t feel bad about it because Reid was doing fine.

It wasn’t like Reid was going to take Jack anywhere that had drugs, especially walking in the weather they were having. Reid didn’t even move outside with Jack without telling Haley or Aaron.

Aaron finished up making the first sandwich, handing it to Reid and making one for him. The bagels were nearly ready to pop on sandwiches three and four. The eggs and bacon were ready to be warmed up in the microwave. It was good eats for quick meals for breakfast though Aaron was looking forward to bagels with peanut butter the next day.

“This is really good,” Reid said as he chewed up the bite in his mouth and swallowed. He was grinning.

Aaron gave him a smile back and turned to Haley as she entered the room. She looked worn out. Reid handed over a cup of coffee to Haley when she got close, and she thanked him with a smile before walking toward Aaron. She cuddled into his side as he leaned against the counter. Aaron set down his coffee so he could use that arm to wrap around her while still keeping the sandwich in his other hand.

“Do you want me to get one started for you?” Aaron asked.

“Let me have a bite of yours,” Haley said. She looked a little too tired, and Aaron understood that her tummy didn’t always like solid food on it when she was too tired. It was one of the big things that had been an issue during her pregnancy. Being too tired to eat and then getting sick and then that making her even more tired. That was what started the snacks of toast throughout the day.

Aaron let Haley pulled the sandwich down to eat a bite of it. Aaron wasn’t pleased with the small bite that she did take, but she chewed it well and swallowed before taking another. The bagels popped for Aaron and Reid’s second, so Aaron moved to allow Reid to prep those when he waved his hand for Aaron to move. Aaron pulled Haley back with him and watched as Reid made the sandwiches the exact same way that Aaron had made them, right down the placement of the bacon on either side of the egg and then the cheese slices on either side of the bacon, touching the bagel. Reid dropped down one bagel into the toaster before he turned to look at Haley. A question in his eyes.

“Just one. I can make another if I am still hungry.”

“Okay,” Reid said as he pushed the lever for the bagel to go down. He picked up an egg puck and put it as well as bacon into the microwave and cooked it for the same time that Aaron had.

Aaron looked at Haley to see that fond look on her face. Aaron had been worried that it was motherly, but over the past month, Aaron had realized that it was deep friendship. Almost too deep for the time that they had been close, but Aaron didn’t know exactly what they did during the day. Aaron didn’t delve too deep into what they did. He didn’t want Haley to feel like she needed to tell him everything. Both of them talked about various things.

“So do you like them?” Haley asked.

Reid backed up away from where Aaron and Haley were before he pushed himself up onto the counter to sit. He reached over and grabbed his new sandwich and took a bite before chewing it. Aaron could tell from his face that he enjoyed it, but Haley wasn’t always that good at Reid’s face and the emotions on them.

“I really do. I’ve never got bagel sandwiches from places before I never ate them as a kid, so it’s something I’ve just never wanted to attempt.”

Aaron smiled and took the late bite of his sandwich. He picked up his coffee and drank nearly all of it before picking up his second sandwich. He took a bite and made sure to give Reid a smile, so he knew that he did well with it. Reid actually started to blush at it.

“So what are the plans for tonight for dinner?” Haley asked. She looked at Reid before taking a bite of food.

“I don’t know,” Reid said.

“How about we eat out? Jack’s been better at going to places without crying and acting up now that he’s older so we can just make plans for Mondays to be eating out nights. You can shop in the afternoon for the week and cook, but Mondays are horrible, and that will make them easier on you since you won’t have your help during the week.” Aaron liked eating out a few times when he was going with Haley. It was different than going out to eat with the team, and they usually ate things that were a little more than just fast food and diners.

“Eating out sounds good,” Reid agreed.

“Sure. I’ll go shopping and figure out food for the rest of the week.” Haley pulled away from Aaron to grab the notepad she used to pick meals for the week. It was something that Reid had found in the bookstore. It allowed her to mark down what she needed for each of the meals underneath so that they didn’t mix up how much of something that she needed. Haley loved that thing, and Aaron had made sure to figure out how to get more if the bookstore stopped selling them.

“Ready to go?” Aaron asked when Reid shoved the last of his bagel sandwich into his mouth and then draining his coffee.

“Yes, Sir,” Reid said.

“Don’t forget the coffee!” Haley called out.

“Coffee?” Reid asked. He looked around.

Aaron walked over to where the carafe was and checked the level of it. He looked at the fresh pot and decided to use it instead to fill up the two travel mugs that had been bought for them by Haley last week. Aaron had kept them quiet from Reid as a surprise for the morning. He filled up Reid’s after adding in enough cream and sugar and then his own with a little sugar. He put the lid on them both and turned around to hand Reid’s his before adding what was left of the pot to the carafe.

“Oh, cool.” Reid stepped up to Aaron to look at the travel mug that Aaron had. Aaron’s has the FBI logo on it while Reid’s had the BAU logo on it. Aaron had no clue where Haley had got them, and he wasn’t going to ask. It wasn’t hurting anyone for her to keep that secret.

Aaron watched Reid as he settled in at his desk. The team had been there before him, Garcia and JJ had made and hung up banners welcoming Reid back. Aaron had allowed a lot of levity and the team to talk and others from elsewhere in the building to come and welcome Reid back.

The full reason for Reid being gone wasn’t known, but the torture that he went through was fully known and that he was dealing with his head. No one said anything about him taking more time than most would to get over it. Aaron made sure that he heard everything that went around about all of it. Garcia was a good information gatherer for him when it came to things like that.

“Hey, Hotch you got a minute?” Morgan asked as he stepped inside and shut the door.

“Sure, take a seat.” Aaron cleared the file he was working on before he looked at Morgan, giving the man his full attention.

“I just…Reid looks good man. And I don’t ask this because I think there is something wrong, but I’m confused about something.”

“Sure.” Aaron wasn’t sure what Morgan was going to ask.

“How do you-” Morgan stopped, and a look crossed his face that Aaron knew was his filter stopping him from saying something that would come out very wrong. “You’ve left your wife at home with a man for weeks. He’s stepped in and helped with your kid, he’s helped your wife. I know that it’s Reid. I know that Reid is trustworthy, but how do you trust your wife with that?”

“Ah.” Aaron leaned back in his chair. He hadn’t actually thought about that. Aaron didn’t think that Haley was made to cheat and he knew that Reid would never, ever cross that boundary. It wasn’t anything that he had ever worried about. Aaron gave Morgan a smile. “I have never entertained the thought of Haley cheating. Even if I am gone all the time. She would never do that. She looks at Reid like a friend. There would never be anything more than that between them. And really, even if Haley did, Reid would never be able to keep it long. He wouldn’t have that kind of deception in him.”

“No, he wouldn’t,” Morgan said with a smile.

“You have trust issues, Morgan and they go deeper than just not trusting a lover. I know what part of the issues are and while I think that you are a wonderful agent, I’m suggesting to Strauss that you go through therapy. I know that you sought out some in college, that’s in your file, but Chicago should have gone differently and I’m sorry that I let it linger so long.”


“Reid’s issues have shown that even if you think you have dealt with them, that an in-depth study and figuring out ways to handle how that goes with work. It’s not going to be a thing you have to do to keep on working here, but I suggest it, and if you do have a big issue then it might become something that you will have to do. We work and talk with a lot of various psychologists and psychiatrists across the country. I’m sure that we can find one who might even do tele-sessions with you or Skype.”

“I was put into therapy in college because of my father’s death. What happened to me after my father’s death never came up.” Morgan looked pained even saying that.

It was a hard sticking point for Morgan, but Aaron wondered if Reid seeking help like he did was going to change more than just Reid’s life. Aaron knew that Morgan could benefit from therapy like Reid had gone through, but there was no issue with him turning to drugs. Morgan’s life had been shaped too much by seeing that in Chicago. His life had been shaped, and he would never seek absolution nor would hide in drugs. Aaron did have to wonder if that was part of why he wanted the BAU. Why he wanted to hunt the worst of the worst. If every single man and woman that they had put away would wear that face. The face of the man who had sexually abused Morgan.

Aaron saw his father in the first few men who physically abused their children, but after that, Aaron had to let go, or he would turn into the kind of agent that sought the hunt and the kill. The kind of man who didn’t deserve a wife who loved him as much as Haley did and did not deserve a child.

Spencer waited to see if everyone was going to keep on bugging him throughout the morning. He understood when he got to work. Outside of the team, no one else had seen him at all since Georgia. Spencer knew that people liked him, as co-workers but even this was insane. There was a pall over the office though at Gideon’s office that still sat there empty. Spencer had processed everything to do with Gideon with Doctor Freya. Spencer knew that Gideon was human but idols when they fall, they fall hard. Just looking at the room made Spencer’s stomach clench. He had no clue who was going to be brought in to replace him. There were no agents on the team that were senior enough to step in as the second agent in charge. While Morgan had more time with the Bureau than Prentiss, Prentiss had more time in for an agency. Her time with Interpol worked well in that favor.

“Hello,” a man said as he walked up to Spencer’s desk.

Spencer looked up at him and stood up so fast that his chair went rolling and ran into the chair behind him. Thankfully no one was sitting there.

“Hello, Sir,” Spencer said to AD John Richmond. Spencer hadn’t really met a lot of people outside of those who worked on the sixth floor and especially no one who was as high up as AD Richmond.

“Do you have a few minutes, Agent Reid?”

“Um, yes, Sir,” Spencer said.

“Good, good. How about we take a walk?”

“I don’t know if I have that time, Sir?”

“Are you telling me that you have more files than even you can get done this week?”

“No, Sir. I just…”

“You don’t like not doing what you need to be doing. I understand. I can make it an order if you wish.”

“No, Sir. Let me tell Agent Hotchner that I’m taking a walk.”

“I’ll wait for you at the stairs,” Richmond said before he looked up at where Hotch’s office was.

Spencer looked to see that Hotch was looking out his window and he looked pleased. Spencer wondered if Hotch had been the one to set this up. But it didn’t seem that way. He had no idea why AD Richmond wanted to talk to him. He was afraid that it was something to do with his mental and emotional addiction to the drugs that he had been given. He really hoped that he wasn’t getting fired. He didn’t think that he had done anything worth it and he had worked so hard to get back to work and to heal up.

There had been a lot of work on Spencer’s part and just recently, and the reason why he was being allowed back at work, Spencer had seen just how much abuse he had suffered at the hands of his mother. It wasn’t on purpose abuse, and it hadn’t damaged him that much but having to be the adult, having to be the one to take care of himself, the violent outbursts from her. Those were all various forms of abuse. His mother couldn’t help it, and it wasn’t malicious, but it laid the whole damn thing at his father’s feet.

Spencer had thought he processed the anger at his father well enough when he had been in therapy for it after his father left. He hadn’t though. He learned what to say, how to repress and then everything that just exploded out of the hidden away box that he had shoved it all into. The drugging by Hankel had brought it all out, and even now Spencer still felt raw inside from it all. He felt like he had been scrubbed and left naked in a room of strangers.

Shaking himself out of his thoughts, Spencer walked to where he could go and talk to Hotch.

Hotch met him at the door with a soft smile on his lips. It was a new smile that Spencer had never seen on his face before. It was coming more and more onto Hotch’s face when he was around Spencer. It was very different from the look that Haley and even Jack got, so Spencer wasn’t able to slot it into anything just yet. He would have to see it a few more times before he decided what it meant.

“AD Richmond wants to talk with me and take a walk. I agreed.”

“He’s a good man, Reid. He is who I met with about all of this. He’s in the know with nearly everything that you told me that wasn’t something I needed to keep confidential.”

“Okay.” Spencer looked up at Hotch and gave him a smile. Hotch reached out clasped Spencer on the shoulder. It was a touch that months before, Spencer would have squirmed away from but over the time living with Hotch, Spencer had learned something. Hotch was tactile. He would touch Spencer on the back when moving behind him so that he didn’t back up into him. A pat on the shoulder to let Spencer know that he was in the room if Spencer was reading. Ruffling Spencer’s hair if he was playing with Jack. Jack got the same treatment with the hair thing, and it always made the near toddler huff.

The thought of Jack’s little huffs at his father and mother made Spencer smile.

“What are you thinking about?” Hotch asked as the smile was still on his lips.

“Jack and that little huff he does when you ruffle his hair. He’s rather adorable when he does it.”

“He’s adorable all the time.”

Spencer raised an eyebrow at Hotch’s words. Jack was not adorable all the time. He was a little hellion who liked to get his way, but he was a good boy. Spencer kind of missed having a few minutes with him this morning. Jack had slept in too late for Spencer to even see him. Spencer hadn’t thought that he would get that attached to the boy when he moved in with Hotch. Kids, no matter the age, were not the greatest. Yet it seemed that Jack Hotchner had wormed his way into Spencer’s heart. He was not looking forward to the day that he left.

“I better go before AD Richmond gets impatient.” Spencer gave Hotch a smile before he turned to leave the room.

AD Richmond was silent as they walked down the stairs and then out to a far area of the training sections. There was a small walking path that was used on lunch breaks by some of the more exercise minded people. Spencer didn’t use it much, but he had a few times when he needed to think and not just sit at his desk to do the thinking.

“How are you doing at Hotch’s?” Richmond asked.

“It’s been good. Hotch and Haley don’t force me to talk and socialize with them when I don’t want to. Jack likes me, which is kind of a miracle.”

“I noticed that you had let go of the lease on your apartment.”

“Two kittens broke into Hotch’s place, and they like me, and I like them. My old apartment didn’t allow pets so when it’s cleared for me to be alone, I’m going to find a new place that will allow kittens. They sleep with me downstairs.” Spencer wasn’t sure why he was telling this veritable stranger all of this.

“At least you have someone to come home to. It’s the hardest thing for some people.”

The silence took over again as they walked, and then they were going through a small section of trees. Richmond stopped in the middle of that and it took a few steps for Spencer to realize it.

“Sir?” Spencer asked.

“Right here, right now there are no Sirs here. I’m just John, Spencer.”

“John?” Spencer asked. He was very, very confused.

“Here.” John handed over something.

Spencer took it, and for a few seconds, he was really, really confused.

“That’s my one-year medallion. It took me six years to get it. For the past thirteen years, I’ve never left home without it. Because I know If I forget that, I’ll lose my gun, my credentials, my home-everything. Hold on to it.” John closed Spencer’s fist over the coin.

“I only have two months.” Spencer was confused again, or more confused. He was so confused he wasn’t sure how confused he was.

“I know.”

“It’s your most prized possession.”

“It is.”

“You’re just giving it to me?”

“No. In ten months, when you get your year, you give it back to me.”

“I really don’t understand.”

“You will,” John said. He let go of Spencer’s fist and gave him a smile before he left. He also clasped him on his shoulder as he walked past him.

Spencer stayed where he was, confused about what it all meant. He looked at the coin. It was an NA coin. He really didn’t understand why the man was doing what he was doing. He really needed to talk to Hotch. Spencer turned around to head back the way that they had come to see Hotch standing there.

“John told me that you were confused, and you might be a little freaked out. He wasn’t sure how to handle you, so I came out to make sure you were fine.”

“I’m just really confused.”

“He has faith in you Spencer,” Hotch said as he walked up to Spencer. He reached out, and Spencer flinched a little but stopped when he saw that Hotch was reaching into Spencer’s shirt pocket. He pulled out a card. It had John’s work phone on it and on the back was his cell. “He wanted you to have someone outside of the team who had faith you could do this. I did not ask him for this. I updated him on your progress as I understood that he worried, but I would never ask someone to do what he’s offering you.”

“You have too much faith in me.”

“Spencer, you’ve done well over the last two months. You’ve grown up in ways that will help you become a great man. You were already a good man, but this is just that little bit more.” Hotch gave Spencer another one of those smiles and then tugged on him, using the hand that was now settled on his shoulder. “Let’s go eat lunch.”

Spencer let himself into Hotch’s car, a little frustrated at the team going on a case so soon. Hotch had told Spencer to take his car home and if he wanted to drive it in and out of work the rest of the week that would be fine with him. Spencer settled into the driver’s seat, adjusting everything to where he was set to drive but other than stick the keys in the ignition, he didn’t do anything else to get himself home.

Haley was expecting him home, and she already had Jack nearly ready to go out to dinner. Spencer had tried to duck out of it, but Haley was having none of it. Spencer closed his eyes and rested his head back against the headrest. He reached into his pants pocket, lifting up a little so he could and pulled out the coin. John hadn’t made the offer officially about being his sponsor, but it was the only reason that Spencer could think for him to give him the coin and then the number on the card.

The coin had already become a touchstone. Spencer had touched it several times while it was in his pocket, especially when the team had gone off on the case. Spencer had sat in the round table room as he was supposed to help with the case that way, but right now the team was still flying out to Seattle, so Spencer would just have to do work at home. Hotch had the secure setup for work already and a home computer that was set up for FBI use. Spencer had his work cell on him and was ready for if the team needed him. It was just a matter of adjustment and change.

“I don’t like change,” Spencer said. He knew that he didn’t, but lately, outside of the whole being tortured and drugged thing, the changes in his life that had spiraled out of it were all good. He couldn’t imagine life without Midnight and Curiosity.

Spencer started the car, and the sound of Hotch’s radio starting up with his kind of music made Spencer smile. He had got used to it with the MP3 player that Hotch had got him. Spencer left it on that station as he started out of the parking area where Hotch parked. It was allowed for that car and Hotch already told him that he would need to park there if he drove the car in. Spencer was okay with that as Hotch’s spot was much, much better than the ones that the rest of the unit had to park in. It was part of why Spencer just rode the train into work.

The drive felt nice, just being alone with his thoughts and his memories. He normally would have been very spaced out, but he was careful with Hotch’s car. He did not need to get into an accident. The weather was warm enough so once Spencer was off the highway in DC, he rolled down the window to smell the start of spring in the air.

Haley and Jack were in the front yard playing when Spencer pulled into the driveway. Haley gave Spencer a big smile as he got out of the car. Jack turned around and ran at Spencer full tilt, crashing into his legs and wrapping his little arms around them as tight as he could.

“Miss Pen,” Jack said. There were a few tears in his eyes as Spencer picked him up. As soon as Jack was up to where he was eye to eye with Spencer, he threw his arms around Spencer’s neck and hugged him tightly. His whole body sinking into Spencer’s.

“He has missed you a lot. So have the cats. So expect to be mugged when you go inside.”

“Oh, I was just going to leave. I have everything I need on me, and I wasn’t going to change.”

“Then we are ready to go. I’m hungry enough to eat a horse.” Haley was grinning as she said it.

“Actually, it’s rather-” Spencer stopped himself when Haley’s grin grew wider.

“No, go on. You’ve not really gone into any Reid babbles as Aaron calls them since you’ve moved in with us. I want to hear it.”

Spencer shook his head, and thankfully Haley let it go. “SUV?”

“Yes,” Haley said. She started to pack up the few toys that were in the yard that Jack had been playing with and then grabbed the diaper bag and followed Spencer to the SUV.

Spencer had Jack strapped into his seat in the back before handing him the stuffed strawberry with purple eyes that he had fallen in love with at the register at the store one day. Spencer had slipped it into his shopping and surprised the boy with it. He had been good and left it there when Haley said it was time to put it up. Spencer had felt a little bad about buying it without asking, but he had given it to Jack only when Haley said that he could. The boy had not put it down really since.

The drive to the restaurant was quick, and Spencer was looking forward to Mexican. It wasn’t until they were pulling in that Spencer realized that it was his favorite place to eat. It was further away than the other places that they usually went. He had never talked about eating here, that he knew of where Hotch could have heard, and Haley didn’t ask about his favorite places to eat.

“Aaron and I used to come here a lot before Jack, and now with him being older, we hope that the longer drive won’t bother him as much,” Haley said as she unbuckled.

“I like to eat here, too,” Spencer said.

“Really?” Haley was smiling.

Spencer realized that Haley was smiling more now than she had when Spencer had first moved in. He wasn’t sure if it was that she was used to him or that she liked him as a friend or something else that was personal between her and Hotch and her just being happier. He would take whatever it was because as long as she smiled at him, Spencer knew that she wasn’t upset with him. Spencer beat Haley into the back to get Jack out. At least with him in his arms, he hopefully wouldn’t have to hug anyone.

“Miss Hotch,” the hostess, Amy said with a smile when she came in. “Where is Senor Hotch?”

“He’s working, but you know Spencer here don’t you?” Haley looked at Spencer as she said it, and Spencer nodded his head.

“Ah, Mister Spencer, welcome. We missed you!” Amy said with a smile. She grabbed two menus and a kids menu as well as a small pack of thick crayons for Jack.

Amy took them to a back area that had a few other families with kids in it. It was more closed off, so the sounds didn’t go around the place as much. Spencer had never minded being seated there before, so it was the norm for him. Spencer liked watching the parents with the kids, even if he didn’t really want kids of his own. The family dynamics were all so different with every single one. Amy pointed them toward the three-person rounded booth seat, and Spencer wasn’t sure what to do about who sat where. Usually, when they ate out, and they were in a booth, it was the standard kind. Often, Hotch sat with him, and Haley sat with Jack, or Jack was in a wooden seat for kids and Hotch, and Haley sat together.

“Let’s put Jack in the middle,” Haley said.

“Sure.” Spencer slipped into the booth and set the boy in the middle, giving over the crayons and kid’s menu that doubled as a coloring page when Amy set them down. “Um, water, please.”

“Sure.” Amy looked at Haley.

“Peach Daiquiri, please.”


Haley looked at Spencer.

“The biggest you got,” Spencer answered. Spencer had seen Haley do that look at Hotch before asking if he was okay driving home. Spencer didn’t mind driving home at all.

One of the busboys brought them over a basket of chips and a bowl of salsa as well as a bowl of queso. Spencer dipped a chip into the queso and ate it. It was just the perfect amount of spiciness that he liked. Haley dipped a chip into it and tried it but shook her head.

“Too spicy. I prefer salsa anyway,” Haley said just as Spencer was about to offer to get the non-spicy queso for her.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes. You and Aaron though are going to be good Mexican eating buddies it seems.”

“Yeah, I found that he likes spicy things as well. We both tend to not get them when we are on cases as sometimes spicy can be too much, and then it sucks for the after-effects.”

“Aaron told me about a time just after he joined SWAT, where he had an issue like that. It made him evaluate after having to wait for the call to take someone out while needing to go to the bathroom really bad.”

The waitress also brought out a cup of milk for Jack and water for Haley. The cup was kind of cute and had dancing tacos all over it. Spencer was the one that ended up giving Jack a drink while they ate on chips and picked out what they wanted to eat. Spencer wanted nachos so he got the Fajita Nachos as Jack could at least eat some of the vegetables of that as well as a bit of chicken. Haley got a taco salad with two soft tacos.

Dinner passed with Haley wanting to know how the day went, and Spencer just wasn’t up to talking about John, so he told her a little about the cold cases that he had worked on after getting all of his standard paperwork done. He talked about the drive home and how it had felt good to be alone in a car.

“Aaron told me that you don’t like to drive.”

“No, I don’t mind driving. I just hate where I have to park, and so I take the train. Hotch’s spot is really nice.”

“Ah. So why don’t you date?” Haley asked.

Spencer nearly choked on a chip that he had just put into his mouth at the unexpected question and abrupt change of subject. He looked at her with a raised eyebrow as he chewed.

“Aaron told me that you didn’t date even when you joined the team. I am just trying to figure out why.”

“I don’t need to be set up on dates,” Spencer said.

“No, no. I know that you don’t. There is that whole year after becoming sober that one shouldn’t date as the focus should be on recovery and not romance. I know that. I read the stuff on AA and NA online.”

Spencer hadn’t known that. He just assumed that Hotch had told her a lot of things, not that she had gone in and found it on her own. That made Spencer feel like he was a friend of Haley. It seemed to him that it was something a friend did, not a spouse of a boss.

“When I first went on a date when I was in college, I was seventeen, they were eighteen. I was way ahead of them in schooling, but they didn’t seem to mind. The entire date was about what I should be doing to make myself better for them. It was a trend after three different dates with different people, so I just stopped. Everyone who tries to hook me up with someone also is trying to make me into something I’m not. If I find someone who loves me for me, I’ll latch onto them and not let go, unless they want it. Until then, though, I’m happy as I am.”

Haley was silent, and she looked thoughtful, so Spencer just let the topic drop. When she had her mind down, she would talk about it, but Spencer wasn’t sure when that was going to be. She had done it a few times when he brought up things from his childhood around her when they were discussing Jack and things that Spencer didn’t understand.

It wasn’t a strained silence as Jack talked and babbled his way through it and they both talked to him, but the subject was dropped for now. Spencer wondered if Haley taking longer than average to think about things before saying something in return was one of those things that she was working on that he had heard Haley and Hotch talking about. Spencer hadn’t meant to be. He had been coming up to get a drink. He made noise, and it was enough that they had to hear him, but they kept on talking. Spencer figured that it meant they were okay with him overhearing, but he didn’t like it, so he had slipped back down as soon as possible.

Spencer sighed as he settled down into the park bench where Doctor Freya had asked to meet him. It was just warm enough in the sun that even the slight wind didn’t make Spencer’s cheeks hurt. There had been a light dusting of snow on the ground that morning, but still, Spencer had driven in. He was looking forward to winter going away and spring coming in, even if winter still had her hands on the world a little too tight.

“Spencer,” Doctor Freya said as he sat down at the far end of the bench.

“Good afternoon, Doctor Freya.”

“How was work today? It’s been nearly a whole work week with your team in the field, yes?”

“Yes. It’s been good. One of my co-workers, Anderson, has been going out to lunch with me but doesn’t force me to. A few others, especially from other teams, try and hover, but they are getting to understand that I don’t need them to. It’s a change, and it’s one that I’m getting used to.”

“Hotch texted me and said that you have been taking his car into and out of work instead of the train. He said he offered when you were left there alone after he went out on the case.”

“Yes. I like his car. I love my Amazon, but it needs a lot of work, and I don’t trust it all the time to get me that far. In town, it’s fine as if it breaks down the tow is cheap. Halfway between DC and Quantico, not so much.”

“I can understand that. So how have you been feeling on those long trips?”

“Good. It’s a good time to reflect on the day on the way home and then on the way in just get my mind wrapped around work. It’s not that different from the train really. I just have to pay attention more.”

“And cravings?”

“There were a few on Monday after the team left and then one on the way into work on Tuesday but not really any after that. Not that got enough to where I felt the craving.”

“You are doing great Spencer. Do you think we still need to meet three times a week?”

“I don’t know,” Spencer said. He wanted to say yes for the support, but he also didn’t think that he did need to actually meet with him three times a week.

“That’s the normal answer for a lot of people who are like you. Why don’t we drop it down to once, case willing on Wednesday? On a trial basis, that is.”


“I think we can also give you back your freedom. I don’t want you to make too many changes though so stay living where you are.”

“I planned on it.” Spencer didn’t think he was ready for going out alone. The driving to and from work was nice, and he liked that for his little bit of freedom every day. He would rather just stick with how things were and see how that went before he dove into doing what he wanted when he wanted, alone.”

“Good. Good. Is there anything you want to talk to me about?”

Spencer shook his head and looked out at the sound of ducks as they flew overhead.

“Then I am going to get home and get some dinner in me. Spencer, call me if you need me for anything. I’m happy and proud of the growth you’ve made over this.”

“No long session today?” Spencer asked.

“No, I think that you need some time alone right now to face the future as it were. You don’t need me here staring at you while you do it. So have a good weekend, and I mean it, even if it’s just to hear me tell you that you are doing fine, you call me.”

“I will.” Spencer stood up and shook Doctor Freya’s hand. Doctor Freya gave him a nod, and then he was taking off. Spencer sat back down and looked over the park. He watched the few families who were braving the last of the winter weather playing in the park while others were just doing their normal walking or running routine. He watched as kids fell down and got right back up after dusting off their hands and knees.

Spencer knew that he had been working toward being alone when he was out like he was now, but he was enjoying being around Hotch or Haley when he was out doing things. He didn’t think that he was ready to go back to being alone most of the time. Haley had told him what time she would have dinner on the table and he had set the alarm for it, just in case the meeting with Doctor Freya went long. The alarm went off, startling Spencer out of his thoughts. He stood up and turned to remember where he had parked the car. He noticed the car quicker than he would have thought given it wasn’t his Amazon.

Haley dropped Aaron’s spare set of keys into the dish inside the front door. A week ago, Jack had been playing with them and lost them. Haley was just glad that she had found them. Aaron didn’t like them being missing, and with the way that a lot of cases went, Haley could understand the fear of someone else having them, even though they all knew they had been lost inside of the house and not outside of it.

Moving back to the kitchen, Haley found that Jack was still content on the floor with his rug and cars. She would have never thought about the rug for the kitchen. It was made up to look like a city, and over the past week, after Spencer had come home with it on Tuesday, they had been teaching Jack that when he was in there in the kitchen and playing with it, he couldn’t leave it. Jack was doing far better than Haley thought that he would, and it allowed her to relax in the kitchen some.

Jack was happy and making car noises while Haley stirred the sauce for dinner and then checked on the water that was getting ready to boil. She was on time to have dinner ready when she had said she was going to. Spencer had called her at lunch to remind her about his appointment after work at the park with Doctor Freya. Spencer was too good at checking in the past week. Haley trusted him but even when he had got stuck behind a major pileup that was on the news, he had called her to tell her that he was stuck.

Haley was dropping the pasta into the pot when the front door opened. She heard the clink of keys into the dish that they belonged in and smiled at the sound. Spencer had been more hesitant to do the usual thing for the house until this last week. She knew that Spencer liked routines and that he could flourish under them but even just settling into this kind of routine made Spencer more settled in the house. He had stopped tiptoeing around at everything.

“Food smells really good,” Spencer said as he entered the kitchen. He was frowning a little bit. Probably because it didn’t smell like the usual spaghetti that came from a jar that he was used to Haley cooking. This was a recipe from a friend who didn’t live in the area anymore. Haley had started to call it all day spaghetti even though it did not take all day to make.

“I thought you deserved a treat today since you survived all week at work.”

“Anything I can do to help?”

“Can you take Jack to get him washed up and ready to eat?” Haley looked over at the bowl with the sauce already in it as well as the cut-up meatballs and sausage. She would add the noodles and cut them up before giving them to Jack, the cooled sauce would leach heat from the noodles and make it all a suitable temperature for Jack to eat.

“Sure.” Spencer walked over and picked up Jack who started to tell Spencer a story about his day, using some half words, a few whole words, but mostly it was babble. Spencer talked back to him like it was the most natural thing in the world. If Spencer ever found someone who loved him for who he was, he was going to make a great father.

Haley remembered their talk on Monday, and she remembered how Aaron had told her about the date that JJ and he had gone on. Well, Spencer had thought it was a date, but JJ had brought Garcia along. That had upset Haley on Spencer’s behalf. Haley saw them, and how close they were now, and she couldn’t see them lasting that long together. Penelope Garcia though was someone different. She wasn’t going to be someone that was friendly with Spencer. Haley wasn’t sure if it was the genius thing or something else. Garcia was nice to him, but she didn’t treat him like she treated anyone else on the team. She was even more friendly with Aaron than she was Spencer. Haley had seen it with her own eyes as she had come over to take Aaron out to lunch one day. Spencer had absconded with Jack and took him out to lunch so that Haley and Aaron could have a more intimate one.

Spencer doing that had been a shock to the team. Haley had felt proud of Spencer in that moment, and she had been more than happy to hand over Jack to him.

Haley heard Jack and Spencer coming as she pulled the metal colander out of the water to take and set down on the counter in the round pizza pan so that it could drain there. She had made enough for them to be able to warm up some noodles and eat them with sauce the next day. She was planning for an effortless weekend for the two of them, that way Aaron, if he came home, didn’t have to worry about disrupting what they were doing with wanting to just chill. More prolonged cases like this were very likely to make Aaron not want to leave the house at all.

“Thank you,” Haley said as Spencer started to put Jack into his high chair.

“You are welcome. So what’s special about this sauce?” Spencer asked. He was looking over Haley’s shoulder as she dished up noodles for both of them.

Haley had learned about what Spencer ate for meals so she could dish up his food sometimes if he were busy with Jack. He loved spaghetti though so she gave him a little extra.

“A plate?” Spencer asked.

“Yes, a plate. You need something to use to cut up the meatballs and sausage,” Haley said. She pointed at the sauce where the meats could be seen inside.

“Oh,” Spencer said as he grabbed the plate that she was handing to him. He scooped out a single sausage link and three meatballs before setting his plate on the table. He then took Jack’s bowl after she was done adding noodles to it and started to cut them up.

Haley was kind of liking having Spence around, even when Aaron was around as well. Both of them stepped up and did things to help her out in the kitchen, and it made everything go easier. It had been an adjustment to not having Spencer around during the day, and soon enough she was going to be alone again when Aaron went on cases as Spencer was going to go on them as well.

Spencer was sitting down at the table with a frown on his face. Haley knew that it was the bottle of wine that was making him frown. She knew that he drank. He had been drinking brandy the night that the team had gone out just before the case where Spencer had been tortured, but he hadn’t drunk since then.

“I can get something else.”

“No, no,” Spencer said. He picked up the wine and poured a glass before taking a sip. “I’ve never had this brand before.”

“There is a winery in California that we went to one time on a trip. We really like their wines. Aaron orders them and keeps them stocked in the house for me. I don’t like a lot of the local stuff or cheap stuff. Aaron tells me I should be a wine reviewer or something because I am so picky about them. Do you like it?”

“I do. It’s the first drink I’ve had since…” Spencer trailed off.

Haley sat down with her plate in hand and gave Spencer a soft smile.

“I know. I thought you might want to see how you react to everything here in the safety of home.”

“Yeah,” Spencer said. He took another sip before setting it down.

Haley poured herself a glass and sipped at it before digging into her food. She wasn’t sure what to talk about, so she just kept her mouth quiet. Jack was eating with his hands and the new fork that they had been trying. He wasn’t the greatest at the fork, but he tried.

The sound of the door lock unlatching had Haley looking up in shock. Spencer was starting to stand, his hand going to where he usually kept his gun.

“I’m home!” Aaron called out from the front of the house, and Haley slumped down in relief.

Spencer sat down quickly in his chair and looked a little put out. Haley wondered what that was about.

“Your insights, Spencer into the case helped a lot, and we were able to narrow down to a single suspect. We got him before he killed the fifth victim,” Aaron said as he entered the kitchen. He was down to just his dress shirt. His tie was gone, his cuffs unbuttoned. He looked as relaxed as he was going to get. “Oh, just in time for dinner.”

Aaron walked over and clasped Spencer on the shoulder and gave him a smile when Spencer looked up at him. He walked around to ruffle Jack’s hair, earning him a huff and a swat with a sauce-covered hand before he kissed Haley on the cheek. “I see you went all out for Spencer’s first week of surviving work.”

“I did. I wanted to make it, and he loves spaghetti a lot. We just sat down. Get a glass and a plate.” Haley knew that he would stop her from getting up and getting his food, so she wasn’t even going to offer.

Aaron was back in just under a minute with a plate that was piled much like Spencer’s, and he snagged the wine when Haley offered it over.

“I only chilled a single bottle so you will have to share with us,” Haley said. She raised an eyebrow at him. “Someone didn’t tell me that they were headed home or I would have chilled more.”

“A small glass is fine with me. Morgan dropped me off since we live in roughly the same direction.” Aaron was grinning as he said it. He reached into his pocket and handed over something to Spencer.

Haley watched as Spencer unwrapped whatever it was, and she realized that it was Spencer’s debit and credit cards.

“Doctor Freya called and told me that you were free to move around but that he would like you to continue to live with us,” Aaron said.

“Yeah. He told me that today, too after I did well at work this week.”

“Oh, Spencer, that is so great. I’m glad I made this meal special tonight.” Haley was so happy for him. She knew that he wasn’t fully cleared to go back to work in full capacity yet, but she knew that every single step closer that he took to it, the better off he was. Haley couldn’t contain herself. She got up to go and give him a hug. While he had not been that pleased with hugs before, she had got him whittled down to where for really good things, he would accept them. She made sure to let him know what her plans were, and he allowed the hug, so Haley didn’t feel that bad about letting it last a little longer than average.

“Yeah, it’s great but…” Spencer trailed off as Haley let him go.

Haley leaned away so she could look him in the eye.

“I don’t want to be alone a lot. I like going shopping with you guys, I like going to the bookstore. I don’t want to be alone.”

“And that’s fine,” Aaron said. He gave Spencer a smile. “You do what you want but if you want to do things alone, just remember that you can. It’s getting to be nicer weather and that means you can take Jack to the park, you can run alone when I am on cases. There are a lot of things that you can do alone that don’t feel quite like it.”

“Thanks.” Spencer’s mood seemed to be better. He slipped his cards into the top pocket of his shirt and tucked into eating again.

Haley turned the talk to what they wanted to do over the weekend. Spencer’s mood was getting brighter the more that they talked and it didn’t dampen any, even when Jack tried to start a food fight and got Spencer in the face with sauce-covered noodles. Haley helped Spencer clean up his face some while Aaron picked up Jack and started to feed him from his plate. It was one of the better dinners that they had with Spencer feeling happier than he had when Aaron had come home. Haley had to wonder, though if that was what it all was, the worry about being forced to do what he didn’t want to do which was being alone. She hoped that it was.


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You can call me Becca. I am a barista in my day to day life. My free time is spent writing fics as well as a few original stories. My current fandom obsession is Criminal Minds, James Bond, and Teen Wolf. You can follow me on my website or on Archive of Our Own under the name DarkJediQueen.

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