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Criminal Minds Exchange Fest

Courtship Rituals, for swithers, Hotch/Reid, FRT

Criminal Minds Exchange Fest

dave

Courtship Rituals, for swithers, Hotch/Reid, FRT

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reid
Title: Courtship Rituals
Recipient: swithers
Author: darkhawkhealer
Pairing: Hotch/Reid
Rating: FRT
Word Count: Just under 10,800
Warnings/spoilers: Through 4.07. *beams*
Summary/prompt: Written for prompt 1 - Hotch gets a surprise when he arrives early at work, but can also fit with prompt 4- "To fear love is to fear life, and those who fear life are already three parts dead." (~ Bertrand Russell) Aaron comes to terms with his feelings, if you squint. =)
A/N: It is my firm belief that I have the two best beta readers in the world. I would thank them by name, but then they might be wooed away from me, and we can’t have that. *beams* With thanks to them, from the bottom of my heart.


Spencer swore up and down it was all Morgan's fault. And Garcia. It would've been completely her fault, but she meant well, and Spencer had always liked her more anyway. It all started two days before Thanksgiving. Morgan was going home to his family, Garcia and Kevin were getting away for the weekend, and before she left, she wanted to go out for drinks with the team. Between prior commitments and other plans, she ended up going with "the two yummiest profilers in the BAU."

So there they were, sitting in a dim, crowded lounge, huddled together over a tiny table, practically shouting to be heard. Morgan lounged casually in his chair, almost empty beer in one hand, arm across the back of Garcia's chair, a look of indulgent amusement gracing his sunny features. Garcia was weaving back towards them, drinks in hand, laughing as she tried to avoid being bumped into. Spencer kept darting glances at the crowd, shifting every once in a while, as if he could sink even further back into the wall. She grinned as she zeroed in on him.

"Relax!" Garcia shouted, handing him something green with an umbrella. "Have another drink and tell me what you're grateful for this year!"

Spencer smiled at her, full of affection. "You, of course."

"Oh, a charmer!" Morgan nudged Garcia and grinned at Spencer. "We should get you drunk more often."

He shook his head. "Not drunk yet." His grin was sly, full of mischief. "Another, and I will be."

Garcia giggled, one of those sounds that never failed to send a warm glow of happiness through Spencer.

"I like you," he said, beaming at her.

Surprise warred with affection on her face, even as Morgan laughed. "Man, we have got to get you a girl."

Spencer's nose wrinkled as he raised his glass, muttering quietly.

"What was that?" Interest colored Morgan's voice.

"I should eat." He looked up at her from under his bangs, sticking his lower lip out in an exaggerated pout. "Do they serve food here?"

Morgan arched a brow and stared at him, smile playing around the corners of his mouth. "That's funny, that's not what I heard. Is that what you heard, Penelope?"

Garcia hummed, grinning. "Nope, that's not what I heard at all."

"I never knew you swung that way, Reid."

Spencer sunk back into his seat and resisted the urge to squirm. "It's never been pertinent to a case, has it?"

"No..." Garcia drew the word out, smiling at him. "But it's also generally something you tend to know about your friends."

Spencer took a breath, and peered into his glass. "What's in this, again?"

Morgan laughed. "Enough alcohol to knock me flat, which apparently translates into enough to get you talking."

"Huh." he paused thoughtfully and squinted up at Morgan. "Well, clearly I'm not in my right mind, and anything I say should be completely disregarded."

"MmHMM." Garcia's hum was full of teasing doubt.

"So, alright, we can work with this." Morgan resettled in his seat and looked around. "A guy, then. You into the geeky type, like you?"

For a long moment, Spencer just stared at Morgan's grin. Then his eyes turned thoughtful, and a smile curved his mouth. "Actually, Morgan, I'm looking for a guy who's bigger than me. Looks good in body armor, can handle a gun." He flashed a grin, teasing. "Tall, dark and handsome. Intelligent, maybe a little more on the dominant side. Hey, wait a second, that's a lot like you."

"Ha. Ha." Morgan's voice was wry even as Garcia erupted into giggles.

"Continue!" She demanded, motioning a waitress over and pointing to something from the menu.

"What? More?"

"Yes!" she demanded. "Tell me about your dream guy."

Spencer huffed out a breath and looked to Morgan, hoping for an advocate. When Morgan just grinned back at him challengingly, he had no choice but to continue. He closed his eyes for a moment, bringing up a crystal clear image. "He's intense, devoted to his friends and family. He understands what it's like to have and unpredictable schedule, and still makes every effort to have a life outside of work. Doesn't smile often, but when he does it makes you feel invincible. Someone who can demand my attention and quiet the thoughts that run rampant in my own head. Ideally, he could make me feel safe. Wanted."

There was silence for a few moments; Morgan and Garcia exchanged a telling glance before Morgan got up to go get the next round.

"Sweetie." Garcia covered his hands with one of her own and waited until Spencer glanced up at her and then said, "How long have you been in love with Hotch?"

His voice, when he spoke, trembled just a little. "It's official. You're in the wrong field."

Penelope ignored the sarcasm and moved to the booth next to him, positioning herself so she could wrap both her arms round him in a tight hug. "I always thought it was a little hero worship, but knowing what I know now...well, that puts things into a completely different light."

The waitress brought their food at the same time Morgan came back from the bar. Garcia ran her fingers through his hair and waited until everything was settled before continuing. "So...what are you going to tell him?"

"Tell him?" Spencer laughed. "I'm not telling him anything."

"What? Why not?"

"Garcia, I am not telling my heterosexual, newly divorced supervisor that I have feelings for him. I'd like to think my intelligence serves me far enough to know that would be a phenomenally bad idea."

"I don't know," Morgan said, "I'm not entirely convinced Hotch is 100% heterosexual. There've definitely been a couple of times when I've seen him looking in another direction. I doubt he ever did sleep with a man; or if he did, that we would know about it; mainly on grounds that he was married for so long and then because I think if anything, Hotch would be completely discrete about his lovers."

"Yes, well, 'Reid, I'm flattered but,' is not a conversation I particularly want to have with him anyway."

"He wouldn't say that to you." Garcia admonished gently.

Spencer sent her a dark look. "YOU go profess your love for him, then. He's my boss, Penelope. He wouldn't go for me even if he did like guys, on the grounds that I work under him."

Morgan leaned back in his chair and stared at Spencer. "Well, there's your first problem. Whether or not Hotch would go for you, you'll never know, because you're too chicken to tell him it's an option."

"Maybe I don't want him to know."

Dark eyes stared at him, a wealth of derision in one word. "Right."

"I just don't think it's a good idea, that's all. I wouldn't want to change the relationship we have now. We work well together."

"Think of how much better you could work if you were in a relationship."

"Or how I'd have to transfer if it didn't work out."

Derek leaned forward, impatient now. "Reid. If you had the opportunity to be with Hotch, would you do everything in your power to make that relationship work?"

Spencer blinked. "Yes."

"Then I'm only saying one more thing, and then we're calling it a night. If I ever saw him looking in another direction, it was always in the same one." He paused, to let that sink in. "And you were always standing in it."

***

The knock came at her door at some ungodly hour of the morning. Penelope knew this, because her clock’s numbers started with a four. Someone was going to die. Especially when they knocked again. Groaning and rolling over, she sat up and shoved her feet into her fuzzy pink slippers, snagging her bright red Chinese robe on the way to the door.

Spencer stood in front of her, looking rumpled even in a fresh set of clothes. Dark circles stood out in stark relief under his eyes, and his hair was mussed.

"I may have just done something stupid," he blurted. "Like, really, really ill-advised. Help. I need help."

Blue eyes widened at the panic overtaking her friend's face before she pulled him inside. "Are you hurt? What happened? Should I call somebody?"

"No! No, I'm okay. I'm fine. Well, I'm not fine." Spencer stuck his hands in his pockets and began to pace her living room, bumping into her coffee table and almost overturning the mug resting there. "I should probably start writing my resignation letter. What was I thinking?"

"Spencer?"

"How could this have possibly been a good idea? I blame you, you know. You and Morgan are bad influences on me. Enablers, the both of you. You enabled me. I wonder if he'll just write it off as somebody's idea of a joke."

"Reid."

"Maybe the cleaning crew will come in and take it away before he gets there! What am I saying? I'm dead. I hope he doesn't hit me. He's never given any indication of homophobia, but you never know with these--"

"REID!"

Spencer jumped and turned to face Penelope guiltily.

"Sit," she barked, pointing imperiously at the couch. "We dropped you off last night. You went inside. Five hours later, you are in my living room, flailing and pacing and wearing a hole in my carpet!" She stalked to the kitchen and started a pot of coffee, blue eyes flashing as she glared at him over the coffee filters. "You will tell me, in detail, everything that happened between then and now and you will leave nothing out, capice?"

He nodded, and cleared his throat, picking at his cuticles while he searched for the words. "I couldn't sleep," Spencer started softly. His words came fractured, slowly. "Too busy thinking about little green umbrellas and outing myself to my teammates, I guess. How completely supportive you guys were, and how lucky I was. I started thinking about Derek, about what he said right before we left. About Hotch, how maybe-- he might have-- Well, then I started thinking about you and what you said about telling him. How I should be honest and at least let him know it's an option, because he might not know and that way he could maybe decide for himself if he was interested."

Penelope handed him his mug and settled carefully next to him. "I don't think that's quite what I said, but that was the gist of it. Go on."

"Well, then I started thinking about romance and Hotch." A smile quirked Spencer's lips even as he huffed a cynical laugh, causing her to reach out and hold his hand. "I mean, okay. Let's be honest, I've been thinking about romance and Hotch for years. Generally I try not to think like that, if only because it's depressing." Spencer turned his palm over and laced his fingers with Penelope's. "Does he ever strike you as the high romance sort, Penelope? You know, the kind of guy who goes for flowers and candy and moonlit dinners?"

She smiled. "Yeah," she said softly, "I can see that. He's a red wine and roses kind of guy."

Spencer looked up at her, eyes filled with doubt. "Daisy's doesn't carry roses."

She frowned, confused. "What? That little flower shop? The twenty four hour one?"

He nodded miserably. "Apparently it's their policy. If you want roses, you can pick them up at any grocery store. If you're going to make the effort of a twenty four hour florist, you should at least get something unique."

It clicked.

"Spencer," she said slowly. "Did you get Hotch flowers?"

Penelope was reminded of the big-eyed chibi cartoons when he nodded. She was quiet for a moment, stunned. Then, she asked, "Where are they? What did you do with them?"

He looked absolutely miserable, distress etched into his features as he studied his hands intently.
His voice, when he spoke, was little more than a whisper. "I left them on his desk."

Silence reigned as Penelope tried to think of something to say over the shock that had hit her.

"It was a bad idea, wasn't it?" He sunk further into the couch and covered his face. "He's going to fire me, isn't he? I'm going to get transferred to a field office in Milwaukee."

"No, no! This isn't a bad idea, just unexpected. What did you get him?"

"Gardenia. Daffodil. Red carnations.. All whites and reds and yellows in this vase thing."

She waited, knowing there was more. Eventually he glanced over at her and admitted quietly, "In the language of flowers it's meant to convey deep affection and admiration for the recipient, and a declaration of intentions."

"...Wow."

"Yeah."

After a few minutes she asked, "Did you leave a note?"

"I didn't have the words. I left him a Walt Whitman quote." He shrugged. "I thought he'd appreciate that more than anything I could say anyway."

Once more, there was silence. Then it hit her.

"Spencer. Did you sign it?"

Spencer stared at her blankly for a moment before realization set in. "I forgot. I was so nervous, and I wanted to make sure I got the calligraphy right, I just forgot to sign it."

"So he can't tell they're from you?" She clarified. "You didn't sign the note and you didn't use your own words -- which you could have, by the way. I'm sure anything from the heart would have meant something to him. But you didn't?"

He shook his head, excitement creeping onto his features and into his voice. "No. I didn't leave my name."

Penelope felt a wave of relief wash through her and ran her hand through her hair as she processed everything she'd just been told. Glancing at the clock, she huffed and set her mug down on the table with a decisive snap. "I am going back to bed." She declared as she got up. "If I hurry, I can still get another hour in before I have to be up. You should try to take a nap," she told him, reaching into the basket next to the sofa and pulling out a bright purple blanket with butterflies. "You look like you haven't slept all night."

His smile was wan, but true. "Thanks, Garcia."

She ruffled his hair as she went past. "Oh, don't thank me yet, mon amie. Wait until I get through the day without falling asleep or killing you."

***

Routine. Some days it was all that got him through the day. Fresh from the shower, Aaron set about the process of picking out suit, shirt and tie. With the same intense care he devoted everything else in his life, he dressed, donning the mental armor that took him from 'home', to 'work'. Not that he wasn't almost always in work mode anyway, these days. In the solitude of his home, he made a face at himself in the mirror. Lately it seemed as if the only time he felt truly relaxed and happy was when he was around Jack, and then due to work constraints he wasn't able to be around as often as he'd like.

Aaron acknowledged the melancholy and then resolutely put it aside. There were other things his energy could be better spent concentrating on. He snagged his briefcase and an apple and was out the door.

Twenty minutes to the office, and his phone rang. Fishing the offending piece of technology out of his briefcase took some maneuvering, but he managed it, flipping it open before it went to voicemail.

“Hotchner.”

“Aaron, hey.”

Haley’s voice in his ear sent that familiar stab of pain and remembrance through him. “Haley. How’s Jack?”

“He’s fine. Sleeping, still.”

Aaron smiled. “It’s not even six yet. One of us should be able to sleep in.”

“Yes.” She was quiet for a moment and he waited. She’d come around to it eventually. When she spoke next, he could practically see the brightness she’d injected into her voice. “What are you doing for Thanksgiving?”

Paperwork and a beer, with the game in the background. “I had planned on a quiet day at home.” Suspicion crept in. “What are you and Jack doing for Thanksgiving?”

“Oh, well, we were going to my sister’s house for the holiday, but then she said the rudest thing to me the other day and now I just don’t know if I want to visit with her at all on that day.”

He nodded. “You shouldn’t let that get in the way of a holiday with your family.”

“Well, you know Jack’s been fussy with his cousins lately and I’m not entirely sure I want to subject him to that--”

“Haley,” he interrupted, turning into the parking building. “What did you need?”

A huff over the line. Then, “I was wondering if you might like to spend Thanksgiving with Jack this year?”

“Why?”

“’Why?’ Well, gee, Aaron, I don’t know.” Her voice rose just a little, incredulity injected into its pitch. “One would think you’d want to spend time with your son over the holidays."

Aaron paused for a moment before answering, marshalling his calm. “Of course I'd like to spend time with him. I'm simply confused over the sudden change in plans. This isn’t in the custody agreement, Haley.” And I don’t want you trying to use this against me later. He emptied his pockets and weapons onto the conveyor belt, pointing at his phone to the security guard standing watch at the entrance and making a face. Andy rolled his eyes and smiled, waving him through the metal detector without making him hand it over.

“I apologize for trying to do something nice for you. If you must know, something came up, and I can’t take him. I thought I’d extend you the courtesy of caring for your son rather than send him to my family.”

Which means you’ve already asked your sister, and she’s refused. He was getting cynical in his old age. “What came up? Are you well? Do you need medical attention?”

“Don't be snide, Aaron, it's unbecoming."

He smiled humorlessly and waved at the guys before turning and heading up the stairs, letting the silence speak for him.

She huffed another sigh. “Look, Aaron. Will you take him or not?”

“I’ll take him,” he affirmed. “But I still get him for Christmas.”

“Of course.” Her voice was irritated, resentful.

“In that case, I’ll see you tomorrow morning at--”

“Tonight,” she interrupted. “I need you to pick him up this afternoon.”

Now he was irritated. “This afternoon,” he confirmed.

“When?”

“When I get through with work, Haley.”

“You’ll stay there all night, Aaron. I’d like you to pick Jack up at a reasonable time, please.”

“As I’m rearranging my schedule to accommodate yours and taking Jack when you don’t want him, I would appreciate a little flexibility in when I pick him up.”

“Fine.”

“Fine. Have a nice --” click. “day.” he finished, flipping the phone shut and climbing the last flight of stairs to his floor.

Aaron sighed and thought about what he’d planned on doing the next day, mentally rearranging it to fit with an inquisitive four year old. Luckily, he hadn't planned on much, so he was pretty set. He opened his phone again and punched in number eight on his speed dial.

Three rings later, a groggy voice on the other end picked up. “If this is not Adriana Lima, I’m hanging up.”

Aaron grinned at the sound of his brother’s voice. “Sorry. Just me.”

Sean‘s voice came slow and sleepy. “You know, Aaron, normal people are asleep at oh dark thirty in the morning.”

“Oh dark thirty in an east coast winter translates into six o’clock. Normal people are up and moving around this time.”

“You’re probably already at the office, aren’t you, you bastard?”

Dark eyes glanced around the empty bullpen. “Justice never sleeps.”

“You need to get laid.”

“I’m sorry, I don’t speak yawn.” Aaron entered his office and set his briefcase down, eyeing the vase of flowers on top of his desk in curiosity.

“Funny. What’s up?”

“Are you working tomorrow?” Aaron asked, touching the gardenia and smiling a little.

“Mm. Closed for the holiday, and hallelujah.”

“You should come down for the day, spend some time with me and Jack.”

“Jack?” Sean asked, “I thought you got him for Christmas?”

“Haley just called.”

“Ahh.” Aaron could hear the rustle of movement on the other end. “And you want me to come down and cook because you haven’t got anything planned.”

Ignoring the vase for the view from his window, he made a face. “May I take this moment to point out that you did learn to cook at the same hands I learned from?”

Sean was smug. “Yes, but Grams always liked me best.”

“There’s a rumor going around that the holiday is supposed to be a time for family, you know.”

“Yeah.” There was affection in his brother’s voice. “I guess I could come down and visit with the kid. Somebody’s got to corrupt him.”

Aaron grinned. “And if you wanted to bring down some cheesecake...”

“I always knew you only loved me for my flambé.”

“No, Sean, you’re confusing me with your string of girls.” A beat. “I only love you for your cheesecake.”

Laughter filled his ear. “Go away, you jerk, and let me sleep.”

"Yeah. See you soon."

"Take care, man."

Aaron turned back to his desk and eyed the vase wearily. Somebody had obviously made a mistake in the mail room. They were beautiful flowers, he admitted to himself; a riot of red, yellow and white. Frowning slightly, he looked through the stems, hoping to find out who they belonged to.

So it was with puzzlement that he considered the envelope with his name scripted in beautiful calligraphy.

Keep your face always towards the sunshine, and shadows will fall behind you. -- Walt Whitman

There was no name on the card, only the quote. Aaron frowned as he considered who might have sent him flowers. It was late for his birthday. He wasn’t seeing anybody, and the divorce had been final for months now.

The building was secure, anyone who wanted to get to the main part of the BAU needed security clearance. So it had to have been someone he knew. Someone from the team, maybe.

JJ had been badgering him the last time he called to check in with her, asking after his thanksgiving plans and wanting him to join her new family for the holiday. They had to be from her, a subtle nudge that he was still welcome the next day.

After he pushed the button to boot up his computer; Aaron glanced down into the bullpen, where his team was just starting to trickle in. There was Reid, head down, fiddling with a Rubik’s Cube as he almost walked into a wall. Garcia and Morgan strolled in, arm in arm, sharing a smile as they parted ways for their respective work spaces. He expected the rest of the team would be along shortly; it was coming up on seven-thirty and due to the holiday, Aaron knew they’d all want to get as much work done as possible before he cut them loose around three.

He logged in and opened up his email, moving the vase over to the side of his desk.

JJ -- Thank you for the flowers; they weren‘t necessary. It turns out I’m spending the day with my family tomorrow. Don’t worry. Enjoy Henry’s first Thanksgiving, and I’ll see you soon. -- Hotch

Aaron glanced back down and assured himself the rest of his team had arrived before turning back to his own work. If he was leaving at four, he needed to get started.

***

Derek smiled a welcome as Penelope and Reid got out of her car in the parking building.

“Sweetie, you go on ahead.” Penelope gave Reid a little push in the direction of the doors even as she held her hand out for Derek. “My studmuffin and I need to talk.”

Reid glanced between the two of them before nodding uncertainly and marching forward, studiously not meeting Derek’s eyes.

“Oh, that sounds serious.” He said, waiting for her to catch up.

Garcia linked their arms together and steered them towards the doors, smiling a greeting at the people they passed. “You are a boy, and you know nothing,” she said sweetly.

“That’s generally what my sisters say.” he confirmed.

“Good.” She beamed up at him. “Now, you’re leaving tonight?”

“Straight from work. Got my bag all packed, flight leaves at five, I’ll be home by dinner.” Derek barely resisted the urge to bounce. His voice lowered conspiratorially, “Momma says she’s got cookies.”

Penelope laughed and hugged him sideways. “Well, make sure you save me some!”

“I will, babygirl.” They shared bright grins as they parted ways. “Be good, now.”

“Never!” she declared, ducking into her office.

Derek stopped for a cup of coffee before he went to his desk, grinning at Spencer, who was practically being held upright by his furniture.

“Hey, kid. How you feeling?”

Reid sent him a dark look, which coming from him was akin to being growled at by a puppy. “I’m here, aren’t I?”

Derek laughed. “Yeah. You get points for that. And who knows, with the mother of all hangovers you may actually work at a normal speed for once.”

The genius made a face and straightened up in his chair, grabbing for a file that was perilously close to falling. “So, uh, did you talk to Garcia?”

“Yep.”

“What did she tell you?”

Derek shrugged easily, offering a smile to Emily as she walked by them to sit at her own desk. “Morning, Emily.”

“Good morning, guys. What did who tell you?”

“Garcia was informing me this morning that as a boy, I know nothing. Which is actually something I’ve been told by my sisters since I was about twelve, so it must be true.”

Emily grinned. “As long as you’re smart enough to catch that, I think you‘re set.”

They worked steadily through the morning, breaking around noon for lunch. Derek pushed away from his desk and headed up to Hotch’s office, knocking at his door and opening it at the call from within.

“Hey, Hotch, we’re going for food, did you want us to bring you back any--hello...” Derek took a step into the office, ignoring Hotch’s expectant look. Derek took in the flowers with a low whistle. “Somebody likes you.”

“They were here this morning. I thought they were from JJ, but she was confused when I mentioned them. You don’t know who sent them, do you?”

Derek glanced down at the bullpen before looking at the flowers again. “I know nothing. Except that whoever sent you these has a serious crush on you.”

“What?” Aaron frowned. “Why do you say that?”

“Flowers have their own secret language, my man. Daffodils, red carnations and gardenias? They pretty much all combine to say ‘I’m secretly in love with you.’”

The look Hotch sent him was full of incredulity.

Derek grinned. “When you’ve been involved with as many women as I have, you pick up a few things. Look, the gardenia definitely says ‘I’m secretly in love with you’. Daffodils are a symbol of unrequited love, and carnations usually make you think friendship, right? But that's where the color comes into play. Red means a deep admiration or respect.” White teeth flashed. “I’m guessing both.”

“Huh.” Hotch stared at the flowers speculatively. “You didn’t send these to me, did you?”

That surprised a bark of laughter from Derek. “No, man, it was definitely not me.”

There was a glint of amusement visible in dark eyes. “Just checking.”

“I actually came up here to see if you wanted to get lunch. We were thinking of going to that deli a few blocks from here.”

Hotch shook his head. “I’m okay. Thanks, though.”

“Okay, man. Well if you change your mind, just give us a call and we’ll bring you back something.“ He headed back downstairs, snagging Garcia by the arm as she came out of her office.

“Oh, Penelope?”

Bright smile. “Well, hello there, hot stuff.”

He shot her a dark look as he steered her down the stairs. “I know nothing, huh?”

Garcia just grinned. “Not a thing.”

***

Monday morning had Spencer knocking on the open door to Garcia’s office.

“Enter, my minion!”

“Garcia, is there a reason why JJ called me last week to offer her support in my mission?”

Garcia turned and blinked up at him innocently. “Did you have a mission? How is it going? Any progress?”

“I did not have a mission!” he stated emphatically. “I had a--a-a--a moment of temporary insanity due to alcohol consumption! What happened was an anomaly, an isolated incident that will not be repeated!”

“Reid?” Agent Todd poked her head in with a quick smile at the other occupant of the room. “Round table in three.”

“Thanks.”

“You certainly shouldn’t repeat it,” Garcia confirmed, continuing as if they hadn’t been interrupted. “You should do something new. Oh, I know! How do you feel about candy? Music? Two tickets to Vermont?”

Spencer rolled his eyes and barely resisted the urge to stomp his foot. He turned and headed to the conference room that served as their case headquarters. “Garcia.”

“You should do something.” She insisted, following along hurriedly. “You have this golden opportunity and you can’t let your fears get in your way!”

“Enabler!” he hissed, dropping into his seat with a glare. He turned and fixed his attention on Hotch, grimacing in embarrassment. “Sorry, sir.” He muttered.

Hotch fixed them with a steady look, stating quietly, “Whenever you’re ready.”

“We’re ready.” Garcia confirmed, mouth twisting an apology.

“Good. Agent Todd?”

Jordan Todd nodded and began the briefing, passing out files to each other team. “Topeka, Kansas. Four young girls abducted, all between the ages of seven and ten, all with dark hair and dark eyes, all between the hours of eight am and four pm...”

***

Wednesday morning saw them back in office, all safe and mostly unhurt. Thankfully, the only casualty had been Aaron’s watch; which had gotten lifted by a pickpocket who was one of the witnesses on the case. His pride had suffered, but thankfully everyone else was safe.

He was still sore about that, and made a mental note to have another delivered at some point so he wouldn’t have to worry about it.

Aaron exchanged a few pleasantries with Andy, the security guard that worked the early morning shift, before making his way to his office.

He opened his door and stopped short, eyes falling on the blue box with the white bow sitting in the middle of his blotter. Aaron glanced around the empty bullpen, looking for shadows.

He turned and went back downstairs.

“Hey, Andy?”

Andy turned around, a heavy set man in his late fifties.

“Did you see anybody unusual come in this morning before I got here?”

“Nope. Just the regulars. There are about ten of you that get a head start on the day.”

"Any deliveries this morning? Or maybe last Wednesday?"

Andy shook his head. "Nope. Been quiet since I signed on."

“Any of my team make it in before me?”

Andy laughed. “The only time any of your team is here early is when they don’t want you to know they’ve been drinking the night before." Andy took a deliberate glance around with a friendly grin. "No, looks like everyone went straight home last night.”

Aaron huffed a laugh and looked around again. Seeing nothing, he said, “Alright, well thanks, Andy.”

“Ayup.”

He set his briefcase down next to his desk and took off his jacket, looking at the small box on his desk. Reason warred with curiosity before he gave in and reached for the envelope sitting next to it.

It was small, sealed only at its point, his name written on the outside in that same slanted calligraphy as before.

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
-- Jonathan Larson.


Inside the box lay a rather nice Bulova watch, almost an exact replica of the one he’d worn before.

Who had bought him the replacement? The only two people who hadn’t seen his watch get lifted had been Dave and Garcia. And he’d gotten his share of ribbing over managing to lose his watch, so it wasn’t like no one had noticed.

Thinking it over, he decided to hold judgment until Garcia came in. Maybe she could find someone on surveillance entering his office while he’d been gone.

Unless she’d left the gifts.

No, it couldn’t have been Garcia. She’d just gone on a four day weekend with Kevin. Morgan’d been right; those flowers had been a very subtle, if insistent, message of adoration. Garcia was happily involved with someone, so was JJ.

Maybe Emily? She was single. She was also the only woman left on his team, and she’d teased him maybe a little more than the others. Hotch wasn’t entirely certain how he’d let her down, without ruining their working relationship. And it would be a shame to have to return the watch.

He was being paranoid. He would wait until Garcia came in, pull up the surveillance footage before making any hasty decisions.

***

“Garcia?” Hotch poked his head into Penelope’s office, finding the technical analyst typing away, head bobbing to music only she could hear.

“Hmm?” She glanced up at him before taking her hands off of the keyboard. “Hello, sir. What brings you to my neck of the woods?”

“Can you bring up the surveillance footage from the corridor outside of my office?”

Hotch didn’t notice the way her eyes widened before her hands started flying across the keyboard. “Um, sure! What are we looking for?”

“Anybody going into or out of my office between the time I left last night and the time I got here this morning.”

Several screens and a flicker later, the corridor outside his office was up on the monitors in front of them.

“Fast forward,” he murmured, staring hard at the screen. She did, with no change. “Somebody was in my office last night,” he said finally. “Whomever it was left me a gift and a card. I’m just trying to find them so that I can thank them.”

Yeah, right. Penelope thought. “What did you get?”

“Hmm? Oh, a watch. One to replace the one I lost, I guess.”

Reid, you sneaky bastard! “And the card? No name on it?”

“No,” he murmured. Then, “Thank you, Garcia.”

And he was gone.

Muttering to herself, glowing with pride at her friend’s daring, Penelope set to creating an invisible internal link on the network between her and her resident genius.

TechGoddess has just invited BoyGenius to chat.

...BoyGenius has entered chat.

TechGoddess: *pounce* Reid, you BRAT! Why didn’t you tell me you planned on giving Hotch another gift??

BoyGenius: He told you about that?

TechGoddess: He came into my office just now asking me to bring up the tape from last night so he could see who entered his office! By the way, how did you get in without the cameras picking you up?

BoyGenius: There’s a blind spot and a six second delay between Camera A and Camera B. Didn’t you know that?

TechGoddess: I knew that, but I didn’t know YOU knew that! How did you know that?

BoyGenius: Garcia, I work here. By the way, is having this conversation over the internal network really the best idea?

TechGoddess: No. It’s illegal, we’ll both lose our jobs and you’ll end up streetwalking the strip for money. =)

BoyGenius: Right. Secure line. Got it.

TechGoddess: Go back to work, you slacker. =P

BoyGenius: Because I was the one who started the conversation, of course.
...BoyGenius has left chat.


The cursor blinked at her as a slow grin curled the corners of her mouth. “Oh, I may have pitched the idea...but you’re the one knocking it out of the park.”

***

Emily got up for a coffee break, eyeing Reid curiously as she passed. He’d been off the last few days, more quiet than usual and a little jumpy. She wondered what was wrong with him, but was too wary of getting shot down to ask.

He would confide in her if and when he was ready.

“Emily, may I speak with you a moment?” Hotch asked quietly, coming to stand by the coffee pot.

“Sure.” She took her coffee with her and followed him up the stairs easily, closing the door halfway behind her. “What’s up?”

Hotch stared at her for a moment, before taking a deep breath. “I would like to think that you and I have an ideal working relationship, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Yes...” Oh my god, she thought, did I screw up? Am I being reprimanded?

“And I’m fair to you,” he continued. “I afford you the same chances and opportunities that I do the others?”

She straightened, suddenly wishing she hadn‘t brought her coffee. “Yes, of course, sir.”

“I don’t want you to feel as if you have to curry favor with me.” Hotch told her quietly. He pushed a box across the desk towards her. “I thank you for the gift, but in the interest of being fair to all of my team, I can’t accept it.”

It took a moment for her to understand that she wasn’t in any actual trouble. “Well, you’re welcome, sir, but I haven’t given you any gifts.”

He opened his mouth to respond, and then stopped, stunned. “You haven’t?”

She shook her head. “No, sir.” But I wonder who did. “If I may ask, what is it?”

He stared at the box with a puzzled air. “A watch,” he replied. “A replacement for the one I lost. There was no name with the note.”

Emily stared at him for a moment, alarmed. She glanced between him and the box for a moment before she caught sight of the envelope. "Is that the note that came with the gift, sir? May I see it?"

Wordlessly, he passed it over, and she stared at the script on the front. It looked familiar, Emily was sure she had seen it before. But where? The only two people she knew who were capable of calligraphy like that were Rossi and...

Reid.

A few months ago, on the downtime in the middle of a case, Rossi, Reid, Morgan and Emily had been waiting for Hotch and JJ to bring back takeout. They'd started talking. Just back and forth, about everything and nothing. Somehow the conversation had gotten on the subject of calligraphy. Both Reid and Rossi admitted to being adept in the art, and Emily had demanded a demonstration. She'd been awed to find he could produce that beautiful lettering left-handed. It looked, she remembered, just like this. Slightly slanted, a result of curling his hand over the paper so as not to smudge the previous letters.

It clicked, and Emily smiled at him brilliantly. “I think it's a wonderful gift, sir. I almost wish I had thought of it.”

Realization dawned in his eyes. “Emily, do you know who gave this to me?”

It was very, very hard not to laugh. “No, sir.” She couldn’t, however, stop the grin from coming up. “But I have an idea.”

“And you wouldn’t want to make any assumptions before having all the facts.”

All those boarding schools had taught her the fine art of acting innocent. “Of course not.”

Stiffly, Hotch turned back to his paperwork. “That will be all, Agent Prentiss.”

“Yes, sir.” Emily got up and turned to go, before something gave her pause. "Sir?"

Hotch looked up.

"Are you going to wear it?"

He looked down at the box and then back up to her. "Can you swear to me that the person you think is responsible for this means me no harm?"

"I can." She stated, confident. "I think it was a nice gesture by someone we know and I almost wish I had thought of it first."

He nodded. "Thank you, Emily."

Emily stopped off by the break area to grab a napkin and a couple of cookies, casually dropping a few off on Reid’s desk as she passed him by.

As she sat, she met his gaze and flashed him a warm smile, tilting her head and flicking her eyes up to Hotch’s office. His own hazel eyes widened and she grinned, rolling hers and getting back to work.

Yeah. He would tell her later.

***

So it wasn’t any of the women on his team.

Well, it may have been Agent Todd, but realistically, Aaron hadn’t known her long enough for the level of admiration the gift giver had implied.

That left two options: Either it was one of the men, or it was somebody not on his team.

Aaron honestly didn’t know which situation he would rather it be.

On the one hand, if it were somebody from outside the unit, there was a serious breach in security going on; for someone to have gotten through the checkpoint at the entrance and then managed to bypass the security cameras. This was a concern, but Aaron didn’t want to borrow trouble.

Which brought him to the second option. Prentiss had said she had an idea of who it might be, which meant it was somebody they both knew, most likely one of the men on his team. None of the other teams in the BAU knew him well enough for him to have received the flowers in the first place, let alone the replacement for the watch he'd lost on a case. No one outside of his team could have known he'd lost his watch that fast, anyway. Aaron didn’t know how to feel over the thought that either Dave or Reid saw him that way. He knew already that it wasn’t Morgan, it wasn’t the other agent’s style to let a good deed go unrecognized. Plus, Aaron didn’t think he was capable of that beautiful penmanship.

Dave was capable of it. Of both, really. Letting something go unmentioned and the calligraphy that had inked both notes. However, didn’t really seem like his style, either. Dave was much more the kind of person to face an attraction head-on. To put it out there and deal with consequences. Plus, Aaron liked to think they knew each other well enough to recognize any possible attraction to each other.

But on that third Wednesday, when Aaron once again walked in to a gift sitting on his desk, he decided to ask, just in case.

Dave stared at Hotch with a combination of amusement and horror. “Hotch, if I’d wanted to give you something, why wouldn’t I hand it to you instead of leave it on your desk?”

Damn.

“You’re right, of course,” Aaron said. “I just thought I’d check.”

Dave’s lips twitched before he walked off. “You need a vacation.”

“Yeah.” He sighed, rubbing at the headache that was beginning to form behind his eyes. “I think I do.”

Later that morning on the flight out to their next case, Aaron took the small red IPod out of his pocket and slipped the earbuds in; filing away the quiet amusement of Dave, Prentiss and Morgan, and the way Reid and Todd paid him no attention.

***

Dave leaned against the doorjamb to the kid’s room, where he was reviewing case notes.

“An IPod?”

Reid glanced up. “Garcia’s idea.”

“Dude.” Morgan appeared behind Dave, who stepped into the room to allow him and Prentiss in. “A mix tape?”

“I think it was romantic.” Prentiss declared, dropping into one of the chairs next to the kid. She smiled at him encouragingly. “Very thoughtful of you.”

“So what’d you put on it?” Morgan asked, taking the seat on the other side of Prentiss.

Reid shrugged. “Goo Goo Dolls. Joan Osborne. Creedence. I don’t know. I think I did it wrong.”

“What does CCR and Joan Osborne have in common?” Dave asked.

Reid looked up at him. “They’re all songs that make me think of Hotch.”

Prentiss sighed. “Oh, good answer.”

“What are you doing next week?”

“Candy...” Reid murmured, twirling the pen between his fingers as he stared off into space.

Dave snagged a pen and the note pad from the table that was serving as Reid’s desk. “This,” he said, writing something down, “Is the number to the restaurant Hotch’s brother works at. I’m positive you can find something useful to do with it.”

Reid stared at the number blankly when the pad was handed back to him. “How exactly did I get everyone’s support over this? This isn’t normal.” He stared up at them accusingly. "Are you setting me up?"

The three exchanged a look before Dave dropped down to sit with them. “First of all,” he started, “we are not setting you up. You are a valuable member both of the Bureau and this team. We are not getting rid of you over something as irrelevant as either your sexual preference or your choice in partners." He caught and held Reid's eyes until Reid was forced to acknowledge the truth of what he was saying. "Now, you make Hotch smile. That may not seem like a lot, but in this business, we need to take all the happiness we can get. In whatever form it comes in.”

“Secondly,” Prentiss continued, reaching out to cover Reid’s hand lightly, “You deserve to be happy in your own right. You are just as worth reaching for your own happiness the way the rest of us are, and I don’t think you know that.”

Morgan picked it up. “Third, I’ve seen him look at you. I know he’s at least a little interested. Now, you and I both know that as the leader, he’d never make a move on you. So it’s up to you to let him know it‘s on the table.”

Dave leaned forward. “Spencer, if I didn’t think this was a good idea, I’d have stopped it by now. The truth is, he works too hard and he needs someone in his life that understands why he does this. Who better to understand than another member of the team?”

Prentiss smiled. “At least you’ll never have to cancel a date because you got called in, and have to hope your date understands. This way, you know he will.”

Reid swallowed a few times, staring a hole into the table. “Aren’t you worried about favoritism?”

Dave laughed. “Are you kidding me? I don’t know any two people more capable of compartmentalizing than you and Hotch. I think you’ll be fine. And if it did start to affect your work, trust me, we would call you on it.”

Reid looked at them all in turn, searching for the confidence and security they all radiated. He nodded at them, and picked up the phone number. “Thanks, guys.”

***

Sean Hotchner startled awake at the shrill ringing of the telephone, cursing as he groped to find it in the dark, hitting his head on the nightstand next to his bed.

“What?” he snarled.

“Who ordered this?” the voice on the other end demanded.

“What? Aaron? ‘Sat you? Whatimezit?” Sean lifted a hand to rub his forehead, missing completely and hitting his nose.

There was barely concealed irritation coloring his brother‘s voice. “Five-fifty. Wake up.”

“’m up. Whatchoo want?”

“There’s pumpkin cheesecake sitting on my desk, in a box from your restaurant. Who ordered it?”

Realization set in, woke him up. “Oh, Christ, is that what you woke me up for?”

“Sean. How did it get here?”

Sean rolled his eyes. “By courier, I imagine. I want you to know I closed this morning. I’ve been asleep for...” He lit the blue light on his watch, “four hours. Go away.”

“Sean.”

He huffed and rolled over. "No, really, Aaron. Go away. I talked to the guy myself. You're not being stalked, this isn't a setup, you're not a target for anything. Sometimes there are people out there who really do think you're worth it. Suck it up and enjoy the fact that you're being seduced." Idiot.

There was silence for a moment. “Did he call or did he go in?”

Sean sighed. “Tall. Skinny. He‘s what, one-seventy soaking wet? Wears glasses, watch over his sleeve. Long hair. Needs a haircut. Hey, how come you don’t make him get a haircut?”

“He’s prettier than you are.”

The line went dead. “Jackass,” he laughed, turning the phone off and chucking it in the direction of his bedroom door. “You’re welcome.”

***

So it was Reid. Hotch grabbed a fork and took a bite, savoring the rich creaminess of his favorite dessert.

It was Reid and everyone knew it. That meant that they had all agreed to either step back, or to support this crazy plan. That meant that they’d all thought it was a good idea, or not enough of a bad one to put a stop to it.

Which meant, what? That they were okay with the idea of him dating one his subordinates? A man? Reid?

Aaron wasn’t completely adverse to the idea.

There’d been plenty of times over the years when all he’d wanted to do was pull the younger man into his arms and shield him from all the pain in the world. It was, he admitted, one of the main reasons why he was very careful not to send Reid out into the field as much as he could have. For the most part, the younger profiler spent his time at the stations, going over evidence that was already there. For years, Aaron had been telling himself the reason for that was because he needed all of that brainpower turned toward what they already had; but if he were completely honest, Aaron knew the stronger reason was because he didn’t like the younger agent to be in a situation where he couldn’t keep an eye on him.

Aaron groaned and sunk deeper into his chair. And it was when he started thinking like that, that Aaron knew he had to send Reid back out again. It wasn’t right to play favorites.

Which everyone on the team must have known, he realized. They must trust that the important things wouldn’t change here if I were to become involved with Reid.

And they were still invested enough in him and his happiness to think this might have been a good idea.

It was humbling to have such caring given to him.

Aaron glanced down at the cheesecake and then looked again. He’d managed to eat a quarter of the thing. And of course, now he was thirsty. With a small smile, Aaron boxed it up again and grabbed his coat. He would put it in the refrigerator and then run to pick up a quart of milk. It was early yet, he had some time before any of the others started to come in.

***

Spencer poked his head around her door. “Garcia, do you have a minute?”

“Sure, sweetness. What’s up?” Penelope turned and smiled up at him expectantly.

He stepped in and shut the door behind him. “I have --”

A knock sounded. Emily slipped in without waiting, and perched on a corner of Penelope’s desk. She handed the technical analyst a few twizzlers and then took a bite herself, smiling cheerfully at Reid.

He started again, only to be interrupted again. “Oh, this isn’t conspicuous at all,” Rossi said, “Don’t you kids think you could have chosen a more discreet place to do this?”

“Oh ho, monsieur! My office was made for clandestine meetings.” Garcia batted her eyelashes at him, causing Rossi to laugh.

They weren’t through yet. Morgan came in and fit himself between Emily and Garcia. “Hey, mama. What’d I miss?”

“You have got to be the nosiest profilers in the history of the BAU.” Spencer told them, arms crossed defensively.

Morgan and Emily exchanged grins. “You’re going to tell us anyway,” she pointed out.

“But make it quick,” Rossi broke in, “Because at some point Hotch is going to notice his entire team has wandered off.”

“What did you need, poppet?”

Spencer sighed and decided to focus only on her. “I need a favor,” he told her. “Is there any way you can push through a vacation for me and Hotch? Say, from the 26th through the 2nd?”

Garcia turned and started clicking away at her computer, making a humming noise under her breath. “Probably. He’s already put in for the 24th off, so whatever you’re going to do, you should do tomorrow.”

He nodded. “Okay. Thanks.”

“Wait, are you taking him somewhere?” Emily grinned, a kid in a candy store. “Romantic getaway for two?”

Spencer scowled at her. “Go find your own.”

That didn’t deter her. Laughter sounded as Spencer walked back to his desk and looked up. Hotch was leaning against the upstairs railing, eyebrows raised as he took in the empty bullpen.

Spencer took a deep breath and called up to him, “Remember in kindergarten how your whole class had to hold hands and go to the water fountain together?”

A smile twitched the corners of his mouth. His tone, when he asked, was solemn. “Did you get scared?”

Spencer smiled, a slow grin that lit up his entire face. He brushed a few pieces of hair out of his eyes and injected haughtiness into his voice. “I don‘t need my hand held.”

The rest of the team walked out, trying for casual and failing miserably. There was challenge in Rossi’s countenance as he climbed the stairs and passed Hotch by, as if he were daring Hotch to say something, anything.

Hotch eyed him and then assured himself everyone else was back to work before returning to his office.

***

“You should probably keep these with you,” Aaron announced, entering Dave’s office not three minutes after he arrived. In his hands were two brightly wrapped gifts, with the note ‘Do Not Open Until Christmas’ attached to the bows. “Sean and I used to make a game of who could find and peek into the most presents without our mother finding out.” He put the gifts in a corner of the room carefully. “I have no sense of willpower when it comes to Christmas gifts.”

Dave grinned. “By all means, leave them with me, then. They should be safe here.”

Aaron looked back at Dave, happy and puzzled and excited and curious all at once. “One of these is for Jack. He got my son a present.”

Dave leaned back in his chair calmly. “Are you surprised by that?”

“A little bit,” Aaron admitted, standing and coming to lean against Dave’s desk. “Is he trying to get to me through my son?”

“If he was, wouldn’t he have done that by now?”

Aaron nodded, acknowledging the truth of that. “Why hasn’t he said anything yet?”

“Why haven’t you asked him?”

Aaron shot Dave a look and pushed off, heading back to his office. He had work to do anyway, before he went to go pick up his son.

***

Sean knocked on the door and looked into empty air as it opened in front of him. Readjusting his view about four feet, the latest in the Hotchner line stared up at him solemnly.

“JackJack, are you supposed to be opening the door for strangers?” he asked sternly.

Jack shook his head. “Not strange,” he announced. “Unca Sean.”

Sean shrugged and stepped through, unwrapping his scarf as he went. “Can’t argue with you there.” Once his jacket and his shoes were off, he scooped the kid up, ignoring squeals of laughter as he searched through the house for his brother. He stopped every once in a while to tickle and blow raspberries on the squirming four year old, muttering to himself. “1600 square feet and it still manages to be big enough to get lost in.”

On the second pass, he found his brother in the kitchen. Sean looked around and tossed Jack into the air, catching him easily. “I just looked through here,” he accused. “You weren’t here a minute ago.”

Aaron looked at him, singularly unimpressed. “Well, I’m here now. Jack, no screaming, please.”

Jack wriggled and Sean set him down, coming in to hug his brother. “Where’s the geek?”

“I imagine Reid is spending the holidays in Las Vegas, with his mother.”

Sean groaned and leaned against the counter, watching Aaron bring a couple of Cornish game hens out of the oven. “Please tell me you did not shoot that guy down after he came all the way up to order your favorite dessert. That wasn’t you, you didn’t do it.”

Aaron shot him a dark look. “I didn’t. I haven’t. He hasn’t exactly stepped up to let me know it was from him.”

Sean rolled his eyes at his brother, spotting the potatoes cooling in the sink and moving to make himself useful. “I told you it was him, what more did you want?”

“I’m not making the first move, Sean. I’m his boss. I can’t let him feel pressured.”

“Right.”

"Do you know what it would do to our careers if we were to get caught? What it would do to mine if it came out that I made the first move? Sexual harassment isn't just a heterosexual thing, you know."

"Aaron, please. Anyone who knows you, knows that you would never do something like that. It's ridiculous to worry about things you don't have any control over, anyway."

Aaron was quiet for a moment before he said, “He left a gift. Another one.”

“Another? How many have you had?”

“Four. Plus these.”

Sean waited, knowing his stubborn brother would get to the point in his own time.

“He got Jack a gift. And one for me. ‘Do not open until’ gifts.”

Oh, really? “Did you peek?”

Aaron let out a breath and stirred the cranberries. “No. I’ve made it this far. Six hours and it’ll be Christmas.”

“Sure. Midnight counts as Christmas,” Sean said, “D’you want me to peek for you?” Aaron’s response was nonverbal, and painful. Sean laughed. “Just checking.”

They got dinner on the table and sat down, the three Hotchner men. Aaron was mostly quiet, the only sounds being Jack’s ongoing interrogation of his Uncle Sean, on everything from things he found scary to his favorite games and when they could play them next.

Finally, dinner was over, and it was time for the kid to get a bath and then go to bed. Jack wanted Uncle Sean to read his story, so Aaron turned that duty over to him with a smirk and headed back downstairs.

Thirty minutes later, Sean stepped out of his nephew’s room, pulling the door mostly shut behind him. Aaron was waiting downstairs with a bottle of brandy and two glasses. Without being prompted, Aaron poured him a healthy dose and sat back on the couch. Sean settled into the armchair and took a sip, taking in the twinkling lights of the tree.

He grinned. “You always hated colored lights.”

Aaron chuckled and sprawled more comfortably into the couch. “Jack loves the things.”

“Happy you don’t have to spend the holiday with Haley’s screaming relatives?”

A rueful grin. “Some things I definitely don’t miss.”

Sean reached a foot and nudged his brother. “Tell me ‘bout this guy. What’s the story?”

Aaron took a breath and poured himself another glass. “Not much to tell. He’s twenty seven. Works for me. He’s got three doctorates and another three bachelor’s degrees. He’s been with us for--”

“Aaron.” Sean waited until he had his brother’s attention. “You haven’t dated a guy since college. Are you attracted to him?”

“Yes,” he admitted. “I really am.”

“And if you were to date him,” Sean continued. “Would you show favoritism between him and the rest of your team?”

“No. It wouldn’t be fair. And it’s not in the best interests of us working smoothly and efficiently.”

“Then what’s the problem?”

“We’re both government workers, for one. And I don’t want any rumors of impropriety to cast shadows over his career. If he wants to move on to another department eventually, he’ll be severely limited if there are rumors that he slept with his supervisor.”

Sean scoffed. “Yeah, and did you plan on announcing to the entire Bureau that you were banging your male subordinate?”

Aaron scowled. “Don’t be an idiot.”

“Take your own advice. If you weren’t going to tell anyone, what makes you think he would?”

There was no response. Sean groaned as he got up, maturely ignored Aaron’s mutter over his age and found the gift marked ‘Do Not Open’. He turned and handed it to his brother, shrugging at the questioning look he received.

“It’s Christmas in London.”

Aaron laughed, but accepted the gift, opening it carefully.

Inside lay a pen, and an envelope. Aaron’s brow furrowed as he set the pen aside and opened the envelope. What looked like tickets fell out when he unwrapped the papers surrounding them. Sean could count the number of times he’d seen his brother slack-jawed on one hand. Whoever this guy was, however this turned out, he has Sean’s respect, for being able to bring that look to his face again. Curiosity made him nosey and he peeked over his brother’s shoulder.

“What is it?” he asked, unable to make heads or tails of the paperwork in front of him.

“A leave request,” Aaron responded, picking up the tickets and looking at them. “It’s already filled out and approved, all I have to do is sign it and fax it in.”

Sean took the tickets out of Aaron’s lax hand and let out a low whistle. “Exactly how much more of a first move were you hoping for?”

He watched as a slow grin blossomed on his older brother’s face. “That was pretty much it,” he breathed, groping for a pen without taking his eyes off the note he’d found behind the tickets.

Say yes. Be sure.

***

Aaron gave his son one last hug before smiling at Haley and handing him off to her. “Bye, JackJack.”

Jack laid his head on his mothers shoulder and stuck his fist in his mouth. “Bye, daddy.”

Haley offered him a smile. “Happy New Year, Aaron.”

“Happy New Year, Haley.”

Aaron waited until they’d rounded the corner, before pulling his bag out and climbing into his brother’s waiting car. “Thanks again for the ride.”

Sean nodded. “Yeah, man, no problem. Let me know how it goes.”

The airport wasn’t quite as crowded as he’d expected, it being the first day after the holiday and all. He managed to check his baggage and make it through security easily, the first class ticket affording him the privilege of taking a shorter line. The concourses were crowded, but he didn’t have any luggage, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

And then there he was, leaning against the window, playing with his phone while he waited.

Aaron watched as he stuck the phone is his pocket and straightened when Aaron approached.

He stopped just a few feet shy of the young genius, and tilted his head. Spencer radiated confidence as he smiled at Aaron.

“I’m glad you came,” he said.

“I’m glad you finally invited me.”

Spencer shrugged and looked away, smiling. “I wanted you to be sure.”

Aaron closed the distance between them and reached out to lace his fingers with the younger man’s. He ran his other hand through Spencer’s hair, coming to rest on the back of his neck. “I’m sure,” he murmured, slowly drawing him closer and giving him every chance to back out.

Spencer closed the distance easily, one hand coming up to rest on Aaron’s shoulder, lips meeting for the first time.

They were in public.

It wasn’t as long or a deep as Aaron wanted, but it was right. And something told Aaron he’d soon have plenty of opportunities to explore the man in front of him while on a cruise to Cozumel.

Aaron turned and led them to the seating area, as their section was just being called.

“Hey, Aaron?”

Aaron flashed a smile at hearing his first name being said without pause. “Yes?”

“Remind me to get something nice for Morgan and Garcia while we’re gone.”

One hand on the small of his back, Aaron guided Spencer down the runway. “No problem, Spencer.”
  • This fic made me grin like an idiot. The pacing is great, and I love how it snowballs from just being Garcia and Morgan, to the whole team in on it. Even Rossi, who bitches about being indiscreet, but joins in anyway. (AND does calligraphy!!! HEE!)

    The scenes with the team getting into Reid plans were priceless. Like a class full of kids whispering about who's got a crush on the teacher. LOL

    Spencer took a deep breath and called up to him, “Remember in kindergarten how your whole class had to hold hands and go to the water fountain together?”

    HEE!

    Mix tape! Candy! Cozumel! Mmmm, this fic was FUN!

    Edited at 2008-12-19 04:22 pm (UTC)
  • OMG, this story is just heart-warmingly adorable! Drunken!Reid, Sean Hotchner, the entire team being in on the surprise ... EEP! This was just the sort of warm fuzziness that you want to read first thing in the morning! Awesome story!
  • This is utterly gorgeous - the slow seduction, the voices, the team interactions - all of it.

    I loved it and it made me smile.
  • My mystery novelist you are a complete smile! I just had the day from hell at work and got home to find this which has made me smile like a loon. Something I wasn't expecting to do tonight.

    I love drunk Reid. The way Morgan and Garcia figure him out and encourage him, before all the team slowly begin to join in.

    He huffed and rolled over. "No, really, Aaron. Go away. I talked to the guy myself. You're not being stalked, this isn't a setup, you're not a target for anything. Sometimes there are people out there who really do think you're worth it. Suck it up and enjoy the fact that you're being seduced." Idiot.

    That is possibly my favourite line of the whole piece. I love the way his brother is so blunt about it, and the ending is just perfect. Thank you so much for this! My reply so does not sum up how much I love it
    • YAY! *twirls* I'm so glad you liked it! Drunk!Reid cracks me up, in any incarnation.

      And that line? Credit goes completely to one of my betas, as that was her idea -- I would never have thought of it on my own!

      I'm very glad you liked it, thank you for commenting and letting me know!
  • "Then I'm only saying one more thing, and then we're calling it a night. If I ever saw him looking in another direction, it was always in the same one." He paused, to let that sink in. "And you were always standing in it."

    Oh my GOSH, that line. I love that line.

    I love this whole fic. I love the way it starts small and balloons to including the whole team, and how they all figure it out and support them. I particularly love Rossi's involvement and encouragement, and the way he flat-out says he would have stopped it if he thought it was a bad idea. And Prentiss telling Reid that he deserves happiness.

    And SEAN! OMG you wrote Sean perfectly. The sibling relationship, the way he talks, the utter hawtness. I just love it.

    Mmmmmmm.
    • Hee! Morgan is smooth when he wants to be.

      Sean is straight-up one of my favorite characters ever. And I have alot of practice with the sibling relationship. =D That was my favorite part of this.

      I'm glad you liked it!
  • oh my goodness. I saw this posted while I was still at work, but for some reason my bosses frown on my reading 10,000+ words of Reid/Hotch while on the clock. don't they realize I would be a much happier employee??

    this story is perfection. the character voices, ALL of the character voices were just. YES. loved how the whole team got in on it. even JJ who isn't even there! <3

    and Sean! *flails with glee* this exchange:

    Sean sighed. “Tall. Skinny. He‘s what, one-seventy soaking wet? Wears glasses, watch over his sleeve. Long hair. Needs a haircut. Hey, how come you don’t make him get a haircut?”

    “He’s prettier than you are.”


    omg I love the Hotchner brothers.

    oh! Reid gave him a mix tape. I. I just. ♥_♥
    • Ha! Your bosses are cruel and mean to torture you like that!

      *snerk* That exchange -- I think I was waiting the entire fic to get to that part.

      Mix tape ftw! *beams* I'm glad you liked it!
  • awwww! yay! and i'm wishing (hoping?) you might do a sequel featuring said cozumel vacation with our favorite hotnesses all shirtless and such... the inclusion of the whole team (even dave! who does calligraphy?! it figures with the mysterious!past of the man...) is great. :) love it!
  • Lovely writing! So many delightful lines and quirky little details that are perfectly in character. Absolutely fabulous! ♥♥♥
  • Aww.. I loves it. It's so sweet and thoughtful. Very well-done
  • Very, very well written.
    I've just got into CM, being holed up for days with almost-flu.
    Ive been mainlining season 1 eps thru a boxset,and looking at the current season.

    You really got the voices of the team spot on- I could hear them in my head as I read this.
    Great, gradual build up, and resolution.

    I'd love to see what happens next, and would love to read any other CM fic you've written.

    More, please! :D:D

    Yinka

    • Thank you! I'm glad you liked it!

      No sequel planned, but! I am working on something else. Keep an eye out, you may see it eventually.
  • I loved this so much. It was sweet and well-paced and utterly believable. I loved how even though Reid was the pursuer, there was an even balance of power between the two men. You handled the entire team well, and it was fun to see how they supported Reid.
    • That child needs all the support he can get, some days. It reminds me a little of learning to ride a two wheeler for the first time...

      *beams* Thank you!
  • Oh this is lovely, just lovely. Plus I love Brother of Hotch and you really nailed the whole brother mocking vibe. Really, it's fantastic and Hotch deserves to have someone seduce him.

    • *laughs* I have a lot of practice with the brother mocking vibe, I'm glad it came through well.

      And Hotch does deserve to have someone seduce him. He works too hard, and needs a hug. :)
  • *GAH*
    Awesome.
    I seriously couldn't stop grinning. Great, really great writing.
  • Such a cute fic. I really like how you captured the tone of all the characters.

    Any plans to continue the story? Or write any more?
  • I thought I'd commented on this already.

    I love this story. The whole team, eventually, getting in on helping Reid. Hotch trying to figure it out and not wanting to be make the first move.

    Loved that this fic had both Sean and Jack in it--we get too few fics with Hotch's family in it--and they were both well written, especially Sean. I liked the relationship between the brothers.

    Lovely fic with a lovely ending. Well done!
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