Author: Dhae Knight
Word count: 1,002
Pairing or featured character: Hotch/Reid pre-slash. Hotch/Beth established. Jack Hotchner
Warnings and/or spoilers: You know about Beth? Good. Angst ahoy!
Author's notes: I've done my very best to not make Beth a bad person in this one (yes, I do feel slightly guilty for turning her into a crazed serial-killer in the last one), but my dislike for her might shine through. Unbetaed in the extreme. Due to my missing last night, you get two parts today... ;-)
Summary: Reid checks up on Hotch, and gets an invitation.
Reid watched Hotch like a hawk for the next few weeks, but nothing seemed to change. Hotch didn't change his hours at work, didn't seem like his temper was shorter, nor his mood darker.
By the end of the third week, Reid couldn't stand the suspense any longer, and set about catching Hotch somewhere private.
By the end of the fourth week, he decided that 'somewhere private' didn't have to be 'out of the office'. Instead, he waited until everyone else had left the office, and went to knock on Hotch's open door.
"Reid. You need anything?"
"I wanted to talk. About... Jack." Reid let his pause speak for him. He took no pleasure in the faint look of horror that skittered through Hotch's eyes before he masked it with a scowl.
"I don't think we should be talking about that here," Hotch stated, but Reid took a breath and closed the door behind him.
"I know. I know. But we're not going to talk anywhere else and I worry about Jack."
"I can take care of my own son," Hotch growled, but Reid recognized it as a last-ditch defense.
"I never doubted that. I just want to know how he's doing."
Hotch glared for a few seconds more, probably mostly to see if Reid would back down. Then he sighed.
"All right. Jack's spending the weekend with Jessica. How about dinner?"
"Sounds good," Reid said honestly and smiled faintly. Maybe the talk wouldn't be so nice, but dining with Hotch was always a pleasure.
Dinner, it turned out, was carryout from a local Italian place. The place was overflowing with people, so Reid figured that boded well for the quality of the food.
About a year after Haley's death, Hoch had bought a small townhouse with a tiny walled garden. The garden came with a huge old oak-tree, more than big enough for a swing, and gnarly enough to provide ample opportunities for climbing. Jack loved it.
As for the rest of the garden, the team had taken one of the weekends off and dealt with it. Morgan had been mister handy and put in a deck that covered almost half of the available space; a nice big deck that could easily house the team and a hammock Garcia had insisted on. Reid had stained the wood the next day, not minding having to spend the entire weekend with Hotch and Jack. Rossi had managed the barbecue, and the girls had done something with shrubs and flowers. Prentiss had looked out of her element, but had gamely fetched and carried for JJ and Garcia, the latter carrying around an iPad with some sort of plan on it.
It had been a really nice weekend, sunny and warm. Jack had demanded his afternoon nap in the hammock, and had declared that Hotch had to lie in it with him. So the team had been treated to the sight of Hotch relaxing with his son, lying in that hammock, reading a book, one leg bent over the edge, dangling almost to the ground, faded jeans rucking up, revealing a surprisingly skinny ankle leading down to the flip-flops that had, besides the polo-shirt, been Hotch's only concession to the heat.
In deferene to that relaxed memory, Reid made the unilateral decision of setting the table in the kitchen, while Hotch went to the bathroom. If he was surprised when he returned, he didn't show it. Usually only Hotch and Jack ate in the kitchen. Any guest meant setting the table in the dining room and making something of a production out of it.
The food was very good, and Reid discovered that once food started hitting his stomach, he was extremely hungry. They didn't talk until the forks began slowing down sufficiently to give at least a chance of a breath in between mouthfuls. Then Hotch started playing with his food, an unexpected tell that always signified nervousness.
"Beth and I... we decided it was best if we took a break. Just for a while."
"I'm sorry," Reid said, honestly.
"Jack is back in therapy, for now. His psychologist thinks maybe it's too soon for me to be introducing new people into as close contact with Jack as I did with Beth."
"Do you think so?"
Hotch pushed a matched pair of cannelloni up one side of the plate and left them stranded with a blood trail of tomato sauce leading down to the pool at the bottom.
"I think Jack's happier, now," he said quietly.
Reid pushed his own plate aside, suddenly no longer hungry. "I wish you hadn't had to give up Beth to get there," he said with complete honesty.
For a few minutes silence and the sound of cutlery scraping idly against flatware reigned. Then Reid took a deep breath.
"I'm sorry. I know it was absolutely none of my business, and Jack would probably have grown used to Beth over time. I really didn't mean to make you break up with your girlfriend."
Hotch didn't smile, but when he looked up his eyes weren't cold, either. "Not your fault, Reid. It might take me a while to forgive you, but you did what you did for my son. That's not something you ever have to apologize for."
Reid shrugged minutely. "I care about Jack."
"And Jack cares about you."
Another silence stretched, and Reid took that as his cue to leave. At the door, Hotch stopped him. "Next weekend off... come stay with us. Jack and I. He's missed you this past month."
"I missed him, too, but I wasn't sure how welcome I'd be."
"Reid. You're always welcome. Even when I’m angry. You'll come?"
Reid nodded. It was better than he'd hoped for. It was probably better than he deserved.
As punishment he decided, as he walked to his car, that he'd talk to Jack about Beth. Maybe get Jack to encourage Hotch to get back together with her.
It would only be fitting if he succeeded.