Author: Dhae Knight
Word count: 2,069
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. Last part tomorrow! :-)
Summary: Reid apologizes to Jack and gets a surprise.
The weekend was wet and windy, and Reid was exhausted by a long case that had brought back unwelcome memories by way of a schizophrenic unsub who had slaughtered her way through a school class. In other words, it had been a long week of children’s mutilated corpses, all around Jack's age. So when Jack opened the door to let him in, Reid didn't even stop to hesitate, but simply sank down on his good knee and opened his arms.
It was gratifying how easily Jack came into his embrace and for the first time in a week Reid actually relaxed, holding onto the boy.
When he finally looked up, it was to find a domestic Hotch, wiping his hands on a dishtowel and smiling down at the two of them. For just a fraction of a second, Reid imagined that he could come home to this every day; that he could stand up and Hotch would pull him close and kiss him. The power of the fantasy made his heart ache.
“Hello Reid. Jack, dinner’s almost ready. It’s time to clear the table, buddy.”
“Sure, daddy!” Jack jumped up and ran into the dining room.
"Should I help him?" Reid asked once he'd gotten to his feet, something that didn't happen without some consideration after he'd been shot in the knee.
"He's fine," Hotch said, and beckoned Reid into the kitchen instead, where the scent of roasting beef was joined by the sight of half-mashed potatoes and a salad in the making. Without asking, Reid went to work on the potatoes, catching Hotch's smile out of the corner of his eye.
"How is Jack doing?"
There was crunching of fresh salad under a knife's edge, a distinctive sound.
"Better now you're here. He was thrilled you were coming over."
"I'm happy to see him too," Reid answered honestly, mashing away at the potatoes almost blind with relief that he was welcome, and whatever semblance of friendship he'd had with Hotch hadn't been irrevocably damaged.
"Daddy, I'm done!"
"Great job, buddy. Can you set the table, too?" Reid didn't look at the interaction between them. He didn't particularly want to. It was too reminiscent of something he wanted but couldn't have. He didn't understand people who claimed that single dads had a hard time getting dates. He enjoyed Hotch's many sides, but none got to him on quite the level as Hotch being a dad to Jack.
Consequently he jumped when Hotch suddenly appeared, a hairsbreadth behind him, his head almost on Reid's left shoulder. "I think those potatoes are sufficiently mashed. Would you give Jack a hand with the plates and glasses?"
"Of course," Reid exhaled and waited. After a few seconds, it was clear that Hotch had no intention of moving, and it confused Reid. Unless of course, it was about Hotch reclaiming control over Reid. In which case it made perfect sense that he'd force Reid to back down.
Reid squeezed out past Hotch, making sure to not challenge him physically. "I'll just, uhm..."
Dinner proved almost too exciting for Reid. He vacillated between comfortable banter and friendly conversation, to awkward, tension-diffusing techniques Hotch was guaranteed to see through, to moments of embarrassing silence. The food was good, but the constant tension had Reid so much on edge his stomach felt like one big knotted ball of intestines, incapable of processing the food he ate.
When they were done, Hotch claimed the clean-up duty for himself, and sent Jack off to bed with Reid. Jack seemed enthusiastic enough about it, grabbing Reid by the hand and pulling him along. Sometimes Reid really did wonder if Jack was an average child, given how he welcomed bedtime whenever Reid was around.
Tonight, however, Reid took advantage of the time Hotch had given him, alone with Jack. No doubt entirely planned, but no less welcome (or feared) for that.
"Jack, I need to appologize to you."
The boy frowned, a very Hotch expression on a face that was more Haley, anyway. "Okay. Why?"
Reid cleared his throat nervously. "Because I told your dad about Beth after I promised you I wouldn't."
"It's okay," Jack promised him solemnly.
"It... It is?"
"Daddy told me that sometimes you should break a promise. Like... If Michael made me promise to not tell anyone and then told me that he was going to do something dangerous, then I'd have to tell someone."
Reid suppressed a smile. That was a very Hotch rule. Almost everybody thought he was so bound by rules, but in reality Hotch was more about getting the job done. It just so happened that in order to get the job done, more often than not they had to follow the rules to the letter to make convicting the bad guys easier.
"So you're not mad at me?"
Jack shook his head, then bit his lip.
"What is it, Jack?"
The boy scuffed one foot into the carpet. "You might be mad at me, though," he offered quietly.
Reid suppressed his immediate need to ask why in favor of remindng Jack of something he'd told him before. "Jack, you know that I might get mad at you for a little while, but it will never, ever make me like you less, right?"
Reid sat down on the bed and coaxed Jack up to sit beside him, curled into Reid's side. Feeling comfortable in tht position never stopped surprising Reid. "Okay. So tell me. Why do you think I might be mad at you?"
"Because I told daddy that... that I kinda wished he'd be kissing you, in stead."
God, Reid did not need this. But there it was, trying to explain the Kinsey-scale to a seven-year old.
"Jack. That's not... Your dad, he likes to kiss girls, not boys."
Guileless brown eyes looked up at him. "I like to kiss girls, but I like to kiss boys, too."
Reid didn't quite groan or smack his head into the wall a couple of times. "And I like to kiss boys, most of the time. There's nothing wrong with any of us, but if you don't like to kiss boys, then you don't like to kiss boys."
Jack pouted adorably. "He should at least try. Maybe he'd like it. Like when I have to try new food, and sometimes I like it, even though I think I'm not going to."
"Maybe I would." Reid jumped, dislodging Jack in the process. Jack, grumbling, crawled back under Reid's arm, not noticing or caring about the sudden tension. God how long had Aaron been standing there, right outside the door? How much had he heard? That Reid was pretty much exclusively gay?
It wasn't that he was closeted, or anything, it was just easier to not talk about it. And he really hadn't wanted his boss to find out. He didn't particulrly want Hotch to find out, either. It might mean an end to their easy companionship. Or to the debates they still occasionally engaged in. Or maybe, and that was pretty much the worst case scenario, Hotch would realize Reid was hopelessly, head-over-heels in love with him, and be so uncomfortable he'd ask Reid to transfer away from the BAU voluntarily.
Reid would do it, of course, with no fuss. He just wasn't sure he'd survive it with his mind intact. As if a broken heart wouldn't be enough to deal with.
And then he realized he was tilting a little to the left because Hotch had sat down on the bed, too. Heart pounding, mouth bone-dry, Reid looked at Hotch with utter terror, not understanding what was happening.
"Going to let me try?" Hotch asked mildly, clarifying; "Kissing you, I mean?"
"Wh...?" Reid stopped, swallowed and tried again, the two seconds time enough to get some kind of defences up. "Hotch, you can't be serious!"
Unfortunately Hotch was serious. Very serious. "It's just a kiss, Reid. Jack's right, you know. You can't decide you don't like something before you've tried it."
Damn, Reid thought, his brain still spinning, gibbering in a silent panic. It wouldn’t just be a kiss, not to Reid, but could he turn it down? Could he miss it, knowing that it would probably be his only chance to ever kiss Hotch?
More importantly by far; could he be a bad example for Jack? And the answer to that was, and always would be, a resounding no. Jack’s health, happiness and healthy development was paramount.
Reid didn’t close his eyes. He never did, when facing down things that scared him. He simply faced them, head on. “Okay.”
“Okay?” Hotch said, displaying mild surprise. Reid didn’t know whether to hope he’d back down in the face of the threat of having to carry through, but even as he was dithering, he remembered that Hotch wasn’t a blinker. Hotch was the kind of man who faced down Foyet without moving a muscle. Who stood up to men like Hardwicke and never flinched. Hotch made up his mind and carried through. End of story.
“Yeah, okay,” Reid repeated, more to himself than for Hotch’s benefit. There was no doubt that now, when Hotch had committed to a course of action, he was going to carry through.
Then there was a hand on his cheek, big and warm and a mixture of calluses and smoothness that comes only from people who mix working with guns with working with paper and computers. And Hotch’s eyes, brown and luminous and caring, just inches away and moving closer, and Reid felt like he’d drown on dry land, because those eyes filled up his entire world.
And then they drifted closed, and Hotch’s face tilted to one side, and there was that first, tentative brush of touch across his lips, and then there was more, and firmer, and God, Reid thought, opening his eyes, when had he closed them?
Jack was there, Reid remembered only when the boy clambered onto his lap, looking up at the both of them with a big smile, and asking, guilelessly: “So how did you like it, daddy?”
Since Reid was kind of curious to hear the answer to that too, he turned his head to find Hotch smiling, gently and mildly, and so happily that Reid could almost feel his heart swell like the Grinch.
“I think I like kissing boys. At least… I like kissing Spencer.” Hotch stopped and looked thoughtful for a minute before he asked Jack, plaintively: “Do I have to kiss other boys to make sure I like kissing boys, or can I just keep kissing Spencer?”
Jack looked adorably torn. Eventually, he seemed to reach a Salomonic solution and presented it with an angelically serene look. “I wouldn’t mind if you just like kissing Spencer.”
“What do you think, Spencer?” Hotch turned the self-same thoughtful look on Reid, only this time with a definite gleam in his eyes. “Would it be okay if I only kissed you for a while?”
Reid lost his breath. Later, maybe (much later), he’d wonder how he could have missed where it was going, but for now there was room for nothing else but processing that Hotch had, essentially, just offered him a relationship.
Reid ran through the permutations, skipping his heart which unequivocally told him to take the offer. The relationship would be problematic at work, but he trusted Hotch (strict, rule-observant Hotch) to have considered that, and found a workable solution. Work aside, there were only two basic possibilities. Either they worked in a relationship, which would be… amazing. Or they didn’t. At which point Reid would be no worse off than he was right at this instant, having just been kissed by his boss.
Really, there was only one correct answer to a question like that, and although his voice broke on the first try, and he knew he was probably looking like an idiot, he gave it as nonchalantly as he possibly could. “I wouldn’t mind that, Aaron.”
And just like that, Jack broke out in great, gleeful whoops of laughter, hugging Reid, and Hotch laughed too, but hugged Reid harder, and Reid found himself laughing as well, not caring what it sounded like, or how he looked, only caring that he was in a relationship with the man he loved, the father of a boy he loved more than reason, and that he was happy.