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Title: Catalyst 5/5
Author: Dhae Knight
Word count: 1,546
Pairing or featured character: Hotch/Reid pre-slash. Hotch/Beth established. Jack Hotchner
Rating: PG
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. Although I disagree with what Beth stands for in this part, I don't think that makes her a bad person.
Summary: Christmas at the mall, and Beth on the horizon. What could possibly go wrong?

Catalyst 5/5

Spencer Reid loathed the Mall like it was the seventh circle of hell, but he'd braved it today, because both Hotch and Jack had insisted the Santa at this mall was the right one. He'd just seen Hotch and Jack vanish into the throng of parents and kids surrounding the mystical Santa, when a slender brunette approached him.

 

"Doctor Reid."

 

"Miss Jacobs," Reid replied politely. The days of thinking of giving up Hotch for this woman were gone. Jack adored having Reid around, and giggled in pleasure every time Hotch and Reid kissed. Nothing had changed at work, mainly through their abilities to compartmentalize and a dedication to leave their relationship at home they both shared.

 

As for their relationship, they were moving ahead at a pace that seemed to suit them both. They hadn't jumped into bed the first night, rather they'd taken the opportunity to just spend time together, cuddling, hugging and kissing. Entirely unplanned, they'd moved to mutual masturbation just two nights ago, and they'd both enjoyed themselves tremendously.

 

"I thought I saw Aaron over here, somewhere?"

 

"Oh, you did," Reid answered readily enough. "They braved the crowd so Jack could sit on Santa's lap."

 

"That's nice," Beth said, her tone of voice betraying her disappointment. "I was hoping to maybe talk to Hotch, hear how Jack was doing."

 

Hear if Jack was over his dislike for her so she could get her boyfriend back, more like it, Reid thought uncharitably. Not that he could blame her, he'd probably want to do the same in her position, only difference was that he'd be able to profile Hotch and know that no contact meant no chance.

 

"Jack's doing really well," Reid told her none-the-less, with a smile that had fooled serial-killers for years, not telling her that the therapist had approved whole-heartedly of Hotch's new boyfriend being someone Jack already knew and loved. "The therapist calls him a remarkably well-adjusted child, in fact."

 

"Oh, that's good!" Beth smiled, clearly relieved, and just as obviously thinking that getting back together with Hotch was just a matter of form. Reid, however, had no intention of letting that thought settle in and get comfortable in her mind.

 

"I know! Beth. While I've got you, can I ask you something that's been bothering me?"

 

"Sure!"

 

“Have you always been bad with children, or was it just Jack?”

 

Beth’s smile froze and turned into a grimace. “Excuse me?”

 

“I mean, I get it if it’s generic. I used to be really bad around kids, too. Hotch called it the ‘Reid effect’. But between Jack and Henry, I think I’ve gotten the hang of smaller children. I’m just curious as to why you couldn’t get along with Jack. I mean, I might be biased, but I think he’s probably the one who is easiest to get along with out of all the children I’ve ever met. He’s straight-forward, honest, empathic and smart. He likes people. So I guess I’m still wondering why he didn’t like you.”

 

Beth was gaping along the way, but her mouth quickly contracted to a narrow slit once Reid stopped talking.

 

“I don’t have to stand here and take this!”

 

“You really don’t,” Reid agreed mildly. “You could leave.”

 

“Now, you listen here. I didn’t like you from the first time I met you. You’re rude and try to hide it behind being too smart to care about social mores. You don’t shut up about whatever obscure thing catches your interest. You got in the way of me bonding with Jack from day one. And for some reason, despite the fact that you’re an absolutely horrible role-model for Jack, Aaron refused to keep you away from him.”

 

Reid barely paused.

 

“Oh, that’s why Jack didn’t like you. For some reason (and I don’t really know why) he really likes me. And if you tried to tell him that he shouldn’t… well. I think you’ve found that Jack’s the kind of kid who makes up his own mind.”

 

Beth’s nostrils flared angrily. “Of course he likes you! You’re an ill-mannered, obnoxious kid! You’re as bad as Aaron, letting him run wild, do whatever he likes. But kids need to be disciplined.”

 

Reid felt his jaw drop for a fraction of a second before the muscles contracted, snapping it back into place. “Disciplined?”

 

“Spare the rod, and spoil the child. I talked to Aaron about this, but he seemed disinclined to do what had to be done. Jack is rude, he doesn’t understand that children should be seen and not heard, that they shouldn’t speak until they’re spoken to.”

 

Reid found he missed the weight of his gun. “You actually suggested that Hotch should hit Jack?”

 

“Not hit him. Just… discipline him. A good spanking never hurt anyone.”

 

“No child should ever be hit,” Reid stated, firm in that conviction. “As for not hurting anyone… God. Did you ever stop to think that parental abuse comes from somewhere? Comes from someone who loses their temper and discovers they like their kid cowering in front of them?”

 

Beth smiled, suddenly and viciously. “Why Doctor Reid, I hope you don’t think that Aaron would ever lose his temper with Jack?”

 

“I know better,” Reid snarled. “But do you know what it would do to him to hit Jack? Do you know what it would do to Jack? And if you’re suggesting that you should be punishing Jack… Well. I don’t know you, Beth. And I don’t trust you to not lose your temper.”

 

Beth blanched, and then Reid felt a familiar hand land on the nape of his neck. “And neither do I, Beth. Spencer and I agree on this. Jack will not be disciplined physically. Ever.”

 

Beth drew herself up, haughty and desperate. Reid could see through her, now, and he found that he pitied her. Even with her views on discipline. Perhaps because of her views on discipline.

 

“Aaron. I don’t understand. Are you letting Doctor Reid make decisions for your son, now?”

 

Jack squeezed into the scant space left between Reid and Hotch’s legs, and Reid curled his fingers around the small hand offered to him.

 

“I’m letting Spencer make decisions for this family, now. Because I trust him to do what’s best for Jack, no matter how he personally feels about it, or how much it might hurt him. For Spencer, Jack comes first. That’s the most important thing.”

 

“And I love Spencer,” Jack chimed in, with conviction. Reid just had to smile.

 

“And I love Hotch and Jack, more than myself. More than anyone. I’d do anything for the two of them. I’m guessing you can’t say the same?”

 

Judging by the sudden look of disgust on Beth’s face, she was finally getting it, and Reid would bet good money that spanking wasn’t the only issue on which Beth was conservative. “Well. I wish you all the best, I’m sure.”

 

Reid couldn’t let it go at that. “For what it’s worth, Beth, I’m sorry.”

 

“Sorry about what? Corrupting a good man?”

 

Reid could feel Hotch begin to tremble with restrained laughter, but he didn’t stop. “No. I’m sorry that you think hitting children and teaching them to be anything but children is a good idea. I’m sorry that you don’t like gays. And I’m sorry you ever walked into Jack’s life.”

 

“I’m not,” Hotch said, having gotten his laughter under control, although it was still evident in his voice. “If not for Beth, I would never have made a move on you.”

 

“What?”

 

“Yeah, that’s right, Beth. Spencer didn’t corrupt me. In fact, I’d say it was the other way around.”

 

“I told you you had to try kissing boys, daddy.”

 

“You did, buddy. And you were right.”

 

“You are all disgusting!” Beth said and flounced off.

 

“You think we’ll see anything more of her?” Reid had to ask.

 

“No. I think this was the last straw. And to be honest, I don’t really want to think about Beth any more.”

 

“Just think, if it wasn’t for her, we probably wouldn’t be together.”

 

Hotch turned smouldering eyes on Reid, who felt the embers spread down his entire body. “Oh, I don’t think I could have kept my distance forever.”

 

“Uncle Spencer, can I have ice-cream now?”

 

Reid gave Hotch a last, lingering look which he hoped promised that they would be advancing their sexual adventures sooner rather than later, before turning his attention to Jack. “Of course you can, Jack. Or we could have pancakes. Would you like pancakes?”

 

“Yay! Pancakes!” Jack did a little happy dance on the spot.

 

“You spoil our son,” Hotch stated with a smile.

 

Our son?”

 

“Just as soon as I can get the adoption papers drawn up. Provided you’ll sign them?”

 

“That’s… a pretty big Christmas present.” Red said hesitantly.

 

“Think about it. Take all the time you need. But you’re the one I want making decisions for Jack if I’m incapacitated. Think about that, too.”

 

“Come on, Daddy! Come on, Uncle Spencer! Pancakes!” Jack grabbed hold of a hand each, and started dragging at them.

 

Hotch laughed. “We’re coming. Spencer promised you pancakes, didn’t he?”

 

“I will,” Reid said, while Jack dragged them towards the pancake-house. “I'll sign, if you get the papers.”

 

Hotch’s smile said it all.


 

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