Spencer’s hands are shaking as he gets up from his seat in the corner of the jet. They’re 40 minutes away from landing, deliberately planned well in advance: everyone’s well and truly settled, there isn’t long to wait for a private conversation and people haven’t woken up to prepare for landing yet. This is well thought out, he tells himself, trying to be convincing. There isn’t much that can go wrong.
Except there absolutely is. He’s run all the possible outcomes over and over in his head, at night, on the jet, spare moments in cases; he knows pretty much every possibility in and out. The worst-case scenario, of course, is Aaron flips and hurts him or never talks to him again, but he knows logically that this is unlikely. No, the most likely situation is a polite rejection and a rift in their relationship, but it’s a risk he has to take. This limbo is too painful to exist in forever: he has to give himself a chance at happiness, and if that doesn’t happen he needs a chance to get over him.
Aaron is, predictably, sitting on his own at the other end of the jet, getting a head start on his paperwork. He’d shot Spencer a questioning look when he’d opted to sit on his own instead of opposite or next to him, but everyone knows that Spencer sometimes needs a moment to himself and after he’d responded with a reassuring smile, Aaron had smiled back and looked down.
“Reid,” he greets him as he looks up from the plethora of forms and files and reports littering the table in front of him, that questioning look returning and bleeding into his voice. “Is there anything I can do for you?” he asks after Spencer stands there frozen for a moment, shaking him out of his head and reminding him of his mission.
“Yeah, sorry,” he says softly, chuckling a little. “Here. Can you do me a favour and… read this for me? All the way to the end? Leave your questions for the end, and we can talk once we land.” He hands him the pretty stationery wrapped in a tissue paper envelope. The seal is a deep navy that had reminded Spencer of Aaron the moment he saw it in the shop, and he used it even though he knew it would tear the tissue and was utterly pointless. His hands still shake a little as he passes it over, but he doesn’t blame himself. Anyone would be nervous. This isn’t just a Spencer thing.
Once Aaron has the letter in his hands he turns it, looking it over, before meeting Spencer’s anxious gaze with his own steady one, now filled with growing curiosity. “Of course,” he says, indulgently. It’s one of Spencer’s favourite things about him, his stoicism in the face of a surprise. He doesn’t react in a way that might further upset somebody when they share something with him, and it makes him an excellent leader.
Spencer shoots him another nervous but meaningful smile, the kind he uses with his friends, with Henry, with people he cares about. People he’s been in love with for five years. Whatever.
He turns away and doesn’t look back.
Aaron struggles to contain his curiosity long enough to wait until Spencer is settled back in his seat on the other side of the plane. This must be why he’d chosen to sit somewhere other than next to him on this flight which had admittedly confused him a little, Spencer usually liked the familiarity and comfort of sitting next to him. He’d suspected he needed space but now it seems as though he was psyching himself up to hand this letter to him.
It’s not a resignation letter, Aaron is fairly certain of that, Spencer would never use such beautiful stationery and a seal in his favourite colour for something so straightforward and professional. He’d also given him one of those heart-warmingly open and trusting smiles before turning back, even if it was a little anxious. This is something personal.
Finally giving in to his curiosity, he carefully opens the handmade envelope and pulls out the letter written on high-quality paper in Spencer’s delicate script.
I have debated sitting down and putting pen to paper to write this letter for a long time, much less handing it to you to read. This is perhaps the most forward thing I have ever done, and you will understand that it is also the bravest. I know I am crossing a line in writing this. I have never been one to break the rules, it's something we have in common, isn't it? We're both straight arrows. Perhaps I am hoping for too much. I am not the object of many's desire and maybe it is foolish to hope that someone as amazing as you could possibly be the exception, but if I don't get it out of my system I'm afraid this secret may bubble up and swallow me whole, its acidic aftertaste never quite leaving my mouth.
Immediately, Aaron’s heart starts beating out of his chest. Spencer rarely calls him Aaron -- the whole team operates on a largely last-name only basis -- but he’d be lying if those infrequent times when his first name leaves Spencer’s lips don’t make his heart flutter and insides warm. His face betrays him, he knows, but this might just be everything he’s been hoping to hear for the last four years and the team is asleep or preoccupied right now, thanks to Spencer’s clearly well-planned timing. He can afford to let his guard down a little.
His stomach clenches, though, when he sees Spencer’s insecurity bleeding into his writing, the ink revealing his painful self-doubt where his lips keep them tightly sealed away. He’s absolutely everything Aaron is craving, and if others can’t see that then it’s their own loss. He knows, though, that Spencer is too oblivious for his own good: the rest of the team don’t miss the looks he gets when they go out for drinks, but Spencer does. Spencer could get anyone he wants, even if he doesn’t realise it, and the honour of being the chosen person isn’t lost on him.
The truth of the matter is we live dangerous lives. This plane could crash, one of us could get shot, stabbed, blown up and not survive it next time. I need to take advantage of the fact that right now we are alive, and if there is any chance that I could live my life alongside yours then I must take it.
That makes Aaron let out a small, breathy laugh. He’d thought the same exact thing so many times, but Spencer was a lot braver than he was. Even if it didn’t have the potential for a sexual harassment suit and the loss of his job, he’s not sure he’d have the bravery to tell Spencer just how in love with him he is. Not in a letter written with a fountain pen on pretty stationery, not to his face, not in front of others, not alone. Spencer has guts he’d lost a long time ago. A risky job had led to a tightly controlled personal life. He plays it safe. Spencer doesn’t.
Here is what I want:
I want to throw caution to the wind and live vicariously with you. Let's eat pancakes for dinner, drive down the interstate with the windows down and listen to Vivaldi on full volume, let's hold hands in the street in Virginia and say fuck it to anybody who has a problem with it. I want to get stuck in your head the way you're stuck in mine: when you're doing paperwork, I want to be in the back of your head. I want to excite you when you think of me naked when you think of me spread out beneath you. Not a moment goes by where I don't think of you, Aaron. I wish I was on your mind in the same way.
Aaron’s face breaks out into a much wider smile. Oh, God, Spencer, he thinks, sending his eyes to the ceiling of the jet. You have no idea. Spencer doesn’t have to wish for this, to crave such a thing, it’s already happening. It feels like paperwork takes twice as long as it used to do before he fell in love with Spencer. It’s not even limited to his job: doing laundry, washing the dishes, cooking dinner, driving Jack to a soccer match, watching TV -- everything he does is consumed by thoughts of Spencer.
And Jesus Christ have mercy, the thought of Spencer spread out naked beneath him, what he looks like under those conservative button-ups and cardigans, plays out behind his eyelids far too often. It’s made him feel like a pervert for years, fantasising about his much younger coworker and wondering what he likes in bed, how he could make him feel good. The idea that the same thoughts about him fill Spencer’s brain has him weak at the knees and hot under the collar. Of course he chose the jet to do this, he thinks amusedly.
Let's find new TV shows and movies together! There's nothing I'd like more than to cuddle up against your chest after a hard case and watch something that we both enjoy, that gives us a sense of comfort and familiarity. On the weekends, let's get dressed up and visit fancy restaurants only to have a cheap crepe at the end of the night before rushing back home to get undressed again. I want to be yours, and I want you to prove that to the world.
Aaron’s heart is melting slowly, dripping down the inside of his chest, he’s sure of it. He’s walked into his apartment after a hard case feeling empty and defeated, wishing Spencer was there to give him a hug and take away the pain far too many times. It only ever made him feel worse, the belief that that would never happen, it never could happen, only now he’s being proved wrong.
He already knows the first place he’ll take Spencer. Rossi had treated him to dinner there once after Haley passed away, and the ambience and seafood paella had wedged itself firmly into his mind. He’d fantasised many times about how Spencer’s eyes would look in the soft lighting, how he’d laugh in the relaxed setting, how he’d feel spoiled and loved when Aaron footed the bill, ignoring his protests. His heart feels full and bursting at the thought that soon these ideas might not be as far-fetched as he’d convinced himself for so long. He wishes he could see Spencer right now, but he knows he’s probably panicking quietly in the corner, and he was told to save his questions for the end. He’ll play on his terms, especially since it was Spencer who’d had the bravery to do this in the first place.
My biggest fear in writing this letter, though, may not be that you simply won't return my affections, but that you're still in love with Haley. I could never seek to replace her, but I know how deeply you loved her and how painful the wounds of your grief still are. I hope you know, Aaron, that if you do love me back, I'm not jealous of Haley. Not at all. I respect her and I respect your grief.
He can’t help the stab of pain in his gut at the mention of Haley. He’d loved her so deeply and he knew the team was acutely aware of that, Spencer probably more than anybody else if this letter was anything to go by. It strikes him then, just how kind Spencer is. He’s always known it on some level, of course, but the selfless compassion and love for the people around him is so overwhelming when he takes a moment to properly comprehend it. He could have glossed over his late wife in such a letter, but instead, he chose to promise Aaron that he could share his heart with Haley. He knows Spencer will keep such a promise.
I've tried for years to hide the way I feel, Aaron. I went on dates to try and get over you, I dodged you in the break room and bullpen to avoid conversing with you which only made my infatuation worse each time, I feigned plans to get out of family nights because seeing you in a casual setting is so cuttingly painful. I can't hide it anymore, though. I'd rather transfer out of the BAU than continue in this limbo of awkward pining. If you hate me, that's okay, I can deal with that. But there isn't much I don't know, and not knowing this? It's agonising.
Aaron’s stomach clenches again. He wishes they hadn’t been pining all these years so Spencer didn’t have to exist in the parallel of his own realm of wistful agony. The thought of him avoiding him in the break room with the empty ache of unrequited love filling his insides, believing he could never have him when Aaron had been doing the same thing is almost laughable: they were both so oblivious.
Seeing Spencer dressed in jeans and a t-shirt last year when Morgan had invited them all to one of his renovation projects had tortured him for weeks afterwards, and now he was being told that he’d done the same to him; Spencer had gone home after those gatherings and thought about him casual and relaxed, unbuttoned polo shirts and all. It’s almost unbearable.
It’s reassuring, though, to know Spencer is as committed to this hypothetical as he is. Aaron would leave the BAU, too, if it came to it. If it meant he got to come home to Spencer and cuddle him on the sofa with history documentaries playing on the TV that Spencer was subconsciously memorising and would repeat the next time it was even slightly relevant in conversation. If it meant he could smile knowingly, and wrap an arm around his oblivious boyfriend’s waist, proving to the world that Spencer was his, just like he asked.
The only way to end this letter is with hope. Any answer you give me I will respect, but I am holding out hope that you will say all this back to me, that you will write your own love letter or profess your own love. That you have similar fantasies and daydreams about me, that you've thought of all these things, too. Thank you for reading this all the way through, Aaron. All that's left to say are five simple words:
I'm in love with you.
Aaron reads the letter over once more before folding it carefully and placing it back in the envelope. He’s completely floored, to be honest. The last thing he expected after a fairly straight-forward case in Seattle was a love confession from the man he’d been in love with since before Haley even passed away, but he’s going to take it and run with it, consequences be damned.
The plane starts to descend and the rest of the team begin rousing from their naps or putting their books down as chatter starts to rise. “Right,” Aaron says, grabbing everyone’s attention, though Spencer keeps himself carefully tucked away in the corner. “We should have the next few days off though we are on standby, okay? Everyone get some rest, make sure you come back refreshed and ready to tackle the next case. Don’t forget your reports though, have them emailed to me or on my desk by Monday.” He gives everyone a tight smile before turning away as conversations resumed.
He knows Spencer is tormenting himself by analysing every cadence in his voice, trying to gauge his reaction and he longs to walk over to him and kiss his anxieties away, but he can’t. Spencer specifically asked him to wait until they landed, and he can’t reveal anything to the team so early, certainly not without discussing it first. Instead, he sits back in his seat, abandoning the paperwork in front of him in favour of fighting the fond, excited smile off his face and imagining his first kiss with Spencer, the anticipation making it so much more intense now that it’s actually real.
Time, as it always does, passes, however slowly. They eventually land and Aaron schools his face as the rest of the team pour out onto the tarmac. “Right everyone, I’ll see you in a few days but keep your phones on in case we get called up,” he calls once they’re all off the plane. As everyone starts to peel off to the garage or the office, he turns to Spencer, still keeping his face straight for the sake of others around them. “How about we go to my place and talk.”
“That sounds good,” Spencer says, small smile taking the edge off the anxiety on his face.
The car ride back to Aaron’s apartment is quiet. “I don’t need to pick Jack up until the morning, so it’s just us tonight,” he explains, and Spencer is relieved to see his face soften significantly now they’re alone. He allows a dash of hope to flare in his chest before forcing himself to temper his expectations. You don’t know anything yet. He could be letting you down easy, this could be a pity thing. His fingers drum anxiously against his thigh as Aaron drives, eyes focused straight on the road, his face still unreadable. God, does he have to be so sexy when he drives?
Just like the time on the plane, though, the time in the car eventually passes, the tension thick between them by the time Aaron pulls into his apartment complex. He smiles gently at Spencer as he takes the key out of the ignition. “Shall we head up?” he asks, and Spencer’s floored at what he sees in his face: he’s wearing the expression he only pulls when he looks at Jack or the team as a whole on a relaxed evening out. To see it directed at him exclusively is a kind of intensity he isn’t prepared for and it bowls him over for a second.
“Yeah,” Spencer laughs breathily. “Sorry, yeah. Let’s go up.”
The apartment door closing behind them sounds way too loud to Spencer and, sick of the tension, he decides to try and clear the air. “Look, Aaron, Hotch, can you just tell me--”
He’s cut off by Aaron’s lips pressing firmly against his own, a hand coming to rest on his waist while another grips his face gently. It takes him a second to catch up before he’s kissing back, overwhelmed by the feeling of Aaron’s hands on his body, the very hands he’s admired for years, the hands he’s fantasised about, the hands that make him feel things. He reaches up to place his own on Aaron’s chest, feeling the broadness there, the strength in the body against his making him weak at the knees.
Aaron pulls away eventually. “God, you have no idea how long I’ve wanted to do that,” he says, voice as breathless as Spencer feels.
“Me too,” he replies, chest heaving as he catches his breath. “Maybe… maybe we should do it again.” He smiles shyly at Aaron before leaning in again, this time gasping a little as Aaron pushes him back against the door for leverage, tracing his hand up and down Spencer’s sides, making him tremble in his grip.
“God, Spencer, you’re so damn breathtaking,” Aaron says in between fervent kisses. “Literally.” They both giggle into each others’ mouths at that, relief filling both of them up to the brim as the knowledge that finally, finally, their pining is over sets in. This could be it, they could build something real.
“Aaron,” Spencer moans, trembling more as Aaron presses himself closer, right hand moving to grip the back of his neck gently, holding him firmly against his body. It overwhelms Spencer a bit, feeling completely surrounded by a man who was so unattainable for so long, by the person he’s been in love with for years.
It was completely involuntary, but it makes Aaron pull away, resting his forehead against Spencer’s as they both breathe deeply. “We should talk,” he says softly, pressing a final chaste kiss to Spencer’s lips before pulling back completely and taking his hand, leading him to the sofa.
“Could I have a blanket or something?” Spencer asks shyly, looking sheepish. “I’m a bit chilly.”
He sees realisation dawn on Aaron’s face along with a little bit of guilt. “Of course, Spencer,” he says. “Sorry this is so backwards. Do you want anything else? Something to eat or drink?”
“No, I’m fine,” Spencer says lightly. “Let’s talk and then we could order some dinner?”
“Sounds perfect,” he smiles, reaching over into a cupboard and bringing out a thick, fluffy blanket. He drapes it over Spencer and makes sure he’s completely comfortable before sitting down opposite him on the sofa himself. “So. Your letter.”
Spencer ducks his head, a light flush tinting his cheeks. “Yeah, I guess I didn’t know how else to say it?” he says, a question colouring his voice.
“No, I’m not criticising you,” Aaron rushes to clarify. “It’s possibly the most romantic, beautiful thing anyone’s ever done for me, and the truth is, Spencer, I’m in love with you, too.”
Spencer’s head darts up, wide, earnest eyes meeting Aaron’s serious gaze. “You are?” he asks, voice filled with the surprised sort of wonderment that always betrays him whenever any sort of love or affection is revealed to him.
“I am,” Hotch chuckles fondly. “Very much so. I’ve loved you since before Haley passed, to be honest. I’ve done all the things you wrote in your letter, too; I want all the same things you do.”
Spencer’s blush darkens a bit at that, remembering… certain parts… of his letter that he hopes Aaron includes in that statement. “All of it?” His voice is a little squeaky, almost cracking as he clears his throat at the awkwardness.
“Yeah,” Aaron grins cheekily, loving that he can appreciate the blush on Spencer’s cheeks openly now. There’s no more room for hiding. “All of it.”
Spencer clears his throat again. “So, is this what you want? Me? A relationship?” he asks, still a little uncertain, not quite secure in the fact that Aaron won’t back off and say this was an experiment, he’s not really committed in the same way Spencer is.
“Wild horses couldn’t keep me away,” Aaron says earnestly. “I want you. I want everything that comes with you, I want the highs and lows of a relationship, I want commitment, I want fun, I want seriousness. Spencer, will you be my boyfriend?”
Spencer’s brain short circuits for a second before he looks up with the widest smile, one usually reserved for Henry, the kind that reveals unadulterated, unconditional love. “Yes,” he whispers as he launches himself across the sofa and into Aaron’s arms, resting his head on his chest as he revels in the comfort of that exact moment. Finally, though, the extreme emotions of the evening catch up with him and he can’t quite fight them off anymore, maybe his brain is finally convinced that he doesn’t have to, that he’s safe here. Whatever the reason, he can’t help the tears that start to leak from his eyes or the sobs that softly wrack his shoulders.
“Spencer,” Aaron whispers back, voice dripping in concern. “Spencer, what’s wrong?”
“It’s just… it happened,” he tries to explain through his snivelling. “What I hoped for… at the end of my letter. I wrote ‘I am holding out hope that you will say all this back to me, that you will write your own love letter or profess your own love. That you have similar fantasies and daydreams about me, that you've thought of all these things, too.’ And you did. You do.”
“Yeah,” Aaron says, struck with awe, too. “It’s pretty overwhelming for me, too.”
They lie like that for a while longer, finding comfort in one another’s arms, the weight of Spencer weighing Aaron down in a way that feels like security and Aaron’s arms wrapping around him in a way that gives him all the comfort and protection he craves.
Eventually, Spencer picks his head up and meets Aaron’s tired eyes. It had been a long case and an emotionally exhausting evening, and it was nearing midnight. “Shall I order some pizza?” he asks, playing with the tie Aaron was still wearing, slightly loosened but still sexy enough for Spencer to very much appreciate.
“Please,” he says, leaning forward to press a kiss to Spencer’s lips. “I can’t believe I just get to do that now.”
Spencer hums in content. “Well, by all means, Mr Hotchner, do it again,” he says in a sultry tone.
Aaron groans. “You’d better not talk like that, Spencer, or we’ll never get our pizza.”
“Sorry, sorry,” he chuckles. “You get us some drinks and get the telly set up. I’ll be right back.”
Aaron closes the curtains, turns off the overhead light and turns on some lamps and lights some candles. Spencer raises an eyebrow at that and he puts his hands up defensively. “What? They’re cosy!” Spencer giggles at that, kissing him again.
“Can we put the history channel on?” Spencer asks while Aaron turns the TV on and fiddles with the volume.
“Wouldn’t expect anything less, sweetheart.” Spencer ducks his head and blushes, insides warming and tingling at the affection. He’s still not entirely sure this isn’t a dream. Aaron, unfortunately, doesn’t miss it. “Aw, are you blushing? Do you like that, you like it when I call you sweetheart?” he teases, smiling warmly at Spencer, clearly relishing in the deep red colour of his face. “Or is it just any pet name? You like it when I call you pretty names, baby?”
Spencer nearly outright moans at that but manages to stifle it, not that it makes much of a difference in Aaron’s delighted expression. “Stop, Aaron,” he whines in a manner that conveys he would very much not like Aaron to stop.
“God, baby, you are too much to handle,” he groans, leaning across the sofa to pull Spencer away from his perch against the corner and into his chest. They lay quietly like that for a few minutes while the history channel plays a documentary about the Battle of Trafalgar, breathing deep and slow as they appreciate this little slice of serenity while they wait for their dinner to arrive.
Once their pizza boxes are empty and they’ve finally had something to eat, Aaron turns to Spencer who’s meticulously wiping the pizza grease on his fingers away with a napkin, making him smile fondly. “Hey, Spence?” he asks, grabbing the attention of the younger man. “I wanted to talk to you about something you wrote in your letter.”
Spencer looks a little bit like a rabbit caught in the headlights, hesitant as to what Aaron is about to say. What if he was mortally offended by something, or he didn’t like something I wrote? Was I too forward?
“First of all, I’ll always love Haley, but in a distant, wistful kind of way that I can’t quite explain. She’s been gone for a while now and I’ve moved on,” he explains, and Spencer’s flush returns. It’s one thing to write the letter, hell, it’s one thing to hand it to Aaron, but it’s another thing entirely to discuss the ins and outs of his heart in such graphic detail. “I fell in love with you very slowly, but I’d realised it around four months before Haley died. I’ll grant you that in the following year I didn’t really have much time or emotional capacity to dwell on it but it was always there in the back of my mind, and it’s only intensified over the last two years.”
“Really?” The flush is still firmly rooted to Spencer’s face, but his eyes are wide now, staring into Aaron’s with an earnest sort of intensity. “I had no idea.”
“Well I had no idea that you wanted everything I did, either,” Aaron chuckles. “Instead we’ve just been existing in a state of perpetual mutual pining and if you hadn’t had the bravery to do what you did, maybe we never would have known.”
“It was rather brave,” Spencer smiles, joking a bit, but they both know it’s the truth. “I’ve been in love with you since the Tobias Hankel situation. After you understood me and knew how to find me, how you saved my life. It spiralled from there and no effort to try and get over you has succeeded.”
“Mmm you mentioned,” Aaron hums. “I must say, I’m a bit jealous of these other dates you speak of.”
“Well you shouldn’t be,” Spencer says. “They didn’t hold a candle to you, and the few that made it past the first couple of dates knew that all too well.”
Aaron chuckles lightly at that before they settle into a comfortable silence, the TV still playing the background. “Do you want to stay here tonight?” he asks, voice low and a bit unsure. “No funny business, I just… don’t want to let you go yet.”
“Me neither,” Spencer says honestly. “Of course I’ll stay.” He can hear his voice still sounds a little squeaky, still vulnerable in this new situation.
Aaron smiles back and turns the lights and TV off, blowing out the candles before offering a hand to Spencer as they make their way to his room.
“Oh,” Spencer says, stopping in his tracks as soon as they step into Aaron’s bedroom. “I left my go bag in the car.”
“I’m sure we can find a solution to that,” Aaron smirks, pushing the bedroom door closed with his left hand and crowding him up against it with his right, diving for his neck. Spencer moans high in his throat, pressing forward further into Aaron’s hold. “You can wear one of my shirts. God, I’ve fantasised about you in my clothes for years, baby.”
“So… so possessive,” Spencer teases through Aaron’s kisses.
“Yeah, you love it.”
“I do. I love you.”
That gets Aaron to pull away, looking deep into Spencer’s eyes, awe filling his gaze. “I love you, too. Fuck it feels so good to hear that, to finally say that.”
“I know.” Spencer’s blushing slightly, the forwardness of his remark embarrassing him slightly.
“Come on,” Aaron says, pressing one final kiss to Spencer’s lips. “Let’s get ready for bed. I’ll find you a top and I know I have a spare toothbrush around here somewhere…”
Spencer smiles, sitting on the bed as he watches Aaron bustle around the room, finding the stuff he needs for the night. This could be it, he thinks. This could be my life now. Domesticity had never much appealed to Spencer, but sitting there now as Aaron chatters away about the visit to the shopping centre that has resulted in buying the top he tosses Spencer’s way, he knows he was right to change his mind. He was right to crave this, to crave pancakes for dinner and new TV shows and lazy mornings.
And when they’re finally cuddled up in bed, warm under the covers and safe in one another’s arms, he knows he was right to share that craving with Aaron.