Aaron stood at the window and looked out at the clear night sky wondering if his invitation would be received and if the person would accept it. The letters and emails had begun two years after entering Witsec. After finding out that Lewis was dead and things were calming down. Aaron had hated how he had left, not being able to tell anyone, having to keep certain things to himself as the Marshalls helped him and Jack move all of their belongings and disappearing into the system. They weren’t given a lot of time to plan, and Aaron wanted to get his son away from the latest psychopath that had targeted him.
Aaron had heard about Spencer being in jail after the fact. It was kept from him and for a good reason. Aaron would have come out of hiding and done everything he could to get Spencer free exposing himself and his son to Lewis and his fixation on Aaron.
Guilt and shame had Aaron staying away, plus Jack had actually begun to like the school he was going to as well as his new friends. Aaron didn’t want to take yet another thing away from him. So, the decision to stay, even after Lewis’ demise became public knowledge, was made between Aaron and Jack.
The first letter had come, and it made Aaron ache in a way he hadn’t in a long time. Aaron had wanted to bring Spencer with them, but the Marshalls wouldn’t let him. They weren’t married, and there wasn’t time to talk to Spencer about what was happening. Aaron wrote back, and after that, the letters between them were fairly regular. Then the emails. Phone calls had yet to happen, Aaron wasn’t sure what he wanted to say, but he knew he wanted to see Spencer face to face to tell him everything that he had a hard time expressing in their correspondence. Some things just needed to be said in person.
Five years. Five years since Lewis began to terrorize Aaron and threaten Jack. Aaron knew he was free, but he had been hesitant. Now, it was Christmas and Aaron had invited Spencer to spend it with him and Jack in the small town just outside of Portland Oregon. Snow had fallen, the neighborhood was decorated, parties had been attended, but through it, all Aaron felt that missing something that only Spencer could fill.
“Is he coming, Dad?” Jack was as much of a bundle of nerves on the outside, as Aaron was on the inside.
“I’m not sure, Buddy. I haven’t heard back, but you know he might already have plans.”
“I know. I just miss Spencer so much.” Jack sighed before walking over to the couch and slumping down, the latest book in a favorite series opened on his lap. Spencer had sent it along with some other gifts for Jack. The two had exchanged their own letters, and it helped to soothe the rift that had started between Aaron and Jack a few months into their relocation. Counseling and the new friends Jack had made had also helped. Aaron had thought he was losing his son, but with hard work and time, they worked things out.
Now, the anticipation and hope that Spencer would come for Christmas hung in the air. Aaron went to the kitchen and began to make something for the party that he was invited to attend the next day.
Aaron had made his own friends. Some parents at Jack’s school, some from his job working as a grant writer at the small private college just a town over. He had fallen into the job when he went to interview for a teaching position. The Criminal Justice program had needed someone with Aaron’s type of knowledge. The position fell through because of funding, but Aaron had told the administration that he had handled budgets and knew how to fight for what was needed. They struck a deal. If Aaron could get the schools budget under control, then the program would start up again, and he would be transitioned to a teaching position. Aaron agreed, and he found the work at least satisfying.
The town was small, and the party was going to be held at the community center, Aaron was looking forward to it.
Aaron had turned on the radio and chose a station that was playing Christmas music non-stop. The sounds washed over him as he got lost in cooking and trying not to think of Spencer and the invitation that had gone unanswered as of yet.
Several hours later, Jack was in bed, and Aaron was ensconced on the large reading chair by the fireplace with some warmed eggnog in a cup in one hand, and a book on his lap. The two cats he and Jack had adopted were both curled around Aaron’s legs, while their little terrier dog was curled on the rug by the fire. Aaron chuckled to himself that it was a scene right out of a Rockwell painting.
The knock on the door startled him and Socks, the black and white cat Jack had named. Lady and Patches both just looked up then went back to sleep by the cozy fire. Aaron set the cup down and walked over towards the front door wondering who could be coming over at this time of night.
When Aaron opened the door, his heart began to pound hard in his chest. Right there in front of him was the man that he had been pining over for far too long.
“Spencer...” Aaron was almost breathless as his eyes filled with moisture. “You came.”
“Of course I came. Didn’t you get my letter?” Spencer’s smile was the best thing Aaron had seen in a long time. Not hesitating, Aaron took his hand and pulled Spencer inside and wrapped him up in a hug. Spencer wrapped his arms around Aaron and buried his face against Aaron’s neck.
The two men just held each other for a few moments then Aaron finally broke the hold.
“No. I didn’t. But, you’re here.”
Spencer smiled again and laid a hand on Aaron’s cheek.
“Nothing could keep me away.”
Aaron knew there was a lot they needed to talk about, but the fact that he was there meant more than Aaron could ever express in words.
“Are you hungry? Do you want something to drink? Here, let me take your things...”
Spencer laughed and laid a hand on Aaron’s arm.
“Slow down, Aaron. There is no rush. I’m not going to disappear, I promise.”
“Don’t be. I feel the same.”
“Do you? The way I left- I never apologized for that. I thought I should do that face-to-face.”
“You don’t have to apologize for protecting your son, Aaron. Even though it hurt how you left suddenly, I got it. But, let’s put that behind us.”
“I wasn’t there for you, Spencer. I should have been.”
“And what would you have done? Exposed yourself and Jack? Everything worked out.”
Spencer laid a finger on Aaron’s lips stopping him from saying more.
“I got through it. I went through counseling, and I got through it. I’ll admit I still have some PTSD, and probably always will, but it’s not nearly as bad as it was. I know we should talk, but not tonight. Tonight I just want to be with you, Aaron. And, food and something hot sounds perfect.”
Aaron sighed as he touched Spencer’s cheek for a moment, then showed him into the living room.
“Get comfortable. The white fluffball is Lady, the tabby over there is Patches and somewhere around her is Socks. He’ll come out when he knows there is no threat.”
“Sounds like you have a bit of a handful.”
Aaron was too full of emotion as he turned and went back to the kitchen to fix something for Spencer. His heart was still beating hard at the knowledge that the man he always loved was there for Christmas. Aaron had been anticipating their reunion, and now that it was here, he was nervous, but happy as well.
He took a plate of food and some hot tea out to the living room where Spencer had curled up on the couch with the quilt that usually was thrown over the back tucked around him. Patches were tucked next to his stomach and Socks had come out of hiding and was on Spencer’s hip. Aaron’s heart hitched a little as he walked over and brushed Spencer’s hair from where it had fallen over his eyes. When Spencer didn’t wake, Aaron just left the food and went to his bedroom to get ready for bed, if Spencer crashed it meant he had not slept for sometime and Aaron wasn’t going to disturb him.
Aaron crawled into bed and felt a happiness he had not felt in far too long. Spencer was there, and no matter what happened, he knew he at least had his friend back if nothing else happened, but Aaron was fairly confident that this Christmas was going to be one to remember.
Aaron heard muffled voices as he slowly woke. He was warm and comfortable, but the knowledge that Spencer had shown up the night before had Aaron getting out of bed and pulling his robe around him after quickly going through his morning routine. Walking out of his bedroom he looked to see Jack cuddled next to Spencer, the two of them had their heads together and were talking. It was a scene that was so familiar it made Aaron lean in the doorway to settle what he was feeling.
Jack noticed him a few moments later and jumped up off the couch.
“He came, Dad!”
Aaron laughed as he ruffled Jack’s hair.
“Yes he did, Buddy. Now, how about I make some waffles for breakfast.”
“Are you going to do your special waffles?” Jack’s eyes lit up as he bounced on his feet.
“Of course. I’m sure Spencer hasn’t had them in a long time.”
“Awesome! I’m gonna get dressed. I can’t wait for the festival.” Jack turned around and smiled as he bounced over to Spencer. “You’ll come to, won’t you? It’s the best thing ever!”
Aaron laughed at Jack’s enthusiasm as he waited for Spencer’s reply.
“I don’t know what that is, but if it’s with you two, of course, I’ll come.”
“Yay!” Jack bounded out of the room and went to his own room leaving Spencer and Aaron alone.
“It’s a town tradition. Christmas Eve has this big festival with food, games, crafts fair, a Christmas themed maze. It ends with a big party at the community center around 9. It’s pretty fun. We bundle up and get hot chocolate and just enjoy being out with everyone.”
“Sounds like fun.”
Aaron walked over and took Spencer’s hands and pulled him up to his feet.
“A part of me really wants to kiss you right now, but I am going to make us both wait. I think we need to take the time just to be with each other, to remember what that was like. I want to make you anticipate it, to know for sure this is really what you want because I don’t just want you here for Christmas, Spencer.
“I don’t know what you want, and we can discuss it more. But, you have to know I am not going to take Jack away from here until he’s gone to college. We’ve got a good life here. Different, but good. I know it’s asking a lot and I’ll give you as much time as you need.”
Aaron did lean in and place a quick kiss on Spencer’s temple, then he went to the kitchen to make breakfast. He knew he had given Spencer a lot to think about.
Breakfast was good, the three of them easily fell back into old routines. Conversation flowed like the last five years were not sitting between them. Jack was happy to have Spencer back in their lives. Aaron was just happy Spencer was there, and they were beginning to talk.
After they all dressed and bundled into warm coats, boots, gloves, and hats, the three of them piled into Aaron’s car, and they made their way to the festival.
Jack took off as soon as they got there. He wanted to go to the craft tent and be with his friends making fun things the organizers had planned out.
“He’ll be busy for quite a while. The crafts are one of his favorite things.”
Aaron took Spencer’s hand, the warm from the gloves shared between them.
“This is beautiful. Nothing like back in DC. Except for the frozen ponds you kept insisting we go skating on.”
“You actually got pretty good after a while.” Aaron smiled as he pulled Spencer closer and wrapped an arm around him.
“It’s alright, Spencer. The town has a few LGBTQ families. There are a few bigots, but that shouldn’t surprise you.”
“No. If you’re sure...”
Aaron turned towards Spencer and smiled. There was nothing he was more sure of than right at this moment.
“I’m very sure, Spencer.”
Aaron watched Spencer’s face so full of emotion that a part of him wanted to whisk them away back to the house and take Spencer to bed. Show him with his body what he was feeling, but that could wait. Aaron would wait forever if he had to.
“I think someone said something about Hot Chocolate?”
Aaron laughed and steered Spencer towards the booth. The festival had a unique way for everyone to pay. When you purchased tickets, you also bought preloaded debit cards in whatever amount you wanted. That way vendors got paid right away, and festival goers didn’t have to worry about carrying lots of cash. Each booth had a debit machine loaned to them by the festival, and everyone would get settled up the day after Christmas. Plus, parents could give their kids one, and they didn’t have to worry about giving them enough cash. It worked and made the festival easier and a lot more fun.
“Aaron, I’m glad you could make it out with us. I take it Jack is in the craft tent?”
“Winston. Yes, he went there first thing.” Aaron looked at Spencer for a second before introducing him to Aaron’s friend. “Winston, this is Spencer.”
“Nice to finally meet the man Aaron told us a lot about.”
Spencer looked like he had a lot of questions.
“I told them my real name about two years ago. Both Jack and I came clean, and it was all less dramatic than I thought it would be.
“Winston runs the diner that Jack and I like to have breakfast at during the weekends.”
“Hm...” Spencer lifted a brow as he looked between the two men.
“Yes, before you ask we dated, but as you can tell, it didn’t work out.”
“Aaron was and is still very much in love with you, Spencer. We had a pleasant few months, that was all.”
“What? I’m not going to be shy about our past for your dignity, Aaron. You should be used to it.”
Aaron laughed as he was handed a cup of hot chocolate, then Spencer had one a moment later.
“Get used to the gossip squad, though.”
Winston tilted his head to the left where a small group of ladies was eyeing Aaron and Spencer.
“I think I can handle it, Win.”
“Good, now go have fun, I’ve got a booth to run.”
Aaron sipped his drink and let out a long, happy sigh. Spencer took a sip of his, and his eyes lit up at the taste.
“This is delicious. Not too sweet.”
“He uses high-quality chocolate and adds in some spices and an eggnog cream.”
“I could get addicted to this.” Spencer smiled, and Aaron felt that little flip in his heart.
“So could I.” Aaron watched Spencer’s face. His expressions were always something Aaron loved. Spencer knew Aaron wasn’t talking about the hot chocolate. Spencer laid his head on Aaron’s shoulder, and the two of them walked around, played games, laughed together as Aaron won a huge dragon for Spencer at the shooting range. The person running the booth even groaned as Aaron walked up knowing what was going to happen. They all laughed as Spencer, with the goofiest grin on his face walked around with the dragon that had an elf hat sewn on its head.
Jack joined them for sandwiches after Spencer put the dragon in the car. All day Aaron picked up little gifts here and there and gave them to Spencer.
“You don’t have to keep giving me gifts, Aaron.”
“Let me, Spencer. Please?”
“Fine. I think I need to rest before we go to the party tonight.”
“Sounds good to me. Are you having fun?”
“Best day ever, Aaron.”
The party was in full swing by the time Aaron and Spencer had arrived. Jack’s babysitter was a little late. She apologized as he set her school books on the table. Trina was a college student where Aaron worked and supplemented her scholarships with babysitting, tutoring and other small jobs. She was the first person since Jessica that Jack got along with really well. Aaron was just glad she was there and had not really worried about the time.
Walking into the community center, Aaron could tell the town council had gone all out. Sparkling fairy lights were strung everywhere, fake snow covered the floor, icicles hung from the ceiling and four tall Christmas trees fully decked out were in the four corners. Colored lights blinked on and off giving the room a festive feeling.
Music played which was a mix of winter-themed songs, Christmas songs, and regular big band and jazz.
“Would you do me the honor of dancing with me?” Aaron had Spencer close to him after he dropped off his food for the buffet table. The two men mingled, Aaron, introducing Spencer to friends he had made over the time he had been living there.
“Okay,” Spencer sounded a little breathless with anticipation. After shedding coats and gloves at the coat check area, Aaron pulled Spencer to the middle of the dance floor where other couples were close together and swaying with the music.
Aaron wrapped around Spencer, the two of them swayed together to I’ll Be Home for Christmas, Aaron softly sang under his breath in Spencer’s ear. The familiarity of it, of how they used to be had Aaron holding on when the emotions became too much.
“Hey, I’m right here. I promise, I’m not going anywhere, Aaron.” Spencer whispered against Aaron’s cheek, lips grazing just enough to peak both of the interests.
“So much I want to say. So much I haven’t said in a letter because it felt so impersonal. Win was right. I’m still in love with you Spencer, but I am realistic that we’ve both changed over the years. I know what I want, but I know we have a lot to talk about, to work through.”
“We’ll get there, Aaron. I promise. Let’s just enjoy the here and now.”
Aaron pulled back and continued to dance with Spencer.
After a few songs, they began to mingle again, Spencer got into the spirit and found a couple of people that had some of the same interests as him. Aaron left him to his conversation as he plated up some of the food from the table.
“That is a good look on you, Hotch.”
Aaron turned to see a woman named Malia. A friend of Jack’s mother. She had shown a lot of interest in Aaron when he first came, but he had not wanted to get involved at that time.
“You have not stopped smiling the whole evening, and I think it’s the man you came in with. Is that the infamous Spencer I keep hearing about from Jack?”
Aaron looked over and saw Spencer in a debate. His hands were flying, those long fingers constantly moving, a slight frown, but an upturned mouth. It was a look Aaron had seen a thousand times but missed more than he would admit.
“Yes. He is.”
“I can now see why all my attempts at seduction failed.” Malia teased, the smile on her face genuine.
“I’ve missed him more than I ever realized.”
“I think we are just all glad to see you happy, Aaron. I hope you both have fun tonight.”
Aaron couldn’t say what it was about the town he lived in or the people he had gotten to know, but there was a peace here he had not found elsewhere, even back home in Virginia. The friends he made were genuine, and some friendships ran deeper than he had ever experienced. His bonds with his BAU family were different. They had been forged in blood and death. They would always be precious to him, but it was a life he wasn’t sure he could go back to. Not now, when he had found so much more.
“Thank you, Malia.”
“Go back to your man, and have a Merry Christmas.”
Aaron took the plates of food he had made up and handed one to Spencer.
“Thank you, Aaron.” That smile once more made Aaron’s heart clench. “As I was saying....” And there it was, a Reid Ramble. Aaron didn’t stop smiling the whole time.
“I think I speak for us all when I say this has been a fantastic Christmas fest with good friends, good food, and these beautiful decorations all around. I am happy to report that the fest has brought in quite a bit of money for the various Children and Family charities that we are sponsoring this year. I won’t have an exact tally until later this week, and it will be published on our site. Remember, we still have the auction just before we close out this year’s Holiday Festivities.
“Now, we come to the live music portion of our evening. I think if we all put our hands together we can get Aaron Hotchner up here to sing us a few songs.” The town Mayor had gotten up on the stage to do his yearly spiel. Everyone in the crowd clapped, and Aaron blushed but made his way up onstage. Spencer’s jaw had dropped, and Aaron didn’t even try to stop the chuckle. He picked up his guitar and took a moment to settle on the stool.
“I’ll keep you warm in December, warm when the cold breezes blow. My arms so lovin’, a kind of oven, to melt the sleet and snow...” Aaron sang looking at Spencer the whole time. He followed that up with Bob Dylan’s Winterlude, Song’s for a Winter Night, and a few others. When he sang River from Joni Mitchell, Aaron couldn't look at Spencer. He didn’t want to jinx anything. His closing song was Little Drummer Boy. The applause were nice, but when he left the stage and took Spencer in his arms, the wonder and awe on his face meant so much more.
“Come on, let’s go home.”
Aaron knew what was going to happen, what both of them wanted to happen. Jack was staying at the fest for the sleepover for all the kids. Aaron didn’t worry, he knew Jack was in good hands. A bus would drop them all off at their respective homes in the morning for Christmas. Aaron and Spencer said goodbye to Jack, then Aaron steered Spencer to the car. Getting home was quick, getting to the bedroom, stumbling and rushing to get clothes off wasn’t so fast, but the anticipation of the day was thick in the air. Aaron had not touched Spencer in this way in too long, his body was shaking with his wants, he just hoped that it really was what Spencer wanted as well.
Almost as if by magic, the clock struck exactly at midnight when Aaron pulled a naked Spencer into his arms and finally kissed him for the first time that day. There was a deep hunger on both of their parts, and the kiss was almost primal as the years between once again melted away, and their bodies remembered what it was like to be with each other.
Aaron couldn’t speak, he let his hands and his mouth tell Spencer what he was feeling. Touching skin he had not felt in years, kissing scars he saw in his dreams at night, feeling feelings he had locked tightly away or else he would be crushed under the weight of them.
Once more, Aaron pressed his lips against Spencer’s letting him know how much he had been missed. The clash of teeth, the stroke of tongues as hands touched everywhere. Slowly the two were becoming one as they moved against each other, Aaron taking his time, drawing out the pleasure of once more being buried inside the man he loved.
The climax wasn’t earth-shattering, but when he came, he shuddered in Spencer’s arms that were wrapped tightly around him. There was something so profound in this simple, loving act that it made Aaron spill tears he had been holding back since Spencer had walked into his house the night before. Rolling off of Spencer, Aaron wrapped around him and held him tight just to remind himself that Spencer was there.
“Hey, I’m here. I’m right here, Aaron.”
“I know. I know Spencer. I don’t want you to ever leave. Not now that we’ve been reunited. I want you to stay, Spencer. That is my only Christmas wish.” Aaron knew it was foolish, but he knew if Spencer accepted his invitation he would do everything he could to let Spencer know that he was wanted.
“I know, I know. You have a life to go back to. I understand. But, do you think, could we try a relationship? I know it’s hard, but I don’t want to lose you again.”
“Oh...” Spencer was speechless which was rare for the man, and Aaron hoped he had not pushed too far too fast.
“I...” Aaron bit his lip before rolling Spencer onto his back and climbing on top of him. “I was hoping...” Aaron was finding it hard to find the words to say as he laid his forehead against Spencer’s. “I was hoping that you’d stay here. I know it’s foolish, I do, but...I love you, Spencer. I never stopped loving you, and I know I left a mess behind me when I left, and we have so much to talk about...”
“Shh, Aaron. I’ve been considering some life changes. I don’t think the BAU is the place for me anymore. If you’re sure, really sure, I think we can make this work. We did it once before, and I love you too.”
Aaron kissed Spencer again, this time it was slow, gentle and full of everything he was feeling. Sliding an arm under Spencer’s head and keeping a hand on Spencer’s hip, Aaron let the emotions of the moment bleed through. Holding Spencer once again in his arms was better than Aaron remembered. He had his Christmas wish, his forever was right there beside him, and Aaron wasn’t going to let this go a second time. They had another chance, and Aaron was going to make it the best life he knew how. Christmas just got better, as did love and hope for the future.