me the rest of the year bc 🥺
me the rest of the year bc 🥺
criminal minds writers seasons 2-4: you know what would be fun? giving everyone happy relationships and cute family moments. except for you, reid. you too, hotch 3
Criminal Minds: 05x06, The Eyes Have It
I’m just leaving this here so I don’t forget.
I’ve got a great idea for a fic based on Dancing with a wolf by All Time Low.
Nothing more to say, just hoping that I’ll actually write it.
We are so privileged to get to do this, to be on Broadway, to have a life in the theater, to distract, to tell the stories that represent the many and not the few, by the many and not the few, for the many and not the few. Because what we do changes people’s lives. It changes people’s minds. It changes people’s hearts. We can change the world with this, let’s not forget that.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AARON TVEIT! (OCTOBER 21, 1983)
added a swatch into this denim jacket and hoodie cc by Nucrests, and it's my hand-painted fanart? merch design? based on All Time Low's last two albums: Wake Up Sunshine and the official merch from Last Young Renegade. Honestly really proud of both digital and physical jackets. Made this for my self sim lol
i don't post on tiktok but if i did...
Hang My Head Low Ch. 5 (other chapters here)
Pairing: Hotch/Morgan (background Haley/Hotch)
Warnings: Infidelity, internalized homophobia
Notes: Set pre-canon at the moment, the whole premise is Hotch and Morgan having an affair. This piece is mostly Hotch and Morgan, with a cameo from Haley and Jess.
Two months later Aaron wasn’t sure if he regretted telling Derek to argue with him or not. It turned out that Derek had a lot of opinions, and Aaron’s choice of orange juice was just the tip of the iceberg. It worried him, at first. He and Haley didn’t disagree unless they were fighting. They’d barely fought at all through the first decade of their marriage, until Aaron joined the FBI. Now they fought over his job, the danger, the time away, and the fact Haley’s biological clock was ticking and Aaron didn’t want to have kids. When Aaron disagreed with his family it was a fight: Sean thought he was overbearing, his mother grew defensive and shut down, his father had … well. Aaron had tried hard to avoid the consequences of disagreeing with his dad.
But Derek had grown up sandwiched between two sisters, seemed to think that law school had been about arguing down the branches of a problem to its roots. Derek put his whole heart into his job and he threw himself into disagreements the same way, and at first Aaron thought they were fighting. He thought they were falling apart. It took him a few weeks to catch on, to realize that Derek expected the same things at home as he did at work: to state his opinion and be heard, for Aaron to do likewise, and then to debate it through until either the preponderance of evidence was on one side or until they grew bored.
It was liberating, once Aaron discovered that he wasn’t losing Derek after all. “Football’s not a real sport,” he announced on their morning run, fired the opening shot, and Derek’s eyes sparkled as he matched him in word and stride. “The professionalization of law elevates semantic victories over justice,” Derek announced over dinner, and Aaron set his fork down and grinned.
There were pros and cons, data and debates, mornings where Aaron woke up just to respond to something Derek had argued two nights before. And then - then there was the fight.
Aaron had been wrestling with the lawnmower engine while Derek re-roofed the shed and they’d been loudly debating a profile for the Vampire of Dusseldorf, probably one of the reasons Derek’s neighbors never stopped by to chat. Derek had said something about the bludgeoning that dismissed Aaron’s analysis wholesale and Aaron might have demeaned Derek’s skills as a profiler and then somehow they were shouting at each other and he was accusing Derek of lying by omission every time he woke them both up with nightmares he wouldn’t share, while Derek shouted, “Oh yeah? At least I’m not chea-”
He snapped his jaw shut, but it resounded through the yard nonetheless, At least I’m not cheating on my wife, reverberated over the uncut grass and onto the porch. The discordant echo of Derek’s unsaid words almost drowned out the sound of his fist slamming into the roof of the shed.
“I need some air,” Derek growled, climbing down from the shed and storming inside, his hands still curled into fists. Aaron hid his flinch and didn’t point out that there was plenty of air outside.
He had known this would happen. He had always known that one day Derek would see Aaron for who he truly was, and walk away.
He set the wrench down and unfolded himself from the lawnmower, each movement slow and deliberate. He picked up the rag to wipe his hands. He squeezed it until his hands stopped trembling, tried to swallow down the roiling in his gut. He took the ten steps to the porch stairs, gripped the rail that he’d scraped and sanded and stained, and lifted one foot at a time to march into the house.
He focused on the stairs, on the screen door that he’d built, Derek standing behind him, his arms wrapped around Aaron’s to show him how to fit it to the frame. He wrapped his fingers around the polished doorknob that had come off in Derek’s hand when he’d first moved in, trapping them both outside. There was just the porch and the doors and the house and the sound of his shoes on the floors for the last time.
He had traversed the length of the living room, lifted his hand and pressed his fingertips to his keys, when Derek appeared in the kitchen doorway holding a glass of water.
“You’re leaving?” he asked flatly, gazing at the keys in Aaron’s hand.
Aaron was good enough at his job to comprehend that Derek was unhappy with that option, but he couldn’t formulate a good alternative. They’d fought. Derek was angry. Still angry, based on the tic in his jaw and the fingers pressed hard against the water glass. The last time he and Sean had fought, Sean had taken a swing at him, and they hadn’t spoken since.
His attempt to read the right answer from Derek’s expression was apparently less fruitful than Derek’s corresponding profile on him, if the long-suffering sigh Derek heaved was any indication. Derek was either a better profiler or a better actor than Aaron could ever hope to become.
Derek rubbed a hand over his head and down his neck, examined Aaron like he might slice down to his bones, eviscerate him and tenderly examine every raw, bloody piece that Aaron wanted to hide. Then he exhaled and closed his eyes.
“You know the best part about fighting?” he asked, and Aaron watched Derek’s whole demeanor transform; he straightened, rolled the tension from his shoulders and arms, and tilted his head to each side to crack his neck. “Makeup sex,” he declared without waiting on Aaron’s answer, waggled his eyebrows and prowled across the room.
“What?” Aaron stuttered, dumbfounded at the sudden change, and some of Derek’s cheerful disposition bled away when Aaron didn’t play along.
“Look,” Derek said plainly, setting his water down on the coffee table. “We only have so many options here. Either we talk everything out or we drop it and have sex. Now do you want to discuss why I’m angry and you’ve shut down, or do you want to take me to bed?”
There was a third option Derek hadn’t mentioned: Aaron still had the keys in his hand, could force himself out the door and into his car if Derek wanted him gone. He dropped his hand quickly, hoping Derek wouldn’t notice the keys and revise his plans.
“Well, when you put it that way,” he said drily, reached out and tangled Derek’s fingers with his. “I suppose I’ll take you to bed.”
Derek didn’t offer any complaints. He kissed Aaron softly, after, and Aaron dragged his fingers down Derek’s chest and thought that he’d managed to buy himself just a little more time. That this, at least, wouldn’t be the day that Derek came to his senses and walked away.
Two weeks after that Aaron was spending the day at his own house. He’d completed Haley’s entire list of chores, run to the grocery store three times because her sister was coming for dinner, and otherwise agreed to pretty much everything Haley said. It didn’t make him any less of a scumbag, as Derek had aptly characterized their last unsub, but it still assuaged a tiny percentage of his guilt when Haley smiled.
Then Jess arrived. Aaron had assumed that would let him off the hook for the evening. He would be content to sit and exchange glib remarks with his sister-in-law while she and his wife carried on a conversation only they could understand. Instead, things grew exponentially worse.
“Aaron and I are going to start trying for a baby,” Haley announced over meatloaf, and Aaron choked on his wine.
“... That’s great?” Jess smiled hesitantly at her sister, but kept glancing to her side at Aaron as if he were a bomb with no kill switch.
“No,” he coughed, hoarse but vehement, “we’re not.” They’d discussed it again, and again, and every time it ended with Haley in tears and Aaron monosyllabic but resolute. He had been a child, once, and he wouldn’t wish the experience on anyone else.
“Aaron,” Haley hissed, her smile brittle, “Jess is right here.”
He wiped his mouth with his napkin and set it down beside his plate. “And you thought that I’d surrender the issue to avoid arguing in front of you sister?” he responded, low and even, what Haley disparagingly referred to as his prosecutor’s voice. “That we’d bring a child into this world just to avoid a fight?”
“I’ll go get more napkins,” Jess murmured, but Haley caught her hand before she could escape.
“Stay,” she insisted. “Maybe you can explain the risks involved in my pregnancy if we wait another year or two.”
Jess looked like she’d prefer to interrogate a serial killer rather than do what her sister had suggested.
“I’m not trying to put you or a child through a high-risk pregnancy,” Aaron countered levelly. “I’m saying what I’ve been saying since the first time you brought it up: I don’t want to have kids.”
Haley started weeping, then, pressed her napkin to her face and fled the dinner table. Aaron put his elbows on the table and his head in his hands. “I’ll just …” Jess mumbled, and followed her sister up the stairs.
She came back down awhile later, must have seen Aaron through the window because she brought a glass when she came out on the porch. He poured her a few fingers and set the bottle between them, leaned his head back against his chair.
“She’s asleep,” Jess told him, and Aaron winced, rolled his own glass across his forehead to cool it, to feel the textured edges press into his skin. “Cried herself out. I gave her some water and put her to bed.”
“Thank you,” Aaron whispered, his voice thin, and even in the darkness she could see that his eyes were red. They sat in silence for a minute, then he cleared his throat and said: “Petey Burkham wanted to marry her, you know. He asked her to the junior prom. Maybe everything would be better if I hadn’t gotten in the way.”
Jess snorted. “Petey Burkham sells used cars and is on his third wife,” she informed him. “I hardly think you’re worse than that.”
“I guess not,” Aaron said, but it wasn’t true. He had promised to be faithful to Haley, promised to cherish her. He’d broken his vows; he lied to her, stolen good years of her life away, and now he was killing her hope for a child of her own. Maybe Jason was right about the divorce. He’d built his life with Haley from age sixteen, had never lived alone, had never even tried to imagine life without her by his side. Maybe, for her sake, for Derek’s sake—How had you pictured this ending, exactly?—it was time to start.
Jess sipped her whiskey. Opened her mouth. Closed it. Took another sip. Exhaled in frustration and opened her mouth again. “Haley says you’ve made a friend,” she finally said, peering at him through the dim glow from the windows. “Derek?” she prompted, narrowing her eyes, as if he might react to hearing Derek’s name.
An uneasy feeling skittered down Aaron’s spine, the same feeling he’d had when Derek stared through him after their fight.
“He works at the BAU,” Aaron said carefully, stepping cautiously through the woods to avoid the snares. “He’s a good guy.”
“Haley says you spend a lot of time with him,” Jess continued, caught Aaron’s gaze and held it in the dark.
“What are you saying, Jess?” he queried, his hand splayed flat on his thigh, waiting for her to accuse him of having an affair, wondering what he’d say when she did. Derek never said anything and Jason didn’t press the issue, but Jess would flay him alive and he would deserve every lash.
She bit her lip. “I’m saying … I’m saying you had that friend in high school, what was his name? James? Jim?”
“James Donovan,” Aaron supplied, baffled at the sudden turn down memory lane. “He was one room over from mine. He swam and played lacrosse. His favorite book was Catch-22.”
Jess nodded like Aaron had confirmed something besides the identity of a high school friend. “You see?” she pressed, but Aaron shook his head, bemused and still waiting for her to condemn him for the affair. “Aaron, you have these friends, these men. Have you ever thought that maybe it’s more - that maybe it’s not just … Have you ever wondered if -”
“Haley was in love with James?” Aaron suggested, trying to help Jess complete her thought, ending it the only way he could. Any other interpretations made his heart clench in his chest. He wasn’t like that. He wasn’t anything his father had said. “Or Derek?” he added, though that one seemed like more of a stretch, since they’d only interacted for the few days Derek had stayed at the house.
Jess exhaled loudly through her mouth and closed her eyes. “Not exactly,” she averred, and polished off her whiskey, held out her glass for more. A car drove by as Aaron was pouring, the rumble of its engine enough to drown out Jess’s quiet words.
“I wasn’t talking about Haley,” she whispered, but he could pretend not to hear her, let himself take a breath when it became clear she wouldn’t bring it up again.
Aaron jerked awake, blinked at the ceiling—lazily spinning fan, antique medallion, he was in Derek’s bed—and tried to discern why he wasn’t still asleep. He glanced at the clock. Two pm, but they’d flown overnight and left the office mid-morning to get some rest, and his alarm wasn’t set to go off until four. Then he turned his head the other way and realized what had woken him.
Derek didn’t struggle to escape his nightmares, didn’t kick or flail or accidentally punch Aaron in the face. He didn’t moan, or scream, or talk in his sleep. Instead, he went terrifyingly still, his muscles locked up like a corpse with rigor mortis, his breathing so shallow that Aaron had held his reading glasses to Derek’s face to make sure they fogged up and proved he was alive.
“Derek.” He didn’t shake Derek awake, didn’t try to gently jostle him out of the nightmare. He knew from experience that it rarely worked. He’d made the mistake once, exhausted and imprudent and eager to send them both spiraling into pleasanter dreams, and Derek had caught Aaron’s wrist and twisted and thankfully woken up before breaking Aaron’s arm. “Derek, it’s me, Aaron. Derek, you’re dreaming. Derek. Derek, wake up.”
“What? What?” Derek startled awake, hands clenched in the sheets. Aaron ran a hand through his own hair, reached over and turned on the lamp, anything to keep his fingers busy, rubbing them against the sheet where they itched to press comfort into Derek’s skin, curl around the nape of his neck and keep him safe. “Aaron?” he queried, squinting into the sudden light, all the curtains drawn to block out the afternoon sun. “What’s going on?”
“You were having a nightmare,” Aaron told him, propping himself up on his elbows, waiting. Derek scrubbed his hands over his face and grunted something unintelligible into his palms. “Do you want to -”
“It might help if you -”
“Hotch. Lay off, man, I don’t need a fucking shrink.”
“Don’t call me Hotch when we’re naked, please,” Aaron replied primly, and Derek huffed at Aaron’s civility, as he always did. And that was it, there. Derek couldn’t relive the nightmare and mock Aaron’s etiquette at the same time, and Aaron took the opening and hauled Derek close.
“We saved the boys and closed the case,” Aaron mumbled pensively, rubbing Derek’s tense shoulders, resting his chin on top of Derek’s head. It had been different, to have 200 pounds of muscle draped across him, a goatee rubbing the skin red on his chest. It had been different, at some point, but Aaron had long since adjusted to Derek’s shape in his arms. “You took DeFalco and Ford out for a beer before we caught the plane home. So was it the case, or something one of the greenhorns said?”
“Greenhorns?” Derek blew the word into Aaron’s chest. “Aaron, did you come here from 1925?”
“I’d look good in suspenders,” Aaron defended himself, but Derek had called him Aaron, so it was all right. “Are you going to avoid the question?”
“It’s just -”
“Derek, if you tell me it’s about the girl who died in Montana two years ago I will kick you out of bed.” Derek had a comeback ready, but they’d done this dance a dozen times or more, and Aaron pinched him until he caved. “I’m not ‘dismissing your pain’, but we both know you weren’t dreaming about Madison Harper.”
Aaron had memorized her file over a year ago, her life and her death, could recite the Montana strangler case back to front. When Derek dreamed about Madison Harper—and he did—he flexed his hands, trying to save her, thrashed his head as if he could escape the indictment in her unblinking eyes.
“You profiling me?” Derek mumbled, pushed his face into Aaron’s chest. “You know we have a deal.” The deal had originally been struck on a mattress in the unheated living room, both of them afraid to carry the bed up the rotting stairs: If we don’t profile each other, no one has to shiver to death on the couch. But Derek passed it along to all the new agents like it was law, as if Max Ryan had etched thou shalt not profile each other in stone.
“It’s not a profile when you keep waking me up,” Aaron told the top of Derek’s head, but his protest was faint. Aaron could shout “get down!” in the field and Derek would drop like a stone, no hesitation, but that was as far as his trust seemed to extend. He’d never admit to anything that Aaron couldn’t unearth on his own; and, if Aaron went digging into Derek’s nightmares, Derek would never speak to him again. “All right, hot shot,” he redirected, when Derek occupied himself drawing shapes around Aaron’s nipple and refused to say a word. “Why don’t you tell me a story? Pay me for my time?”
“Oh, you want payment, do you?” Derek drawled, rolled up onto his hands and lowered himself to hover over Aaron with an ease that made Aaron splay his fingers over Derek’s biceps and lick his lips. “Baby, I will rock your world.”
Aaron’s enormous yawn shattered the mood, set off Derek’s yawn, and sex sounded nice but was no match for almost two days without sleep. Derek collapsed beside him, stole part of the pillow and stuck his tongue in Aaron’s ear.
“Once upon a time,” Derek began, once Aaron had shoved him away and scrubbed the saliva from his ear. “There was a little boy who took big risks.”
“This better not be about DeFalco eating my lo mein,” Aaron grumbled, though it had been amusing to watch their newest agent panic and commandeer a squad car to rush back to Hsu’s Gourmet.
Derek grinned, murmured, “Would I do you like that?” and rolled onto his back in invitation. Aaron took it, and savored the feeling of being wrapped easily in someone’s arms. Aaron didn’t shrink to fit Derek’s embrace, but it encompassed him nonetheless, unbothered by his height or his weight or the fact that he’d killed a man two weeks ago on a case. Derek had tackled the victim as Aaron had fired the gun, and being splattered with a man’s blood didn’t send him running the other way.
“Once upon a time, there was a little boy. He lived in the far away kingdom of Chicago, and he was a warrior, the son of a knight.”
The hair rose on the back of Aaron’s neck. Derek never spoke of his childhood, barely nodded to his own existence before the FBI, an entire childhood redacted from the timeline like a magician’s vanishing act.
“Eventually, after running away from an evil king, the boy became a knight like his father. He defeated dragons and rescued women, and then - and then he met the most beautiful man in the world.”
“George Clooney?” Aaron interjected, and Derek smacked him lightly on the arm and dispensed with the storyline.
“Do you have any idea how terrified I was that night?” Derek said, running his fingers through Aaron’s hair.
“What night?” Derek made a face at him, and Aaron’s exhausted mind connected the dots. “Oh, that first case. You were afraid you couldn’t disarm the bomb?”
Derek snorted. “Man, that was nothing compared to walking into your hotel room. I was sure you’d punch me, when I asked, or call the chief and have me fired. Or shot.”
Aaron slid his leg between Derek’s, rested a hand possessively over his hip, pressed a kiss to his chest. He had twined his life around Derek’s for almost two years and he still hated thinking of the plane ride home from Chicago, when he’d believed one night was all he’d ever have.
“You could have kept quiet,” he pointed out, arching into Derek’s familiar touch. “You could have left me at the hotel.”
Derek’s fingers tightened in Aaron’s hair. “Not a chance,” he declared. “You were there, sitting at my desk after the chief finished tearing me a new asshole, eyeing my crossword puzzle. And I couldn’t imagine what the world would look like without you there. I couldn’t just shake your hand and let you walk away.”
Aaron had gotten four hours of sleep in the last two days, woken his lover from a nightmare that Derek wouldn’t share, but what was there to do then besides kiss him? What was there to do but stay?
can we talk about how much sam seaborn in season 2 looks like aaron sorkin?
i feel like he was definitely the insert character as the series was originally meant to follow him
Aaron West and the Roaring Twenties
A Day to Remember
All Time Low
And Then I Turned Seven
Art of Dying
Bring Me the Horizon
Bowling for Soup
Local News Legend
The Mountain Goats
Hang My Head Low
(Ch. 4, other chapters here)
Warnings: Infidelity, off-screen sex, internalized homophobia
Notes: Hotch and Morgan discuss racism in this section. Please do not take this as any sort of social justice template, their attitudes and reactions are based off of their reactions to the issue and each other in early seasons canon and are not indicative of what one should say or believe.
Custodial interviews, lectures, consults and fresh cases. It went on, and they went to northern California, child molestation that had escalated to murder. Jason sent Richards and Derek to examine the latest crime scene, sent Gaudioso—Singnoth’s replacement—off with the evidence bags, called Penelope to find files on any old molestation cases within fifty miles. Aaron handed him the crime scene photos and they sat in silence for a while, dissecting and reconstructing the case.
“The first murder was accidental,” Jason concluded, and Aaron hummed his agreement, had deduced that much on the plane. “Why don’t you file for divorce?”
“The unsub isn’t married,” Aaron replied, immersed in the case, then paused. Set the file down. Cleared his throat. “What did you say?” he queried, his voice thin.
Jason set the stack of photos down, leaned forward and clasped his hands, caught Aaron’s eyes and wouldn’t let him look away. “I asked why you haven’t filed for divorce,” he repeated. The words echoed like a gunshot at a shooting range, and yet no one in the precinct ducked or covered their ears. Aaron swallowed, felt for the straps of his absent vest.
“Why would I file for divorce?” he parried, years of experience keeping his voice level and his demeanor calm. “Haley and I have been married for almost fourteen years.”
“And you need twenty before you can retire with a pension?” Jason asked sardonically, then softened his tone and his gaze and continued, “You fell in love with someone else, Hotch. Either it’s the end of your marriage or it’s a mistake.”
“I’m not in love,” Aaron denied, because it was the only thing he could address, couldn’t envision his life without his marriage to Haley, couldn’t classify Derek as a mistake. “It’s not like that. Derek’s a man.”
Jason’s eyebrows shot up; somehow, unintentionally, Aaron had taken his unit chief by surprise. “Is this about making special agent in charge?” He sounded confident that it was, but Aaron had studied years of Jason’s interrogations, clocked the minute changes that meant Jason had started guessing, had found himself on uncertain ground.
What had Aaron said to throw off Jason’s profile? I’m not in love. He’d still been a teenager when he fell in love with Haley. Aaron had been entranced by Haley’s laughter, by her assurance, by how easily she doled out kindness to everyone she met. He’d taught himself origami that year, swans and frogs and flowers, set them on her desk before the bell and glowed when she saw them and smiled. They hadn’t had sex until college and Aaron hadn’t minded, hadn’t understood the locker room complaints about blue balls and and desperation to get laid. He loved Haley, and it had been easy to wait. He loved watching her walk down the aisle at their wedding, he loved that she’d told him he made her feel safe.
Derek was something completely different. Derek danced around the living room while he worked and Aaron finally saw the appeal in clubbing, touching someone he’d never met just to feel them move under his hands. Derek sparred with Gaudioso in the gym and Aaron thought he might combust. That wasn’t love. The only things he’d learned in the past few months were how to sand off his fingerprints, paint his clothes, and injure himself, and Aaron’s skills as a handyman made Derek curse more than they made him smile.
Derek’s a man. No, it couldn’t have been that one. Jason knew Aaron wasn’t gay.
Jason was still sitting there, waiting for an answer, and Aaron couldn’t deny that he was cheating on his wife. Why didn’t he file for divorce? Was it about making SAC, hopefully assistant director in DC a few years after that? Aaron had passed the bar and sworn he’d work in the DA’s office before thirty, determined to be as successful as his father had been. How far could he rise in the FBI if he didn’t keep his marriage intact?
Then Richards and Derek burst through the precinct doors, the building small enough that Jason and Aaron caught the tail end of their conversation, Derek’s coldly polite, “Look, man, I get that you’ve specialized in sexual offenders, I’m just saying that the most recent murder was planned. We need to rethink the profile,” and Richards’s biting, “Maybe you need to rethink opening your mouth, Morgan. Some of us earned our place in the BAU, and some of us are here because Gideon couldn’t resist putting a poor little Black boy on the team.”
Aaron came to his feet, his fists curled and his jaw set and about three seconds from laying Richards flat in the middle of the precinct. “Hotch,” Jason warned, but Aaron didn’t hear him, didn’t consider two decades of tight control over his fists and his rage. Then he glanced at Derek, and Derek met his gaze and gave a single, firm shake of his head.
“I’m getting coffee,” Aaron growled, shoving his chair out of the way, then stormed out of the building before he disregarded his teammates and his common sense and got arrested for assault.
Derek found him a few minutes later, pacing circles around the parking lot. “Come on,” he said, tossing a set of keys from one hand to the other, “let’s go get coffee. We can work the case on the way.”
“Forget the case!” Aaron shouted. Derek stilled, and Aaron remembered that Derek had spent the entire flight perusing the children’s files, long after even Jason had put them away. “I didn’t mean that,” he apologized, and Derek relaxed enough to unlock the car. “But Derek, you can’t just let this go.” He climbed in the passenger seat, had barely shut his door before Derek drove out of the lot. “Richards needs to be written up, at bare minimum, the man doesn’t belong in the FBI.”
Derek laughed mirthlessly. “If I didn’t let shit like this go, I’d never have time for anything else. Richards is just pissed because I made the BAU without putting in the time. I’ve heard worse.”
“I don’t care if he’s pissed that - Wait. What do you mean, worse?” Aaron twisted around to look at him, but Derek stared fixedly at the road. “From Richards?”
Derek shrugged one shoulder. “Richards. Other agents. Professors. Cops. The guy across the mat. The cashier at the jewelry store. The woman who crosses the street when I’m walking her way.” He stopped at a light, but kept his sunglasses on and his gaze aimed straight ahead. “I appreciate your concern on my behalf, but I’m telling you to let it go and focus on the case.”
Aaron was torn between the intense desire to punch Richards in the nose, the urge to demand Derek’s life story in agonizing detail, and the absurd compulsion to wrap his arms around the other man in broad daylight on Main Street and hold on. None of those were conducive to letting it go. But they had a case and, more importantly, Derek had asked.
They pulled up in front of the town’s only coffee shop. Aaron took several deep breaths, then followed Derek inside, rested his hand on the other man’s shoulder and allowed the sound of Derek’s voice as he ordered the coffee to soothe the large part of him that wanted to put Richards in the ground.
“Promise me we talk about this later,” Aaron demanded, once they had the coffees and were back in the car. Derek avoided questions constantly—talked about his sisters instead of his childhood, talked about cases instead of his time with the CPD, smirked and winked when Penelope asked about his weekend plans—but he’d cracked the door open on this, and Aaron wasn’t willing to slam it shut again.
For a long, lingering moment, Derek didn’t respond, but eventually he muttered, “Fine,” and inclined his head.
“Okay,” Aaron agreed, balancing two trays of coffee in his lap and something much more delicate in the air between them. “Then tell me about the scene. Let’s solve this case.”
They solved the case six hours later, one unsub captured and one boy saved. Jason had wisely kept Derek and Aaron in the field and Richards with him, but they all had to share the jet home. Aaron passed the time glowering at a sleeping Richards until Derek threw his psychology journal at Aaron’s head.
It was morning on the east coast by the time they landed, so they straggled into the office and drank the coffee Penelope had brewed them and dozed through writing their reports. Jason sequestered himself in his office and Aaron hoped the man was making whatever calls it took to have Richards removed from the team.
He watched Derek print his report, pack up his desk, and stop to chat with Penelope on his way out. A few minutes later he printed his own report, checked in with Jason, and wished Gaudioso a good day. Then he drove to Derek’s house.
“Go home, Aaron,” Derek huffed, doing sit ups in the living room as Aaron hung his keys on the hook and locked the front door.
“I brought breakfast tacos,” Aaron announced, holding up the bag, and Derek frowned but stood to accept the bribe.
“All right.” Derek wiped his hands with a napkin, crumpled the trash into a ball and launched it artfully into the trashcan. They’d eaten breakfast in silence, years as a lawyer and agent having taught Aaron never to push a witness too soon. “What do you want to know?”
Aaron wanted to know a million things about Derek, wanted to sift through the evidence of his life until he could read the man’s favorite color in the tilt of his head. “Richards has been harassing you,” he said instead. “Why didn’t you mention it to Gideon?”
Derek rolled his eyes. “Richards isn’t harassing me because I’m Black,” he told Aaron. “He’s harassing me because the BAU is one of the best assignments in the FBI and it’s a privilege I didn’t earn. Why would I mention it to Gideon when he thinks it’s true?”
“Gideon doesn’t think that.” Derek raised his eyebrows, but he’d been with the BAU for almost two years, he had to know. “Derek, Gideon would have kicked you off this team after the first case if he thought you couldn’t do the job.”
“I still should have put in my time, spent a year in some satellite office in Nebraska or something. Proved myself to Gideon before you asked him to give me a job.”
“Sure,” Aaron nodded. “That’s an easy fix. We’ll have you transferred to Omaha. Our solve rate will drop and you’ll spend two years running local investigations and reading back issues of The Journal of Applied Criminal Psychology and be bored out of your mind. Then, when you come back to the BAU, all the insecure racists who wish they were half as good at their jobs will agree that you belong.”
“It might work,” Derek said, straight-faced, and Aaron wrinkled his nose.
“You’re good at your job. You know you’re good at your job, and Gideon knows it, and Richards knows it or he wouldn’t be such an ass. And even if you weren’t,” he added, “it wouldn’t give Richards the right to hurl abuse.” Derek opened his mouth, but Aaron pressed on. “You know the profile here. If he’s doing it to you, he’ll do it to someone else. You’re going to let him keep treating people like that?”
Derek’s jaw went taut, and he closed his eyes for a long beat before shaking whatever it was away. “No,” he admitted. “I’ll talk to Gideon about it tomorrow.”
Aaron suspected that Richards would be gone by then, sent somewhere for basic decency trainings and a reprimand from HR, but it wouldn’t hurt to have Derek corroborate Jason’s report.
“Thank you,” Aaron murmured, because his mother had raised him to be polite, because he didn’t have words for the wave of relief that came with knowing Derek wouldn’t continue to be beaten down by their team. And then, because the door was still cracked open a hair, because Derek had yet to shut down and spin deftly away, he asked: “What about the rest of it?”
“The rest of it?” Derek echoed, confused. “What are you -” Then his eyebrows lifted in realization and he choked down a laugh. “Aaron, are you trying to solve racism?”
“Of course not,” Aaron huffed, crossing his arms and frowning. He knew he couldn’t end racism, any more than he could end abuse or murder or rape. He was only trying … to prevent it from hurting Derek. And wasn’t that their job, saving a few people from the evils of mankind?
Derek laughed at him, but he also leaned forward over the table and uncrossed Aaron’s arms, covered Aaron’s hands with his. “This is something you can’t fix,” he said bluntly, but his smile was gentle, his gaze fond. Aaron tried to argue with that—he had joined the FBI to fix things, to make the world a better, safer place—and Derek cut him off. “What are you gonna do, shoot Richards?” Aaron made a considering noise, and Derek sighed. “And then what? You’ll beat up the law professor who asked if I was in the wrong building? The cops that arr - harassed me when I was a kid? The manager at the hardware store who follows me down the aisles? Aaron, have you ever walked into a place and been told you didn’t belong?”
Aaron had a joke ready about jurisdiction at crime scenes, but he wouldn’t cheapen Derek’s honesty with it, so he merely shifted to curl his fingers around Derek’s and shook his head.
“No,” Derek confirmed. “That makes this my specialty, my lead.”
Aaron nodded. He wouldn’t—couldn’t—let it go entirely; a good profiler was driven by a desire to map out every angle, to understand. But he could fall back and let Derek take point. “You’ll tell me when to shoot?” he stipulated, because Derek had a tendency to take everything on himself without entrusting anything to the person at his back.
“Yeah,” Derek promised, squeezing Aaron’s hands. “But it won’t be today, because I intend to sleep until Gideon calls us back in.” He pulled his hands away, gathered Aaron’s taco wrappers and busied himself at the trashcan so that Aaron couldn’t see his face. “Are you headed home,” he wondered, his voice meticulously level, “or did you want to stay?”
Haley would be at work for hours. She expected Aaron to be at the office anyway, and the office expected Aaron to catch up on his sleep, and it was none of Jason’s business where Aaron chose to lay his head.
You fell in love with someone else, Hotch. Either it’s the end of your marriage or it’s a mistake.
He traced the whorl of Derek’s ear with his eyes, the breadth of his shoulders, the slope of his neck. Jason’s words faded from his mind as he rose to his feet, desperate to touch. “Come on, hot shot,” he drawled, coming up behind Derek to rest his chin on one broad shoulder, reveling in Derek’s shiver when he slid his hands under the other man’s shirt and over bare skin. “Take me to bed.”
“Just the invitation I was waiting for,” Derek breathed, and tugged Aaron toward the stairs.
Several months later, Aaron had developed a method, transformed from a disorganized cheater into an organized adulterer. The cell phone helped, as did Jason’s unspoken agreement to call Aaron’s cell, then Derek’s, then Derek’s house phone when they had a case. This system allowed Aaron to call Haley and claim to still be at the office or on a case, and she could continue to complain about the hours he worked, something she’d been doing ever since he’d joined the BAU. It wasn’t as if that had changed: ninety percent of Aaron’s time went to his job, and he divided the remaining ten percent between Derek, Haley, and sleep.
Jason didn’t ask any more questions after the first time, probably should have asked Aaron what the hell he was doing fighting for truth and justice while lying to his wife. Haley asked him to spend more time at home, but he’d been ignoring those requests for years. He’d made a place for himself at the BAU. He’d made a place for himself in Derek’s bed. Derek never asked for anything, not for help with the house, not for a ride when his bike wouldn’t start, not if Aaron would leave Haley and stay.
He never asked for anything at work either, but that was mostly because he argued instead. Especially after Richards left—after Jason chose Derek over Richards, Aaron realized—Derek spoke his mind, offered up his own ideas on the unsub and the way to run the case, even if those ideas contradicted something Jason or Aaron had said.
It had thrown Aaron at first. No one in Aaron’s life argued without bitterness, but Derek didn’t seem to be gearing up for a fight, wasn’t offended when Aaron countered Derek’s assertions with his own. Well, mostly. Aaron had shot him down once or twice without acknowledging what Derek had said, and Derek had called him SSA Hotchner for a week.
“He doesn’t respect the chain of command,” Aaron griped to Jason after the second time, studying the evidence boards with his arms folded tightly across his chest. Jason had sent Derek back to the last crime scene with Ford, their newest recruit, after Derek had brought up a detail Jason hadn’t noticed and after he’d disagreed with Aaron about the instructions he’d given the local PD.
Jason took his glasses off and laughed, slapped Aaron on the back. “Did I reenlist?” he asked, chuckled when Aaron’s frown deepened. “Hotch, if we ran this unit like the army we’d never catch a single unsub. And if I thought Morgan couldn’t follow orders,” he added more seriously, “then he wouldn’t be in the field.”
“He questions your authority,” Aaron pushed, frustrated that Derek thought he had the knowledge or the right to second guess a man who’d built the BAU.
“Aren’t you more upset that he questions your authority?” Jason riposted, and Aaron’s jaw muscle twitched. “You think he doesn’t respect you?” Aaron swallowed and looked away. Jason sighed. “Love really does blind people, then,” he murmured. “That man respects you a great deal, Hotch, which you’d see if you opened your eyes and looked. You’re upset that he follows his hunches and speaks his piece - the same qualities, I might add, that made you want him on the team.”
Detective Derek Morgan, fresh off of eighteen months of deep cover, twisting his coffee cup in his hands, willing to defy the police chief if it meant solving the case. Aaron had looked at him, perched at the edge of his chair, ready to take flight. He’d defied Jason, then, and added Detective Morgan to the case. He’d followed a hunch. Almost three years later, he’d do it again.
“He’s the man of his family, isn’t he?” Jason queried.
Aaron nodded. “Two sisters and a mom,” he confirmed. “His dad died when he was young.”
“And he played sports?”
“Football. He doesn’t play any more.” And that had always struck Aaron as odd, that Derek never suggested they throw the ball around, never insisted they put on the game.
“Quarterback, I’ll bet. Derek Morgan strategizes. He plans. He calls the plays.” Jason turned to face Aaron, pinned him with a look. “The only real question is, why haven’t you already figured this out?”
Derek was right about the crime scene, wrong about the local PD, unperturbed by either outcome because they solved the case before anyone else got hurt.
They made it to Quantico just after midnight, and Aaron followed Derek home. He crafted his opening statement on the drive, sifting through the tumult Jason’s question had left behind. Why hadn’t he already known just what kind of man Derek Morgan was? Had his skills failed him, or was Derek different with him than with everyone else? And if so, which man was the mask?
He meant to offload his thoughts on Derek once they made it to the living room, after the brief moment Aaron always took to look around the house and smile at the changes they’d made. I did that. But Derek shrugged out of his jacket in the entryway and his shirt rode up and Aaron had to have his hands there, fell to his knees and followed hands with tongue, all his other thoughts fading like mist in the sun.
“Impatient, aren’t we?” Derek said, laughter in his words, his teeth gleaming in the dark. His eyes sparkled as he stripped out of his shirt and used the distraction to lure Aaron up the stairs and to bed.
“Why don’t you argue with me when we’re at home?” Aaron finally asked, once they were naked and sated and his hair was damp with sweat, his head resting on Derek’s equally sweaty chest.
“What?” Derek responded, running his hand absentmindedly up and down Aaron’s back. “You’re delirious, gorgeous, go to sleep.”
Aaron lifted his head, set his chin on Derek’s chest so he could look him in the eyes. Derek’s eyebrows went up, but he took the cue and tucked his other arm behind his head.
“You don’t argue with me here,” he repeated, having pored over the evidence and drawn up his case. “I say let’s have Italian and we have Italian, I say let’s take a break and we take a break.”
“Yeah, because I’m not an asshole,” Derek huffed. “You’re mad that we don’t fight?” He stopped rubbing Aaron’s back, though, and Aaron knew he was getting close.
“You argue all the time at work,” he continued, and Derek rolled his eyes.
“And you hate it,” he pointed out, but Aaron kept talking.
“At least, you do now. You didn’t in the beginning, because …” Aaron blinked, and Derek’s face went carefully blank. “Because you thought Gideon might kick you off the team. Because you thought you didn’t belong.”
“Don’t profile me,” Derek warned him. “We don’t profile each other.”
“Derek.” Aaron was too flabbergasted to process Derek’s warning. Over a year, and somehow he hadn’t seen. “You can’t possibly think I’d leave.”
“I can’t possibly think you’d leave,” Derek echoed incredulously, twisting to dislodge Aaron from his chest. “Aaron, you can’t possibly think anything else.” You’re married, he didn’t say, but it was written all over his face. “How had you pictured this ending, exactly?”
Aaron hadn’t. He’d boxed Haley off in one corner of his life and Derek in another, he’d created a functioning system. He knew Derek would leave at some point. He’d wake up one morning and remember that he was smart and witty and so beautiful that men and women stopped in the street, and he’d wonder why he ever let Aaron Hotchner into his bed. And if by some miracle that didn’t happen, eventually Aaron would be killed on a case and everyone would move on, he assumed, but he’d never once considered that he could stand in front of Derek and choose to walk away.
His slack-jawed expression betrayed his shock. Derek sighed. “Aaron, why does it matter? You said yourself it was just sex. Let’s forget it and go to bed,” he begged, sounding exhausted, but his weariness didn’t come from lack of sleep.
Aaron gazed at Derek and relented, didn’t know how else to ameliorate the man’s distress at an idea Aaron had never contemplated, that somehow he would walk out the door and leave Derek Morgan behind. He leaned in and kissed Derek softly, hummed when Derek tangled fingers in his hair.
“You’ll start arguing?” he demanded, laying on his side so he could study Derek’s face.
“Tomorrow,” Derek promised, didn’t ask why Aaron cared so much when he was just there to get laid. “I’ll tell you that your taste in bagels is terrible, and you always buy the wrong orange juice.” He caught Aaron’s hand in his, lifted it to his lips and pressed kisses against each knuckle, down the back of his hand to his wrist. “Will that do?”
“For now,” Aaron compromised, because there was still something fragile in Derek’s voice, something he hadn’t solved. Because Derek could hide it well—had hidden it for this long—but he still believed that Aaron wouldn’t stay, and Aaron didn’t know how to prove him wrong.
They went to sleep, but Derek held on to his hand.
Get low, 2009
Get Low (2009)
Hang My Head Low, Ch. 3
(Chapter One, Two)
Warnings: Infidelity, mentions of sex
Notes: Set pre-canon, some backgrounds are canon divergent
Four months later, spring was creeping out from under the frost, Jason had astonished them all and allowed Derek to take point on a case, and Aaron never wanted to see another can of varnish as long as he lived.
Jason had warned him, when he first interviewed for the BAU, that the job could be hard on a relationship, and Aaron had spun out some pat answer about the solidity of his marriage and hadn’t heeded Jason’s admonition a whit, because the BAU was where Aaron wanted to be.
He’d been right, of course, though Jason had probably been thinking of the long hours and the constant stress, and not that one day they would fly to Chicago and Derek Morgan would put himself in Aaron’s sights and Aaron wouldn’t look away.
He’d been right, but after a winter of carpentry and wiring, plumbing and sanding and paint, Aaron concluded that the BAU might strain a marriage, but if Jason wanted to see hard on a relationship, he should renovate a house.
“’It’ll definitely work this time,’” Aaron parroted, rolling his eyes. “’Just let me go turn on the water, Aaron, you can test the faucet.’ Turn off the fucking water!” he bellowed from the hall, dripping all over the nicely shellacked floor.
Derek must have heard him, because the pipe under the bathroom sink stopped spewing water, and a moment later the back door slammed and boots thudded up the stairs. Aaron stripped off his thoroughly soaked sweatshirt and tossed it into the tub, followed by his equally wet shirt. Derek found him there, shivering, bare-chested with water dripping from the ends of his hair.
“It works great,” he informed Derek acerbically, crossing his arms and clenching his jaw so his teeth didn’t chatter. “You’re the first person to successfully install a shower in their bathroom sink.”
Derek looked at the sink, and the puddle on the bathroom floor, and at Aaron, who was no doubt turning blue, probably dying of hypothermia as they spoke. Then he snorted, putting up a hand too late to cover his mouth as he laughed. “You look like a drowned rat,” he chortled, and Aaron seriously considered punching Derek in the face. “Why didn’t you stand in the hall?”
“You said it was going to work!” Aaron scowled, feeling priggish and exposed all at once, his arms wrapped around his chest, cold and wet and laughed at by someone who was supposed to -
It must have shown in his expression or his posture, or maybe it was somewhere in Derek’s unwritten profile on Aaron that he wouldn’t find it funny to lose his clothes and dignity both, because Derek quickly sobered, reached out and attempted to pull Aaron into his arms.
Aaron frowned, petulant, and refused to move.
“For Christ’s sake, Hotch,” Derek snapped, and Aaron’s frown deepened because he hated when Derek called him Hotch outside the office and Derek knew he hated it, wielded the nickname like a weapon when his frustration rose. “Fine. Freeze to death. Do whatever the hell you want.”
Derek stalked into the bathroom, crouching to peer under the sink, and Aaron sighed and shivered and tried to shake the water out of his hair like a dog. They’d been doing this all day. Aaron had shown up that morning with breakfast and his teeth on edge, fresh out of a fight with Haley about spending more time as Derek’s handyman than her spouse. He hadn’t said anything about it to Derek—nothing shut Derek down faster than mentioning Aaron’s wife—but the man was exceedingly good at his job, and had undoubtedly inferred the reason for Aaron’s bad mood.
There was a loud curse, and Aaron looked over in time to watch Derek’s foot slip out from under him on the wet floor and his knee slam into the tile with a painful sounding crack. Derek cursed again, quietly, then surprised Aaron by dropping the wrench and leaning back against the bathroom wall, sitting in a puddle with his knees drawn up, elbows on his thighs and his head in his hands.
“Hey,” Aaron said softly, disregarding his own incipient hypothermia and planting himself in the puddle next to Derek, leaning into his side. Derek didn’t lift his head, but he did shift to drape an arm over Aaron’s bare shoulders and tug him in.
They sat in silence for a while, cold water seeping into the seat of Aaron’s jeans, Derek’s arm like a brand across Aaron’s upper back, radiating heat.
“You were right,” Derek said finally, talking to the space between his knees. “I should have just rented an apartment. We could be on the sofa, now, beers and nachos and the game, the whole shebang.”
“I don’t know,” Aaron told him, paused for one moment, two, three, continued speaking once Derek met his gaze, “this floor is pretty comfortable, and nachos give me gas.”
Derek huffed, the barest hint of a laugh, but he smiled when Aaron leaned in for a kiss.
“Besides,” he added, resting his forehead against Derek’s temple, wanted to be touching Derek anywhere, all the time. It reminded him of meeting Haley for the first time, except that he’d only wanted to bask in the glow of her smile, then, didn’t know that decades later he’d ache to press his fingers to another man’s skin.
“Besides?” Derek prompted, Aaron distracted from his own monologue by the line of Derek’s jaw, the stubble brushing against his lips.
Aaron shrugged. “I’ve never done anything like this,” he admitted, relieved that he was too close for Derek to read his history from his face.
“Never threaded a pipe wrong?” Derek replied wryly. “Never had to cut your hair because there was varnish in it? Never fallen through the stairs?”
Aaron winced at the last one, because crashing through a rotten stair step hurt, and Jason had been livid at the twisted ankle that kept Aaron out of the field for a week.
“Don’t forget nearly sawing off my own thumb,” he said, and Derek’s arm tightened around him at the reminder. That had been the first and last time he’d let Aaron use the saw. “I’ve never …” He kept his face pressed to Derek’s, but he waved a hand at the new tile and the sink, the freshly varnished hall floor. “Built anything,” he finished lamely, the words inadequate for the way Aaron’s chest filled when he stood in the doorway of Derek’s house.
I did that, he thought every time he let himself in, looking at the window frames and the floors, the kitchen cabinets and the sturdy stairs. They’d done it together, he and Derek, restored a home destined for demolition into something beautiful, something good.
“They didn’t teach construction at your fancy boarding school?” Derek teased him, no bitterness in it, though Aaron knew Derek had worked construction after losing his football scholarship, had to get a job to pay the bills. It was one of the few things Aaron could claim to know about Derek’s life before he’d graduated and joined the force.
“They did, but I took Home Ec instead.”
“I wish you’d learned something,” Derek muttered, because Aaron was the reason he’d installed a fire extinguisher next to the stove.
“I learned how to put out a fire,” Aaron said primly, and Derek laughed. Aaron could feel the muscles bunch in Derek’s cheek, his eyelashes brushing over the laugh lines at the corner of Derek’s eye. He smiled, couldn’t help it, Derek’s laughter dispelling the clouds that had hovered over Aaron all day.
“I always wanted to date a fireman,” Derek declared, using the bathtub to lever himself to his feet, wincing a little as he put his weight on his injured knee. He extended a hand to Aaron, waited until they were both standing, then winked and added: “Want to show me how to handle your hose?”
Aaron rolled his eyes, left the bathroom before Derek could make fun of his blush. No one had ever flirted with him, not really; and he knew Derek flirted with everyone, but knowing didn’t diminish the unfortunate urge to giggle and duck his head.
“I’m aflame with desire!” Derek called after him, and Aaron didn’t manage to suppress a snort.
“I’ll get the fire extinguisher,” he offered, should have known better, could hear Derek’s smirk as he replied, “Oooh, you’re going to shoot your foam all over me! What a stud.”
The only thing on fire then was Aaron’s face. He hurried to the bedroom and snagged Derek’s college sweatshirt off the unmade bed, had just slid it over his head when Derek followed him in. Aaron’s hair was sticking straight up, his face still red, hands busy with the button on his damp jeans.
Derek stopped in the doorway, leaned against the frame and folded his arms, staring avidly at Aaron’s wrists poking out of an old sweatshirt, the fingers hesitating at the placket of his jeans. And Aaron still didn’t understand it, but four months had taught him what it meant when Derek’s eyes darkened, when he leaned forward and bit his bottom lip.
“We have to fix the sink,” he protested, but it was a weak objection at best, saliva flooding his mouth as he traced the width of Derek’s shoulders, the cut of his hips, could practically feel the weight of Derek’s cock on his tongue. He swallowed and licked his lips, stood a little taller when that made Derek inhale sharply, took his time unbuttoning his jeans.
“How are you so fucking hot?” Derek asked, and Aaron didn’t know the answer, stood in front of the mirror sometimes and tried to ascertain what it was that drew Derek in, came up empty every time. “Come here, gorgeous.” Derek crooked a finger at him, beckoning, and Aaron went.
They fixed the sink a few hours later. Derek offered to cook dinner, after; and Aaron should have said no. It was just sex, after all. He should have gone back to the house he shared with his wife, but he only nodded and snagged his keys and went to buy beer, called Haley from the parking lot to say he’d be home late.
It was after three when he finally left. He snuck into his house, took his shoes off in the entryway and maneuvered through the dark living room and up the stairs. He was halfway into bed when he realized that he was still wearing Derek’s sweatshirt, a few feet away from his wife sleeping peacefully in their marriage bed.
He stuffed the sweatshirt in his closet and laid down, looked at his wife and thought about lust and love, repentance and sin. He waited for the sun to rise.
Two days later they caught a case in east Texas, teenagers vanishing from an abandoned house. Local folklore blamed it on the ghost of the woman murdered in the house ten years before, but Aaron had enough ghosts of his own to know that this was damage of a more corporeal sort.
The unsubs were definitely alive. And armed. Aaron heard a board creak and spun toward the sound. “Richards!” he shouted, “They’re -”
The second unsub—the dominant, he thought, waiting for an opportunity and not a command—came up behind him, and then everything went black.
When he came to it was in the back of a pickup truck, hands and feet bound, guns gone, head pounding more with each pothole they hit. It was only for a moment. One of his captors slapped a rag over his face, and he spent a minute struggling to roll away and breathe before he succumbed to the chloroform.
He regained consciousness fairly quickly, but everything was hazy, his mind refusing to observe and draw conclusions at its usual speed. They tied him to a chair and one of them started hitting him, but that was nothing, Aaron had learned how to take the pain decades before, a sissy boy in the leading family of their town. He knew physical abuse as a form of torture meant something for the profile they were building, but couldn’t remember what. It became a moot point when Derek—Derek!, his brain cheered, and he might have bared his bloody teeth in a smile—shouted, “FBI!” and the man stopped punching him and reached for his gun.
It was dark and Aaron’s brain was still saturated with chloroform, but he could see Derek duck through the doorway as the gun came level with Aaron’s face. And then Derek flew across the room, grew shadow wings like an angel in a tac vest, tackled the unsub with his hands outstretched to wrestle the gun away from Aaron’s head.
“Gideon!” he called, once he’d handcuffed the man. “I’ve got him, he’s in here!” He kept his eyes and his gun trained on the unsub, but glanced briefly over at Aaron, reached out and cupped his cheek to wipe away some of the blood. “Hey, you okay?” he whispered, and Aaron nuzzled Derek’s palm and hummed.
“You look like an angel,” he mumbled, bloody saliva flecking Derek’s hand. “When did you grow wings?”
Derek chuckled, stroked his fingers quickly through Aaron’s hair and pulled away as Jason ran into the room and knelt down to untie Aaron from the chair.
“You’re all right,” Jason told him, rubbing Aaron’s wrists. “Are you riding in the ambulance?” he asked, tilting his head to look at Derek.
Derek frowned, and Aaron thought that was bad, he should do something about that, he didn’t like it when Derek frowned. “I better not,” he finally responded, scuffing his boot like he might kick the unsub in the head. “He’s not very lucid right now.”
Jason and Derek exchanged a long look that Aaron couldn’t interpret, and then the paramedics came and there were bright lights and an ambulance and Derek was gone.
After the chloroform wore off and the scans indicated that Aaron probably wasn’t bleeding internally, Jason and the doctors reluctantly agreed that Aaron could change out of the hospital gown and go sleep at the hotel. Jason drove him back to the hotel, said that JJ was releasing a statement and Richards was combing the grounds where Aaron had been held while Derek interrogated their unsubs, also it was a small hotel so he’d be sharing a room.
“With you, I assume,” Aaron mumbled to the window, pressing his forehead to the glass. “So you can make sure I take my medicine and get enough sleep.” Jason coddled everyone when they were injured: the team, other agents, victims, sometimes even the unsubs.
Jason stared at Aaron. He pursed his lips and shook his head. “I’m not the one who nearly strangled Richards for losing you,” he said, handing over a room key and refusing to answer the questions in Aaron’s gaze. “Now go get some sleep.”
He woke up to music, the Jackson Five fading into Sly and the Family Stone. There was always music in Derek’s house. There was music for sex, anything from the Nine Inch Nails to Widor’s piano quartet. There was OutKast for cooking dinner, Tracy Chapman with a leisurely breakfast, Arlo Guthrie and Odetta and more for long, aimless rides on the bike.
Derek had asked what Aaron listened to, and Aaron had said what he always did, the Beatles’ white album, made his standard Marilyn Manson joke. Generally, at that point people either agreed that the Beatles were legendary or walked away. Derek had narrowed his eyes. “Someone introduced you to the Beatles. Your mom? An uncle or an aunt?” He never asked about Aaron’s father, which meant somewhere along the line Aaron had given himself away. “They had the record, and they’d let you handle it, and it … it was a good thing.” One of the only good things, he didn’t add, but he’d stopped asking if Aaron liked a particular song and started playing songs for every moment in their lives. A month earlier, Aaron had walked past a teenager blasting OutKast and thought of Derek dancing in the kitchen and smiled.
“What about you?” Aaron had wondered, after Derek had turned the volume up on Prince and dragged Aaron and his paintbrush into a dance. “What’s music to you?”
“Freedom,” Derek had answered immediately, spun Aaron around and hauled him close, his chest pressed to Aaron’s back, his hands on Aaron’s hips as they moved in sync. He pressed kisses to the back of Aaron’s neck, stubble dragging over his skin, and Aaron shivered, pushed back into Derek’s embrace. “Music is freedom.”
Aaron thought of Derek’s tattoo, the letters inked into his skin. He thought about being young and hiding in dusty corners of the library, the hours he spent as an astronaut, an adventurer, a pirate or a prince, a few hours of freedom to be anyone but Aaron Hotchner, his mother and father’s failure of a son. He knew exactly what Derek meant.
But Sly and the Family Stone, the Jackson Five, Tina Turner or George Clinton or Richie Havens, Hendrix or Otis or Sweetwater; those were the songs of lazy mornings, sleepy afternoons. That had been the soundtrack of Derek’s childhood, the music that had brought his parents together. Derek said his father had seen his mother at a concert and couldn’t imagine life without her. Derek would shimmy through the living room singing along, and Aaron understood how Hank Morgan must have felt.
“Is it the weekend already?” he croaked, blinked his gummy eyes open and found Derek sitting next to his bed, the mp3 player gripped tightly in his hands and the headphones over Aaron’s ears. He must have been on more painkillers than he’d thought, if he’d slept through all of that. “Why aren’t you in bed?” he grumbled, unhappy with how far away Derek had put the chair.
Derek’s smile gleamed in the light coming through the curtains. “Didn’t want to wake you,” he explained, but settled down gingerly beside Aaron when he patted the bed insistently several times. “How are you feeling?”
Aaron felt like he’d been hit by a bus, but he wasn’t dead, and he had a feeling much of the credit for that went to the man beside him. “Like I should have let Richards search the back of the house,” he joked, and that had been the wrong thing to say, Derek’s worried expression briefly morphing into white-hot rage. “Hey,” he soothed, pulling Derek’s hand onto his chest. “He couldn’t have done anything, it’s fine. I’m fine.”
“He could have been faster,” Derek argued. “You’re not a small man, it must have taken them a minute to get you into the truck.” He’d clearly played out the scene from every angle, Derek and Jason’s unique way of seeing a case, and decided Richards was to blame.
Maybe he was right, but Aaron was safe and the unsubs were in custody and Derek was in bed beside him, so he wasn’t going to complain. “Are you calling me fat?” he asked instead, and Derek snorted derisively but allowed Aaron to tug him forward into a kiss.
“We’d barely started the profile,” Derek murmured, pressing gentle kisses to Aaron’s eyelids, his forehead, nose, and chin. “I wasn’t sure they’d keep you alive for us to find.”
“They wouldn’t have bothered to take me with them otherwise,” Aaron profiled, but that didn’t seem to set Derek at ease. No wonder Haley had told him to stop discussing cases at home. “I’m fine,” he tried again. “You found me in plenty of time.”
Derek appeared skeptical, probably due to the welter of scrapes and bruises on Aaron’s face and chest. “Just don’t do it again,” he demanded, running his fingertips gently over the bruise blooming next to Aaron’s hip. “Aaron, I don’t know what I’d do if you …” He trailed off, gazing somewhere into a future where he hadn’t grown wings and flown bodily into the dominant unsub. “Just don’t do it again.”
“Since you insist,” Aaron capitulated, and Hendrix sang quietly through the headphones as they kissed.
He went to the record store when they got home, slid The Cry of Love next to the Beatles on the shelf. “You know I own this CD?” Derek said, folding his arms and watching Aaron put the record on the old record player he’d insisted Derek buy from a garage sale in early March. “Why this one, when we already have them all?”
Aaron set the needle down and shrugged. “It’s a good thing,” he admitted, and closed his eyes as “Angel” came on, could still see Derek flying across the room to save his life, Derek perched next to his bed in the hotel room, his parents’ love story playing in Aaron’s ears.
“So it is,” Derek agreed, pulled Aaron close and swayed back and forth, and Aaron couldn’t imagine life without him there.
criminal minds appreciation week, day one:
favourite episode: children of the dark (3x04)
this post is for a very specific group of people but
charlie cobalt is aaron warner without the daddy issues
hey my loves! i was just thinking it would really mean a lot to me if you could let me know what kind of fics you enjoy reading, whether it’s tropes, ideas, genres, etc. it would be awesome if you could come to my ask box and tell me because even though i don’t really take requests i still want to know what kind of content you guys enjoy reading :)