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Okay, so I ended up looking at how long it's been since the previous part and realized I've gotten slower with updates. Sooo, I decided to finish this up tonight. I apologize for any remaining errors. -_-

A Cannon’s Echo
Shook the Bones (find the previous 3 stories via journal tags or on ff.net)
By Clarity Scifiroots
Fandom: Criminal Minds (Disclaimers apply! This is a fan’s work.)
Characters: Hotch, Reid; Morgan and team
Genre: AU, (pre-)slash (Hotch/Reid)
Rating: higher end of Teen(?)
Warnings: Some Morgan/Reid snuck in here. O__o Also, major UST
Summary: A case requires some undercover work to lure out the unsub, Reid has to face his touch phobia, and Hotch isn’t sure where he stands.

The sound of a kiss is not so loud as that of a cannon, but its echo lasts a great deal longer. - Oliver Wendell Holmes

--- --- ---

Sidestep’s exterior looked similar to many other bars found on the surrounding blocks; brick exterior, high-set windows bearing neon signs promoting beer, the door solid and dark-colored. Glass blocks framed both sides of the door and glowed in a sequence of rainbow colors.

Inside Hotch and Reid found the alcove where employees sat to receive entrance fees the evenings. The walls of the alcove were plastered with posters and flyers from the club, snapshots of patrons – mostly of male-male couples – and stickers of all shapes, colors, and sizes proclaiming various expressions of gay pride.

“I see all three of our victims,” Reid noted, stepping closer. “But only Bruce Lewis is pictured with his long-term partner.” Reid pointed out the photo. Hotch looked it over, then tried to spot the other victims. Sensing his dilemma, Reid pointed out the photos.

“Excuse me, is there a problem?” A middle-aged man with dark hair pulled back into a short ponytail stood nearby. Beyond him, behind the bar, a younger man with spiky, bleach-blonde hair watched them with a cautious expression.

“I’m Agent Hotchner and this is Dr. Reid. FBI,” he said as he showed his badge. “We’re here looking into the deaths of three men.”

With a frown the man asked, “And this has something to do with my walls?”

“I noticed the pictures,” Reid explained. “Three men pictured here have been murdered in the past two months. Are you Charles Link?”

“Charlie,” he corrected. He crossed his arms and looked between the two agents. “So you’re here thinking my place as something to do with these deaths?”

Hotch smoothly kept his tone calm and body language relaxed. “Our investigation led us here due to the victims’ familiarity with Sidestep. It is possible someone saw something here that can help this case.”

Charlie considered that for a moment. Then his expression relaxed from his previous defensive tension. Hotch had difficulty keeping still as Charlie looked him over, appraising.

“Alright, come sit down. Rick works most nights, might have something to say. Cal and Lucy get here in about twenty minutes. They work the door.”

As they settled in at the bar, Hotch noticed Reid shifting uncomfortably at his side. A quick glance revealed Rick making eyes at the younger FBI agent.

“Can I get you anything, agents?” Charlie asked.

Hotch grabbed the chance to divert Rick’s attention. “Water, please. Reid?”

“No, thanks.” As soon as Rick turned away, Reid tucked his hair behind his ear and pointedly focused his attention in Charlie’s direction. “Do you recognize any of these men?” Reid laid the photos (provided by friends and family) of the victims on the counter.

Charlie leaned close to Hotch, looking down at the photos. From the corner of his eye he could see Reid’s frown.

“David,” Charlie’s expression tightened. “He and Danny usually came by Thursday nights.” He met Hotch’s gaze as he said, “Their fifth anniversary was last month.”

Hotch nodded, expression calm. “The other men?”

“I Think this guy’s name is Grant? And that’s Bruce. Fuck.” Emotion filled his eyes and he took a shaky breath. “He and Johnny… celebrated ten years last weekend. Excuse me.” Charlie stood and walked across the room, one hand clenching and unclenching.

Hotch thanked Rick quietly when his water appeared. Reid turned the pictures toward the bartender.

“Yeah, knew ‘em all.” Rick’s eyes remained locked on the photos, any thought of flirting with the young FBI agent apparently pushed aside. “Bruce and Johnny are like family. Bruce always made sure to say hi to everybody any time they came in. Charlie knew Johnny a long time. The guy’s rich and he helped start up the club. Charlie says the guy was a real loner before Bruce came around.” Rick glanced at Charlie and shook his head. “We hadn’t heard. Shit, this is going to kill Johnny.”

He sighed, then tapped the photo of Grant. “This guy’s new to the area. Moved to be with his boyfriend. Guess they’d been on and off for a couple years before deciding to go more permanent.”

“How well did you know them?” Hotch prompted.

Rick quirked a grin. “Hey, I’m a bartender, right? Bruce was just personable, you know? David’s a regular, but he and Danny came here for the atmosphere, not long philosophical conversations. Charlie might know a little more, he’s good at getting people talking. Grant came in a lot on the off-nights, I think he liked having someone to chat with. I did see him here during one of the drag shows last month with his boyfriend, but we didn’t talk that night.”

“How did you know about the anniversaries?” Reid asked.

“Well, Bruce and Johnny were here on Saturday for their party. David and Danny had a stop-in here on their night, too. Grant made a big deal one night about celebrating his second ‘official’ anniversary.” Rick glanced between the agents. “Wait. I haven’t seen him since then. And we heard about Dave the week after their party.”

Hotch interrupted, “We’ll bring their killer to justice.” He made sure Rick had met his gaze before continuing. “Anything you can tell us about these men or the nights when their anniversaries were mentioned will help us.”

Shaken, Rick nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I can do that.”

---

“The unsub targets the non-white partner of gay interracial couples around their romantic anniversaries. The trigger for each murder seems to be related to announcements made at Sidestep. It’s probable our unsub will make a move if we plant two of our men undercover.”

“We don’t have the resources to keep up something long-term on the chance this bastard will pop up,” Captain Harding said.

Gideon explained, “The unsub is getting more restless. The first murder occurred a week after the anniversary announcement. Grant Kwan, five days; Bruce Lewis, seventy-two hours. He’s grabbing the men earlier and the signs of torture indicate increased confidence. It’s a solid conjecture the unsub will make a move within forty-eight hours of our own planned announcement.”

Harding frowned but nodded his agreement. He glanced out the conference room’s door to note the men in the squad room. “You have plans for your undercover choices? I can tell you now getting any of my men to volunteer for this will be like pulling teeth.”

“We’ll take care of it. I would like one of your men behind the bar, however,” Hotch said. Harding easily agreed.

“Not often I get to go clubbing on the Bureau’s dime,” Morgan grinned. He shrugged at Harding’s look of surprise. “It’s a job, man. Your guys might think it’d be uncomfortable, but it’s not going to be a big deal. Not like we’re seducing the unsub.”

Hotch glanced surreptitiously at Reid. The younger man’s shoulders were tense as he stared at their notes on the board. He didn’t look like he’d be up to the assignment, and Hotch hadn’t expected him to be. He was impressed how well Reid had been holding together thus far.

“Morgan, we’ll need to talk with Charlie before we go in,” Hotch said.

“Sir, not to criticize your style tastes,” Morgan started with a smile, “but you’re going to need a casual look. We are celebrating our anniversary at a club.”

Harding stared at Hotch. “You’re going in?” he asked skeptically.

Before Hotch could answer, Reid interrupted. “As agent in charge you really should be directing operations from the outside.” The blonde spoke quickly, hands dancing as they sometimes did when he explained complex ideas. “Although it is ignorant to assume there is a single stereotype of a homosexual male, your posture reads as closed-off, and in the club setting you would need to appear more open and be able to affect a sense of intimacy with your partner. This would be difficult considering the day-to-day work interaction where you are the supervisor.”

Hotch hid his shock as best he could. He turned so that he addressed Reid directly and partially blocked the others with his body. “Reid,” he said in a lowered voice, “I can do this with Morgan. I trust you to help monitor the situation. You don’t have to do this.”

Reid’s jaw tightened momentarily. His gaze darted to Morgan and he offered a slight smile. “So, what problems do you have with my wardrobe?”

Morgan smirked. “Kid, you’ve gotta lose the premature middle-age college professor look.”

Hotch let the argument drop and turned back to the group to make the arrangements. It didn’t escape his notice that Harding had no problem believing Reid could fill the required role.

---

Hotch divided his attention between listening to the details of the surveillance setup and watching Morgan and Reid standing off to the side talking. It was obvious from Morgan’s casual touches that they were working through Reid’s instinctive avoidance. He hadn’t anticipated the matter to be addressed in this way.

“Only the club owner is aware of the details of our presence?” Harding asked.

“Two other club workers are aware that a sting is taking place. Charles Link will be with Agent Prentiss at the door,” Hotch said, momentarily turning his full attention to the conversation. “The usual DJ will be on the floor and a regular bartender will be present.”

Reid took a step closer to Morgan and wrapped an arm around his waist, an almost-natural-looking smile crossing his lips, though the light didn’t quite meet his eyes. He said something that made Morgan laugh. They stepped apart again and Reid tucked his hair away from his face. Morgan patted Reid’s arm and plucked the bottom edge of Reid’s shirt. The blond leaned back slightly, tension crossing his expression. Morgan touched his elbow soothingly and Reid sighed, looking down as he apologized.

Gideon tapped Hotch’s shoulder. “We’re all set here,” he murmured. “How’re they doing?”

“Doing better than I expected with the short prep time,” Hotch replied. “Morgan reads him pretty well.”

“Good. Get them ready with the equipment and we’ll roll out.”

Hotch arched an eyebrow, silently questioning why Gideon felt he needed the reminder. Gideon didn’t deign him with a response.

A tech was already consulting with Morgan and Reid when Hotch approached. Both would wear a camera, wire, and earwig. Morgan had a hat to help hide his earpiece since he didn’t have Reid’s advantage of hair to obscure its placement.

“Let me help you set up,” the tech said, focusing on Reid.

The blonde tensed. “Ah, just let me—I need to get something.” He turned away and made a quick retreat to the conference room.

Morgan and Hotch exchanged a knowing glance. Addressing the tech, Hotch said, “I’ll help him.” The tech shrugged and handed over the required equipment. Morgan obediently lifted his shirt to let the tech start taping the wire across his chest.

Hotch closed the door behind him so that he and Reid had privacy. The blonde leaned over the table, shoulders stiff as he stared blindly at an open file.

“Reid,” Hotch said, “let’s get you situated.”

Reid glanced up, his unease written clearly in his expression. “’M sorry,” he mumbled. “I just… I’m not comfortable...” He grimaced and looked away. “But, ah, t-thanks. For the help.” He straightened up and with a deep breath, tugged up the edge of his shirt, indicating his readiness.

Hotch started with the mike, handing Reid the slim battery pack to slip into his pocket. Reid lifted his shirt higher so that Hotch could tape the wire down. Hotch kept his breathing even, pleased when Reid matched his example. The skin beneath his fingertips was pale but mostly unblemished. The shirt he wore had a swooped neck that showed the scar crossing his collar bone. Hotch’s eyes strayed downward for a moment and he was somewhat surprised to see the pink lines of recent scars peeking above Reid’s waistband. From Miller, he realized; only six weeks past.

Reid gratefully tugged down his shirt when Hotch finished. They finished positioning the mike and Hotch applied the last piece of tape. Reid tucked back his hair to put in the earpiece and Hotch checked that it would stay hidden. Lastly he handed Reid the glasses he’d be wearing with a small camera. Reid’s shirt lacked fastenings which ruled out the buttonhole camera that Morgan would be wearing.

“Looks good,” Hotch said.

Reid gave him a wry smile. “Thanks.”

“You’ll be okay?” Hotch checked.

The younger agent didn’t pretend to misunderstand. “I trust Morgan. And Hotch, you really wouldn’t be a good choice.”

“Why?” he asked, baffled.

“Difference of position,” Reid echoed his earlier argument. He shrugged and continued, “Also, I won’t have to deal with Harding staring at me. I’m pretty sure he’s convinced that I have particular insight in this case because he perceives me as gay.”

Hotch frowned, although he agreed with Reid’s assessment. “Let me know if he’s inappropriate.”

Reid let out a startled laugh. “He’s ignorant, but not actively prejudice,” he assured. “Still, if this will go down easier by my playing to his role, fine. I feel better with you watching our backs, anyway.”

“I’ll be here.” Hotch motioned to the door. “Ready?”

Reid nodded. “Show time.”

---

While most of the team set up at Sidestep, Morgan and Reid took a rental car to the nearby Courtyard Marriott to check-in on reservations already made. Morgan smiled at the receptionist as he signed the paperwork. When they were set, Morgan declined help with their meager luggage and wrapped his arm around Reid’s waist.

In the elevator they stayed close as they joined other guests on their way to their rooms. Once inside the room, however, Morgan let Reid have his space again. He eyed the queen-sized bed skeptically but Reid didn’t seem overly bothered as he settled his suitcase in the closet.

“We should leave in twenty minutes,” Reid said. He took out his toiletries bag and set it in the bathroom.

With a shrug, Morgan settled his own bags in place, then stood at the window looking out at the city. He felt disconcerted by Reid’s relatively smooth transition away from his usual touch phobia.

“Hey, Reid,” he said after a few minutes.

“Hmm?” Reid looked up from his perusal of a local magazine.

Morgan leaned back against the window and watched his partner, considering whether he should prod. Deciding it was about time someone said something, he continued, “I have to admit, I’m surprised you volunteered for this.”

“Undercover as a gay couple?” Reid set aside the magazine and folded his hands in his lap. Morgan watched as he took a measured breath. “We need to stop the unsub. He’s already killed three men and destroyed the lives of their partners.”

“Could’ve let Hotch take the part. No one required you to go in.”

Reid’s eyebrows arched. “Really? I think I was about the only choice Harding could accept.” He shook his head before Morgan could say anything. “I don’t really have a problem with that. I meant what I said about Hotch not being a good fit.”

“Okay. But are you really okay with this?”

The blond shrugged. “I trust you.”

“You’ve always hated to be touched. By anyone,” Morgan had to point out.

Reid glanced away. It took a few moments for him to answer. “It should be, ah, rather obvious why…” he trailed off and cleared his throat. “But it’s not like I want to be… I guess, ‘alone’ forever. I trust you guys, but it’s still hard.” He returned his gaze to Morgan and offered a self-deprecating smile. “If a case requirement helps—” He cut himself off abruptly, surprising Morgan.

Eyes wide, Reid hissed, “Are the mikes on?”

Morgan blinked quickly, a jolt of anxiety shot through him at the possibility before he remembered he and Reid had control of that. With a relieved sigh he said, “Don’t worry about it, kid. We turned them off before leaving the station. ‘Long as we remember to switch them on before we get to the club we won’t have someone yelling in our ears.”

Reid buried his face in his hands, breathing shakily. “God, I wasn’t even thinking…”

“Hey, I’m sorry. I didn’t think about it when I asked.” Morgan came closer so he could rest his hand on Reid’s shoulder. “Look Reid, the whole team’s got your back. Anything you need, we’ve got you.”

Reid tucked his hair behind an ear, a light huff of laughter passing his lips. “I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks.”

Morgan glanced at the clock and stepped back so Reid could stand. “We should get going.” His hand was on the doorknob when Reid touched his elbow.

“Morgan? Thanks… I know you guys keep tiptoeing around it.”

“Anytime, kid.”

---

Reid and Morgan pulled into the parking lot. They turned the mikes on before stepping out into the chilly night air. Morgan shot his partner a warm smile of reassurance.

With a hand at Reid's hip, Morgan led the way to Sidestep's entrance. The line led outside the door but not too far. Thursday nights were apparently busy, but not quite full with the college-age crowd that would be on the weekend. Inside they paid the entrance fee to Prentiss, who did an ID check before fastening bracelets around their wrists to indicate acceptable drinking age.

"I think you'll always be carded, babe," Morgan teased, lightly touching his lips to Reid's hair. The blonde rolled his eyes tolerantly.

"At least I won't be the one looking like he's robbing the cradle in a few years."

Morgan laughed. Charlie looked on in amusement as he waved them in. "Enjoy," he said.

"Certainly," Morgan returned. With a saucy wink he said, "Me and 'the kid' here are going to be enjoying ourselves just fine."

"How did I stick with you for two years?" Reid bemoaned as they made their way further in.

At the bar where they ordered drinks from the undercover detective who turned over non-alcoholic versions. Morgan wrapped his fingers around Reid's hand to keep hold of him as they snaked their way through the crowd to a table a few feet back from the dance floor.

"I'm going to make you get out there with me, you know," Morgan said, grinning. Although Reid had joined the team at bars and a couple clubs before, he'd never danced.

Reid shuddered dramatically. "You know I hate dancing," he grit out, just loud enough to be heard over the music. Morgan was relieved that the volume wasn't quite as deafening as many clubs were. Reid had always seemed to prefer places where people could talk; he'd excuse himself early when they went to places with ear-splitting volume and music with beats that literally made the body vibrate.

"It's our anniversary, give a little," Morgan returned.

"You might try sweet-talking me a little more," Reid said.

"That," Morgan agreed, "or some extra liquor." Pointedly he swallowed the rest of his rum-and-coke and winked. "Want to finish that and get another one?"

Reid rolled his eyes before obliging. "I don't believe in liquid courage, but I'll humor you."

"Sure, babe, whatever you say."

Morgan managed to drag Reid onto the dance floor within a half hour, amused that the blond let his reluctance fall away shortly after finishing his second drink. He was surprised when Reid began to move with the music's rhythm as soon as his feet touched the dance floor. There was a certain naturalness in the movement that Morgan hadn't expected. Reid's eyes closed partway but his gaze darted quickly around the people surrounding them. They weren't crushed together as they might have been on another night, but Morgan knew Reid wasn't quite comfortable with strangers at his back.

Morgan moved closer, brushing his fingertips against Reid's sides to indicate their familiarity. He refrained from commenting on his surprise that Reid could dance, knowing that it would break character. Reid accepted his touches and occasionally moved closer in. His hand cupped Morgan's cheek briefly and he offered a genuine smile. He mouthed "thank you," before his gaze started darting around the room again.

“I need video of this,” Morgan said, grinning as he thought of Garcia watching the feed. “Show your coworkers you know how to loosen up.”

Reid glared at him and tugged Morgan close. He leaned in, lips nearly brushing Morgan’s unoccupied ear as he said, “Don’t you dare.”

The intimacy of their position was hard to ignore. Instinctively Morgan rested his hands on Reid’s hips and turned his head so that their cheeks touched. He could feel Reid struggling to stay put; the blonde shivered and then relaxed with a long exhale. Morgan froze in surprise when Reid nuzzled against his neck.

Clearing his throat, Morgan said, “Ready for a break? I wouldn’t mind a beer.”

Reid pulled back, eyebrow arched in amusement. Morgan cleared his throat again, uncomfortable about feeling a little too comfortable.

---

Hotch watched Morgan’s video feed as the agent returned to the bar for a second round of drinks. He exchanged pleasantries with the undercover detective and mentioned that he was trying to get Reid buzzed to dance on their anniversary. On another monitor Garcia went wide-eyed.

“Reid? Dancing?” she said.

When Morgan walked away, Gideon spoke into the mike connecting to the agents’ and detectives’ ear-pieces. “Did anyone notice someone taking interest?”

JJ was the first to respond, her position near the bar. “A few congratulations and there is a guy who’s scowling. Ramirez, see who I’m talking about?”

Their undercover bartender turned as he made someone’s drink so that his camera caught sight of a man at the opposite end of the bar from JJ. The man didn’t look happy, his hand wrapped white-knuckled around his beer.

“Garcia?” Hotch prompted.

“Yup. Captured and running facial recognition system through criminal databases and the DMV.”

By the time Morgan had convinced Reid onto the dance floor, Garcia was searching for all the information she could get for one Jackson Williams.

“Holy crap!” Garcia exclaimed.

“What’d you find?” Gideon asked.

“Reid can dance!”

Hotch fixed his gaze back on Morgan’s feed. She was right, Reid seemed to move naturally and the only sign of unease was his own video feed, which showed him keeping an eye on the club’s other patrons.

“I need video of this,” Morgan said with a chuckle. His feed was quickly blocked by Reid’s body, the other feed closed in on the side of Morgan’s face.

“Don’t you dare,” Reid murmured.

A surprising shock of jealousy shot through Hotch’s gut as he saw the two agents move closer. With one side of a headphone pressed against his ear, he could hear Morgan’s breath speed up. He was stunned when Reid’s feed showed him pressing into Morgan’s neck.

Morgan’s voice was a little higher than normal when he asked, “Ready for a break? I wouldn’t mind a beer.”

Gideon’s hand clamping down on his shoulder brought Hotch’s attention back to the surveillance van. The older agent sent him a cautionary glance before nodding to Garcia’s screen.

“Okay, I might not be a profiler but I’m thinking this is our guy. Jacky-boy’s sister committed suicide last year after her husband served her with divorce papers. He was leaving her for a black man who he’d been having an affair with for some time. All this information came from Jackson when he came to town during the investigation. The detective notes Jackson was furious and ranting about the ex’s culpability. Doesn’t look like anything happened to either of the men, though, and Jackson returned home. Your first murder is right around the first year anniversary of his sister’s death.”

“Let’s get a warrant for his home,” Hotch directed at Harding. “Garcia, what kind of car does he have? We’ll have someone check it out now.” As he spoke, Gideon was contacting the inside agents to let them know who to watch.

Harding said, “Judge is probably going to want a little more to go on before our warrant.”

“Ramirez can hand off his glass and run the prints,” JJ suggested.

They only had a partial on the ring Bruce Lewis had been wearing, but matching up the points could be enough to press the judge.

“We’re cool,” Morgan said. His voice startled Hotch. The agent was back at the bar, his body angled so that his camera found Jackson. This time the man was openly glaring. “Two beers for a toast,” he told Ramirez.

“Wait fifteen minutes, then make your exit,” Hotch directed. He glanced at Harding and Gideon. “We can move some people to the hotel?”

“You don’t think he’ll make his move earlier?” Harding asked.

“We already have someone in the parking lot,” Gideon pointed out. The detective there hadn’t found anything obvious with Jackson’s car, but stuck around to keep an eye on things. “Have someone tail our guys on their drive back. This guy’s going to make his move tonight.”

“Got it,” Reid echoed a moment after Morgan.

Garcia bit her lip nervously. “Tell them to be careful.”

“They’ll be fine,” Gideon assured.

Approximately fifteen minutes later, Hotch’s eyes widened in shock when Reid leaned in and huskily murmured, “Time to go.”

“Is it hot in here?” Morgan’s chuckle sounded a little nervous.

Reid’s hand appeared on the feed, held in Morgan’s as the agent brought the palm to his lips.

“Jackson’s getting ready to leave, he’s watching them,” JJ reported.

Reid and Morgan stood and walked hip by hip as they left. As they passed the entrance alcove, Prentiss stared at them with her lips parted in surprise.

Charlie looked the agents up and down, then smirked.

“Private celebration,” Reid explained.

Morgan sounded like he was choking for a moment.

Charlie’s grin broadened. “Have fun, boys.”

Hotch barely managed to contain a curse. From the corner of his eye he could see Gideon staring at him with a bemused expression.

“Scowling guy’s leaving,” Prentiss muttered.

“Got up soon as they got to the door,” JJ confirmed.

Morgan and Reid reached the parking lot. “Take him here?” Morgan asked under his breath.

“What?” Harding looked puzzled.

Gideon ignored him in favor of answering Morgan. “If you can. Prentiss, Jones, get outside.” Agent and detective sent affirmatives.

“Reid…” Morgan said, voice almost low enough not to be picked up.

Suddenly Reid stepped away and turned to Morgan, his hands moving to the agent’s neck. “I’m fine,” he said before pulling Morgan in. The camera picked up Morgan’s surprised gaze before his eyes closed and their bodies pressed closer.

Hotch looked away, jaw clenched tight enough that his teeth ached. He couldn’t relax, even when he noticed Garcia staring at him with a sympathetic look.

“Head’s up!” Prentiss snapped. “Jackson! Drop your weapon!”

The feeds for the agents’ cameras shifted violently for a moment as Morgan and Reid pulled apart. Jackson stood a couple yards away, expression wild but his hand steady as he aimed a stun gun.

“He only attacked when the men were alone,” Harding muttered.

“He only needed a little pressure to break,” Gideon answered.

“Jackson Williams, drop your weapon,” Prentiss repeated.

Morgan pulled out his gun. “FBI. It’s over, Jackson.”

Jackson glanced around wildly, taking in the sight of four guns pointed at him. Hotch saw his glance catch on Reid, the only person currently without a weapon; he shouted into the mike, “Eyes on Reid!”

Prentiss fired, her bullet catching Jackson’s shoulder. The man let out a scream of frustration as he stumbled forward from the shot. The stun gun fell from his grip and the detectives closed in to handcuff him and staunch the bleeding.

“Secure!”

“Warrant will meet us at Williams’ home,” Harding said.

Hotch turned away from the monitors and stood up. “I’ll go with you.” He ignored Gideon’s critical glance.

---

After wrapping up at the police station for the night, Hotch retreated to the hotel’s gym. He ran for an hour on the treadmill, his only company two other guests, both with headphones. He showered and changed in the locker room and reluctantly headed back to the room where he was bunking with Gideon. He knew the other man would pry into his reactions during the day. Hotch didn’t particularly feel up to the brain-picking and soul-searching tonight. Possibly never.

He exited the stairwell and turned the corner.

“Hey.”

Hotch looked up from digging the keycard from his bag to see Reid in the middle of the corridor with his hands in his pockets.

“Reid,” Hotch greeted. His thoughts whirled, trying to come up with any theory as to why Reid stood awkwardly in front of him.

The younger agent took one hand from his pocket and nervously raked his fingers through his hair. “Um. I, uh, was kind of hoping I could talk to you…?” He grimaced at the floor, refusing to meet Hotch’s gaze.

For a few moments Hotch processed the request in silence. Eventually he nodded. “Okay. Let me drop off my things. There’s an all-night café next door.”

“Yeah. Sounds great.” Reid offered a crooked smile. “Thanks.”

They took the elevator to the lobby and walked across the parking lot in silence. A gray-haired woman greeted them as they walked into the café and welcomed them to sit anywhere. A few patrons sat at the counter and in a booth near the door. Hotch let Reid chose their spot, which ended up being a corner booth across the room.

Both men chose to order coffee despite the late hour and didn’t speak much until the waitress brought their cups.

Reid dumped an unholy amount of sugar into his cup and stirred in a single creamer until the dark liquid lightened to a chocolaty brown. Hotch mixed in his own additives – with significantly less sugar than Reid’s – and sipped slowly, waiting for the other man to speak up.

“So…” Reid exhaled the word, then huffed in exasperation. He combed his fingers through his hair again. “I wanted to say thanks. For, ah, being patient. I know you’ve been keeping an eye on my—” he made a face “—‘issues.’ I mean, besides getting the psych evals.”

“You did good today.”

There must have been an edge to his tone because Reid looked at Hotch sharply. After a moment his confusion turned into embarrassment and a faint blush covered his cheeks and trailed down his neck.

“I-I was playing my role. What did I—Did I do something wrong?” Reid’s fingers visibly tightened on around his cup. He couldn’t quite look Hotch in the eyes, instead his gaze focused somewhere over Hotch’s shoulder.

Hotch closed his eyes briefly, telling himself clear away the personal complications that had risen because of the case. After a moment he opened his eyes and said, “You did an excellent job, Reid. I’m proud of you.”

Reid did not look convinced. He contemplated his coffee before taking a drink. Hotch debated what to say in the meanwhile.

“This wasn’t an easy case.” Hotch winced mentally when he heard the clumsiness of his opening. Reid watched him with interest, so he continued. “The murders were brutal, filled with a hatred hard to truly comprehend. In the wake of these murders there are also the partners…”

“Did you know,” Reid said softly, “that Grant Kwan’s lover is still searching for someone to help him take legal action against the Kwans? The family barred him from any funeral arrangements and denied him access to any of Grant’s things.”

Hotch sighed. “After our interviews at Sidestep yesterday I looked into Johnny Smith. He was just admitted into psychiatric care after a suicide scare.”

Reid shook his head, repeating Rick’s words under his breath, “’This is going to kill Johnny.’”

They stayed quiet for a few minutes, occasionally drinking their cooling coffee and getting lost in personal thoughts.

Reid broke the silence. “How can someone rely on another person that much? Why would anyone…” He trailed off, pausing. He tried again, changing his next question, “Why do we want to lose ourselves in someone else?”

Hotch noticed Reid staring at his ring finger where, at their first meeting, a strip of paler skin gave evidence to his marriage. He looked down at his hand and for the first time in many months he rubbed a thumb over the bare finger.

“I think ideally that sense of loss of self transforms to the understanding that two people complement each other,” Hotch murmured.

Reid traced a finger along the rim of his empty cup. “Luciano de Crescenzo said, ‘We are, each of us angels with only one wing; and we can only fly by embracing one another.’

Hotch smiled. “That sounds about right.” He looked up and was surprised that Reid met his gaze.

“So your wife… she wasn’t…?” Reid bit his lip, clearly thinking he’d overstepped his bounds.

Hotch considered the question seriously. He and Hayley had loved each other very much and were close throughout the first eight years of their marriage. But they had married young and their lives changed, significantly so when Hotch went to the FBI and transferred into the BAU.

“No,” he finally replied. “I loved her, and maybe if I hadn’t found a calling in the BAU we could have continued. But things change.” He focused on Reid and found he couldn’t think of anything to say or even if he’d had plans to say more.

Reid stared back, expression bemused. After a long pause he licked his lips nervously. Hotch’s gaze focused on the movement and he felt something in his chest constrict. Jesus. A few hours ago those lips had been kissing another agent. Heaven help him, but Hotch wanted desperately to lean closer and lay claim to those lips and find out how Reid tasted.

“Hotch…” Reid whispered, eyes wide. He had moved closer; the bench of their booth connected around the table and they had already sat close, but now they were elbow to elbow.

Desire and desperation made Hotch’s nerves dance and he knew that if he moved his hands away from the table he would be shaking. Reid swallowed visibly and a look somewhere between fear and want and desperation of his own crossed his face.

Hotch breathed shakily and closed his eyes as he felt his hand slide off the table and onto the bench. With trembling fingers he touched Reid’s side. The younger agent’s sharp inhale sent a stronger jolt of desire through Hotch and he grasped desperately at Reid’s sweater, tugging, wishing…

Not here, not now, a voice in his mind hissed urgently. Not ready, not ready…

Dimly he heard one of the men at the counter laughing with the waitress.

“H-Hotch,” Reid stuttered. Hotch opened his eyes. Reid stared at him, expression suddenly vulnerable and unfortunately filled with unease. “This isn’t…” Reid leaned away but when he dropped his hand over Hotch’s – which still clung to the sweater – he didn’t try to disengage. A look of pain flickered through his gaze. “I can’t,” he finally whispered.

Hotch could feel Reid’s fingers shaking against his skin and he knew at least some of the sensations that were thrumming through Reid’s body.

“I’m sorry.”

“Don’t,” Hotch murmured. He unclenched his hand and slowly drew back. Reid caught his fingers and didn’t let go. “Reid, it’s alright.”

Reid’s expression hadn’t changed much, although Hotch could see the flicker of desire again. “I’m sorry,” Reid repeated again, voice so low it was almost like he merely mouthed the words. “I can’t…”

I can’t echoed in Hotch’s mind along with his own litany of, We shouldn’t.

Their fingers were still tangled together.

“Reid, let go,” Hotch said gently.

It took another few moments before Hotch had his hand back. Reid’s eyes closed and his grimace of pain caused an ache in Hotch’s chest.

The younger agent turned away and began pulling himself out of the booth. “Sorry, Hotch. Jesus, I don’t know…” He shook his head helplessly.

Hotch successfully fought the urge to bury his face in his hands. He got up too, though they maintained a safe distance as they awkwardly stood. Their gazes slid past one another’s shoulders, neither willing to meet the other’s eyes again.

The waitress called from behind the counter that they could come up to pay; she was probably the only reason they were able to pull themselves away from the moment.

They went in opposite directions when they got outside. Hotch walked around for nearly an hour. By then his anxiety began to ease and he had the faintest of hopes that he might be able to sleep. He opened the door to the hotel room and grimaced when he saw Gideon laying in the far bed reading a book. With fierce determination, Hotch clenched his jaw shut and prepared for bed in silence. Gideon recognized the signs to leave him alone and said nothing.

Hotch lay on his side, staring at the wall for hours when not dozing in short bursts of sleep. Eventually Gideon turned off the light and fell asleep. Hotch continued to rest fitfully throughout the night, mind preoccupied with too many thoughts to count.

--- --- ---
(to be continued)

A/N: Guest appearance by Johnny Smith and Bruce Lewis (of The Dead Zone), my favorite OTP across all fandoms. Usually I’m not nearly as cruel as this to them, though.

The UST is ridiculous here I know. *facepalm* Sooo sorry. And I’m still trying to figure out what plot bunny snuck past my dogs into the room to get the Morgan/Reid bits in here. Damn it, I don’t really care for the pairing in general, let alone want to write it! Gah, writer’s frustration…

Don’t let me forget! Thank you, m’dear evil_killer_cat for cheerleading and checking in with me. =D Please keep doing so… goodness knows I’ll need to be speedy about the next part. =p

Word Count: ~6,200
October 13, 2009

P.S. I'm trying to make a playlist for myself (possible future ficmix) for this series... Suggestions? =D (Or anything that makes you think of Hotch, Reid, or H/R.)

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
animeartistjo
Oct. 13th, 2009 08:08 am (UTC)
Just the right combination of action and burgeoning romance! I look forward to more.
enmuse
Oct. 13th, 2009 05:52 pm (UTC)
Yay! >^,,^
lagolindari
Oct. 13th, 2009 10:18 am (UTC)
Ah, I have to confess I'm fervently wishing this was a Morgan/Reid story. After all the UST on the dancefloor, and after... The story would be fabulous!
However, I will content my M/R heart with what you wrote... unless of course I can tempt you into writing more, sometime ;)
*offers cookies*
enmuse
Oct. 13th, 2009 05:56 pm (UTC)
lol. Do not tempt me, darkside! *snickers* I know this series is ultimately H/R and that is the focus... but I figure the romance is not going to be something that's steady and might be something that's off/on for a while. So~ it's entirely possible there might be more M/R. =\

Like I said in author notes - WTH? I feel like if I start down that path I'm going to go all character-study on Morgan. XD Not supposed to be the goal but who the heck knows. I'm all about letting the characters write themselves to keep things going.

Thanks for reading! =D
sodoesrachael
Oct. 13th, 2009 04:35 pm (UTC)
Teehee. Awesome. I love Reid/Hotch, but Morgan/Reid is my favorite pairing in this fandom. Thus, I really enjoyed the part on the dance floor. ;)

But I love Hotch/Reid, too, as I said, so I enjoyed that part, too. I really, really, really love this series!! I was so excited when I saw that you'd updated!! :D :D :D :D :D Moar soon plz??? :D
enmuse
Oct. 13th, 2009 05:58 pm (UTC)
Thank you! (I love you icons, *g*) Nice to know I could please some M/R fans even if I'm not so pleased with my muses for screwing with me. =p

I'm hoping the inspiration keeps coming and the characters continues to speak up. So glad you're enjoying this!
shiba08
Oct. 13th, 2009 08:50 pm (UTC)
muwahaha that's all good^_^ you still got a little reid/hotch at the end there. I don't mind morgan/reid^_^

o and i love jealous!hotch!! yayyy!!

can't wait for more!!^_^
enmuse
Oct. 13th, 2009 09:40 pm (UTC)
*whistles innocently* Well, I think one of the reasons jealousy worked its way in was evil_killer_cat's request for it. ^_~ I'm still not sure what to think of M/R, but maybe it'll help their relationship (friendship) build up. I haven't had the sense yet that Reid really's been all that close to anyone to confide in.

Glad you enjoyed!
evil_killer_cat
Oct. 14th, 2009 01:34 am (UTC)
yeah for jealousy :D you made my day or rather night :)
the M/R was quiet good even though I don't really care for it since I see them as having a brotherly relationship. If he opens up then Morgan is a good choice especially if you have watched Profiler, Profield (not sure if you are there yet :D ).
I'm not sure if Reid and Hotch would have really reacted like that but it was kinda fitting...
well that's it for now :D
enmuse
Oct. 14th, 2009 01:53 am (UTC)
Thought you'd like the jealousy bit. =)

since I see them as having a brotherly relationship.
'zactly what I tend to think. =p

I'm still not sure what to think of the final scene, but it just seems to be how it plays out for now. ;;^^ Erm, yeah.

Have some ideas for opening the next story but not sure where things will go. Heh, you still up to checking in with me to keep me going? I've got two weeks before flying off to Disney (whee!) for a vacation. Hoping to get at least one more story out before then!

(P.S. like the icon.)
evil_killer_cat
Oct. 14th, 2009 02:19 am (UTC)
thanks, I just made it yesterday :)
of course I'm still going to check in with you :D You asked me and now you're not getting rid of me so quickly.
Just ramble to me and I'll add my 2 cents. Haven't had any nice ideas recently but I'll keep my eyes open for inspiring music.
bowie28
Oct. 19th, 2009 11:17 am (UTC)
My first thought: where's the next part? LOL

I love the slow-burning realization on Hotch's part. And all the scene with him and Reid are electrifying. God, it's intoxicating. I haven't felt this on edge reading a fic in a long time. Please tell me you're planning on posting the next part soon.

&hearts
enmuse
Oct. 19th, 2009 01:45 pm (UTC)
♥♥♥!
Aww, I feel kind of honored that you're reading. =) Sorry I didn't get back to your other comment.

God, it's intoxicating.
*blush* Geez, just flatter me...

I spent yesterday's free time doing NaNoWriMo-related planning and such, but I'll turn back to this series today. I've got one week before flying off to Disney, so I really want to post the next part before then.
(Anonymous)
Oct. 22nd, 2009 11:45 am (UTC)
Hmm, nope, I don't think I have a subject
Funny thing, I read the last one first, thought 'this is perfct', then just trailed into reading other fanfiction. About 5 hours later I found all the other parts before this. Remind me never to not read your fics. I love it, and the jealousy was great! Also, my first tme reading this ship, how I'm hooked.

Sincerly Slkyt
enmuse
Oct. 22nd, 2009 03:48 pm (UTC)
Re: Hmm, nope, I don't think I have a subject
*blush* Thank you.

I got hooked on the pair through a few key authors. You can see my favorites bookmarked on delicious.

But really, I'm so honored I could get you hooked. *squee!*
gail19
Jun. 22nd, 2010 04:47 pm (UTC)
You've packed so much in to these 6200 words. Reid coming out, Reid and Morgan, which you've made me want more of, and Reid and Hotch - smokin'.
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )