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“Hotch!”

Hotch craned his neck to see the slender genius coming at him. He looked back at the file in his hands and nearly collapsed as Reid flung his arm around his shoulders sloppily.

“Hotch! I know you heard me.” Reid was looking at him with all his teeth bared, a sickly sweet smile that Hotch didn’t know how to return without feeling entirely out of place.

“Hotch, Hotch, Hotch. You’re too serious.” Reid spun himself around to face Hotch head on. “Come out tonight! I’ll buy you drinks. All this paperwork is making me delirious. Please? Pleeeeease?”

The older agent quickly racked his brains for an excuse, trying to think of one he hadn’t used too much lately, because he was starting to sound like a broken record. (Sorry, Jack is home today, Sorry, I’ve got early triathalon training, Sorry, I’m a tired old man with no place being at bars anymore-)

“Sorry, Jack—“

“Is at Jessicas! I checked” Reid winked at him. Winked. And he spoke to Jessica. Reid was getting entirely too comfortable invading his personal life.

“I have—“ Hotch looked to the left, an obvious tell.

Nothing to do tomorrow!” Reid grinned, “It’s Saturday! No huffing!C’mon, grumpy, we’re going out. You and me, okay?”

“Mmmh.”

“That’s a yes! Guys, he said yes!” Reid pretend-squealed to no-one in particular, because no one was paying attention to him.

“Settle down, Reid.” Hotch finally cracked a smile. “Just come up to my office when you’re done for the day.”

“Yes, Sir!” Another wink.
---

Reid drove them to a bar on Main St. in the heart of metropolitan D.C. Hotch noted how easily he navigated around the small city, and thought for the first time that Reid might be the type to go out on the weekends, or when they weren’t on cases. Somehow he had imagined the young man curled up with a book whenever he wasn’t at work.

“Benny’s!” Reid exclaimed when he threw his Hyundai into park. “I know you’ll like it here because it isn’t just filled with kids in their twenties.”

Aaron gave a small nod of thanks, grateful that Reid could read him well and was proactive enough to accommodate his insecurities.

“Not that I’m too far off!” Wink.

Was that supposed to be a good thing?

No, it isn’t supposed to mean anything at all. Reid can state facts about himself if he so pleased.

And there was an older crowd at the bar, but the music was still loud and there were more lights of different colors than there were of lights of the regular color. Also, they were flashing. Plus the floor was sticky and it made Hotch’s shoe squeak when he walked.

“C’mon, over here.” Spencer led the way through the crowd to an empty place at the bar.

“Reid-“ Hotch bumped into an obviously intoxicated man dancing freely.

“Hotch!” Spencer looked back and smiled, and Hotch could hardly be mad at him, even if he did bring him to a loud, flashing place that made his shoes squeaky. Reid would have to smile a lot tonight in order for him to get through this. But somehow Hotch knew that wouldn’t be too difficult.

“What a lovely, lovely night for a drink. To share with a boss, with a friend.” Spencer tried to hide a sneaky grin, before ordering to the barkeep, “Two shots, please, of whatever you recommend.”

In return, he was handed two little glasses filled to the brim with a yellowish-pink concoction, and he moved one into Hotch’s warm hand.

“Cheers, Hotch, to loosening up!”

Reid kicked back his shot, and Hotch liked the way his adam’s apple bobbed with the movement. Hotch knocked his back too, feeling a lot less attractive when he did it.

Reid shook his head let out a “whhhooo!”. Had he ever been that way, even when he was Reid’s age? Hotch didn’t think so, but he did have to admit that he admired the youthful exuberance that Reid was happy to share with him, and wholly unabashed about.

“Tell me something you want to do before you die.”

“I don’t know, I haven’t thought about it.”

“We could die tomorrow, Hotch, of course you’ve thought about it! You’ve got enough holes in you that I should call you Swiss cheese. Now tell me.

“It’s not important.”

“Everything is important! The world is bustling with important. You’re important, I’m important. Anything and everything that you put meaning into is important. This night is important.

“I guess I’d like to see the northern lights.”

Reid grinned. “Yes!”

“And, uh, find myself.”

“Hotch.” Reid had a cheesy smile, and Hotch felt his spindly hand against his shoulder, but he didn’t brush it off because it felt good, and they were out at a bar, not at work, so maybe it was okay just this once.

“I want to find you too.” Reid smiled again and this time it was altogether effervescent, and Hotch wondered what he meant by it, because it couldn’t mean what he really hoped that it did.

Reid handed him another shot of the same mix, and they downed them as well.

“I feel like I lost myself somewhere along the way. I feel like I lost you, too.”

“Like you lost me?” Reid quirked an eyebrow.

“Yes.” Hotch felt as if his lips were a bit looser than they were before, and his brain a bit more lenient than it usually was. Plus Spencer was putting him in a peculiar mood that he wasn’t quite used to. “I feel like… like… everything has changed. Like the world had shifted at some point, or maybe it was shifting all along and I was just too slow to notice it happening, but then all of the sudden there I was, or here I am, and the world has been turned on its axis and I’m still standing where I used to be, or still am. Everything is on it’s side and I can’t navigate properly.

“Am I on my side too?” Ried asked, and Hotch realized that he had fudged his metaphor, but the liquor told him that it was alright, and so he laughed, and said, “I suppose so.”

“I feel like you are too. Like you’ve been too straight, and I want you back. Come sideways with the rest of us, Hotch?” He said with his eyes glazed.

Hotch giggled, wait, he giggled? He did. He turned his head sideways, and he felt entirely more silly than he possibly had ever been, but Spencer was laughing again and it made his chest warm, so he smiled too, and then Reid was leaning in towards him, and he kissed him.
It was over all too soon, a franticly beating heart left in its wake. Two, actually, but Hotch didn’t know that. Reid always seems calm and collected. At least in recent years. He, for one, had found himself. I mean, he had the courage to kiss his boss at the bar, for one.

Hotch felt like the whole world was spinning, churning, burning.

“You were a mermaid.” Hotch said, dazed.

Spencer giggled. “What? I did not expect that to come out of your mouth after our first kiss. Did I break you? Was that okay? What did I miss?”

“Yes. That was okay.” More than okay, he wanted to say. “You found your feet. You were a mermaid, till one day you swam up onto land and you found your feet.”

“And you are?”

“I don’t know. A fish. A crab. I’m still underwater.” Bobbing and drowning and choking on saltwater.

“You’re a lot more poetic when you’re drunk.” Reid had a twinkle in his eye, “I could get used to that.”

“I used to think you were a saint.” Hotch mused.

“Every saint has a past.” Reid looked up thoughtfully, “And a present— No, I’m definitely not a saint”, he whispered, showing restraint. “Bad profiling, there.” And then he laughed, and his eyes crinkled at the sides, to which Hotch’s fingers twitched because he wanted to touch it.

“But then you left the ocean, and I feel lost. You aren’t the bight-eyed kid shaped out of nervous energy that walked into the bullpen eight years ago; you’re confident now, with feet, you’re bright and buoyant, and you don’t need me anymore, despite whatever that,” he waved his arms around, hoping Reid would understand that flipping arms meant that amazing, heart stopping kiss, “meant.” A beat passed. “I’m so old. I’ll never make it to land.”

Reid pulled him in by the tie, and pressed their lips together for the second time. He left little space between them when they came up for air, and when he spoke next, his lips brushed against Hotch’s lightly. “I will find a Hotch-sized fishing net and scoop you out if I have to. You’re getting feet too. I’ll make sure of it. C’mere.”

Hotch let Reid lead another kiss, and he felt his edges soften. This was a beautiful thing happening here, in a very yucky place, and it was everything. Maybe did he like bars.

“You sure?” Hotch asked between kisses.

“You can’t keep a good man down.”