- *No Site Warnings Apply
- Established Relationship
Spencer capped his red ink fountain pen with a sigh and set the last essay on top of the stack he’d been working through the whole morning. He’d come to enjoy teaching much more than he ever thought possible in his younger years, but the writing skills of some students were simply appalling. He refused to give up his old-fashioned way of marking and oddly enough, many a student appreciated this quirk, despite the psychological impact of receiving a bleeding essay as they liked to call them. Well, this lot was safe from trauma until after the holidays.
He drained the last of his coffee and glanced at the clock, nodding in satisfaction. He had plenty of time left to get the decorations down from the attic and make a start at putting them up before the tree arrived.
The lights on the outside of the house had been up since the beginning of December, but then a colleague of Spencer’s had been in an accident and wouldn’t be able to return for the rest of the semester, so he’d taken over some of his classes. Decorating the inside of the house had fallen by the wayside.
He was attaching the first garland to the mantelpiece and took a moment to righten the pictures of his family with a smile. He had never seen kids as a part of his life, and yet, somehow, he had to get the house festive and magical for three grown children and six grandchildren. Grandpa Spencer still sounded odd, even though he’d had seven years to get used to it. It also made him feel old, but that hardly mattered in the face of the love and joy his family brought him.
He was just starting on the multiple garlands they had for the doorways and bannister in the hallway when the doorbell rang. The windowpanes on both sides of the door made it easy to see that the person outside was wearing the uniform of the postal service. Spencer frowned as their mail for the day had already been delivered.
He disengaged the alarm and suddenly wished he was still carrying a gun, old habits of caution rearing their paranoid head.
“Good afternoon, Sir. Are you Dr Spencer Reid?” the young lady asked.
“Yes, that’s me. How can I help you?”
“My name is Tamara, and I work for the Mail Recovery Center. It seems you are the recipient of one of our more unusual and most delayed cases ever. Could you confirm your address back in December 2010 for me?”
Spencer rattled off the address of the apartment he’d lived in from the day he left the FBI academy to the day he moved into this house with his husband.
“Thank you, Sir. The US Postal Service would like to extend its sincerest apologies for having lost your correspondence for all these decades. It is my great pleasure to rectify our mistake.” She handed him an unopened envelope that had suffered with time but less so than it could have due to being made from high-quality paper.
“Thank you.” Spencer was still baffled by the whole experience and didn’t know what else to say. He turned the letter over and sucked in a sharp breath as he saw the familiar handwriting.
“Everything alright, Sir?” Tamara asked.
“Yes, everything is fine. I just know who sent this just from the penmanship. It’s a surprise, that’s all.”
“Well, we were all hoping to bring you a nice surprise this time of year.” Now she looked truly worried.
“Yes, I’m sure it is,” Spencer tried to reassure her. “I can’t imagine anything bad coming from this source.” He knew his smile was a little forced, but it was the best he could do right now.
“Very well. I’ll just need your thumbprint to confirm the delivery, please.” She held out the little scanner, and Spencer pressed his thumb onto it like he had done hundreds of times before. “Thank you, Sir, and have a wonderful Christmas!”
“Merry Christmas, to you as well. And thank you.” Spencer closed the door on her retreating form and walked into the library to collapse into his favourite reading chair.
He let the envelope slowly turn in his hands, trying to adjust to its presence. 30 years. This message, whatever it contained, had become an involuntary time capsule. He let his fingers brush over the address. Black ink, neat letters, fluid with the practice of someone still writing longhand regularly, and with the telltale signs of a left-handed writer. Not even Spencer could count how often he’d seen Hotch’s handwriting over the years.
It seemed so long ago, but Spencer had no problem remembering. He and Aaron had been getting closer, or so he thought. And then, after the holidays, Hotch had retreated behind his walls of privacy and professionalism again, without Spencer ever understanding why. If it hadn’t been for Jack, they’d probably have lost all contact outside of work. Spencer had never understood this change in attitude but had also never dared to ask. Maybe he was holding the answer in his hands right now.
Gathering his resolve, he reached for the letter opener that lived in the drawer of the table beside his reading chair. He’d never gotten out of the habit of having them in multiple places, though barely anyone bothered with proper letters these days anymore.
He carefully cut along the edge and pulled the contents free. It was a beautiful Christmas card, the front showing an old-fashioned drawing of a lit Christmas tree beside a merrily burning fireplace, and a cat sleeping in an armchair quite similar to the one he was sitting in right now, a book resting opened but cover up over the armrest. Spencer smiled that Aaron would have picked such a scene of comfort and home to send him; it was certainly something he’d been longing for back then.
The inside of the card didn’t hold any writing beyond the printed holiday greetings and the signatures of Aaron and a still very clumsy one from Jack. He placed it on the side table, so it stood upright. He then turned his attention to the folded letter that had been slipped into the card, probably things Aaron hadn’t wanted Jack to know about.
There are things that would be much better said in person, but they tend to also be the things that are most scary to put out in the world. So here I sit, writing to you, taking the coward’s road. But I cannot not attempt to talk to you about this, and in all other attempts, my courage has failed me.
After I was faced with the possibility of the most horrific loss, and Jack was against all odds safely returned to me, I promised myself to be content with my life, whatever it may give me because I had already received the greatest gift imaginable.
But life also set you into my reach, with your breathtaking mind, beautiful smile, and unending ability to care and love. I’d like to think that I am seldom selfish, but in this, I know I am. And it is in this selfishness that I wish to have you in my life much more than you currently are. I want to earn the ability to call you mine and have you claim me as yours.
For the longest time, I thought I would never love again, that I could never again open myself up like that and give my heart to someone else. But my heart knew better – or worse – and while I wasn’t looking, jumped right in and fell in love with you. And I can’t fault it for this, as it couldn’t have chosen better.
You are a rare gift, Spencer Reid, and I don’t feel at all worthy of loving you, but if you’ll have me, I’d gladly spend my whole life doing my best to live up to that honour.
You are also a difficult person to read, and I am forever unsure whether or not my feelings are requited. If they are, and you are just as uncertain as me, I hope you’ll see this letter as the invitation that it is meant to be. I feel, leaving the ball in your court is the only honourable choice I can make. If they are, however, not requited, you don’t need to worry about my reaction. My emotions are not your responsibility, and I can only hope that this clumsy attempt of mine doesn’t interfere with our working relationship or friendship, as I value both a great deal. I shall also spare us both an awkward conversation of rejection in that I will take silence on your part as its obvious meaning and won’t bother you in this regard again.
With all my love and hope
By the time Spencer reached the end of the letter, his hands were shaking, and his vision had gone blurry.
And that’s how his husband found him a few minutes later.
“Spencer! Look at the tree I got us! Spencer? Where are you?”
“Library,” he managed to answer.
“Spencer, love, is everything alright? What happened?” He went down in front of Spencer on one knee and with careful fingers, brushed a tear from Spencer’s cheek that had spilt over.
“Everything is fine. I’m fine.”
“This doesn’t look like fine to me.”
“No, it’s alright, I promise. Just a little reality check from the past.” Spencer took a deep shuddering breath and let it out slowly. He took the offered handkerchief to dry his eyes and gestured at the card on the side table.
“Oh. Why did you pull that old thing out?”
“I didn’t. It was delivered today.”
Spencer looked up at Aaron’s shocked face as his husband had stopped mid-movement in pulling over the ottoman that belonged with the armchair.
“I didn’t receive this letter until today when a lady from the Mail Recovery Center delivered it personally. It had apparently gotten lost somehow. I completely forgot to ask about the details because I was so surprised by the whole thing,” Spencer tried to explain.
“I… I don’t know what to say. Give me a hand up. I’m getting too old to be kneeling in front of you like some romantic hero.” Aaron waved for Spencer to hold out his hand and he did so with a watery laugh.
“I’m the one with the messed up knee, you know.”
“Yeah, but I win in seniority.” Aaron slumped down onto the ottoman and reached for the card, tracing first the picture and then Jack’s scrawl with a fond smile. “I wrote that ages ago.”
“Yes. 30 years to be precise. Four and a half years before we got together. The winter you suddenly pulled back from me after the holidays and left me all confused about my place in your life and even the state of our friendship. It made me painfully aware how easily I could have lost all of this, or never had it in the first place, as the case might be.” He gestured widely around at nothing in particular, implying the life they had built together.
Aaron let out a long breath and started rubbing his thumb over the back of Spencer’s hand he’d never let go off. “I thought you had rejected me, but I guess that became clear enough when you read the letter. I had told myself that I could deal with it, that I wouldn’t let it affect me if your answer was no. I think I knew all along that I was kidding myself and I got the bill in form of a thoroughly broken heart I had only myself to blame for. I’m sorry that I hurt you in the process.”
“I’m sorry you were hurt as well,” Spencer offered and fully meant it, but Aaron waved him off.
“What a letter to get lost in the mail. And for it to resurface after all this time.”
“Yeah.” Spencer squeezed Aaron’s hand. “I had just been thinking about our family and life together, and how lucky I was to have all this that I never expected to be a part of my future. And all of a sudden there was this tangible reminder just how lucky I had truly been. How easily this,” he waved with the letter still clutched in his other hand, “could have been my only chance, and how a stupid coincidence would have taken it away – and all of our life together and our family with it.”
“Poignant thought, for sure,” Aaron agreed.
“But also a gift,” Spencer insisted. “Not that I don’t appreciate you and the kids every single day, but I think I will do so even more now.”
“Spencer, your love for our family comes through every day in all the little gestures. The thought that you could love us even more is almost unimaginable.”
“Is that a challenge, Aaron?” Spencer asked with good humour.
“Never, my love. I know better than to challenge you.” Aaron leaned forward to press a gentle kiss against Spencer’s lips, and he gladly melted into it. Kissing Aaron had lost nothing of its magic, not even after 25 years of marriage.
Eventually, Aaron pulled back with a chuckle at Spencer’s noise of complaint. “We still have a tree to get up and a house to decorate, seeing as someone didn’t even manage to put up the garlands while I was gone.”
Spencer huffed. “I’d like to see you as the possibility of your life without everything you love flashes in front of your eyes.”
Aaron sobered up and pressed another kiss onto Spencer’s forehead. “Let’s never contemplate anything like this ever again.”
“I’m just thankful that Derek and Penelope got you drunk enough that one night out, and that you ended up climbing into my lap.”
Spencer laughed. “Let’s put that on a Christmas card for them. And you looked just so damn sexy that night, all relaxed and happy. Not that I don’t appreciate your dark and mysterious brooding routine, but happy is definitely the best look on you.”
“How convenient, seeing as that’s what you inspire in me,” Aaron said with a big smile before pecking Spencer’s lips again.
“Ditto. You’ve made me happier than I ever thought I could be,” Spencer said and felt himself blush. He’d never outgrown that stupid reaction. He carefully smoothed out and folded up the letter and placed it back in its envelope but left the card out. Together with the letter, it was clear that Aaron had intended the picture to be a promise of a home, and even though Spencer had not received the promise, Aaron had delivered on it.
“You know,” he pondered as he moved the card a little, so the light of his reading lamp hit it perfectly. “You never did get me that cat.”
Aaron paused for a moment and then laughed. “I didn’t think you’d want one. The kids were always more intend on a dog, and we agreed not to cave on that front. So, husband of mine, would you like to add a cat to our household?”
Spencer shrugged, strangely enamoured by the idea the picture had sparked. “Maybe?”
“Why don’t you think about it some more and if you still want one after the holidays, we make a trip to the shelter?”
“Yeah, that sounds like a good plan,” Spencer said with a smile. He moved into Aaron’s personal space and wrapped his arms around his husband’s waist, revelling in the hug strong arms bestowed on him with no hesitation. The reassurance of Aaron’s presence was just what he needed to settle down again. “Now, what monstrosity of a tree did you get talked into this year?”
Aaron just laughed and pulled him along. It was a long-standing joke that Aaron indulged in ever bigger trees since they’d become grandfathers.
Come Christmas Eve, the whole family descended on the house and what tended to feel too large most days quickly became cramped in the best way.
Jack arrived first with his wife, three daughters and infant son. Spencer hugged the living daylight out of the girls before they dashed off to see what new decorations they’d added to the house this year and where certain favourites had been placed. It was a good game that kept them busy and distracted from their anticipation.
Spencer gave Aaron barely a chance to hold the latest addition to their family before he claimed the baby for himself and retreated to the armchair by the fireplace. Jeannine, his daughter in law, didn’t seem at all bothered to have her youngest taken away for a while.
Annabell and Alissa arrived within minutes of each other. Spencer had rescued the then eight-year-old twins from their kidnapper after the UnSub had sadly killed their widowed father during their abduction. The highly intelligent and resilient girls had struck a chord with Spencer. He had still been contemplating how to ask Aaron about taking them in when his already retired from the field husband had shown up in Montana with a local lawyer he knew from his college days to get the process of adoption going. To Spencer’s baffled question, Aaron had merely said that Spencer’s growing attachment had been beyond obvious from his tone of voice. Jack had already been at college but had been all-in on the idea of little sisters.
Alissa came with her own three-year-old boys; another data point in the theory that twins did run in some families. Her husband was serving overseas and hadn’t managed to get leave over the holidays this year to everyone’s disappointment. The boys managed to squeeze themselves into the chair with Spencer, still endlessly fascinated by the new baby in the family, and Spencer gamely made room for two more grandchildren in his lap.
So far, Annabell stanchly stuck with her role of aunt, and nobody in the family tried to change her opinion. Aaron did, however, like to tease her that after five years with the same woman, she might want to consider offering her girlfriend a ring. Annabell always bantered back that not everyone felt the need to propose and tie their partner to them with paperwork after only six months. Spencer just threw in that he had been waiting long enough for Aaron as it were.
The house became the inevitable chaos of Christmas with small children, and Spencer let himself be drawn into board games, food preparation, castle building endeavours and storytime. He also exploited every chance for hugs and other forms of physical affections for his loved ones that became available, until eventually, Jack called him out on it.
“What’s up with you, Papa? You seem especially happy to have us around this year.”
“Can’t I appreciate the most important people in my life? Do I need a reason?”
“Need? No. But Jack’s right, you usually have one,” Annabell agreed with her brother.
Spencer felt himself blush and didn’t quite know what to say, but Aaron came to his rescue.
“Well, let me tell you all the story of how all of our lives could have looked much different due to my blind trust in the postal service…”
Profilers for Christmas is an anonymous crime drama Advent Calendar featuring both art and stories. Additional information about the challenge can be found here.