Home by Horror Haunted
Notes: Hey, guess what?! It's over halfway to Halloween! That makes another Halloween themed story totally appropriate right? Spencer, Penelope and Dave throw a Halloween party for the ages! Or something like that. And Derek hates Halloween. Let's have some spooky fun! (If any of you read my story Cough Up Your Ghost, yes I am putting Hotch in that very same Halloween skeleton costume...because to me, it's perfect. Also, that bold move on my part is probably more continuity than the show's writers ever gave Hotch.) Somewhere in the 4k word range.
Though the title is ominous, it's a fluffy cute story. The whump is even cute.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore -
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
“Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door -
Only this and nothing more.”
Spencer was woken by a knock at his door; one...two...three. Ominous, booming, and then silence. With eyes closed, he smiled. One...two...three again, and he stood from his wing back chair, placed his open book on the table beside him, draped his robe over his thin frame, and made his way toward the door.
“Quoth the raven, nevermore,” he whispered, a childish grin dancing on his lips. He'd been reading Poe, thinking of Halloween, macabre spirits dancing through his dozing daydreams. He knew on the other side of the door stood his escort for the day, reluctant as he may have been to provide the service. Spencer opened the door and greeted Dave, letting the older man enter his apartment with bags full of items he'd been out gathering all morning for the occasion.
“I don't understand half of these things you asked for,” Dave muttered, setting the bags on Spencer's table and peering around the place. “And for the record, that was not me asking for an explanation.”
“Of course,” Spencer replied, digging through the bags with eyes wide and full of wonder. Bags brimming with silly trinkets, fake blood, decks of cards, streamers, balloons, and a number of odds and ends that Dave didn't care to imagine uses for. This Halloween party, being held in his home, was entirely Spencer's ordeal and he intended to keep it that way – playing host was his contribution, and he was glad to do it, to have the BAU and their families over for a happy surprise after a rough couple of months. Even Anderson said he'd be coming and in costume, no less.
“Derek, have you seen my sweatshirt?” Aaron called from the bedroom, half inside of his closet pawing at the hangers for the third time in a row as if something that wasn't there would magically appear. “The zip up I got from Sean.” He couldn't hear a response, which meant either Derek had no clue or hadn't heard him, either way he went through the hangers one more time before dropping to his knees to feel around on the floor for something that may have fallen.
“This one?” Derek asked, appearing behind Aaron while he crouched on all fours swiping his hands through the pitch black of the closet floor, bumping shoes to the side but coming up with nothing else. “The one that smells like cigarettes and dive bar bathroom cologne?”
“Damn, I forgot to wash it...” Aaron muttered, rocking back onto his haunches and standing to grab the sweatshirt from Derek's outstretched hand. Derek just laughed and relinquished his grip gladly.
“No, you didn't...I found it in the laundry basket by the couch...that's just how it smells.” He reached out, pulled Aaron against his body and pressed their foreheads together. “There's nothing I can say to get out of trick or treating huh?”
Aaron smiled, lips tickling against Derek's, almost kissing, teasing. “Nothing,” he whispered, and then he pushed in for his kiss, still smiling. “Jack wants you to come more than he wants me.”
“Gross,” Jack muttered as he wandered past the bedroom door and both men laughed at the boy who was dressed in rags, covered in sticky corn syrup blood and gooey bits of fake skin he and Penelope had worked hard on over the last couple of weeks. Spencer had issued a BAU-wide challenge for everyone to make their costumes out of household items, not spend any money, and nearly everyone did their best, excepting JJ's family that was hell bent on costume superstore costumes of the officially licensed superhero variety. Will had attempted to persuade them, but JJ couldn't tell Henry no to the Spiderman costume of his dreams. Penelope had taught Jack how to do papier-mâché, which lead to odd science experiments laid around on every available surface until they got the bits of gory skin just right so he could be the scariest zombie anyone had ever seen. When Jack made his way back, he poked his head into the doorway and eyed Derek, his arms full of worn down and crumpled paper bags. “You ready?”
“For what?” Derek asked, shooting Aaron a look. Aaron just shrugged and smiled, slipping into his brother's stinky old sweatshirt painted with crusty and cracked old skeleton bones in aged yellowing paint. He really should have tried to fix it up, he knew Jack had plenty of paint, he just couldn't bring himself to do it. Washing it hadn't helped its condition any.
“Your costume!” Jack rolled his eyes, as if Derek didn't know he had to dress up too. “Come on, I have the perfect thing for you and you don't even have to change what you're wearing now.” Derek followed Jack into the hallway and out to the living room where the boy proceeded to pull out yards and yards of gauze, some of it stark white and brand new in plastic bags, other rolls were slightly yellowed from time and exposure. He furrowed his brow and glanced at Aaron as he entered the room.
“Don't tell me,” he muttered and Aaron took one look at the bag and nodded somberly, wondering how Jack knew where to find it.
“Yeah,” he replied quietly, eyes darting from Jack to Derek and back again. “Don't...”
“I'm not.” An unspoken conversation continued as they stared at each other, one that spoke of Derek's discomfort at knowing precisely why Aaron had so much gauze in his home though he was startled to find that he'd kept it. It had been buried beneath cleaning supplies, behind the mop in the broom closet, probably stashed there by Dave so that he wouldn't throw it out. Aaron had been rather difficult at the time, Derek recalled Dave mentioning, and he'd had to make more than one trip to the pharmacy for new bandage supplies after Aaron got rid of everything during what Dave called his “hard days”, the days he was afraid he'd come knocking to find Aaron had thrown in the towel.
And now these bandages were going to be his Halloween costume, and Jack had almost no memory of seeing his father in the hospital, no real connection to those bandages, he'd just found them while he and Penelope ransacked the place for costume ideas and was struck with inspiration. Aaron wanted to preserve that innocence as long as he could, and Derek wouldn't take that from them. “Can't I just be...a guy who rides a motorcycle?”
“That's not a costume,” Jack replied, already wrapping Derek's arms in the soft gauze. “That's just how you dress.”
“What about your dad?”
“He borrowed Uncle Sean's clothes...his costume is pretty lame but at least he didn't ask if he could just be a guy in a suit.”
"This was my costume before it was Sean's," Aaron muttered under his breath. "I made it."
"Whatever Dad, it's still lame."
“Fair enough,” Derek grumbled, allowing Jack to wrap him loosely with the gauze. At least he wasn't going overboard, he gave him just enough that no one would question his mummy costume but not so much that his movement was restricted, and he left his face wide open, Derek hated wearing masks. He felt like a complete ass.
Once they were all in gear and the sun began to set, Aaron grabbed Jack's pillow case for trick or treating, his backpack full of emergency kid supplies, popped his hand painted skeleton mask on top of his head with the sincere hope that it could stay there and not be used, and locked up behind them. They began by knocking on the doors of neighbors in the building, moving on to houses in the neighborhood and finally piling into Aaron's car to head to Dave's neighborhood where they were promised full sized candy bars at every enormous, fancy home and a special surprise waiting at Dave's home. Derek and Aaron each had their own suspicions about what that surprise might be but they said nothing, they let Jack work himself up over what it could be, knowing that if either of them were correct, there was no way the kid would be disappointed.
“Trick or treat!” Jack called, opening his pillow case to Dave who stood in his doorway with a glass of wine in one hand, beckoning them to enter with the other. He was dressed in a red silk smoking jacket and all black beneath, hair slicked back, and Aaron thought he detected the faintest hint of fangs and blood at the corners of his lips.
“Welcome to my house! Enter freely of your own will!” Dave announced, his lines from Dracula carefully rehearsed as prompted by Spencer to set the mood. He affected the best accent he could, but it came out more like Dracula the Wise Guy - at least he was trying. The entryway, normally airy and open with a Tuscan charm was done over entirely in all black butcher paper and painted stone like castle walls, with eerie black lights and streamers hanging from the ceiling like spiderwebs. In the distance they heard ominous knocking and creaking, loud footsteps echoing overhead and the floor was covered now in a dense fog. Derek glanced around and shot Aaron a look that said he absolutely did not like this, did not want any part of this, and he was about to turn around and go when Aaron grabbed his hand and smiled.
“It's for the kids,” Aaron said softly, sliding his mask down over his face in a gesture of good will and participation. “Not us. How bad can it be?” Derek grumbled something about being dressed up like a mummy in a haunted hallway not being anywhere close to his idea of fun and in a louder voice got Dave's attention as he lead the group of weary travelers down the corridor toward an eerie glowing light.
“Hey, Rossi...if I say trick or treat, do I get a stiff drink?” he called, moving ahead of Aaron and Jack now to catch up to their host. Before Dave could answer, he felt a trip wire against his shin snap and a series of bouncing, fuzzy black and brown bats dropped from the ceiling before his eyes, hanging from nearly invisible lines and chattering away with glowing red eyes. The way they seemed to flap all around him, the squealing chatter, sent a shiver up his spine.
Behind him, he felt something feather light tickle against his neck and he swung around, arms flailing wildly as fear took over. His elbow connected with something that made a sickening crunching sound, and before his eyes could focus he heard Aaron groan and Jack shout something in a high pitch voice that sounded laced with terror. Dad, he was yelling. Derek's chest heaved as he struggled to catch his breath, to recognize that the sound had been his elbow connecting with Aaron's face. All at once he forgot about the bats and put his hands on Aaron's shoulders, leaning in close to see blood pooling in Aaron's hands, rushing in rivers out from behind his cracked mask. Derek pressed himself against Aaron, shaking hands fumbling at his broken mask until it was in his hands, and he could see the cut on the bridge of his nose, see the blood running down his lips and chin pooling oily and black under the party lights. “Shit, I'm so sorry...” he muttered and Aaron raised a hand, drenched in blood, waving away his concern the best he could.
“Doesn't hurt, I'm fine,” he muttered, sounding like someone with a bad cold. He was holding his nose with one hand and catching the rushing blood with the other now. Dave came flying back toward them with a rag in his hand, followed by Emily in her all black attempt at a witch's costume with a bottle of cleaning spray and a towel to mop up the mess.
“REID!” Derek growled as Dave wrapped his arm around Aaron's shoulders and escorted him quickly toward the bathroom to get him cleaned up. JJ, along with Will and Henry, had been right behind them, having entered at exactly the wrong time. Jack and Henry stood frozen in shock, but JJ did her best to scoot them around the blood and down along the rest of the haunted hallway, jumping at the little scares along the way until they came out into the wide open living room and kitchen area where there were party decorations everywhere and a real DJ playing the monster mash for them as if on cue. Dave had flown Joy and her family up, which made for a few kids and a lot of adults and way too much food catered by Penelope and a few of Dave's favorite personal chefs that he would say owed him a favor or two.
Derek tore through the house, trying to find Spencer. Emily intercepted him once she'd finished the bio-hazard cleanup in the hallway and handed him a martini with a smile. “Take it easy, tiger,” she cooed and he knew she'd been there awhile drinking. “He didn't know you were going to start throwin' bows, Derek.” Derek took the drink and downed it in one go, hissing at the burn of the vodka and leveling his glare at Emily who just laughed, right in his face. “This is a party. Lighten up.”
“Some party,” he grumbled. “In case you forgot, I just busted Aaron's face up.”
“Gross, don't call him that,” Emily gagged, downing the rest of her drink and picking the olives out with her fingertips. “It's not right.”
“It's his name.”
By the time Derek found Spencer, Aaron had rejoined the party as best he could – he was seated on the couch beside Dave, his head hung between his legs to keep the blood from draining down his throat with a rag filled with ice pressed against his face. He looked miserable but he insisted he was okay, he didn't even think it looked broken he'd said though Dave was giving Derek the look that said he was full of shit. He insisted it was just the medication he took that made it bleed a little more than it should. He was glad he'd thought to bring Jack's backpack though, at least he had a band-aid to put over the cut on the bridge of his nose without Dave having to ransack his first aid kit for something small enough.
"Dinosaurs," Derek said, touching the band-aid softly, pressing it back down where it was beginning to peel up from the moisture of the icy rag. "Nice touch."
“I'm okay, really,” he said one final time as Derek settled into the seat beside him. “Don't worry about me. My mask, on the other hand...”
“I'm so sorry, man,” Derek said, looking at the mask in Dave's hands, blood dried inside now. A crack ran down the center, from the bridge of the nose to the chin, a relic from Aaron's childhood reduced to rubble by his carelessness. Aaron leaned against Derek, letting his weight settle there, feeling the blood drain into the rag in his hand. He closed his eyes and tried to will it to stop, knowing that Dave was timing how long it took and would have no problem forcing him to go to the hospital, thus ruining Jack's holiday entirely, if it didn't stop soon. As it was, he could feel the way Dave's muscles twitched every time he moved, every time he winced as he spoke so he tried to just sit quietly while his entire face went numb.
“Go have a good time, be nice to Reid...he was just playing around. I'll join you as soon as the bleeding stops.”
Derek rolled his eyes and slipped his arm around Aaron's shoulders briefly, pulling him into a one armed hug and kissing him on top of the head before standing up and finding Penelope, searching out something that would make him smile. He found her, dressed as the bride of Frankenstein, near the kids' punch bowl filling glasses with neon green liquid teeming with sour gummy worms. It looked like radiator fluid. He watched as Jack guzzled a glass, leaving a radioactive mustache against the grey paint on his face before asking for another and Derek knew he was taking advantage of his dad being temporarily out of commission but it was a party and Aaron had told him to have fun...so he would let Jack do the same.
“What did you do?!” she hissed, punching him in the shoulder once the kids had moved on. He glared at her.
“I gotta get him back,” was all he said, but he was smiling now, it was hard not to. Everyone was having a good time, the music was loud and the lights were electric neon and out of the corner of his eye he could see Dave laughing on the couch beside Aaron and knew that things were okay. The party wore on, trick or treaters came by and were invited in for Spencer's haunted hallway before they got their candy and went on their way.
As Derek stood and visited over his third martini, Spencer, dressed as both Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde took center stage and, with the help of his assistant Penelope, began a Spook House style horror magic show for a captive audience. Dave recognized many of the items he'd procured earlier as he sat, nursing his glass of wine. Aaron had slipped away to empty the bag of water that had once been ice into the sink and, instead of returning to the couch, he found himself leaning against Derek, arms wrapped around his waist, Derek's chin digging into his shoulder.
"Prettyboy's good," Derek mused and Aaron nodded, watching intently when Jack volunteered to be his assistant for a particularly messy, gory trick. Aaron's eyes darted to Dave when he saw the sticky fake blood pooling on the table but, to his suprise, Dave didn't even flinch - he must have been having a very, very good time.
Once trick or treat hours had officially come to a close and the Spook House magic show had come to its end, the DJ left and the lights went down, revealing a projector screen Spencer had set up with old black and white monster movies, beginning with Night of the Living Dead. Jack came bounding over and pointed excitedly at the screen and Aaron nodded, smiling.
"Aunt Penny and I made my costume from this movie!" he squealed before grabbing a handful of candy out of a bowl and rushing over to sit as close to the screen as he could manage and still see. Henry sat beside him and told him how cool his outfit was and how his parents never let him watch scary movies and was it really super scary or just a little scary? Jack sat beside Henry, a boy just enough his junior to look up to him, and told him all about the movie and how it was made and the makeup they used, anything to help his friend feel more comfortable as they prepared to jump and scream when the zombies came for Barbara.
“Hey,” Derek said softly into Aaron's ear. “Watch this.” He indicated the kitchen, just a few feet from the place they stood, where Spencer was lifting his drink to his lips while he talked with a very drunk Emily whose homemade witch hat was torn and lopsided but looked somehow endearing. One gulp was all it took before he was spitting and gagging into the sink, a mouthful of betrayal – a saltwater martini. He shot a glare at Derek who just grinned and waggled his head. “I win.”
Spencer stormed over to where Derek and Aaron stood, glaring at him. “It's on...”
“No, no, no...truce. We're even for tonight. I can't be lookin' over my shoulder every couple minutes while I'm trying to take care of my sweet thing here...”
Aaron scrunched up his face the best he could, groaning at the pain it caused and leaned away from Derek with a look of disgust. “Go away,” he grumbled. Derek just laughed and pulled him closer again, a movement that Aaron didn't bother to protest.
“Not a chance.”
As the party began to wrap up, Aaron found himself busy in the kitchen loading the dishwasher in a futile attempt to help Dave clean up his home. Dave approached Aaron cautiously. “How you feeling?” he asked, and Aaron shrugged, dumping the last dredges of the radioactive punch down the drain. He'd been at the cleaning for at least thirty minutes by then and hadn't made even a dent.
“Fine,” he replied, looking around at the sleepy drunk faces and the exhausted kids that hadn't made it so far into the night before passing out. “You need me to give people rides, don't you?”
“I was kind of hoping you would...I picked up Reid and Garcia early today so no one would see their cars and ruin the surprise. It looks like JJ and Will are fine to drive but Emily...she's going to need some help.”
“Of course,” Aaron replied, peering into the living room at Derek sleeping with Jack curled up on his lap, makeup smudged all over the gauze now hanging in shredded bits all over, pooled around his feet in clumps. On the projector was Bela Lugosi leering at them. “I'll come back for them.”
He escorted Penelope and Emily out, with Spencer's help, and began the trek around town to drop them each off at home, ensuring they got inside without any trouble. Every street corner was filled with the night's last fledgling partygoers, out trying desperately not to let their holiday end. Bar doors hung open, people in disheveled costumes gathered around cigarettes and beer bottles on the sidewalks and Aaron remembered those days when he could drink until 2am and be up in time for class anyway. Those days were long gone.
“Hey, um, I'm sorry about what happened,” Spencer said as he opened his door, the last person to get out. “I didn't think that through huh?”
“No, it was great. The bats were so realistic. You should have seen the look on his face when he spun around.” They both smiled at that, and while Aaron regretted the movement, it was worth it. He knew how hard Spencer had worked to pull off that party, could imagine the trouble he went to in order to get Dave to agree to it, and the last thing he wanted was for the man to feel somehow like a failure. "Best Halloween party I've ever been to. I don't think Jack's ever going to forget it. Thank you, Spencer."
Spencer climbed out of the car beaming and Aaron sat and watched him open the door to his building and disappear into the shadows, very much like Mr. Hyde would. It was entirely likely that Spencer wouldn't sleep that night, instead he would sit with his notebook and fountain pen in his wingback chair scrawling notes for next year's party.
The drive back was silent, and Aaron lost himself in the gentle throbbing in his forehead, the way his eyes felt heavy as the bridge of his nose swelled. By the time he got back, Dave was the only person left awake and he was waiting on the front porch in the cool midnight air for his friend's headlights to appear in his driveway. He stood, watched as Aaron got out of the car and walked toward him at a quick clip for that time of night. He handed Aaron a glass of water in a wine glass with a handful of ibuprofen and a wink.
“Cheers,” Dave said quietly. “To a successful party. Let's see if we can top it at Christmas.”
“Cheers,” Hotch repeated, tossing back the pills first and then the water.
"You should get that looked at," Dave said, indicating Aaron's face. He was met with the trademark scowl of a man who did not like being told what to do.
“We'll see how it feels," Aaron deflected, sipping his water, bumping the glass against his nose painfully more than once. "I will be working from home tomorrow. Happy Halloween, Dave.” he added the last bit with a devilish little smirk, handing his empty glass to Dave and making his way inside for Jack and Derek on the couch, eager to get them all home and in bed.
Dave glared at him, but in the end he just shrugged and watched as Derek rubbed the sleep from his eyes and hefted Jack into his arms, bidding Dave goodnight on their way out. Considering that Hotch's face was a swollen, bruised mess highlighted by a neon dinosaur band-aid, he couldn't say he blamed the guy. He finished off his glass of wine and locked up, thinking up all sorts of fun ways to mess with his hungover crew come morning.
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!” - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by Horror haunted – tell me truly, I implore -
Is there, is there balm in Gilead? - tell me – tell me, I implore!”
Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
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