|The Middle Ground
Author: sienna27 PM
TV Show Episode Title Challenge - Prompt Set #3 - Title Challenge: FYI, I Hurt Too -- Post Ep for Demonology; Hotch can't find Emily -- Story 1 of 3 in DemonverseRated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - A. Hotchner/Hotch & E. Prentiss - Words: 2,479 - Reviews: 17 - Favs: 15 - Published: 05-09-09 - Status: Complete - id: 5050425
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Author's Note: Post Ep for Demonology, so major spoilers.
General Story Announcement. I've decided to start doing post eps and missing scenes for the rest of season 4. Girl is only going to cover probably through Normal, then Emily gets sick so she and Hotch wouldn't be 'available' to go on the rest of the season's cases. So what I'm going to do is use the prompts as inspiration for covering the other season 4 eps. I got used to kind of 'fixing' canon with an H/P slant for the first couple years of their relationship, and I keep seeing stuff now that I'd like to have turn out differently, so hey, why not do it?
These stories will be unrelated to any of my other universes. Unless I state otherwise, just consider them as picking up from straight canon on the screen. Sometimes they'll be romantically involved, sometimes not. They are involved in this one, but I'm actually working on another one right now for A Shade of Grey. Their relationship is still platonic in that one.
Prompt Set #3
Show: Will & Grace
Title Challenge: FYI, I Hurt Too
The Middle Ground
Hotch paced back and forth across his living room. His hand was rubbing frantically back and forth across his mouth.
Where could she be? Why wasn't she answering her phone? He'd gotten back from the airport hours ago. Of course he knew that she'd been upset with him earlier when he'd let the priest go initially, but didn't she understand that he was only trying to protect her? It was all that he could do for her. It didn't matter what she thought was going on. She couldn't go around making unfounded accusations like that against a dignitary from the Italian government. It just . . . it just couldn't be done.
She would have ruined her career.
And part of him had been so grateful when Dave told him later what he'd done for her. Because Dave had been able to be there for her . . . to support her . . . in a way that he himself could not. And he had cursed himself then. Just as he was curing himself now. Wondering for the hundredth time if this relationship was worth all of the pain that they suffered.
If he couldn't even be there for the woman that he loved when she was grieving and she needed him, then what was the point?
At that thought, his gaze shifted across the room. It landed on a picture of the two of them sitting on the mantle.
It had been taken a month earlier.
Haley had brought Jack to her mother's for the weekend, so he and Emily had slipped away for those two days like any normal couple. They'd gone to New York.
Emily was trying to make it a happy place for him again.
So they'd gone to art museums in SoHo and window shopped in Mid Town, and on Saturday night they had dinner at Jean-Georges before going to see Spamalot. He wasn't generally much for musicals, but she'd wanted to go so he hadn't minded. Because he'd been able to hold her hand for the whole day.
And that had been enough for him.
Then after everything, when they were walking through Times Square back to the hotel, she'd stopped at a street vendor and bought a disposable camera for a ridiculous amount of money. He'd yelled at her for it, and she told him to just shut up and smile you cranky son of a bitch. That was something that she never could say to him in the other part of their lives.
So he hadn't just smiled, he had grinned at her like an idiot.
And then she had kissed him and asked the vendor to take one of the two of them together. A memento . . . a memento of a nice weekend away, just being themselves.
He ran his fingers over the glass, tracing their outline. They were happy. For that weekend in New York, they were happy. But in this photo, in this moment . . . frozen in time . . . they were happy always.
And that . . . his eyes began to sting . . . was the point.
That was why they suffered. For the majority of their time together, he couldn't touch her, or call her by name. It was too risky, somebody would suspect. Strauss was still looking for an excuse, a way to get back at them. And separating them would be the cruelest of punishments. So mostly he was stuck in this awful limbo.
He loved her . . . and he was with her . . . yet he wasn't.
They couldn't have lunch together. Only coffee, it was more casual. And not every day, again it was too risky. People notice patterns. But after work, later in the evening, she would go to his place, or he would go to hers.
And they would do normal things. Make dinner, make love, watch television, argue about politics, everything everybody else did. And they would be happy for those little snippets of time.
But now . . . he swallowed as he put the picture down . . . now he worried that maybe they couldn't be happy anymore. Not even for those brief periods. She'd been so angry with him. He was afraid that she was resentful that he hadn't done more for her. That he hadn't been more supportive. And that she would decide that she'd had enough of the compromises, enough of the misery.
And then she would just walk away.
But it had killed him watching her in such pain and not being able to comfort her. He had seen her friend come and talk to her in the bullpen. He knew that he was the one. He was the reason that she couldn't have children. And he'd known that they were just teenagers at the time, children themselves, but still, he'd wanted to beat him senseless for taking that away from her.
She would have made a wonderful mother. And she'd cried when she told him the story. The story of what had happened when she was fifteen. So he had known who Matthew was, and why he was important to her. And Hotch wished he would have had an opportunity to thank him for saving his girl.
For saving her from herself.
But now she'd gone off, off alone, and he couldn't stop worrying. Worrying that maybe this had been too much. Too much for her to have handled by herself. Rossi was a good friend, a good friend to them both. He'd helped him find a way to protect her when Hotch had thought it was beyond him. But Dave didn't love her the way he did. Dave couldn't shoulder any of that burden for her. She would never let him.
Not the way she would have allowed Hotch to.
But . . . Hotch thought sadly to himself . . . he had pulled back and left her alone. And now she wasn't answering her phone, and the snow had been falling for hours. He didn't know what to do. And he was trying to ward off the sense of panic that kept creeping up. Maybe she wasn't just angry at him. Maybe something was really wrong, maybe something had happened.
His head snapped up as he heard the knock on the door.
He ran over and whipped it open, almost crying in relief to see her standing on the other side.
"Emily! Where have you been?" He cried as he pulled her into his arms, "I've been worried sick! Why didn't you answer your phone sweetheart?"
Emily wrapped her arms around Hotch, burying her face in his neck as she felt the warmth of his body cutting into the chill of her bones. The chill that she'd been carrying for all of these days without him.
She murmured against his throat.
"My battery's dead. And I went for a walk and I guess I lost track of time," she leaned back slightly, "I'm sorry for making you worry."
Hotch stepped back and looked at her, "you're all wet," he said as he helped her off with her jacket and hung it on the hook. Then he turned back and squeezed her hand, feeling the cold bite into his own fingers.
He shook his head sadly, "and you're freezing. Come on sweetheart," he started leading her down the hall, "I'll run you a bath and then I'll make you some tea."
Emily's fingers tightened around Hotch's as led her down to his bedroom. Now that she was inside, the numbness was wearing off and her body was wracked with chills.
When they got to his room, Hotch sat Emily down on the foot of the bed before wrapping one of the blankets around her shoulders. Once she was huddled up, he went into the bathroom to turn on the hot water. As it began to fill the tub, he poured in her bath oil. He picked the one with the rose petals.
The smell comforted her.
As he breathed in the aroma a faint sigh passed his lips. Thank God she had come to him. He was getting ready to lose his mind before she knocked on the door.
Seeing the water was beginning to rise, Hotch went back out to the bedroom. There he knelt down on the floor and started taking off her boots.
And then her socks.
Emily was still rubbing her hands up and down her arms trying to warm up. And his eyes began to burn as his hand slipped under the cuff of her pants and slowly ran up her now bare leg. He felt the delicate bones in her ankle, and the faint stubble on her calf.
She didn't like to shave every day in the winter. She told him that she was always wearing pants, and shaving every day was for women who were trying to get a man. Then she had climbed on top of him, kissing him and then pulling back as she grinned, and said that she already had a man, so why would she need another?
He swallowed over the lump in his throat.
"I thought you were angry with me," he whispered, "and that you were punishing me by making me worry."
Emily stopped moving as her eyes widened. And then she stared down at Hotch in astonishment.
"Aaron," she said in disbelief, "I would never do that! I would never make you worry on purpose!"
How could he think such a terrible thing?
Hotch looked up at her with tears in his eyes. And as she looked down, he could see the hurt on her face . . . and hear it in her voice . . as she questioned him.
"You don't really think that I would do something like that," she asked hesitantly, "do you?"
For a moment he stared up at her, feeling the shame slowly spread through him. Shame that he could think so little of her.
Even for a moment.
He leaned up to press a kiss to her lips.
"No . . . no I don't. I'm sorry." His voice broke as he pulled back, "I just knew how angry you were earlier. And I couldn't find you, and the longer I couldn't find you the more I wasn't thinking clearly." He stroked his hand down her icy cheek, "I know you wouldn't do that."
Emily's eyes were moist as she nodded.
"Good," her voice got husky, "because I couldn't bear it if you thought that I could be so cruel."
"No," Hotch shook his head dismissively as he reached up to begin undoing the clasp of her belt, "no, I know that you wouldn't do something like that. I was just worried and I wasn't thinking clearly. I'm sorry sweetheart," he bit his lip, "truly."
Emily stared down at him, seeing the tension around his mouth and the circles under his eyes. And that's when she noticed that his hands were shaking almost as badly as hers were.
And she knew that he wasn't cold.
With that knowledge, she felt a pang of guilt pierce her grief.
She'd been so distant the past few days . . . and she had been angry with him. Angry that he couldn't help her, angry that he couldn't make this better for her.
But as she'd walked around the city, she'd come to accept that wasn't his fault. That was the situation. The situation that they were making the best of. And she knew that he should have taken her badge and her gun. But he didn't. He didn't because that was all he could do for her in that part of their world. That was all he could do to help her. And she'd finally come to see . . . that was enough.
Because she would rather have this, now, him lovingly removing her wet clothes, and preparing her a hot bath, than nothing at all. She reached down to clutch one of the trembling hands that were reaching for the ends of her damp shirt.
She gave him a watery smile.
"I love you."
Hotch's hands stilled, and he felt his heart swell as it did the first time that she had said those words. And he smiled as his free hand reached up to tuck a loose strand of hair behind her ear.
"I love you too."
A/N 2: I may have said this before but this episode almost killed my poor muse. It was just so heart achingly, depressingly sad. And I've written some depressing stuff myself but this was different. But then I saw this prompt and it struck me for that scene where Hotch is watching her talk to her old boyfriend through the glass. And then this idea started coming to me, a way to 'fix' the episode in my mind. By ending it on a more positive note and addressing all the little longing glances, and her going off alone at the end. And actually, now I do feel better about it, because I was able to watch a little bit of it after I finished this and I didn't have the same emotional recoil. I haven't been able to watch any of it since it was first on because honestly, it was just upsetting. Hopefully though, you guys liked this ending a bit more too :)
Reviews folks, they feed the muse!