Disclaimer: I own nothing but my OC. Criminal Minds and all canon characters belong to CBS.

Full summary:

Pippa Hale just wanted a quiet night out before starting a stressful new job at the BAU. The evening becomes infinitely more interesting when she meets a suave, dark-haired man. Then her one night stand turns out to be her boss, Aaron Hotchner, and complications arise. Pippa is determined to leave this awkward (and hot) first encounter behind her and focus on her job and remain professional. This is what she has been dreaming of since finishing her psychology studies four years ago, after all. But the inexplicable tension between her and her boss challenges both her professionalism and sanity. To make matters worse, the rest of the team has decided to meddle with private affairs, though not for entirely selfless reasons: They made a bet and if there's one thing the members of the squad want, it's winning. And probably giving Reid a really funky haircut. Things could definitely be easier, but it is just like American author Terry Goodking wrote: "If the road is easy, you're likely going the wrong way."

Chapter One: A Fateful Night

"It's like the people who believe they'll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn't work that way. Wherever you go, you take yourself with you."

― Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book


Pippa Hale


Pippa had travelled lightly for two years now. A suitcase and a weekender that fitted quite perfectly into the luggage compartment of an airplane. She couldn't really afford more than that as an independent FBI counsellor, always on the move and never staying anywhere long enough to go through the annoying process of renting an apartment. Hotels were her home and she had come to appreciate the anonymous comfort, the crisp sheets and the cheap-smelling soap. Now, however, it looked as if she would finally settle down. At least she hoped so. Quantico, Virginia was no metropolis and she had a nice hotel room in suburban DC for now. Perhaps this was the place for her, she mused on the backseat of the cab that took her from the airport to the pre-booked hotel room. She would live quite close to her parents here but every sunny day had its mosquito.

"It's right here, ma'am," the cabby said. She hadn't noticed that he had stopped the car.

"Yes, thank you." She gave him her credit card and a quick glance. Short, not 5'7", around 50, with sallow skin, unkempt brown hair and a scruffy stubble that was beyond fashionable. The cuffs of his shirt were fringy and stained from brushing against the steering wheel again and again, his fingernails were untrimmed and dry but not yellowish. This man couldn't afford the luxury of smoking. He wore a plain locket on a silver chain and Pippa would have staked her soul that it contained pictures of his children although he wore no wedding ring. Divorced. He slumped in his seat, his head bent forward slightly. His fingers were trembling when he injected the card.

"Make it 40," she said and registered the slight change in his behaviour. He didn't look her in the eye when he thanked her for a generous tip. Shame. A man who had lost his desk job and his family about two years ago, who had to drive cabs because he was too old for the economy, who had to work long hours so that he could pay alimony to his estranged ex-wife and children that rejected him now, either because of the divorce, his lack of time or his lower social standing, a man who had found a companion in his solitude and it was called either Jack or Jim, hence the trembling fingers. Because although Eddie Jackson had a bad slump he was a conscientious driver and would never jeopardise the life of his clients, at least not yet.

"Your kids will come 'round eventually," Pippa said, although she knew that she should keep quiet, "Just don't pressure them, don't show them you need them. Kids want to need their parents, not the other way around."

He stared at her blankly, so she left the car in a rush and made for the hotel entrance, dragging her bag and suitcase with her. This was to be her home for the next few weeks.

"Good evening," she smiled at the receptionist, "I pre-booked a room. Philomena Montmorency-Hale."

Her name was a curse but it was the name that was printed on her credit card so that was the name that mattered. Especially at the east coast, people linked the name Montmorency with the influential senator of Virginia, Cecelia Montmonrency, who, if she played her card rights, could very well run for president in the not so distant future. Pippa therefore preferred the second surname her mother had conveniently dropped for PR reasons. As Pippa Hale, she was just like all the others, there was no influential mother, no wealthy father, no uber-successful siblings she had to compare to all the time.

The receptionist was either too old or too Republican to care much for the Montmorencys, so she just nodded and handed out the key card. Pippa was disappointed, she loved the sleek hotel keys with the heavy key fobs that always told a little story about the people that had lived in the room before.

"Is there a bar nearby?" she asked.

"Randall's is just across the street."

Pippa took the stairs up to her room. It was nice, clean and simple but well furnished, modern. This would do for the next few weeks. Months, even.

She put her suitcase down and quickly unpacked her weekender.

Tonight, she wouldn't need anything but her purse, though. Only a quick drink, a whiff of air that had never been through an air conditioner. She couldn't remember when she had last been somewhere with the intention to stay. It felt strange. There had been something about the evanescence of her life, about not being able to, not having to commit to anything, not having any ties whatsoever. She had felt like a hot air balloon, alone, kind of empty, but so free and detached. Now, her mother, father and brother all lived just around the corner and she would have to go to work with the same people every day of the week.

One week to go, still, though. She hadn't had spare time in ages and was a bit at a loss now. What did people usually do to wind down? So, Pippa had decided to go to a bar, have a drink and take it from there. Not somebody, though. Now that she would stay here, a one night stand could have very awkward consequences.

The bar across the street, Randall's, was a dinky joint with a worn and sticky bar, cheap chairs that squeaked when you shifted your weight and a gang of drunkards in one corner that looked as if it belonged to them. There were two low-income businessmen, no doubt still waiting for the once-in-a-lifetime-deal, and a prostitute, desperate on a quiet weeknight, flirting with both of them. The money had to come in somehow, she mused.

Randall's red wine was alright, though. Nothing special but she was no connoisseur, anyway. Her favourite was a German Dornfelder which spoke volumes.

She was on her third glass, or perhaps her fourth, when a chair to her right squeaked, then a tired voice ordered a bourbon. A very deep voice. Pippa turned her head. The man to whom this voice belonged was no less attractive but also no less tired. Tall, she decided after looking at his legs, very tall, dark-haired, with a narrow face, heavy brows and a long nose. The lips underneath were thin, as if he always pressed them together. He didn't look as if he smiled a lot. Tired, attractive and a little sad, forlorn. Because one thing was certain, he didn't belong here anymore than she did. His suit wasn't custom made but not cheap, either, and his tie was still done up properly, not loosened one bit. He carried no bag, so he came from around here and had left business at work – at least physically.

There was no wedding ring on his finger, no light mark, but he didn't look like someone who had come here for a one night stand. He hadn't even looked at her once, his eyes still on his bourbon. So he was either divorced or widowed, still clinging to an old life that was irretrievably lost, no doubt because he was working too much. His trenchcoat hung over the back of his chair and she caught the glimpse of a keychain of knotted wool. No one with his clean no-nonsense style would put such a tasteless braided tassel on his key ring unless there was an emotional connection. A child had made this, probably at school or nursery. It was a typical handicrafts project. So he had a kid. Why was a divorced father of one here on a weeknight when his kid was waiting for a bedtime story? Guilty conscience, demanding job, and someone who took good care of the kid, probably the mother who wouldn't be too keen on seeing her ex all the time.

Pippa averted her gaze. She couldn't do anything about the thoughts that came, the observations she made were almost involuntary, she couldn't not make them. But she could be decent and just not stare at strangers in a bar when they clearly sought some peace and quiet and the solace of a strong bourbon.




It had been a late night and Hotch was just trying to wind down, just trying to...well, to forget about his life for a night. Jack was with Jessica, and he could be whoever he wanted tonight. But he was tired after a long day at the BAU, mostly busy with the transfer files of the new agent. A Montmorency. As if he needed more political influence. He was certain that Cecelia Montmorency, the successful senator, had pulled some strings, but there was nothing he could do. Her daughter would take over the newly created fifth field agent post Hotch had asked for at least five times over the last years. Hotch couldn't recall her first name but it had been smething awfully pretentious. Small wonder, considering who her parents were.

Richard Montmorency, half-British millionaire whose family had founded the Montmorency hotel chain, now a vast empire with restaurants, treatment salons and golf courses, all catering to the upper class, had married the now-senator in a star-studded ceremony over thirty years ago and their family had grown by a few significant members. He remembered a young congressman and a Wall Street banker. Why their youngest daughter needed to work for the FBI was beyond Aaron, probably it was her way to get an adrenaline kick before winding down on a yacht off the Florida coast. It didn't matter, either, for his hands were tied. The Montmorency girl would be the most recent addition to the squad. And perhaps she wouldn't prove too bad with her connections. Although he really couldn't afford a second JJ. He needed a sharp profiler, an active field agent, tough, resilient, persevering. Perhaps next year, the budget would allow for another additional agent.

Aaron took another sip of his scotch. This was not as relaxing as he had hoped. He had driven half an hour, just to make sure he wouldn't meet any acquaintances. The bar on the outskirts of DC was nearly empty on a week night with only a group of alcoholics in one corner, two weary businessmen down the counter, quarreling over a well-dressed prostitute. It was a sad, unworthy affair and did nothing to lift his spirits.

There was only one other guest, a woman who had not left her seat at the bar, only two seats next to him, for the past two hours. She had been here before him, and judging by the growing number of dirty wine glasses behind the counter, she was well ahead of him, too. And the barman was obviously not very focused on sustainability. Still, despite having had almost a bottle of heavy red wine, there were no phantoms in her eyes, her gaze was focused, her movements precise. A habitual drinker. Not an alcoholic, Hotch decided. There were no broken capillaries, her speed was moderate, she savoured each sip. This was no eagerly needed fix. She was fighting boredom. She was winding down, just like him. And he was on his third scotch, too. He wondered what she was taking a break from. There was no ring, no white mark on her ring finger, either. No guilt or sadness in her face. So not from her family, probably. From her job, then. Though Hotch couldn't quite figure out what her job was.

Her strawberry blonde hair was bound up in a messy bun, she wore jeans and a thickly knit sweater with a wide neckline, showing the lacy tank top she wore underneath. Travel gear. Comfortable, layered for different climates. A trenchcoat hung over the back of her stool. It was autumn, alright, but not cold enough to warrant such a thick sweater with a trenchcoat. She had been on a plane with frosty air conditioning, perhaps coming from a colder climate.

There was no handbag, only her purse lay in front of her. Practical, simple, plain but elegant. Dark red leather. Used but in good condition. The zips were still shiny. Not bulging with too many coins and receipts. This woman was direct, practical, self-confident. She probably paid by credit card, unafraid of exhausting her budget. Because, while none of her clothes and accessories bore any visible logos or tags, they were well made quality products. Her shoes, the only indulgence she seemed to have allowed herself, had red soles and high heels, with pointy toes. Shoes that would elevate her above most people present, he thought, judging by the length of her legs. Assertive, he noted. Not only self-confident. Dominant. Used to getting attention, especially male attention, for while he and the remaining unlucky businessman kept staring at her, she was not at all insecure or annoyed. She had not even looked at him once. And why would she? She had quite obviously not come here for social contact or she would have dressed differently.

He was almost certain she wasn't wearing any makeup. She was in good shape, as far as he could tell, the muscles on her legs flexed whenever she changed her seating position. She didn't have an athlete's slim silhouette which suggested that her muscles served a greater purpose than aesthetics. A job that required her to stay physically fit, perhaps. Though that was unlikely, considering her obviously wealthy background. A healthy lifestyle and her own personal preference, then.

Hotch was not done with his profile when suddenly, she turned towards him. Her face was round with defined cheekbones, a pointy chin and large, round eyes under expressive brows that were quite probably dyed. There was a slight smile on her lips but it was not friendly. It was cold, a well-studied expression of distant politeness.

"Are you too shy or too married to hit on me openly?" She had a faint British accent and a much softer voice than he had imagined.

He frowned. "Apologies." He directed his gaze towards the cheap nondescript photography prints behind the bar. It was truly a horribly tasteless place.

"What were you thinking about all that time?" Hotch did not like the superior amusement in her voice at all. "You owe me that much at least."

He turned to her once again. "I sincerely apologise for my behaviour. I hope I have not made you uncomfortable. That was never my intention."

He did not owe her anything, however.

She understood what he was not saying well enough.

"You're alone and bored, I'm alone and bored. I'm just looking for some entertainment." She had not intended to be suggestive, Hotch thought.

He did not quite know why he stayed, why he replied, when he should have nodded respectfully and left. But he was lonely and tired and much more drunk than he should be, especially on a Wednesday night.

"I analysed you," he admitted.

"Analysed?" She raised a brow. Assertive. Used to questioning things. A critical thinker.

"Profiling," he explained. "I'm in law enforcement."

It was best to keep his position at the BAU private.

"In law enforcement?" She seemed surprised. "Well, then enlighten me."

Her voice was not quite commanding but she spoke with a confidence, a habitual authority, that told him that she was used to telling people what to do. Perhaps she was a CEO, he thought, briefly, but then her face was quite youthful without the signs of that continual stress female CEOs were constantly under in a misogynistic, male-dominated sphere where women had to perform twice as well to be worth half as much. Not in the economy, then. Law enforcement. She had been surprised. You're always surprised when you meet someone of your own metier. She worked in the same field, at least in a broader sense. She was not a judge, he thought, although she had the authority. Too aggressive, too much of an alpha. Prosecutor, he thought. And probably excellent in her job.

He smiled.

"You came to Washington by plane, you arrived today, this afternoon, I'd say. You come from the north, probably New York or Chicago. You're a frequent and seasoned flyer. You work in a high paying job but you also grew up in a financially stable environment with wealthy parents that allowed you a lot of freedoms but supported you. You spent some time in England, probably in the south east, but you have lived in the US for at least ten years now. You are good at your job and are well-respected by your co-workers. You are competent, probably extraordinary in your job."

She smiled. "What is my job, then?"

Fuelled by her interest, he dared to jump to conclusions.

"You studied law, probably at Harvard. You now work for the state."

"Yale," she said but then she nodded. "Proceed. What else"

"You have neither husband nor children. You prefer to limit your contact with your parents and family to a minimum because you value your independence."

"Ouch." She smiled but this time, it was authentic. She seemed to enjoy this. You have really managed to capture a woman's interest with your job. Hayley had never been too impressed by his profiling attempts.

"You dress elegantly but plainly, which suggests that you are aware of your overall attractive appearance but are determined to impress with your skills rather than with your looks," A pathetic attempt at flirtation.

"Your appearance tonight suggests you came here for a brief respite from a stressful and challenging everyday life and some peace and quiet until the bothersome guy next to you pressed an unwelcome conversation upon you."

She smiled, a different smile once again, wicked, somehow, suggestive. "Oh, yes, that one was a creep, so I'm quite glad you're here now."

He laughed.

"You are really surprisingly accurate. Have you figured out my name, too?"

"I'm a profiler, not a magician," he replied.

"I'm Pippa." She stretched out her hand for her introduction. Old-fashioned. Distanced. Proper.

"Aaron." Few people called him that but Hotch was not appropriate. Hotch was a workplace name.

"Now, Aaron, what brings you to this shabby bar on a weeknight?"

"I just needed some time away. At least I thought I did. "

"Bad work-life balance?" she asked.

"You could call it that."

"We all need to escape sometimes. What are you fleeing from?"

She seemed genuinely interested.

"A bad conscience."

"Something you can do about it?"

She didn't ask what he was worried about.

"I could retire to be a full-time parent."

"But I guess that's out of the question. Can't your ex-wife take care of the kids? Or your parents?"

"They can't."

"Oh gosh, I'm sorry. I hadn't thought you were a widower. You don't wear a ring."

"I am not, technically. She was my ex-wife."

"I'm really sorry. I should stop asking, you came here to leave all that behind."

"I don't even know why I came here, to be honest. This has to be the most tasteless bar I've ever been to." He gazed around once again. It had been convenient, just off the main street, but there was little more to this place.

She laughed. "Yes. From the linoleum to that terrible Frost-quote-photo-print, this is really tacky."

He took a look at the picture she'd been referring to. A photo of a forest in sepia, underneath, a short quote from a Robert Frost poem.

"Yeah, but it is the company that counts," he smiled.

Again, she laughed. She twisted a loose curl that had escaped her bun and tucked it behind her ear. She was flirting now, he thought. And there was only one direction from now on. Was he ready for it? Two hours ago, he would have said no. But he liked her. He was definitely attracted to her. And he had not thought about Hayley for about an hour, so that was good, too. He had never slept with any other woman but her. They had been each other's firsts and he had always hoped they would be each other's lasts. But perhaps he was not destined for solitude.

"Are you flirting with me, Aaron?" She looked him in the eye. She had used his first name. She was asking a direct question. This was by the book linguistic psychology. Far too aggressive for a chat in a bar. He maybe wasn't an experienced flirter but perhaps, neither was she.

"Apparently I've not done it well, as I've been trying for an hour and you still have to ask."

She bit her lip. "You are subtle. That's charming. Are you from round here?"

"Not from here, directly."

"So you're avoiding social contact, too?"

"And I'm doing great, just like you." He smiled. Hotch could not remember when he had smiled this much last.

"We're both failures, huh?" There was a hidden sharpness to her words. If he didn't know better, he thought she was testing him. A 101 serial killer test. Family, self-confidence, self-perception, attacking the ego. Again he thought that perhaps, she wasn't as confident in her romantic abilities as he had originally assumed.

"Now, that's something to bond over," he replied.

"Something like a broken hearts club? That's sad."

"Is your heart broken?"

"Even better: I have been informed that I don't have one."

"I'm pretty sure that is biologically impossible."

"So, you're a doctor, too? You really are a versatile man."

"I don't think anyone ever called me that."

"Versatile or man?"

"Doctor." He grinned and she laughed.

They were tiptoeing around each other and while of course he had noticed that she was not willing to reveal anything personal, he was intrigued. Perhaps it was the knowledge that she was hiding something, although Hotch doubted his subconscious, so well acquainted with the depths of the human psyche, would be attracted to that. He did perceive a certain likeness between them, though of course, that was probably his longing for a mutual, a partner.

He saw that her glass was empty and ordered two bourbons. She had been drinking wine before but if he was not mistaken, she was looking for something sharper now. He had been right.

"Oh, sorry, do you take yours on the rocks?" he asked.

"There's enough on the rocks anyway, isn't there? I like my bourbon simple and unproblematic. Thank you."

Hotch took the two glasses from the barkeeper and seized the chance to breach the two-cair-distance. He sat down right next to her and handed her her glass. She thanked him again. Good education. Well-mannered. Respectful.

"It's good to see you up close," she said. She smelled of shampoo, something sweet and floral, but not of perfume. He hoped she didn't smell his aftershave. It was quite sharp and lingering and had been a gift he was using up.

He could still not quite make out the colour of her eyes in the dim light, although he would have guessed blue.

"I think you draw the short straw," he replied. She blushed. He felt how his gaze dropped to her neck, how his eyes traced the lace of her tank top down to the neckline, where it disappeared underneath the thickly knit wool.

"I don't live around here either," she said. "But there is a very nice hotel, just across the street."

This was it. The decisive moment. She was making clear what she wanted. Did he want that, too?

"Perhaps with an Emily Dickinson quote on the wall?" he asked but then he put his hand on the counter, brushing very slightly against hers. She understood.

"I'm sure they've found something more sensual."

Hotch knew then that he would go to that hotel with her, that he would pull that sweater over her head, tousling her hair even more. He should have worked out more those last months. And he should have shaved off that travel stubble he always grew when on a case, the result of little time and dull razor blades. At least he wore a good suit, although that wouldn't help him much in the hotel room. When had he last felt this insecure? He couldn't recall.

"Although the place is bad, the bourbon really isn't," she said, after a third sip.

"The main reason I stayed at first," he agreed. Was he too eager? Probably. She surely thought him an awkward fool and in a way, he was.

"Have you come from work?" she asked, and gave away that she had looked at him more closely now, too. He felt flattered.

"Not directly. I just didn't bother to change."

"I'm glad you didn't." She smiled.

Hotch took another sip. His glass was almost empty now. So was hers.

"It is not exactly relaxed."

"You seem to be relaxed in it though. It suits you. All 1980s TV cop with that trenchcoat."

"I sound like a terrible cliché."

"You don't look terrible at all though." She emptied her glass. Now he could, too, without pressuring her.

"I am under the impression you are flirting with me."

"A very astute observation." Her hand brushed against his more tangibly now. "What do you think? Should we pay Emily a visit?"

"I heard she wasn't very keen on those," he smiled, "but I'm willing to try."

"How courageous."

"Are you mocking me?"

"I would never." She gave him a big, innocent smile.

Hotch paid the barkeeper in cash with his back turned to her and when she pulled out a credit card, the barkeeper shook his head.

"You really shouldn't have," she said. "I am quite capable of –"

"I didn't mean to offend you," he said, suddenly self-conscious. Had it been overbearing? Probably.

She shook her head. "Sorry, bad habit. Thank you very much."

"Highly independent," he repeated.

"Sometimes, I do prefer company though, and a little assistance," her tone and smile were so suggestive that Hotch took his coat immediately.

"Shall we?"

They walked to the hotel and it was not at all awkward. She noticed things here and there and he commented on them and soon enough, they had a cosy first-floor room, rented as Mr and Mrs Dickinson.

He closed the door behind them and waited. She stood a set away from him and did the same. Then, suddenly, she smiled.

"I guess you are no serial killer after all."

"A very astute observation," he replied.

"I think you might be mocking me."

"I would never," Hotch said. Then he put a hand on her waist and kissed her. It was very soft at first, and he didn't dare to move his hand until she put her fingers under his suit jacket and pulled him close. He didn't know how long it took until she started undoing the buttons of his shirt, loosening his tie, but soon enough, they were undressed, her hair now loose in messy curls that hung around her face. She was beautiful and he was eager to touch her. There was a small issue though, something he hadn't considered earlier after over fifteen years of marriage. He didn't have any condoms. While he was still thinking about a way to phrase this issue without absolutely ruining the moment, she opened a bedside drawer and pulled out a little sachet. This hotel was good.

Hotch had thought that he would be thinking about Hayley all the time, comparing an awkward one night stand to sex with the love of his life but he didn't. Sure, now and then, she came to his mind but she was gone soon enough and only Pippa remained. It was passionate and gentle but she had a dominant side that matched his. They quarrelled for the upper hand and it was exciting and novel and hot. When they were done, she climbed off him and lay down on the pure white pillow, drawing a sheet over the two of them.

"That turned out to be a much more enjoyable evening than I had thought," she said, in an audible half-whisper, her voice still lust-heavy, her skin flushed, her hair untamable.

And Hotch's chest was suddenly filled with an intense, burning sensation that he identified as happiness, to his own surprise. Real, unclouded happiness. No guilty conscience because he was never at home, no dampened mood because there were still so many other killers out there. This was pure happiness as he hadn't felt it in a long time.

The whiskey soon took its toll and he felt himself drifting off to sleep, with her head on his shoulder.

When he woke up, he had a headache and she was gone. Bright sunlight shone through the windows. It was morning. He hoped he wasn't late for work. Hotch also hoped to find her in the bathroom, but she wasn't there. There was a note on the bedside table, written on the hotel stationary with a cheap blue ballpoint: Thank you for a wonderful night. I hope we meet again one day. Best of luck, Pippa. Her handwriting was slightly slanted and very even, her letters neither too small nor too large. Her signature featured a large, looped P, the only evidence of her dominant streak and decisive individuality. It was a quiet, calm handwriting, self-assured, clear and practical, without frills or loops, though not simplistic. It didn't tell him anything he hadn't known before apart from the fact that Pippa probably was her real name, or at least the name she usually used and signed. The high from last night had died off and after a quick shower, Hotch put on his suit and went down to the reception to pay. Only that of course, she had already paid. He should have known. He paid for the drinks, so she paid for the hotel. Egalitarian. Unwilling to be in anyone's debt. That was a silver lining, though. She had paid by card so he could find out her full name, although he wasn't certain what he wanted to do with it.

"I'm sorry, sir, but we can't give out that kind of information," the young woman at the counter informed him. The FBI badge burned in his pocket but he would never go that far. So Hotch just nodded and drove away. He had only half an hour to get to the BAU in time and had to hope that he could get to his office unseen to change into his spare suit there. Otherwise, there would be a lot of gossiping.

He wondered how he could contact Pippa. Perhaps he could search for her in the databank? How many Pippas were there in the area? It was an uncommon name. But no, he could not use the FBI database for private reasons. His only way to find her was to return to that bar next Wednesday night. She had written that she wanted to meet him again. Of course it was quite annoying that she hadn't even left her number but then again, she had generally been cautious. If she wanted to see him again, she would return to the bar, and on a Wednesday night. Of that, he was certain. Yes, that was the only thing he could do. And now, he thought, as he drove into the parking garage, he had to focus on other things.

Author's Note: This isn't set during any particular season. Hayley Hotchner and George Foyet are dead for some time. I play with the characters' ages. The canon team consists of Hotch, Rossi, Prentiss, Morgan, JJ and Garcia because this is my little emotional support fic. There will be some implied Garcia/ Morgan.

Please let me know what you think! I tuned down the smut for the first chapter but there will probably be some in later chapters. I'm not a great smut-writer, though, so it will be light. I will mark smut chapter titles with "NSFW".

Slow burn, might contain mild smut in later chapter. Lots of tropes.

The title image is Elizabeth Olsen from WandaVision, taken from IMBd.