In retrospect, she knew she'd probably overreacted. After all, the BAU was in shootouts all the time and the focus was always on the end result. However, her blood was still pumping viciously in her veins as she tried to hunt down their fallen comrade. Ambulance lights flashed around her, EMS wheeling unfortunate bystanders and their unsub into the waiting vehicles. She frantically searched for his familiar face in each gurney, trying to keep her panic out of her visible behaviour.
The others were all busy with the other tasks that went with a shootout. JJ was handling the surge of press that had swamped the scene. Reid and Rossi were briefing the local police that had been a little late to show up. Morgan was ensuring that their unsub was strapped down and handcuffed, even through he was headed to the hospital. Emily needed to find Hotch.
It had been odd to feel her blood freeze when she'd heard Morgan's shout and even more shocking to see his body on the pavement. She knew the team was too busy to really worry about him at that particular moment in time. What had terrified her the most was the sheer panic that raced through her system at the thought of Aaron Hotchner lying on the ground dying not ten feet away from her.
Eventually, she spotted his dark head, sitting on the back of an ambulance. She made her way over, trying to keep her steps even and controlled. She wasn't sure she cared if he could read the panic that lay under her calm exterior. All Emily really cared about, was making sure he was okay.
The staccato of her heels caught his attention, something they had been doing more and more of lately. He knew her footsteps, her walk, the way she climbed the stairs to his office. It was offsetting to be so aware of another person, but the ultra-sensitive perception had been a while in building. Trust was natural in their line of work, intense emotion wasn't usually welcome. He managed a smile.
"Just a graze," he told her, nevertheless happy when the panic didn't seem to leave the depths of her eyes.
She saw the bandage on his upper arm, trying to ignore how unbuttoned his Oxford shirt was. "How bad?"
"Just a graze," he repeated, unsure if she hadn't heard him or if she didn't believe him. The roll of her eyes told him it was the latter. "They're not taking me to the hospital. Just a bandage job."
That assuaged her panic a little bit, but she could still vividly see his body on the ground and had a feeling that image was going to be haunting her for a while. But it was something she didn't tell him. After all, he was her boss. And he was so much older than she was.
Hotch wasn't sure when Emily Prentiss had become a book to him. He read behaviour for a living, but so did she, and he'd always found that she was often better at hiding her emotions than the rest of his team. Lately, however, she had become more and more of an open book and he wasn't sure if that was him gaining a better understanding of her or if she was opening up to him. Then came the question of whether or not that decision to allow him to read her was a conscious or subconscious decision. And if it was conscious, well, he wasn't exactly sure he was ready to go down that road.
Still, there was panic in the back of her eyes, in the tense set of her shoulders, in the way she crossed her arms just under her breasts. Emily knew he could see it and knew he was watching her every movement, worried she was a rabbit about to spring. But how else was she supposed to react? She was going to see his prone body for weeks in her nightmares and there hadn't been any real damage done. She shifted from foot to foot.
"I didn't see you get up," she said finally, unwittingly telling him plenty about her state of mind.
"I had to make sure I could," he answered.
"You're lucky he didn't shoot at you again."
He sensed she still needed the reassurance that he wasn't injured any more than the scrape. He picked at the tape on the injury and pulled it back, veiling his knowledge in his fake attempt to check it himself. "Mostly a burn," he observed, relief in his voice.
Emily let out a breath at being able to actually see the damage done. She wasn't sure how to handle the situation, how to deal with her urge to touch, to make sure he was alive. With all of the people running around, there was no way she was going to risk contact, let alone any other sign that she was still disturbed. To her surprise it was Hotch who reached out as he stood, squeezing her elbow.
"Local law enforcement?" he asked, trying to re-focus her mind. It wouldn't do her any good to keep replaying the events. He was fine and he would be fine for a long time coming.
"Reid and Rossi," she answered, knowing his full question. "JJ's working her magic and Morgan's got his eye on the unsub."
Hotch nodded as he thanked the EMT that had tended to his wound. Then, he surprised both of them by placing his hand on her back, steering her towards the two new SUVs the FBI had provided them with. It would have been difficult to drive back to their hotels with theirs. Bullet holes did not make glass safe, nor easier to see though.
Emily found her heart racing as she let him steer her. It wasn't just the touch on her back either, but the direction in which they were headed and the still-rapid beating of her heart. Her hands were shaking and she'd had to tuck them into fists, even though she knew her emotions were probably plain for him to see. And the SUVs weren't exactly parked in the most public of places.
For much like he'd learned to read her, she'd learned to read him. It had come as a surprise that he'd tended to lean on her following his divorce from Haley. As a team that was so often in such close contact, they all tended to keep their private lives exactly that. It was rare that they talked about their outside relationships. Even family was, for all intents and purposes, a taboo subject. But, as Emily had learned, it didn't seem to necessarily be a be-all-end-all rule.
She hadn't minded that he'd come to her. Actually, it had been an accident really, and the beginning of a friendship that she tried to avoid thinking of as more. She'd been slower to trust than he had, but eventually, things about their lives became routine. Often times they went through paperwork while munching on take out during a late night. She'd sneak books into his desk drawers that she thought he might like and he snuck her favourite candy onto her desk on bad days. Meals out were an adventure as they traded foods without thinking, knowing what the other preferred and disliked. The team did it often, but she and Hotch didn't have to talk to do it.
They'd both avoided talking about the shift that 'friendship' had taken. Touches lingered when it was just the two of them in the office. Emily's coffee runs inevitably meant two cups instead of one. His sandwich runs included her without question to ensure she did eat. She'd started using his first name, though only when it was the two of them and never during a case. They used it as a way to draw a line.
But it seemed like that line was blurring and blurring fast.
She almost bowled him over when he came to a complete stop by stepping in front of her and Emily took stock of her surroundings. There was no one around. Everyone was doing the job they were wordlessly delegated to do and it left the two of them alone. The SUVs blocked the sight of them to the large majority of the nearby crowd, the blood and gore the other factor in keeping the audience's attention. The storefronts to her left were closed down, light coming solely from the street lights above.
"Are you okay?" he asked, his hand just brushing her sleeve.
She had hoped he would have actually stroked her arm instead. "Fine."
"It was… intense." There was so much she wanted to say to him, but wearing their FBI badges, their colleagues only feet away, she wasn't exactly sure this was the right place to unload her fear. Plus, the part of her that didn't want to hug him wanted to punch him for scaring her so badly.
"What do you want me to say?" she asked snappishly. She wasn't calm enough to actually be addressing all of this and it kind of terrified her that he was so close to cracking her already delicate façade. They were at a stale mate, both standing with arms crossed. But it seemed that Hotch knew her better than she'd given him credit for. Emily couldn't remember launching herself at him or if he'd come to her. The next thing she knew his arms held her as tight as hers were holding him.
His heart beat started to slow and his muscles began to relax making it much easier to feel the same in her. It felt good to hold her as tight as it seemed like she wanted to hold him. They stayed like that, hugging tightly. To his surprise, her breath hitched, her shoulders shaking and instead of pulling back and embarrassing her, Hotch shocked her by raising his hand to her head, pulling out her ponytail and threading his fingers into her hair.
Her arms, if it was possible, held him even tighter, taking his intimate touch as permission to actually bury her face in the side of his neck. She inhaled, taking his scent deep, using most of her senses to remind herself that he really was there, alive and well. "Jesus," she breathed into his neck.
Hotch tried not to shiver at the air rushing over his skin. He understood the sentiment perfectly. Life seemed brighter all of a sudden, with her in his arms, her breath on his neck, and her hair between his fingers.
Neither of them were really sure how long they stood there, nor did they really absorb the things going on around them. They were in their own world, separate from the police, the ambulance, the rest of the BAU. For a few minutes, they were Emily and Aaron, no titles, no FBI, no job. They were people absorbing that both of them were perfectly fine.
Eventually, they broke away, though it was slow and reluctant on both sides. Emily's hand stroked down his side as she released him and his stayed in her hair as long as he could hold it there. Neither of them said anything, entire conversations passing through their eyes for the first time. The privacy walls the team consciously and subconsciously constructed had been unceremoniously torn down in favour of comfort and security.
She folded her arms over her chest. "We should probably get back to the station, start the clean up process of all of the evidence and stuff."
He breathed deep, mirroring her stance. "Probably a good idea."
Silence fell again
"I'll go round up the team," she volunteered, unsure of how comfortable the silence was. Or wasn't.
She nodded, though stood unmoving for another moment, as if there was something she wanted to say. And there was, of course. Too many things were going unsaid at that moment. But she didn't say anything. Instead, she turned with a soft sigh to go do as she'd volunteered. It was Hotch who called her attention back.
"Come to dinner with me."
And suddenly her heart was beating double time again, though for a completely different reason. "I beg your pardon?"
His face turned tomato red. "Never mind. I'm sorry, I shouldn't have-"
It was his turn to look at her in surprise. "What?"
"Yes. Yes, I'll go to dinner with you."
He'd taken the risk, but hadn't fully prepared himself for the reward. "Okay."
A smile started, tilting up the corners of Emily's mouth. "When we get back to Virginia."
"When we get back to Virginia," he agreed, his own smile starting to blossom.
Her smile blossomed fully, eyes sparkling. "I'm going to go round up the troops, see if we can't get out of here a little quicker than usual." Her smile turned coy. "I seem to suddenly be looking forward to returning home."
The complete turn around of her behaviour shocked him into a bark of laughter as he watched her go. He leaned back against the nearby SUV, trying to absorb what had happened in the last two minutes. When his phone sang cheerily with a new text message, he went for it absently, still trying to take it in. He was surprised to find it was from Emily.
By the way, I'm not a roses girl.
That much, he'd assumed. He chuckled to himself as he dismissed the message without replying. However, it didn't seem his phone, or Emily, was quite finished.
I'm more of a daffodil kind of girl.
He smiled. It was starting to look like opening up to her had been his best decision in a long, long time.
I'm not fully sure what this is. It came to me, I kept writing, this is what happened. I think the characters fell in and out of character, kind of a back and forth thing, but I'll leave that to you to judge. Leave a review!