Emily viciously yanked off her t-shirt, her mind whirling a million miles a minute. She'd been perfectly fine to step in, known exactly what she was doing and exactly what she was going to say and do to get through to the man that had killed five women. And she was doing just fine talking him down out of shooting her when the bullets had smashed through the glass.
Out of habit she'd hit the ground. Conditioning had her ducking for cover, even as she saw Gordon Howard go down. She'd known he was dead when he'd hit the ground, but checked anyway, kicking away the gun he'd pulled on her in the process. Sure enough, there was no pulse.
Morgan had been the first one through the door, she remembered. Emily had shaken her head at him, indicating that Howard was dead. Morgan's gun lowered immediately and she saw the tense lines in his muscles relax. Then she'd heard his frantic voice and knew.
She wasn't really angry at him per se. The logical part of her knew that he was doing what he thought he had to do to protect her. Aaron protected the things he cared about and though she was a team member and a good agent, she'd had a gun trained on her. Part of her knew he'd react in the best way he knew how for the situation.
And that had meant shooting when he had the shot.
She could tell by the way he'd said her name, by the look on his face when he saw her, alive, well and unharmed. In her eyes, he'd crossed the line they'd drawn in permanent marker and while the primal part of her got a thrill to see his gut reaction, the logical part of her was annoyed and frustrated. And she was nowhere near tired enough to let the former take hold.
They'd done so well. Work was work. Home was home. They lived by those six words, had based their entire relationship on keeping those things separate. And all of a sudden, they'd crashed together more violently than she'd been prepared for. It was one thing for them to ride back to the station hand-in-hand after a confrontation, but a completely different scenario when a man lost his life because of it.
They were going to be screwed come time for the inquiry. It was true Howard had his gun trained on her. It was true that Aaron couldn't have known she was getting closer and closer to talking him into putting the gun down. But she knew the board wouldn't see it like that. She'd testify to both of those things. She just hoped that their relationship wasn't wide open for the FBI to scrutinize.
Her gut was telling her something had to change.
It was also telling her she was hungry. Pyjama pants and a comfortable tank top took the place of business slacks and her t-shirt before she padded into the kitchen, her mind still whirling with the events.
In his defence, he'd been good in the aftermath. Any agent could chalk his concern up to having an agent in the line of fire with no way to protect themselves. The team already knew of their relationship status, so there wasn't going to be an issue on the behavioural front. And she knew that the team would defend both her and Hotch to the end of the earth, even if it could mean putting themselves and the job on the line. She'd do it too, for any of them, in an instant.
The smell of food preceded a knock on her door and Emily didn't have to think twice about who it was. With a sigh of exasperation – he had to know she wouldn't be anywhere close to cooled off yet – she headed to the door, opening it without a word and turning back into her apartment. She heard Aaron's footsteps follow.
Things had to change, but she wasn't going to throw away such a good thing. She popped the wine bottle as he set out the dishes, neither of them saying a word. They hadn't spoken to each other since the case had finished. It was a benefit of cases in Washington. They didn't have to be far from home, a luxury they all enjoyed.
She was wiping her hands on the towel by the sink when she felt his arms wrap around her middle. It was an interesting role reversal at home. Where she now allowed herself little touches when it was just them and the team, he was the one to initiate contact at home. Not always – she'd jumped his bones on occasion – but more often than not he arranged her position to his liking when they were settled on the couch or curled up in bed. Emily didn't mind in the slightest.
She covered his arms with hers, allowing herself to lean her head back against his shoulder. "We need to talk."
"I know," he mumbled into her neck, dropping a kiss on the delicate skin. "I know."
Emily turned in his arms, moving her hands to stroke up and down his biceps. He hadn't even gone home to change, as the suit said. He'd grabbed food and come here. She sighed. "Go change. You can't eat in your suit."
Instead, he pulled her against his body, pressing her head into the crook of his neck and his cheek against her hair. "I will." In a minute.
He'd been terrified when he saw Howard holding a gun on her. She'd gone for an interview. A bloody interview. Howard was a key witness, had been the one to call the police on the final scene. She was going to see if he could remember anything else about their unsub. It hadn't been until after she'd left that they realized that Howard fit the profile to a tee. Aaron was sure he'd never seen his BAU team move that fast since Reid had been kidnapped. The team was family and they did more than protect their own.
He had known by the way he'd found her that shooting Howard had been an unfortunate mistake. If he'd known Emily was seconds from getting him to hand over the gun, he wouldn't have taken the shot. All Aaron had been focused on was the woman he'd most definitely come to love was looking down the muzzle of a .38 special and there was no way he was going to lose her.
Emily sighed against him and wrapped her arms around his back. She was still angry with him, but she needed the contact as much as he did. Aaron had started to become her grounding rod in a world where grief was an everyday emotion and gore was on the menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Right now, she needed the memory of her reality.
"I'm sorry," he said finally.
She sighed. "I know." She pushed away fully, moving around the counter. She needed space if they were going to deal with this. She needed to be able to think calmly and rationally, or as calmly and rationally she could given the circumstances. She pressed her hands on the counter top, trying to figure out where to start. "I had him, Aaron."
"I know. Well, I know now."
Her anger was starting to bubble up again. "Did you even think before you took the shot?" She wouldn't look at him. He knew how to calm her down faster than anyone had in her life. At that particular moment, she didn't want to be calm.
"I thought about what it would feel like to see your brain spattered against the furniture of that house." Like he'd intended, the blunt honesty not only made her shudder, but made her raise surprised eyes to his. "I had the shot. I took it."
"And you killed a man! Does that mean anything?" She had a job that required she carry, that didn't mean she particularly enjoyed the privilege. She drew her gun on almost every single case they worked and yet, every time she did, she shuddered just that little bit more. She preferred to see criminals fry on the stand than she did to do justice on her own.
"I don't like killing, Emily."
Her shoulders slumped. "I know. I do. I just…" She looked up at the ceiling, hoping for inspiration for how to convey everything she was feeling. "You're lucky cops aren't trained to read behaviour."
Aaron nodded. It had been hard not to just pull her into his arms when he found her alive and unharmed, if a little blood spattered from his shot. The urge had been tempered by the immediate infiltration of Washington PD. They'd been separated while the chaos happened around them. Morgan had driven Emily home to get cleaned up. She'd washed down her face and changed, but that was it.
"I'm sorry, too," she said after a while.
That took him by surprise. Emily's anger had been understandable. They'd come this far, just over a year into their romantic relationship, without a blemish to make people think that there was anything different between them. Sure, they took more liberties while on the plane – she'd fallen asleep on his shoulder after a case – and weren't as cautious when they were out with the team, but there was still top brass to contend with and neither of them wanted to give Strauss any ammunition.
"I went to Howard's on an impulse. Something about him didn't sit right with me."
He was nodding. "You mentioned that before you left."
Emily pushed harder on the countertop, her fingertips going white with the pressure. "I should have asked Detective Brumsch to stay with me."
That was a thorn Aaron had yet to think about. A cop had taken her out there. It wasn't until he'd been walking up the steps that he'd seen the gun, Emily and Howard. He'd been the one to radio for help. "Why didn't you?"
"Something didn't sit right, but I didn't think he was a threat," Emily replied. Her entire body was screaming at her to hold him tight again, to wrap her arms around his cuddly body and never, ever, let go. But they had to get this dealt with. They had to figure out what they were doing, where they were going. "I thought he was a witness."
Aaron sighed, placing his hands by hers on the cool counter. "We were already on our way when we got the call. Brumsch sounded frantic."
She took the subtle invitation for contact, reaching out to hold one of his hands. "We have to decide what we're going to do."
There were so many sentences that lay underneath a phrase like that. Is this worth it? Is there more? Is there a change we can make to make sure this doesn't happen again?
"There's still a spot for me at white-collar."
Emily was shaking her head before he could finish the sentence. There was no way she was going to let him give up the BAU. Aaron was Rossi's recruit. She was the one that had been foisted on the department. "No way."
He sighed. "You can't leave. You just got here. You're too valuable to the unit to leave."
"I'm also easier to replace," she said softly, her voice void of bitterness or anger. "I'm not a unit chief."
"Rossi can take my place."
She chuckled at the idea. "No he can't, Aaron, you know that."
He did, but it was worth a shot to offer. She wasn't looking at him again. "What's up?"
Emily sighed. "The Washington Bureau offered me a unit chief job. Nothing too high strung, certainly not the BAU-"
"You love the BAU," he argued. "I've been working there longer."
"You love it too," she pointed out. "You've invested more in it. I wasn't asked to join the unit, you were told I was going to." It still bothered her to this day. It was still the root of her insecurities with the team.
"You don't want the Washington post."
It was true. She didn't. But there was one other option. "Martza is stepping down next month. They'll be looking for a new C-Team chief."
The natural selection would be someone from A-Team, their team. There were leaders abound under the command of Aaron Hotchner and the Bureau knew it. It would keep her close to the rest of the team while effectively removing her from under his command. In fact, they'd hold the same position within the Bureau.
"Strauss already pulled strings to get me into the BAU – against my wishes, I'll have you know. She knows I've got ambition and drive. She thinks she knows how to handle me."
Aaron chuckled at that. No one knew how to handle a behaviouralist except another behaviouralist. And Strauss was not one of them. "You have done fantastic work with our team."
Emily nodded. "People will be upset if I pull strings." They both knew she wouldn't. "I think it's at least worth a shot."
"And if it doesn't work?"
She hoped her smile had more courage than she felt. "Then I leave BAU completely, take the Washington job."
He stepped closer, almost around the counter. "You'd do that?"
"Yes." It was redundant. She would do anything for him, just like he'd do anything for her.
Aaron looked down at their entwined hands. "Compromise. You apply for the C-Team job. If you get it, we don't talk about this again. You don't get it, I take to the lecture circuit and you stay with the Bureau."
"Aaron, you can't give up the BAU."
She sounded so adamant that he almost stepped back wards with the force of it. "I'll teach at Quantico, still be there if anyone needs me."
Emily had a feeling this was one compromise she was going to just have to agree to. She sighed. "I don't like this."
"Neither do I, but we knew we'd have to do this eventually."
That much was true. The continuation of their relationship, taking it any further than it was now, was going to require them to make some drastic lifestyle changes. She sighed.
"Okay," she said finally. "I'll apply for C-Team. If I don't get it, we'll look at things again." It was a half-compromise that would let her get her priorities in order as much as it would allow them chances to look elsewhere. There had to be something they could do outside of the BAU that they'd enjoy.
Aaron let out a breath, dispensing of the pretence that he wasn't a wreck on the inside to pull her to him again. "I love you."
It was the first time either of them had spoken the words out loud. They'd never felt they needed them. Their relationship spoke for itself. He felt her stiffen for a split second before bonelessly melting against him. He could tell by her voice that she was smiling.
"I love you too."
This was supposed to be one chapter. ONE! And now look at it! All because of you people! Okay, that's half a lie. I've enjoyed writing each part. This one is one of my favourites. I don't know if there is actually more than one unit, but there is in my little world of perfect Hotch/Emily-ness.
Loves to you all!