Emily couldn't find her other bottle of shampoo. She always carried two, one half full and one completely full, in her ready bag, but she couldn't find the one she'd used the day before. It wasn't in the small bathroom, nor was it under any of the furniture.

It was like it had disappeared. She was packing for the return trip to Washington in the morning and she'd need her shampoo. The plane left early so everyone was getting ready before heading to sleep.

But Emily's damned shampoo was missing.

JJ's impatient knock sounded, reminding Emily that she needed to get in gear. Morning came early and she wasn't the only one who needed the bathroom.

The only answer she could come with was that it had gotten mixed in with JJ or Garcia's things by mistake. She'd have to ask later, but in the meantime—it was just a bottle of shampoo.

It wasn't like anybody would have stolen it.


Nobody made any pretense that Emily would be sleeping anywhere but beside Hotch. Not tonight. Spencer had yet to return to the room, still being at the hospital with Detective Kinsey. She'd suffered a pretty serious concussion and a collapsed lung. Spencer had actually requested a few personal days off to stay with her. Help her until she got back on her feet. Hotch had told him he had plenty of time, and to stay. He'd work it out with paperwork when he got back to Washington.

Palmers was in the same hospital. He'd eventually be ok physically. Detective Allen had been named as sheriff-pro-temp until the city elections later in the year.

Good changes were occurring rapidly in Nortan Springs.

Emily sat on the pullout while everyone else took turns showering. Nobody talked about the case. Or what all had happened to Emily. Never had she had a case that revolved around her the way this one had, and she just wasn't ready to discuss it.

She just wanted to relax and watch a movie on Garcia's laptop. The woman had great graphics. She found one on Netflix and added it to her instant account, pulling the computer to rest on her knees. Her headphones drowned out the sounds of everyone else moving about.

She needed whatever privacy she could get—and the team all seemed to understand that. She was engrossed in the movie when she felt the bed dip.

Hotch was finished with his shower. He was clean, slightly woodsy-scented, dressed in navy sweats and an FBI tee. His hair was actually mussed, water beads gleaming in the light.

He didn't try to say anything, just wrapped his arm around his pillow and stretched his long legs out over the covers. He had a very athletic body that the sweats showed to perfection. He lay there silently beside her while she finished her movie.

JJ and Garcia were soon asleep, Morgan following shortly after. Everyone was completely exhausted. Including Emily.

She took off the headphones, replaced Garcia's computer on the desk and turned toward the pullout with a soft sigh.

"You ok?" Hotch asked, as she nervously slid under the covers.

"I will be."

"You want to talk about it?" He slipped under the blankets beside her, no pretense of keeping the sheet between them. They didn't talk about it, it just was.

"I know about obsessions. I know about fanaticism. Sociopathy, and mission killers." She sighed, as she unconsciously arranged herself closer to him. "But seeing them feeding off each other the way fleas do a dog. I don't know, Hotch."

"And to have two of the four men focused on you?" He asked softly. He trailed his fingers up her spine lazily. Unconsciously. "Made you feel vulnerable, less confident as an agent? Dependent on me and the team for the first time?"

"Needy." Emily admitted. "I hate being needy and dependent. Doubting myself. I was raised never to show my doubts. I didn't like this."

"And this case has been nothing but doubts." He stated. "Part of that—a big part of that—is my fault."

"Yes, in a way." She said, not sure she wanted to have this conversation now. "You didn't like me, Hotch. When I first came to the BAU. And quite frankly—I couldn't stand you. No matter what I tried, you were cold and cutting."

"So you stopped trying." He said, hand tightening around her waist. "I can understand that."

"Yes. But then you began to respect me as an agent. So it got better. I respected you professionally, admired you as a leader. But as a friend—I still don't know you. And it takes a lot for me to let someone in for friendship."

"And a whole lot more for something romantic. I understand." He told her.

"Yes." She admitted frankly. "I'm not sure what your motives are. What you want from me. I can't read you, never could. Not like Morgan or JJ or Spencer. It scares me when I can't read someone."

"I scare you."

"Terrify me. I'm not sure I even want to think about doing this." She waved a hand to encompass their intertwined bodies. "And my God, you've only been divorced for a few months. It's way too soon—for you especially. How can you know you want this?"

"I've given it a lot of thought. Side effect of being a profiler."

"Self-profiling never works for me, Hotch." Her head rested on his chest, speaking to her wants much more than her words did. Told him how conflicted she actually was. "I do know one thing. I've worked hard to get into the BAU. And I know that Strauss pulled strings to get me here. And I'm sorry for that."

"I'm not. You're right where you belong." He meant what he said. She was a vital part of his team, and he couldn't imagine her not there to fill that spot. "Regardless of how you got there. I needed you, someone to shake things up."

"I almost hated you, Hotch. For quite a while. I was ready to quit before the Joseph Smith case. Because of Strauss because of the great Hotch-freeze, all of it."

"I'm sorry I was such a cold bastard. Politics had made me distrustful." He remembered her telling him how she hated politics--how it tore families apart.

"And you'd do whatever it takes to protect your team." She added.

"Like you would. Just look at how you stepped in front of JJ with Palmers. How you covered Kinsey tonight. Without thought. You just did."

"I don't want to lose my place with the BAU, Hotch. I've worked hard to get here."

"You won't ever lose your place, Emily." He vowed softly. "No matter what happens—or doesn't—between us. I promise you that."

"Frankly, I don't even know anything about you. Not really. We don't know if we share the same interests, the same movies. Politics."

"So we need to get to know each other?" He asked.

"Funny as it sounds, yes." She said. "And I need some time to think. Think all this through."

"I can understand that. And I can give you time." He agreed, pulling her to lie flush against his side. "But be prepared, I'm determined. I'll do whatever I have to to influence your decision."

"Somehow that doesn't surprise me." Emily said, raising her knee to rest over his thigh.

"I'll give you fourteen days, Em. To make up your mind. Then we'll go from there."

"Fourteen days." She agreed as she drifted into a peaceful sleep, curled up there on his chest, as if sleeping beside her boss was the most natural thing in the world.

He waited until he knew she was completely out before dropping a kiss on her forehead. He gently pulled the hand encased in an air cast over his chest, laying it to rest over his heart. His one hand splayed over her back, the thin cotton of that red tank top the only thing separating his hand from her flesh. His other hand moved beneath the covers and rested against the curve of her ass, pulling her even closer to his body.

He buried his face in the soft curls tickling his chin and whispered, "I'll give you fourteen days, and then it'll all change between us."



Second: I am really interested in everyone's final opinions. Did I keep the cast in character? And how about the case? Was it suspenseful enough? Did I tie up all loose ends? Did I leave anything out? I'm really interested to know…since I've only been writing CM fics for a month now…

I also plan on posting all my stories in one big fic, in the proper reading order. But I have at least six LONG stories floating in my head that happen after 'HOPE'. Once I've got them written I will post the whole collection.

Thank you for Reading!