Trusting in Change


It was late and Hotch was sure there was no one in the office. Actually, he simply hoped there wasn't. Haley had called him at the office, cancelling his weekend plans with Jack to take their son on a weekend vacation with her new boyfriend. It wasn't the first time she'd pulled something like this. He'd been seriously starting to consider getting a lawyer involved, at least on the custody front.

He growled as he slammed the phone back into the receiver. He'd been looking forward to spending the weekend with Jack, even ensured it couldn't be interrupted for anything but a dire emergency by taking personal days. And now this.


He looked up into the dark, concerned eyes of Emily Prentiss.

"Is everything okay?"

Hotch blinked. "Fine." He could see in her eyes she knew he was lying.

"Okay. You should head home."

The comment took him by surprise, though he'd heard it enough since his divorce with Haley was finalized. Heck, he'd heard it during the separation too. Now that he thought about it, Emily had been the one to suggest it most often. "What about you?"

"Just packing up," she answered with a small smile, leaning against the doorframe. "Dave went home about an hour ago. I had a few things to finish up."

"Dave was here?" He quickly did the mental calculations and let out a sigh. David Rossi wouldn't have wasted time sitting in his office before coming to ask about his conversation. "I didn't realize you were close."

Emily shrugged. "You can't see everything."

The comment inexplicably stung. "I've been watching."

"You've been trying," she agreed. "Harder than before."

He was already irritated with Haley. Emily's slightly evasive answers weren't helping. "What do you mean?" He knew the words were biting, and had to admit slight surprise when she didn't flinch.

Instead, she shrugged. "Nothing terrible," she reassured him. "You've been spending more time with us, spending more time as a team."

He considered the woman in his doorway carefully. He'd resented Emily's presence in the beginning. Who wouldn't? He'd been so careful with the people who came into his team and she'd been Strauss' transplant to replace Elle. Hotch had liked Elle. Actually, he'd almost been downright cruel to Emily during the first few months, then they basically became indifferent to each other. She didn't treat him any better than he treated her and, for a while, it had worked.

Then Gideon had left and he'd started to notice how carefully Emily had started watching her teammates. It was uncanny, really, how she managed to take care of each and every one of them without batting an eye, without thinking twice. It was almost as if she knew what they wanted before they even said it. And hadn't she been the one to get Reid to look twice at the letter Gideon had left? And he knew she'd stayed close by Garcia after she'd been shot, when Morgan couldn't stay.

JJ's pregnancy was another typical example of how much Emily had integrated herself into the team. Hotch knew JJ had liked Elle well enough, but Emily just seemed so much more in tune with the team. She belonged and once he'd started noticing these things about her, he'd been more and more careful to make her feel that way. She was probably the closest thing Rossi could call to a friend on the team too, and Rossi had a long-standing friend in Hotch.


He jolted himself back to the present, where Emily was standing in front of his desk in concern.

"Are you sure you're alright?"

"I'm fine," he repeated again.

"You really should go home, get some sleep," she repeated. "You look exhausted."

She did too, but he didn't mention it. Instead, he ran a hand over his face before he began packing up his files. When he looked up at her again, his eyebrows raised in a question, she had her head cocked to the side. "What?"

"Nothing," she answered automatically. "It's not my place to pry."

No, but suddenly he wanted her to. He'd often wished for someone he could talk to about the divorce with Haley. He wasn't close to his family, even to his step-mother, the closest thing he had to a true parent. Rossi had too skewed of an outlook on marriage and he'd already talked to the man about it.

She turned to leave, and he figured she was about to head home. Then she stopped at the door, lightly tapping on the doorframe with her fingernails. "Sir, I know your son's important to you. I'm sorry Haley is being so terrible about it all."

By the time he fully realized what had happened she'd already left. Part of him felt embarrassed that she'd heard the fight with his ex-wife, but another part of him felt relieved. She hadn't judged him, hadn't made a comment as to whether someone was in the right or the wrong, just apologized for the pain he seemed to be in.

Not only that, but she'd given him an opening.

Still, Hotch was used to keeping to himself. He'd been raised to never let someone else see you hurting, never let them see you weak and he'd vigilantly applied it to his job. His team would never see him weak. It would undermine their confidence.

But hadn't Emily proven time and time again that she was trustworthy? Hadn't he watched her be everyone's friend, everyone's confidante, everyone's sister? He had no concrete reason to believe anything she said would be repeated anywhere else. And hadn't she already shown that she knew what was going on and wasn't about to judge him for it? He was out of his chair and in the doorway in a matter of minutes, hoping he'd catch her.

"She's taking him to a New Jersey beach. This weekend." He barely registered that she didn't seem to be preparing to leave at all, and didn't think twice about the solitaire game she had open on her laptop instead of a report.

"Isn't it a little cold for Jersey?" Then her eyes widened. "It doesn't matter to her so long as you don't have him."

Hotch was absolutely floored at how quickly she caught on. Then he saw her blush and realized she probably knew more than he thought. And she was endearing with the pink tinge to her cheeks. He moved down the steps so he was standing at the corner of Morgan's desk, watching her.

"We knew she was hounding you," she admitted, almost in a tone that he knew she used when she was rambling. "It showed. Then we were there when you got the divorce papers and you told Reid about the uncontested divorce papers… We put two and two together."

Intra-team profiling was an unfortunate side-effect of their job. There were no secrets in the BAU. For once, he was almost happy about it. He didn't have to show weakness, didn't have to explain. She just knew. He looked down at her, seated in her desk chair, as if he was absorbing her for the first time. There was so much he didn't know about Emily Prentiss.

Then she was rolling her chair towards him, reaching for his hand. "I'm sorry, Hotch," she said earnestly. "It can't be easy."

"It's not," he agreed, squeezing her hand.

She smiled tightly, squeezing his fingers back. "Go home, try to sleep. Call her tomorrow, after you've had time to think about it."

She was trying to be encouraging and even though he knew the chances of him getting Jack were slim without going through the courts, it made him feel a little bit better. "Thank you."

Emily shrugged, slightly self-conscious. "It's no problem."

Hotch checked his watch for the first time in hours, totally forgetting her fingers were still locked in his.

"It's late," she said, taking the words out of his mouth.

He hadn't realized exactly how late he was. "You should be home."

She shrugged again. "I had stuff to do. It won't take me more than two minutes to pack up."

He believed it. He was always shocked at how quickly she was ready to go anywhere. She was always the first one on the plane, the first one in the office, and she always looked put together and was always sharp. He was sure she and Rossi were the ones picking up the most of his slack.

"Get out of here," he said, tone brooking no argument.

"I will," she assured him.


She actually chuckled and raised an eyebrow wryly? "Can I have my hand back then, please?"

He felt heat rising in his ears as he promptly let go of the offending limb. "I'll see you tomorrow, Emily."

He left her surprised face behind and it took him a minute to realize he'd called her 'Emily'. He wasn't sure he'd ever done that, but it had rolled easily off his tongue. He smiled slightly to himself with a shake of his head. One conversation, one tangible example of his trust in her, and he'd used her first name.

Maybe change wasn't so bad.

Technically this is a prequel-slash-set up piece for another story, but I haven't decided whether or not I'm posting it yet...Reviews are more than welcome and more than appreciated.