SPOILERS! Post Minimal Loss

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She had no idea how they'd come to this point, yet with the number of times she'd pinched herself in the last twenty-four hours, she knew it had to be real. The Hotchners had a cottage in the Virginia countryside. Or, whatever the Hotchners called a cottage. Emily had definitely stayed in more rustic accommodations while on vacations with friends in college. Not every single Yale grad was a trust-fund-baby.

She and Hotch had been confined to dark corners and late nights for far too long. She'd been absolutely shocked when he'd all but told her they were taking a vacation. It didn't mean she wasn't happy about it by any means, she was just surprised. After her ordeal with Cyrus, the whole team had been watching her like she was about to break. Emily had watched Reid, knowing he was more likely to break than she was.

The whole team had urged her to take a few days, but Emily wasn't the type to do so. She had known she could take whatever Cyrus could dish out, knew there was more at stake than just her life. She would sacrifice her life for the lives of all of those women and children.

She'd originally been upset that Hotch had booked her time off without her permission. She didn't think she was in a bad state, didn't think her work was suffering from whatever extended trauma the team thought she was suffering from. Sure, the nightmares were there, but they were nothing she hadn't dealt with before. And yet, Hotch had been adamant that she take a vacation.

And told her he knew exactly where to go.

So she sat on the front porch of this 'cottage', looking out over the clear blue of the lake, bundled in blankets and one of Hotch's hoodies – yes, the man owned clothing that didn't qualify as suits – with a cup of morning coffee in her hands. She'd left Hotch sleeping in the bedroom while she reflected on the last case.

She'd known as soon as Rossi had come to drop off the medical supplies that they were on the other end of any sort of bugs that had come with the supplies so when it was identified that there was an FBI agent undercover in the place, she knew they'd hear her saying that she could take it, that she'd be fine. And she knew Hotch would be a mess. Still, they'd made a deal when whatever they were doing had turned into something more serious that their jobs came first. Injuries were likely to happen, they happened to everyone and it wouldn't do them any good to react to them any differently than they would another co-worker.

So she knew, in the recesses of her mind that weren't focused on the women and children, the explosion and Reid and Morgan being left behind, that when he saw her, alive if bruised and bloodied, all he wanted to do was wrap her in his arms. But it was the last thing she needed. She needed to be strong, she needed to focus on something else, and so, she'd focused on Reid and the guilt she knew he felt. She loved Reid dearly, but she knew the poor man was their weakest link. It was better her than him.

And she'd avoided Hotch on a personal level ever since. It was fully self-preservation on her part while she processed and compartmentalized everything that had happened. She didn't need coddling, didn't need someone watching over her literally every move. She'd even strongly and stubbornly refused any sort of hospital treatment beyond that of the EMTs at the scene. Until the EMT told her she needed to get her ribs checked. She'd ended up fracturing two of them from the beating she'd taken.

Hotch had whisked her off to heal. He'd told her to pack warm but comfortable clothes and all but forced her and her things into his car for a weekend away. She hadn't thought he was the type to relax. Agent Hotchner, as was well known in the FBI, rarely, if ever, took days off. Part of her – the part of her that was touched by the gesture instead of annoyed – thrilled at the idea that he took days off for her.

She felt his hand stroke through her hair as he came around the side of the Muskoka chair she sat in. She smiled and tilted her head back accepting his kiss. "Good morning."

"How long have you been up?"

He'd probably been up no more than five minutes if the huskiness of his voice was any indication. It made her shiver pleasantly. "Not long," she lied.

"Nightmares?"

She didn't have to tell him. He probably had bruised shins from where she'd kicked him. "No."

He chuckled. "How are you feeling?"

Emily considered the question for a moment. There were a million answers she could give. "Content."

"Oh?"

"I'm sitting on the front porch or what is really more of a house than a cottage, by the way, coffee in hand, bundled up under blankets with a good man," she detailed. "I'm content."

Her candidness surprised her. She protected herself from beginning to end and she'd always done it, first and foremost, from her colleagues. They weren't afforded all that much privacy in a world of profilers so she kept as much of her private life just that, private. She knew this was the most open she'd been, to him or to anyone else, but Cyrus had given her a new outlook on life. It was stupid to say it like that, for she'd never really been all that close to dead, but she'd had a lot of time to think in that compound. Knowing death was possible, even if it wasn't immanent, did a lot to one's priorities.

"I'm glad," he told her with a smile. It warmed his heart to know that. He'd been worried about her, had panicked when he realized she was in that compound with Cyrus. It was the only reason he'd forced Dave to run point on the negotiations. He was way too personally involved. And now that he thought about it, he hadn't ever told her that. "I was worried."

"About me? You have nothing to be worried about. I'm fine."

"Not now, Em. Then."

She tilted her head back again to look at him curiously.

"When you were in there, when we found out it was you and Reid in that compound," he tried to explain, turning his own gaze out to the lake.

"I've been an agent for almost fifteen years, Hotch."

"I know," he replied, his fingers absently playing with her loose curls. He loved her hair curly. "That didn't stop me from worrying. And then hearing you while he... God, Em."

"Hey," she said, resting a hand on his nearby thigh. "I'm fine. I'm here. I'm alive and healing."

"I was going to... I couldn't..."

Emily knew this was as open he'd been with her. She knew that. They'd finished dancing around 'this thing' after Kate's death. A lonely night in the bullpen for both of them had turned into so much more, but they were still cautious. Both had been burned before though in different situations, him by Haley, her by the politics that coloured the large majority of her life. They both knew that this weekend away was a step towards something more between them. If she was honest with herself, she was surprised at what this said to her. His invitation for the weekend away told her that he was saying 'Bureau be damned', something she'd definitely never expected from someone like Hotch.

But it thrilled her to the core.

His hand covered hers, squeezing. "It was hard."

"It'll always be hard," she replied. "We're both agents, Hotch. You have no idea what it felt like to think you'd been blown up in that explosion."

Well, he had at least part of an idea. He'd never thought her dead, but to think about her in pain in that compound had tugged hard at his heartstrings. So he gently removed the coffee from her hand, setting it on the table beside him. Then he cupped the opposite side of her face in his palm, turning her head to kiss her. She was alive and he could feel it beneath him. His body thrilled when she responded to him with enthusiasm and his hand fisted on the chair back behind her to try and keep his body in check. He could feel her hand inching further and further up his thigh and slowly, reluctantly pulled away.

She hadn't let him go much further than kissing her since they'd started their 'thing' and he'd respected her. She was going slow and regardless of how he felt, he'd follow her. The look in her eyes was new, heated, and there was no trepidation in her gaze. "Emily-"

"Love me," she said quietly, her hand moving further. "Just love me, Aaron."

So long as she was with him, alive, looking at him with hot, vulnerable brown eyes, he'd do whatever she asked.