Disclaimer: I do not own either of these fine, noble characters. Please, Eddie Bernero, do not sue me, as I am a poor library assistant who loves your show as much as you do.
Pairing: None, except maybe some Hotch/Prentiss if you squint really really really hard.
Summary: An inebriate and an insomniac meet by the Fountainview Hotel's pool.
Pre-ep for "Memoriam".
Lorelai And Other Aquatic Mammals
"Hello, you have reached the voicemail of Penelope Garcia, FBI Technical Analyst, Hacker Extraordinaire; I am at work, at home, asleep, or have been kidnapped by evil gnomes. Either way, please leave a message after the beep."
"Buenos noches, mi amiga,…Hurrah for technology, as I am able to dial your voicemail directly, thereby getting all the emotional advantages of the drunk-dial, without any of the embarrassing side-effects. Of course, except for when I actually make it back to Quantico, which is far from certain at this point. Please, please, remind me to avoid tequila in future, Garcia. Oooh, okay, never mind, cab has stopped, am back at hotel, love you so much, Pen, see you tomorrow, in whatever condition I arrive…"
Emily Prentiss had been so goddamn proud of herself, getting back from…whatever that bar on the Strip had been. Deep Blue…Ultraviolet….something with a dumb, science-based name. She had been so proud, that she had not stopped to appreciate the Las Vegas night sky. Some might crow about the Midwest's blanket of stars, some might sing about seeing the blue tapestry of the North Atlantic. But in 30 years of city skylines, from Washington to Paris to Beirut, Emily had learned to love that odd interaction of starlight and streetlight and urban spark that she was looking at right now. Something she always missed these days, looking up from her semi-suburban Arlington condo.
She was exhausted, but exhilarated, and even though a glance up at the lobby's clock told her it was already 3:30 in the morning, she couldn't quite bear to go up to bed yet. Even with that nudging gentle voice, that somehow always sounded like JJ , telling her that she had to be up at 8:00 tomorrow for the flight home.
JJ…Jordan…Jordan…JJ…Todd…Jareau. For someone who knew more of it than most, Emily had always hated change. It had taken a while to earn JJ's trust, she knew that, but once she had it, it was nearly unshakeable. There had been too much change in two and half years at this place that felt so much like home. It had taken her the year to get used to Rossi, and now six months, at least, of this new girl. Who seemed incredibly nice, but was not JJ, and wouldn't hardly have time to be herself.
Damn Jason Gideon. Damn him. And yet, she pitied him. It was certainly a lesson to be kept and stored and learned in her heart of hearts, the cautionary tale of Gideon. That a man could be the best, could be such a pillar, and than simply be…gone, within 24 hours. Leaving a whirling dervish of a team behind. She thought, when she moved out of her mother's house, that she could manage to avoid that type of emotional chaos ever again. She was wrong. Maybe that was the price of this odd kind of family she had stumbled into.
Emily was not certain exactly when it had happened, but she had reached the pool. The pool looked very nice right now. Clear blue, and inviting, and lit with those funny alcove lamps all aglow.
It had been a rather odd evening. She was pretty sure it had started with Rossi and Morgan. But than Rossi had chickened out, somewhere around Flamingo and Tropicana. And than, at that last bar, Morgan had met that fantastically attractive African-Asian woman, and like all good female wingmen, Emily had made herself scarce. There had been a lot of dancing, some cute guys, a lot of laughing, and really not all that much tequila. But tequila had always been her nemesis. She could cite one or two nights on the Old Campus and in the bars of New Haven, that she remembered, but of which she was not terribly proud.
Damn, that water looked so nice. And her feet hurt like a bitch. Why, why had she brought heels out to a night on the Strip? Dumb, dumb move, Emily.
Oh, screw it.
Off came the Talbots' black patent leather pumps (she was a stylish, but sensible, girl), off came the nylons, into the water her sore tootsies went.
"How's the water?"
Emily almost jumped up off the ledge. But she knew that voice, and something stopped her. She looked over to the deep end of the pool. A familiar pair of dark eyes stared back at her, over a book, from one of the deck chairs.
"Oh, just fine."
"Good to know. It's been looking inviting for the last few hours, but I've managed to hold back."
"You're a better man than I, Gunga Hotch."
Was that a smile? Uh-huh, that was a smile. That had almost been the best part of today, seeing her boss let go, if only for one night. Seeing him smile and laugh, be unrestrained, in a way that was all too rare.
"What are you doing up, sir?"
"Emily. It is way too early in the morning for 'sir'. Wait at least four more hours."
"Okay, what are you doing up, Hotch? "
"That much is apparent. But the suit?"
"I would point out that I have taken my tie off."
"And your point would be irrelevant."
Emily's more cautious side was clawing to take over. But the combination of tequila and success and the early-morning mojo was too much.
"You know, the water….is absolutely fantastic. Join us, Aaron Hotchner. The lorelai are calling to you."
"So I know my ancient Teutonic mythology, so sue me."
Was he….is he? AHA!
Hotch had gotten up from the deck chair, and made it all the way over to the shallow end with her. (Emily would have made some comment at this point about how she tended to live in the shallow end. But it would have been somewhat redundant.)
There go the shoes….there go the argyle socks…..and there go the rather nicely shaped feet…my God, do I have a foot fetish?…
"VICTORY IS MINE!"
That exclamation had been rather louder than she intended. Hotch was looking at her with the sort of shock he usually reserved for his dealings with Garcia.
His expression relaxed. "No problem. Everyone deserves a certain amount of leeway at 3:30 in the morning."
"In fact…if you ask David Rossi the right questions, I'm sure he could tell you quite a story involving a newly minted SSA, some 50-year old Scotch, and a karaoke bar in Oklahoma City. "
"But I warn you, if you ask, I will of course deny everything."
The noisy Las Vegas silence fell, and they both looked out over the hotel's eponymous vista of the city.
The tequila gave her newfound audacity.
"Are you… doing okay?"
"I could ask you the same question."
"You went back to work pretty soon after Colorado."
"Hotch, you were back on a case four days after New York."
His mouth quirked in that particular way that let her know she'd gotten him.
"I'm not sure how, but it is."
"Hotch. Look at me."
Emily suddenly felt very tired, but gathered the strength to catch and hold Hotch's gaze.
"I. Am. Not. Elle. Yes, Colorado was bad. No, I don't regret a single thing I did. I was scared, and it hurt like hell. But I knew all the way through that you guys were out there backing me up. I still remember it sometimes, but seriously, that helped me get through it."
Hotch looked down at the water, and splashed a bit with his feet.
"Hotch? This isn't the first night like this, is it?"
"It's fine. It's just been an intense couple of days. It was a good couple days."
He looked at her, and smiled. Emily knew, deep down, he was lying to her. But right now she couldn't bear to break down the façade. The façade that seemed unshakeable. Gideon ran away, and he was left holding the bag. Haley left, and he kept standing. Kate Joyner died, and he was still standing. Emily was not quite sure how he managed.
The two of them had started on less than favorable terms. In fact, they had been downright awful for a while. But after Milwaukee, something changed. Without even trying, she had managed to gain his trust. And that plane ride out, knowing how he felt, knowing at least some of what he was sacrificing for this team….the Rubicon had been crossed between them. In both directions.
Ohio, that ghoulish cemetery. It's all right, it's all right, it's fine…
It wasn't all right, and it wasn't fine. But now wasn't the time. Now wasn't the place. She knew that. But damn if she was going to stand by and do nothing.
Hotch's relatively dulcet tones broke her reverie.
"I think that security guard is glaring at us. Can I walk you to your room?"
He eased himself up, offered his hand and Emily followed suit.
"Indeed you may, kind sir."
The guard may have been glaring, but Emily Prentiss was inordinately satisfied by the fine squelchy noise their bare wet feet made as Hotch escorted her back to the fourth floor.
One of the few things she did appreciate, growing up in various former Francophone and Commonwealth countries, was the wide variety of slang she had managed to learn. For those mornings, and hangovers, when American profanity simply would not do.
She would have sworn she was not this much of a lightweight in college. Perhaps the FBI had ruined her alcohol tolerance.
6:45. DAMN. DAMN DAMN DAMN.
Despite the pounding ache in her head and the evil things the light from the window was doing to her vision, Emily tried her best to bound out of bed. She was not entirely successful. She made it to the edge of the mattress.
However, she did manage to get just enough upright to see the room's easy chair. On which were hung her black patent leather pumps, a pair of dry nylon stockings, and what seemed to be a bag of Dunkin' Donuts coffee with a note on it.
Hope you made it back to dry land all right. See you on the plane.