Intellect takes us along in the battle of life to a certain limit, but at the crucial moment it fails us. Faith transcends reason. It is when the horizon is the darkest and human reason is beaten down to the ground that faith shines brightest and comes to our rescue.
Someone was knocking at her door. Couldn't they just leave? She wasn't in the mood for company.
The knocking continued.
Sighing in exasperation, she pushed herself off her comfortable, comfortable sofa and made for the front door.
It had been a shock, when she had finally gotten out of the hospital. The crime scene investigators hadn't been kind to her apartment, and then there were the boys, diligently trying to clean up her place. She was a tiny bit grateful and mostly annoyed. They were doing it wrong, and touching her stuff. This was her place. She dreaded to think of what they'd done to her kitchen. So she'd pasted on a smile, which they knew was fake. Thanked them, and promptly asked them to leave. They hummed and shifted, and moaned, and tried to think up excuses to stay. Eventually, she convinced them to leave. Then she'd been on rotation alert.
That had been two days ago, yesterday Hotch was released. She didn't want to think about it. She approached the door hoping it was a delivery she'd forgotten about, or someone trying to serve her for a random court case…please be a lawyer. Deciding not to peek through the peep-hole she yanked open the door.
Hotch stared at the numbers on Prentiss' door, they gleamed in the hallway light. The last time he'd been looking at those numbers, Prentiss had been drunk, draped over him losing her ability to operate a key effectively. He glared at the innocent looking door, it seemed to mock him in its placidness. He continued knocking. He knew she was home. She wouldn't provide another opportunity for Garcia to invade their privacy.
He wasn't leaving until they talked. He was resolute. They needed to clear the air.
After leaving T.J.'s warehouse, and traveling in silence in separate SUV's to the same hospital, they hadn't really seen each other since. She'd had a massive nightmare and needed him to convince her of reality, but he wasn't sure if she actually remembered it happening…twice. The team had kept him informed but neither one seemed to want to confront the other, and so almost three days had passed with no communication. It wasn't like either one of them. So here he was, being a public nuisance, knocking on Prentiss' door (and yes he was aware he was distancing himself from her) at the wrong end of the evening. It was late, but not too late for a 'social' visit. He was still contemplating the lateness of the hour when the door suddenly opened. His mouth abruptly dried. A couple of blinks of his eyelids didn't help the matter either.
She stared dumbly at his shirt. It was red. She'd never seen him wear red before. In fact, she couldn't remember anyone except herself wearing red at the BAU, Garcia didn't count. She wore any color. His shirt covered all the bruises and wounds she knew must be there. It vaguely entered her consciousness that she was wearing her owl and moon pajama bottoms and tank top with built-in-bra. Not that it was really working that function lately. Her broken rib made sleeping, walking, standing, sitting, breathing, anything-ing difficult…lately. He was here for a reason, she finally concluded. Turning around slowly she meandered her way back to the kitchen and leaned back against the counter-top.
Hotch took the fact that she hadn't shut the door on him as acceptance for admittance into her home. He followed her at what he deemed a safe distance. He stood awkwardly opposite her, eyeing her frame as she leaned against the counter. She was standing too stiffly, like she didn't trust him to be in her house. He suddenly realized he didn't want to say what he came here to tell her. He just wanted to be near her, be around her. He desperately wanted to talk to her about what had happened. He was still refusing to tell anyone what had happened. The team were getting quite frustrated, but they were allowing it. He was using his injuries as an excuse, and they were letting him. He wouldn't ever let one of them get away with it. But then, they seemed to know some information he didn't. They were keeping something from him too.
He wasn't saying anything…Hotch always had something to say, even if it was simply 'get back to work', although he could say that without words too. She was too tired to try and figure out why he was here. She couldn't be bothered. She was sore, sleepy, mentally exhausted and her emotions were completely frayed. This was why she'd been on her own for the past two days, she didn't want anyone to be here when everything broke past her mental barricades. She was getting quite close, she could feel it. She didn't want him here when she broke. She moved her hand up into her hair, trying to get the imaginary wisps off her forehead.
He could see her shutting down, she wanted him out. He didn't want to go. He was going to have to be open with her…hmm, honest with her at least. He didn't do open so well. His feet started moving forward without conscious thought. He watched as she tried to hand swipe some flyaway hair into her sloppy ponytail. By the time her hand had reconnected with the counter-top Hotch was already directly in front of her. She looked up at him was slow moving awareness, she was really exhausted he realized.
He was so close, she could feel the heat pouring off him. Her feet were bare and the floor was cool on her soles, the counter was pushing icy lines into her back, seeping through her tank top. She instinctively moved closer to Hotch's warmth, never let it be said again the man was cold, he was practically a furnace. She wanted to wrap herself up in him. She breathed in deeply, he even smelled the same as in that small, dark room. That room was always going to be darkness in her memory. Those three weeks were practically black in her recollection. She'd averaged out about four days with light in that month…
Before he knew what he was doing, Hotch's hand had a firm hold of Prentiss' hip. He pulled her closer, she was already arching up to him when their lips connected. It was different, he concluded. He'd spent over twenty years with the same woman, he hadn't kissed anyone since. In fact, he'd been on a sort of kissing sabbatical, amongst other things. It was nice though. Better than nice actually. Kissing Prentiss was wonderfully involved, every nerve tingled and sparks rushed at his mind carrying information. Taste, touch, aroma, heat; the neurons in his brain were firing constantly. He'd never felt so much adrenaline without there being a life or death situation around. A part of him rebelled at his mind making logical deliberations about the kiss he was currently, actively, sharing with Emily Prentiss. His body had a purpose of it's own and it wanted him completely concentrated on what he was presently doing, not what he might be thinking and feeling about it.
His left hand was determinedly attached to Emily's hip, grasping it tightly and ever so often squeezing her so that he was molding her body to his. There wasn't even enough room to slide a piece of paper between their bodies, not that Hotch was really aware. His lips were busy, aggressively confronting her mouth. Nipping at her bottom lip. He must have caught a tender spot because she abruptly caught his jaw and moved his head. This time it was her mouth choreographing the confrontation. Her mouth assaulting his lips, she was plucking at him sporadically, it was driving him insane. He wanted to be in the lead, he wanted to dictate where the kiss went, none of this unrelated, undeniably delicious, niggling. It felt like she was nagging him. No, not 'nagging' per se, irritating him, pestering, riling him. She was doing this on purpose. She wanted him to overpower her.
At some point, probably ten seconds after their lips connected, his tongue had found it's way into her mouth. They were dueling, he supposed. But what were they trying to win? Was it finding out who had dominance? Control? Who could provoke the other into giving in? What were they giving into anyway? He was being his usual in-command self, and she was trying to assert her influence. Only, did he want her to be more forceful? More assertive? Or did he want her softer? More compliant? Wherever she was right now wasn't either of those. She was capricious in her method but insistent. Whatever is was, he had to admit, her ministrations were working. It was take, and give, and retreat, and coax, and press forward. The hand that had previously manoeuvred his jaw into the preferred position was sliding up and down his arm, grabbing hold of the muscles and tendons in his arm, testing them, feeling them flex with every time she kissed him in a way that was unexpected. Abruptly, she grabbed his shoulder and pulled him down more.
This wasn't why he came here, he suddenly remembered. It was too demanding for a first kiss, at least in his opinion. First kisses were supposed to be about tentative permission, seeking out what the other person tasted like, figuring out how your bodies fit together. But it wasn't like that. It was all grasping, and melding, and closeness, and too much emotion. Too many thoughts trying to express themselves through the kiss. He abruptly pulled back. Pushing her gently away with his other hand, so that she was once again leaning against the kitchen bench.
There was a very slight pop as they disconnected from one another. What just happened? She thought. His hand was still on her hip, his fingers were moving in slow arcs, soothing her impulse to flee.
He closed his eyes, trying to balance himself. That had not been his intention, he hadn't really even given this aspect of their relationship much thought over the past few days. There were bigger problems they needed to resolve first. Apparently his body wanted to do other things before sorting out the mental equilibrium he had been intent on achieving tonight. The flood of sensations spreading throughout his body finally registered. Alcohol…wine…red.
"Have you been drinking?"
She raised an eyebrow in amused disbelief. After a short pause, she stretched her body up a little, pressing a kiss onto his bottom lip. When he didn't try to stop her, she finally allowed her body to make it's first conscious bodily contact with Hotch. His hands had certainly made quite a quick journey about her body. His hands were locked at the base of her spine. It was only fair she returned the favor, somewhat at least. She was still cognizant of his wounds, so she rested her hands on his shoulders, pulling him down some so that she had better access to him. His hands tensed around her back, splaying themselves across her lower back, crushing her toward him. She began to slowly suck on his bottom lip. She could begin to love this lip she thought.
He tried not to respond, really he did, they needed to talk. She must have felt his reluctance, because she pulled back quickly, without his consent, his hands feeling bereft at the loss of contact.
"We kiss, and you ask me about wine?"
"So you have been?"
"God, Hotch…I'm trying to relax…" She pulled out the elastic keeping her hair up, walking away from Hotch and toward the sofa, "it's only wine, one glass."
He watched her walking away, at least she hadn't kicked him out. He realized she was pointing at the evidence of her binge drinking bender, one glass, mostly full. One bottle, mostly full.
"Is it too much to ask that I'm allowed a short respite before the hordes of investigators and questionnaires flood in regarding…what happened." Her hands had traveled to her hips ghosting over them, before returning to hang by her sides. As she was well aware, hands on the hips, was easy profiler-ese for antagonistic. So, she didn't want to talk about it either, and apparently the team hadn't gotten around to questioning her.
"No." he answered in a whisper. Again, that wasn't why he had come here tonight. "Why are you alone?" He opted to ask, instead of trying to kiss her again.
She shot him a disapproving look. He, out of everyone, should understand the reasons she didn't want to be having 'girl talk', or listening to Reid's statistics, or Morgan's macho-ness, or Rossi's…whatever.
"I couldn't be bothered with dealing with anybody." She sat down stiffly on the sofa. Glaring at the wine glass when he moved around the back to sit beside her.
"The team." He answered sagely. She suddenly had an insane urge to either, a) slap the perceptive look of his face, or b) kiss it away. Each one had certain advantages. "But they wouldn't just let you be on your own," he continued, " what do they think is happening?"
She huffed before answering, "Rossi thinks I'm with Reid, Reid – JJ, JJ – Morgan, Morgan – Rossi, Garcia thinks I'm at my mother's and my mother thinks I'm at Pen's."
She really had this figured out, each one of those pairings wouldn't, even for a second, think of interrupting her with that member of the team. He'd heard enough of Garcia's rantings at Lynch to know Ambassador Prentiss would be having technical difficulties for a long time to come.
They slid back into silence, staring out at the lights of the city, breathing slowly, trying not to think. His eyes somehow made their way back to the bottle of wine.
"You want some?" She asked. Apparently, she had been watching him this whole time.
He nodded. Might as well.
She got up slowly, left hand coming around to cradle her ribcage. He'd forgotten she'd broken a rib. How could he have forgotten that?
She returned later with another wine glass, pouring out the delicious red wine. Hotch watched mesmerized by the play of lights on the purpley-red liquid. When he'd asked if she'd been drinking, he'd never said it was a bad thing. He only wanted to know if she really tasted like that.
They had both finished their first glasses of wine, and were starting out their second when she finally had enough of the silence. They'd spent too much time not allowed to talk for them not to take the opportunity to talk now. Only, she didn't know what she wanted to talk about. Hotch must be having the same problem.
"Why did you come here?"
He glanced at her, surprised, like he had just remembered where he was, and with whom. He continued to stare, and she was oddly okay with his perusal.
"It wasn't to kiss me, I know that much." She tried for a smile…it came out a grimace.
"I wanted to…I thought…it…" He couldn't get it out. Speaking in front of influential Judges made him less flustered.
She sighed. It was going to be one those nights. She closed her eyes and tried to imagine they were in a different setting, anywhere but her apartment, three days after escaping and overcoming another criminal, especially one with whom she had a past.
The silence dragged on, she had no intention of being the one to break it. He had come here. It was his duty to sever the stillness.
"I can't sleep."
She looked over surprised. That wasn't what she expected. She had expected him to start debriefing her about their experiences, in preparation for their 'official' statements (the ones sans snuggling).
Hotch was surprised too. He hadn't meant to say that.
"I can't sleep. Every time I close my eyes, I…"
"What?" She wasn't demanding, or even asking really. It was like a prompt more than anything.
"I go to bed, and close my eyes, and before I realize I'm asleep, I'm awake again. Panicked…"
"Panicked?' She prompted again.
"Terrified." He amended, "terrified that he's taken you again. That I'm back in that room, without you there, even in silence, to reassure me…that…that…"
"That we're okay?" She finished.
Did she really understand him that well? Or had she been experiencing the same thing.
She looked at him. Really looked at him for the first time that evening, profiled him. Even though it was like an invasion of privacy for them to do that to each other. He looked gaunt, worse than over-worked, almost worse than New York, and Kate Joyner. At least this time, no one had died…well, slight amendment to that. But, Hotch didn't know yet. The team hadn't told them the truth. Smokey had let her know, in his own way, and she had understood him. They were family now, she was in his inner circle, a free drink at his bar whenever she popped by. Which was going to be a lot now.
"I'm tired." She stated. Standing up and holding out a hand to Hotch, she waited for him to grasp it before she moved.
He didn't understand what the hand meant, or why her being tired would have any basis for connection with said hand, or him. He gave up trying to figure out her reasoning. He took her hand and stood up.
She lead the way upstairs. Leading him to her bedroom, he slowed slightly when he realized where they were going.
"It's fine Hotch." She said without looking at him, "I need a manly man for lifting purposes." She turned then, and tried for one of her usual Prentiss smiles. It fell a little short but he appreciated the effort. She pushed open the door, her mattress was on the floor. Sheets, pillows and comforter lay haphazardly across it and around it. It was lying awkwardly on the floor, like someone had spent a long time pulling it off the bed with one hand. Actually that's exactly what it looked like because that's what she had spent an hour doing, before trying to sleep, last night. Not that any sleeping happened, but still, the thought and effort had been there.
"Prent…Emily?" He wanted an explanation for the mattress. That wasn't normal.
"I've found…after the first time…it's better to re-immerse yourself into the creature comforts of living outside a bare room." She was going for humor. He'd let her have it. "I moved the mattress onto the floor so it wasn't as comfy as usual, but not as hard as the floor. It's okay. But I think I'm ready for the bed again." She bunched her forehead, she obviously couldn't do it with her rib. He could.
He nodded again. Reaching down he made short work of restoring her bed to it's proper arrangement. As soon as he had it back to normal, she was already slipping under the covers. She turned off the main light, and flicked on a small lamp by her bedside.
"You getting in?" She left the question open, light. No expectations. Just sleep. He said he couldn't sleep without her, she was offering him what he needed.
Two seconds of thought was all he needed. He toed off his shoes and socks. Quickly discarded his trousers, and gently climbed into the bed. His boxers and t-shirt dark and muted against the dim light of her lamp. She wasn't looking at him. Her focus was on the roof. He didn't know whether to be thankful or insulted.
After a minute of dim lit silence, he noticed she was totally unrelaxed. She was as stiff and hard as a plank of timber. Every muscle was tense.
"I have a confession to make Prentiss." He said to the ceiling.
"Sir?" She replied.
"I'm a cuddler."
An involuntary grin spread across her face.
"So, if you don't get over here right now, we'll only end up waking in a very unusual position."
"Orders received sir." He lifted his right arm and she moved into him, lying next to his body. Her left side folded between him and the mattress. She wouldn't be tossing and turning tonight. Her ribs wouldn't be able to take it. He felt her immediately relax.
Emily smiled as his arm ghosted over her shoulder and lay protectively against her back. Hotch wasn't the cuddler, she had two weeks' worth of practical experience to prove otherwise. She was. He was mattress material. She'd often been awake in the darkness, when he'd been sleeping. He would mumble, shift, roll a little, and as soon as his unconscious body recognized her. He would reach for her, pulling her compliant body to himself so that she was lying practically on top of him. Wrapping his arms around her and not letting her go. She had to admit, it was a great way to sleep. She hadn't had the pleasure of a truly compatible sleeping partner for ages.
They didn't know it, but they both fell asleep at the same time. Breathing synched, bodies relaxed, and pain forgotten for the first time in three weeks.
and then I woke up and it was all a dream...the end. Kidding :)
But, it is the end, not a dream.
Arc, I hope everyone enjoyed this last post, I've never done anything more than a 'forehead kiss' before, so hope it all worked out okay. BIG THANKS TO SIENNA/SIERRA, (you know I always forget your 'name', just be glad I'm not using your 'real person' name) ;)
Much love, THE END. For serious this time :)