The sun is just setting as you drive up the long, rocky driveway. You think he might have seen you coming, anticipated your presence. You're less than fifty feet from the house when you hear feet striking gravel; the sounds of a man who does not want to be questioned by the FBI.
It's twilight. That beautiful time when the world seems to be unable to decide between light and dark. A gentle hum fills the air. It seems almost wrong to be chasing after an unsub at this time of day, as if there should be a moratorium on the evil. This should be that time when everything is just perfect.
'He ran into the woods,' Emily tells you. She's getting a flashlight out of her bag; it's just dark enough that you'll need one, and in any case, you don't know how long this chase will take. You put out a quick call for back-up, but you're not going to wait. This guy was hard enough to find as it was. You're not holding back now.
It's only seconds between you retrieving your own flashlight, and the two of you starting your chase. You're unsure if he's armed or not, which is unfortunate, because neither of you had brought your vest. You were both expecting this to be a simple interview. You are reminded of Reid and JJ's experience at Tobias Henkel's farm. You hope this doesn't end the same way.
The moment you enter the woods, your footsteps soften. You're hitting dirt and leaves with every quick stride, careful to avoid the buttresses of the trees that surround you. He's not far ahead of you, maybe fifty feet. You can hear his heavy breathing, his slowing pace. He's not a physically imposing unsub; he's cunning, manipulative. He wasn't built to run like this. That said, he's determined. He isn't going to stop until you tackle him into the plant litter.
You can hear her a few steps behind you. She's keeping a steady pace, not wanting to overtake your lead. She knows she'll just get in the way. By staying behind you, she guarantees a more effective takedown.
You slow the moment you can no longer hear his breathing, his feet crushing the ground beneath him. Silently, you direct Emily to your left. The two of you are going to flank him.
He's an intelligent, organized offender. He didn't run into these woods just to escape. He was drawing you in; if you were to have any chance of catching him, you had to walk straight into his ambush.
That's your last thought before you see him arc the knife towards your chest.
You didn't see it coming. Hotch didn't see it coming. You had half expected the unsub to have collapsed, struggling to get just one breath out. The other possibility you had considered was his surrender, that he had weighed up the pros and the cons, and he had decided to turn himself in. You admitted to yourself; that was highly unlikely. But even still, you hadn't expected him to jump Hotch so suddenly.
You don't fire, for fear of hitting your boss. Instead you make a tackle that is worthy of Morgan. There's momentum behind your dive, and the two of you roll for several feet before finally slowing to a stop.
You're cuffing him before he can react. You're aching a bit; you know it wasn't the cleanest of takedowns. There's a sharp pain in your ankle that lets you know walking will be a bitch. That's nothing compared to what the unsub's feeling, though. In the struggle, the knife had lodged itself in his calf, but not before it had injured Hotch.
You pull the knife from his wound, and he lets out a moan. Satisfied that he's not going anywhere right this second, you attend to Hotch. It's a fairly clean cut. Shallow. It runs from the pectoral to the clavicle.
'I'm fine,' he tells you, but you put pressure on the wound anyway. You know you'll never live it down if you let your Unit Chief die out here in these woods.
You stop, look around. In every direction, the view is the same. An unending expanse of trees and darkness. You don't know which direction the house is in; the unsub took so many twists and turns that your perception of direction has been skewed.
You have absolutely no idea where you are.
By the light of your torch, you can see the smile on his face.
This was his plan all along.
It's well and truly dark now. It seems almost fitting. Your chest stings a bit, but it's not agonizing pain. You know you'll live.
Still, she brushes her fingers across your bare chest, and you can feel your body tingling. You know but for the presence of the unsub, you would kiss her right here. You would push her down into the dirt and the leaves, and you would suck every last drop of oxygen from her lungs. She's checking her phone; there's no reception out here. You left the radios in the car.
'Don't you see it?' the unsub says from the ground. By the light of two torches, you can see that he's laughing. 'The two of you would sooner turn on each other than work together. I can see the hatred in your eyes.' He's trying to divide and conquer. To confuse us, to convince one of us to let him go. Desperate times, it seems, calls for desperate measures.
She gives you a tilt of the head, as if to ask "do you want to play along with this?" You know if it were any other member of the team, she already would be. She's comfortable enough with Reid, with Morgan, with Dave even. She'll laugh in their presence, make jokes. You don't know if she's that comfortable with you.
So far tonight, she has maintained a stark professionalism that you know is reserved for foreign dignitaries. You're grateful that she hasn't yet made the resonating, high-pitched laugh that usually accompanies the façade; if the King of Sweden makes a joke, you laugh whether it's funny or not.
You give her a slight nod.
Let the games begin.
You see him nod, and you know what you have to do. You look at the unsub with fake disbelief. 'He doesn't hate me.' You turn to Hotch. 'You don't hate me, do you?' You want to make it sound as though you're plagued with insecurities, which isn't far from the truth. You've just learned to hide them.
'I…no, Emily, of course I don't hate you. You're a valued member of the team.' He's heard enough lies to know what a liar sounds like, and he has the inflections down perfectly. It's the kind of phrase that would have garnered interest in the casual eavesdropper.
'You do hate me, don't you?' Your voice rises, feigning anger at his words. 'What do I have to do to prove myself to you, Hotch? Do you want me to jump off a bridge for the team? Commit genocide?'
His lips twitch slightly, as if he can think of some perfectly reasonable things for you to be doing. Reasonable things like tearing his shirt off. Well, technically you already did that to get to his wound.
'Well maybe if you'd share something of yourself once in a while, we wouldn't have this trust problem.'
'Well isn't that the pot calling the kettle black, Mr. "I haven't smiled in seventeen years"!' He almost does smile at that, but he catches himself in time. 'And for your information, I don't "trust" you with things about my personal life, because my personal life isn't the most socially acceptable thing that's going on. I can't seriously believe you'd be open-minded about the fourteen hour Farscape marathon I had last Saturday night.' The words come easily, but it's not until you've finished talking that you realize it's because you're telling the truth. And he realizes it too. You don't want him to judge you based on your certified nerdiness.
In that moment, there's an understanding between the two of you. One that goes beyond the expressions planted on your collective faces. The unsub doesn't even realize what he's done.
You've given your reasons.
You can't even begin to imagine what his excuse is.
In the distance, you hear your name being called. You see beams of light jittering in the air.
'Over here!' you yell. You've spent half an hour pretending that you want to throttle Emily like a rag doll. The unsub thought he was fooling you, but while he only now realizes that that is half an hour where he was too distracted to escape.
He lets off a string of swear words at you. Ignoring them, you pull him to his feet.
'Are you alright?' Morgan asks you. At that point, you realize that you're still shirtless. Blood trickles down your chest.
'Fine,' you answer, and attempt to put the shirt back on. Your eyes wander until they land on Emily. She's walking – limping – towards you.
'Your foot…' you start. You didn't realize that she had been injured too. You know that you can't keep that mask in place when she's hurt.
'A small price to pay for saving your life,' she smiles, and grimaces as her foot touches the ground. You put an arm around her, steady her. You feel her tighten beneath your grasp.
'I don't think I'll be sleeping tonight,' she admits.
'Why's that?' you ask. 'Star Trek on?' It takes her a few seconds to realize that you're joking, and when she does, she laughs. It's a real laugh.
'Did you want to grab dinner?' she asks you. 'I'm really hungry all of a sudden.'
Hungry for what?
You're lying beneath him, panting. His left hand lies on your breast, and his right is down near your thigh.
'Oh, Hotch.' You murmur. You can't muster up the energy to say anything else. Your exhausted fingers dance delicately across his chest, lingering on the wound that had been inflicted just hours previously.
He lays pressed against you for what feels like eternity, and you're okay with that; you don't want him to move. Eventually, though, he rolls off you. He puts his arms around you, fingers intertwining just above your navel.
When you've finally recovered the ability to form full sentences, you ask him. 'Would you like to hear about the socially unacceptable activity I did tonight?'
His hands move lower.
'Tell me tomorrow,' he says.