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UNDER THE GUISE OF DANCING

PROMPT: Blue Balls Lagoon (Entourage)

Hotch looked out his office window down to the bullpen with a sigh. The Bureau appreciation dinner was that night and by the looks of things, nothing was getting done in the bullpen and even he wasn't getting much done, his files lying open in front of him. He watched one of his teammates in particular, her thin shoulders shaking in laughter. He smiled. She was the one person he didn't want here, and she'd been the only person to watch his back after New York and his divorce with something other than concern and pity.

Emily hadn't been around when Elle shot an UNSUB in cold blood, so she wasn't as jaded as to the after-effects of a terrible case. Or, in his case, circumstances piling on top of each other one by one. She'd been able to respond to the slightest things, including his worry about her well-being in Colorado. Though she'd turned to hug Reid, she'd driven back with him.

"Pull over," she requested quietly.

He did immediately, brow knitting in concern. Was everything just hitting her? Was she about to have a panic attack? Was she remembering how she couldn't save that girl? But the dark eyes that turned to his were clear.

"This isn't your fault," she said quietly, reaching out to lay a hand on his forearm.

He realized his hands were clenched on the steering wheel until the knuckles were white. He tried to loosen the grip. Her hand floated down until it rested on his when he managed to pry his fingers off of the wheel.

"This didn't happen because you didn't come in. This was my choice and in the same situation, I'd make it again. In an instant."

He shook his head slightly. "I'm supposed to be reassuring you."

She smiled at his unaccustomed candour and squeezed his hand. "Well, when I need it, you'll be the first person I call."

He continued to be endlessly surprised at not only her intelligence, something that shone through every aspect of her life, but also at her strength. Colorado had serious after-effects on Reid, on Morgan and on Dave as well as on him and she'd managed to handle it all with a grace he'd never seen before. And he wasn't blind to her classic beauty either.

Which is why he was considering something that hadn't crossed his mind until his nomination had come down the pipe. He couldn't say he was surprised that the Bureau considered him one of the most dynamic agents, nor that they'd nominated him for an award of excellence. He worked hard in everything he did. What did surprise him was that his first thought upon receiving the e-mail notifying him about his selection as one of the final five was that he wanted to share it with Emily.

"How is La La Land this time of year?"

Her voice broke him out of his thoughts and he looked up at Emily's smiling face. His lips twitched in response. "I see you're all taking advantage of the fact that we have a Bureau issue event tonight?"

"Do you blame us? We actually get to go to a party, dress up all formal and everything," she said. "Though I have to admit, I figured the Bureau could come up with something a little more creative than a Black and Blue Ball."

He arched an eyebrow. "What did you have in mind?"

She shrugged, but the sparkle in her eye told him she would answer. "Masquerade? Country barn dance? Hawaiian Luau? There is no limit to the number of Bureau women who would probably kill to see Derek Morgan in a bathing suit."

That brought some highly inappropriate images to his head. Emily in a bikini was not a new fantasy, but one he really didn't need in the office. "Write a letter to HR."

She snorted. "No thanks. They still think I'm sleeping with Dave. I avoid them at all costs. Derek files my HR paperwork for me."

Emily and Dave? Sure, they were friends, but he didn't quite see that.

"Mind, they also say he's cheating on me with Jayje. Or maybe it was the other way around," she said, voice turning contemplative. "What day is it?"

His lips were twitching horribly now, trying to both break out in and resist a smile at all costs. "Friday."

"He's cheating on JJ with me. Apparently I get Monday to Thursday, she gets Friday, Saturday, Sunday. You didn't hear about their weekend spent in his Little Creek cabin last week?"

He couldn't hold back the smile and looked down at his files. When his head came back up, her eyes were sparkling.

"I win," she said.

He shook his head. She'd taken to challenging herself almost daily to make him smile. To the extent of his knowledge, she had yet to lose. Which, really, was a thrill in itself. Then he bit her lip without realizing he was doing it.

She cocked her head to the side. "What kind of a favour?"

It was scary how she'd grown to be able to do that. He smiled slightly. "The Excellence Award nominees have to start the dancing tonight. And I have no one to dance with me."

"Well, I'd suggest Reid, but he has two left feet. You'd never keep Morgan close enough to you to find him in time to dance... JJ already said she was bringing Will, and as non-romantic as it would be, I don't think he'd much appreciate you waltzing his... girlfriend?" She shook her head. No one was quite sure what JJ and Will were, and Henry was almost a year old. "Around the dance floor."

He shook his head. "Emily?"

"Mmhmm?" she looked back at him from where her eyes had glazed over while she thought about who would be his best bet for a date.

"I was thinking of you."

She blinked. "Me?"

"You can dance, right?"

She pursed her lips. "Of course I can. My mother insisted on it." She wrinkled her brows together. "You want me to be your date to the Bureau Appreciation Dinner?"

"I believe we generally enjoy each other's company," he replied, trying to keep his heart from beating too loudly.

There was silence for a moment. Then she shrugged. "Okay."

"Okay?"

"Yeah. Okay. Should I be wearing blue or black?"

He didn't know she had enough formal wear to choose. She resisted loudly whenever her parents requested her presence at anything political or formal.

"Wait. I take that back. You're wearing black. Silly question."

"Well, it is my best suit."

Emily shook his head. "Someday, I'm going to introduce you to the concept of colour."

It wasn't the first time he'd said that and he really didn't bother to comment on it. "I'll pick you up at 7?"

"Dinner's at 8?" she asked. Then echoed his nod. "Sounds good." Then she stood, heading back out to the bullpen.

"Emily?"

"Hmm?"

He smiled at her, fully, with dimples. "Thank you."

There was something in her eyes. "No thanks necessary Hotch. We're friends."

As she left, Hotch couldn't help but think that this was a new frontier in their friendship. Maybe next time he wouldn't have to hide behind the guise of needing a good dance partner. Maybe next time, he'd be able to just ask her to go as his date. And he looked forward to the opportunity.


This 1) turned into more friendship than I'd originally anticipated and 2) wasn't what I'd originally anticipated! Really, I should come to expect that by now.

And I did each of this Prompt List #1! I'm so excited!