PROMPT: Next Stop, Valhalla (Oz)

Emily sighed as she stepped over the grass of the graveyard. The day was gorgeous, a complete contradiction to the mood of the man she was making her way towards. Hotch had lost his mother four days ago and Emily wasn't even fully sure it had sunk in yet.


He didn't look up at her.

"We were getting worried," she said softly, coming to stand at his side.

He looked over at her, and she watched his eyes scan her from head to toe. "She's..."

Emily let out a sigh and knew the pain in her eyes was only a fraction of what he was probably feeling. "I know. I'm sorry."

He took a deep, shaky breath, looking back at his mother's gravestone. "Em... Do you believe in heaven?"

The question took her completely by surprise, but she made sure she took her time in answering. She knew Hotch's mother had been a version of Catholic so she chose her words carefully. "I believe in some sort of existence after death," Emily replied.

He nodded. "Do you think that's where my mother is?"

Emily had only met Anita Hotchner twice, both times because of a family function. She'd like the woman, at least, as much as she could for the little she knew about her. "I think she was happy when she died," Emily said carefully. "If that's your definition of heaven."

"What's yours?"

"I don't know," she answered honestly. "The Baha'i faith recognizes it as a state of being when you are closest to God more so than another realm after death. The Chinese faiths see it as a key plane after death. Some Chinese philosophers almost thought of heaven as a person, like the Christian equivalent of God, with a son who was the earthly ruler." She knew it made her sound as nerdy as Reid when she went off like this, but following her experiences as a teenager in Italy, Emily had done extensive research on religions to get their take on her unfortunate circumstances.

"In Norse mythology it's a celebratory place for about half of those who die in combat. It's a legend's place. Fighting and feasting... They're celebrated like celebrities."

"To each their own I guess," Emily said. "The important thing is where you believe your mother is."

He sighed, taking her hand. She walked with him to a nearby tree and was absolutely surprised when he settled onto the ground. He was anal about his suits and Emily knew that the one he wore for the funeral was his best, but she followed him, curling her legs beneath him. The dry cleaning for her dress would be worth his peace of mind.

"I was raised Catholic," he said. "But after what you went through..."

"Hey," Emily interrupted, taking his chin in her hand and forcing him to look at her. "What happened to me happened twenty-five years ago, when I was still a kid, and before I met you. Don't let that colour your belief."

"I just... I hope wherever she is, my father isn't there with her."

She rested her head on his shoulder. "I'm sure your mother is in a good place. Hotch. From the little I knew about her, she was a great lady."

"She loved deeply," he replied, looking out over the gravestones again.

Emily wasn't surprised. Hotch loved deeply, he'd proven that with how badly he'd taken his divorce and he'd proven that to her in the way he loved her. Emily never had any doubt of his adoration of her and she reciprocated to the best of her abilities.

"Do you have your ring?"

Emily's head shot upwards completely surprised by the question. She reached slowly into the bag at her side and pulled out the solitaire diamond ring he'd given her three months before. Her engagement ring.

He took it from her hand, holding it between his fingers. His eyes stayed fixed on it as he said, "This experience taught me something."

"Oh?" Her heart was beating too fast, her breath trying to force itself in and out of her lungs faster than she'd like. He'd already proposed, so she had no idea what he was thinking and though it had been a mutual decision to continue to keep their relationship under wraps, Emily's mind had been rapidly changing as she tried to prepare a wedding single-handedly.

"Life's too short," he said quietly. "My mother... I thought she had another ten or fifteen years. I thought she had forever. But forever isn't that long."

Her breath stopped and she had no idea why.

"I don't want to hide anymore, Emily," he said quietly. "I want forever with you, that's no surprise, but I want everyone to know it too. I want to be able to tell you I love you without having to sneak off to some dark corner before a takedown. I want to be able to leave the office at the same time without suspicion and I want to be able to take one car to work. I want to talk about wedding plans before and after we deal with the gruesomeness of our jobs."

Her heart stuttered. He'd read her mind. Good Lord he'd read her mind.

"But only if-"

"Yes," she interrupted. "I want to tell the team. I want to go wedding dress shopping with Pen and JJ and I want Reid to list of the statistics of couples that make it. I want the whole team to come cake tasting with us and I want Dave to stand up there as best man like you want. I want to see Reid dancing at the reception... God, I want to wear my ring in public. I want it."

So he slipped the diamond onto her left hand, the place she only ever wore the ring when they were at home.

"I want to start forever now," he said.

She smiled. "Then let's go tell the team."

This came from a mood inspired by sienna27's All the King's Horses (which comes highly recommended!) so I owe credit for the way this turned out. Thanks hon!