THE OTHER SHOE
PROMPT: FYI: I Hurt, Too (Will & Grace)
Emily sat in her dark apartment, curled up in a ball on her couch. She'd thrown all of the throw pillows onto the floor, and the blanket into the wash with her sheets, pillowcases, anything that smelled like him.
They'd been together almost a year. The team knew, though it was an unspoken bit of knowledge, and everyone involved preferred it that way. She was the only one who could straighten out his chaotic thoughts during child cases, and he supported her through ones where the answers weren't all clear. They balanced each other and it was the number one reason the team looked the other way.
They'd been watching some mindless bit of television, enjoying the extremely rare down time when his phone had buzzed insistently against the table. He'd picked it up and she'd felt him tense immediately. Then he'd said the last three words she ever wanted to hear in the entirety of her life.
"That was Haley."
And that was the other shoe. Emily had been waiting for it for months, and had almost started to believe JJ and Penelope when they said it simply wasn't coming. Then it was there, and there was nothing in the world that could prepare her for the pain that had flooded her system. She'd managed to wait until he'd left before tearing things apart, throwing his set of spare clothes into a garbage bag, ripping the sheets off of her bed and making sure she added more than enough detergent and softener to get his scent out of the fabric. She'd had a shower and scrubbed herself almost raw, disposing of his toiletry products as quickly and efficiently as she had his clothes.
Then the pictures came off the mantle and for the first time since she was a young child, Emily shattered things. She threw a temper tantrum the likes of which she'd never even considered as an adult. Because Emily Prentiss was the consummate ambassador's daughter, always with a stoic face, always with her emotions bottled up. But this time, the pain was too much.
And when she'd done all of that, when she'd all but destroyed her apartment without a care to the fact that she'd have to clean it all up in the morning, the sobs came. Finally, some tangible actual pain shook her body as she sobbed into the arm of her couch, crying until she had absolutely nothing left in her. She expected, then, for a terrible and fitful sleep to claim her, but it stayed at bay, leaving her staring out into the dark night. The only light was on in her bedroom upstairs, leaving a sliver of light down the staircase. Otherwise, her apartment was the dark abyss she'd been thrown into like yesterday's trash.
Good Lord, she'd known better. She'd known things were only going to turn out badly. She'd known that she was a replacement until Haley realized what she'd given up. And yet, she'd let herself fall, let herself tumble head first in the spectacular side of Hotch that so few even caught a glimpse of. Only to have it all blow up in her face.
The silence was broken hours later by the scratch of a key in the lock. Emily felt her anger well up in her again, giving her energy she thought she'd expelled in her tantrum and cry-fest. Apparently, she had well springs she'd never tapped before. The nerve of Aaron Hotchner to think he could just leave her behind and sneak back in using the key she'd given him as a risk less than a month ago.
"Emily? Emily, what happened?"
"What happened?" she croaked out, angry at him and frustrated at herself for having no voice left. "What happened?!"
"Did someone break in? Are you okay?"
He was going to play caring? Seriously? "Where the hell do you get the guts?"
He blinked. "I'm sorry?"
"Where the hell do you get the guts to leave after your ex-wife calls and then just waltz back in here like nothing happened? What were you hoping for Aaron?" She spat his name out like sour milk. "Did you think that you could just sneak back in here, pack up your stuff and leave? Did you think that maybe I'd just accept being thrown aside? That the good little ambassador's daughter wouldn't make a scene or a big deal about it all?"
She was standing now, yelling, uncaring as to whether or not she'd wake her neighbours. She was a good neighbour, she was allowed a lapse every now and again. And this was a damned good reason to be given leeway. "Well guess what! I'm just human. I get angry, I get frustrated, oh, and FYI: I hurt, too."
"Em, it's not what you think."
She scoffed. "As if I haven't heard that one before. I opened up to you. I told you things my best friends don't know about me. You met my parents and they freaking approved. Then you turn around the second Haley calls and race out the door?"
"I gave her custody papers."
That stopped Emily's tirade dead in its tracks. "What?"
Hotch sighed, running a hand through his hair as he sat gingerly on the edge of the couch. Emily stayed standing, but he folded his hands, resting his elbows on his knees and looked up at her. "Haley and I... we've been having some trouble with the custody agreement."
Emily nodded. He'd told her about it from time to time, but more often than not, he didn't want to involve her in this battle with his ex-wife. In fact, he tried not to talk about Haley when he was with Emily.
"I've been talking to a few lawyers, trying to see what my options are with the Bureau and everything... I've been toying with the idea of applying for sole custody for a while, make her the visitational parent."
That was ballsy, even for Hotch, but Emily knew he loved his son completely and unconditionally. He often complained about how little he got to see his boy and Emily knew why. She'd met Jack, saw what an adorable and whip smart child he was. She couldn't blame Hotch for wanting to see the child more.
"I was supposed to pick Jack up tomorrow," he said, eyes boring into hers, pleading with her to understand.
"When she called, she did it from her sisters place, said she was packing Jack for a weekend in New York. So I took her the papers. I wanted to give them to her in person, before she left, let her know that I was done playing games with my son. I want a formal agreement, in writing. I don't want her to be able to uproot my son when it's my time to see him, that's rare enough as it is."
He took a deep breath. "I wasn't going back to Haley, Emily. I couldn't do that."
She dropped precariously to the edge of the coffee table. "I thought... You didn't say anything, and I figured..." She shrugged. "No matter how much I prepared myself for you to pick up and leave when she called I wasn't ready for how much it actually hurt."
He reached out a hand, but wisely turned it palm up in front of her. She wasn't sure what she wanted to do yet and she was glad he could tell, just waiting there to see what her decision would be. "I'm sorry."
Instead of putting her hand in his, she looked up at him. "I can't go through that again," she whispered. "I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, keep thinking that any minute, you're going to realize that fighting for what you had with Haley is what you really want. Then I'll be yesterday's news." Yesterday's trash.
"Emily Catherine Prentiss, I am completely and overwhelmingly in love with you," he whispered. "I have no intention of leaving you any time soon."
She'd heard him say the words before and it did soothe some of her pain. "You have to start telling me things, Hotch. I'm not some China doll. If Haley's bothering you, I need to know. If you're having custody battles, I need to know. Because I can't go through this again. I should be kicking you out on your ass."
"I'm glad you're not."
"I'm serious," she said quietly, her eyes now resting on his still out-stretched hand. "I'm only human, Hotch. Pain... I feel it, the same way I feel love and affection." And she felt strongly, deeply, passionately, but he didn't need the words to know that and she knew it.
"I should have told you," he agreed. "I wish I had. I didn't think I could explain the whole story before she had Jack packed up and whisked off on a train. This is the last time I'm letting my son go with only an 'I love you' and a promise to call while he was away."
Her eyes dropped closed as she took a deep breath. "I want to believe you. I really, really do."
But the evidence of her pain was scattered all over her condo. She knew when the buzzer sounded and his back straightened that he had some idea of the lengths she'd gone to erase him from her condo. She felt her chest constrict as he took his hand back, using it to reach into the pocket of the jacket he still wore. He pulled out a tattered newspaper clipping and handed it to her.
"A three bedroom house? You have an apartment and it has enough room. Why do you want something bigger?" she asked in confusion.
"Because it doesn't have room for you."
"I've been carrying that around for weeks, since you gave me a key. I saw it in the paper a few days after and went 'Emily and I are going to live there'. It's in a good neighbourhood, good parks, a lot of room to play. It's half decently close to Haley so the commute isn't terrible to get Jack and it has a half decent commute time to Quantico for work."
Emily swallowed. "You want to move in together?"
Hotch nodded. "And I'm not asking to get myself out of trouble with you. I should have told you what was going on. You deserve to know more than anyone else does. But I didn't want to burden you with that kind of thing. There's nothing you could have done about it and I know how much you hate being helpless."
She smiled slightly. She did hate being helpless and the few times he had told her about some of the troubles he was having with Haley, she certainly felt it. She shouldn't have been surprised that he saw it. "You mean it?" she asked.
"I wish there was a way I could reassure you," he said. "Haley and I... we're past. The paperwork was long-filed, I moved into my own apartment, I've given another woman my heart to protect. But those are just words and none of them are good enough to explain how sorry I am about what I put you through.
Emily swallowed. "I've never been the type of person men love," she began quietly. "So it's a little bit more difficult for me to accept that there aren't strings attached, that the other shoe isn't going to drop like I thought it did. I've never felt the pain I did in my chest when you walked out without an explanation, back to your ex-wife."
"Tomorrow, I will tell you everything, top to bottom, the whole problem. Then I will tell you about how Dave is driving me nuts and how Strauss needs to stop breathing down my neck."
"Strauss is breathing down your neck?" Emily asked wrinkling her brow.
Hotch chuckled slightly. "There's a lot we need to talk about."
She nodded, and looked back down at the newspaper ad in her hand. "Like which set of living room furniture we're going to move and which one we're going to sell."
She heard his breath catch. "Emily..."
"You're not out of the woods yet, by any stretch of the imagination, but I believe you," she said quietly, making sure the pain and grief of the last few hours was written all over her face. "And I want to move in with you."
He leaned forward and she let him kiss her, lips meeting hers in a way that was exquisitely tender. "You have no idea what this means to me. You have no idea how sorry I am."
"Come on. We'll talk about it in the morning," she said. Then she paused and sagged in defeat.
"What is it?" There was panic in his voice and on his face.
She tried for a reassuring smile. "We have to remake the bed."
This was inspired by something kindsmeadroad wrote for the "I'm Not the Man" prompt, so I can't take all of the credit for the inspiration.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go save the world.