Author's Note: Post ep for Roadkill, so spoilers for that episode. And a bit of a spoiler for Hell & Back in my ending author note. So if you haven't seen that ep yet, skip the second note. But you can definitely read the story.

Please note, this story is a companion to "The Middle Ground," my post ep for Demonology. This stands alone but it would mean a little more if you've read the other one first. I've decided to make these two stories the set up for my season 4 finale fix. All three will be simple one shots that take place in the same universe. I believe that's what they call a trilogy :)

And my prompt, that's from the new set that we haven't posted yet. But you know I picked it so I figured I could use it :)

Prompt Set #5

Show: One Tree Hill

Title Challenge: Suddenly Everything Has Changed

Ties That Bind

After the jet landed, the team immediately split off to return to their respective homes. Everyone but Hotch.

He returned to Emily's home.

And after they arrived, and they'd dropped their bags, she brought him straight upstairs. And after taking his hand, she walked him over to the bed, where she told him to sit. Just sit. Then Hotch stared as she stripped out of her black suit and her grey bra before walking over to pull open the dresser drawer that she'd given him six months earlier. She slipped on one of his t-shirts.

It just skirted the tops of her thighs.

He'd noticed more and more lately that she was wearing his clothes around the house.

It pleased him.

After she'd removed all traces of Agent Prentiss, Emily crossed back to the bed. She ran her fingers through Hotch's hair before she began to carefully undress him as well. She'd seen how gingerly he was moving on the jet.

So she knew that his injuries were worse than than he'd let on.

And as she removed his clothing, her eyes began to water at the appearance of each new pattern of blue and purple flesh. When she had him down to his boxers, she kissed him as a tear ran down her face. And when she pulled back, Hotch stared at her for a moment. Then he wiped the corner of her eye with his thumb.

He hated to see her cry.

But then Emily gave him a watery smile as she patted his cheek, and whispered that she was going to run him a bath. And that he wasn't to move until she returned.

He nodded slowly and said, okay sweetheart. I promise.

He knew that she needed to do this, so he needed to let her do it. Because he felt terrible for the pain that he could see in her eyes. The worry that he had put there. But really, it had been the only way to save that man.

But he knew that she was upset . . . and she was in mother hen mode . . . and for once he wasn't going to try and convince her that he was fine, and to stop worrying. No, for once he was going to let her fuss over him as much as she wanted to. Because he seriously felt like he'd been hit by a truck.

He saw no irony in that statement.

A moment after Emily disappeared into the bathroom, he found himself staring down at the carpet. Then he started to blink.

Maybe he'd rest his eyes for just a minute.


Emily leaned over to turn off the faucet. Then she turned slightly to call back over her shoulder.

"Honey, your bath is ready."

When there was no answer from Hotch, she pushed herself up from her knees and went back into her bedroom.

Her teeth sunk into her lip as she saw him sitting on the edge of the bed. He had fallen asleep sitting up.

Poor baby.

She was amazed he hadn't fallen over.

For a moment she just stared at him. It was obvious that he was exhausted . . . and she hated to wake him . . . but she certainly couldn't leave him like that. So she walked over and leaned down . . . she pressed her lips against his.

As soon as she made contact, Hotch's eyes popped open onto hers. He blinked twice before asking blearily.

"Did I fall asleep?"

She pulled away with a soft smile as her fingers traced the curve of his jaw.

"You did, but your bath's ready now. And I know that you're tired honey, but I do think that the hot water will help you feel better."

For a moment her gaze drifted over the cuts on his face before traveling down his body to the damage that wouldn't have been immediately visible after the accident.

Simple impact trauma.

Seatbelt digging into flesh. Arm smashing into door. The human body was a delicate thing, and when you toss it around like a rag doll . . . it leaves marks.

Ugly ones.

Her fingertips ghosted over the bruises on his chest and abdomen. They were patterned like a seatbelt. And then for the first time, she murmured aloud the question that had popped into her head as soon as she'd heard what he'd done.

"Oh Aaron, what were you thinking?"

Hotch caught her hand then, and her eyes slowly lifted to see his look of sadness.

"I was thinking that the SUV could take the impact of that truck, a hell of a lot better than that man's skull could."

His poor girl, 7the worry lines were still etched on her face. And he wished more than anything that he could wipe them away.

Emily's eyes began to sting as she cupped her hand under his jaw.

"I know," she whispered, "but you could have been seriously injured Aaron," she stroked her thumb over his lips as she continued softly, "I just wish that you'd found another way."

Hotch kissed the pad of her thumb before taking her hand and squeezing it.

"Sweetheart, trust me," he let out a groan as he got to his feet, "I wish that I'd found another way too."

And then . . . with his arm wrapped around her shoulders . . . they began to walk slowly towards the bathroom.

Everything hurt. This was yet another tangible reminder that he was no longer a young man. His body used to be able to sustain much more trauma than this, and it had barely slowed him down.

Now he was so stiff that he could barely walk.

The full impact of two tons of steel slamming into him at 50 mph had caught up with him hours after the accident. After all of the adrenaline had worn off, and they were getting ready to head home. Fortunately . . . aside from the minor cuts on his face . . . all of his injuries were soft issue, nothing serious.

Basically the problem was everything just ached.

Really, he'd never been so happy to fly back on the weekend before. Because he sure as hell didn't have any intention of taking a sick day for a relatively minor . . . okay, his brow twitched . . . perhaps not so minor collision.

Regardless though, there would be no sick day. But he was more than happy to stay in the house all day Sunday and let Emily take care of him. He knew that he'd scared the shit out of her.

After all, her eyes had practically bugged out when he'd arrived back at the station and she'd seen the marks on his face and heard what he had done.

But she was a professional. Nobody else knew how upset she was. And aside from perhaps slightly more attentive behavior than usual on the plane ride home, she still had kept her composure even there. It wasn't until they were driving to her place that she started to let her professional shell fall away.

And as Prentiss . . . his brilliant and dedicated agent disappeared . . . she was replaced by Emily, his dutiful and loving girlfriend. He loved both parts of her equally.

But they definitely lived in two different worlds. There was Work . . . and there was Home.

And never the twain shall meet.

That had been hard, so hard for so many months. But now, those lines had begun to blur . . . they walked into the bathroom and he stopped suddenly to pull her against his chest . . . and he could no longer get that focus back.

For a moment, he just held her, their fingers falling to intertwine at her stomach. Then he leaned forward and put his face in her hair. He inhaled deeply.

As the scent of her lavender shampoo filled his lungs, he felt some of his anxiety leave him.

That's what he hated about traveling. He couldn't touch her, he couldn't be near her. Not like this. And when they were on the road, enveloped in all that misery, this is what he needed most.

And though he would have been happy to stand there with her all day, after a moment he let her go . . . there would time for cuddling later. The water was cooling. And he wanted her to know that he appreciated that she'd taken the time to make him a bath.

It was a loving gesture from his sweet girl.

So he slipped out of his boxers and moved to step into the tub. Emily put a hand up to help him. He was sure that he could have managed on his own, but she said that he wasn't moving as swiftly as he usually was, and she wanted to make sure that he didn't slip and crack his skull.

Given the visual that statement presented, he really had nothing more to say to that.

As he sat down in the bath, Hotch winced slightly at the temperature of the water . . . he should have checked it first so he was prepared.

Seeing the flash on Hotch's face as his skin was submerged, Emily flinched as though her own flesh was scalded.

"Oh I'm sorry honey," she reached out to touch his arm, "is it too hot? I thought it was okay for my hand."

Hotch shook his head.

"No," his eyes crinkled as he gave her a reassuring smile, "no it's fine sweetheart. Thank you for doing this. I just wasn't expecting it. That's my own fault, I should have felt it first myself."

After looking at him for a moment longer, Emily decided that he wasn't just sparing her feelings, and nodded.

"Okay, if you're sure." Then she smiled softly at him, "well, if you're all set, then I'm going to go make us some . . ."

And she paused . . . she had no idea what meal they were supposed to be eating. Not only had she lost track of the actual time, but she also had jetlag from the flight back. Oh well . . . she shook her head . . . didn't matter.

"Well, I don't know what we should be eating," she continued drolly, "but," her eyes crinkled, "I guess I'll just make us some lupper."

For a second, Hotch's lip quirked up but then he mock scowled at her.

"So you're just going to leave me by myself?"

"I'm sorry Aaron," Emily frowned in concern as she stepped closer to the edge of the tub, "did you need something else?"

Hotch reached up to run his fingers along her bare thigh.

"I need you." And seeing her expression soften, with a small smile he tipped his head down to the water. "Come sit with me . . . I've missed you."

The fact that he could still miss her even though they worked thirteen hours a day together was sad. Sad but true. Their personal and professional lives had always had a razor sharp divide. They didn't fraternize on duty. It was a hard rule.

It was a hard choice.

But it was the only way that they had been able to do this at all. To carve out any sort of happiness together their private life had to remain shuttered away. Hidden completely from view. So if they were traveling, he could go days with only the occasional brush of her fingers through his.

But things were changing now, and many of their rules would soon be bent . . . or completely broken.

It had become too difficult to pretend like she was just another member of the team. Any room he walked into, any place that they went, his eyes always gravitated to her. He needed to know where she was. He needed to know that she was all right. And all he wanted before he went to bed was to hug her and kiss her and tell her that he loved her.

Just like any other normal couple.

And he was thinking now that maybe that would be okay. For the next few months that they could stay together, a quick hug and a peck on the lips weren't going to trigger the downfall of western civilization.

And . . . he looked up now as Emily smiled down at him . . . it would do a great deal for his blood pressure.

Emily reached down to run her fingers through Hotch's hair.

"I've missed you too," her lips twitched, "and I suppose lupper can wait a little longer."

Hotch's eyes crinkled, and then as she began to pull off her t-shirt . . . and her lovely curves reappeared . . . he firmly nodded his agreement to her statement.

"I think lupper can most definitely wait. Linner too."

Her mouth quivered as she looked at him for a second, then he flashed her a dimple and the shirt hit the tile floor. It was followed a moment later by a small scrap of white cotton. He bit his lip.

She was so beautiful.

He reached up then to take her hand to help her into the tub.

Her skull was much more important than his.

A second later, when she sat down in front of him, the water sloshed slightly over the rim. It spattered onto the tile below.

Emily settled back, sighing in contentment as Hotch pulled her closer to his chest, and her skin came in contact with his.

The water was nice and warm . . . he was nice and warm. Next to being curled up in bed, this was her favorite place to be with him.

Her fingers glided over the rim of the white ceramic surrounding them.

God she loved this tub. It was an old four foot claw monstrosity. It was huge. And they both fit in it perfectly.

That was why she liked it so much.

Of course it was no good for sex. Sex in the tub was just . . . well, it really made quite a mess on the floor. Plus, they were a little old for all of the contorting needed. It was much easier to pull a muscle at forty than twenty. So between the risk of minor injuries, and the clean up, it sort of took the fun out of it.

But that didn't mean that the tub wasn't good for cuddling and . . . her lip quirked up . . . other things. Her eyes crinkled as Hotch's hands glided around her breasts and his thumbs massaged the tips of her sensitive nipples . . . things like that.

Tipping her head back slightly, she captured his lips in a soft kiss. His fingers ceased their activity. And as she pulled her lips away, he smiled at her as his hands fell away from her breasts and instead his arms slid down and around her torso.

And that was the end of the foreplay.

Because Hotch also knew that sex wasn't an option at the moment. And though she knew that he'd disagree, his poor body was too battered for anything else even when they got out of the tub.

He needed to rest today.

And as she leaned back against his chest again, Emily was careful to avoid pressing her weight on his left side. That was where he slammed into the door, and she'd seen that was the worst of the bruising.

Her eyes fell shut as she dipped her right hand beneath the water, running it slowly along his upper thigh. Feeling the strength of the muscles beneath his skin.

God . . . her eyes burned . . . she didn't know what she would have done if he'd been seriously hurt. It pained her just thinking about it. And beyond just how awful that would have been, also everything would have then been out in the open.

All pretenses of their (seemingly) professional relationship, would have been shattered.

Though . . . her eyes opened and she blinked away the tears . . . she realized that was about to happen anyway. Priorities had shifted. Things had changed. Work couldn't be their life anymore. Her eyes crinkled.

They had a new focus.

Still though, it made her sad to think how long they had put off their own happiness. Even after they'd discovered that their broken pieces fit together and made them whole. Even then, they still said the job came first.

But no more.

She pressed his fingers to her mouth . . . he was hers. And she was his. And they would make this work.

They sat in silence for a few minutes while the heat of the water relaxed their bodies. Simply being together relaxed their minds. Then Hotch shifted slightly, kissing her shoulder as he whispered.

"Emily, it frightens me to say this, but I don't know what would have happened today if you'd been with me."

It was after the accident that he had realized, if she'd been in the SUV with him it's quite possible that man would have died. Later, when he had looked in the mirror at the cuts over his brow, he had suddenly pictured her face. And he had known then . . . he was no longer capable of deliberately putting her in harm's way.

That knowledge had slammed into him like a freight train. He'd sucked in a breath of air as he thought about the implications of that. Because two weeks ago a clock had begun to tick. They were still adjusting, but that was one point that he had not taken into account.

Given their work, it was one major point.

And he didn't know what to do.

Emily nodded as she pulled his hands down further beneath the warm water. They came to rest on the barely perceptible swell of her stomach.

"I know," she exhaled sadly, "I know, I was thinking that too."

She knew that she was beginning to become a distraction for him. And distractions got people killed. She felt a sharp stab in her chest . . . a distraction could get him killed. And they needed to talk about that. And soon.

They needed to talk about a lot of things actually.

With a sigh, she turned slightly so she could nuzzle his neck . . . but not right now. Right now was just for reconnecting, just for being together. All the rest of it could wait for a little bit. Her eyes crinkled slightly as he crossed his legs over hers . . . definitely just for being together.

Hotch wrapped his body around Emily's, and then spread his palm out to cover the tiny bump.

Both of them, totally safe, totally protected.

And he felt a pang in his gut knowing that was probably the only time that he could say that. They needed to start making some difficult choices. Decisions about work, decisions about home . . . there would have to be sacrifices. It was going to be hard. He had no doubt about that.

But . . . his fingers caressed the curve of her skin . . . he wasn't going to screw this up.

Not again.

Emily spread her fingers over his, and he heard the smile in her voice as she sighed, "thirty seven weeks."

And pressing his lips to the curve of her neck, he whispered back happily, "thirty seven weeks."

When he'd found out that they were pregnant, all of the fears, all of the worries, all of the 'practical' concerns that had been suffocating them all of these months, they just . . . went away.

None of it mattered anymore.

They were having a baby. A miracle baby in fact. Because Emily had been told that she wouldn't be able to have children. And when that realization came to him, it was a moment after the stick turned blue. She turned to him, elated, with tears in her eyes and it was like an anchor had been lifted from his chest and tossed aside. He could breathe again.

Strauss and her petty vendetta had never seemed less important.

So he had kissed Emily as he told her that he loved her, and that this was a sign. A harbinger of good things. Because now he knew, he was sure, even if the Bureau separated them, if one of them was taken from the BAU, that they would still be together. That had been his greatest fear, that their resentment over that happening, their bitterness would tear them apart. But they were a family now. And she had nodded her agreement as she cried and told him that she was with him no matter what they said.

Now they couldn't break them up.

And as he picked up her hand on this day two weeks later, and kissed her dripping wet fingers, he eyed the one that he wanted to put the ring on. And staring at that finger, picturing that band, the same thought came to him again as had come to him that morning.

That morning they had decided to build a life together.

He had been given a gift. It was an opportunity to do things over, an opportunity to make things right. And no one was going to take that away from him.

No one.

He threaded his fingers through Emily's and she turned her head, smiling sheepishly as she whispered, "the water's getting cold." He stared at her for a moment, then his eyes crinkled before he leaned forward, murmuring against her lips.

"Come on, let's go make some lupper."

A/N 2: As I said, this was the set up for my finale fix. And I already mentioned this to someone else, but I wanted to give that story a little more emotional resonance by giving a snapshot of Hotch's personal life at that point he turns around and the gun's in his face. That way you get a bit of the emotional connection you would from a multi-chapter story without actually having to take the time to WRITE a multi-chapter story.

I'll begin working on that last story in the next day or so. I want to work on some of my regular stuff first. But I figure this ep was only a couple weeks before Hell & Back so she'd still only be barely two months pregnant there and she wouldn't be showing.

And I'm not planning on making this a whole continuing world. Because this is a 'post ep' verse her being pregnant wouldn't really work unless they got pregnant on the show. And that seems unlikely :) Though, I'll go on the record now, if TPTB would like to grace us with a Hotch/Prentiss baby, I'll be happy to continue writing for one.

I could have basically picked any of their star crossed lover versions as a set up for this, but I really liked the idea of using the Demonology one. It was just the most bittersweet and I wanted to add a little more sweet and let them actually be happy. Especially because they're still so damn miserable on the show! Also the Demonology story struck me because I'd already used the bath as a connection in that one. And here, as soon as I saw Roadkill, I got a shot of Emily making him a bath to sooth his muscles. If I can work it in organically I might keep the water theme in the next one too.

You know the drill folks, please hit the little green button in the center of your screen :)