Author's Note: This is the alternate ending chapter of Falling in Love with a Girl. That epic piece will end in December and move immediately into The Hours. This is a rewrite of Chapter 95 "The New Normal" except one thing goes differently and then everything changes. The change is about a third of the way down, after they're in the bedroom.

This is just the one story for now but I'm tagging it as Universe C simply because it is a different, to use tfm's analogy, "branch off the main tree." It does shoot things in a different direction so the subsequent events in The Hours and Life & Such wouldn't necessarily happen in the same way.

If you're just discovering this story you should first go read chapters 1-94 of Falling in Love with a Girl. This story picks up events immediately after Chapter 94 in that story. These are sort of becoming "choose your own adventures" (Kavi's term – borrowing analogies from everyone today) so you can pick the version of their lives you like best :)

And this was so perfect for one of the prompts I am most definitely taking advantage and using it.


Prompt Set #6

Show: The Shield

Title Challenge: The Quick Fix


Early October: Saturday

Epiphanies

The five blocks from the park to his apartment building, sucked the last of Hotch's energy. And by the time they got back up to his door, he was about ready to collapse.

But he was careful to keep all signs of that from Jack.

Mind over matter was doable when you just needed to keep your shit together for the few seconds at a time that you spoke to a three year old.

Fortunately they weren't the most observational subgroup of individuals.

So provided that Hotch didn't actually moan, or . . . he rolled his eyes as he let them into the living room. . . 'gasp in pain' while clutching his chest (like he did in the park), then Jack was none the wiser to his deteriorating condition physical.

Of course it also helped that Emily was running interference between the two of them.

Since they'd started out of the park, she'd been doing everything possible to keep Jack's attention on topics besides his father. Hotch didn't know she even knew that much trivia about the Muppets. He bit back another moan as they stepped into the living room.

It definitely wasn't on her resume.

/*/*/*/*/

Emily finished up her last story about Miss Piggy as she guided the two Hotchner boys into the kitchen. The big one got a glass of milk and two Motrin . . . the little one got a juice box and some Teddy Grahams.

She too stole some Teddy Grahams.

Then she took Jack by the hand and set him up with his Shrek DVD in the living room. Though Emily hated to just prop him in front of the television rather than playing with him, given the big grin she got when the Shrek music started, she didn't think that Jack minded her choice of activity for him. And her eyes crinkled slightly as she gave him a kiss and told him that she'd be back in a few minutes. That she just needed to help daddy for a minute. She got a distracted, "k, Miss Emily," in response.

The big green ogre had made his appearance.

So with Jack definitely lined up for at least the next thirty minutes, Emily ruffled his hair and headed back into the kitchen.

She found Hotch with his head on the table.

A faint pout touched her lips as she walked over knelt down next to his chair. Then she rubbed her hand down his back.

"Are you okay?" She asked sympathetically.

"Yeah," Hotch nodded slightly as he opened his eyes, "just resting for a second." Then he sat up . . . his eyebrow went up even further when he saw Emily's mouth quivering.

"What?"

She cleared her throat.

"Did you guys have cereal for breakfast?"

"Yeah," he responded slowly as his brow furrowed, "why?"

With a giggle Emily reached up to pull the loose cheerio off of Hotch's cheek. Then she held it up in front of him.

"No reason."

His eyes crinkled.

"Oh."

Emily smiled as she dropped little ring of cereal back on the table. Then she slipped herself under his side.

If he was tired enough to put his face down on a cheerio without even noticing, then she figured that he could use a little support going down the hall. Though for both their sakes, she just tried to pretend it was the usual, 'Hotch has his arm around her for affectionate purposes,' and not 'Hotch has his arm around her so he doesn't collapse on the ground' purposes.

It was basically the same move, but for a slight shifting of weight one way or the other. And he wasn't actually leaning on her as much as he had on Thursday. But ordinarily he didn't lean on her at all. So as much as she wanted to, Emily couldn't pretend this was just 'the usual.'

And before they headed to the bedroom, they poked their heads into the living room to check on Jack . . . he was in the zone. Hotch said he was usually a little tired after the park, so he'd be fine for a while just watching his movie.

So with him taken care of, they continued down to Hotch's room where Emily got him settled on the bed. Seeing his eyes were immediately falling shut again, she started backing towards the door.

"I'll go out and sit with Jack," she called out softly.

Still with his eyes shut, Hotch shook his head, "he's okay for a couple minutes. You don't have to leave right away."

Emily remembered then that Jack was almost four. Certainly old enough to sit by himself and watch cartoons.

They were just down the hall.

But it was just that Emily was used to being with Jack out in public. The park, the circus . . . McDonald's. All places where you had to keep your guard up.

Watch for predators.

But they were inside now, guns were locked up, doors were dead bolted.

Jack was safe.

For the first time since this little boy had come into her life, Emily didn't need to stand guard. That was an unexpectedly liberating moment. Until that moment, she hadn't realized how she was usually a little tense worrying about him when they were out.

Okay . . . she nodded to herself . . . Jack was definitely all set for now so she turned back to Hotch lying on his back. His eyes were shut but she knew that he wasn't sleeping. She sat down on the end of the bed, and her heart ached a little when she saw his hand automatically stretch out for her.

It was obvious that he needed their physical contact as much as she did. So she reached over to grasp his fingers . . . and though his lids were still shut . . . she saw his eyes crinkle slightly.

"You going to stay way down there?"

"No," she crawled over and lay her head down on the pillow next to him, "I'm here."

Opening one eye, he looked at her, "you're still too far away."

Since when was she so shy? Usually she was all over him.

So to speak.

Feeling slightly sheepish, Emily stared up at the ceiling.

"But what about Jack?" She asked with some concern.

Hotch opened his other eye right before his brow wrinkled in confusion.

"What about Jack?"

Emily tipped her head over on the pillow so she could see him.

"Well, won't it be weird if he sees Miss Emily in bed with daddy?"

"Emily," Hotch snorted, "we're completely clothed. Of all the things that have happened today that hold the possibility of scarring his little mind, this does not make the list."

Hmm . . . he had a point there.

Seeing he'd allayed her fears about Jack, Hotch tugged her hand, "now come see me," he looked over sadly, "I've had kind of a bad day."

Emily pouted as she rolled over, closing the gap between them. Then she rested her head on his shoulder.

"I know you had a bad day," she whispered while wrapping herself around his side, "and I'm sorry. But it'll be okay, I really don't think that he'll remember any of it. You just need to rest and let yourself heal," her voice brightened, "and just think how good a shape you'll be in for next weekend," she patted his stomach, "you might not be 100% but I'm sure you'll be ten times better."

Hotch's face softened as he tipped his head down to rest against hers . . . Emily was always the Sunny Side Up Girl. And because of that she could always made him feel better. It used to just be helping him deal with the terrible things they saw at work, but now he needed her for domestic crises as well.

He rubbed her shoulder . . . he really didn't know what he would do without her. And as his eyes fell shut again, Hotch tried to think of a way to get Emily AND Jack on the couch with him. That sounded like nirvana, but he didn't think that was a move that was going to fly in his present condition.

Damn.

So he made a mental note that a 'double cuddle' was something that he definitely needed to explore once he was well again.

But then a moment later he felt a flood of disappointment . . . Emily wasn't usually over at the same time that Jack was. Today was an aberration.

They usually just saw her in the park.

His brow furrowed . . . he was going to have to do something about that.

But he was distracted from further deliberation on that topic, when he felt the focus of his deliberations moving her hands across his torso.

His eyes popped open and his gaze shifted down the length of his body.

Emily was untucking his shirt.

His eyes crinkled as his gaze shifted up to her face.

"Are you trying to take advantage of me in my weakened condition?" He whispered.

With an amused huff Emily looked up at Hotch.

"I think that I had my big chance at that when we were in the shower. Now it would just be effort." She patted his stomach, "actually I was thinking that you need to change, you got mud on this."

No sooner had the words left her mouth, than Emily's eyes suddenly widened in horror.

"OH SHIT!"

Perplexed Hotch looked down at her, "what's the matter?"

But she didn't answer, Emily pushed herself up, before turning her head to look down at the sheet.

"Damn it!"

She'd forgotten about her jeans. They were filthy and now there was mud all over the bed. Fortunately it was mostly dried chunks, but still, it was a mess.

Hotch craned his neck.

"Oops."

Oh well. It certainly wasn't the biggest tragedy to befall him in the last month.

Emily looked down in dismay.

"Very big oops," she added with a shake of her head.

God! Who tracks mud on somebody else's bed! It was bad enough when you did it on the carpet!

Though he really didn't much care about the mud, Hotch could see that Emily was actually genuinely upset about the mess. So he reached out to pat her hand.

"Emily, it's okay. Like you said before, it's just dirt. It'll come out. And even if it doesn't, we got these sheets at IKEA, so we can just go get another set." Then he eyed her suspiciously, "that wasn't your master plan was it? Trying to force me into yet another shopping trip."

Maybe he could joke her out of her mood.

That's what she usually did for him.

"Yeah," Emily responded drolly, "you got me. I tricked you into feeding the ducks with me today so I could get mud on my clothes, come back here and roll around on your bed. And I did that ALL in the hopes of maybe getting another shopping trip to IKEA."

"I figured as much." Hotch said on a sigh as he let his eyes fall shut again.

He started taking slow even breaths; he was hoping maybe he could just will his body to heal. Given he still felt like someone had jammed a hot poker into his side AFTER they ran him down with a steamroller, he didn't think he was particularly successful with that element of the mind over matter approach.

Emily's lip quirked up as she looked over at him.

"Hey sleepyhead," she said with a squeeze of his fingers, "I need to change the sheets before you take a nap."

When he didn't answer her she was afraid he had already passed out and she leaned closer, trying to see if he was asleep.

Feeling Emily's breath on his face, Hotch opened his eyes directly onto hers. His lip quirked up as he touched her cheek, "hi pretty girl."

Feeling a slight blush climb her cheeks, Emily's lips twitched.

"I wasn't expecting you to open your eyes right then."

That was a bit unnerving.

Hotch raised his eyebrow. "Really, so what exactly were you planning on doing to me while my eyes were closed?"

She raised her own eyebrow, "you mean after I drew the gaucho mustache?"

Seeing Hotch's brow furrow as he brought his hand up to touch his lip, Emily burst out laughing.

"I didn't really draw on you!," she chuckled, "I was just seeing if you were sleeping. Didn't you hear me? I need to get the muddy stuff off the bed," she touched his shirt, "and I need to wash your shirt too."

Trying to hide the wince from Emily, Hotch pushed himself up slightly from the mattress.

"Okay," And then he started unbuttoning his shirt, but he didn't get more than one button done before Emily gently pushed his fingers aside. His gaze snapped up to see her smiling softly at him.

"I'll do it. You should try and keep that other arm as still as you can tonight. You've already pulled at your chest too much today."

At the moment she figured that most of his problem was sheer exhaustion. But if he pushed himself any harder than he already had, he probably really would end up tearing something else.

And then he'd be laid up for another two weeks.

With a faint sigh of disgust, Hotch nodded back.

"I guess you're right," his voice faded as his eyes dropped to the bed, "thanks."

This was a setback.

He'd been okay dressing himself that morning.

Okay, yeah that was post a hot shower and about twenty minutes after he'd loaded on anti-inflammatories. But still, he'd been able to get his shirt on and button it up. Granted he needed to rest in between those two actions . . . and it took twice as long as usual . . . but he was still able to do it alone. But now he was back to day one.

Emily having to dress him like he was a child.

Speaking of Emily, his head snapped back in surprise as he felt her weight covering his body.

After she'd wrapped her leg around Hotch's right thigh, Emily reached up to run his fingers along his cheek.

"You need a hug," she said sadly, "and I that thought this might work."

And then she leaned forward . . . being careful to keep her body angled to the right . . . as she wrapped one arm around Hotch's neck, and the other around his side. And as she felt Hotch slip his arm slip around her waist, she turned her head slightly.

"It's only temporary," she whispered in his ear, "I'm sure by tomorrow, after you get some rest, that you'll be able to do these things for yourself again. And in the meantime," she pressed her lips to his skin, "that's what I'm here for."

And then she slid her hand over to rub the back of his neck . . . she was trying to get some of the tension to leave.

Feeling his eyes begin to burn, Hotch could only nod an acknowledgment to the words she'd said. Though of course he wanted to say thank you, he didn't trust his voice.

Because there was no proper thank you for someone helping you like this.

These little menial things that you should be able to do for yourself . . . it was simply humiliating when you couldn't. And Emily was doing all of them for him without resentment or irritation.

He'd felt nothing from her but love and concern.

As she pulled back slightly, Emily's own eyes began to water as she saw the moisture in Hotch's.

She just hated to see him so down.

So in an effort to cheer him up . . . to cheer them both up . . . she ran her fingers along the curve of his jaw. And then, when their eyes locked . . . she leaned in.

And she kissed him.

It was supposed to just be a quick peck on the lips.

But it wasn't.

It went on too long . . . and there was too much tenderness . . . for Emily to dismiss it outright as she had planned. And when she pulled back she could see Hotch blinking away the tears as he looked quizzically at her. And then there was a faint crinkle around his eyes as he touched her cheek.

"Where did that come from?"

And Emily blushed slightly as she bit her lip. "I don't know."

All she knew was that it was . . . unexpected. And it also wasn't experiment kissing. That was most definitely regular kissing.

But they didn't do that.

As Hotch saw the pink hue begin to climb Emily's cheeks, he knew that wasn't a planned kiss. But planned or not . . . either way . . . it was very nice.

Much better than his science experiment that was for sure.

And because of that . . . because of this new thing . . . his feelings about his setback were put aside for a moment.

"You want to do it again?" He asked as he looked over at her with curiosity.

Tipping her head to the side, Emily looked at Hotch for a moment before nodding seriously.

"I think maybe, yes."

Attempting to get clarification on that response . . . a response which made no sense . . . Hotch's brow rose up in confusion.

"You think MAYBE yes?"

The woman was KILLING him here!

Emily's mouth quivered slightly, "well what do you think?"

They had kissed before so that in and of itself wasn't a momentous development. That said, this kiss had felt . . . different. And yeah . . . she nodded to herself . . . she did want to do it again.

Well, if he did.

Hotch shrugged one shoulder dismissively, "well, I was thinking, PERHAPS yes, but if you're thinking MAYBE yes, then I guess that we're really not on the same page."

Lips now twitching in full blown amusement, Emily stared down at Hotch . . . good GOD was he adorable! And now she DEFINITELY wanted to do it again! So she leaned in closer, propping herself up with a hand on his pillow to murmur against his lips.

"The last time I checked 'perhaps' and 'maybe' were both considered acceptable synonyms in Merriam-Webster."

Hotch mumbled back.

"I'm sorry but I only use Oxford, so I think we're going to need a third source."

She started to giggle, "shut up and kiss me."

His lip quirked up, "yes, ma'am."

That's when Emily pressed her lips against his again . . . and this time he kissed her back. And both of them had opened their mouths slightly before they were done.

As Emily started to pull away, Hotch leaned up, snatching one more kiss before she was out of range. Then he licked his lips as he looked up to gauge her reaction.

She was grinning from ear to ear.

"That was fun!"

Of course he immediately grinned back.

"That was fun," then he tucked her hair back behind her ear, "so do you want to maybe do that again sometime?"

Though he wasn't quite sure what exactly it was they were doing right now, Hotch knew that they were both at least on the same page. And oddly enough, nothing about this was raising any red flags in his mind. So he figured he'd just go with it.

Emily's eyebrows rose in astonishment.

"Are you kidding me! I want to do that again right now!"

Was he not just present for the awesome kissing?

Hotch chuckled at Emily's enthusiasm . . . but then his amusement ended in a moan when he had to grab his side.

Owww!

"I'm sorry," he said with a sad wince, "but I'm not really up for any fun activities right now."

It was the first time in his life that he'd felt like a God damn Eunuch!

With a devilish grin, Emily moved over to straddle his waist.

"Sure you are. We just have to be creative."

This wasn't their usual behavior, but their behavior was always fairly unusual. She certainly never had any other male friends she'd cuddle with or snuggle with or take showers with.

Yeah, she loved Derek, Spencer and Dave but she wasn't about to curl up in bed with any of them.

And right now, for some reason, kissing Hotch seemed like a really good idea. Maybe it was because they had a bad afternoon. Maybe it was because the moon was in its third quarter. She didn't really care.

Hotch's lip quirked up as his hands encircled her waist, "like with the cuddling?"

Emily nodded before leaning in to whisper, "yes, just like the cuddling." She dropped her weight down to his lap before she again propped herself over his chest. Then she pressed her lips to his jaw, working her way over with small kisses until she reached his mouth. And when she got there Hotch groaned against her lips.

"Emily you're killing me."

Her brow wrinkling in disappointment, Emily pulled back with a pout.

"You're not having fun?"

His eyes crinkled as his hand came up to trace his fingers over that adorable pout. After he tugged her down, he planted a quick kiss on her lips .

"I am having fun sweetheart," he murmured as he pulled back, "but if we have any more fun with you sitting where you're sitting then a situation is going to develop that we can't resolve for another couple weeks," he tipped his head towards the door, "and even if we could resolve it now, let's not forget the door's open."

Jack was unlikely to come looking for them, but, he could. And him walking in just to find them kissing was one thing, him walking in to find them actually making out and/or engaging in other fun activities was something else ENTIRELY.

With a slightly sheepish smile, Emily slid down slightly so she was sitting just south of the area where the 'situation' was about to develop. She tipped her head.

"Better?"

Huffing slightly he put his hand back on her hip, "that's a relative term."

Her eyes crinkled and then something from a moment before struck her and her expression softened as she whispered, "you called me sweetheart."

Hotch stared at her for a moment and then he nodded slowly.

"I did."

The last woman he'd called sweetheart was Haley. And before that it was just his high school girlfriend Michelle. She was his first. There were a couple of girls in between, but sweetheart was a term he only used with women that he loved. He blinked . . . and he'd just called Emily sweetheart. A term he had just deduced was in his mind only for women he loved.

Huh.

And he did love Emily, of course he did, she was his best friend. But how much did he love her? He wasn't blind, so of course he'd noticed that his feelings for her were stronger than they had been before. But he'd just assumed that was a deepening of their friendship.

But maybe that wasn't all it was . . . he bit the inside of his cheek . . . how did he feel about her?

Well, he felt protective of her, he worried about her all the time and it made him happy just to see her smile. That was . . . something. And he'd wanted to see her today because he'd missed her. And he missed her because he hadn't seen her in twelve hours. Not to mention that he thought she was the most beautiful woman on the planet. But he stood by that one simply being an empirical fact.

But then he remembered one more thing. A big thing.

Seeing her cry was like someone stabbing a knife in his heart.

God . . . he huffed to himself . . . maybe he really was blind.

He reached up, stroking the back of his hand along her cheek.

"So what do you think about that?" He asked softly, "would you like to be my sweetheart?"

Emily stared at Hotch for a moment and then her eyes dropped down, really considering the question.

They flirted and they cuddled, and now they were kissing . . . but they were just being them. Even him joking about having sex was just them. They were affectionate, and yes, loving.

But did she really want to be his sweetheart?

She hadn't thought about it before.

Just simply the fact that he asked her like that made her want to automatically say yes. He didn't ask her if she wanted to date, or talk about their feelings, or change their relationship. No . . . he asked her if she wanted to be his sweetheart. It was so sweet and old fashioned . . . her eyes crinkled . . . it was so Hotch.

Emily started to feel a warmth spread out in her chest.

And he was always so sweet to her. No man had ever treated her as well as he did. He bought her a dozen long stemmed blue roses because he knew they would make her happy. And as she remembered the gold wrapping, she felt the warmth spread even further. And then she thought back to the pain she'd felt when those three bullets were fired into his chest and she thought for just that moment that he was dead. It came and went in an instant, but . . . it was a blinding grief. And suddenly she realized . . . losing him would have broken her heart.

Slowly she raised her eyes to his and nodded.

"Yes," she reached over and touched his cheek, "yes, I would like to be your sweetheart."

His eyes crinkled. "This was an unexpected twist."

Her lips twitched. "I agree."

Somewhere along the way they had fallen in love . . . she definitely didn't see that one coming.

He stared at her for a moment before he sighed in exasperation, "do you know how much I want to hold you right now?"

Talk about a bittersweet moment. You realize you're in love with the girl sitting in your lap and you can't even pull her down for a hug.

That sucked.

She gave him a sad smile.

"Yes," but then she brightened, "but we have couch time later, and think of the extra stuff we can do then."

He huffed, "that's true we can do extra stuff then, but in the meantime," he patted the space next to him on the bed, "if you could come back over here I can at least work a half assed one handed thing."

With a smirk, Emily climbed off of him and moved back over to his side.

"Half assed one handed thing huh? That sounds very romantic."

Hotch wrapped his arm around her waist and kissed her forehead.

"Oh you just wait until I can throw the full ass and two hands into it, then you'll really be swept off your feet."

Emily burst out laughing, "wow," she pushed herself up to look down at him, "I'm intrigued!"

He waggled his eyebrows in response and she laughed as she kissed him again. It was starting to become her new favorite activity. Okay, neck and neck with the cuddling. And she was relieved to see that they were still them. That was probably the only concern she would have about their relationship shifting. That somehow they'd lose what they had.

But it seemed it was only going to build on it.

She settled into his side, gently rubbing his chest before whispering.

"You still need to take a nap."

That was the whole point of them being in here . . . for him to rest. They sort of got sidetracked. But it was a very good sidetrack.

As if by power of suggestion Hotch yawned and then huffed, "apparently yes, I do."

He was still exhausted, but a pretty girl climbs into your lap and starts kissing you, reserves of energy can most definitely be found. But he was afraid he may have now depleted them.

She kissed his shoulder before she sighed, "and I still need to change the sheets."

Plus she didn't want to leave Jack alone too much longer. It had been like fifteen minutes. And she could hear him giggling occasionally so she knew he was fine, but she still didn't like the idea of leaving him out there by himself.

Hotch murmured noncommittally to the sheets remark . . . God knows that he knew better than to tell a woman she had to make the bed. Then he felt Emily suddenly pull away from him and he sighed.

He knew she was worried about Jack but he really was fine. He loved Shrek, and they could hear him laughing and talking to the movie. If it was quiet out there that would be a problem. But it wasn't quiet, so Hotch had hoped she would stay with him until he fell asleep.

Though . . . he narrowed his eyes as he watched her undoing her belt . . . maybe she was staying.

His lip quirked up as he called over to her.

"I thought we established that I'm not up for any fun activities for a couple weeks."

She flashed him a quick grin before she dropped her jeans, "yes, we did establish that fact but I have a plan."

Hotch raised an eyebrow approvingly, "does that plan involve you taking off more clothes? Because I'm totally on board if it does."

Not that he hadn't seen this much of her gorgeous body before. But now he was allowed to look. And touch!

Mouth quivering Emily shot him a look before she picked up the pajama pants on the dresser. She didn't know when she left them here but it was a lucky break. Then her nose wrinkled . . . they didn't match her shirt. She stooped down to open Hotch's second drawer and pulled out a pair of black flannel pants.

After she yanked those on, she rolled up the cuffs so she wouldn't trip. Then she grabbed another pair of flannel pants, bumped the drawer shut with her hip and turned back around.

Hotch was staring at her with a look of amusement on his face, but she could tell the little burst of energy he'd had from their revelations was leaving him.

He was getting tired again.

She crossed back over to the bed, her eyes crinkling as she put her hand out, "I guarantee that you're really going to like my plan but you have to do what I say."

As he accepted Emily's outstretched hand, Hotch snorted, "we've been together for six minutes and you're already bossing me around."

Mouth twitching, Emily leaned up on her tiptoes to press a kiss to his lips. As she pulled back her eyebrow quirked up sardonically, "I think it's safe to say I've been bossing you around for longer than six minutes."

Hotch tipped his head, "true," he looked down at the pants in her other hand, "so what's happening?"

She started undoing his belt, talking the whole time, "well I was thinking I don't want to leave you," she undid his button, "or Jack," she pulled down his zipper, "but there is a way to have the best of both worlds." She yanked his jeans down and patted his leg so he'd step out of them. Turning slightly to toss them over on the floor next to hers, she then looked back up at Hotch.

His mouth was quivering.

"If that's how fast you can get my pants off, I really can't wait for other activities to be put back on the agenda."

Emily quirked her lip up, holding open his pajamas for him to step into. As he leaned on her back she really wanted to show him what else she could do before he got his pants back on, but alas, she wasn't going to be a tease. They couldn't start anything because they couldn't finish anything.

Well . . . she bobbed her head . . . they could technically 'finish' something but that really wasn't a very romantic 'first.' Besides that, she knew that Hotch, the consummate gentleman, would never in a million years go for it anyway.

So basically she was going to have to be sure not to not let anything get too out of hand until he was feeling a little better. That was probably going to be another week and a half or maybe two weeks.

Ooh! Two weeks was her birthday! Her face lit up and she blurted out.

"We can sex on my birthday!"

At her outburst, Hotch snorted, "uh, okay. But can we have sex on other days too?"

Emily chuckled as she guided him over to sit down in the desk chair.

"Yes, we can have sex on other days too. I was just thinking that my birthday is two weeks away," she looked down to his chest as she started unbuttoning his shirt, "and I thought, perhaps slash maybe, you would be well enough in two weeks for other activities," running her finger along his cheek she gave him a soft smile, "but if you aren't, it's no biggie. It's best to wait until you're all better."

Then she went over to the closet to grab his zip up hoodie and Hotch winked at her from across the room.

"I think we can consider that extra incentive for me to follow the approved regiment of recuperative care."

Smiling, she came back over and started helping him on with his sweatshirt. He tugged her down for a quick thank you kiss after she zipped him up.

This was excellent! He now had a goal to work towards. Sex on Emily's birthday. Though she was right, if he wasn't quite well enough they might have to push it off a couple days. God forbid he bust up something vital and they end up having to push it off for a couple more weeks. THAT would suck! Like crawling up to the finish line and just before you put your hand down somebody erases the chalk strip and moves it back another ten feet.

And WOW, it really had been a long time if he was equating it with crawling to the finish line!

Looking over he saw Emily had already stripped the sheets off the bed and had piled them over by the door. She spun back around, "clean sheets?"

He tipped his head towards the open doorway. "Hall closet."

She disappeared for a moment and then came running back in. Hotch watched her in amazement. He was exhausted, and just watching her run around was making him even more tired. She was like a woman possessed and she had the bed made again in no time flat. Then she was back over and gently tugging him off the chair.

"Come on, we're getting to the good part."

Hotch looked down to her slightly flush face, she was absolutely beautiful, and he smiled, "I think we're already at the good part." He leaned down and kissed her again, this time slipping his tongue gently past her lips and exploring her mouth for a moment.

This wasn't his first trip to the rodeo so he knew what she liked and he ran his tongue along the roof of her mouth. His eyes crinkled when she moaned just like she did last time.

Thank God for science experiments.

Unfortunately that's when he got a stab in his side and he couldn't stick around to play any longer. He pulled back with a pained smile, "sorry to cut that short but I'm getting a twinge again."

Worried that he'd hurt himself again, Emily's fingers ghosted over his right side as he asked with a touch of alarm.

"Are you okay?"

He nodded, "yeah, it's not like before. I just apparently can't 'lean' at that particular angle," frowning, he looked down at her, "that's a good angle too."

Emily's lip quirked up, "it was a good angle but that's okay, that wasn't part of the plan anyway. The plan is for you to lie down," she walked him over to the bed and he sat down and she kissed his forehead. Pulling back her eyes crinkled.

"We can explore other angles later tonight after Jack goes to bed."

Hotch nodded, "excellent point," then he yawned again, "I'm sorry sweetheart but I am getting really tired."

She squeezed his fingers gently, "yes Aaron, you need to sleep," she started to pull away but he held onto her hand as he said worriedly, "but I thought you were going to stay with me."

Her eyes crinkled . . . he was so cute.

"I am," she said with a smile before reaching over to fix his pillow. Then she patted his arm. "Now you lay down, I'll be right back."

As she started to talk out, Emily eyeballed the pile of dirty laundry. And then said screw it, she'd do it later.

Other activities took precedence at the moment.

Once Emily disappeared, Hotch closed his eyes again. Though exhausted as he was, for some reason he couldn't fall asleep until she returned. Like if she wasn't right next to him when he woke up, then he'd think he just had some weird dream. Just then he heard a little voice chattering and he grinned as his eyes popped open again.

Now he knew what the big plan was.

His gaze shifted to the open door, and a second later he saw Emily walking through with Jack on her hip and his video in her other hand.

After she'd popped the Shrek DVD into the bedroom player and turned the volume down low, she carried Jack over to the bed. She put him down on the end before she climbed up herself to lie down next to Hotch again.

Then she smiled as she reached her hand out and wriggled her fingers towards Jack.

"Come on baby," she said softly, "come lay down with me. We're going to watch your movie while daddy takes his nap."

Jack crawled up, sneaking a grin at Hotch as he leaned his head against Emily's breast so he could see the screen. Once he was settled she tipped her head over onto Hotch's shoulder. She turned her head slightly so she could whisper in his ear, "so what do you think of my plan?"

His eyes traveled over to the two of them piled on the bed next to him and a warmth spread through his chest. The same warmth he'd been feeling earlier in the park, and really whenever he saw them together. He hadn't been able to put his finger on it.

But now he knew . . . family.

That's what he thought, that was the sensation he had when they were together.

And then he remembered his experiment from a few weeks ago . . . Emily was home. And Emily and Jack were family.

They were his family.

So Hotch laced his fingers through hers . . . and then he pressed his lips to her ear.

"I think your plan is absolutely perfect."


A/N 2: First, I liked the idea of giving them one version of Girl where they got together and they were just 'happy.' Because in the other ones they have cancer, deceased parents, and unexpected babies to deal with. But in this one, they can just be happy and enjoy the revelation.

And the change here from Girl was, it was the quick kiss that wasn't. That was the thing that caught my eye. It just felt like it should be a real kiss over in 'regular' Girl. But a real kiss would have changed things too much over there. At a later date I could have done it when they were starting to try and build a relationship. But it was too soon because they were both walking around in denial and a kiss would have had to be addressed in some manner. At this earlier stage neither of them had come to the great realization they were in love with each other. And because of that their relationship doesn't have the angst it does later, so they came to the kiss in a lighthearted manner.

And because the 'hey, we're in love' came out of the blue simultaneous for both of them, they didn't have any time for the internal angsting that they'll do later (chicken and egg logic). Their baggage doesn't make an appearance because it's a seamless change and they don't have time to think about what it will mean beyond good things.

The sweetheart thing. I needed to find another casual angle for them to approach the change in their relationship. Because they never go the normal big dramatic discussion route. All of their big life changing event discussions are always handled very casually. And I wanted to keep with that element of 'them' so I thought that one very sweet Hotchlike question worked well for this stage. I know I didn't have them actually say 'I love you' but this kind of snuck up on them and they both understood the change in feelings. I just liked the sweetheart thing better. It was different :)

I'm planning on leaving this alone. It's presently just a straight, complete, alternate ending. I'm not making it another full 'universe' right now. I will admit I am VERY tempted for the next few months to run their lives parallel as a happy couple juxtaposed with them still getting together over in Girl. Just because I do have some chapters written in Girl, events lined up for them, that would be interesting, for me, to see another way if their relationship was already established. I imagine they would still keep it out of work for the foreseeable future.

You are welcome to put in your two cents about whether you want to see more here. In particular I suppose if there are particular chapters that come up in Girl you'd like to see with them as a couple instead. And yes, in my mind, Emily does still get cancer in this world. So that's one thing that would be different for an approach with them established.

So let me know please if you're happy with this ending. And even if you hate it, just think, if nothing else you got some payoff with the kissing way earlier than you would have otherwise!