Author's Note: YAY! It worked! Okay, if you're on my alerts, I do apologize for the multiple emails. The site is again acting fluky (so many odd problems lately), and there are apparently these windows right now where new stories show up as dead links. But other people, I could see across all fandoms, were posting just fine so I figured if I reposted at some point it would work. For me, the third time was the charm in getting a good posting window. Kind of like landing the space shuttle :)

Okay, this is another different one style wise. Again, please just go with it. This whole story is told as a narrative first person POV and each chapter will be a companion for the one before it, but also pull the story a little further each time. In some ways it's like the mirror stories of "A Tether" and "A Drowning Man" but those covered like twenty minutes of time and were my usual third person. This one covers three and a half years, and is again, first person shooter, so it definitely will feel different.

Regardless of the tone in this chapter, I promise things will end well.

Prompt Set #5

Show: China Beach

Title Challenge: The Always Goodbye

Hotch POV

My Bleeding Heart

She was supposed to be mine . . . but I lost her.

Now every couple months I see her around the bureau. We say hi and I breathe in her perfume as she gives me a hug hello. I always make sure not to hold on too long or too tight. Then I show her pictures of Jack, and she shows me pictures of her little girl . . . Lucy.

And I smile as I look at the shiny brown hair and the big brown eyes, and I say that she's beautiful. And then I think to myself, 'just like her mother.'

But I don't say that. It would be wrong. It's too late for such words.

Because she's happy now.

Emily got married three years ago. I went to her wedding only because I knew she would have been hurt if I didn't. We shared one dance. And for just a moment I held her a little bit closer than I should have, and I pretended that she was mine.

That the white dress was for me.

But then her new husband came up and tapped me on the shoulder . . . and the bubble burst.

I kissed her on the cheek and I gave him her hand . . . and I died a little inside. She looked so happy as he twirled her away that I had to leave. All the while ignoring the looks of sympathy from Dave and Morgan as I got my coat.

They knew my secret, but they had kept it from her because I asked them to.

For awhile things went on almost as they had before. She was still there, she was still with me, right by my side, and I was thinking maybe I could just pretend that things were okay.

I knew I was in denial. But denial seemed to be my least painful option for existence until I could get over her.

Then the bubble burst again.

Six months after the day we danced, she got pregnant and transferred out. She cried when she came in to give me her notice.

I almost did too.

Instead I gave her a hug, and I held her too close, and I told her I understood and I wished her all the best.

But as I said the words I died just a little bit more. Because now she was leaving me. Denial was no longer an option. And it wasn't just a husband that stood between us, it was now a family.

And then two weeks later . . . she was gone.

I sent her a card and pink roses when her baby was born. She wrote me back a beautiful note. I still have it. She signed it "love, Emily."

If only.

Her husband is a nice guy. He's good to her, he's a good father, and he makes her happy.

And I hate him.

That bastard took her away from me. But for her sake, I have to smile and shake his hand when I see him at agency functions.

I think he knows my secret though.

Sometimes he'll give me a look from across the room, or I'll walk up and he'll tighten his grasp around her waist. And from his fear I feel a bitter amusement rise up.

What does he think I'm going to do? Tell her?

To what end?

She wasn't going to leave him to come back to me. Besides, if she loved me, then she wouldn't have married him.

Though, sometimes, in those quick meetings in the hall, I think I see something flash in her eyes. Something that makes me believe that things would have been different if I'd told her how I felt.

But it's too late now. She has a life.

Telling her would simply destroy the last remnants of my relationship with her . . . our friendship.

That's all I have left.

Because I waited too long. Since I'd met her, all of her boyfriends had always been losers. They came and they went. And in between I'd think, 'I should tell her now.' But I didn't, at first because my divorce was still so new. And then because I was afraid maybe she didn't feel the same way about me. I thought I'd have more time to spend with her, more time to be sure before I told her.

It didn't occur to me that she'd meet a nice guy. That I'd lose my window.

I was a fool.

And now my heart breaks again every time she walks away . . . because she was the one. The one that made me smile, the one that made me laugh. The one that brought me joy.

Now she's the one that's gone away.

And I don't know what to do. There's an emptiness in my soul. The fear that I'll never get over her. The fear that I'll never move on.

What will I do then? It's already been three years. How long can you exist with a broken heart?

All I know is that I don't want to live like this any longer.

A/N 2: I wrote this original draft literally months ago, like May, the entire story was supposed to begin and end with this one chapter. But I never put it up because I didn't like it. It was an earlier, rougher piece, but I just couldn't pull it together. I was never satisfied with it. But I kept going back to it because I thought it had some merit so I hated to scrap it completely. It wasn't until Kavi and I were picking new prompts last weekend that I pulled this out again and realized what was wrong with it.

I didn't want to write a story where Hotch didn't get the girl.

That was the story that I wrote, so some part of my brain did indeed want to write that story, but the rest of me just didn't want to put that out there. Which if you knew me is kind of funny. Because in real life I'm a bit jaded and generally make mental bets to myself when people get married calculating how long it's going to last (hey, I'm only a bad person if I say it out loud). But as far as the writing goes, that's clearly where the little bit of romantic in me comes out and I just hate to torture them. So, I picked a new prompt (the one for chapter 2) and suddenly a continuation of the story started spinning out in my mind. It has an ending now, one the shippers should be happy with.

Though the title says "three acts" I might actually break it into 4 chapters. Two for each of their POVs. Either way though, it's done so I'll be posting daily on this one.

I'm not sure what else I'll get up though. I'm still hopeful on Girl but I've had a migraine recurrently for the latter half of the week and it's impeded the proofing of my more involved stories. This one was easier to clean up because of the narrative writing style. If I'm feeling better tomorrow I'll get back to the other ones again.

And I owe like 17 people thank you notes, they're coming :)

Next: "My Best Laid Plans"