Author's Note: Okay, I don't normally write Hotch/Prentiss and don't feel like I express Hotch's "voice" very well. But, after the season premiere, this begged to be written. Thank you so much, Kavi Leighanna and Sienna27 for inviting author's to participate in your Television Prompt Challenge. This was the perfect nudge for me to get this story written. Please read and review. As ever, I don't own Criminal Minds.

Loving Him

Prompt: Buffy - "Weight of the World"

Studying his face as her bottom turned numb on the hard wooden chair she sat in, Emily worried her lower lip. Even in sleep, the man looked like he bore the weight of the world on his shoulders, worry lines etched deeply in his face. She almost lost him today…and she had a horrible feeling, if they couldn't end this quickly, she'd lose him entirely anyway. Foyet had nearly robbed her of the small measure of happiness she'd managed to find since returning to D.C. And if the man had his way, he'd destroy Hotch entirely with his sinister plan. And that would destroy her.

Reaching forward, she brushed a wayward lock of his dark hair away from his eyes. Damn it! Why couldn't she have just said no that long ago night when he'd asked her if she wanted to share a cab home from the airstrip. If she'd just declined his offer to come inside his apartment for a nightcap, she wouldn't be sitting here in this god awful hideously yellow room, praying for him to open his eyes and look at her with something other than shattered pain in his eyes.

She'd heard him talking to Haley earlier. And she knew the honorable man in the bed was genuinely sorry for the upheaval his job had and continued to create in the other woman's life. But more than that, she'd heard the residual love he felt for her bleeding into his every word. Aaron Hotchner wasn't over Haley Brooks by any stretch of the imagination. And, she should have known it. Some profiler she'd turned out to be…but what was it someone had once told her? A profiler can never profile themselves…they're biased. But it didn't matter. Nothing could change the way SHE felt about HIM now.

She'd been aware of the strange looks she'd gotten from the rest of the team. Especially after she'd refused to leave tonight. God, Aaron wouldn't be happy about that. The man was a stickler for the proprieties. She knew they'd all had their own suspicions about them…the knowing looks she'd received from JJ and Rossi only furthering her supposition that their secret wasn't nearly as well kept as both she and Hotch had hoped it was. But, this…seeing him lying defenseless in a hospital bed, had been enough for her to throw the carefully honed rules they'd set up out the window.

Seeing him flinch in his sleep, she looked cautiously over her shoulder before smoothing a comforting hand up and down his bare arm. She had to be careful. Dave, JJ and the rest of their team might have their suspicions, but giving them concrete proof of her feelings for their Unit Chief was something else entirely.

"Emily?" he whispered hoarsely without opening his eyes.

Moving to stand beside the bed, she gently whispered, "Shhhh. I'm here, Aaron."

Cracking open his eyelids to reveal bleary pain dimmed eyes, he winced. "Hurts."

"I'll get the nurse," Emily said hastily, moving to walk away as he grabbed her hand.

"Not my wounds, Em. My heart," Hotch said softly. "What if we never catch him?"

Emily Prentiss had never been accused of being a stupid woman. She immediately knew what line of thought the man in the bed was following. "Don't talk like that. We'll get him. We won't stop until we do. You're forgetting, we hunt the monsters. We don't allow the monsters to stalk us."

"Don't care if he hunts me," Hotch said groggily. "Can't let him hunt my son. He can't have my son."

"And he won't get him, Aaron," Emily consoled him. "Just rest now."

"You'll stay?" Hotch asked sleepily. "You don't mind?"

"I'll be here as long as you want me," Emily promised, watching him drift back off as the morphine overwhelmed the strong man's body again. And as she stood there staring down at his slack face, she hoped he'd continue to desire her presence in his life. But, she knew the world had already shifted beneath her feet…she'd heard it in the way he'd spoken to Haley and she had to wonder if she'd already lost the battle. Closing her eyes again, she wondered if loving Aaron Hotchner might be the most painful thing she'd ever done.

FIN