Author's Note: Not to sound like a broken record, but thanks to Kavi Leighanna and Sienna27 for inviting writers to join them in their Television Prompt Challenge. Without them, some of these stories wouldn't be possible. Thanks to my dear, dear, dear friend tonnie2001969 for planting this seed in my head and convincing me that Hotch needed his side of the story told. Please read and review. This is not my usual ship, therefore I'm a little uncertain. I'm usually a JJ/Rossi author. As ever, I don't own Criminal Minds.
Prompt - Will & Grace: "FYI: I Hurt, Too"
He was hurting her. It had been the last thing he'd intended to do, but he'd seen his own pain mirrored in her soft brown eyes before she left the room. He hated feeling this powerless. Powerless to protect his son. Powerless to catch Foyet. Powerless to call a halt to his lingering feelings for Haley. Damn it, when had he become this weak? Where was that heart of stone that he knew people said he had?
Sighing, he flopped his head back against the cheap pillow behind his head. He knew Emily had heard his conversation with Haley before he'd sent both her and Jack away. He'd also known the effect his words had taken with the seeming tough as nails woman. And he was sorry. Underneath the tough exterior of Emily Prentiss, she was a very fragile woman…and he understood that she now doubted him.
He wished he could explain it to her that some loves didn't die. The love changed…it evolved…but, it didn't die. He'd been married to Haley for fifteen years. They'd created a beautiful life together. Until his last breath, he'd owe that woman for the wonderful gift she'd given him, whether they were married or not. For years, he'd turned his former wife's life upside down with his endless demands for tolerance. And now, even though they'd been apart for two years, he'd still managed to tilt her world on its axis. And she hadn't had a choice. Their son was in danger…and there'd been no question that she'd do whatever it took to keep him safe. One of the many reasons that he could never quite seem to stop loving her. Haley was a good woman in a bad situation, and she had been for years. He ought to know. He was the one responsible for her circumstances. And that…that was a heavy burden to carry. Yes, he'd always love Haley, but he wasn't in love with her.
No, he was in love with a beautiful, giving woman that he had no business ever dragging into his miserable life. SSA Emily Prentiss. His employee, colleague, and friend. Honestly, when he'd invited her up to his apartment for a nightcap that long ago night, he'd never anticipated falling in love again. But, as he'd sat on his comfortable sofa and listened to her reminisce about her nomad life of growing up as the Ambassador's daughter, he'd felt that stone heart of his begin to beat again. And then, when they'd stood at his door saying goodnight that night, he'd felt it begin to hammer, for the first time in a very long time as she'd pressed soft lips to his.
They'd set up rules from the outset. Never in the office, always keep it professional in the field, and above all else, never, under any circumstance, did they talk about what they shared with anyone else. His ongoing relationship with Emily Prentiss had been his best kept secret. Or so he'd thought, at least until Rossi had appeared in his hospital room doorway earlier tonight. Evidently, he wasn't as good at keeping secrets as he'd hoped. He'd seen the knowing look in his friend's eyes.
"She shouldn't have to be your dirty little secret, Aaron," Rossi had told him quietly. "She deserves more than that."
"Liar," Dave had softly accused.
"You don't understand, Dave."
"What I understand is that you have a beautiful woman that is deeply in love with you. And based on what she and I heard outside the door, she's convinced that she'll always be your consolation prize. Second best," Dave had replied in that quietly insistent tone of his.
"She's not," Hotch had said for the second time.
"Then, I'm gonna give you a word of advice, my friend. Make her understand that before you end up losing even more than you already have. Love is a gift, Aaron. Don't throw hers back in her face."
Laying in bed hours later, Aaron realized that was going to be easier said than done. The battle lines had been drawn and he realized he was going to have the fight of his life on his hands. With Foyet…for his son….and in gaining Emily Prentiss' trust and confidence in him. But he was a determined man…and his son and Emily were worth any price. Now, if only he could make her believe that.