Author's Note: New story, just a couple of chapters. Snapshot of them in a different world, but beyond that, for now I'm going to leave you in the dark as much as Hotch is at the moment. I will say it's darker in theme but that will become obvious to you about the same point that Arcadya said "oh . . . the fun went away with that image."
This sort of runs off late season 4 canon. Pre-pig farm/Foyette of course. I guess that's going to have to be a rule for everything now, huh?
I'm not much into poetry but the opening excerpt is from my favorite poem by my favorite poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay. The poem itself is epically long, and highly recommended even if you aren't into poetry. I'll coincidentally be using another stanza from it in a Girl chapter in a few weeks.
Prompt Set #11
Show: Dawson's Creek
Title Challenge: High Risk Behavior
ALL I could see from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood;
I turned and looked the other way,
And saw three islands in a bay.
So with my eyes I traced the line
Of the horizon, thin and fine,
Straight around till I was come
Back to where I'd started from;
And all I saw from where I stood
Was three long mountains and a wood.
Over these things I could not see:
These were the things that bounded me;
-- Renascence, Edna St. Vincent Millay (1912)
Hotch stood in his office looking through his blinds down to the bullpen.
It was late on a Friday night and he was only working late because Haley had taken Jack to her mother's. Everyone else had gone home. Or at least he thought that they had gone home. But now he was looking down at a woman that had left hours ago, and now she was back.
He could see her rifling through her desk in frustration, apparently looking for something. It wasn't the fact that she was back in the office that had resulted in him being transfixed at the window.
No . . . it was what she was wearing.
The last time he'd seen Emily she'd had on a black suit and a light blue button down blouse. It was her usual conservative, professional attire that matched his, usual conservative, professional attire.
But now . . . his jaw twitched . . . she was not dressed like herself.
Not at all.
She had on a black leather mini-skirt, a skimpy red tank top and thigh high leather boots that matched the skirt. He could also see through the blinds that she had changed her makeup.
He didn't like it.
Her lipstick was too red, her eyeliner too thick. The shadow was dark. Usually she was classically elegant, now she just looked . . . whorish.
It was an unkind word but it was the first one that came to him.
Actually, if he didn't know better he'd think that she was working undercover as a prostitute. But he was her boss, her only boss, and he most definitely had not given her an order to dress like that.
He wasn't sure if he even had it in him to give her an order to dress like that.
Most men might find her outfit alluring. But to him . . . and it pained him to even think this . . . she just looked like the before photos in half of their case files. The picture taken six months or a year before her decomposing body was found gutted in a ditch by the side of the road.
That was clearly not an image that he wanted to have associated with someone that he cared about.
Someone . . . his heart clenched . . . who had been pulling away from him these past few weeks. Not that he and Emily were involved romantically, but they'd become close. Very close.
Or at least they had been.
Now he didn't know what was going on with her. She'd stopped talking to him.
One day about three weeks ago she'd come in looking very subdued. It was obvious to him in the briefing that there was something bothering her. But when he'd asked her about it she'd just shaken her head and said she was fine.
But her words were flat . . . he'd begun to worry.
The harder he tried to reach her though, the further she slipped away. She was no longer interested in taking breaks with him. Or getting lunch.
Or doing anything.
When he partnered them up she just sat silently in the car, refusing to engage in more than professional discussion. And even that was very succinct and clinical. None of her usual light hearted banter. None of her usual Emily'esqe observations that he'd come to enjoy so much.
She just wasn't herself anymore and he didn't know what to do.
Her work was still exemplary so he didn't even have an excuse to order her to tell him what was wrong.
There was no rule that said that she had to be sociable.
Everyone had noticed the change in her behavior, but she wasn't talking to anyone on the team. And given that she and Hotch had started to spend the most time together, the rest of them just left it in his hands.
Trusting that he would figure out what was going on with her and that he would fix it.
But unfortunately he still didn't have the first clue about what was going with her. So he didn't know how to fix it. He didn't know how to help her.
And he couldn't figure out how to get her to confide in him again.
She had started doing that about six months ago. Confiding in him. Telling him her secrets, her nightmares. It made him feel special, that she needed him. That she trusted him that way.
But now she wouldn't tell him anything.
And the longer that went on, the more convinced he was that her problem was serious. If she was just a little down, or depressed about something . . . maybe a fight with her mother . . . then things would have started to turn around by now.
But they hadn't. And now here she was dressed up in this outfit. This terrible outfit.
And he was scared shitless at the scenarios now running through his head. This wasn't like her. It wasn't like her at all.
It was like seeing an alternate universe Emily.
He knew that she'd had some rough years when she was a kid . . . they'd talked about the problems she'd had in high school . . . but these days Emily was about as straight laced as they came. Granted, she wasn't quite as uptight as he was, but they'd spent enough time talking over the past three years for him to know that she definitely had a pretty conservative bent. The suits weren't just for work. Recently they'd started spending more time together off duty so he knew what her casual clothes looked like too. And over the years he'd seen her dressed up for dates and for nights out clubbing with Morgan and Garcia. And no matter the occasion, he'd never seen her wear anything like she was wearing now.
She'd told him once that the acting out when she was a kid was just a rebellion against her mother. But she'd discovered that the older she got, the more the two of them had in common.
He could see that. But as he watched Emily slam the desk draw shut in frustration, he knew that the Ambassador didn't have anything approaching the outfit her daughter was sporting at the moment.
After Emily slammed the drawer she turned and rushed back out of the bullpen as quickly as she'd run in a few minutes before.
Apparently she hadn't found what she was looking for.
It took him only a moment to decide to follow her. Whatever was going on with her, that outfit tonight scared him too much to just let her go. He'd waited long enough for her to come to him.
It was time to be proactive.
So he grabbed his laptop, hit the lights, and ran out the glass doors less than a minute after Emily did.
The elevator doors were just sliding shut as he pounded into the corridor so he made a beeline for the stairs.
If he'd caught up with her at the elevator then he would have just pretended that he was on his way out too. This way at least they wouldn't have the uncomfortable ride down in the small metal box.
Because there was no way he would have been able to let that outfit go without comment.
He knew exactly where she parked . . . three spots down from him . . . so he just ran down the seven flights, banging through the fire door onto the second level of the parking garage.
But to his surprise . . . he looked around breathlessly . . . her car wasn't there.
He knew that there was no way that she could have gotten down here that quickly and already driven out. Therefore he deduced that she must have gotten a ride, or maybe cabbed it from wherever she was before she came back to the office.
Okay . . . he jumped into his own car . . . that meant she was on foot for a few more minutes. If she was meeting somebody outside he could still catch up with her.
He sped out and circled down to the exit. And sure enough, as he slowly drove down the last ramp he saw her in the glow of the streetlight. She was walking up to a cab already sitting outside by the gate.
Slowing even further, he waited until the cab had gone through the first intersection before he even exited the Academy lot. Though he doubted that she'd be looking for a tail, their training was ingrained. They saw things that they weren't even looking for.
And tonight he didn't want her seeing him.
Not yet anyway. If she spotted him now she'd stop the cab, give him an earful and then disappear into the night again. He just wanted to see where she was going, to make sure that she wasn't doing anything foolish.
Yeah . . . he swallowed . . . picturing that slash of red lipstick he was very worried about dangerous.
So he followed her cab from four or five car lengths back. The tail became easier the closer they got to The District. Actually when they got to the Beltway it was no longer necessary for him to even pretend to take evasive maneuvers to keep her from noticing him. The cabby was constantly weaving through traffic, always trying to get a little farther ahead. But the lanes always evened out eventually so Hotch just stayed to the right until the cab picked an exit into town.
As they cut through Dupont Circle and continued over towards U Street, Hotch realized where Emily was probably going.
The Black Cat.
She'd mentioned that sometimes she liked to go there to hear the bands. And as expected, they turned onto 14th street and that's exactly where she got out.
Hotch stopped a block away, watching her enter the club. And then he began to debate his next steps.
He'd started to feel guilty about following her. Though he knew that he was doing this for her, it still felt creepy. Following a woman . . . a friend . . . without her knowledge or consent, that didn't sit well.
It didn't sit well at all.
And without a doubt he knew that if Emily caught him right now, that she would be pissed. He was trying so hard to reach her.
To get things back to the way they used to be.
And he had no idea how much damage his actions tonight might cause their relationship. If she saw his behavior as an unforgivable violation of her trust, then it was possible that the harm he was doing was irreparable.
That thought pained him grievously.
It was the realization that not only their personal, but also their professional relationship might be ruined that made his decision for him. He might lose her completely.
And he couldn't let that happen.
But just as he was about to turn and leave, he again pictured that slash of lipstick. And then the slutty outfit. And finally the obvious depression that she'd been suffering these past few weeks. With all of those warning signs flashing in neon, how could he just drive away?
So he was going to have risk the potential fallout of all of this blowing up in his face. But that didn't have to happen. Not if he was really careful. It was a Friday night so it should be crowded enough in there that he could stay out of sight.
With his decision now reluctantly made to follow her inside, he pulled a little further up the block and parked. Of course there was no legal street parking available at this time of night so he just took out his FBI placard and placed it in the window.
As long as he wasn't blocking a hydrant he saw nothing wrong with that action. Though this wasn't official business, it certainly wasn't a pleasure outing either.
Just as he was about to slam his door shut he realized that he'd be rather conspicuous going in there in his suit. Especially if Emily's tank top and mini skirt were acceptable attire.
So he slipped off his tie and jacket, tossing them back into the car. Realizing that his sig was now exposed, he put that in the lock box under the seat. He still had the Glock on his ankle if for some reason he didn't want to fathom, Emily got into serious trouble in there.
A chill went down his spine at the thought of something bad enough happening that he might need his gun. And even though he had no real basis for his fear, the thought made him nervous enough that he jogged across the street to get her back into his sight again.
As he hurried up the sidewalk he mussed his hair slightly, undid the top button of his shirt, and rolled up his sleeves.
There . . . he gave himself a mental once over . . . now he should blend in a little better.
He only had to wait a moment in line, and as he was paying the cover he saw the sign advertising the band.
They were Emily's favorite band when she was in high school.
His face softened as he realized that was one of a thousand things that he knew about her. They'd spent so many hours together on car trips and plane rides and stakeouts that he knew everything from her shoe size (seven) to her favorite dessert (mocha cheesecake) to how old she was when she lost her virginity (15). But the disclosure of that last one was an accident and she'd been absolutely mortified when she realized it had slipped out.
And he'd felt so badly for her that he'd ended up offering up his own number (16) just so they'd be even again. After he said it she was quiet for a moment, and then she'd looked up and given him a little smile as she squeezed his hand.
It was as her soft fingers touched his skin that he'd realized how deep their friendship had become. That was personal information. Not the kind of thing he discussed with anyone really. But he'd told her just so that she'd feel better.
There were very few people he cared that much about.
As that memory came back to him, the pain in his heart told him how much he'd been missing her recently. He didn't have many close friends. Emily and Dave were the two he saw every day, spoke to all the time. And really, Emily was, for reasons he hadn't previously examined, fast outstripping Dave in status and level of affection.
But now she'd pulled away, she wouldn't talk to him anymore. And that had left a hole in his gut.
He just wanted her back.
And he so badly wanted her to smile again.
She hadn't smiled in weeks. Emily not smiling was like the sun not coming out. Basically the more depressed she was, the more depressed he was. And he wasn't exactly a cheery soul on his best day.
If he didn't figure out what was wrong with her soon God knows what was going to happen to the two of them.
He moved further into the club, keeping his head down as he surreptitiously scanned the crowd. The air was hot and the place was packed, but he knew that she was in here somewhere.
Finally he spotted her down at the end of the main bar.
He stopped short . . . she was doing shots. She was doing shots all by herself.
She had three lined up in front of her and he watched through the crowd as she tossed them back one by one.
It looked like whiskey.
The sight twisted his heart. Why would she be drinking like that? Emily wasn't a drinker. She sometimes had wine with dinner. Or a glass of Jameson's if she had a bad day.
And one rainy stakeout she sheepishly admitted that when she was depressed she bought a bottle of cheap wine, ordered Chinese and watched sad movies until she'd made herself cry. And even though the tears were manipulated, she said it made her feel better.
He'd been so touched that she'd told him about that part of her life . . . how she coped . . . that he'd reached over and touched the back of her hand. But just as he'd opened his mouth to tell her that sometimes he had to pull out Jack's baby books just to get through the week . . . the radio had crackled and Morgan was telling them that their suspect was on his way to their location.
The moment was lost.
He'd pulled his hand back as he answered Derek, and then he and Emily had both smoothly gone into professional mode.
But he'd always regretted never going back, never trying to recreate that moment.
It felt like possibilities were there . . . if only he'd allow himself to push back the curtain and see them.
Now . . . he watched, his tension rising as a much younger man sidled up beside Emily . . . he feared that he'd never get that moment back again.
His jaw began to clench as he saw the kid put his hand on her hip. But she didn't push him away. No, instead she flashed him a bright smile.
For weeks Hotch had been waiting for her to smile again, but this smile had a hint of desperation.
Like she was trying so hard to be happy that she'd painted on the smile as crudely as she'd painted on the makeup.
And that projection of false . . . pathetic . . . cheer just caused him pain. But not as much pain as watching the kid leading her out to the dance floor.
And then he cringed as she began to rub against this man that she'd just met.
His stomach turned.
What was she thinking? She was here by herself. Or at least she thought she was here by herself. What was she going to do if this creep followed her out?
Then he saw the punk put his hand on her ass and Hotch's blood began to boil. But his anger was divided. At her for allowing that to happen, at the asshole for feeling her up, and at himself for standing there and watching it.
What the HELL was he doing here!
No matter how good his intentions, it was wrong to be spying on her like this. If she wanted to get drunk and blow off steam with strangers in a club, then who the hell was he to judge?
Christ, that's what everyone here was doing.
And just about every woman on the dance floor was allowing herself to be felt up by a man they'd just met. So why was he holding Emily to a different standard?
Why was it bothering him so much that she was just acting like any other single woman out on a Friday night?
And then he saw the man with his hand on her ass try to shove his tongue down her throat . . . and Hotch bit cleanly through his lip.
Emily smoothly handled the situation as she turned her head away. But as he felt the coppery taste on his tongue, Hotch knew then why he was holding her to a different standard than those other women.
She was his.
If not declared, then at least understood. That's why the team had backed off and let him handle this. That's why it hurt so much that she'd pulled away from him.
He was falling in love with her.
That was the last thing he expected, and he sure as hell didn't have time to give that any further consideration at the moment. Because as much as he knew that it was wrong . . . even more so now given his realization about his feelings . . . he still couldn't get himself to leave.
Because he cared about her.
Perhaps he cared about her too much, but that wasn't the point. That wasn't the reason he needed to stay. He needed to stay because he had a bad feeling.
And he needed to remember that was why he'd followed Emily here initially.
She wasn't acting like herself. And he was so afraid that if he left her alone now . . . behaving the way that she was . . . that she'd do something really stupid, or just plain reckless.
And then something terrible would happen . . . something like those after photos in his head . . . and he'd never forgive himself for having left her alone.
So, pushing aside his jealousy at seeing her with other men, and the creepy feelings he had about watching her, he set up camp at the other end of the bar.
Even if he was doing something wrong, he was doing it for the right reasons. And that was going to have to be enough for his conscience to live with his actions tonight.
Over the next few hours he nursed two beers, repelled a half dozen women who tried to pick him up, and watched Emily from afar. Watched as she danced with four more guys. All younger than him. All handsome and cocky and slick.
He hated every one of them. Hated them on principle.
Just for touching her.
But the only one that set off any warning bells was guy number two. There was something about him, something specific that he didn't like. And he had a feeling that Emily, even with whatever else was going on in her head, didn't like either.
She pushed him off more quickly than any of the others.
And though the guy did walk away, he didn't seem to care for her rejection.
Hotch kept half an eye on him for a little while but then he lost him in the crowd. He seemed to have moved on to another pretty brunette. So Hotch turned his full attention back to his own pretty brunette.
Given the string of strange men she was dancing with, Hotch was incredibly relieved that Emily had stopped drinking after the three shots. Maybe she just wanted to loosen up when she got here. But he'd been paying close attention and she'd definitely turned down every drink that a man tried to shove into her hand.
At least she was still being responsible on that front.
As Hotch watched her leave her current dance partner to head down the back hallway, his nerves jumped a notch. He knew the bathrooms were back there. And he knew that there were probably other women in the ladies room, but he still didn't like her out of his sight.
So even though he was seriously risking the chances of her seeing him, he decided to follow her.
Unfortunately the crowd on the dance floor was thick . . . and drunk . . . and pushing through them took longer than he'd expected.
When he finally broke out of the stifling air into the semi coolness of the back area, his nerves were rubbed raw. He no longer cared if she saw him. His bad feeling had come roaring back again.
It was the same feeling that he had outside when the chill went down his spine. Now he was ready to drag her out of there if he had to.
He just wanted her gone from this place.
There were three women waiting by the ladies room door. Ignoring their protests, Hotch checked the shoes in the stalls.
No leather boots.
He ran back into the hall . . . God, why did he let her out of his SIGHT!
His heart racing, he spun around in a circle trying to figure out where else she could be. There was an outside exit but he could see that it had an alarm on it.
Okay, so where . . . and then it suddenly came to him.
THE MEN'S ROOM!
She hadn't wanted to wait so she'd gone to the men's room instead. That was something Emily would do. That was something Emily had done. She'd made him watch the door for her more than once when they'd been on the road.
But as he looked around he saw the men's room wasn't anywhere near the ladies room.
That wasn't unusual in nightclubs and bars. They just fit in the facilities where the pipes ran. But as he circled back to the entrance of the main hallway he'd just come down, he was starting to get agitated again. And that's when he saw the men's room sign with an arrow.
It was around another turn.
He hurried back down the hall and turned the corner, sighing in relief when he saw the other bathroom at the end of the narrow corridor.
Okay . . . forcing himself to walk at a normal pace, he started down the hall . . . she had to be in there. He'd get her out, apologize for following her and the whole host of other violations of her trust, and then he'd tell her that they were leaving. If she refused, well . . . his brow wrinkled . . . he'd toss her over his shoulder if he had to. And if anyone tried to stop him he'd pull out his badge and say that she was his pregnant wife. That would work.
Yeah, it would be sleazy as hell . . . but it would work.
Bottom line, there was no way he was leaving her here alone, not now. Not if he was freaking out just because she'd been out of his sight for four minutes. All she was doing was going to the bathroom and he was having a panic attack.
As he got closer to the men's room door he started to hear raised voices . . . and then a noise.
A familiar noise. One that made the hair on his arms stand on end.
He took off running, slamming his shoulder into the solid wood.
It was locked.
Just as he pulled back to kick it in . . . he heard Emily scream.
A/N 2: So I wasn't planning on making this a cliff hangery type story. But as the bar scene continues on, the situation gets more complicated and it's taking more time to clean up that section. So, I figured given this was a really good place for a cut anyway, might as well go with it.
The idea for this mostly came from the prompt. I was going over my list looking for new ones and I read the words and immediately pictured Emily in that outfit. But also, though, it sort of comes back around to Mirror, Mirror. In that story she pulls away from Morgan and in this one, I had her pull away from Hotch. Totally different circumstances but that was also a thought in my head as this one started spinning together.
This isn't an epic story, and going with my rule that nothing new can go up until I've sketched it out to the end, I can tell you, barring me cutting a chapter again just for dramatic purposes, I'm just planning a two shot with an epilogue. And I think I'll get the latter half up this weekend.
I took some major liberties with The Black Cat. Basically it looks nothing like how I said it does. But I wanted to send them somewhere that I could see Emily going.
Lastly, I've been in a fairly comatose state all weekend. Some stupid pseudo bug that's sucking the life out of me. SO, I bring this up only because I have like literally two dozen reviews to respond to for my last few story postings. I believe even going back to Mirror, which was more than a week ago. So I send out my thanks to everyone who has taken the time to review, and I'll hopefully be getting back to all of you over the next few days :)
Feedback folks, it's the fuel for the muse!