Author's Note: This is a one shot, an offshoot of Falling in Love with a Girl. But if you haven't read Girl you can still easily follow this one. Though I make some veiled references to prior events in the larger story, basically just consider it a missing scene early Season 4, between Angel Maker and Minimal Loss.

And if you're not into the H/P ship, that's cool, this is just a friendship piece.

If you are reading Girl, consider it a missing day that took place between chapters 49 (Made in Taiwan . . . & Lancaster County) and 50 (The Path to Salvation).

You can credit the entire existence of this story on my crappy commute yesterday.


Prompt Set #3

Show: Heroes

Title Challenge: How to Stop an Exploding Man


Invasion of the Pod People

"I'm sorry sir but there's nothing I can do. That train came through the station four minutes ago."

At the ticket agent's announcement . . . and the subsequent slamming of the little window . . . Emily saw the look on Hotch's face go from critical, to nuclear.

She winced.

Oh crap! He was about to explode.

It was a rarely seen sight, but Hotch did on occasion actually lose his temper. And unfortunately this was shaping up to be one of those rare occasions.

And knowing that she was the reason for the imminent explosion, as they walked away from the counter she hastened to appease him before their already unpleasant morning took a downright ugly turn.

So she gave him a nervous smile.

"Hotch it's really not such a huge deal. We'll just catch the next one," she shifted the bags on her shoulder as she pointed at the schedule she'd just taken from the counter. "See, the next train is at . . ."

"Prentiss."

Hotch interrupted her with an icy glare. An icy glare that caused her mouth to dry up. But still, she could tell from the look on his face that he was expecting a response. So she swallowed to get a little spit back as she looked up at him nervously.

"Sir?"

Oh man, that had been a bad tone. That was a tone that hadn't been directed at her in, well, she didn't know how long.

That . . . was a MORGAN tone.

Feeling his temper boil over at Emily's attempts to mollify him, Hotch did something that he wouldn't ordinarily do. Something that he would never do . . . he lit into her.

He stopped short in the middle of the train station, dropped their bags . . . and started yelling.

"The fact that we can catch the next train is not the POINT Prentiss! The POINT is that we were supposed to be on the LAST train and we weren't. We were supposed to be home at one, and now we're going to get home at FIVE! I'm missing two meetings that I had scheduled for this afternoon and we're losing a whole day's work."

He paused for a half a second to gauge whether or not he was still on point. After deciding that he was . . . and that he was still righteously pissed off . . . he kept right on going as he asked sarcastically.

"And why are we missing a whole day's work Prentiss? Why weren't we on the last train Prentiss?"

Her eyes dropped to the ground, and his jaw twitched once before he bit out.

"That wasn't a rhetorical question Agent Prentiss!"

Some part of his brain knew that he really needed to start dialing it down, but he wasn't listening to that part of his brain at the moment.

With her eyes still on the floorboards, Emily cleared her throat before responding softly.

"We missed the last one because I wasn't ready to go when you said that we had to be ready to go."

That was about the point where she wanted to crawl into a small hole and die. She already felt like complete crap, they were stuck in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania on their way home from a custodial interview, and she was sick to her stomach. And today would of course be the day that Hotch had been taken over by a pod person.

A mean . . . she frowned to herself . . . evil, horrible, pod person.

First of all, it wasn't like him to lose his temper. And second, it certainly wasn't like him to lose his temper with HER! She was special. She had immunity. He yelled at Morgan, and sometimes Reid if he lit something on fire.

But never her.

The last time Hotch had lost his temper with her was the night that they were hunting the cannibal and he'd found her out star gazing in the swamp without her gun.

At least that yelling . . . though scary and over the top . . . was sort of understandable given what had happened. But this time there was no risk of accidentally shooting her in the dark, so she didn't know what had set him off. But whatever it was . . . her face began to burn in embarrassment as his voice got louder . . . she wasn't sure how much more she could take.

Everyone was staring at them.

"That's right!" Hotch exclaimed, punctuating the words with a tap on his watch, "YOU weren't ready! You weren't ready after I specifically told you that we had to leave NO later than 7:35! And yet you still were not ready to go!"

As he continued reading her the riot act in the middle of the train station, Emily could feel her face getting hotter and hotter.

This was SO humiliating! And she didn't know how to make him stop! Whatever her usual immunity was didn't seem to apply today. And of course it had to be today of all days.

When she had this stupid stomach bug.

As if on cue, her stomach suddenly began to get that oily sensation that she'd had right before she'd needed to run to the bathroom earlier that morning. Of course right now it was probably nerves.

All of the acid churning up because she was so upset.

But whatever it was . . . she clamped her hand over her stomach . . . OH GOD! Everything was coming up again!

She took off running.

They were at a dinky little train that had just one unisex bathroom. And she could see from halfway across the waiting area that there was an 'Out of Order' sign on the door, so she hung a left and ran outside.

Hotch stood in the middle of the train station watching in astonishment as Emily suddenly bolted across the room.

What the . . . ?!

"PRENTISS!" he hollered after her, "where are you GOING?!"

Watching her run out the door . . . like he hadn't even SPOKEN(!) . . . he continued to yell in disbelief.

"I was TALKING to you Prentiss!"

Okay . . . his brain corrected . . . he wasn't so much 'talking' as 'yelling.' But either way, he was mid sentence when she'd taken off, so clearly he wasn't done with what he was saying!

So with an angry grumble, he started following after her, cursing to himself . . . about her . . . as he lugged both of their bags and laptops.

When he got outside, Hotch looked around at the empty benches and half filled parked lot. But . . . his brow furrowed slightly . . . he didn't see her anywhere.

It wasn't a commuter station, it was just Amtrak. Mostly the people who came there, either lived there, or had friends/relatives in the prison. And if not for his hearing damage, then they could have flown into the rinky dink airport outside of town. And then they would have been home in less than two hours.

That would be seven hours less than the nine that were now stretching out before him.

It was bad enough that they were now stuck here for half the day, but now Emily had gone and cut short the ONE thing that had actually been making him feel better.

Actually having somebody specific to blame for their crappy situation.

Usually you miss a train, or a plane, it just happens. Traffic, delays, whatever. But today it happened because she overslept. She wasn't ready to leave when they needed to leave.

So today it was actually her fault. And for a change, he had no problem whatsoever pointing that out.

But as he walked to first one end of the platform, and then the other, still not seeing her anywhere, he started to get vaguely concerned.

Not worried, just . . . concerned. Slightly. So he called out for her again, this time half in annoyance, half in confusion.

"Where the hell did you go?"

And then he came around the corner of the station. And there was Emily . . . his eyes widened . . . on her hands and knees.

She was retching into the ditch.

OH CRAP!

Hotch dropped their bags in the dirt as he hurried over.

"Jesus Christ Emily!" He bent down behind her, his fingers gliding over her back while he asking in a near panic. "Are you okay?!"

Emily took a moment from her second bout of vomiting to shoot him nasty look over her shoulder. Then she sucked in a ragged breath, "no."

And then she turned and tossed her cookies again.

Hotch cringed sheepishly.

"Right."

Feeling utterly useless, and like a complete jerk for all of the awful things that he'd been saying . . . and thinking . . . he just crouched down behind her, rubbing her back as she threw up.

'Since when was she sick? Why didn't she TELL me that she was sick?!'

When she finally stopped vomiting, he leaned over and handed her his water bottle so that she could rinse out her mouth.

After she spit a few times she sat back on her knees. And as he saw her kneeling on the ground, panting and sweaty, he was fast moving beyond feeling like a 'Complete Jerk.'

He was now heading for the title of 'Biggest Asshole on the Planet.'

So he leaned down slightly, trying to catch her eyes while asking softly.

"Is this why you were running late this morning? You were sick?"

'Please say no. Please say I haven't been yelling at you for throwing up.'

Not trusting that she had a civil tone in her, Emily refused to look up at Hotch. Instead she just gave a sharp nod.

'Good job Sherlock!'

Wincing slightly at the affirmation, Hotch stared at the ground for a moment trying to think of what to say next.

And then he opened his mouth . . . and stuck his foot into it.

"Well, why didn't you just tell me that you were sick?"

At that, Emily's temper shot through the roof. She was pretty sure it was rivaling Hotch's from a moment ago. And when she snapped her head up to look at him, her eyes were blazing as she spit back.

"Well, gee Hotch, if I'd known that you were going to BERATE me in front of a room full of strangers like I was a small dim witted child, then perhaps I might have mentioned it!"

Of all the DOUCHE BAG things to say to her right now! Like if she was late because she'd simply overslept then somehow all of the crap that he had just screamed at her would have been A frigging okay! What a JACKASS!

And that was on TOP of all of the other jackass stuff he'd just done!

Hotch flinched at Emily's tone and then dropped his eyes to the ground. He was running through all of the awful things that he'd just said to her in the station.

Yeah . . . he swallowed . . . he was a complete dick.

And he NEVER lost his temper! And he certainly never lost his temper with HER! So why did he have to do it TODAY?

Today when she was apparently sick.

And maybe if he'd been paying more than half attention to her, then he might have noticed that earlier. So why wasn't he paying any attention to her?

Then he remembered . . . Haley!

Last night he'd had that huge fight on the phone with Haley. She was jerking him around about summer vacation. She wanted to take Jack away for two weeks so that she could go to a cabin with her cousins. He'd been bullshit when he went to bed, and then he'd woken up in a foul mood this morning.

But he hadn't known why.

Emily not being ready to leave the motel on time hadn't helped, being reminded simply by the fact that they were taking the train that his hearing was still messed up hadn't helped either. But his temper didn't actually boil over until he realized that they'd actually missed the stupid frigging train that he didn't even want to be riding.

And that meant that his entire day was shot to hell. Ordinarily that was something that he would have taken in stride.

But not today.

No, not today when apparently Emily had a stomach bug. So he'd essentially yelled at her . . . screamed at her, really . . . in public, simply for being sick.

What an ass.

He looked back up at her, his expression contrite, his voice apologetic.

"You're absolutely right. There's no excuse for my behavior. I shouldn't have spoken to you that way," he swallowed, "I'm sorry."

At present he was feeling about two feet tall. And that wasn't just because he was crouching on the ground.

And trying to smooth things over a little faster, he put his hand out to help her up.

"Come on, let's go sit down inside."

Emily stared at Hotch's outstretched hand for a moment. She was trying to decide if she wanted to forgive him, or if she wanted to stay angry. She could see the remorse on his face, so she knew that he was genuinely sorry.

But as she ran over his hateful words to her, she decided to stick with angry. Her temper flared again.

Screw him! He'd completely humiliated her! And she decided that he could feel like crap about that for a few more minutes.

That's what he deserved after making her feel that shitty.

So with the decision now made to freeze him out, she slowly pushed herself up without his assistance. Then she shot him a quick glare before grabbing her duffel and her laptop from the pile of bags by his feet.

And on slightly unsteady legs, she stalked back inside the station.

Hoping that he'd give her at least a few minutes of peace, she went over to the corner of the open air waiting room and sat down on one of the hard wooden benches all by herself.

Her stomach still felt icky but she didn't know what to do about that. Actually . . . as she thought about it . . . it was probably for the best that they did miss that train. With the way her stomach was roiling, she couldn't imagine being on a constantly moving vehicle right now.

Blech. Just the thought of it made her nausea come roaring back so she decided to put her head down between her knees.

Some part of her brain seemed to think that sounded like actual medical advice. But she couldn't for the life of her think of what scenario she was supposed to use it in.

Well . . . she started taking deep slow breaths . . . hopefully it worked for blowing chunks.

A few minutes went by with her stomach continuing to rumble and no sign of Hotch. Good.

But then . . . damn it . . . his shoes appeared in front of her.

It had only been three minutes though, so she refused to look up at him . . . she wasn't done being angry yet.

As Hotch had watched Emily stalk away, he'd realized then just how majorly he'd fucked up. She was generally easy going, quick to forgive and not hold a grudge. So if a simple apology wasn't going to work, then he was seriously in the doghouse with her.

He had decided that it would be best to give her a few minutes to cool down.

But as he'd watched her from across the room, looking pale and rubbing her stomach, he'd felt even more like a heel. And he'd realized then that she actually was right to still be pissed. If he was in her position he'd still be pissed. He'd made a spectacle of them.

Of her.

He had spoken to her . . . in her words, 'like a dimwitted child.' And just simply saying "sorry" doesn't make that okay. He'd needed to do something else.

Maybe a few more something elses.

They had a few hours until the next train, so it was a perfect opportunity to grovel. But groveling was difficult when she wouldn't at him.

Okay, well just because he agreed that she was right to be angry, didn't mean that he wasn't going to try as hard as possible to get her to forgive him. He didn't like her being upset with him.

Even if it was all his own damn fault.

So he crouched down in front of her, reaching out to touch her shoulder as he tried to apologize again.

"I'm sorry Prentiss. And if you want to stay pissed at me for a little while I understand, but in the meantime," he held a ginger ale out in front of her, "I thought this might settle your stomach."

Though he knew it was bribery, he did also genuinely believe that it might make her feel better.

Basically it was a twofer.

Emily stared at the bottle for a moment before reluctantly taking it from Hotch's hand.

Pissed or not, that was exactly what she'd wanted. And she wasn't going to be so contrary as to turn down a free soda.

Hell . . . she thought with a grumble . . . it was the least he could do for her!

Seeing the clench in Emily's jaw even as she took the drink, Hotch stood back up again.

God she was pissed! For a second he wasn't even sure that she was going to take the bottle. Knowing her, she could have just as easily politely told him to shove it up his ass.

And only Emily could actually 'politely' tell someone to shove something up his ass. All she had to do was add a "sir" onto it and she could basically get away with anything.

But he didn't want it to get to that point. He knew that she was still angry because he'd been . . . not only a jerk to her personally . . . but also he'd basically dumped all over their entire relationship. They were trying to build a little friendship . . . he sighed . . . they had been building a little friendship, and here he was shitting all over it. Just last week she'd been there for him, backing him up out in Ohio. Supporting him, telling him the hard things that he'd needed to hear.

And this was how he paid her back.

That's when he realized that sodas and apologies weren't going to work. There was only one way to make this right again.

His gaze shifted up and around . . . he was looking at the people in the small train station.

He'd humiliated her in front of everyone so he'd apologize in front of everyone. It would be embarrassing, but that was rather the point.

So he cleared his throat, sent up a little prayer that he wasn't about to just make an ass out of himself (again) for no reason, and opened his mouth.

"Uh, excuse me," he projected his voice across the small waiting area. Slightly less than a dozen people turned and looked at him. Many of them were watching him warily, and two of the old ladies gave him the evil eye. He felt a stab of shame.

They were doing that because of Emily. Because of what he'd said to her.

He took a breath and just started talking to the room.

"A few minutes ago you all heard me yelling, and I just wanted to apologize for my behavior. You should not have had to listen to that. But more specifically I wanted to apologize to the woman that I'm traveling with," he put his hand on Emily's shoulder, "my comments to her were disrespectful, rude . . . and . . . well," he felt his face getting warm, "I was a jerk. And I know that I embarrassed her, so I thought it was appropriate that I should apologize as openly as I uh," he cleared his throat, "did the other thing."

Though he trailed off rather awkwardly . . . at least he got it out. And when he looked down to see Emily giving him a little smile, he knew that the public humiliation was more than worth it.

"You didn't have to actually do THAT," she whispered back with a pat to the bench next to her, "I would have forgiven you eventually."

Feeling a flood of relief that she was talking to him again, Hotch dropped onto the seat next to her.

"No," he shook his head, "that's what I needed to do. I embarrassed you in front of those people, so it was only right that I apologize to you in front of those people," he huffed to himself, "it's not like they didn't already know I was a class A jackass."

Emily huffed.

"Yeah, when you were yelling at me before I think one of those old ladies put a hex on you."

This was Regular Hotch. Emily was a big fan of Regular Hotch. He was a sweetie who would embarrass himself in public just to make up for the awful things that Pod Hotch had done while Regular Hotch was off getting coffee.

Hotch looked over the room as he nodded slowly.

"Yeah, I definitely got some hell fire glares while I was talking just now." Then he turned to look at her, his expression softening.

"I am sorry. Really."

She nodded.

"Okay," her eyes crinkled "I forgive you."

It was hard not to forgive someone who had just announced he was a complete jerk to a roomful of strangers.

He smiled.

"Thank you."

Now that everything was back to normal . . . i.e. Pod Hotch had gone back to the mother ship . . . Emily decided that she wanted some sympathy.

She'd been up sick since four. Since then she'd thrown up three more times, and basically she felt like complete crap. And she'd been trying to hide that fact from Hotch since he'd pounded on her door an hour ago.

Not that that had been her plan to start.

When she'd finally pulled her head out of the bowl to go let him in, she was planning on telling him that she was sick. But of course he'd been on his cell phone then so she couldn't say anything. And he was too distracted by his call to notice her appearance. He'd just shot her a look and made a frantic 'hurry up' gesture as he'd stepped back out into the hall to talk to JJ. And then in the car he was all stressed out about being late for the train.

So of course at that point she had NO intention of discussing her personal problems with him. Though in retrospect, if she had, then he probably wouldn't have been such a jackass.

Oh well . . . she rubbed her stomach . . . no point in dwelling on that now. Now was the time to take advantage of the return of Sweet Hotch.

So with a sigh, she tipped her head over and put it on his shoulder. Then she mumbled with a faint pout.

"I really don't feel good."

Sweet Hotch was always good for sympathy.

It took Hotch only a second to reach over and pat her arm.

He still wasn't accustomed . . . or really even comfortable . . . with regular displays of affection (most especially public ones) with anyone but Jack.

But Emily was always the exception to that rule.

And keeping in mind how jerky he'd been, he knew that he should make an extra effort now to behave like a normal person capable of expressing affection for someone that he cared about.

So he leaned his head against hers and whispered, "do you want me to go get you something else?"

Her brow wrinkled.

"Um, maybe a Coke would help," as she felt him start to pull away she reached out and grabbed his hand, "but in a minute. Maybe you could just sit with me for now. My stomach's starting to settle down a little bit."

Not a lot. But she'd at least stopped longingly eyeballing the trash receptacle sitting ten feet away.

That was progress.

Hotch felt a stab of guilt.

"That's because you're not all twisted up in knots being angry at me," he murmured back. And he was quiet for a moment before adding with a squeeze to her fingers.

"I was in a bad mood," he whispered, "because I had a fight with Haley."

Next to Dave, Emily was probably the only one who he'd admit that to. And even a month ago he probably wouldn't have even admitted that much to her. But he'd made some resolutions after New York, and he was trying to stick with them.

He needed to make friends. He needed to make connections with other people again.

Emily's expression softened as she squeezed his hand back, just to let him know that she was there. But she knew better than to say anything. They were taking baby steps. And he certainly wasn't anywhere close to the point where he'd be discussing his problems with his ex-wife with her in any detail.

That maybe would come later.

They were both quiet for a few minutes, Hotch was still leaning his head against hers as he stared down at their joined hands resting on his thigh. And then he whispered, "I bet it was the chili cheese dogs you got last night from the street vendor. You remember I told you that they looked kind of . . ."

"Hotch?" Emily cut him off.

"Yes Prentiss."

His gaze shifted over to hers and her eyes crinkled as she looked back.

"You really need to quit while you're ahead."


A/N 2: Wasn't planning on having Emily throwing up twice in one week, but I never plan any of these things :) It is fun going back and filling in other little snapshots of them in their world. So theoretically I guess long after I wrap the ending, Girl could go on forever in this fashion :)

So yeah, this is all due to my crappy commute yesterday. My train didn't show up so I missed my connection by three minutes so it took me an extra hour to get home. And for a change I was really fuming about that. Ordinarily I let that shit go. You cannot control public transportation. You just have to live with it. But yesterday I was just good and angry and I decided to stay good and angry even though I had nobody to yell at, and nobody specific to blame. And I was so mad I couldn't even write to distract myself (and kill time), which just pissed me off even more. And then all of a sudden I flashed on Hotch's reaction to a similar situation. And hence a story was born. Thank God really, because if I hadn't gotten that idea and started scribbling in the notebook again, I probably would have stroked out from the spike in my blood pressure. And then none of these stories would ever get finished!

I might get that promised Girl chapter up tomorrow. I got all distracted with this one so I didn't get a chance to read over the chapter that is now entitled: "His Yin & His Yang." But it's basically done.

Total side note, I really enjoy posting the same day the new episodes are aired. It actually helps me when I'm cleaning things up because their voices are freshly reverberating in my brain. I can tell what the dialogue would sound like coming out of their mouths. It's kind of cool :)

And I LOVED Emily drinking with Dave and Hotch! It used to just be the guys and now she's invited into their little club. TPTB are finally writing them exactly how I've always envisioned them. That makes me happy, and sort of gives me a sense of satisfaction that I have indeed been interpreting all the little cues correctly. I know all my stuff is AU but I like to at least know I'm still grounded in reality :)