Author's Note: I'm on a frigging roll with new inspiration lately. It's kind of driving me nuts because my brain just keeps going new places. But I figure as long as both the beginning and the END of the story are coming to me in short order, then I'll just keep going with them.

I know that my bread and butter are relationship stories. But this one is a little different. It's my effort to tell the story of a 'realistic' male/female relationship. Realistic in a completely AU context of course. They aren't walking into this with the soul mate, eyes wide open, totally on the same page thing. He's thinking like a guy, she's thinking like a chick and problems will ensue.

I didn't want it to be fluffy really. I actually thought about making it darker in theme but then decided that Three Long Mountains is working the black magic just fine on its own this week so I ended up going with sort of funny/angsty here. Though this characterization might be similar with H/P from Girl, I didn't want them to have the exact same voices. So though I do promise an eventual happy ending, it's not quite as light as Girl can get.

This one, opening chapter notwithstanding, will be more from Emily's POV. The reason for that will become clear in chapter two.

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Prompt Set #6

Show: That's So Raven

Title Challenge: Ye Olde Dating Game

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The Rules of Engagement

Emily stopped in front of her door, turning and looking up at Hotch with a little smile, "thanks for walking me up."

They'd worked late tonight and then he'd asked her if she wanted to get a bite to eat. It certainly wasn't the first time that they'd done that, but this was the first time that he'd walked her all the way upstairs. Usually he just made sure she got into the building okay, and then she sent him a text message once she was in her apartment. But this door escort thing was nice.

Yeah . . . she eyed him standing there looking all rumpled and gorgeous . . . she could definitely get used this.

His eyes crinkled as he looked down at her, "no problem."

God she was beautiful. How had he never noticed how beautiful she was before?

Hotch stared at her for a moment, wondering if her skin was as soft as it looked. And then before he knew it, he was leaning in . . . and she was closing her eyes . . . and he was kissing her.

He was kissing Prentiss.

Some part of his brain realized that there was probably something in the manual that prohibited that action. But as he felt her soft body in his arms, and her small hands pressing against his chest, he really couldn't find it in him to care much about the manual.

His tongue slid tentatively past her lips, but it was just a taste, he didn't want anything to get out of hand. But as he started to pull back, she leaned up, chasing his mouth as her fingers clutched his jacket.

Okay . . . he slid his hand around her waist, pulling her body tightly against his . . . if she wanted to keep going, they'd keep going.

He backed her into the wall, trapping her there as he kissed her passionately, hungrily . . . wantonly.

They'd never done this before . . . she hooked her leg around his, pulling him closer . . . but right now . . . he greedily sucked on her tongue . . . he really couldn't get enough of her.

She tasted like the peppermint she'd had after dinner. At that moment he decided that peppermint was his new favorite flavor. Everything should come in peppermint. Especially beautiful brunettes . . . his hands cupped her jaw . . . whose skin was indeed as soft as it looked.

And as she suddenly moaned against his mouth he thought that perhaps he could stay out there in the hallway all night with her.

Finally though . . . his lungs started to scream . . . oxygen became a concern, and he realized that he needed to stop.

He reluctantly pulled back, giving her one last soft kiss before he separated from her completely.

They were both panting as they sucked in the desperately needed air. And then he looked down at her . . . lips swollen, cheeks flushed, hair mussed.

She had shot right past beautiful and straight to absolutely gorgeous.

But now that the moment was broken, he wasn't sure what to say.

This was not typical behavior for them. They weren't dating. They hadn't had any sort of discussion about moving their relationship beyond the boundaries in which it currently existed.

Current boundaries . . . though they had been extended over the past few months . . . were still quite platonic. Kissing Emily was purely a spur of the moment impulse.

But he hadn't the first clue as to what to do next.

Though as he looked down at her, he could now see that the longer he went without talking, the more uncomfortable she looked. And then her eyes fell away from his and she put her hand to her mouth.

She was embarrassed.

Oh . . . his expression softened . . . he didn't want her to be embarrassed.

Granted, he didn't know what the hell he was doing, but he definitely knew that whatever had just happened was on him. After all, he'd initiated. So he certainly couldn't leave her standing there feeling foolish because of his actions.

And after he quickly ran down what had just happened, he came to one conclusion . . . he didn't regret what he'd just done.

'Good enough for the moment. Now make her feel better before she starts crying and then you have to kick your own ass.'

He pulled her to his chest, wrapping his arms tightly around her before he murmured against her hair, "maybe we could do that again sometime," he paused, realizing what he'd just said, so he quickly clarified, "dinner, I mean," he rubbed his hand slowly up and down her back, "maybe we could . . . get dinner."

Now, 'dinner' could be construed as a euphemism for making out in the hallway like horny teenagers. OR, it could be seen as an offer to actually go get a nice meal at a sit down restaurant with tablecloths.

Given that he was completely winging it at the moment, that level of ambiguity was about the most he could offer up.

Breathing a sigh of relief that he'd smoothed over what was shaping up to be a horribly awkward moment, Emily nodded back, her cheek brushing against his shirt, "I'd like that," her hands slipped under his jacket as she said again softly, "I'd like that very much."

It was obvious to her that 'dinner' meant kissing. And she'd been hoping that one of these days Hotch would kiss her. She'd had this hope for going on three and a half months now.

After Colorado he'd started becoming more . . . what was the word?

Attentive.

Asking her to get dinner with him when they worked late, walking her to her car (first occasionally, now regularly), randomly leaving unrequested cups of coffee and low fat blueberry muffins on her desk.

It was the workaholic's version of courtship.

There had been no conversation about what was happening, no prior physical contact . . . certainly nothing like what had just happened . . . and she honestly hadn't been sure if there ever would be anything more between them.

The divorce had really messed Hotch up. She wasn't even sure if he'd had a date since he'd signed the papers.

And that was over a year ago.

Though to be fair, it wasn't just Hotch that was running his own conveyer belt of emotional baggage.

She was pushing forty, and it had been nearly a decade since she'd had romantic entanglement that had lasted longer than a month.

Basically she was a mess.

So she hadn't really been pushing for anything to happen. Initially she had just been enjoying their time together. It was really nice having his undivided attention as they talked about things besides wound patterns and dump sites.

But their time alone had reminded her that Hotch . . . when he wasn't being all intense and scary . . . was actually very sweet.

First and foremost, he was a gentleman. He pulled out her chair, helped her with her coat and opened doors for her.

Basically he treated like a lady.

It was kind of sad . . . but with the exception of her dad . . . she didn't know if anyone had ever treated that nicely before.

And though when she first started she'd been convinced that Hotch didn't have a sense of humor, she later realized that she was quite wrong on that front. Over these past few months, the more time they spent together, the more he showed that side of himself to her. He had a sharp, dry wit that she'd come to really appreciate and enjoy.

He made her laugh.

Then a few weeks ago she'd noticed that when his hand glided over her back, or his leg brushed against hers on the plane, it gave her a warm tingle low in her stomach. Her feelings for him had clearly been deepening.

She just hadn't had a clue before as to how he felt about her.

But now . . . she felt him start to lean back . . . it was at least clear that her feelings weren't completely one sided. He wouldn't have kissed her if he didn't want more too.

Also . . . her eyes crinkled as she reached up to wipe the red lipstick from his mouth . . . he really was a fabulous kisser.

This was definitely a new aspect to their relationship that she could get used to very quickly.

Hotch's lips twitched at Emily's efforts to clean up his face. Seeing as she didn't appear to be wearing her lipstick at all anymore, he presumed that it was all over him.

So unless she had some soap and water, attempting to wipe it off now with her fingers was probably a lost cause.

Though as she ran the pad of her thumb over his lower lip again, he suddenly he realized how much he wanted to have the opportunity to mess up her lipstick again.

But he wasn't sure if that was a good idea. They worked together. And though he did admittedly have some very strong feelings towards her, that didn't mean it was prudent to act on them.

If they became involved and it didn't work out, it could destroy their relationship as it was now. And he'd really come to value her friendship. Simply spending time with her made him happy.

What if he couldn't do that anymore? What if he made a mess of things?

Not to mention the possible repercussions at work. The manual he'd been ignoring earlier was indeed quite clear on the topic of supervisor/subordinate relationships.

They weren't allowed.

Therefore, if they were going to do this, then he had to be damn sure that he knew what he was getting into. His brow twitched slightly . . . this was much too big a decision to make on the fly.

He needed to think.

So he caught her hand, pressing his lips to the back of it before he said softly, "I have to go."

As much as he'd love to stay, even just to talk, he needed to get out of there before he got another spur of the moment impulse. A kiss they could always move passed if he decided that he wasn't ready to pursue anything with Emily beyond simple friendship.

But if anything more than a kiss happened tonight . . . well, that could really screw things up.

Emily frowned . . . she really wanted him to stay. So much so that she was about to open her mouth to remind him how early it was, but then she realized that he was probably right. He should go before something else happened. After that amazing kiss she doubted that she'd able to keep her lips to herself once they were behind a locked door.

Though she assumed that he at least had some clue as to what he was doing . . . otherwise she couldn't see him kissing her like THAT . . . they still shouldn't move too fast.

As much as she'd been hoping that one of these days he'd get around to at least giving her a kiss, she honestly hadn't allowed herself to think about, or really even hope, for anything beyond that act. Given that she hadn't previously had a clue about his feelings, it seemed like she'd be setting herself up for disappointment. And she had enough real world disappointments.

Who needed to manufacture more in their head?

But she was sad that he was leaving, so she leaned against him again, wrapping her arms around his waist as she hugged him one last time.

"Goodnight," she whispered.

Hotch closed his eyes as he breathed her in for a moment. She was definitely making it harder to leave.

But . . . he kissed the top of her head . . . leave he must.

He stepped back, eyes crinkling slightly as he backed away, "I'll see you tomorrow."

The thought came to him again . . . God she was beautiful.

Emily gave him a shy smile before she blew him a kiss. And then she turned away to unlock her door.

Hotch couldn't help but smile at the air kiss. It was so sweet.

It was so Emily.

And that was another point in favor of maybe changing their relationship to something more.

Though . . . a worrisome thought came to him . . . with the hands under his jacket and the sweet kiss . . . maybe she thought that they'd already changed their relationship.

Oh . . . crap.

'Well, apparently if you shove your tongue down a woman's throat Aaron she can get the wrong idea!'

Being careful not to let on to Emily how thrown he now was, Hotch waited until she was safely inside before he turned towards the elevators. And as he walked down the hall he shook his head in disgust.

'Oh Christ Aaron, what the hell did you do?'

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A/N 2: Cautionary tale for the kiddies, shoving your tongue down someone's throat CAN indeed send a mixed signal.

Like I said, I liked the idea of giving them a more realistic get together. It's not like Girl where they've been spending every waking moment together and can read each other's minds. Emily here, taking what she knew from 'in control canon Hotch' presumed that he did what he did on purpose. But in reality it was just an 'in the moment' kiss. So he reads it one way, she reads it another, and all of a sudden he's got a mess on his hands. But again, this story is now going to shift over to Emily's POV for a couple of chapters.

This one is going to probably top out at about five or six chapters. I've got four of them written and the end is all sketched out in my head. Just the nature of the events of this story these will be shorter chapters than I usually do so there will be more of them :)

Feedback as always does feed the muse. And given how much she's been churning out lately clearly she's been quite appreciate of so many people this week taking the time to drop a line :)