A/N - Loyal Readers, here's the last installment to this story. I hoped you enjoyed it and the ending was worth the wait. Let me know. I appreciate the feedback. As ever, I own nothing.
LIES I TOLD MYSELF
"Anything but, Emily," Hotch spat, sharply, as he pulled her an inch closer. Sighing, he said, almost bitterly, "Yesterday, Haley made yet ANOTHER phone call to her mother. The U.S. Marshals had to move Jack and her AGAIN. I was lying in bed thinking about how little she ever thinks about the consequences of her actions. Because of her, my son's life is going to be disrupted AGAIN. It's bad enough he's been taken from everything he knows here…but, now, she's just making it worse for him there. Because of her own selfishness. That's the reason I was thinking about her when I closed my eyes. When I'm still, my thoughts go to my son. And whether I like it or not, she's part of him."
For a mere moment, Emily felt as if the floor shifted under her feet, the foundation of her anger crumbling. Face falling as she listened to his words, Emily swallowed. God, regret tasted bitter. And it made sense. It truly made sense. Lifting her eyes to his, she shook her head again. "I don't know what to say," she said softly as she shifted her arm underneath his hand.
"You could start by saying that you believe me. At least where Haley is concerned," Hotch murmured, staring deeply into her eyes. He didn't have to be a profiler to see that she had changed her reaction. "Trust me that much, at least."
"I don't know what to believe anymore," Emily whispered blankly, afraid to believe…terrified that this dream would end and any second, reality would invade and she'd wake up alone in bed, still loving a man she could never truly have.
"Believe me," Aaron urged, giving in to his urges and pulling her into his arms, his need to touch her…to convince her overwhelming everything else.
"I want to," Emily murmured against his chest, burying her face against his shirt as she felt warm capable hands sliding over her back. "You have no idea how much I want to," she breathed, closing her eyes as the slow warmth of hope began to unfurl inside her body.
"I've got a pretty good idea," Hotch whispered against her hair, letting himself be comforted by the familiar vanilla aroma that was uniquely Emily Prentiss. "Emily," he said deeply, hoping his tone conveyed his absolute sincerity, "we both have to let go of our pasts and embrace what's right in front of us. My future with Haley ended the day she took my son from me without a backward glance. I respect her as my son's mother. I'm grateful for the gift she gave me. But that's all there is. I swear to you, that's all there is. You're my present and, I hope, my future. At least you are if you'll allow it."
"I'm going to wake up and this is going to be a dream," Emily whispered, still afraid to believe that this man had said the words he'd uttered. She was completely unable to wrap her mind around the fact that her wishes weren't wishes anymore. They were realities.
"No," Hotch said softly, willing her to understand that the time for dreams and nightmares was over. "You aren't. Neither of us are, Emily," he whispered against her ear.
Feeling his hot breath bathing her neck, Emily found her arms creeping around his waist of their own accord, her brain no longer controlling her body's automatic response to his nearness.
"I know that I haven't done much to make you think that I'm worth the kind of risk that I'm asking for. I've done nothing but take from you, Emily. And I know that I'm being selfish now and asking for more. But I can't let you go without a fight. We're both guilty of lying to ourselves here. For our own foolish reasons."
"Aaron," Emily started, voice hoarse with emotion as she croaked out his name.
"Shhh…I'm trying to apologize here. That's hard enough to do for me without the interruptions. Just let me get it out. I lied to you. Unintentionally. But still a lie. I told you I couldn't offer you anything beyond a physical release and a passable conversation. I'd convinced myself that it was all I had in me to give. I knew it wasn't true then. I knew it wasn't true every time I held you in my arms. Every time I made love to you. But I let you believe it. And that was unforgivable. You deserved so much more than that. Than my lies."
"I lied, too," Emily confessed slowly, her arms tightening around him as she tried to absorb just a little of his strength. "I told you it was okay. That I could be satisfied with what you had to offer. That I didn't need anything else from you. I even had myself believing my lies some days. But it was never true. Not then. And not now."
"Why? Why couldn't you be satisfied, Emily?" Aaron asked carefully as he cradled her in his arms. God, he prayed it was for the reason he hoped it was.
And in that moment, Emily knew that the same three words that he had spoken to her were about to be repeated, this time by her.
"Because I loved you," Emily admitted, her words muffled by his shirt.
Lifting his hands to palm her cheeks, he tilted her face toward him. "Say that again," he ordered softly, hoping he'd heard those words correctly.
Biting her lip uncertainly as she stared up into dark, honest eyes, Emily whispered, her confidence growing with every word, "Because I loved you."
"And now?" he asked, his words barely audible as he held his breath. The past tense of that very important verb signified a world of difference, and he needed to know if they could still have the present and future that he dreamed of.
"I still love you," she whispered, her voice growing in confidence with each word. "I've never stopped loving you. And I'm pretty sure that may be a terminal condition."
Claiming her lips in a passionate tangling of lips and tongues as soon, he whispered, "Then it's a disease we both have. And I pray to God we never find the cure, Emily."
Pulling his head back to hers, Emily lost herself in his kiss as strong arms surrounded her and she felt suddenly weightless as Aaron lifted her in his arms, striding toward her bedroom.
Their movements were frantic as he laid her on the soft mattress of her bed. Clothing dissolved as each of them felt desire overtake them, both anxious to affirm their love in the most elemental of ways. A way that didn't need narration. Didn't need words.
Feeling his warm hands sliding up her naked sides, his touch left warmth in its wake. Wonderful, comforting warmth. Brushing her soft lips to his, Emily sighed as she felt the solid strength of his body against hers. Her hands sought to pull him closer still, desperate for the security his caress brought.
"Emily," he moaned against the sensitive skin of her breast. Worshiping one peak before shifting his appreciation to the other, he raised his dark head to look into her eyes. "You're the only woman in my heart. No one else."
Nodding mutely as his mouth descended to hers, she moaned as he slowly penetrated her body as surely as his softly spoken words had pierced her heart. He was being honest. She could feel it in his touch as his lips danced across her neck and he began the slow sweet dance that waltzed them into fulfillment.
And as she laid drowsily in his arms an hour later, it was her name he breathed sleepily in his sleep as he tucked her body closer to his, sheltering her protectively in the cradle of his arms.