Author's Note: This would be my entry in the AU bonus. And by alternate I mean way, WAY, AU. You are warned now, if you're looking for CM as you know it, it's not here. Though, if you like my relationship stories, that is here :)

Things you need to know: No team, no FBI. Hotch is not "Hotch" here. That's a nickname he would have picked up at the Bureau so in this world he's just Aaron. He's been working as a prosecutor in the Justice Department since law school. Likes his work, he's been specializing in major narcotics for the last five years, but his niche are trafficking cases in general, including people. So though he doesn't work with serial killers or rapists here, human trafficking is still some ugly stuff so it would account for his reserved personality in this world as well. Though "Aaron" is not quite as intense as "Hotch". I figured if his life wasn't quite so dark, he wouldn't be so dark. Therefore he is a bit quicker to smile.

Also, though he did marry Haley, there's no Jack. And because his life went differently the course of his marriage went differently. Here he's not yet divorced, but about 6 months separated. But he's the one that left her. And again, because there's no Jack, he's not clamoring to put his family back together. He's ready to move on. Enter Emily.

Emily. Again, no FBI. She's a linguist at the CIA, so she's "Officer Prentiss" not agent. Single, has an ex-husband from years earlier, his name might be Dave ;) And she's going to meet Aaron on a case. But this story isn't about the case, it's about them. This will be a bit more of a traditional 'courtship' because they don't have the chain of command, fraternization issues they do in CM. However, they are working this case together so that will be a bit of a stumbling block.

If you've read Girl, you'll notice a similarity in the structure of the first two chapters. I'm telling their first meeting from his POV, and then from hers. In this world it really was the only way to do it so that you could get a flavor for each of them, (who they are) here as opposed to what you're used to seeing.


Bonus Challenge #7

Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Title Challenge: Doppelgangland


The Girl in Question

Aaron looked over the stacks of case files on his battered wooden desk. As his eyes roved he began mentally cataloguing what was in front of him.

Indictments

Grand Jury

PTC

Trial

The caseload had been overwhelming when he first started, but after about six months he'd stopped breaking out into a cold sweat every morning. And now, nineteen years later, he'd pretty much gotten his system running like a Swiss watch.

Though . . . due to recent, unexpected events . . . his Swiss watch was about to start running as well as a crappy Swatch.

Two hours ago he'd received a call from his boss' boss that he was to "clear his calendar." Though it wasn't in his nature, he'd almost laughed out loud.

He had over SIXTY active cases. There was no way to 'clear' his calendar. Aaron had made a futile attempt to explain the reality of the situation, but the only response was, "you're being reassigned to a priority one case Mr. Hotchner, start writing continuances."

And that was the end of that.

Of course there was no suggestion to try to hand off his cases. Nobody else in the office could have taken them. They'd lost three prosecutors in the past six months and only one of them had been replaced.

But the bad guys didn't take their reduced manpower into consideration when they decided to break the law, so the narcotics cases just kept piling up.

And to make matters even worse, now his share of the pie was getting backburnered for the foreseeable future.

He rolled his eyes . . . just wait until the investigating agents found out. They could spend years building these cases, they were going to be furious.

What was particularly frustrating was that he wouldn't be able to give any of them an explanation for the delays. Though he still had no clue the topic of his new assignment, he had deduced from the "your security clearance is Top Secret or above, right?" that wherever he was going it probably had to do with a national security matter.

It wouldn't be the first special assignment he'd been given, but usually he had more notice. And usually he was just told to 'make room' in his calendar, not wipe it completely.

Though it was probably wishful thinking on his part, Aaron was hopeful that he'd still be able to keep a few of his other cases going while working on this new one. Of course it would be hard to say that definitively until after his briefing, so for the time being he had been doing as instructed, prepping continuance after continuance.

It was depressing work . . . with a disgusted sigh he leaned back in his chair and rolled his neck . . . all he could think about was how backed up he was going to be three months from now.

'No point bitching about it Aaron. You just do what you're told.'

Realizing the little voice in his head was correct, Aaron decided to let most of his irritation go. It was pointless to complain about things you couldn't change.

Especially when you were just complaining to yourself.

Once he'd settled on taking the Zen approach to his new assignment, he checked his watch and saw that he had almost a half hour until his meeting. But after a moment's debate he decided to head out a little early.

He needed the break, not to mention, he wanted to stop and get a coffee at the kiosk downstairs.

After he locked his screensaver he got up and grabbed his jacket from the rack . . . God knows how long this meeting was going to be and he might need the caffeine in order to fake interest for the duration.

Aaron stepped into the corridor with a fresh yellow legal pad and pulled his door shut behind him. For a second he considered locking it, but then he remembered that it was only three and his AA, Tom might need to get in there for something. And Aaron knew that if he wasn't back by six, then Tom would hit the lock on the door on his way out.

Really though, Aaron couldn't imagine his meeting going longer than three hours.

And if it did, Christ he'd probably be ready to kill himself at that point anyway. And if he was dead it really wouldn't matter much at all if his files were locked up or not.

Before he left his unit, Aaron stopped to tell Tom that he was going to a meeting and expected to be gone for a few hours at least. And then he continued out of their locked area, out into the main hallway and down towards the back staircase.

It was the three o'clock shift change and he hated taking the elevator this time of day. It was like a cattle call.

As he walked along, navigating the people filling the corridors, he checked his watch again and realized that stopping to get coffee might be cutting it a bit too close. Not only was it shift change, but it was also break time. And that meant that there would most likely be a line at the coffee shop.

And Aaron liked to be early for meetings with strangers, especially when he was walking into an entirely unknown situation.

He was so intent on his mental debate of coffee versus no coffee that he wasn't paying close attention to where he was going. And when he pushed the back stairwell door open, he nearly tripped over a woman down on her hands and knees.

'Whoa!'

In the second it took him to keep from falling ass over teakettle he processed the scene in front of him.

She'd dropped her files.

Well, don't just stand there like a jerk Aaron, help her!!

As he stooped down he took note of the very shapely legs and backside in front of him, "here, let me . . ."

And then the woman whipped her head around. He stopped as two things hit him.

She was beautiful . . . and she looked frightened.

"Oh no! Don't touch them!" she yelped.

He froze, "I'm sorry, I was just trying to help."

That was unexpected. And then he saw her wince as she took a breath. A second later her tone came back much softer, "I mean, thank you for your offer. But these are top secret," her eyes dropped back to the ground as her face began to turn pink, "this jerk just knocked them out of my hands."

Aaron furrowed his brow as he looked at the woman in confusion, "why did he do that?"

Not that there was a 'good' reason, but it seemed rather peculiar behavior.

Well, for an adult anyway.

She shook her head as she began scooping up her files again, "I wouldn't give him my number and he got angry," then she muttered to herself, "called me a stuck up bitch."

Feeling a wave of indignation on behalf of this total stranger, Aaron scowled as he burst out angrily, "what an ASSHOLE!" He snapped his head up and started peering over the ledge of the stairwell, "where did he go?"

If there was anything he couldn't stand it was a man who couldn't take no for an answer.

"He's gone."

Aaron looked back to see her giving him a little smile, "but thank you," she said. He held her gaze for a moment before she sighed and turned her attention back to pulling her paperwork together.

Even though they'd just met Aaron felt like they knew each other. But he was quite sure that he would have remembered that face.

Not to mention those legs.

And given what had just happened to her, he felt like a real schmuck just watching her pick up all of her paperwork alone. It was just . . . rude.

Granted not as rude as what the last guy had done to her but still, it wasn't right.

But he understood where she was coming from. He'd been working Top Secret cases for almost a decade and he knew the rules about the integrity of the files were incredibly strict. She could get into a lot of trouble if the wrong person saw that she'd dropped a stack of them all over a public hallway. Anyone and everyone could come along and see what she was working on.

All the more reason he felt so badly that he couldn't help her.

And as he stared at that pretty face . . . still creased with lines of tension as she frantically scooped up the scattered documents . . . he realized that maybe he could help her.

"Ma'am," when she looked over he picked up his lanyard and flipped it over to show her his security card, "actually I am cleared above Top Secret. I know I'm not read in on your case, but," he shot her a dimple, "I promise not to peek."

When she smiled back at him he felt a warmth begin to pool in his stomach. This woman was doing very strange things to him. And he could see her debating his offer as she stared at him for a moment before her eyes dropped back to his little plastic card, and then down to the mess still on the floor.

After a moment she looked back up at him and nodded, "okay, thank you."

As he began scooping up the paperwork she sighed, "I really do appreciate this," she began sorting through the documents in front of her, "this is my first big solo case and then this happens," she scowled, "big stupid jerk, probably a Republican."

His eyes crinkled as he bit down on his lip . . . God she was funny. And it was probably not the best time to tell her that he'd been registered as a Republican since his eighteenth birthday.

After another minute they'd pretty much consolidated everything into one big stack in front of her. As she began slipping the documents back into the correct folders, Aaron stood up to go grab two loose papers that had flown to the other side of the hall. Once they were in hand, he stood there for a second spinning around to make sure that there was nothing else that they'd missed.

Oh . . . he hurried over and grabbed one more sheet that had blown onto the lower stairwell. As he returned to her still down on her hands and knees he shook his head, "did he throw them in a wind turbine?"

The woman rolled her eyes, "he smacked them up from the bottom," she huffed, "I swear they flew five feet in the air."

Aaron's jaw twitched . . . he really wish he'd been there for that moment.

The guy would have been picking up his teeth off the ground.

He rolled his eyes as he leaned down to pick up his notepad off the floor. And then he turned back to see her trying to push herself up off the marble floor while hugging all of the files to her chest.

His lips twitched as he put a hand out to help her . . . she really was adorable.

Six months ago that thought would have been wholly inappropriate. But six months ago he was a married man.

Now . . . he took her forearm . . . he was a separated, hopefully soon to be divorced, man.

And separated/soon to be divorced men were allowed to have such thoughts about beautiful women they trip over in the hallway.

They stared at each other for a moment, and just as he was about to ask her if maybe he could see her again sometime she suddenly exclaimed, "OH GOD! I have to go! I have a meeting!"

She started hurrying down the steps, yelling back over her shoulder, "thank you so much for your help!"

Aaron watched in horror as the first new woman he'd been attracted to in twenty years ran out of his life.

'SHIT! DO SOMETHING!' he screamed in his head.

Right, do something. So he hurried over to the landing and yelled down, "WAIT! WHAT'S YOUR NAME?!"

"EMILY," she yelled back from the flight below, "EMILY PRENTISS! AND I REALLY WOULD HAVE LIKED TO SEE YOU AGAIN BUT UNFORTUNATELY I CAN'T TELL YOU ANYTHING ELSE WITHOUT RUNNING A FULL BACKGROUND CHECK ON YOU FIRST!"

And then she disappeared from sight.

Aaron stood there for a moment, a grin slowly spreading across his face . . . Emily Prentiss.

Whether or not she knew it, that was enough for him to find her.

She had a top secret security clearance, her name was Emily Prentiss and she routinely handled sensitive information. He inferred that last bit from the fact that she needed to run a full background check on any man that she dated. Though that was still a daunting list of places to look, he had his own top security clearance and the full resources of the federal government at his disposal.

Piece of cake.

Okay, maybe not cake . . . he doubted she'd be on the Global Email . . . but it wasn't impossible.

But right now he had a meeting to get to as well and this little detour had definitely ruled out any chances of getting a coffee, so he might as well get going.

He rolled his eyes . . . at least he'd still be early.

Aaron started down the staircase . . . and tomorrow morning he was going to track down the lovely Ms. Prentiss. It might take a few days, maybe a week depending on where it was she worked, but . . . he turned the same corner that she had a few seconds before . . . he had no doubt that it would be worth it.


A/N 2: I know sometimes when I experiment with new things I lose a little chunk of my readers, which I totally understand. This is all for fun (my writing and your reading) so if it's not exactly your cup of tea I can see how you'd prefer to read something that was :) So I'm curious about this one, what do you think? You going to stick around?

Side Note: I had some difficulty coming up with a title for this because I didn't know if I wanted it to reference the plot of the story itself, or to be more general in referencing the nature of the type of story I was doing. AU. I decided to go with the latter and settled on this to show we're in a world where things went very differently. And the title is not original. If you don't know it, it's from an award winning sci fi book by Madeleine L'Engle that I read as a wee child. I actually wrote a book report on it when I was like nine :) With the exception of Douglas Adams, I wasn't really into any science fiction/fantasy stuff, but I did enjoy Ms. L'Engle's work. She wrote a sequel called A Swiftly Tilting Planet and I remember I did a report for that one as well. And it had KICK ASS book report cover that had a blue unicorn on it! I should check my folks' attic to see if I can find it :)

I'm not making this one a focus at the moment so updates will be sporadic until I get Girl and CB wrapped (plus those couple little epilogues on Mountains and Echoes.) But once those are knocked out, I'll move this one off the side burner. I do expect I'll get chapter 2 up within the week though. After the next Girl.

Next: "The Good Samaritan"