Author's Note: ANOTHER AU story and don't throw anything at me, because yes I know, I have NO business posting anything new, but it's Kavi's fault! She put up a really good prompt on our AU ideas page and my brain went running off down the path. And rather than leaving a completely done chapter just sitting on my hard drive for another 48 hrs, I figured I'd put it up and give you guys something to read.

This is what Kavi posted:

Theme: Romance, Pre-FBI

Idea: Hotch gets to 'babysit' Emily while working for her mother. Takes place in the summer and Emily is adamant that she head to her grandparents' ranch in Virginia. He goes with her and shenanigans ensure. Bonus points for a shirtless Hotch and Hotch playing Emily's boyfriend.

The prompt might make you think 'fun fluffiness,' but my brain's not really in a fluffy place so it's more general romance/drama. You'll see as you get more into Emily's thoughts. Hence the title as well. That's the name of a short story by Stephen King about a woman named Emily who has something bad happen to her and then sort of runs away from her life. You can google it if you want the narrative, but that's more the type of undercurrent this story will have. Though I promise it will NOT follow the plot of that story.

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW:

Seeing as the idea didn't address Hotch's marital status, and I figured Kavi wasn't looking for an Emily romance that made Hotch a cheating bastard :) I decided to switch a few things around:

Hotch is in the FBI, but he never got married to Haley. They're still dating like six years after they met, which shows you how well that's going. And he's fairly fresh out of the Academy so I don't have him with the Hotch nickname yet either. And Emily's mother isn't an ambassador here, she's the Secretary of State. I wanted the family to have a bit higher profile, and really, unless you're into politics, how many current American ambassadors can most people name off the tops of their heads? Exactly.

So with this slight tweaking of known factoids about them, I ended up shifting their personalities a little bit. Emily's relationship with her mother isn't so damaged because they had settled back in the States much earlier than on the show. As a result, I also have her going to Georgetown because I decided she wouldn't have been looking for that physical distance between them.

Remember, they are much younger (just in their twenties) so this is an AU flashback. Or as Arc and I call them "El Flashbackos" – remember that neither of us speaks Spanish natively :) But for el flashbacko purposes, we're in the early nineties. So technology wise, you'll notice they don't have all the little conveniences we take for granted. Like cellphones for instance. They existed but they were not at all commonly used. If anyone catches me throwing in an anachronism please don't hesitate to flag it for me. I almost had her watching a "DVD" and then I remembered they didn't exist at all :)


Bonus Challenge #7

Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Title Challenge: Doppelgangland


August 1992

Driving Miss Emily

Aaron Hotchner sighed as they passed yet another green field full of fenced in cows.

Christ, what a day.

He was out in the backwoods of Virginia. He hadn't been this far out in the country since, well, he couldn't remember if he'd ever been this far out in the country before. And if it was up to him, he wouldn't be this far out in the country today. But this wasn't really a negotiable trip. His eyes snapped up to the rear view mirror.

She'd insisted.

SHE being, Miss Emily Victoria Prentiss.

Feeling a little stab of guilt, Aaron bit back another sigh . . . but it wasn't really fair to be irritated with her. He had no personal issues with Emily.

She hadn't done anything wrong.

Granted, he really wished that she wasn't dragging him out to the middle of nowhere, and also . . . personality wise . . . she might have been a little more "extroverted" than what he was used to, but that was really about it for complaints. She was actually very nice, polite, well mannered and extremely intelligent.

All in all, if pressed, he'd have to say that she was a sweet girl.

His eyes once again snapped briefly to the mirror . . . and she was very pretty too. Not that that was in any way relevant to anything beyond the fact that he was a straight single guy in his twenties. So really, the appearance of any pretty girl was not going to escape his attention.

But . . . he shook his head slightly as his eyes slid back to the road . . . none of those things were really relevant here. His issue right now wasn't at all with the girl in the backseat.

It was with the assignment itself.

He was supposed to be starting his HRT training this week. THAT was the reason for his irritation. Because two weeks ago . . . out of the blue . . . he'd gotten called into his chief's office and told that he was being bumped to the next HRT training cycle. And that was because they needed him to babysit the Secretary of State's daughter for the month.

Something had happened.

Specifically, two days earlier, the Secretary had left for a ten country, month long trip through Africa and the Middle East. And then twenty four hours later, her Washington staff contacted the Bureau.

They'd received a letter.

The threats themselves were fairly routine . . . anonymous block letter, 'death to America, blah, blah blah.' But the attached picture with the daughter's face scratched out and the words, "WHORES SHOULD BE STONED TO DEATH!" written underneath it, well, that was not routine. That had caused some alarm.

Because in the course of 'general' political rabble rousing, it was not status quo for any cabinet members' children to be specifically singled out for physical threats, or even general attention.

So even though she was no longer a dependent, for the duration of the Secretary's trip, the Bureau had reinstituted round the clock security for the twenty-two year old daughter. If there were no further threats made during that time, then when the Secretary returned, she could go back to her life as it was before.

A little bit of research had determined that the picture in question was an official photo which had been taken at a State Dinner six months earlier. It had turned up in about two dozen publications around the world. So there was no reason to think that any individual psycho . . . or fanatic group . . . knew anything about Emily personally. The action was probably just intended to rattle the Secretary.

Which it had.

Really though, if anyone was a target this month, it was going to be the Secretary herself. This week alone she'd already been burned in effigy in three countries. In contrast, her daughter was back in the States, reading books, watching movies and living completely below the radar.

But still . . . all threats were taken seriously and Aaron had unfortunately drawn the short straw on protection because he was the low man on the totem pole. Plus, he had no family of his own, so he was free to move into the spare room of the main house for the entirety of the Secretary's trip.

A full team of agents watching the daughter had been deemed unnecessary because the residence already was built like Fort Knox, and it had a regular security team assigned to the perimeter. Of course with the Secretary out of the country, the team was on skeleton. But that was still more than sufficient backup for Aaron when he wasn't really expecting anything to happen anyway.

The assignment was really only causing him recurrent irritation because the timing had screwed up his training course.

Aaron's mental bitching was interrupted by Emily suddenly smacking his seat.

"Ooh, ooh! Next exit there's a farm stand!"

With some difficulty, he managed to restrain his eye roll at that pronouncement. Not that the girl in the backseat would have seen it behind his sunglasses, but somehow he sensed that she would have known about it anyway.

So he was careful to even out his tone as he responded politely, "Miss Pren . . ."

"Emily," Emily corrected for the hundredth time.

They'd been LIVING together for the past two weeks, and Agent Hotchner still addressed her just as formally today as he had the day that they met in her mother's living room.

Okay, granted, she did still call him by his full title, but that was different. It wasn't her place to take liberties with him until he had at least loosened up enough to call her by her first name.

And efforts there were slow going.

"Miss Prentiss," he continued as though she hadn't interrupted, "we really can't make any unscheduled stops to buy fruit. This is a security detail, not," he shot her an ironic look in the rear view manner, "Driving Miss Daisy."

Her mouth quivered for a moment . . . that was the first joke that he'd cracked since they met.

Hmmm, maybe he was finally loosening up.

Well . . . she loosened her seat belt a bit so that she could lean forward . . . maybe she could make a little more progress with him today.

This whole having a nanny thing would be much less of a bummer if he'd just lighten up a bit. She'd had bodyguards for years . . . most of her life really . . . and she'd yet to find one that she couldn't break through the toughened facade.

But Hotchner was proving to be a pretty tough nut to crack.

"Please Agent Hotchner," she pouted slightly at him in the mirror, "I know this trip was my idea, but I just can't stay cooped up in the car any longer."

The man was a stickler for the rules. They had an A to B destination . . . her mother's house in the city to her grandparents' house in the country . . . and as far as he was concerned, that meant no stops in between.

He'd even stolen her water bottle out of her purse so they wouldn't have to make any bathroom breaks!

But seriously, she was going to commit suicide via seat belt strangulation if he didn't let her out of the damn car soon! Fortunately though, she was pretty sure that him twisting his jaw back and forth right now meant that he was at least considering her request. That was progress.

So she tried to make it worth his while.

"If you'll stop, I promise that when we get back in the car, I'll be quiet for fifteen minutes."

Though he was much too polite to come out and say it, Emily knew that her chatter was driving him nuts. He had a good poker face but occasionally his eyebrow would start to twitch or he'd bite his lip and she'd know that that if he had the self control of a mere mortal, he probably would have been on the verge of busting a vessel.

A hint of a smile touched Aaron's lips when he heard Emily' offer. But his amusement faded as he suddenly felt a stab of guilt. He hadn't realized that his occasional exasperation with her feminine chit chat had been obvious enough for her to pick up on it.

It wasn't anything personal, he just wasn't used to so much well, talking. Or maybe it was just that he wasn't used to so much talking at work. His girlfriend . . . though not as verbose as Emily . . . she was also much more outgoing than he was. So Emily wasn't actually doing anything wrong, she was just being, well . . . a girl.

And he wasn't used to basically living twenty-four hours a day with a woman.

If anything though, he was the one in the wrong if he was making her feel uncomfortable. That was of course true just in principle, but also, though this assignment might have been a minor inconvenience to his career plans, it was a MAJOR intrusion into her personal life.

And he should really try to be more sympathetic about that.

And as he thought about it, he realized that it probably wouldn't do any harm to make a quick detour. He was quite sure that nobody had followed them from the city, so they were completely off the grid right now.

Not to mention, it was probably safer at the mom and pop farm stand than it would be at her grandparents' place. That was a known family retreat, but right now he was in a county he'd never even HEARD of before!

And he LIVED in Virginia!

So in an effort to make amends, for the first time in two weeks when Aaron looked back at Emily, he shot her a little smile.

"Okay, we can stop for a minute," then his smile faded as he added remorsefully, "and you don't have to be quiet when we get back in the car. I'm sorry if I did something to make you think otherwise."

Emily gave him a soft smile, "it's okay, I know I can sort of go off on the occasional ramble," then she asked cautiously, "but we can really stop?"

At his nod, her face lit up and she clapped.

"YAY!"

As she saw his mouth quiver at her enthusiastic response, Emily suddenly realized that she'd almost missed something.

"Hey!" she exclaimed, "you just SMILED!" she grinned at him, "I didn't know those muscles in your face worked."

That was unexpected. Especially given the question that had elicited it. But this was great! She was making progress with him! And she'd actually been trying to get a smile out of the man since they'd met. He was SO serious! Even by standards of security officers . . . something she had a great deal of experience with . . . his demeanor was incredibly reserved.

But even though it was only a little one . . . her eyes crinkled as she settled back in her seat . . . that was definitely a grin that she'd just seen.

Aaron snorted in amusement as he changed lanes.

Just because he CHOSE to approach his work seriously didn't mean that he wasn't capable of displaying a full range of emotional responses. Though . . . his brow furrowed slightly . . . people always seemed surprised when he did.

And he couldn't quite figure out why that was. He rolled his eyes as he hit the turn signal.

Whatever, didn't matter.

As they made the turn onto the exit ramp, Emily sighed in contentment.

This was good, they'd get a little break, some fresh air . . . it was a beautiful day . . . and maybe she could get some fresh vegetables for dinner. The pantry was always stocked with non-perishables, but fresh food was of course better. And cooking in the big kitchen would be fun.

Since they'd reinstituted her around the clock security . . . something she hadn't had since she was eighteen, four years ago . . . she'd been going stir crazy at her parents' house. Though she had her own apartment in Adams Morgan, it had been decided that it would be safer if she moved back into the main house in Woodley Park for the duration of her parents' trip abroad.

Though she understood their concerns . . . she hadn't much cared for the carved up "whore" picture either . . . the move had still sucked. Her parent's house was beautiful . . . and it came with all of the finest security amenities . . . but it was like a museum. Way too stuffy.

She missed her own stuff.

And she was on break from Georgetown for three weeks between the end of her bonus summer session and the beginning of the fall classes, so she had NO distractions. And without any lectures to attend or papers to write, she'd been wandering around that mausoleum like a prisoner. She'd already read every book in the library years earlier, she hated magazines, and her parents didn't have cable so she was stuck watching the movies she'd carted over from her house. She'd finished those up four days ago.

Hence the fervent plea to go away for the weekend.

But the movies and her VCR were in the trunk in case she got bored at the ranch house too. Actually when she first moved back to her parents, she'd forgotten that they didn't have a VCR so she and Agent Hotchner had to make a special trip back to her apartment just to pick that up.

That was day three of their time together, and the first day that she'd noticed that her constant chatter seemed to give him a bit of a headache. She'd been in the bathroom collecting some toiletries . . . talking about God knows what while she did it . . . and then she'd popped back out unexpectedly to see him sitting on the edge of the bed with his eyes closed.

He was scrubbing his hands down his face.

She'd felt a stab of embarrassment and she'd stepped back into the bathroom, hollering before she came back out again, "I'm ready." And sure enough, when she stepped out for the second time, he was standing up and slinging one of the two bags she'd packed onto his shoulder as he asked, "okay, do you need me to carry anything else?"

Just as polite and well mannered as always.

But since that day she'd made more of an effort to dial it down a little.

The sad thing was, she really wasn't doing it to piss him off. It had been more than a decade since she was resentful of the restrictions on her privacy. When Emily was eleven, and her mother was just an ambassador, there had been the first serious attempt on her mother's life.

An agent had been killed protecting her.

Emily had grown up very quickly that day her mother came home with her suit splattered in blood. And a few days later, as she stood between her parents in Arlington at that poor man's funeral, she'd come to understand that the agents assigned to look after them were just doing their jobs.

And that their job meant that if it came down to it, they would literally die for them.

From that day on she had decided that she wouldn't complain about the security restrictions again. She would just make the best of it.

That was the least she could do for the people that were sworn to protect them.

That's why she felt badly that she was irritating Agent Hotchner. Not only did she respect the job that he'd been tasked to do, but he'd also been very nice to her. He'd even sat with her the other day and gone through the Georgetown course catalog to help her pick out her fall schedule.

And that most definitely WASN'T in his job description.

The problem was that she was just naturally talkative. And he just naturally wasn't. Personality wise they didn't seem to have much in common really.

Which sucked . . . she sighed as she stared at his profile . . . because he had those fabulous cheekbones, and he was one of the first security officers she'd had since she turned eighteen, that had been within a datable age for her. His assignment wouldn't last that long, and then he'd just be a nice, cute guy that she knew.

Not that she was necessarily looking for a date.

She really just wished that she had somebody her own age to talk to. Her life was kind of lonely. After so many years of living in a bubble, being taught not to trust people, now she didn't really know how to connect with anyone anymore.

It was hard to form relationships and make friends when she had to tell everyone that she so much as had coffee with, that she needed their social security number so that the Bureau could run a background check on them.

That pretty much killed every relationship . . . romantic and platonic . . . dead in it's tracks.

That's probably why she talked too much.

It filled the silence.

Feeling her eyes start to sting, Emily began to blink frantically to keep them from pooling. It was stupid to feel sorry for herself.

Things would get better . . . she wiped the corner of her eye . . . eventually.

Aaron glanced up to the mirror to see Emily's eyes were watering. His own widened in concern . . . what the hell?

"What's wrong?" he asked worriedly.

This was the first time that he'd seen her anything less than cheerful.

Emily shook her head as she quickly slapped on a watery smile, "nothing, I'm fine. Just um," she cleared her throat, "allergies I guess. You know, country air and all."

He didn't need to know how lonely she was. That wasn't his problem.

Aaron's jaw twitched as he looked back and forth between Emily and the road. He knew a lie when he heard it.

But he really didn't think it was his place to call her on it.

Besides . . . he sighed as he saw the farm stand up ahead . . . they were trained not to get too emotionally invested with their charges. Some of the older agents had told him that was easier said than done. You spend more time with these people than their own families.

They'd warned him that sometimes it was hard not to grow attached.

And Aaron could see that becoming a problem if he was ever given one of these assignments long term. That's why he insisted on calling her "Miss Prentiss" even though by the end of that first week he only thought of her as Emily. He thought it would be easier to stay detached if he retained that formality. And he was only with her for two more weeks. It shouldn't be that hard to keep his distance a little longer. Right?

Right.

Though as he felt the pain in his gut seeing wipe the corner of her eye, Aaron realized that maintaining distance was probably going to be easier said than done.


A/N 2: As to whether or not Aaron would actually have been given a second agent to rotate with, in the real world, given the length of the assignment, I'd say, yes, of course. But for purposes here, let's just say no. I wasn't originally planning for it to be a month long thing, but then it became that as I went along and I didn't really want to write in another original character agent that was tagging along on their trip so I decided for once, I would violate my own rule and actually make my fake world fake :) So for the time being he's just a private bodyguard. But that will be explained a bit more in the 2nd chapter.

The next chapter is already done, done so it will probably be up later tomorrow. I'm really hoping to wrap this whole thing up this weekend . . . I don't want to get that many WIPS out there. But I don't want to get too bogged down in it or that's the ONLY thing I'll get up :) Right now I'm expecting to get two chapters of this up, the 2nd Wrinkle in Time, the next Girl and the last Echoes. And I believe that's actually a realistic output. Again, provided I don't let myself get too sucked up here because my brain keeps wandering back to spend some time with them on this sunny August day.