Author's Note: Thanks so much everybody for the feedback on the last chapter. I haven't had a chance to respond to everybody yet, but again thank you!
This is picking up with Emily a few minutes after Hotch left her upstairs.
TV Bonus Challenge #22
Show: One Tree Hill
Title Challenge: I Can't See You, But I Know You're There
Known & Unknown
Emily's nose wrinkled in disgust as she stood in front of the bathroom mirror.
She looked terrible.
But of course that was to be expected after her morning long on again off crying. Her face was sticky, her eyes were puffy and there were ruddy splotches on her cheeks. And then of course there was her hair . . . she tipped her head slightly to the side . . . with all of the cleaning and the packing and the moving about, half of the bun she'd put up after her shower had fallen out. So now the lose strands were sticking to her skin as they hung down in sweaty strings.
Really . . . with a sigh she turned on the cold water before picking up the bar of Dove . . . not only did she look bad, she felt pretty gross too. Aaron was right . . . she started washing her face and neck . . . they'd stayed long enough.
It was definitely time to go home.
Not that they hadn't had a good weekend . . . her eyes crinkled slightly as thought back to the developments in her relationship with Aaron . . . okay, this was better than just a good weekend.
It was a great weekend.
And regardless of how things might eventually go with Aaron, she knew that this was a weekend that she would always remember as a positive turning point in her life. Though they were still very early days, she knew for a fact that this was going to be her first real relationship. Aaron Hotchner would be her first real love affair . . . a soft smile touched her lips as she remembered the touch of his fingers on her skin . . . he was going to be her first everything. And she knew it would be better to focus in on all of those good things that were coming than to think about the sadness clinging to her past.
'And your present,' a little voice reminded her.
Right . . . she felt a pang in her chest . . . her present. Even though these new developments with Aaron made her very happy . . . it was happiness in a bubble. That's why she'd been crying all morning. Saying goodbye to this place had reminded her once more how much she missed her parents and how much she wanted things back again to the way they were before.
Back when the three of them were a real family and not just a list of names on a birth certificate.
Okay . . . she felt a guilty dig . . . perhaps that was unkind, but still, that's how she felt so often these days. That they'd become a family in name only. So clearly her issues with her parents . . . their absence from her life . . . that was something ongoing. Ongoing with no end in sight. And part of her so badly wanted to talk to them about it, to tell them how much their distance affected her.
How much it hurt her.
But she also knew that her discontent was childish. Her parents were very busy, very important people, doing very important things. And it was wrong of her to even consider making them feel guilty simply for being who they were. They had raised her well and clearly they felt that now she was old enough to make her own way in the world. So she just needed to suck it up . . . she felt a wave of self loathing . . . she was being weak.
And Prentiss' were strong.
Really . . . she asked herself scornfully . . . did her mother get to be a United States Ambassador or the first female Secretary of State by sitting around and whining about her problems? No. She went out and made something of herself. Something wonderful. Amazing.
She was a role model for women around the globe.
And now . . . Emily took a breath as she began fixing her hair . . . it was time for her daughter to try to make something of herself as well. This was her last year at Georgetown and then she'd have to decide about a Master's program and a career and really . . . a life. That's definitely what she needed to build this year . . . a life of her own.
Of course that's what her parents assumed she already had.
And of course they couldn't have been more wrong.
But with her blossoming relationship with Aaron, and the busy year ahead of her in school, she was sure that she was on the right path for that now. And then hopefully having a real social life and a real career path would help her make peace with her family issues. She bit her lip.
Regardless though . . . she shook her head slightly to clear away the creeping melancholy . . . she knew that it would probably be best if she stopped coming to the cabin. Not forever, just . . . for awhile. This place . . . the pictures, the décor, everything about it . . . it was a time capsule.
A monument to the past.
And the past wasn't a healthy place for anyone to live. It was time to look to the future . . . Emily took a breath as she stared at her now more attractive reflection in the mirror . . . so she would wait until she'd come to some reconciliation with these changes in her family life . . . and then she'd try to come here again.
For now though . . . she felt a little surge of confidence as turned to step out of the bathroom . . . it was time to put this place in her rearview mirror.
It was time to move on.
And as she stepped back into the upstairs hallway she resolved to put on a happy face for the rest of the day. Not only did she owe it to herself to not leave with bitterness, but she also owed it to Aaron too. It wasn't right to drag him down.
Speaking of Aaron . . . Emily's brow wrinkled as she noticed the time on the grandfather clock in the hall . . . where was he? Though she hadn't taken specific note of the time when he went outside, it was now almost nine thirty and she was pretty sure that it was just after nine when he said he was going to the car. She'd been fairly lost her in her own thoughts there for awhile so she hadn't really noticed the time passing, but now that she had . . . it seemed like too much time had passed.
And as she thought back on the only two tasks he said he was going to perform . . . putting a box in the car and walking around back to the turn off the water . . . she started to feel slightly uneasy. Because those two things together should have taken like, six, seven minutes tops. And she was quite sure that they were now closing in on at least fifteen minutes. So again . . . she walked over to the landing . . . where was he?
"Aaron!" she called out loudly, "are you downstairs?"
Then she listened for a moment . . . nothing. And the cabin was good size but it wasn't that big. If he was down there he definitely would have heard her.
Emily stepped over to the upstairs bay window to look out to the front yard.
Maybe he was putting air in the tires or something.
And . . . she began nervously chewing on her lower lip as she stared down at the car . . . no. Definitely not putting air in the tires.
In fact, she thought while pushing the curtain all the way back, there was no sign of him anywhere. And this window was so large that it looked over all of the front yard, and most of the side yard as well.
She swallowed as the curtain fell back.
Okay Aaron, then where did you go?
Now feeling her unease escalating to genuine fear, Emily still tried not to let her imagination run away with her. There had to be a logical reason for his delay. So as she stared out at the sun beating down on the front yard, she tried desperately to think of one good . . . plausible . . . reason for him not having come back to the house yet.
There wasn't one.
Because in her bones she just knew . . . he wouldn't have left her this long. She'd told him that she'd be ready in five minutes well over ten minutes ago, so he knew that she'd be waiting for him, and then worrying when he didn't return. Beyond that though, he was so hyper vigilant about her safety that she just couldn't envision any scenario where he would have purposely left her alone for more than five minutes.
Not if everything was okay.
Not if he was okay.
Feeling the first tendrils of genuine panic begin to float up, Emily took a breath to try to steady her nerves. Panic was not her friend. Panic was not going to help her find out what had happened to Aaron.
For that she needed to stay calm and focused.
But of course as possible delay scenarios began to run through her mind, calm and focused was the last thing that she felt. Even though the two of them had made a very personal connection, there was still a professional reason that her life had intersected with Aaron's.
A very bad, professional reason.
And they were out in the middle of nowhere so if that very bad professional reason had suddenly turned up when Aaron was out there all alone, then . . .
Emily's eyes slammed shut.
No, no, no! None of that. That was panic now working with blind speculation. She needed real information.
Facts, not conjecture.
Okay . . . her eyes popped open as she rubbed her hands nervously up and down her arms . . . facts. So what did she know? He'd been gone far too long. Also, she knew for sure that he'd locked her in the house when he left . . . that was a given . . . so she was safe.
For now anyway.
But she tried to push that thought aside . . . that was speculation . . . as she again focused on what she knew for sure. Well, as much as it sucked, she knew that she couldn't go out and look for him. She wasn't allowed to go anywhere . . . even so far as the front porch . . . without her bodyguard at her side. That was a hard rule from her childhood. And definitely not one that she was about to break right now. Not only would Aaron be absolutely furious with her, but also . . . she wasn't an idiot.
Her eyes began to sting.
If something had happened to him . . . a big, strong, armed federal agent . . . then she wouldn't have a chance by herself.
Feeling the tears start to well up as she suddenly pictured Aaron hurt . . . or worse, Emily had to stop for a moment to regain her composure. But then she angrily wiped her eyes as she reminded herself that she had no time for this now. If he was hurt . . . and she was now stopping her imagination from going further than that . . . then it was up to her to get them help.
And she needed to do that now . . . she started running towards the stairs . . . while she was still safe in the house. Because if somebody had hurt Aaron . . . she galloped down the steps . . . then that somebody was going to be working on a way to get inside.
Working on a way to get to her.
Feeling her stomach flip as her straight razor dream flashed through her mind again, Emily shoved that thought aside as she bounded in the living room. And she was about to keep going out to the front hall . . . out to the panic button on the alarm system . . . when suddenly she froze.
It wouldn't do to go running blindly around corners.
Yes, she was sure the house was locked, and yes, the alarm would have started screaming if anyone but Aaron came in the front door, but still . . . you never know.
And she wasn't going to die like some stupid girl in a horror movie.
So she stopped for moment, simultaneously catching her heaving breath as her eyes darted around the room looking for something she could use as a weapon.
She hurried over and grabbed the poker from the stand . . . perfect . . . then she spun around, taking another breath as she did.
Okay . . . she pushed off her sneakers so she wouldn't squeak on the hardwood floors . . . now she just had to go out into the hallway and push the button. And then . . . she started moving her bare feet slowly across the living room . . . that would trigger a little red light and big loud noise back on a board back in Washington. Of course help from Washington was hours away, but at least they'd know something was wrong here. And then they'd call the sheriff to send a car to the cabin.
And that's what she needed right now . . . people with badges and guns. Her eyes started to sting again as she got to the doorway.
And as soon as they got here then she was throwing the house rule out the window.
She was going out to look for Aaron.
Quickly blinking the tears away again, she stopped for a second trying to remember how she'd seen her handlers go around corners.
If they weren't sure what was on the other side, then they always ducked down. And knowing that they ducked to prevent anyone from getting a good surprise head shot, she decided that moving all the way to the floor would be her best bet. After all she was the girl that had her face slashed to ribbons in the picture.
It would be really nice if that didn't happen in real life.
So she moved to a squatting position, pressing herself back tightly against the wall by the bookcase. Then she poked her head slightly around the corner, just enough so that she could see to the end of the hall.
And thank God . . . she slowly exhaled . . . nothing to see.
Or at least . . . her eyes snapped in the opposite direction . . . nobody to see. And that was good . . . she pushed herself up . . . that was great. And now there were only twelve paces to go.
Now feeling more emboldened, she decided it was time to move faster . . . even a relay to a sheriff's car was probably going to take another ten minutes . . . so she stepped into the hall and started to run. She hadn't taken more than five steps when she heard a noise and froze again.
Her eyes popped . . . the lock was turning.
her heart started galloping.
Shit! Shit! SHIT!
Was that Aaron! Or was it somebody else?! Should she stay or hide?!
MAKE A DECISION!
The scream in her head forced her feet moving again, the living room was too far back to hide, so she sprinted to her father's den.
Emily had just leapt out of the hall when she heard the door bump against the wall. And then she waited to hear the little beep, beep, beep, of the alarm code being punched into the system.
But it didn't come.
And her eyes started to water as she instead heard footsteps begin moving away from the door.
"Emily . . . where are you?"
Her eyes widened in shock and horror . . . she knew that voice. A tear ran down her cheek . . . she knew it well.
But it wasn't Aaron's.
A/N 2: Yes, I know, many a pointy object is being hurled at my head. But I've said it before, if you must throw something pointy, stick with the bananas, anything else I'll end up with a corneal scratch. All I can promise you is that there really truly is just ONE more chapter left so this would be the end of the cliffies. I really had planned initially to wrap to a certain point here and then do a straight epilogue to catch up later, but when I was cleaning it up Emily was moving really slowly to the front door and pretty soon I had like eight pages on her alone so I decided to cut it where we are.
Though Emily's had no actual law enforcement training in this world, she's clearly quite sharp. And if she's spent her entire life to that point surrounded by armed body guards, I feel like she would have at least picked up a couple basics on the smartest way to move around in an unknown situation.
Okay, I'll try to get the end up next weekend. I have like three things sooooo close to done it's killing me. So there should be a couple other things up this week. Maybe one more tonight, depends on when I go to bed :)