A/N – An alternate ending to "Outfoxed" for all the Hotch/Emily shippers.

Smiling Her Way Through the Pain

Prompt: Happy Days – "It Only Hurts When I Smile"

Sitting next to him in the warm SUV, Emily shielded her eyes against the bright sunlight as Hotch sped down the busy interstate. Licking her lips, Emily winced as Hotch swerved around yet another car, narrowly missing a collision with the small compact automobiles right bumper. "Hotch, slow down," Emily said, forcing her voice to remain calm as she watched his face tighten. "You won't do anyone any good if you get yourself killed this afternoon."

"He's taunting me! That sick son of a bitch is just waving a red flag in front of my nose, Emily!" Hotch yelled sharply, slapping an angry fist against the leather of the steering wheel.

"Hotch, calm down," Emily ordered, maintaining an even softness in her voice. "Please," she added quietly. Watching as the man beside her inhaled deeply and struggled to regain control, she saw him slap on the blinker and slowly ease their SUV off the side of the road.

Sitting silently beside him for a long minute, she watched him shake his dark head as he closed his eyes, his hands gripping the steering wheel with a grip that whitened his knuckles. "I love them both so much," Hotch confessed on an agonized hoarse whisper.

Emily grimaced as his admission ripped through her fragile heart, destroying all hope for what might have been developing between them. Silently thanking God that his eyes remained closed; Emily struggled to paste an impassive mask on her face. Regardless of what her hopes and dreams might have been, she loved the man beside her with everything in her. He needed her strength right now. She could be weak later…when she was alone…when she could give herself permission to lower her defenses and grieve for what would never be between them. For now, she had a job to do….and that was keeping Aaron Hotchner in one fragile piece.

She forced herself to paste what she prayed was a reassuring smile on her lips. God, that hurt, but as long as he didn't know, she could deal with the pain. "Aaron, look at me," she demanded, her words bouncing off the still confines of the SUV, the only sounds inside the vague swishing of traffic passing around their vehicle.

Waiting until he'd lifted his dark, sorrowful eyes to meet hers, she said, "We're going to find him. Then, we're going to bring Jack and Haley home where they belong. All you have to do right now is believe. Believe in that…in them. Can you do that?" she asked slowly.

Seeing his mute nod, she gently touched his arm. "Okay, good. Then our first step is to get back to the station and share this information with the others. Safely and in one piece, okay?" she added with a raised brow. "Can you do that?"

"Yeah," Hotch replied shakily, taking another cleansing breath as he allowed her carefully modulated voice to soothe him. "I can do that," he said softly, releasing his tightened grip around the wheel to rest his palms lightly against it as he listened to the sounds of their combined breathing inside the SUV. Swallowing past the lump of emotion clogging his throat, he murmured roughly, "Thanks, Prentiss."

Nodding because trusting her voice at this point wasn't a possibility, Emily made herself smile again. The pain of that one simple gesture almost shattered her. But, she told herself sternly, there'd be plenty of time for her to rage against the fates later. For now, they had a family to save.

FINIS