"Em, honey where are you?" Garcia called out as she let herself into Emily's apartment. Penelope had received a phone call from an incoherent Emily. She had dropped everything she was doing and rushed over. Penelope followed the sniffling that led her to Emily's bedroom. Penelope's heart broke at the sight of her friend curled up into a ball on her bed crying.
"Honey what happened?" she asked rushing to her bedside. As Penelope sat on the bed she gathered Emily into her arms,
"Talk to me honey. What's wrong?" Emily sniffed and lay her head on Penelope's lap holding on to the arms that held her for dear life.
"He's never going to be able to move on from her. It's always going to be Hayley." Emily said in such despair that it broke Penelope's heart.
"Honey he will always love Hayley. She was his first love, his best friend for over a decade, she gave him his son. She will always be a part of him, but he loves you. That man has enough love for you and Hayley."
"I will always be competing her ghost Pen. She will always be that perfect being that was taken away because of his choices. She was perfect before that, add on to it the guilt he feels for losing her, and you have someone whose memory you can never tarnish nor even dream of meeting."
"What happened?" Pen asked softly. Emily was the most unflappable person she'd ever met, and she knew that it would take a lot for her to unravel.
Ever since Emily had proved herself by standing up to Strauss and quitting before leaking any information about their team Hotch had developed a soft spot for her. One he had fought from the moment she first planted herself into his office determined to prove herself. Case by case had brought them that little bit closer, slowly yet surely. She had transitioned from subordinate, a respected colleague, to a valued friend. Though they had not yet crossed that line, there lay a definitive promise that Emily held on to tighter than she cared to admit.
After Hayley's tragic death the whole team had come around Aaron. They were there to hear their heart wrenching final goodbye. They were the first on the scene to see the strongest man they knew break in so many pieces that it was near impossible to imagine putting him back together. Jack, who was not a stranger to his team gravitated naturally to the women. At the house after JJ had taken him outside, he had flown out of her arms to wrap himself around Emily's legs. Emily who was bent over trying to catch her breath, determined not lose it was surprised to see Jack Hotchner's arms wrapped tightly around her legs. Out of everyone in the team, with the exception of his Aunt Penny who had been baby sitting him since he was little, it was Emily he saw the most often. She was Daddy's friend and in time had become his friend.
"Hey Buddy." Emily said picking him up in her arms and holding him close. Sensing that all was not well Jack wrapped his arms tightly around her neck
"Emmy, where's Mommy?" he asked breaking her heart
"She's inside Sweetheart. Your Daddy is with her."
"Can I go see her?" Emily bit back the tears
"No honey, not yet. Your Daddy will come out soon and he'll talk to you about Mommy okay." She answered,
"Can I stay here with you till he comes out."
"Of course you can Sweetheart. You can hang out with me for as long as you want." Emily looked at the house that once housed a very happy Hotchner family. She imagined the broken man inside trying his best to pick himself up off the floor and let go of his wife so he could go outside and care for the son she left behind.
Derek had ridden in the ambulance that took Hayley away. It didn't seem right to leave her alone and Aaron was grateful that someone was going to be with her, knowing he couldn't because of Jack. After the formalities Dave had taken the Hotchner boys to his cabin where Penelope was waiting with a warm meal and open arms. Jack who had reluctantly let go of Emily to join his father and Uncle Dave in the car, flew into Penelope's arms as she opened the door to greet them. Jack buried his head on her shoulder clinging on for dear life. Hotch gave her a grateful look knowing that as hard as he tried, Jack needed a woman's touch. Penelope could only nod with tears in her eyes. He saw in her eyes what words could not convey and he squeezed her hand before collapsing into one of Dave's chairs.
"Honey, why don't we get you fed? Aunt P made you your favourite." Jack lifted his head briefly with tears in his eyes and shook his head
"Come on Tiger, try and eat a few bites for me okay? I'll be there with you the whole time." Hotch watched as his son still in shock by the news he had to break to him only tighten his grip around Garcia's neck.
"Maybe in awhile then, you let me know when you tummy gets hungry but for now we can go outside and sit on Uncle Davey's porch swing." Penelope looked to Hotch for consent who gave it. Penelope knew that he was close to breaking down, and the last thing he needed was for Jack to witness it. Penelope sat down on the swing while Jack Hotchner remained wrapped around her.
Moments later the rest of the team had arrived, not at all surprised to see Jack clinging to Penelope. As Derek passed them his eyes met hers, and the reflection of what haunted them all rest beneath his eyes. He placed a hand on her shoulder needing to draw strength from her before entering Rossi's home. Pen simply tilted her head to rest her cheek on his hands, as she continued to rub Jack's back. Derek bent down to place a kiss on Penelope's forehead before braving the door before him.
Derek, JJ and Reid had made all the necessary phone calls. The only two Aaron had made was to Hayley's mother and to her sister Jessica, which was enough to kill him. JJ and Emily had packed up a lot of Jack's things so that Hotch didn't need to return to that house till he was ready to. They were going to stay at Dave's where Hotch had been living since Foyet's attack, as an unspoken solidarity they all remained.
For the weeks and months that followed they moved as well oiled machine. They had all come together to make it easier for Jack and for Hotch, everything they did was seamless. With the constant care of Penelope, Emily and JJ Jack managed to move forward little by little. When he cried for his Mom more often than not Emily was there to soothe him. Aaron was grateful to his team, and if there were any doubts beforehand, there was certainly no denying now that they were a family.
"What happened honey?" Penelope repeated as Emily remained unresponsive for a few minutes.
"He kissed me."
"Oh," Penelope said sensing that there was a but on the way,
"You should have seen the look on his face Pen. It was like he got caught cheating on his wife. It had taken him years to finally make a move and he took it back."
"Oh sweetheart. I'm sorry." Penelope said hugging her friend that little bit tighter.
"I'm sure it wasn't regret Em. He loves you. It's just guilt. He feels guilty that he can move on and it's like he's tarnishing her memory by moving on."
"I wish it was that Pen, but I don't think so." Emily said in a sad whisper.
"I don't think I can go back to work Pen. Not like this. It hurts too much. I can't be in the same room as him and pretend nothing's happened and nothing's changed. This changes everything." Penelope had to agree. If she were in the same position her first instinct would be to bolt.
"Have you talked to him?"
"What, since I ran out the door? Err no. I sort of threw my phone against the wall when I got home."
"Was he calling?"
"That's just it Pen. He wasn't."