It's always rather nerve-racking posting a new story, so feedback would be very much welcome!
You don't need to have read Calverville Point, South Dakota to understand this, but it may help with a few references!
I don't own Criminal Minds, and am making no money out of this, and after the amount of Christmas shopping I've done today, I have no money left, so don't bother trying to sue!
"But I know that I can make it
As long as somebody takes me home,
every now and then."
- The Killers, Sam's Town
Night time had dressed up for the occasion; wearing a dark blue gown, speckled with stars that shimmered in the autumn wind. The trees that lined the sidewalks had almost undressed for the season; their summer finery now blackened and scattered, blowing on the gusts that whipped between the buildings and sent shivers down the spines of the pedestrians that trod the streets of the city. The night was alive, its presence palpable by all who were alive in it, feeling its gloved fingers stroke their skin and soak them in its atmosphere. Music toppled from a bar; the sultry sounds of a smoky jazz melody haunting the passers-by.
Emily paused, hearing the music, and debated calling Hotch to change the point of their rendezvous, but the saxophone screamed soft sheets and sex, and she wasn't sure that it was the right direction for their evening. Not yet, anyway. She didn't bother to check her reflection in the large window as she turned a corner, heading down an alleyway. The wind had rippled her hair, but at least it wasn't raining, so there were no random curls, and Hotch had seen her at her worse, and best, before now. And she didn't want to appear to keen, so she'd dressed down rather than up, and kept her make up to a slightly heavier than day look, but not over done. And she'd tried not to agonise about what to wear... and she really was rather nervous.
Sounds of jazz were still audible as Emily paused, absently-mindedly smoothing down her jacket, and consciously forcing herself to relax. She did not have the greatest dating history in the world, and that would occasionally play on her mind at the beginning of any 'first date'. First date. She began to walk again, seeing the flickering lights of the Thai take out, and pushed the reoccurring thought that she was about to have dinner with her boss in a non-work setting out of her mind.
She could see through the window that he wasn't there yet; all but one of the six plastic tables were unoccupied, a middle-aged Thai man sitting near to the door. Hotch had sent her a message, telling her to speak to Kasem when she arrived, that Kasem would be expecting them. Hotch had clearly known she would be early; such was her inability to follow key dating rules.
"Hi," she said, catching the man's attention as she pushed open the door. "Are you Kasem?"
The man nodded and stood up. "Emily?" he said. "Aaron said you would be here before him. Please – choose a table." He disappeared behind the counter, and she sat down across from the door, facing the window so she could see exactly who was passing, and who was entering.
Being fifteen minutes early had been enough to see some men off in the past, suggesting an over-eagerness that screamed desperate. She certainly hadn't been desperate, not for her date anyway, just anxious that she didn't reveal herself as a nerd before they had gotten past first base.
But Hotch already knew she was a nerd. And he hadn't yet called her to cancel. She checked her cell just in case as Kasem returned with two menus.
"Aaron won't need this," he said, his accent a curious mixture of Thai and Texan. "But I'll leave him one anyway. Can I get you a drink? We have no license, so it'll have to be cola or something. Or coffee."
"A lemonade, thank you," Emily said, giving him a soft smile. He was older than she'd first thought, probably in his seventies or late sixties. "Does Aaron come here a lot?" She had no doubt that Kasem could profile as well as she could, and he would certainly know why she was asking.
He nodded. "Once a week, sometimes twice, and then we won't see him for two, three weeks. He's a busy man, but you know that. And he's always alone. Always quiet and always thinking. I'll get you your drink." Kasem disappeared again, and before she'd had chance to open the rather tatty menu, Hotch appeared, nodding at her as he came through the door.
"Is everything okay at your apartment?" he said, sitting opposite her. His expression was steadfast as usual, no emotions playing on his features.
"Just as I left it, only with a little more dust," she said. "Yours?"
"Same." He pulled a menu over and she wondered if he was feeling nervous. The thought of Hotch being anything less than sure of himself settled her own nerves, and she managed to smile. "The Pad Thai is always good."
"I was thinking of having that," she said. "Have you spoken to Jack?"
"Just before I left," he folded the menu back up and put it in the centre of the table. "He's fine. Unfortunately, Haley wasn't."
Emily tipped her head onto one side. "She was expecting you to be around in the next few days?"
"She has an engagement where she needs to stay overnight, and I can't guarantee we'll be back from Utah. It's okay – her sister will be able to look after him," Hotch said, but Emily heard the cut in his voice that told her it wasn't okay.
"Hotch, if you were a businessman, whose intent was to make as much money as possible, I could understand your guilt and Haley's blame. But you're not. Your job isn't for the good of yourself, if for Jack, and millions of other kids like him. Don't beat yourself up." She picked up the menu and looked at it. "I'm going to have Tom Khaa soup to start with."
Hotch gave her a ghost of a smile. "Be warned it comes in a polystyrene take out bowl," he said. He held her gaze. "It's a good thing you already know me, else you'd be plotting your way out of here already."
Emily laughed. "Hey, if you weren't you, I'd have already said at least four things that outed me as a nerd."
He smiled properly this time, amused at her, and any tension that had been there because of the awkwardness of the situation vacated the room. It was an odd choice of venue for what was technically a first date; it was a take-out, which just happened to have an area for seating, should anyone want to eat rather than carry. This meant that the decor was sparse and cheap, a complete contrast to some of the places that Emily had been to on first dates in the past. Not that it bothered her; she felt far more comfortable here where she didn't have to pretend, or play act, or act graceful enough to fit in with the surroundings.
Kasem appeared, holding a scrap of paper. "Aaron," he said, smiling at Hotch. "It's been a few weeks. Busy at work?"
"Unfortunately," Hotch said. "Has business been good?"
Kasem grinned, and Emily reassessed his age again. "Always good. What can I get you and the lady?"
"Two Tom Khaa soups, and," he glanced at Emily. She nodded, knowing he would understand what she was trying to communicate. "Two Pad Thais. And could I have a coffee?"
Kasem folded the scrap of paper into his back pocket. "I think my old brain can just about remember that." He almost glided into the back room, a phone ringing persistently.
"How old is he?" Emily asked, keeping her voice low, even though he wouldn't have been able to hear her anyway.
Hotch shrugged. "He won't ever say. I suspect he's older than he looks. His son is the head chef, and his wife and daughter-in-law help out. His son must be in his late forties at least. He's a nice guy. When Haley and I were having difficulties, and I was going to be very late home, I'd come here to eat. I think one week I was here five times, and the other two nights we were away on a case."
It was the second time he'd mentioned Haley and it worried Emily slightly. It wasn't usual to discuss your ex with a new date, or even an old one. You were meant to show that you'd moved on, that any hang-ups had been overcome, but she was oddly relieved that he was talking about Haley. He was trusting her, letting down a barrier.
"The food must be good then," she said. "But I still bet it's not as good as my pizza place."
"We'll have to see," Hotch leant forward narrowing the distance between them. "But I bet your pizza place doesn't have a sit in area like this." He folded his arms, challenging her.
"No," she said, not liking the fact he was trying to score one up on something other than the food. "You'd have to eat at mine."
Her words hung in the air, a lit match waiting to start a fire. She saw him bite his lips together, briefly, and that electricity, that strange chemical reaction based on nothing they could control, came back into play. "When we get back from Utah," he said, and she wondered what else he was promising apart from food.
Kasem returned with Hotch's coffee and basket of thick prawn crackers with a sweet chilli dip. His eyes twinkled as he placed it between them. "You are colleagues?" he said. "And you've had a busy day?"
Emily nodded. "A busy few days," she said. "And more busy days ahead." She groaned internally at the prospect of what lay ahead and the weariness she was already feeling. If they could have had a few days off in between, a few days to catch up on office work and spend evenings at home – with or without company. She wondered whether this tonight was some form of torture; whilst in Utah, she and Hotch would have to maintain a professional distance, more so than they had in South Dakota, and she wasn't sure if she wanted any sort of distance between them at the moment.
"Then you need to feed yourselves up," Kasem said. "Work is always done best on a stomach that's not grumbling. I'll fetch your soup – it should be done."
She saw Hotch watch the small man disappear back into the kitchen. "I wish we weren't heading out tomorrow," he said quietly, as if he had been reading her thoughts. "If we weren't, we'd have gone somewhere else."
"This is fine, Hotch," she said, biting into a prawn cracker. "I don't need fancy restaurants that serve food I don't really like and end up being so nervous about using the right fork I spill the starter down myself."
His smile turned into a low chuckle. "And I know, Emily Prentiss, that you have perfect manners and behave in a most socially acceptable way in any situation like that. You forget I've seen you in action."
She pulled a face at him and groaned. "But I hate all that pomp and circumstance. I prefer places like this where I can wear jeans and not worry if I do end up with prawn cracker crumbs round my mouth."
He reached over and brushed her mouth with his fingers, knocking off the crumbs that were already there. His touch was tender and set her on fire, a blaze burning right through her body. The effect she was now allowing him to have on her was almost frightening.
Footsteps sounded on the tiled floor and Kasem returned with their soups. The bowls weren't take-out ones as Hotch had predicted; instead they were large ceramic ones, which looked hand-made. The owner had clearly realised that this was more than colleagues grabbing a quick supper, and had decided to do what he could to help the occasion.
"I've never seen these before," Hotch said, raising his eyebrows at Kasem.
"You've never brought a pretty lady in before," Kasem said, raising just one eyebrow back and smiling at Emily. "Give my wife a shout when you're ready for your Pad Thai; I have to deliver some orders." He left them to it, taking the same route around the tables that he had done each time, rather like a mouse with OCD scarpering back into its hole.
There had been no doubt already in Emily's mind that Hotch hadn't brought any previous dates here, probably not to have even picked up take-out on the way back to his apartment. She knew from Garcia's detective work that there had been someone briefly after Haley, but it had only been brief. "You think Garcia's tracing our movements?" Emily said. "The revelation on the jet home would have been enough for her to have all of her computer super powers switched on this evening."
She saw him stifle a grin. "Cash. Road with no cameras. So unless she's stalked us here on her own two feet, she'll be oblivious. And she's not seen Kevin for several days, so I think we can be off guard. Rossi, however, could well turn up."
"He's still in South Dakota," Emily said, laughing at the look of irritation on Hotch's face.
"I'm sure he has some sort of supernatural ability to magic himself into situations just to stir things up. He ended up with me in Strauss' office a couple of weeks ago, and I swear the door was closed and he just appeared there," Hotch's dry sense of humour began to emerge. "I wouldn't be surprised to turn round now and see Dave sat there, waving at us."
"You're safe; he's not there," she said, pushing the spoon into the soup just to get the liquid, leaving the noodles and vegetables till the end.
"That's good. But he'll probably appear when we least expect it." His expression and tone were dead pan, completely flat. "Richard Davey's made an appeal."
The statement was almost out of the blue. "When did you find out?" She paused her spoon's route.
"I checked my messages just after we'd landed. There was an email from Detective Delaney." He scooped up a rather large mushroom.
"We've always thought we could get a confession out of him if we pushed the right buttons," she said, returning the spoon to the bowl. "Davey's being held at Garrison Penitentiary – that's close enough to Salt Lake that we could head over there."
Hotch nodded, his bowl nearly empty. "I think I'll have to at the very least. Or send Rossi. The evidence against him was never very strong, and his lawyer's good enough to be pulling holes and making them bigger. The prosecutor needs a confession; otherwise he could end up walking free."
She winced at the thought. Richard Davey had stalked, raped and tortured five women over a seven year period. If he was freed, he would be likely to return to his murderous habits. "When do you propose to go?"
"We'll assess the situation in Salt Lake and come up with a profile. As soon as that's done, either one or two of us will head over to Garrison. Davey's lawyer is pushing an appeal through as quickly as he can, as within the next twenty-eight days," Hotch said. "Anyway, we're talking about work. Tell me something about you that I don't know."
She shot him a look of bemusement. There was nothing like being put on the spot. "There's a lot about me you don't know, Aaron Hotchner," she warned. "And lots of it are things you shouldn't know. It could ruin the fairytale."
His eyes danced as he laughed. "I'll refine the question."
She groaned. This could not end well - being questioned by an ex-prosecutor.
"Which subject did you hate most at school?" he said. She felt her shoulders relax with relief. It could have been a lot worse.
"English. Not the literature part, but the writing part. I hated having to use my imagination and write stories and made-up articles and crap like that. What about you? I can imagine you were straight A's in everything." She picked the spoon up again and continued to eat as she waited for his answer.
He looked deep in thought for a moment. "Probably geography; more specifically political geography. I didn't mind climate, and the physical aspects, but I wasn't interested in migration and population. It seemed irrelevant at the time."
"But you still got the highest marks in your class," Emily said pointedly. "Am I wrong?"
He looked at her for a second then shook his head, clearly having decided not to try and wheedle his way out of the question. "But you also left high school as class valedictorian, so you hardly failed English, even if you disliked it."
"Isn't there some rule for prosecutors that they're not allowed to use their training out of working hours?" she said, finishing off what was in the bowl. She saw him smile. "Question for you: who was your first crush?"
"Debbie Harry from Blondie," he didn't hesitate to answer. "Who was yours?"
Emily paused, considering the question. "I think Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran was my first proper crush. I remember my mother making me take down posters of him from my walls as she was showing someone round the house for some reason. That was the day when I tried to run away for the third time that year."
Hotch didn't smile this time. "What stopped you?"
"My grandmother phoned as I was about to sneak out and told me that she was coming to stay with us for a few weeks. I went back upstairs and unpacked. My mother never knew about it," she said, surprised she was telling him about this. Her childhood seemed like a lifetime and a half ago, and it was rare she thought about the time before she was fifteen, let alone spoke about it. "Did you ever leave home?"
He shifted his eyes sway from her, and she realised she had touched on a sore spot, however much scar tissue was hiding it. "I'll give Areva a shout and let her know we're ready for the main course," he said softly. She filed away the topic, knowing that there was more to discover, he just wasn't ready to let her yet.
A rather plump woman in tradition Thai dress, but with the same Texan lilt to her voice as her husband brought them out what looked like a mountain of noodles. Its sweet, lemony fragrance was simple and plain, but managed to snatch her attention from the man who was now sat across from her once more.
"You were right," she said after having a couple of mouthfuls. "This place is good."
"Kasem used to have a restaurant in Texas, hence the strange accent. He moved there fifty years ago after stowing away on a boat. I met him nine years ago when I was working a case down there. Five weeks after the case had closed I walked down this street on the way to meet someone, and saw this place. It had the same name as his restaurant in Texas," Hotch said while Emily ate.
"Why did he move?" She eyed his plate, and assessed the chances of him leaving any.
Hotch shrugged. "I suspect he wanted a change."
"So," Emily said, trying to slow down the pace at which she was eating. "Tell me the name of a teacher you liked."
He didn't avoid the question this time. "I lied to you before. My first crush wasn't Debbie Harry. It was Miss Melling, my third grade teacher. She looked like a fairytale princess and I was besotted by her. She was kind too. I remember emptying my money box at the end of the year to buy her a really nice present. I left it on her desk at recess so she wouldn't know who it was from." He looked wistful, and Emily shifted her leg under the table to make contact with his. "What about you?"
"I had a governess called Alison for a short time when I was seven or eight and we were living in the Middle East. She was British, and very young. I thought she looked like Snow White and I couldn't take my eyes off her. She left very soon after she started, although I never knew why as my mother would never say. My other crush was on a high school teacher in senior year. He was Mr Clarke and he looked like superman. I remember sending him a valentine's card which he put up in his classroom," she said, unable to remember the last time anyone had been interested in her memories, and by the way he held her eyes with his gaze she could tell he was interested.
It was past ten o'clock by the time Hotch had paid for dinner, and they'd left the little room for the windy streets of the city. The jazz could still be heard, the sounds of the saxophone kissing the night.
"Where are you parked?" Hotch said, pulling his coat tightly around him.
"I didn't drive," Emily said. "I wanted the exercise and I like the city at this time. I was intending on taking a cab back. There's a taxi rank two blocks away."
"I'll drive you home," he said. She didn't argue. His tone told her that he had made up his mind, and besides, it would save her some the hassle. She'd also get to spend a last few minutes with him, before they reverted back to their agent-selves.
His car was a short walk away, parked just about legally. She slid into the passenger seat without speaking, taking off her coat and letting the atmosphere between them continue to cook. He was playing a jazz artist she didn't recognise, their voice sultry and haunting, not unlike the songs she had heard from the nearby bar.
"Is this music by a local group?" she said, as he drove out of the city into the suburbs towards her apartment.
"It's the resident quartet at the place around the corner from where were eating," he said. "I'll take you to see them sometime."
The butterflies that had taken over her insides sometime ago flipped a little flight of excitement at the hint he'd like to see her again in a non-work capacity. She'd thought as much; he would never have suggested or agreed to tonight if he'd had thought that this was a short thing, but they could quite easily have left it where it was and gone back to work tomorrow, as colleagues and never anything more.
"I'd like that," she said, making sure he knew she reciprocated the desire. "But we have to have pizza at mine first."
He glanced at her, taking his eyes of the road for a split second. "Sure," he said. "Or we could eat at the bar."
She nodded. Maybe having him in her apartment wasn't such a good idea for a short while. "I'll pay next time."
"Because you paid tonight. Or are you going to come over all Neanderthal and refuse to let me get my wallet out?" Emily watched his reaction, knowing that she would find it amusing. She had guessed he would want to pay; it was part of being an alpha male.
"I am definitely a Neanderthal in that respect," he said, stopping for lights. "I enjoy the feeling of having provided." He looked at her again, and this time she felt colour coming to her cheeks. She wanted to ask him in for a coffee, or something stronger, but she knew where it would lead. "You're not offended by it, are you?"
It was a question he already knew the answer to, and he was just being polite. "Aaron," she said, letting her hand squeeze his knee. Aside from the leg brushing under the table, it was the first physical contact they'd had that evening. "I don't mind at all. I just don't want you to think I'm taking advantage."
He laughed, and this time it was at her. "Why would I think that?"
She shrugged, not wanting to go into detail about previous dates, where her supposed knight in shining armour had demanded that she pay, as they'd either left their wallet at home, knew who she was, or had just been fired and therefore had no funds.
He pulled up outside her apartment block and turned off the engine. She felt awkwardness eclipse them, and pushed her hair back from her face as she looked at him. "I want to ask you in for a coffee, or a glass of wine, but I don't know if this is the right time."
He nodded, and she saw the same conflicting thoughts crossing his face. "I think I should wait here, and see you turn the light on in your bedroom so I know you're in safely," he said.
"This isn't a real first date, Hotch. We've known each other long enough, and we're both adults who are compos mentis..." She knew she was lacking in will power.
He unclipped his seat belt and leant over to her, putting a hand behind her head and entwining his fingers in her hair. She closed the distance between them, her own arms wrapping around his torso.
There was restraint in his kiss, and in the way he held her. She could feel passion underneath his skin, bubbling up within his veins and she felt proud that it was her who was causing that. The kiss deepened as she ran her hand under his shirt and jacket, and he pulled her closer to him, her knee knocking against the handbrake.
"Sorry," he murmured, before reclaiming her. There was an insistence behind the softness, a toughness that she knew she was matching. And then he began to slow it down, and she became conscious of the effect he was having on her body, even though his hands had never strayed from her hair and her back.
"Aaron," she said, a whisper, as his piles moved a centimetre from hers. She opened her eyes and looked into his, feeling the grip of his fingers on his waist, underneath the sweater she was wearing. She saw the need in them, and knew it was mirrored in her own. "Come back to mine."
"Not tonight," he said.
"You want to add Josephine on the end of that?"
He grinned and she felt his laughter. "I haven't made out in a car for years," he said, studying her. She felt suddenly self conscious, knowing that her lips would be swollen, her lipstick smudged, and two potentially visible signs on her chest of the effect he'd had on her. He kissed her again, this time it was less demanding, sweeter, with just a subtle hint of fire. "If I come back to yours I won't be able to think of anything else tomorrow." His voice was little more than a murmur, his breath stroking her skin like butterfly wings. "I need it to be a night when I don't have to be restrained the next day. I'm only so good at putting on a mask." His hands left her waist and grazed up her sides, enflaming her skin. His thumbs brushed the sides of her breasts through her bra and she wondered if he noticed the shiver that went through her.
"You know, Hotchner," she said, when she trusted herself to be able to speak without her voice wavering. "It had better be good after all this." She pulled away, inhaling deeply, her body screaming in protest.
She heard him laugh as she closed the door, and then had to reopen it to grab her coat. "I'll see you tomorrow. I'm now going to try and sleep."
"Same here," he said, his voice still controlled and unflustered, whereas hers, she knew, couldn't conceal what she was feeling right now. She wanted to make him lose that control. "See you tomorrow."
She closed the door again, and made her way into her apartment block and up the stairs, trying to burn off some unspent energy. Once the alarm had been deactivated, she headed straight for her bedroom, flicking on the light and looking out of the window. She saw Hotch's car lights come back on, and he drove off slowly, having waiting for the sign that she was inside and safe. She remained at the window, watching the leaves dancing around outside to a tune that was all their own and tasting Aaron Hotchner on her lips.
Derek Morgan slipped quietly out from under the covers and pulled on clothes that had been discarded in a hurry. He wanted to get home, get some sleep, and get out of Jacey's apartment before her sister showed up drunk again, alternately demanding that he fix up something more permanent with Jacey, or started sleeping with her.
He felt oddly dissatisfied as he glanced at the sleeping woman. Jacey didn't turn to where he had been lay and reach for him, or call out his name like you might see in the movies. She was oblivious to his vacating, and Morgan knew that for her, it was easy if he wasn't there in the morning. What they had wasn't a morning thing. What they had wasn't really a thing at all – there was certainly no substance to it, apart from physical. And convenience. She was a managing director of a medium sized business with no time to find or carry out a relationship, and no real desire to do so either. And for him; she was attractive and available and uncomplicated.
So why was he restless?
He closed the apartment door gently and made his way down the stairs, knowing that the sister would take the lift. It was a short walk to the place where he'd left his car, and he hoped that the night's cold air would soothe him a little, provide him with some solace.
As he reached his car he heard voices arguing and then a cry. Backing up, he peered down the alleyway he'd ignored and saw a couple, the man pinning the woman up against the wall.
"You wanna back down?" Morgan said, pulling out his credentials and flashing them, his other hand already on his weapon.
"It's fine, it's fine," the woman said. It clearly wasn't. Tears were streaming down her face, and even in the dim light he could see she was panicked.
The man released his grip on her. "See," he said, holding up both of his palms in surrender. "She says it's fine. She just likes it a bit rough. Now you've interrupted us, we'll just take it back to our apartment."
He wasn't what Morgan would class as a typical thug. He wore a suit, now in slight disarray, which looked expensive. He was older, in his late forties, and the woman was only slightly younger. She was attractive, her hair expensive styled, and Morgan recognised her from Jacey's apartment block. If he wasn't mistaken, she was a stockbroker and had another apartment in New York.
"You sure you're okay?" Morgan said, knowing that she wasn't. Her sobs had calmed now, and she had regained some composure.
"I'm fine. We just got carried away," she said. "It's no problem. Have a good evening." He nodded, and walked to his car, making an issue of fiddling with his wing mirror while they walked away, the man's hand now around her waist.
Morgan felt consumed with frustration. He knew what the scenario would be when they got back to her apartment. He knew what the man would do to her. There would be bruises where no one would see for days afterwards, and yet she would still apologise, believing him when he said it was all her fault, too scared to push him away for good.
He got into his car and drove home, a bad taste in his mouth lingering. One he knew would not go away.
I hope this lives up to any expectations you may have had. Please drop me a line – it'll keep me motivated. Updates will be every other day, or every three days depending on how much socialising my other half makes me do over the Christmas season!
I've also written a one shot based on Hotch and Emily, that's a sequel to this (!) called After the Darkness. It's only short, but if you read it, please let me know what you think!
Reviews are adored as much as chocolates off the Christmas tree!