TV PROMPT CHALLENGE WRITERS: quick note (that you can skip if you're not following the forum, etc) again. So the new guidelines have been posted and there's a new community for all of the stories that do not focus on Hotch/Prentiss or JJ/Rossi. We're accepting any pairing now, as well as friendship or whatever else you want to write. If you want to take a crack at writing something in the fandom and you're not sure what, pop over to the challenge and see what you can find. Maybe something there will spark an idea or at least your interest.
Happy writing and I shall hold you back no longer!
December 31, 2009
Aaron stared at Haley's grave marker.
He wasn't sure he'd even wanted to come. A lot of the emotion surrounding Haley's death, regardless of Emily and Jack, had only been buried. Sitting at her grave, it all came rushing back. Yet, he knew that being here, staring at his ex-wife's resting place, was something he had to do and by the way Emily had looked at him at the breakfast table that morning, she very much understood.
His mind was a whirl of emotions, suffocating him with their intensity. Aaron knew that adjusting was going to take time and putting off the big decisions he had to make really wasn't going to help. He'd truly been hoping the answers would just come to him. He hadn't been that lucky. Jack, Emily, the BAU… he really wasn't sure what to do about any of it.
One step at a time, he heard Emily say in his head. So, with a deep breath, he closed his eyes and forced his mind to take one track at a time.
His thoughts automatically fell to Jack first. There was no doubt that there had been a few hiccups in the last month with Haley gone, but Aaron liked to believe that Jack was adjusting to life without his mother. He hadn't acted out, and even his crying jags, while painful to watch, had been fewer than Aaron had expected. His son still got sad, especially when they did things that Jack and Haley had done together, but all in all, Jack was okay. He'd be starting back at school in the New Year and Aaron had found a nice place that wasn't too far from home. It was a half-day kindergarten and he'd even had Penelope do a quick background check of all of the staff, just in case.
Which led him to track two.
The Bureau had been a big part of his life for years. The prosecutor's office had simply been unsatisfying for him, too far after the fact to feel like he was really doing much to help. He'd wanted to stop the criminals and so, he'd gotten into the FBI. The BAU had been Dave's doing, the elder profiler snatching Aaron out of one of his behavioural classes while he was on SWAT. He enjoyed his job, there were no two ways about it. There was real satisfaction in catching the UNSUB, a thrill when the profile was spot on. His team was the best, his family and they'd proven that, but he didn't want to miss any more of Jack's life either. He wasn't sure that going back to the BAU would allow him to be there for Jack now that he was his son's only remaining parent.
There was no doubt in his mind that if he chose to return to the BAU he would be taking the unit chief position again. It wasn't that Derek wasn't doing a good job – quite the opposite, actually – more that they just didn't work that way. Derek didn't want the unit chief job, at least not yet, not now that he'd experienced it first hand, and Aaron could respect that. Plus, their rhythm had been odd at the beginning of the switch and he knew the rest of his team, his family, waited anxiously for the days when things would be back to normal. Aaron had no doubt that someday, Derek would be an excellent unit chief, but he also knew that today wasn't that day.
Being Unit Chief, however, had other implications that he needed to consider. Most specifically, he knew his relationship with Emily would be affected by whichever decision he made. If he stayed, they'd be stuck dealing with fraternization issues and even though Aaron knew a handful of relationships that had started on the job and worked just fine, he knew that their team was going to be watched like hawks when he returned and he didn't like the idea of Emily being under the microscope anymore than he enjoyed it himself. But if he didn't return to the BAU, their relationship was going to take a hit anyway. It was different seeing the same things on a daily basis and being told about them. He had no doubt that Emily wouldn't do it out of protection, per se, just a need to keep him upbeat, happy and lighthearted.
And he was sure now that he wanted it all. In fact, it was the only thing he was truly sure of. His dream had proven to him that losing her would probably break him just as terribly as he'd been broken when Haley had walked out. Emily was dynamic, she was strong, she was beautiful and she was loving. She loved his son and he knew, even if she'd never said it, that she loved him. They only problem was that he wanted to be able to give her everything. Emily deserved every part of him and even though she'd been taking on the burden of his guilt since Haley's funeral, it wasn't fair to her in the long run to have to fight the memory of a woman he hadn't been in love with for years.
Aaron ran a hand through his hair with a heavy sigh. He'd hoped being here would calm his mind, focus him, allow him to see with startling clarity exactly how to balance everything. Instead, his gut was presenting him with decisions that would require a feat of acrobatic ability if he wanted to make it all work.
He looked up as a gentle hand rested on his shoulder.
"I figured I'd find you here," Emily said quietly. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but Jack and I were getting worried."
Aaron looked around. "Where is he?"
"I dropped him off at JJ's. She was happy to watch him until we got there and Jack seemed just as excited to get the chance to play with Henry," she replied, her thumb soothingly stroking the side of his neck. The team was congregating at JJ and Will's to watch the ball drop. "Did she help you figure things out?"
He let out a heavy sigh. "I'm coming back to the BAU," he told her softly.
"I know," she answered after a moment and Aaron was struck with the thought that she'd known he was going to make that choice all along. "I know you," she continued, a smile in her voice. "The BAU is in your blood, just like each and every one of us." She paused again. "We'll make it work, Aaron. You don't have to do any of this by yourself."
His hand came up to squeeze hers, hoping that she meant things between them as much as he knew she meant balancing Jack with his work. "I appreciate that."
"We're your family," she admonished. "You need to start believing that."
"I do," he answered. "It just takes time to sink in."
She chuckled, a low sound that despite the solemn melancholy that was characteristic of a graveyard, warmed his insides. Emily squeezed his shoulder. "Are you ready to go?"
Aaron took a deep breath, then released it. "Yeah." He stood, taking her hand and pausing a moment to look at Haley's grave.
Emily followed his eyes, focusing on the loose dirt. I'll take care of him, she promised Haley's memory, squeezing Aaron's hand. Both of them.
Aaron smiled as he made his way back to JJ and Will's living room. He'd just poked his head in on Jack and Henry, both of whom had fallen asleep hours ago, long before being able to ring in the New Year. They were curled in JJ and Will's bed, the picture of complete innocence as Jack slept with a hand on Henry's stomach. Aaron wrapped his arm around Emily as she held out a wineglass of champagne.
"They're good?" she asked quietly.
"Still completely out," he replied.
Her hand rubbed his back slightly. "And he was so excited to stay up."
"Peek-a-boo can be exhausting," JJ piped up, sitting on the couch beside Will. Reid was on Will's other side, Dave perched on the arm beside the media liaison. Penelope and Derek shared the other couch while Emily and Aaron chose to stand. Aaron felt the warmth in his blood, the comfort of having his family around him. He didn't feel lonely, didn't feel like the world was crashing down around him like he had assumed it would following Haley's death. He allowed his fingers to trail along Emily's hip.
Silence fell in the room before Penelope said, "Let's talk resolutions."
"You first, Mama," Derek cajoled squeezing her shoulder from where his arm rested on the back of the couch.
"I have decided," Penelope began triumphantly, "That I am never going to stop telling my family how much they mean to me." She met each of their eyes in turn. "We've been through so much in the last year and I realized how important it is to make sure the people you love know."
"We love you too," JJ said, tears having flooded her eyes.
Penelope smacked Derek with a sniffle. "Alright Hot Stuff, your turn."
"I have decided to make someone's life easier every day," Derek replied haughtily. His eyes met Aaron's and the undertone wasn't lost on the once-and-future Unit Chief.
JJ took the next turn, vowing to spend more time with her family. Will got laughs and 'awe's when he vowed to get JJ a proper engagement ring. Reid, at Penelope and Derek's insistence - because he didn't believe in making resolutions - resolved to get out more, a resolution that set the room alight with laughter. Dave promised to start taking advantage of life's opportunities, aiming for less regrets in his life. Then the circle came around to Emily.
"I promise," Emily began quietly, her head falling to Aaron's shoulder where he inhaled the scent of coconut and flowers, "to focus on the happiness of tomorrow and what the future holds and try not to dwell on what has happened in the past."
Then, it was Aaron's turn and he found himself watching as the crowd in Times Square got rowdier as the clock drew closer and closer to midnight. He had a whole bunch of resolutions he'd made for himself and had actually written them down on a piece of paper he kept tucked firmly away in his box of tax receipts. But he knew he only had to share one and as he filed through the list in his head, one popped to the forefront. "I vow to never forget that I have a family," he said quietly. Emily squeezed his side slightly her smile watery but radiant.
"Damn right you do," Dave said passionately as the crowd in Times Square started counting down to midnight. Dave raised his glass. "To 2010, a year filled with happiness and family."
"I'll drink to that," Derek agreed heartily, clinking his glass with Penelope's. The countdown started just as they lowered their glasses, anticipation thick in the room as New York counted down the last 10 seconds of 2009. Emily tilted her head towards him as they hit the last five seconds, the last three numbers a brush of his breath against her lips.
Aaron's lips met hers in a kiss just the right side of proper for public. He smiled down at her, his thumb drawing absent circles on her hip before he turned to accept good wishes from Penelope.
"Happy New Year!" Penelope exclaimed, kissing Aaron's cheek and hugging Emily tightly. Emily chuckled, leaning down to kiss Reid's cheek, then progressing to Dave. Eventually, she returned to Aaron's side and as the rest of the team continued to celebrate, Aaron pulled Emily out of the room. He wanted a few moments with her, away from the prying eyes of the team. When he stopped, he pulled her close, kissing her again, this one less innocent and chaste than the one he'd bestowed upon her in front of the team.
She was breathing heavily as he pulled away. "Hmm… Happy New Year to you too," she said lowly.
He smiled, taking in the sparkling pink of the crown Penelope had plopped on her head the minute they'd walked in the door. "I wanted to talk to you," he told her softly.
His hand came up to cup her face in his palm, his smile falling away with the seriousness of the moment. He'd come to another conclusion while he was driving back to his apartment, dropping off one of the cars before heading off to JJ's. Haley wouldn't want him to feel guilty, at least, not to the point where he wouldn't be able to love again. Dave had been right, Haley would have wanted him to love again, to show his son that even when people got hurt, they picked themselves back up and built around it. Emily had been integral in the adjustments he and Jack were continuing to make and would probably be making for some time. He really couldn't imagine what his life would be like without her in it.
"I can see myself falling in love with you, Emily," he told her quietly, eyes intense, thumb stroking her cheek. "I'm not there yet, but it's a distinct possibility."
Emily understood. The guilt still haunted him, and as long it was a strong fixture in his emotional mind map, he wasn't going to be able to love her the way he defined it. But she knew he would try, not just because she wanted him to, but because he knew, he'd learned and he understood that while he could probably do it all alone, it was more memorable and more fun when he had someone else. And while she knew she was in love with him, she replied, "I'm falling in love with you too."
"I know," he told her as he kissed her again, unable to stop himself. "And I don't know why."
Emily rolled her eyes. "Okay, buster, we're going to make a rule that you're not allowed to question my feelings," she told him, voice stern, but eyes soft.
"I'll put that on my list of resolutions," he promised, actually giddy with the thought of a new year, a clean slate, and the people that meant the most to him. Eventually, he knew, he and Emily would build something more. Eventually, if everything went well, she'd be a permanent fixture in his life, and in the life of his son.
And Aaron could feel it, 2010 was going to be a good year indeed.
Now THIS, I am incredibly happy with. I did it by hand, which was my first excellent choice of the day, and it just flowed out of my fingers. My brother was making fun of me when we were playing Yahzee tonight because I was typing it on my iPod as I was playing to try and keep my thoughts moving.
Okay, I know I'm going to regret this, but I'm going to say it anyway:
I'm willing to keep playing in this universe. Yeah, you read that right. Even after I've said a million times that it's such a bad idea for me to start something new, I am willing, for you guys, to keep going in this. ON ONE CONDITION! You guys have to tell me what you want to see. I have a couple of ideas floating around and I know there's a handful of you out there that want to see Emily's first case back and Hotch's first case back and how they deal with Jack while being away, but I have other things too. The plan is to set it out as a series of oneshot glimpses, but I'm going to kind of try and keep it within a year so that I can plan them out and just write them in chronological order.
I'm taking suggestions as well. If there's something you guys would like to see, let me know in either a message or a review and I'll work it in.
Now, I'm not suggesting I'm going to start it immediately. I do want to see if I can get something else done before I delve into this one, but knowing me, my life doesn't work that way. I have a moving one floating around in my head right now because Emily's been staying with the boys and everything and if it doesn't get out of my head by the time I get out of the bathtub, I'm going to write it out.
This one is done. We hit New Years, we hit midnight, the kiss... So there is nothing more to do here. Thank you so much to all of you who have been following this and who followed HCW. I appreciate all of your reviews and everything you've said, even if I've been a little lax lately in getting back to you.
Drop me a review and I'll see you next time!