Show: China Beach

Prompt: One Small Step

Author's Note: I own absolutely nothing. Literally. Just ask my bank! Okay, so there is this one car . . . but I digress.

Some pointless fluff that came to me when I wondered whether I hadn't done something to somehow upset a very good friend. Turns out that it was simply a communications breakdown, but the muse had produced so I decided to post anyway. BTW, why is there no genre option for "fluff"? There should be! :)

Mr. Slinky

Aaron Hotchner wasn't normally the kind of man who slunk anywhere. All things being equal, he was usually a "full ahead flank and damn the torpedoes" kind of guy. That's how he normally ended up slamming through the glass doors of the Unit of a regular basis, scaring the living daylights out of anyone who wasn't used to his behaviour. Today was different though. Today he eased open the door and tried to make his way inconspicuously across the bullpen to his office. He made it about two steps.

"Morning, Hot-"

Reid was way too effervescent on this particular morning, and his annoying voice immediately drew one of the nastiest glares in Hotch's arsenal – stopping his greeting abruptly as he cowered back in near abject terror. It really was one of those days.

Seeing greetings on the faces of several others as he tried to shuffle along the wall of the room, he conducted a series of pre-emptive glare strikes, sending people reeling in their wake. It wasn't pleasant. It wasn't nice. It certainly wasn't humane - but it did keep down the noise. Of course, it completely and utterly ruined any pretence of slinking into his office, and thus avoiding the attention of one David Rossi. Crap!

So he'd barely even had the chance to drop his briefcase when said man strolled into his office, practically as though he owned the place.

"Morning, Aaron. What's up?" The enquiry was polite enough, but Hotch could detect the undertone of curiosity which knew immediately condemned him to a lengthy interrogation. Damn the man! How the heck did he always manage to insert himself into every single personal event in his life!!! The only thing to do was respond with false bravado, in the vain hope that the inquisition could be deflected.

"Morning, Dave. Nothing much. You?"

"Really?" Hotch practically winced at the tone of subtle disbelief. He was so screwed!

"Yes. Really." At least there was always denial.

"Uh huh." He rolled his eyes internally. How the hell did Dave always know? "So why is a certain agent on our team sitting at her desk, looking somewhat dejected?"

"I have no idea." Yup, stonewall. That was always the best approach with Dave.

"Aaron? How long have we known each other? You should know by now that you can't BS your way past me." Obviously stonewalling was about as successful an approach as denial.

"Honestly, Dave. I don't know." That was the truth. He really didn't know!

"But you know something is wrong, yes?"

Yeah, he did. "Yes." He slumped into his chair in defeat, as Dave made himself at home in one of the visitors chairs.

"So what's going on?"

"She's not talking to me," he mumbled, trying to hide the problem just as he had with slinking into the office.


"Yes Dave, Emily. Who the frig else did you think I was talking about?" Sheesh! He thought the man was supposed to have half a brain.

"What did you do?" The question was accompanied by a quirked eyebrow.

"That's just it. I don't know. Everything was fine, then a couple of days ago something changed."

"You did something." It was a statement, not a question.

"Ya think, Dave?" He should go on Mastermind. Name, David Rossi. Special subject, the bleeding obvious!

"Now, now, Aaron. There's no need to be sarcastic." The horrible little man was enjoying this. He was even stroking his goatee as he spoke!

He slumped his head into his hands. "What am I supposed to do?"

"Have you tried talking to her?"

"Of course I have, Dave." Did the man think that he'd been born yesterday. "She says she's fine."

"You're in deep shit, Aaron. You know that fine means anything but fine." Yes. Of course he knew that! It's not like he hadn't been around women before.

"Really, Dave. Your observational skills astound me." Take that and shove it up your posterior!

"Again with the sarcasm, Aaron. It's not helping." Dave had to have been using his best psychiatrist voice. He did it to annoy – and it was working, because he could feel a vein on his head throbbing. "So what are you going to do about it?" Geez, couldn't the man offer any advice?

"I was thinking of hiding in my office all day and hoping that things would get better." Oh yeah. If he did say so himself, it was an awesome plan.

"You really think that's going to work?" Dave's jaw was actually hanging open.

"Of course not, Dave! Do you think I was born yesterday?" Not to mention being married before - though not currently.

Dave closed his mouth with an audible snap, but still gave him a dubious look. "So what do you have in mind."

"I was going to give her something."

Dave smiled. "That's more like it! Something special, I hope?"

"Well, I know it will mean something to her," he said, trying to keep the anxiety out of his voice that perhaps this wouldn't actually work.

"Good, good. And when are you going to do this?"

"Just as soon as the rest of you leave so you're not all eavesdropping!" This involved going to her, but there was no way he was doing that when everyone else was standing around, looking for some juicy gossip. "Is that something you think you can organize?"

Dave smiled. "Just watch me."


Ten minutes later, the area around Emily's desk was strangely empty. Hotch didn't know how Dave had done it, but he certainly had to give the man credit for getting it done.

He reached into his desk drawer and sorted through the emergency gifts stored therein. A bottle of Irish Whiskey for Dave, some troll pens for Garcia, a book on Latin insults for Reid, a bottle of Soul Glow for Morgan – hmm, that was a bit out of date. He'd need to pick up something new . . . Ah ha! Here were the presents for Emily. There was more than one for obvious reasons, sorted into boxes with labels ranging from 'Minor infraction' to '10 on the Richter Scale'. This was definitely a case for the upper end of the scale. He slipped out a medium sized box, and then locked the desk drawer again. It wouldn't be prudent to have anyone digging through this drawer.

Crossing his office, Hotch suddenly discovered that his mouth was impossibly dry, and his palms were sweating. Well this certainly wasn't a good sign! Despite the sudden urge to run for the hills, 'come on, man, it's just one small step - figuratively speaking. You can do it!', he slowly walked down the stairs and approached her desk. She was concentrating on some sort of paperwork and either didn't see him, or more likely was ignoring his approach.

He stood there for a few seconds, waiting for her to acknowledge his arrival, but after he'd finished counting to twenty for the third time, he decided that he needed to attract her attention, so he cleared his throat.

She looked up, and seemed to visually dissect him with her eyes. "Can I help you, sir?"

Oh shit! She was going with the 'sir'. He was so in trouble. "Um . . ." oh good grief! Just spit it out. "I . . . um . . . havesomethingforyou." Oh yeah, that sounds intelligible. Nice one, Aaron!

She quirked an eyebrow. "Is it in the box you appear to be holding?"

He looked down at the box. Yes! It was in the box! Thrusting it in her general direction, he had to pull back suddenly when he realised he almost whacked her in the head. That would have just been perfect!

"Are you sure you want to give that to me, sir? Or were you intending to hit me with it?" Uh oh! That wasn't a pleasant expression at all!

He shook his head violently. "Of course not, Pr- . . . Emily." Just avoided that major faux pas! He breathed in, and then passed her the box – deliberately slowly.

She smirked, and took it just as gracefully as you'd expect from an ambassador's daughter. Damn that upbringing she had!

Opening the box, she was momentarily silent, and he saw her eyes opening wide, followed by a huge smile which lit up her face.

"You got me pajamas!"

A/N2: Feeling a little "meh" (yes, I know it's not a guy word – sue me!) this weekend, so if you liked this little piece please take the time to let me know. Thanks.