Author's Note: Let's start with a real life story. Feel free to skip ahead to the next paragraph if you don't enjoy spending time in the RL part of my brain. My PC, which had been working just fine, suddenly last night went dark. I had a complete meltdown because you see the portable hard drive that I got for Christmas was sitting (unopened) right next to the unresponsive computer. I'd been meaning to back everything up for about a week but I couldn't get the package open (you'd think it had like plutonium in it the way it was sealed) and I kept forgetting to bring a sharp instrument upstairs. So EVERYTHING that I've EVER written was locked away from me. As far I knew, forever. Needless to say, I was "upset." I took today off work by telling my boss I had a "personal issue." Pretty sure he thought that meant I had my period so he asked me no questions and quickly said "no problem, see you tomorrow!" Chiroho provided tech support for me from afar in between his conference calls, he diagnosed a video card issue and told me somebody had to actually look at it. The geek squad guy, Oliver, (who I now want to name my first born after) concurred with Chiroho's diagnosis (yes, Chiroho was very proud of himself for his offsite, unseen analysis) and THANK GOD was able to retrieve all of my stuff. If he hadn't, that would have been the end of the line for all of us. Actually this story I'm putting up now was one of three that existed on my laptop. So after this I probably would have had to go away to some institution. I now have TWO portable hard drives and I've transferred my story folder onto the laptop too. The moral of the story, and my public service announcement for today is, BACK UP ALL OF YOUR WORK KIDS!

Okay, back to what you actually care about (though seriously – go buy some hard drives!)

This would be story the third in Universe C, the Epiphanies one where H/P got together right after the shooting and he busted up his ribs. Originally I hadn't had much intention of moving them forward here but then I started getting a few ideas on scenes that I had written in Girl A (main universe) that would have gone differently if they were already a couple. And the one here relates to Halloween festivities. If you'll recall in Girl (Chapters 111-113) Halloween itself was specifically addressed on Halloween day with Reid showing up to watch the Great Pumpkin. Not to say that didn't also happen in this world, but in THIS story we're popping into their lives three days before Halloween. And as you'll see from the prompt, this is more a story from Hotch's POV than Emily's.


Prompt Set #9

Show: Lost

Title Challenge: Something Nice Back Home


Those Gossipin' Men

Hotch looked down at his list and then picked up a box of tampons on the shelf in front of him. As soon as he dropped them into the basket he noticed they were Max and not Super Max.

Oh crap! Those were the wrong ones!

He quickly changed them out for the blue box still sitting on the shelf.

God . . . he moved down the aisle to grab a bottle of Midol . . . he'd forgotten how nerve wracking it was shopping for feminine hygiene products!

After twenty years of marriage he'd certainly picked up his share of tampons over the years. And now that he was once again involved in a committed relationship with a woman, he knew that this was the one time of the month that it was absolutely vital that he bring home EXACTLY the product written on the shopping list!

Back when he was first married he'd foolishly thought that just because the store didn't have the item that Haley wanted that he could somehow just get something else. Yeah, well any married man will tell you that you can't just "get something else."

Hotch had to learn that one the hard way though.

It was scary enough the two times he'd brought home the wrong box to Haley, but Emily carried a gun. So he made sure to triple check the labels on both the tampons and the Midol before he moved on to the next aisle with a relieved sigh that the most difficult portion of his shopping excursion had now been completed.

At the moment he feeling very much like any of the other half dozen or so hapless husbands he could see wandering through the CVS at 10 pm on a Tuesday night clutching little lists in their hands.

Not that he currently held the title of "husband," but . . . a faint smile touched his lips . . . in every way that mattered he felt like one again. He and Emily had been together as a couple for four weeks and three days (not that he was counting) and though they had no formal paperwork solidifying their relationship, Hotch was quite sure that Emily was the last woman with whom he would ever share a bed. Actually just the thought of losing her caused an ache in his chest so he quickly pushed aside such unhappy thoughts. He wasn't going to lose her because he'd learned his lessons with Haley.

The mistakes he made with his first wife were not going to be repeated with the woman he sincerely believed would be his second.

Not that they had yet reached the point where rings should be bought or questions should be asked. But . . . he knocked a few bags of Reese's cups into his basket . . . they had already discussed him officially moving in with her.

Her place being the larger of the two it was the only logical choice. Well, outside of them getting a new place entirely. But she loved her condo and he already felt like it was his home . . . understandable given he spent five or six nights a week there . . . so yesterday he'd called the realtor and said he wanted to sublet.

Given his location she was fairly confident she could move it quickly.

So real estate issues were moving forward and today . . . he arrived at the holiday display . . . he had been put on Halloween duty. Friday was the big day, they had Jack, and Emily was so looking forward to having a fun . . . he started grabbing rubber spiders . . . festive holiday. They'd been away on a case all weekend so this was the first day they'd been able to get shopping. And she'd been insistent about going out tonight to pick up all the supplies that she'd need. They actually had three more days but Emily was afraid that everything would get picked over if she waited any longer.

Unfortunately though . . . he picked up a few packets of jack o'lantern carving kits and put them into his basket . . . Emily had woken up this morning with a terrible case of cramps which had gotten worse throughout the day. Even though she was trying to cover, it was obvious to him that she was in pain and when they came home he tried to tell her that they could just go shopping tomorrow.

Bad move on his part.

She was insistent that after she laid down for a little while that she'd feel better and then she was going to CVS. Hotch had known from the quiver in her voice that her hormones were getting the better of her, which meant that attempting any opposing arguments would have been pointless. Not to mention it would have resulted in a ridiculous disagreement given that it really was just a trip to the pharmacy. And bottom line, she was a grown woman. If she wanted to leave the house, she could leave the house.

But after he had changed and come back downstairs to see her curled up on the couch with the heating pad, he'd felt so bad for her that he tried a new approach.

Convincing Emily to let him go to the store for her.

After a few minutes of his best legal arguments . . . not to mention rubbing her back . . . she'd reluctantly agreed to let him go alone and started preparing her list.

The list . . . he grabbed a second basket from the end of the aisle before he started tossing in pumpkin garland . . . that had gotten longer and longer as he'd stood there patiently dangling his keys.

Though he didn't quite understand the hormonal imbalance element of Emily's insistence on all of these purchases, he did of course understand the importance in her mind of making Friday a special day.

After all this was the first holiday of any kind that Jack was spending with him and Emily since they'd become a couple . . . Hotch looked down at the skeleton legs hanging over the side of his basket . . . so not only was he getting bags of candy for the trick or treaters, but also all manner of decorations for the house. Emily had pulled out the circular and pointed out the specific items that she wanted and he had cemented those images in his brain as clearly as the details of any crime scene.

This day with Jack was so important to her, and the last thing Hotch wanted was to see her disappointed with how it turned out.

Though his son (thank God) already adored his girlfriend, the nature their relationship was admittedly evolving. A few months ago Hotch had decided that Emily's presence in Jack's life was of a permanent nature. But now she was going from loving friend to future stepmother. And Hotch knew how nervous she was that somehow Jack . . . who she loved with all her heart . . . would start to resent her now that she was in a relationship with Hotch.

Hotch had tried to point out that Jack already loved her, so it's not like she was trying to "win over" his affection.

She'd already won.

But still she worried. And as long as she had any smidge of doubt in her mind about the stability of her relationship with his son, then Hotch would do whatever she asked . . . he looked down at the two overflowing baskets sitting on the floor . . . spend any amount of money . . . to make her happy.

Fortunately for Hotch's bank account though he was sure that it wouldn't take too long for Emily to start to see that Jack's affection for her was a constant that she was in no risk of losing.

Because really, Jack was so young when Hotch and Haley had separated . . . barely two and a half . . . that Hotch knew it wasn't possible that he had many concrete memories of his life being any different than it was now. Though he did seem to have some memory of daddy once living with him all the time, that was about it. And Emily had not been a factor in the divorce . . . or a presence in his son's life . . . in those days before. So Hotch couldn't anticipate any time in the future where Jack's feelings for Emily would change due to "past memories."

His son was happy before and he was happy now . . . Hotch picked up the last item on Emily's list . . . and that's all that mattered.

After checking over the piece of paper in his hand one last time to ensure that he did indeed have every item on Emily's list, Hotch started towards the registers. But then he pictured Emily curled up on the couch and he made a detour to the freezer section.

As it was a drug store he knew they wouldn't have the variety of ice cream of the supermarket. But as his eyes scanned the shelves they finally alighted on some containers of Ben & Jerry's.

Of course . . . he bit his lip . . . no cookie dough.

As he twisted his jaw, he eyed the options available.

Chunky Monkey and Fudge Brownie.

He decided to grab both.

After he crammed those in with the bags of candy, he went over and picked up Emily's beloved chips and salsa. She'd be craving that tonight.

The ice cream was a treat, the nachos were a necessity.

Hotch hefted up his two now overflowing baskets . . . it should be fun getting all this stuff into the house.

As he started down to the front, Hotch began cursing to himself for how long it had taken him to get everything. He'd told Emily he'd be home by ten, and now it was almost quarter after. But the main delay was that he'd decided to drive to Georgetown because he figured they'd have a bigger selection of Halloween items than the store around the corner from Emily's place.

Though . . . he plopped his first basket down on the counter . . . the one fortunate thing about the late hour was that he didn't have to wait in line. And after he asked the cashier for double bagging he was so intent on unloading his purchases and getting home to Emily that he didn't consciously notice the presence of the person behind him.

Then suddenly a pack of condoms was slapped down on the counter and Hotch snapped his head around to tell whoever it was to take three steps back. But before he'd even opened his mouth, Hotch's eyes widened in shock.

DAVE!

Ross smirked as he leaned around Hotch to pick up the box of tampons, "got your period Hotch?"

Busted! He'd seen Hotch and Emily coming in together at least three times a week for the past month. They weren't acting any differently at work, but still Dave was convinced that they had FINALLY smelled the damn coffee percolating.

And this . . . he obnoxiously waved the blue box in Hotch's face . . . was proof that not only were they sleeping together, but that it was serious. No man picks up tampons and ice cream and a two baskets full of girly Halloween decorations (Hotch didn't slap a bow on a birthday present) unless he was in love.

Though as Dave thought about that . . . and processed the deer in headlights look on Hotch's face . . . his own expression softened.

They were in love.

Though Dave had deduced that for himself after the shooting, that point had sort of gotten lost in the shuffle of his attempts to catch them doing something inappropriate.

Hotch stared in shock for a moment before his mask slammed down and he snatched the box of tampons out of Dave's hand. Then he slapped them back down on the counter before he looked over at Dave suspiciously.

"What the hell are you doing here?!

This was so far outside his territory that Hotch really couldn't focus on anything else at the moment besides that fact.

Seeing the typical Hotch response to being challenged . . . deflection . . . Dave's eyes crinkled as he said with amusement, "nice to see you too Aaron."

And then seeing the nasty glare that got him, Dave started to chuckle as he picked up the condoms again, "well, seeing as you asked so nicely," Dave rolled his eyes, "then I'll tell you. I have a date." Then he eyed the small stack of feminine products in the midst of the rapidly shrinking pile of purchases, "and you apparently have a girlfriend." His eyebrow went up in amusement.

"Anyone I know?"

Eyes once again widened in horror, Hotch stared at Rossi for a moment.

SHIT!!!! SHIT!!! SHIT!!!! A DATE?!! Rossi has a frigging date and decided to go CONDOM shopping in GEORGETOWN!?

Hotch gave a mental eyeroll . . . how was his luck this bad?!

Trying to deflect a moment longer, Hotch decided to state the obvious.

"But you live in McLean."

To his own ears, Hotch couldn't detect the blind panic that was coursing through his veins. God knew if Rossi could though.

The man was a human lie detector.

Rossi nodded knowingly, "that I do. But Lola lives over on 30th, so I say again, the girlfriend, anyone I know?"

He'd been pushing Aaron's buttons for over a decade, the guy had yet been able to keep a secret from him for more than a month. Usually he lasted eight days.

Hotch's jaw twisted back and forth in agitation. They weren't telling anyone! It was too SOON to tell anyone! He and Emily had already had this discussion and agreed not to say anything until after the holidays.

God DAMN it Dave, you're totally fucking up our plans!

That was the scream in his head, but aloud he appeared outwardly calm . . . if agitated . . . as he simply sidestepped the question. He turned back to the cashier, sliding Dave's condoms across the nearly empty counter, "these too."

Dave's lip quirked up, "thanks dad, but I'm old enough to buy my own rubbers." And before Hotch could respond Dave reached over and grabbed back the last thing on the counter.

The box of tampons.

"Actually I'll get these too," he said casually.

"WHAT?! NO!" Hotch yelled as he snatched the box back for a second time, "you're not buying tampons for Em . . ."

And his mouth snapped shut as his head dropped down in disgust.

Rookie mistake.

He tore his eyes up from the grey carpet to see Dave grinning from ear to ear.

"I KNEW it!"

Of course Dave had known that there was NO way in hell that Hotch would allow another man to buy tampons for his girlfriend. Rossi huffed to himself . . . the kid was so easy.

Realizing that he was past the point of bluffing his way out of this situation, Hotch shook his head vehemently, "we're not telling ANYBODY. So please, Dave I'm asking you as a friend, don't say a word to anyone."

It wasn't Hotch's style to have to beg for compliance on any issue. But Dave was about the only person in the world . . . besides Emily of course . . . that he couldn't boss around.

Yes, the irony that he was technically their supervisor was not lost on him.

Seeing the look of distress on Hotch's face, Dave knew that he'd teased him long enough. He wasn't looking to actually upset the guy, just make him squirm for a minute. But the minute had passed and now he could see that he was about to tread on the boundaries of his friends' new relationship.

And that certainly wasn't his intention at all.

So he reached over and patted Hotch on the shoulder, "come on, you know me better than that," he chided gently. "Besides," he tried for a joke to lighten things up again, "who would I even tell? I only gossip with you and Emily and I'm pretty sure that she already knows about this one."

After eyeing Dave and seeing that he was sincere, Hotch felt himself start to relax, "thank you," he slowly exhaled, "thanks a lot Dave."

Of course just because Dave promised not to tell anyone else didn't mean that Emily wasn't still going to be upset about this development. She was so worried about people finding out too soon. She said . . . and he agreed . . . that it would be so much harder to build this relationship with a microscope on them.

"Excuse me, gentlemen," came a timid voice from behind the counter, "that's going to be um, $79.63 with the um, tampons."

Hotch winced . . . he'd forgotten they had an audience.

He looked over to see their cashier . . . a girl young enough to be Dave's GRANDdaughter . . . blushing furiously at them. Not only was Hotch embarrassed that he'd just behaved like a jackass in public, but he also felt a wave of sympathy for the girl.

The poor thing had to just stand there and witness two grown men fighting over a box of tampons and a pack of condoms.

"I'm sorry," he quickly swiped his card through the machine, "that was very rude to make you wait."

'And to make you witness that juvenile display,' he added to himself in disgust.

As his card ran through, Hotch glanced over to see Dave pulling a fifty out of his billfold, which he then slid over to the cashier.

"Sorry about that honey," he said contritely.

Hotch huffed to himself as he confirmed the total on the little screen in front of him . . . Dave never could apologize like a regular person. And as he hit the green button he listened to the girl as she tried to protest, but Dave insisted.

"No, no you take it honey. Consider it hardship pay," then he winked at her, "trust me, most women I know consider themselves entitled to it."

Hotch rolled his eyes . . . it wasn't just the women.

He watched as the girl laughed and then stared down at the money for a moment. She slipped it into her pocket with a smile to Dave, "thanks mister."

Then she turned her attention back to Hotch, hitting the confirmation on the register and dropping the tampons into the last bag.

After he took the slip from the girl's hand, Hotch gathered up all of his purchases from the counter.

God knows he wanted to just get home to Emily, but he figured that would be rude to just leave. So he walked over and waited over by the doors with something approximating patience as Dave finished playing Daddy Warbucks.

Rossi looked over to see the little nerve above Hotch's brow twitching so he grabbed his change back for the condoms, flashed the teenybopper a quick . . . hopefully non lecherous . . . smile and hurried over to catch his friend before he left. But of course the moment he started towards the door, Hotch started outside.

It was obvious that he wanted to go.

"Aaron, wait," he called out as he quickened his step. Hotch stopped on the sidewalk.

Hotch shifted his bags in his hand as he turned back to look at Dave expectantly.

"Yes?"

He assumed Dave wanted to take another crack at his manhood.

But to Hotch's surprise, Rossi put his hand on his shoulder before he said sincerely, "I just wanted to say congratulations. You've seemed happier lately. And though part of that might be the regular sex," Hotch rolled his eyes and Dave chuckled before he continued, "but mostly I just think, well," he gave him a soft smile, "mostly I just think it's Emily."

As he'd suspected for months, they would be good together.

Hearing the sincerity in Dave's voice, Hotch's expression softened and his eyes dropped to the ground.

Crap. He was actually going to have say something here.

When he looked back up, Hotch gave a begrudging nod, "I am happy. And she's happy, and that's really all I'm going to say on the matter."

Next to Emily, Dave was his closest friend but he sure as hell wasn't going to go around discussing his feelings with him. For one thing his relationship with Emily was private. And for another, well they weren't women.

Dave tipped his head, "that's good Aaron . . . that's really good."

The two men stared at each other for a moment before Dave smirked and shook his bag of condoms, "well, Lola awaits."

Hotch responded drolly as he shook his own bag full of tampons, "yes, well Emily awaits as well but clearly we have very different evenings ahead of us."

Dave burst out laughing as he slapped Hotch on the shoulder, "you two have a good night."

A half a dimple slid out as Hotch nodded, "yeah, you too Dave."

As with Emily, it was almost impossible to stay grouchy around Rossi. The two of them just didn't stand for it.

After watching his friend head over to his car with a little skip in his step, Hotch shook his head and then started home to Emily.


A/N 2: There is a whole Emily/Hotch segment written as well for when he gets home, but as I started to read over that I thought of a couple things I wanted to add. And as it's getting late, I figured I'd put up this part tonight and the second part tomorrow.

Dave popping up stealing Hotch's tampons as he asked him if he had his period was an image that popped in my head and I had to find a way of working it into a scene. And given how things went over in The Hours, there was a request to see a happier revelation of H/P's relationship so I thought this would be an "amusing" way of breaking the news to somebody.

So again, there is an Emily chapter too which will be up tomorrow. Keeping in mind, I've had much trauma/drama the last 24 hrs related to whether or not I'd even be able to ever put up ANYTHING again so a little feedback would be a wonderful thing :)

OH! And to whomever nominated me for the CM fanfic award, thank you so much! I'm not going to pimp myself on that point in here. You can read what I'm talking about on my profile page – I pimped myself over there ;) No, but seriously, thanks a lot.