Author's Note: If you haven't noticed (and what are the odds that you would have?) Kavi and I put up our prompts this weekend. So if you check out the forum, we have the new regular ones and we ended up with eight Valentine's Day ones for the bonus. So there are FOURTEEN new prompts up!

And the bonus is what brings us here today.

It seems whenever we put up a new batch of prompts I suddenly get sidetracked with a brand new story spinning out in my head. Usually multiple stories actually but I am on a moratorium for POSTING of new multi-chapter fics (though there are a few sitting in my folders) but I am "allowed" (by my own rules) to post one shots. In this instance, it is a two shot. Though the story is completely done, breaking it up was simply by design of the fact that I was inspired by two prompts and I wanted to use both of them :) So this part goes up today. The next part will go up tomorrow.

I'm still avoiding the ugliness of season 5, so like the New Year's bonus story, just consider this taking place a bit further down the road.

This version of them is not related to any version posted before.

Bonus Set #9

Show: The Wild Thornberries

Title Challenge: Operation Valentine

Operation Valentine

Hotch anxiously popped another French fry into his mouth and began chewing with gusto.

He was studiously trying to avoid listening to any of the actual words being spoken in the conversation going on around him. His hope was that if he could just finish eating fast enough then he could fake a phone call and sprint away from the table.

Unfortunately though, he was absolutely starving! So until he had finished his chicken sandwich he couldn't implement that 'fake phone call, run like his hair was on fire' plan.

But he REALLY needed to implement that plan now because Garcia and JJ were doing a NONSTOP comparison of their Valentine's Day plans for the next night!

Hair . . . clothes . . . restaurants . . . SHOES! Dear GOD the SHOES!

If he absorbed one more detail about Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik he was going to have to turn in his testicles at the door.

Just knowing the difference between the two might be enough to lose one entirely.

Seriously, they'd been talking about this for the last HOUR . . . it had started in the hotel lobby . . . and if they didn't move on to another topic of conversation soon then he was going to start taking hostages.

And given that they were presently in a McDonald's in the middle of Marquette, Michigan, that would probably scare the crap out of a few of the locals.

The reason that they were stuck in Marquette was a snow delay. Two feet had fallen the day before and they were still clearing the runways.

The delay itself was a pain in the ass, but the snow had admittedly made for an amusing chase through the streets last night when their UNSUB had decided to take a runner out the back door of his halfway house.

Spencer ran into a telephone pole and Morgan had tripped over a fire hydrant. Really if it wasn't for Emily and JJ tackling the suspect at the end of the block he might have gotten away.

So for the girls' good work they'd had first dibs on where to eat today. They'd picked McDonald's but Morgan and Reid had wanted pizza . . . Hotch told them to suck it up and to watch where they were running next time . . . but then they'd lucked out when they'd pulled up out front and had seen the pizzeria across the street.

There's where they were now.

And Dave being Dave, he'd just rolled his eyes at the Valentine's chatter before he disappeared saying he'd catch up with them at the airport.

So Hotch was now stuck alone with the women. Not that he didn't love them all dearly, but right now he'd kill for an AFC post game show to make him feel like a man again.

Their revised flight plan gave them a departure time of sixteen hundred . . . Hotch's eyes dropped down to his wristwatch . . . five hours from now.

". . . oh my GOD you got reservations at the INN!?" Garcia squealed.

He wasn't sure if he was going to make it.

Just then he glanced over to see that he didn't appear to be the only one in agony right then.

His brow wrinkled as he saw Emily staring down at her half eaten burger.

She looked . . . sad.

A few minutes ago she'd been engaged in the conversation but as he thought back he realized that her smile had been a little too bright. And she hadn't actually mentioned doing anything herself tomorrow.

His eyes widened slightly . . . she was faking interest in the other women's plans for the next night.

Then he focused his thoughts on the true topic of conversation at the table.

Valentine's Day.

Emily didn't have a boyfriend and she was stuck at the table with two women in steady long term relationships planning their big Valentine's nights.

And Emily had no Valentine.

Well . . . he scowled slightly at the blondes . . . that was a bit insensitive.

Granted, he himself had no Valentine either, but men didn't care about Valentine's Day. Not beyond screwing it up anyway.

But for women . . . most women anyway . . . it was kind of a big deal. And obviously . . . he saw Emily quickly paste on a bright smile as JJ asked her a question . . . Emily was one of those women.

The pain in his gut reminded him that his feelings for the sweet, kindhearted, dark haired beauty had stopped being simply platonic some time ago. So maybe this might be a good time to . . . to . . .

He frowned slightly at his chicken sandwich as he tried to decide what this might be a good time to do.

Well . . . he picked up the sandwich and took another bite . . . probably make a declaration of some kind.

After all, it was Valentine's Day . . . his eyes flicked across the table again . . . Emily clearly was unhappy that she was alone, and about three months ago he'd stopped trying to pretend that he could wait until retirement to tell her how he felt.

Mostly he'd just been trying to think of a good way to broach the topic.

His jaw twitched slightly as he saw the smile fall away again . . . clearly the topic had now been broached.

Okay, on the flight home he'd figure out a Valentine's Day plan. And tomorrow morning . . . Emily glanced over at him and he winked at her . . . he'd begin implementation.


The next morning Emily trudged through the glass doors of the BAU dressed all in black.

It was her color of protest . . . she hated Valentine's Day.

Actually . . . with a sigh she stopped and looked around at all the red and pink ties and blouses in the bullpen . . . she didn't hate it so much as she dreaded it.

Every year it was another in your face reminder that she was all alone.

Like the cold sheets and perpetually closed toilet seat lid weren't doing that already!

Having a whole day devoted to reminding her of her status was just an added cruelty. She scowled as she thought back on JJ and Garcia yesterday.

'Oh we're so happy, we're so in love, we're just the most awesome couples in the whole wide world!'

Yeah well . . . she glowered at the two of them over gushing at the coffeemaker . . . choke on it.

Just then she felt a hand on her back and she turned to see Hotch smiling at her.

Apparently she was so busy shooting daggers at the population at large that she hadn't heard him come through the door behind her.

"Good Morning Prentiss," Hotch said softly as he caught her eyes.

As he walked up to the glass, Hotch had seen Emily was stopped just inside the door looking at JJ and Garcia a few yards away.

The scowl on her face rivaled anything he'd doled out recently.

Obviously she was doing even worse today then yesterday. But hopefully . . . his hand discretely glided down her arm . . . he could do something to change that soon.

Despite her mood, Emily's eyes crinkled . . . she did love it when he used that tone. Even when he used it in conjunction with her last name, it was oddly intimate.

And he didn't seem to use the tone with anyone else so it made it special.

Then she took note of the fact that his hand was loosely grasping her wrist . . . his fingertips were warm against her cold flesh . . . so she gave him a little smile as she responded in the same tone of voice, "good morning Hotch."

As she stared into his eyes for just a second she forgot that she was utterly miserable and alone.

Then Garcia burst out laughing and she felt a splash of cold water douse her good mood . . . right miserable and alone.

Thanks God! Got it!

Hotch saw her expression fall again and his hand moved up to grasp her shoulder as he started guiding her along, speaking softly as they went.

"You look nice today Agent Prentiss."

Actually she looked beautiful with her pink cheeks and the snowflakes in her hair . . . but that wasn't the kind of thing he could blurt out in the middle of the bullpen.

As it was he only felt comfortable saying what he had while using her title. That way if anyone overhead him . . . unlikely, but possible . . . then it would sound like a polite compliment from a colleague.

Emily shot him a funny look before her eyes dropped down to her chest, "my coat's still buttoned so how do you know that I look nice today," she stammered slightly, "I mean I'm not saying I DO look nice, I'm just saying if I did look nice, then how would you even know?"

Geez Em! Spastic much?!

Hotch's lips twitched slightly at her fumble . . . he could see she was a bit flustered, but he thought she was cute.

They were just getting to the area she shared with Morgan and Reid, so Hotch squeezed her shoulder slightly so she'd stop. Seeing that they were completely alone, he quickly whispered the truth of the matter in her ear.

"I can say it because you look nice every day Emily."

Then he shot her a quick dimple before he continued past her and up the stairs to his office.

Completely thrown by Hotch's comment, Emily stared after him for a moment.

Wow . . . her eyes stung slightly . . . that was a really sweet thing to say.

The moment was ruined a second later when she felt a paperclip smack her in the forehead.

Her eyes snapped over to the desks . . . Morgan.

"Girl, would you get your ass over here and open this card on your desk?"

Christ . . . he scowled at her . . . he'd been sitting there for twenty minutes waiting for her to show up so he could see who'd left it!

Card?! What the hell was he . . . then Emily's eyes flicked down to her desk calendar to see a big pink envelope sitting there with her name printed across the front.

A slow grin spread across her face . . . she got a VALENTINE!

Then she remembered that Derek and Reid were still staring at her and she shot them a quick scowl as she hurried over to her desk.

"What difference does it make to you if I open the card?" Her bag dropped to the floor as she shot Morgan a smirk, "it's not like I'm going to share the PRIVATE contents with you."

Ignoring the ribald comments that resulted from her response . . . Spenser had been spending entirely too much time around Derek . . . Emily took off her coat and sat down in her chair.

Her fingers traced over the smooth pink paper . . . she hadn't received a surprise Valentine since she was in high school.

One of the boys in her AV group . . . Brian . . . had left it in her backpack.

Granted it had a Klingon on it so it wasn't exactly the most romantic token of affection.

Still though, the thought was sweet.

Certainly sweeter than the Frederick's of Hollywood sleazy hot pink lingerie she'd received from her boyfriend sophomore year in college. Or the phallic shaped chocolate lollipops she'd received from the DEA agent she was dating out in Indianapolis four years later. He couldn't understand why she was upset.

He thought they were funny.

She said "yeah, for a bachelorette party they were frigging hilarious. For Valentine's Day, not so much."

In her forty plus years on the planet she'd had only four or five "nice" Valentine's days. Straightforward, dinner, flowers, candy . . . sex.

Those were the standards, and the standards were just fine with her.

It's not like she'd ever been hoping to get a ring from any of those men she happened to have been seeing casually (or semi-seriously) when February 14th had rolled around.

Even with the dinner, flowers, candy, sex she still rarely got nice cards.

That was okay though. Most Valentine's Day cards were about love and fate and all that fairytale stuff.

It was better not to get some false promise of love ever after. It would just make her bitter.

That little nugget of wisdom came to her after she opened the box of long stemmed phallic lollipops when she was expecting that there would be roses inside.

To add insult to injury the chocolate had tasted like crap.

Then the last five years had resulted in a total dry spell on Valentine's Day . . . her finger slid along the seam of the card . . . not only had she not received any nice gifts, she hadn't received any gifts at all.

So whoever had left this for her had no idea how much it meant.

Though as she slid out the mysterious card she still sent up a silent wish that there wouldn't be any dirty limericks inside.

But then a smile touched her lips as she saw the outside of the card . . . so far so good. The cover had a pink rose in a vase and the note simply said, 'Happy Valentine's Day.'

She opened the card.

'You are the bringer of good things to my life.'

It was the preprinted message but still . . . she bit her lip . . . that was really nice.

But aside from an X and an O it was unsigned.

Her eyes scanned the bullpen . . . who could have left this for her?

Nobody was looking in her direction . . . except . . . her head ducked down.


Oh God please don't let it be Special Agent Crookshanks!

They'd had a VERY unfortunate encounter at the Christmas party. Turns out Crookshanks (first name Mary) had been informed by one of the guys in Arson . . . a guy whose ass she'd kicked the week before for making a VERY inappropriate pass at her in the elevator . . . that Emily was gay.

Gay and looking for love.

A slightly inebriated Mary Crookshanks had cornered her under the mistletoe and planted one on her.

As Emily fixed her smudged lipstick . . . all things considered it was a pretty good kiss . . . she'd politely . . . and awkwardly . . . explained to Mary that she was very flattered.

But also very straight.

Every since that night the two of them had exchanged polite, tight smiles when they ran into each other at the copy machine or in the break room.

So if this was from her, clearly things were going to get way more awkward again.

Emily's eyes slyly shifted back across the room and she sighed . . . oh, phew.

She was talking to that new girl.

And the new girl was flicking her hair back over her shoulder as she laughed at something the other woman was saying.

Okay . . . Emily slowly exhaled . . . Mary clearly had moved on to greener . . . she scowled slightly . . . younger . . . pastures.

Okay Em, get a grip! You're NOT gay! So being resentful that you've been replaced by a girl in her twenties is rather ridiculous.

Pushing the lesbians out of her head completely, Emily's eyes dropped down to the card in her hand . . . but that still didn't answer her question about who left this for her.

And she couldn't think of any men in the office . . . besides octopus hands on the elevator . . . that had so much as glanced in her direction recently.

God . . . she had a horrible thought . . . please don't let it be octopus hands!

No, wait . . . she quickly reminded herself that she'd threatened to take off his hairpiece in the middle of the cafeteria if he so much as breathed in her direction again. Clearly that was not conducive to, 'hey but feel free to drop me a Valentine!' So it had to be somebody else.

But she was drawing a complete blank.

Oh well . . . she sighed as she opened her drawer and slipped the card inside . . . the Valentine itself was sweet. She began booting up her computer . . . it was just too bad he hadn't signed the card.

She hadn't met a nice guy in forever.


Hotch watched through his blinds as Emily slid the card inside her desk.

His brow wrinkled . . . what the hell?

At first she'd seemed delighted at finding the envelope on her desk. But now she looked . . . not sad . . . not like yesterday, but still, she didn't look excited anymore.

She looked disappointed.

Grrr . . . he started kicking himself . . . he should have signed it! But he'd thought that might have been a bit out of the blue for her. So instead he figured he'd do this now . . . give her something to think about during the morning . . . and then he'd take Step 2 this afternoon.

But now he could see that they were in need of a Step 1.5. Because the whole point of this was to not only take some long overdue steps in moving their relationship forward . . . but also to give her a good day.

And as he saw her biting her lip as she started sorting through the items in her inbox, he could see that he'd definitely fallen short on the good day benchmark.

Damn it.

Okay . . . he checked his watch . . . briefing in fifty-two minutes.

That left him plenty of time for a course correction.

Of course . . . his head swiveled around to look at the snowflakes that were swirling down behind his window . . . unless he wanted Emily to know what he was up to he was going to have to leave his coat behind.

Hello frostbite.

But she wasn't an idiot . . . he looked back down at her sorting her mail . . . he had no reason at all to be going outside in the middle of the morning.

Especially if it was snowing.

So if she saw him going out with his coat and then suddenly she had a new present, she'd certainly put two and two together. Even if she wasn't 100% sure that it was him, it would be enough to make her suspicious.

And he was going for a whole thing here. If he'd just wanted to announce his attentions he would have bought some sappy heart shaped card and signed his name to it.

But he was trying to do something more original . . . more genuine . . . to express his affection for her. That's why he'd come in extra early today so he could put the card on her desk before anyone else arrived.

He wanted it to be a total surprise. Again, he was TRYING to give her a good day.

That was also why he was planning on waiting until after lunch to take the next step in the plan.

God knows he couldn't buy a dozen long stems on his way to work. And then what? Leave them in the bottom of his desk drawer for the next nine hours in his heated office?

Yeah, he'd be giving her DEAD roses tonight!

Oh well . . . with a huff he stepped out his door, hurrying down the steps . . . a wise man adjusts his plans accordingly.

And . . . his expression softened as he shot her a quick wink as she glanced up at him . . . nobody said getting the girl was supposed to be a piece of cake.

A/N 2: The title of the story is in reference to Emily's complete obliviousness that Hotch could be her secret Valentine. Her reasons for not seeing him as her "tree" will be explained in chapter 2.

The card is an actual card I saw on the Hallmark site. They had one for 'new relationships.' And I figure he didn't really have a lot of time when they got home (the night before Valentine's Day) to go out and get THE perfect card. But that one would work for him in a pinch.

As a follow-up a couple weeks ago to my mention of the CM FanFic awards, the nominations are up now and I got a few! Definitely more than the first day when I heard I'd been nominated so obviously a couple other people had put me in for something. So again, thanks very much :) I really do appreciate it. If you're interested in voting for anyone . . . there are FF H/P writers in every category there . . . you can get to the site on Live Journal. And you don't have to have an account on LJ to vote.

I will put up the next part tomorrow night. Because the story is just the two chapters (and the prompts were so key to the plot) for a change I've decided to just use the prompt titles as the chapter titles here.

So next up is: "The One with the Candy Hearts."