Prompt Set #4
Show: Pushing Daisies
Title Challenge: Comfort Food
Author's Note: Inspired when I heard that a good friend of mine was having rather a crappy weekend. Thank you to SueC for the beta.
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A Friend in Need
Aaron Hotchner stared at the bowl of frosted flakes in front of him, as if he was hoping that in the act of staring at them they'd somehow morph into something more edible. Unfortunately, nothing miraculous occurred, and the cereal remained whitened and soggy. It wasn't his usual breakfast of choice, but he had planned on picking up some groceries right before they'd been called out on their last case. They'd arrived home last night, and all he had in the house was a couple of things Jack liked – frosted flakes being the case in point. Whatever else happened, he needed to do some shopping today or he'd be buying breakfast in the morning, and probably every other meal in-between.
Having finally finished the soggy flakes, he rinsed his bowl in the sink and was thinking about whether to shower or park himself in front of the television for a while, it being a Sunday after all, when his phone rang. He groaned loudly, hoping that it wasn't JJ calling about yet another case, but his spirits lifted when he saw the caller identified as 'Prentiss'. While their friendship had grown since he'd been injured in New York and she'd been injured in Colorado, she didn't typically call him on the weekend unless something was up, and he wondered what that might be.
"Prentiss? Everything okay?" He kicked himself. She'd know that he knew who it was based on the caller ID, but hopefully didn't think his response too abrupt.
"Actually Hotch, I'm feeling pretty under the weather." She sounded very out of it and congested over the phone, so he could only imagine what she felt like in person. "I wanted to let you know that I won't be able to make up any of that paperwork today." Strangely, she almost sounded disappointed.
"The paperwork can wait. It's far more important that you get better." Who did she think he was, that he'd expect her to come in on a Sunday and catch up on paperwork when she was sick? The fact that he was planning to do exactly that was obviously beside the point. "Is there anything I can do?"
"I'm fine. I just need to get some sleep." She really did sound disappointed. She couldn't have been looking forward to doing paperwork, could she? "I'll see you tomorrow."
She rang off, and as he stood there and thought about the conversation, he suddenly realised that Emily hadn't been looking forward to doing paperwork at all. She'd been looking forward to spending time with him, even though they were doing paperwork. Knowing how little everyone enjoyed the endless paperwork that came with the job, which was huge. How had he not realised this before? He knew that they'd been getting closer, but if she'd rather spend her Sunday doing paperwork just to be with him . . . There had to be something he could do for her.
Then he had it. The perfect way to help her through a crappy day.
Scrolling through the contacts on his phone, he found the one he wanted and dialled. "Sean? It's Aaron. Do you still have Nana Hotchner's recipe for chicken noodle soup?"
Ugh! That was the first, second, third, and probably fourth thing to go through Emily's mind as she lay in bed and looked over at the clock on the bedside table. It was nearly eleven thirty, but she had absolutely no inclination to get up. Her head was pounding from some sort of sinus related problem that had abruptly surfaced when she'd first woken up, and things hadn't improved even with another four hours of sleep. Groaning again, she realised that using the bathroom was an absolute necessity, and she'd have to get up whether she liked it or not. The loud growl which suddenly emerged from her stomach also reminded her that she hadn't eaten since some time before they'd left wherever the heck it was late yesterday.
Dragging off the blanket, Emily pushed herself to a sitting position, her head throbbing and making her slightly dizzy. This was obviously what crap felt like she realised, groaning again at her light headedness. After stumbling into the bathroom, she looked at her now slightly puffy face in the mirror. Apparently the sinus issues had caused some delightful swelling. Good thing you're not planning any dates in the near future, Em!
Deciding against a shower in favour of eating something, though she had absolutely no idea what, she dragged on a robe and trudged lethargically down the stairs. She was half way down when she suddenly felt like the room was spinning. Desperately grasping the rail to stop from falling, she gasped with the combination of the pain in her sinuses and the dizziness it was causing.
Shit this was bad!
Lowering herself to the stairs, Emily crawled down backwards, being careful to move her head as little as possible, then slowly made her way to the couch. Grabbing her bag from where she'd thrown it on the coffee table the previous night, she pulled out the bottle of ibuprofen she kept there and dry swallowed two, hoping that by the time they kicked in she'd feel better. She wished she had some Sudafed as well, but that was upstairs and she wasn't going near the stairs any time soon. Climbing onto the couch, she grabbed the blanket draped across the back, and curled herself into a ball under it, hoping that if she slept a little longer she'd feel better.
Emily woke to a pounding in her head. Completely disoriented she sat up, trying to figure out where she was, and immediately received the reminder that her head felt like she'd been punched in the forehead with a large rubber hammer. Fortunately the worst of the dizziness seemed to have passed, but her stay on the couch had apparently resulted in an incredibly stiff neck and shoulders. It was only after sitting there for a minute that Emily realised that the pounding wasn't coming from inside her head, but was actually someone knocking at her door. What fuck-tard would be bothering her at home on a Sunday afternoon? At least she assumed it was afternoon, and confirmed that guess by checking the time on the clock on the mantle. One fifteen. Another nearly two hours of sleep and she still felt ghastly.
Apparently the knock had a voice, which she immediately identified as being that of her boss. What was he doing here? Hadn't he said on the plane yesterday that he had three weeks of paperwork to catch up on? She vaguely remembered talking to him this morning, but she hoped he hadn't taken it on himself to bring his paperwork here. If he had, she might say some things which would result in her receiving some sort of suspension. And that wouldn't be a good thing, especially since she liked spending time with him.
Pushing herself up carefully so she didn't set off a sudden dizziness, Emily checked her robe to make sure that she wasn't going to give Hotch some sort of peep show. She was wearing some Victoria's Secret Pink pajamas and a modest robe so that seemed unlikely, but the last thing she wanted to do was accidentally flash a nipple at Hotch à la Elaine's Christmas card. Satisfied that no wardrobe failure was imminent, she slowly made her way towards the door.
Crap, speaking loudly was a bad idea! The words echoed inside her head and made her face pound, four hundred milligrams of ibuprofen or not. She finally made it to the door and looked through the peep hole, confirming that it was indeed her tall, dark, and handsome boss, and not some unsub with a tape recorder. Undoing the chain, she opened the door.
"Hotch? What're you doing here?" She kept her voice low so as to avoid the previous occurrence of loud noises echoing in her head. Looking down, she saw he was carrying a plastic bag which seemed to have some containers in it.
The corner of his mouth turned up, and she almost saw half a dimple. That was like a grin for most people! "You didn't sound well, so I thought I'd come and keep you company. Have you eaten?"
At the loud growl which emanated from her stomach at his words, he chuckled. "Apparently not," he said, giving her a half smile this time. "Can I come in? I brought some soup with me."
"Soup?" She could hear the excitement creep into her voice, and he flashed her that half smile again, nodding at the same time. She'd vaguely wondered earlier if she'd had any canned soup in the house, but if he'd bought soup, then that would be most excellent.
She waved him in, and allowed him to shut the door behind himself as she wandered back to the counter in her kitchen, sitting down at one of the stools.
"So what have you brought me?" she said in about as enthusiastic a tone as she could muster, which to be honest really wasn't that enthusiastic, as she watched him put two containers on the counter. He opened the lid on the first, and she could smell the delicious fragrance of the soup wafting towards her, almost making her drool in anticipation.
"My grandmother's chicken noodle soup, complete with extra spices to help with congestion." He looked around the kitchen. "Where do you keep your bowls?"
She pointed at the cabinets over the counter to her right. "In there, on the left."
He grabbed a bowl, and used a tureen he'd obviously brought with him to dish out some of the soup, which he put in the microwave for sixty seconds. "Spoons?"
"In the drawer next to the counter."
He got out a soup spoon, pulled a napkin from the holder on the counter, and set both in front of her, followed by the bowl as soon as the microwave finished. She stirred the soup slowly, and raised the spoon to her mouth, taking a careful taste in case it was too hot.
"This is amazing, Hotch! I didn't know you could cook."
He actually smiled a full smile. "I may not be Sean, but I know my way around a kitchen. My grandmother taught both of us when we were younger. It was a welcome respite from life at home." As he said the last words, his face fell, and he looked away uncomfortably, perhaps realising he'd revealed more than he'd intended. Not wanting to pry, Emily concentrated on the soup, which really was delicious.
She finished the soup in silence, though it wasn't uncomfortable. With all the hours they spent together, there wasn't always a need for conversation, and to be honest she didn't feel that much like talking. In turn, Hotch stood there and watched her eat, obviously pleased at seeing her enjoy the soup so much.
"What's in the other container?"
He smiled again. "Dessert." Opening the lid, he pulled out a thick, moist brownie, which he placed on her napkin. "I know you sometimes crave chocolate, particularly when you're not feeling well, so . . ." he trailed off. Looking up, she saw him blushing slightly, and had to grin. He'd wanted to bring her something to cheer her up, as well as make her feel better. That was sweet, and completely at odds with the rather severe image he seemed to like to project.
Taking a bite, Emily realised that the brownie was just as good as it looked. She looked at him suspiciously. "Are you sure that you made these yourself?"
He stared back at her, raising his nose ever so slightly, a sure sign of his being offended. "Yes, Prentiss, of course I did. Would you like to call my brother to verify whether I asked him for the recipe this morning?"
Oops! Touched a bit of a nerve there. She made a mental note not to challenge Hotch on his cooking skills in the future. Then again, if he cooked this well, why would she ever want to?!
She watched as he rinsed out her bowl, and put it in the dishwasher. It was weird seeing him in such a domestic environment. While obviously he'd been fending for himself for years, it was a side of him she'd never really seen. Just like the jeans and the sweat shirt she just realised he was wearing – and the mighty fine ass that she noticed as he'd bent over. Whoa! That was the first time she'd ever had a thought like that about her boss. Or was it?
"Why don't you go and sit on the couch while I put these in the fridge? You should have plenty for tonight, and for tomorrow if you're still not feeling well."
Walking back to the couch, she suddenly remembered just how stiff she was, but when she stopped and twisted slightly to try and relieve some of the tension, she also remembered why she'd taken all that ibuprofen earlier. "Ow!"
Without her even realising he'd moved, Hotch was right behind her. "Are you okay?"
She nodded slowly. "Just stiff and a bit dizzy."
"Why don't you sit down then, and I'll rub your shoulders. That might help a little."
Emily turned slowly and looked at him questioningly, quirking an eyebrow. "Who are you, and what have you done with my boss?"
He gave a small chuckle. "Just sit down and I'll rub your neck."
She did as she was told, and discovered that his long fingers made for short work of the tension in her shoulders. She rolled her neck luxuriously after he was done. "Do you charge by the hour? Or is there a special rate for damsels in distress?"
He pointedly ignored the question, though she saw the flicker of a grin on his face, and sat down beside her on the couch. "Is there anything you'd like to watch?"
She grabbed the remote, and brought up the guide. Scrolling through, she saw that one of her favourite movies was due to start in a few minutes. "How about North by Northwest?"
He nodded. "Sure. It was one of my favourites as a teenager. I think it's one of the reasons I thought about becoming an FBI agent. Although that could have been more because I'd one day hoped to run into someone like Eva Marie Saint while I was working."
She smiled at his comment, and he smiled back in return.
It was only when the movie ended that Hotch noticed that Emily had fallen asleep against his shoulder. Looking at her sleeping there, he realised that he enjoyed the fact that she was leaning on him, though he'd certainly not be telling her that at any point in the near future. Very slowly, he moved a cushion so that it was propped against the arm of the couch, and gently lowered her head onto it. He stared at her for a few minutes before switching the television off and getting up. Tucking the blanket around her, he made sure that one of the lamps was on, then looked around for a piece of paper and a pen. Finding some by the phone, he left her a short note.
Prentiss, didn't want to wake you, so let myself out. Hope you're feeling better tomorrow. If not, I order you not to come in. We'll survive.
Taking one last look at her, somewhat surprised at how vulnerable she looked when sleeping, he switched off the lights in the small kitchen, and let himself out the door, making sure he couldn't open it from the outside. While not his typical Sunday routine, it made a nice change to help out a friend in need. Perhaps it was something he should try and do more often.
Particularly if that friend was a certain Emily Prentiss.