Author's Note: Happy New Year! First posting of 2011! Sorry I was going to put this up earlier, like a year ago! (the requisite 'year ago' bad joke you hear every New Year's, best to get it out of the way early) but I got sucked into watching the Dr. Who marathon. There's something about a marathon, it doesn't matter if you've seen an episode before, you just can't stop! It's like crack. Not that I've done crack, but you get the point.
Anyway, the conclusion of my last Universe A Christmas story. I have no idea why it took forever and a day to finish up but, it did. And now it's done and that's "two" off the holiday posting schedule and one more "Complete" on the ongoing story list. Productivity on schedule, sort of. I'd hoped to have more up by now but of course I have most of a week off and I get sick. Regardless, focusing on the positives, that's two postings in a week. That's as many as we had all of last month to date! :)
This scene picks up shortly after H/P in the car. And point here, I haven't been to DC Chinatown in years (I mean years) so I didn't even try to dig through my memories on what's located where, as most likely things have come and gone since my last Metro visit. So as it relates to actual geography here, if you know Washington, the only true point is that this section of H Street would still be considered part of the heart of that section of the city. The "oh hey look at that architecture, I clearly just entered Chinatown," section. Beyond that, I took quite a few "artistic" liberties and totally just made up the restaurants :)
Written In The Stars
Though the light was green, Hotch braked slightly as he approached the intersection of H and 7th, NW. He was looking for parking, but unfortunately . . . he slowed further as he rolled into the 700 block of H Street . . . he couldn't see one open space on either side of the slushy road.
Damn . . . his brow wrinkled faintly as he drove slowly down the street . . . given how late it was on Christmas Eve he'd had much better hopes on the parking situation.
A second later he rolled his eyes as he realized that was pretty short sighted on his part. Obviously he wasn't the only person in the Metro area out looking for food at 11:25 pm on December 24th. And this was the most logical area of the city to expect to find anything open on this particular day at this particular time of night. A weary sigh passed Hotch's lips as he spotted the next light coming up . . . and that meant that finding metered parking anywhere in the three block radius he was looking was going to be something of a miracle.
Hotch's expression suddenly brightened considerably as he spied a spot opening up on a side street they were passing. Huh . . . he quickly checked his mirrors . . . miracle needed, miracle delivered. That was something. Though, they were coming up on the day for such things. And not someone to look a gift one in the mouth . . . miracles of any shape or size were in small quantity in Hotch's daily life . . . he performed a clean U/J-turn in the middle of the street before this particular little miracle was lost/stolen.
Though his U/J turn went off without a hitch, Hotch knew that doing what he did was a bit obnoxious given that he was smack dab in the middle of a busy city street. Not to mention, he was doing it for no good reason at all. Really, it's not like he was off to a mass murder or taking semi-automatic weapons fire at the time. Those would at least be "good" reasons for driving like a dick.
Tonight he had no good reason.
And as was evidenced by the squealing brakes and chorus of angry honking around him, he could tell that his little alphabet move wasn't particularly popular with any of his fellow drivers. In addition to the honking and the yelling, Hotch also received a handful of oh so Christmasy middle fingers from all four lanes of traffic.
Well . . . his jaw set as he turned his head to start backing into the precious spot . . . screw 'em.
Yes, he knew that wasn't a particularly charitable approach to take on Christmas Eve but he was tired of being a good guy. Right now he was simply just tired. Tired and hungry and . . . he turned off the engine . . . with all the hell he put up with the other three hundred and sixty four days of the year, he wasn't going to feel the tiniest bit guilty about committing five moving violations to grab the only open parking space in all of Chinatown. First come, first served. Or . . . he rolled his neck . . . the Lord helps those who help themselves.
Pick your poison.
Either way, he was good. Though it wasn't until he'd unbuckled his seatbelt that he bothered to look back to the main street to even take note of where he'd parked in relation to the half dozen or so restaurants that he knew were on this section of the block.
Eh . . . his nose wrinkled . . . not too far.
All they had to do was walk two car lengths up to the corner and then they'd be back on the main thoroughfare again. From there they could go wherever.
And as Hotch continued to look out the side window of the jeep, he squinted slightly at the neon signs in the windows on the block ahead of him. He was trying to decide which one looked the most appetizing at this time of night . . . i.e. who didn't have a dead duck hanging in their window. Not that he was opposed to authentic cuisine in principle; he just wasn't looking to go anywhere that they skinned their own animals onsite.
Authentic cuisine was nice, not finding loose feathers on your plate was nicer still.
From his position in the driver's seat, Hotch could see three duckless possibilities. And after a second of window perusal . . . he had to wipe the condensation off twice to see down the street . . . he narrowed his choice down to the Forbidden City. He ended up picking that one for no other reason than it appeared to be approximately six paces closer than the nearest non duck competitor, Blue Moon. Ordinarily the six paces wouldn't have mattered to him, but after an eighteen hour day . . . he stifled a yawn as he scrubbed his hand across his mouth . . . every last step counted.
So now it was time to get moving towards the exits.
Though when Hotch turned to look at Emily across the front seat, he huffed slightly to himself when he saw that she was asleep. Of course he should have known that something was amiss by the lack of feminine input on the illegal maneuvers that he'd just performed. Ordinarily that was a driving technique that Emily would have had quite a bit to say about. Hmm, she actually had to be pretty exhausted to have slept through the honking and the cursing too. But as Hotch thought about it then, he couldn't recall hearing a peep out of his companion since they'd entered the city limits. And that was . . . he checked his watch . . . maybe fifteen minutes ago.
That was a pretty solid nap.
Hotch's gaze shifted back across the seat, and in the shadows of the streetlight, for a moment he just watched Emily sleep. Her head was tipped to her shoulder and her lashes were brushing her cheek.
She looked peaceful.
Though after a few seconds of that entirely inappropriate behavior . . . this was not the first time that he'd stared at the woman while she was unconscious and he didn't want to think about what that meant . . . Hotch realized that watching her sleep was making him tired. Besides that though . . . he stifled another yawn . . . Christmas Eve was shortly going to become Christmas Day and it would be nice if they were at least on their fortune cookies before that happened.
Just as Hotch reached over to touch Emily's arm, a car alarm went off around the corner and that sound . . . unlike the rest of the traffic noises that night . . . actually startled her awake.
Her eyes popped open directly onto his.
"Hey," he said softly as he pulled his arm back.
"Hey," Emily blinked as she yawned into her hand, "sorry, how long was I sleeping?"
He shrugged back, "I don't know. Ten, fifteen minutes," his brow quirked up as he added drily, "it's been eerily quiet in the car."
"Lucky you sir," she huffed out on another yawn, "but I'm awake now." She rubbed her hand over her mouth to cover another yawn trying to come out, "and raring to go."
Perhaps raring was a bit of an overstatement. She actually felt like somebody had slipped her a roofy. But given that the only people tonight that had touched her drinks were Dave and Hotch . . . she snorted to herself . . . that thought was rather ridiculous. Most likely it was just the day, month, year catching up with her.
It had been a long everything.
Hotch's brow wrinkled slightly when he saw Emily blinking to keep her eyes open.
"You sure you're not too tired to go eat?" He asked with a faint touch of concern.
He'd really rather she didn't go inside and slump unconscious over her fried rice. That was going to make a mess. But his concerns were somewhat allayed when he saw Emily look over at him with a sleepy smile.
"Don't be silly sir." She joked as she undid her seatbelt, "you know that I'm never too tired to eat." That sentence was punctuated with another yawn.
And then another.
And then one more.
After the fourth yawn in less than a minute she gave him a sheepish grin. "Sorry. But like I said, I'm raring to . . ."
". . . raring to go, yeah," Hotch drolly finished Emily's sentence, "obviously." Their eyes locked for a second and seeing her mouth quiver he hid his own lip twitch by feigning annoyance.
"Well," he mock scowled as he hit the locks, "just try not to pass out while you're eating. I don't really feel like performing the Heimlich tonight." Then he simultaneously opened his door and shot her a look, "wait for me and I'll help you down."
Knowing that was a statement that was going to elicit a response, Hotch was out and into the street before she could protest. Not that her protests would have meant anything to him, he just didn't want to hear them. But with her swollen knee the jeep was too high off the ground for her to get out on her own without injuring herself further.
So he was helping her out whether she liked it or not.
As he slammed his door shut, Hotch took a moment to familiarize himself with their surroundings . . . a.k.a. pinpoint any potential problems in their immediate vicinity. He could see that the side street that they were on was little more than a large alley with parking on one side. But all things considered . . . he wobbled his head slightly . . . it seemed to be a fairly safe alley. Well lit, and there were a couple of homeless people a little further down setting up camp over what was probably a heated grate, beyond that . . . his hand grazed over the sidearm hidden under his coat . . . they appeared to be alone. But of course even the criminal elements were known to observe the occasional holiday. So with not a visibly dangerous creature stirring, Hotch broke his stance, moving forward around the front of the jeep to help Emily down. Though when he opened the passenger door, he noticed a funny look on her face.
His eyebrow rose in curiosity, "what's the matter?"
"I just realized that I have to put my heels on again," Emily grumbled as she turned to grab them off the back seat where she'd tossed them earlier, "no shirt, no shoes," her fingers closed around the first heel, "yada yada," she picked up the second shoe with a grunt, "yada."
Damn public health codes . . . she rolled her eyes . . . like her wool sock clad feet were really going to be the epicenter of the next dysentery outbreak?
When Emily turned back to Hotch with her high heels in hand, she saw him staring at them. It was her turn to ask the question.
"What's the matter?"
"Nothing, just," he shook his head dismissively, "don't bother with them Prentiss." When she looked at him in confusion he simply put his hand out, "we've got our badges, I'll carry you over the," he glanced down at the filthy alleyway, "pavement and then you just be careful you don't step on any loose wontons when we get inside." His eyes snapped back up to hers as he nodded firmly, "it's fine."
Those heels had already proven themselves to be a menace tonight anyway, and with Hotch now factoring in her weakened right side and the slight bit of black ice forming on the sidewalks, she was sure to break her neck if she tried to walk in them again.
Emily stared at her boss for a moment before she shrugged and dropped her heels down on the floor mat.
"Okay," she swung her legs around, "if you say so."
Given how intimidating Hotch could be, most likely he could escort her inside with no shirt and no shoes and she'd still get service. She glanced over his head at the slightly sketchy neighborhood . . . though given that there was a Hooters just down the street if she decided to go anywhere around here with no shirt she'd probably get a free dinner.
Bare tits were popular everywhere.
Though if she went shirtless in this weather she'd definitely be giving new meaning to the old National Lampoon's favorite, "a wee bit nipply out." Not that the old meaning was all that classy to begin with . . . Emily's brow wrinkled as she looked back down at Hotch . . . where was she going with this? Just then Hotch pushed her coat aside and she nodded to herself.
Right, ways to get a free meal/give Hotch a heart attack.
Just before he reached up to lift Emily out, Hotch stopped, pausing to brush aside her coat and check her knees again. His nose wrinkled slightly when he saw that the bruising had darkened considerably over the last half hour. It looked quite painful. Fortunately though . . . he fixed her coat before reaching up to slip his arm around her waist . . . the ice did seem to have at least done its job of keeping the swelling down on the right knee. That was good, but he was really just grateful that tomorrow was a holiday so she could rest up.
Emily shimmied forward a bit so she could hook her arm around Hotch's neck. Then she grimaced slightly as he slipped his other arm under her legs and pulled her to his chest. He paused for a second as he looked at her with a raised eyebrow, "you okay?"
"Yep," she gave him a slightly pained smile, "I'm good. Just a little twinge, it's passed." So he stepped back onto the sidewalk and she pushed the door shut.
It wasn't until he heard the slam that Hotch realized that he'd forgotten to hand Emily the keys before he picked her up. Idiot.
He rolled his eyes as he jerked his head to the left.
"Uh, can you get the locks please? Keys are in my left pants pocket."
Making no effort to stifle her amusement, Emily's smirked at Hotch as she leaned over slightly.
"That better be all that's in your pocket sir," she said as she pushed back his coat, "because I haven't had a guy try to play find the cannoli with me since I was visiting my friend Analise up in Brooklyn."
"Prentiss . . ." Hotch groaned and Emily snorted as she yanked the keys from his pocket.
"Yeah, yeah Hotch, I know," she grinned at him as she hit the locks, "I'm killing you."
Busting Hotch's chops had long ago become her favorite pastime.
"As long as you know," Hotch responded drolly, "as you long as you know."
And then with her chuckling in his ear, he turned and started up towards the main street.
"Prentiss," Hotch said as Emily took a left around the back hallway of the restaurant, "are you sure this is the right . . ."
And then he stopped, grabbing her by the waist and pulling her back, "be careful!"
Somebody had dropped a beer bottle and the green glass was in slivers all over the floor in front of them.
"Oh," Emily frowned as she looked at the debris on the dirty tile, "thanks."
She'd almost forgotten this was a restaurant/bar. They had just finished eating on the restaurant side but the bathrooms were shared territory in the back and she knew that every barroom had broken glass somewhere on the ground. But regardless of the sharp pointy things lying in her path, Emily still had to pee really, really badly. And . . . she pointed . . . it was just ten feet away.
"Right there, ladies room," her gaze traveled a little further down the hall and then her pointing finger followed, "and that one looks like the men's room."
The signs were in Chinese but the pictures seemed clear enough.
Hotch twisted his jaw as he looked behind them and then back down to the mess on the floor . . . it had been kicked by more than one passerby and he could see the little bits had traveled some feet. And he was sure that there tinier slivers that weren't obvious from where they were standing.
Emily was bound to step on some of them.
So with visions of tetanus shots now dancing in his head, Hotch scooped his accident prone agent up for the tenth time that night, then carried her the rest of the way down the narrow hall.
No longer fazed by Hotch carting her around like a sack of potatoes, Emily didn't even blink when he picked her up again. She just held on until they reached the ladies room. Then she put her hand out and knocked on the door.
She turned the knob and pushed. The door swung back slowly and Hotch's brow rose up as he looked down at the floor.
No puddles . . . he deposited the sock wearing Emily on the faded pink tile . . . good enough.
"I'll be back in a minute," and he turned, continuing down the hall to the other bathroom.
Two beers, a half a bottle of wine, a water and a pot of tea with dinner had definitely all just caught up with him.
Emily poked her head around the corner, watching Hotch go, then she stepped back inside, pushed the door shut and locked it.
When she looked back to the floor again her nose wrinkled . . . thank God these were Dave's socks and not hers. Granted, the floor seemed clean enough . . . at least by bar bathroom standards . . . but still, yuck.
Public bathrooms were definitely the one place in the world where you really, REALLY wanted to be wearing shoes!
Still though . . . Emily sighed . . . when you gotta go, you gotta so and she most definitely had to go. So she gingerly . . . albeit still somewhat reluctantly . . . starting moving her way over to the toilet, trying to avoid stepping anywhere that looked like it might be sticky. Or God forbid . . . a shudder went through her body . . . wet.
She imagined it would have been less stressful walking in a minefield.
Eventually she made it the six paces across the chilly bathroom. Though once she arrived at the toilet, to her chagrin Emily realized that she really should have taken her coat off at the door. It was going to be hard enough maneuvering over the seat without worrying about dipping her best wool in nasty toilet water.
For a second she seriously considered trying to juggle, then decided that with her aching knee it was going to be hard enough levitating without ten pounds of coat throwing her off. So with a roll of her eyes she made the tiptoed trek back across the small room again.
'Where was Hotch when she really needed him?' she huffed to herself as she started pulling off her coat and scarf. Then she snorted as she pictured the look on his face if she asked to him to render assistance in this situation.
He'd mutter something derogatory, then roll his eyes and finally . . . her expression softened . . . just ask what she needed him to do.
He was sweet like that.
A sad smile touched Emily's lips as she hung the coat on the back of the door . . . he was such a good guy. It was really awful what was happening with him family, that he was all alone for Christmas. And as she started back across the bathroom again Emily once more wished that he would have just accepted her invitation to stay over tonight and spend the morning with her. Any other day she might have thought that idea was somewhat strange, but they were having a really good time together tonight! She'd even made him laugh at dinner! And not just the quiet Hotch chuckle, this was a rarely seen full on belly laugh where she saw his eyes start to tear up in mirth.
It was a wonderful thing to see.
It was something that she wished there was a way to see more of. And tonight it was all because she decided to tell him the story about Morgan falling into the poison ivy patch last month. He was doing maintenance on one of his properties and things went terribly awry. Yet somehow Derek had managed to convince her, Garcia and Reid to keep from mentioning that incident to Hotch. At the time Morgan was afraid he'd bust his chops . . . which he most definitely would have if he'd heard the full story . . . but Emily now felt that the statute of limitations on that secret had run it's course.
Some little part of her brain took note that over the last few months she'd shifted her loyalties a bit from Derek to Hotch. Not completely of course, Derek was still her main partner in the field, but since the day Hotch had come and dragged her back to the BAU, she did find herself a bit more in step with the man in black than she had been before. It was a strange connection they had. One that they'd had since the beginning and she knew that it would only be strengthened by what had happened between them tonight.
Kissing . . . even the kind that they had engaged in . . . was an intimate act. Really, it's not like she walked around smacking lips with every cute guy she met. Granted she had kissed a hell of a lot more guys than she'd slept with but still, kissing Hotch . . . she started washing her hands . . . it was . . . something.
For a moment Emily stared at herself in the mirror, listening to the water continuing to splash into the sink and swirl down the drain. Then she blinked, realizing then that she was allowing her brain to start chugging down a path that she absolutely did not want it to go down.
To start thinking about Hotch as a man and not her boss.
With some irritation Emily started wiping her hands dry on her skirt . . . not that she wasn't always acutely aware that Hotch was a man. That was pretty hard to miss given that he was about as virile a specimen as they come.
But he was also off limits.
Not only that though . . . she started limping over to pull on her coat again . . . he was also a royal mess and still completely in love with his wife! So the fact that she had allowed her brain to start wandering at all just went to show how lonely she was right now.
Her eyes started to sting slightly . . . damn Christmas Eve . . . day now, it was just past midnight. Either way . . . she sniffled as she tied her scarf again . . . she was now full circle from her earlier in the evening melancholy. Great.
Just . . . she yanked the door open to see Hotch standing right in front of her . . . whoa!
"Are you all right?" He asked worriedly from two inches away, "I was just about to knock. You've been in there almost ten minutes."
"Ten . . ." Emily looked down at her watch, "sorry, I uh," she swallowed as she looked back up at him, "had, uh . . . trouble with my coat."
Okay, that sounded rather stupid when she said it aloud. But it was better than telling him she was staring in the mirror thinking about him and how badly she wished she had a life and somebody to wish her merry Christmas when she woke up in the morning.
"Your coat," Hotch repeated in confusion as he looked at Emily's slightly moist eyes and then down to the unbuttoned garment, "what was it doing to you?"
She looked upset.
Despite the momentary pall that had started to settle over her again, Emily's lips started to twitch at Hotch's question . . . what was it doing to her?
Like it was an entity with free will.
"It didn't pull a gun on me if that's what you mean," she responded with a faintly watery smile. And seeing his eye roll she felt a little more of that melancholy push back. That's when she remembered that they were having a good time tonight.
She wasn't going to ruin it now.
So she just shook her head dismissively, "it was nothing, just forgot to take it off and then had to go hang it up and you know," she rolled her own eyes, "moving a little slowly this evening."
She'd have to be moving at snail pace to take ten minutes to walk six paces but whatever . . . at least the story had a grain of truth in it. And as she saw Hotch nod she knew that grain was enough for him to let it go.
"Okay, well," his eyebrow rose up slightly, "are you ready to go home now?"
If she didn't want to talk about what was bothering her he wasn't going to make her.
"Yep," she nodded before she started buttoning her coat, "just one second." When she fastened her last button she looked up at him with a little smile as she put her arms out.
Though she expected Hotch to pick her up as he had earlier, instead he tipped his head rather awkwardly.
"Uh, I actually had them clean up the glass while you were in the bathroom."
"Oh," Emily dropped her arms, "okay."
Though she had no way of knowing that fact . . . not to mention it had been his idea to cart her around everywhere . . . now she kind of felt like an idiot. And she started to brush by him when she stopped as she felt his hand fall to her shoulder.
"Prentiss," he asked softly, "what did you wish for tonight? You know earlier, with the falling star?"
It was a question that he'd meant to ask her at the time, but then they'd had their spill on the ice. And it wasn't until he was thinking about her watery eyes as she buttoned her coat that the question had come back to him again. She'd made a wish earlier and something she'd been thinking about in the bathroom had obviously upset her.
Though he didn't want to be too nosey, he was just wondering if the two things were related.
Emily stared at Hotch for a moment, surprised by the question and debating whether or not she should tell him. But as she saw that his eyes were soft and curious she decided that she would. So she reached up to touch his cheek as she said on a whisper, "I wished for you to find your smile."
She'd thought about wishing not to be alone anymore . . . but that had been her birthday wish. And that was okay because birthday wishes were personal . . . they were supposed to be all about you. But falling star wishes should be for something else. Something less selfish.
Really, she just wanted Hotch to be happy again.
Hotch's eyes started to burn as he stared down at this woman who constantly surprised him. And he decided then that one more deviation from the norm would be okay. So he leaned down and pulled her up and into another tight hug.
Just one more for the road.
"Merry Christmas Prentiss."
Hotch's voice was a husky whisper in Emily's ear. And she felt her breath catch as she buried her face in his neck, feeling the cashmere of his scarf caressing her cheek. Then her eyes started to water again as he rubbed her back.
"You too Hotch," she whispered back as she rested her head on his shoulder.
A/N 2: Given all the softer "Aaron" parts of Hotch Emily was seeing I thought it would be normal that a little part of her would kind of be equating that man's potential with the fact that she had no man of her own. Christmas can be sucky when you're all by yourself.
And sort of echoey of Hotch's own feelings about the falling star wishes. And I'd have to agree, making a wish on something that's eons old and has fallen through time and space should be a bit grander than "I want a new car!" :) Regardless though, even though it took a little while to get it all up, I'm glad I did think of this insert because I do think it adds some needed depth to their bond in Girl. The divorce paper chapters come right after this and now that they have this night together their 'no big deal' behavior to what happens in the bathroom has a bit more context.
I am planning a little one shot about Morgan's misadventures in the poison ivy patch. I had the idea for that when I was reading over the malady prompts and I thought I'd just work it into this story to give it some context. It's all a rich tapestry! :)
Originally when I was writing this I'd thought about perhaps carrying it forward to Christmas morning (and I could still at some point) but tonight actually I was thinking that I might write a quickie little New Year's piece. It would be very quickie so I might do that this weekend. Speaking of, there are New Year's prompts up if anyone's looking to write a story. And if you're looking for any New Year's stories from me in that vein, the only one I've written is "New York State Of Mind" which is a totally different world, future fic.
One last thing, the bit about finding feathers on your plate, that happened to me. A VERY authentic Vietnamese place in Chinatown up in Boston. Stirring your soup and finding a feather with some skin still attached . . . kind of puts you off the meal.