Author's Note: Sorry it took a bit to get the end up here. I've really had this draft done for awhile but the way it was coming together, though it was organic to the scene, at first the tone of it didn't seem to flow with that of the first two chapters. Basically I couldn't make it as "funny" as I felt the bar had been set for this one. And that was irritating me to no end, which obviously doesn't help when I'm trying to write "the witty." So in an effort to move this one out of my working drafts folder, I read over the other Finding stories to get the feel for the overall universe again. That's when realized (to my relief) that this ending actually does work with what's gone up before. If you've read the others, you'll see.

So, bottom line, though this one does have a bit of the funny in it, it also has a fair amount of angst as well. But as they say, the course of true love . . . yada yada.

Either way, it's done! And hope you like the end :) And remember, this is H/P months before they get together. Neither is aware of the other's unrequitedness. Dopes.

Direct continuation of the last scene.

Story Title Forum, Prompt Set #10

Author: Faith Baldwin

Title Challenge: That Man is Mine

Fight Club

Emily's stomach dropped as she stared across Hotch's office in disbelief.

What the hell was going on in here? Luisa had herself wrapped around Hotch like Static Cling.

That . . . that . . .

For a moment Emily was too stunned at was she was seeing to even come up with a word.


The words came flying into her head with the simultaneous shooting of her diastolic to the mid 160s. Then her brain was pulling up the color photo guide of the few dozen or so ways she knew how to dispose of a human being. She was leaning towards number thirty seven.

Tent poles, rope and dermestid beetles.

And of course ear plugs for all the screaming.

Now the fact that Emily technically held no claim to Hotch was utterly irrelevant to her at that moment. No . . . her temper reached boiling point as her fingernails began to dig into her palm . . . the only thing that WAS relevant was how much plastic surgery Luisa was going to require to duct tape that face back together after Emily was done with her.

And she was indeed seriously considering beating the whore senseless, when suddenly the bigger picture of what was happening clicked into place.

It wasn't just Luisa . . . Emily's eyes snapped up and locked onto Hotch's stunned ones . . . it was Hotch too.

He had his arm around her.

Then suddenly feelings of hurt and stupidity started to claw up and jockey for space in Emily's already whirling brain.

"I'm sorry . . ." her words were ice as her fingernails gouged through her skin, drawing blood. "Is this a bad time?"

Even through her rage, Emily could see the veiled panic in Hotch's eyes . . . but she didn't care. She didn't care that he wasn't accountable to her. She didn't care what he was doing, if he thought he had a good reason. The point was . . . the hurt started to completely override her anger . . . she'd come up here because she'd had a lousy day and she'd missed him and needed him to make her feel better. And this is what she'd found.

Him acting like, like . . . hot tears started to burn her eyes . . . MORGAN!

With that thought . . . and the realization that she was getting entirely too emotional for this setting . . . Emily didn't even bother waiting for a response from Hotch . . . his jaw was still gaping anyway . . . she just spun around and stormed out the door.

Yes, she knew that her behavior wasn't particularly professional. But her ramming a letter opener into Luisa's ocular cavity wouldn't be particularly professional either.

Leaving was definitely the lesser of the two evils.

So Emily flew down the stairs without even a thought of stopping at her desk . . . Morgan and Reid were still cowering there where she'd left them . . . and just kept running straight out of the bullpen and through the glass doors.

Part of her knew that out and out fleeing like her hair was on fire wasn't just unprofessional . . . it was straight out immature.

But she didn't give a shit.

She was hurt and pissed and disgusted with her whole ridiculous life and the fact that she could get so upset over the behavior of a man that she wasn't even romantically involved with.

What a pathetic LOSER!

The thought came with a wave of self loathing . . . yet another emotion to add to the mix . . . as her eyes actually started to water. God . . . she quickly started blinking . . . she really needed to get out of there before she humiliated herself even further by actually getting weepy in front of anyone.

Just then the subject of her humiliation came flying through the glass door calling her name. Great. Just flipping . . . she jabbed her finger down furiously on the elevator button . . . great!

For a second she tried to just ignore his voice, hoping the elevator would show up before he was within spitting distance.

It didn't.

And seeing it was still three floors away, Emily spun on her heel and ran over to slam through the stairwell a few feet away. She was much too emotional and so not in the mood to hear any excuses or explanations for what she'd just walked into.

She'd seen what she'd seen. So he could just stuff his whatever excuses or explanations where the sun didn't shine. And though Emily knew that it was likely that Hotch would follow her down the stairs too, she was really hoping that her continual motion in the direction opposite his would send a not so subtle hint.


And yes, she really wanted to just scream that at him . . . but she kept her tongue. Screaming "douche" at her boss would have been just a tad over the top.

Okay . . . she started running down the stairs . . . more so than what she'd already done.

But as she'd expected (feared) Hotch chose to ignore the waves of anger and hostility she was psychically hurling at him and continued after her. The fire door had barely swung shut before she heard him come hurtling through that one too, still calling after her.


She was screaming in her head as her eyes started to tear up again . . . stupid jerk. Go AWAY!

Still though, even with him hot on her heels, Emily kept going down the stairs. She was past the point of any rational behavior. And as she circled around to the next landing, she completely ignored Hotch's yells for her to stop while trying to pretend like it was totally par for the course to be running away from her boss/the man she was in love with like he was a three am mugger and she'd forgotten her Glock.

But then she felt Hotch's strong fingers latch around her forearm, stopping her cold halfway down the second stairwell.

He'd caught up. Of course. Still, she tried to pull away, but . . . not unsurprisingly . . . Hotch was considerably stronger than she was, so all he did was tighten his grasp.

It didn't hurt but she wasn't going anywhere.

"Emily!" His slightly breathless voice echoed in the empty stairwell, "what the HELL are doing? Why did you leave? And why are you running out?"

Though Hotch's tone sounded almost normal to his own ears . . . okay, not so much "normal" as completely unprofessional in an utterly bewildered and totally stressed out kind of way . . . still he felt that he was doing pretty well at least at disguising the blind panic coursing through his veins. And that was indeed what it was . . . blind panic.

Emily was fleeing from him.


She might as well have thrown a lasso around his heart before she'd run out, because that's how he'd felt when he saw her spin around with that look of disgust on her face . . . like she was just dragging his heart along with her. It was clear she wanted nothing to do with him, and that was throwing him into a complete tailspin.

All he was trying to do . . . as he ran after her like an idiot . . . was to think how to fix it.

The problem was though . . . Hotch's stomach started twisting as he saw the moisture in her eyes . . . he didn't know how. Yes, getting caught with Luisa latched onto him like that looked bad . . . okay, very bad given how she'd pressed herself against him . . . but still, he wasn't actually DOING anything with her! And he'd hope that Emily . . . of all people . . . would have thought better of him. So he had not expected the one woman whose opinion meant the most to him to just run out of his office and make him chase her down like she'd just escaped from an eighteenth century mental asylum.

But what was really throwing him off about her actions was that she didn't seem simply annoyed or shocked at his behavior . . . what he'd expect from a female friend walking in on what she'd (thought) she'd walked in on . . . but instead she was obviously angry and hurt.

The angry he could kind of get . . . it was a step above annoyed . . . but the hurt was what he didn't understand. They didn't have that kind of relationship. Regardless of his feelings for her, they were just friends. His teeth started to grind.

Weren't they?

Emily's tone was tight as her watery eyes fell way from his, dropping to the hand still resting on her arm. "I wasn't . . . I needed some air. Now if you'll please let me . . ."

She hadn't even finished the sentence before Hotch's face suddenly darkened.

"No," Hotch shook his head as he moved around and down to the step in front of Emily, getting their height even, "no," he tightened his hold on her arm as he stated firmly, "I won't let you go until you tell me what's wrong and why you're running away."

Hotch thought he was being proactive . . . nipping this in the bud . . . but then immediately realized from the physical recoil of Emily's body that his "chief tone" was doing nothing to bridge this horrible gap that had just sprung up between them. So he took a breath and then leaned down slightly to catch her eyes where they'd fallen away.

Then he whispered.

"It's not what just happened in my office is it? Because you know that was just," he shrugged uncomfortably, "Luisa was upset about a case file and she's, well she's young and apparently has some boundary issues that I hadn't picked up on yet."

And then . . . seeing an opportunity to reconnect . . . Hotch decided to ask the favor he was going to ask earlier in the day.

"Actually," he tried giving Emily a little smile as he moved his hand down to squeeze her fingers, "I was going to ask you if you could maybe talk to her about that for me."

Though the request had seemed sound in his head . . . he and Emily had become close friends over the years and they did favors for one another all the time . . . as he saw the stunned expression appear on her face, he'd realized that he'd just seriously fucked up.


Emily's jaw dropped at Hotch's request. Had he ACTUALLY just said the words that she thought that he'd just said?

That AAROGANT son of a . . .

Before the rest of the expletives started flying through her brain, Emily yanked her hand away from his, narrowly resisting the urge to slap him squarely across the face as she stepped back up a stair.

The height differential helped.

"If I might make an observation," Emily's tone was dripping with disdain as she stared down at him, "Luisa's 'boundary' issues might perhaps be a consequence of your behavior."

Seeing his look of astonishment at that revelation, Emily's eyes started to burn again . . . but still she kept going.

"Little hint Hotch, if you're going to go around touching a young girl like that in your office, then what do you expect that she's going to think?" Her eyes fell away from his as her voice faded. "What do you think anybody would think?"

There was a moment of pregnant silence . . . and then Hotch came back again.

"Emily . . ."

His voice was strained with emotion as his fingers reached for hers again . . . but Emily wasn't having any of it. Again, she yanked her hand away, her head snapping up as she ground out.

"Unless you have a legitimate work reason that necessitates you speaking with me right now, then I would appreciate if you would please leave me alone . . . sir."

She tacked on the sir because she knew it would hurt him . . . and it did. She could see it on his face . . . the blink . . . almost like she'd gone through with the slap. And though she absolutely felt that she was in the right and he was in the wrong . . . of all the NERVE him behaving like that and asking her to speak to the skank(!) . . . Emily couldn't deny that she still felt a stab in her chest when she saw that flash of pain on his face and knowing that she'd put it there.

But then she reminded herself again . . . he deserved it. And there's no way that she'd hurt him half as much as he'd hurt her. He couldn't be that hurt because he didn't care about her the way she did about him.

Now she was wondering if he ever would.

Hotch felt like he'd been punched in the gut. Not only had Emily ripped her hand out of his twice in as many minutes, but then she'd "sirr'ed" him. She hadn't "sirr'ed" him in two years. They had moved beyond that.

Or . . . he felt an ache in his chest as she pushed passed him . . . he thought they had.

And though he wanted her to stay and talk to him, to tell him what exactly he needed to do to make her forgive him for what he'd done in the office, it was clear that she wanted no part of that conversation. And she was right, he had no legitimate work reason which necessitated her speaking to him any longer. So though it was tearing his gut apart . . . he let her go.

"We can talk later," he said softly as he stared down at the beautiful face which refused to lift up to look at him. And all he got in return for his statement was a quick jerk of her head and a husky, "I'm taking lunch." Then she started down the staircase again.

Hotch watched her going round and round until she reached the ground floor. Then he waited still until he heard the fire door open . . . and then slam shut again. It was six full flights.

She didn't look back once.


Three days later . . . Thursday night. . . Hotch found himself jammed into the corner of the team's local hangout nursing his second beer. Though ordinarily he'd have to be dragged to these types of excursions, this time when Dave had popped his head in to say that they were all going out simply because it was a full moon . . . Garcia's idea for an outing of course . . . Hotch had readily grabbed his jacket.

He was still trying to get Emily to forgive/talk/look at him . . . pick a verb . . . and he felt like he might have more luck in a private outing than he'd been having at work. Really, since Emily had walked into his office on Monday and caught him in what appeared to be a totally inappropriate clinch with his cradle robbing ginger haired assistant, she hadn't spoken a word to him.

Or more specifically she hadn't spoken a nice word to him.

When she deigned to speak to him at all . . . which was only when spoken to for work matters . . . everything out of her mouth was clipped and curt and completely professional. There were no smiles for him, no jokes, no laughing . . . he bit his lip . . . no Emily. It was just . . . Prentiss.

Prentiss from years ago.

That's all he was getting. Detached, on duty Supervisory Special Agent Prentiss. She was normal with everybody else, but the woman was 'sirr'ing' him left and right! It was killing him! Seriously, killing him. And he wanted so badly to pull her into his office and just order her to be his friend again.

To be his Emily.

Of course he knew that he couldn't do that, but he really was getting desperate. If this went on through the weekend he was seriously considering inflicting some sort of minor injury on himself . . . like lighting himself on fire maybe . . . just to see if she'd show any personal interest in his condition.

Hotch paused with his beer halfway to his mouth, staring across the crowded bar at Emily and JJ playing darts in the corner.

They were laughing.

It was the first time in Hotch's life that he'd been jealous of another woman.

Then Dave's voice cut through his thoughts.

"Why is Emily treating you like something on her shoe? What did you do?"

Dave had been wanting to ask Hotch this question all week, but every time he tried to broach the subject . . . after hours . . . Hotch had picked up his phone and said he had to make a call. Yeah, he was a lying sack, but it was an effective deflection.

Still though, it was obvious by Tuesday morning that something had happened between the unrequited lovebirds. Hotch had walked into the conference room and sat down in his usual seat next to Emily . . . then she promptly got up and moved three chairs down. At the time she'd muttered to the three other people in the room . . . Reid and Garcia were late . . . that she had a headache and the sun was in her eyes. But Dave had seen the flash of distress on Hotch's face when she'd stood up . . . like she'd just asked him for a divorce . . . and Dave had known then . . . his buddy was in the doghouse.

Of course with Hotch's complete obstinacy when it came to discussing this point, Dave had been unable to assist him in getting out of it. Really . . . he took in the tension in Hotch's limbs . . . who had more experience pissing off women than he did?


And the dumbass wasn't even volunteering to take in his years of experience to help him out of a jam that he obviously had no knowledge of how to get out of on his own. If he had then obviously he wouldn't have been sitting there alone with Dave when it was obvious how much he wanted to be across the room with Emily and the others playing darts.

Processing Dave's accusatory tone . . . one that he'd heard oh so many unwelcome times before . . . Hotch's head snapped up to see Rossi staring at him.

"I didn't do anything!" He shot back defensively.

The response was simply automatic when it came to Dave . . . the man busted his balls at every opportunity . . . but then Hotch immediately remembered that he had indeed done something . . . he'd not flung Luisa out of an eighth story window when he had the chance.

And given the Eyebrow of Incredulity he was getting from Dave, it had to have been a fairly obviously lie to him as well.

So he sighed and gave a little ground . . . a very little.

"Emily is just a bit . . . upset with me right now," Hotch's eyes fell back to the table as his voice faded, "I don't know why."

He did of course, but he did not wish to discuss the issue with Dave. He'd been AVOIDING discussing this issue with Dave all damn week! Because in exchange for (non)relationship advice from the man who had screwed more women than Hotch had possibly even MET in his life, he would have had to tell him what occurred in his office on Monday.

And that was just never happening.

"Really," Rossi's eyebrow went up another notch as he responded flatly, "your closest friend at the Bureau is treating you like an 18th century leper and you don't have ONE frigging clue as to why that might be?"

Again, such a lying sack of SHIT! Because really, all the tail he'd chased over the years had taught Dave a few important things about relationships with women. First and most important, do not clip your toenails in the living room. Ever. Second, if a woman asks if her pants/jean/skirt/dress makes her ass look big, even if said ass looks like the side of a barn, the answer is always an emphatic, unequivocal, "NO." And lastly, if the woman in your life was freezing you out for three days straight . . . and make no mistake, declared or not, Emily was indeed the 'woman' in Hotch's life . . . you always had a clue. You might not be able to pinpoint the exact point of contention . . . they were women after all, and God knows the things that could set them off . . . but you could at least narrow it down. And Dave could see from the flicker of discomfort on Hotch's face that he had most definitely narrowed it down.

"Well," Hotch's jaw twitched as he started peeling up the napkin in front of him, "I might have a small clue as to what the problem might be," he shot Dave a hard look, "but I'll handle it myself."

Clearly Dave was in 'nosy bastard' mode . . . default position . . . but maybe if Hotch was just vague with the details, then he'd move on to the next thing.

"I figured as much," Rossi shook the ice in his glass, "care to share?"


The word came with a full on scowl . . . or maybe he wouldn't move on to the next thing.

Pain in the ass.

Seeing how stubborn Hotch was being about this . . . like it wasn't in everyone's interest for them to 'kiss' and make up . . . Dave leaned across the table.

"All right then," he sighed, "if you're going to be that way about it, I'm just going to give you some generic advice that has been working for men the last few hundred years or so."

"Really," Hotch asked drily as his eyes snapped up to meet Dave's, "and what might this magical advice be?"

This out to be good.

"Get your ass over there and ask her to dance."

"What?" Hotch sputtered as he dropped the shredded paper from his hands, "what the hell are you talking about? That's your 'generic' advice to cover all situations? Ask her to DANCE?"

What kind of BONEHEADED advice was that? Ask her to dance. Not only had they never done that before . . . though he would love to . . . in the current state of their non-relationship, she was liable to hand him his balls just for asking. And they were off duty so there'd be little he could do to stop her. She was entitled to spend her free time with whomever she wanted, and if he didn't respect the fact that she clearly didn't want to spend time with him right now . . . his stomach twisted . . . then he'd just be another creep in a bar that was bothering her.

Not a hoped for stop on the future greatest love story ever told.

Seeing the physical recoil Hotch had at just the thought of taking such a step, Dave bit down his smirk . . . the man was so far gone and he still didn't know what to do with himself. So now it was time for some tough love.

Of the non whips and chains variety of course.

"Listen Aaron," Dave lowered his voice slightly to focus his point, "I don't know what exactly happened between you and Emily, and I get that you don't want to tell me, but I'm going to guess it had something to do with that Lolita you hired to push papers for you."

Watching Hotch's eyes pop in surprise, Dave knew that he'd indeed guessed correctly as to the nature of the problem at hand. He was only sorry he'd missed the fireworks.

"Okay then," he gave him a knowing nod, "now that that's confirmed, I'm going to tell you something with all due respect and affection."

"What's that?" Hotch asked warily.

"You're a fucking moron."

"Well," Hotch rolled his eyes, "as long as you say it with affection then I guess it's okay."


Rossi rolled his eyes. "Really Aaron, how could you not see that one coming? The two of them hated each other on sight. Our sweet, good natured Emily wanted to scratch the girl bald. And that little hootchie mama immediately pegged Emily as her primary competition."

"Competition," Hotch interjected in bewilderment, "competition for what?"

"YOU! You dumbass!" Dave yelled. And seeing it take a moment for the utterly blank expression on Hotch's face to morph into one of shock and understanding, he rolled his eyes.

"Sometimes it's impossible to believe that you actually run a unit dedicated to the study of human behavior," Rossi muttered under his breath.

"What was that?" Hotch asked absentmindedly. His mind was still too distracted with what Dave had just said. Competition. Emily and Luisa had been in "competition" for his attention. That had honest to God gone right over his head. Probably because Luisa was young enough to be his daughter . . . disgusting . . . and Emily, he didn't think she thought of him that way. But now looking back at her behavior in the stairwell through the lens that Dave had given him, it all made sense. That's why she was hurt and angry when what he would have expected in that moment was annoyance. She was jealous.

This changed things . . . this changed everything.

And for a second Hotch felt a burst of joy fill his heart . . . but then he remembered . . . fraternization.


All the reasons that he hadn't made any attempt to declare his affection for Emily TO Emily, still held true. It didn't matter that his feelings now might actually be reciprocated . . . they still couldn't act on them. And his hopes were dashed as a wave of sadness filled him.

This changed nothing.

Watching the display of emotions whirl across the face of his normally stoic friend, Dave felt a pang of sympathy. He could tell from the hand scrub across his mouth that Hotch was just as confused now as he'd been five minutes earlier.

Though for obviously different reasons.

And Dave knew that it was too soon for him to tell his buddy to jump off the cliff . . . if he honestly hadn't seen until just now that Emily was just as devoted to him as he was to her, they weren't ready for that yet. Still though . . . he reached over and patted Hotch's forearm . . . that didn't mean he couldn't help him fix things back to what they were a week ago.

Back when they were happy just to be in the same room together.

"Aaron," he said softly, "I'm serious, just go ask her to dance. It'll fix it." Seeing Hotch's gaze slowly drag up from the table to lock on to his, Dave gave him a little smile.

"I promise."

For a moment the two men stared at one another, then Hotch bit his lip.

"If she slugs me," he said slowly as he pushed back his chair, "I'm making you take Garcia to the next midnight screening of Twilight."

Dave's lips twitched as he leaned back in his seat.

"She already set up a Team Jacob screensaver on my computer."


Hotch was licking his lips as he started pushing his way through the crowd.

Even though he'd just downed two beers, his mouth was dry. And he was wondering when was the last time that he had a case of nerves just at the thought of speaking to a woman. But of course . . . he slowly moved across the room . . . Emily wasn't just a woman. She was the first woman that he'd cared for since Haley had left him a broken shell of what he was before. And now he'd just come to realize . . . perhaps a bit late to the party . . . that maybe someday they might actually have a chance to try for something more than what they had now.

That all depended on how well he sorted out the mess he'd made.

As he crossed around the dance floor, he noticed Emily moving away from the larger group playing darts . . . she was heading to the bar.


Ideally Hotch would rather not humiliate himself in front of the entire team. So he changed his course as well, hurrying over to catch up with her before she got into the line for drinks.

And he did.

He walked up just as she stepped back to let a girl cut in front of her . . . she was pregnant and asked Emily if she could just get a quick refill on her orange soda . . . and for a second he just stood behind her, waiting to see if she'd noticed his presence yet.


Or if she did . . . she didn't let on. So he tentatively reached out and put his hand on her shoulder.

"Emily," he leaned forward slightly to whisper in her ear, "would you like to dance?"

Feeling Hotch's warm breath on her skin, Emily jumped as a shiver went down her spine. And that was stupid, because she'd known that he was standing behind her before he even opened his mouth.

She could smell Hotch anywhere.

Okay, that phrase sounded less than flattering but, oh well. The principle was the same . . . his scent drove her mad. And just for a second . . . as he complete invaded her senses . . . she forgot that she was pissed at him.

Just for a second.

It had been the same damn 'frozen in time' moment every time he invaded her space. That's why she'd had to move her seat on Tuesday . . . and every other day that week . . . it would have been impossible to stay pissed off with him that close.

Stupid pheromones.

But as she had done repeatedly the last three days, she quickly recovered from her momentary . . . embarrassing . . . fifteen year old girl response to his presence. And then she remembered (again) that he was a big stupid jerk . . . okay, yeah the fifteen year old girl was perhaps still in residence . . . and she spun around to shoot him the same nasty look that she had every time he'd tried to get into her good graces.

But then she saw him standing there in front of her with his shirtsleeves rolled up and the soft . . . nervous . . . expression on his face. And Emily just couldn't give him the cold shoulder again.

It was because he was nervous.

Hotch was never nervous. Like you could play Russian roulette with the man and he'd spin down to the last chamber without breaking a sweat. But here he was nervous now.

Talking to her.

Oh . . . she bit her lip as a wave of affection flooded her body . . . that was ADORABLE!

And though at first it kind of pissed her off that she was that much of a chick that she'd put aside her principles just for something like that . . . him being cute . . . then she reminded herself of something else. Something very important.

She wasn't actually going to stay angry with him forever.

Obviously she was eventually going to get over what had happened in his office. And then she'd stop being pissed at him for having a penis, because well, she had a life. So best to just choose to let it go now so she could stop feeling stressed out every time she saw him.

Also . . . her expression softened slightly . . . God knows the next time he'd be going out with the team. She was shocked when he'd shown up with Dave tonight. And even if he DID go out with the team again, what were the odds that he'd actually ask her to dance again?

Oi . . . she felt a burst of panic that this might be her one shot . . . she needed to get on this before he came to his senses!

Still though, she tried to outwardly maintain a modicum of dignity by giving him only a half hearted shrug.

"I guess," she murmured, "if you'd like to do that then I could maybe do that with you."

Seeing Emily's defensive posture immediately drop right before she said yes, Hotch's face lit up.

"You would? Great!"

Wow! Rossi had actually given him SOUND advice when it came to dealing with a woman.

That's one.

So he hurriedly moved things along before she changed her mind.

"Okay then, uh, after you," he gave her a little smile as he put his arm out and stepped back to let her go in front of him.

Seeing the flash of happiness and relief on Hotch's face, Emily's pride actually got a boost when she saw that of the two of them . . . for an astounding change after what happened Monday . . . Hotch was the one that was wearing his emotions on his sleeve.

That had never happened before.

But it was painfully clear how much he needed her to forgive him. So much so that she started to feel even better about her decision to let things go sooner than later. If he was this desperate for absolution then clearly the three days she'd made him twist in the wind hadn't been for nothing.

He'd gotten the point.

And when Emily started to move towards the dance floor she felt him fall in behind her, his body so close that she could feel the warmth radiating off of him. Heat, her brain corrected as her breathing started to speed up, she could feel the HEAT, radiating off of him.

Okay, calm down Em . . . she told herself with an outward huff . . . you're not going off to do it in the coat closet, it's just a little fence mending dance.

Keep some frigging pride why don't you.

And she kept with that mantra . . . the keeping the pride one . . . all the way across the bar. But then they stepped onto the dance floor over by the far wall, and Hotch tugged her to his chest. And for a second she made a real effort to remain stiff and removed from him, but it was very difficult to retain the pride thing when he was all hot and gorgeous and pressed so deliciously against her front. And then the song changed to an old Faith Hill . . . How Do I Live Without You . . . and her resolved crumbled even further.

Then she heard him whisper the magic words in her ear.

"I'm sorry."

And her breath caught as her eyes remained focused on his chest.

"Okay," she murmured back softly as they began to move to the music, "but do you know I was so angry?"

Though it was torture to put the question out there, she needed to know.

"Yes," he rubbed her back, "I do. I allowed a situation get out of control, and then I compounded the problem by asking you to intercede in a matter that was mine to fix. That was wrong." He leaned down slightly to press his lips to Emily's ear.

"Tomorrow I'm going to have Luisa transferred to the field office in Baltimore."

It had become obvious over the last few days that the girl did not have what it took to work in the BAU . . . her quality of work was not up to the standard set by Betty . . . but now Hotch could also see that Dave was right. She was overly interested in his personal well being.

He just hadn't noticed that's what it was until Rossi brought it to his attention.

And he never had gotten around to that "boundaries" conversation with her because he'd been too distracted with the Emily situation. Basically he'd just kept Luisa locked out of his office the last three days until he'd decided what he was going to say to her.

Apparently . . . sayonara!

Emily froze in Hotch's arms, trying not to scream out the ecstatic "YES!" that was on the tip of her tongue. Instead she tipped her head back and looked up at him with what she hoped was an even expression.

"And why would you do that?"

Please give the right answer here Aaron!

"I don't think she's a good fit for our unit," Hotch said softly, "the bar's too high and the work's too important. So," his eyes locked with Emily's as his hand ran slowly down her back, "I think it's best that she goes somewhere else."

His eyebrow rose slightly.

"What do you think about that?"

"I think," Emily's responded slowly as her gaze shifted over his shoulder, "that some people might be bothered by that decision." Her eyes snapped back to his as some of her residual anger began to creep back, "some people seemed to like her."

And some people wished to see her get genital warts on her face.

Potato, Potahto.

"That's true," Hotch tipped his head, "some people did."

Feeling Emily's body start to stiffen up again, Hotch quickly pressed his lips to her ear, "but the people who mattered didn't, and that's really why I think she should sooner than later."

Hopefully, this would show him how much he cared about her opinion. That he placed her first even now. It might not be the most professional way to handle staffing . . . but his other issues with Luisa's work were real. She really wasn't that good. And he really didn't have the time or inclination to train her to be better.

She wasn't worth the effort.

Tears began to prick Emily's eyes when she heard Hotch's words. And though she knew that some kind of response was probably expected from her right now, all she could do was stare at the loosened knot on his tie.

Hotch was transferring the skank ho out for her. Because she didn't like her.

He was totally and completely . . . FORGIVEN! And Emily was seriously considering knocking him to the ground and tearing his clothes off with her teeth. Okay granted, they were in the middle of a crowded public arena so doing it with her boss would probably be violating a few indecent exposure laws.

Also, she'd mostly likely end up on YouTube. Plus, the floor was probably really sticky and she'd end up with a beer cap stuck to her ass . . . but still, even with all those points in the con column.

She was tempted.

The gesture was just that big. But then she realized that she still hadn't said anything back to him. Plus she now felt like a complete jerk for freezing him out for the last three days.

She needed to fix that.

They might not be anything more than total platonic friends right now . . . another few years to go before she could follow through on that naked YouTube video . . . but they were still close. He had become her closest friend at the office.

Her closest friend period.

So Emily knew that she needed to do something to put things back to the way they were before. And also to thank him for ranking her feelings first above everyone else's. So she shuffled an inch closer, took a breath . . . and put her head down on Hotch's chest. She'd never done that before. It was a big deal. And really, REALLY scary!

What would he do?

But then a second later . . . Hotch's arms were coming up and he was squeezing her to his chest.

It was a hug.

Emily's eyes started to sting . . . Hotch was hugging her. He'd never hugged her before.


It wasn't scary at all anymore, it was just . . . right.

"I'm sorry I called you an ass face." she murmured softly against his shirt.

Though she wouldn't apologize for being angry . . . her feelings were valid, if not a little over the top . . . but she could apologize for not handling the whole thing more maturely.

She should have just told him what was wrong and saved herself three days of stress and anger.

"You never called me an ass face," Hotch whispered back in bewilderment.

"Yes, I did," Emily said sheepishly as she tipped her head back to look up at him, "just not loudly enough for you to hear me."

Hotch's lips started to twitch. "Ah, well, then thank you for the apology."

"No problem," her eyes crinkled slightly, "thank you for shipping the skank out to Baltimore."

"No problem," Hotch responded with half a dimple. And they stared at each other for a moment before a hint of sadness touched Emily's smile.

"I don't like being angry with you," she whispered.

Translation = I missed you. And she was pretty sure that Hotch got that, because he squeezed her tightly to his chest for a moment. Then he murmured against her temple.

"I don't like you being angry with me either," Hotch said as he leaned back, looking down hopefully. "So do you think next time you're upset with me, that you'll tell me why so we can fix it?"

Even if they couldn't move their relationship forward yet . . . and he now had genuine hope one day that they would . . . it would be good if they could start working out the kinks early.

Communication was important.

"Yes," Emily impulsively leaned up to press a quick kiss to his cheek, "I promise." Then she sighed dramatically as her head fell back to his chest again.

"I had nobody to complain to about Spencer and Derek. They've been stealing my money," she huffed. And a second later she felt a chuckle run through Hotch's chest right before he tugged her closer.

"Well," he whispered against her ear, "I'm here now so tell me what they did, and then tell me what you want me to do to them."

This is what he missed . . . just having her come to him. Letting him be the guy in her corner. And her taking that from him was almost as painful an experience as it had been when Haley had done the same thing. Yes, he was equating the loss of Emily's affection on par with the loss of his wife of twenty years.

And that probably said more about his feelings for the woman in his arms than words ever could.

So now that his world was right again, Hotch pushed aside all thoughts of decorum and professional distances . . . they were off duty and hidden in a dark corner of a crowded bar . . . and danced with Emily. For song after song they stayed with her tucked close to his chest as Hotch listened to her tell him about all of the things . . . big and small . . . that had happened to her that week.

And he was deliriously happy.

But when she paused for a moment in her recap to ask him how he was doing without Betty, his eyes suddenly popped.

"Oh," he started digging in his pants pocket, "that reminds me, I have something for you." A second later he pulled out a . . . somewhat crumpled . . . little white envelope.

"Betty left you a letter," he huffed slightly, "I've been carrying it around all week waiting until you were talking to me so I could give it to you.

Hotch saw Emily's gaze come up to lock on to his . . . and then her eyes began to water as she bit her lip.

"What's wrong?"

There was a touch a touch of panic to the question as his hand came up to touch her cheek. He couldn't imagine what he'd done to upset her now . . . Dave was right about women being an enigma . . . but then she shook her head, giving him a bright, watery smile that set his racing heart at ease.

He wasn't going to have to start groveling again.

"I'm okay," Emily sniffled as she wiped the corner of her eye, "just a bit tired I guess. But," she cleared her throat as she took the envelope from his hand, "thank you for this. I was um," she coughed as she tucked the envelope into her own pants pocket, "going to ask you if she'd left me a note."

She couldn't believe he'd been carrying it around with him all week . . . just waiting for the moment that she would forgive him. If she hadn't already . . . Emily buried her face in his chest as her fingers clutched his shirt . . . she absolutely would have now.

And then she felt him tip his head down to rest against hers right before he whispered.

"If you're that tired, do you want go home?"

But she quickly shook her head as she held on just a little tighter, "no, no not yet. It's still early.

Now that they were all made up . . . and they moved into a new soft, cuddling phase of their relationship . . . she wasn't about to cut this moment short before he did. And sure enough as soon as she answered the question, Emily felt the tension leave Hotch's body. Then the song changed again . . . How To Save A Life . . . and she heard him ask tentatively. "What do you want to talk about now?"

A soft sigh escaped as she smiled against his chest.

"Anything," she snuggled in closer, "anything at all. Your choice."

It wasn't hot, passionate YouTube worthy sex, but . . . he began telling her about the new case he'd received yesterday . . . it was them together. Again.

And that was enough for now.

A/N 2: So yeah, you can see, the angst at the beginning was needed. Their feelings for one another in this world are just as "real" as any of the others. So digging into that, the hurt and betrayal (real or imagined) wasn't going to be funny. And it would have been farcical to try and make it as such. Basically it wouldn't have rung true to them. But I thought overall it being a sweeter chapter fit in just fine with the other Finding stories. Aside from Dave's misadventures on St. Paddy's, they all have a bit of angst and cuddling in them. So I guess in the future I should just go with my initial instincts and then things will get resolved much faster :)

But the bottom line, yay, crossed another open one off the list! As always a 'wa hooh!' moment. Also, this moves their relationship forward a bit. Because again, both oblivious to the others feelings at the beginning here, but by the end, Hotch at least gets their probably on the same page. And that's a point that needed to happen at some point because by Valentine's he decided enough's enough on the hovering front. So if I come up with any other stories for the in between point (now to Finding A Tree) they can at least be over that hurdle. I do promise that I will make every effort to make any FUTURE Findings, one shots though :) I hate leaving these hanging (very unexpectedly for me as well) just as much as you people do. Really, this chapter is almost 9000 words, probably 3 chapters for a lot of people, but I made myself keep it all together just so I wouldn't lose momentum again. It was a bastard to proof though! 18 pages! I actually needed a drink by the time I was done.

I've been all caught up in this one the last few days (again, 18 pages) so I didn't get much else banged out. But I had a few things in draft earlier in the week so I'm hoping to get maybe one more item up tomorrow. Maybe Horses or A Pound Of Flesh. They're the closest to done.

Again, thanks in advance for the feedback. They still haven't fixed the review response thing (all the response links come back dead) and honest to God, it's driving me nuts. PMs take longer than click backs, and I can't keep track of who I've written back to without cross checking all over the place and that all takes time. I'm not complaining about the reviews or PMs of course :) love to hear from people, always, but just so you know, getting back to everybody, when I get a fair amount of correspondence on a regular basis, is like a whole new project unto itself until they fix this site screw up. So again, thanks everyone and know I'm trying to send notes where I can. I'm also thinking about setting up a whole separate email account just for FF correspondence because now everything feeds into my regular (main) email account and as you know if you have a life, things very quickly slide down the page. In one day suddenly everything's out of sight, two days and then I'm digging to find out what's what. It might be easier to stay on top of things if they were right in one place. But that's just the ramblings in my head :)