A/N: So, I have a couple of Criminal Minds fic planned for the summer. Was this one of them? Nope. Because I apparently have no control over my unruly muse. Not sure how I feel about this one. The ending's changed a couple times, so I'd be interested in feedback. It's Hotch/Prentiss, but it could be read as mostly friendship if you wanted, though I think it leans to something more at the end.
Spoilers for the ending of Arcadia by Tom Stoppard
I don't own anything. Either from Arcadia, or Criminal Minds.
Usually people claim not to know when things of this sort start, but Hotch couldn't do that. Not without lying at least.
He knew exactly when they'd started.
It was kind of strange when he thought about it. If you'd asked him which one of his team members he knew the least about he'd have been inclined to say her. Whether it was out of habit because he'd known her the least amount of time (by several years), or because of some residual barrier thanks to her less than auspicious start at the BAU that still sometimes plagued their relationship, Hotch didn't know. But if you'd asked him a year ago which of his team members he wasn't particularly close to he'd have told you without hesitation that it was Emily Prentiss.
The statement would have of course been accompanied by the caveat that while he didn't know her well personally he had the highest respect for her abilities in the field. That he could always count on her to be calm and cool in a crisis and that he never had to worry about her losing her lunch when they came across evidence of the worst parts of humanity.
Still, he certainly didn't know what she did on her rare days off, what her favourite movies were, what she liked to do when she really let loose. But he was sure she did know how to let loose. You could see it lurking below the surface from time to time, when she was laughing with Morgan, or gossiping with Garcia and JJ, or teasing Reid. He rather suspected Emily Prentiss had a whole other side of her personality that she only showed to people outside the job.
And he found himself mildly curious about it. The entire team guarded their private lives pretty desperately. He didn't blame them for that; no one wanted a bunch of profilers watching all the time. They got too much of it away on cases to tolerate it in what tiny bit of personal life they managed to eke out. But Hotch was better at filling in the blanks with the rest of the team. Or maybe he'd just known them longer.
No, he'd not gotten particularly close to Prentiss. Not originally.
He remembered the case clearly. It'd been a bad one. Teenage girls going missing out in Iowa. Four missing before the BAU was even called in. Another three bodies found since the team's arrival. And even though they were gathering loads of information, it felt like they were no closer to catching the murdering scumbag.
No one was taking it particularly well.
J.J. holed herself up in her room talking to Will. Reid was trying to keep his mind occupied by obsessing over his geographical profile, hoping to find something he missed. Morgan had joined the extra patrols the local police had started. And Hotch had no idea where Rossi and Prentiss had got to, hopefully early to bed. They'd all be burnt out if they didn't watch it. For his part, Hotch'd tried to do some paperwork, but had eventually just given up and decided to take his own advice and try and get some sleep.
He should have known it would be fruitless. The nightmares came almost immediately.
He never remembered them clearly when he awoke, just vague images of young girls being tortured by faceless unsubs while he stood there, too far away, helpless to get there in time and stop it. He shook himself awake, rubbing a hand over his face. At least the victims hadn't been anyone he knew. This time. Hotch glanced at the clock and sighed. It was nearly 3:00am. But he knew from experience that trying to get back to sleep right away would be pointless. The horrors would just resurface in his subconscious. He needed a distraction for a while.
He hoped he'd remembered to put a novel in his go bag. He didn't usually read, choosing to spend his time between paperwork and precious sleep. But he also knew that sometimes mental distraction was needed in this job so he'd been carrying around the latest Dan Brown for literally months now. It wasn't great literature, but it was distracting enough to keep his mind occupied.
Hotch stood and stretched. Yes, the book would be a good distraction, but first he needed a snack. Or maybe just a drink. He probably shouldn't be eating this late at night. He pulled on a pair of jeans and a sweater, grabbed his room key and headed down the hall towards the lobby. He remembered seeing signs for vending machines in that direction.
He passed the front desk. The light was on, but unsurprisingly no one was there so late at night, though there was a bell to ring for service. Hotch was about to turn down the little hallway where the vending machines were when he was distracted by a slight movement on the other side of the lobby. He turned to investigate further, and to his surprise found one of his subordinates curled up in an overstuffed armchair, a book dangling from one hand by her knee as she stared sightlessly out the window.
Hotch frowned. Now what on earth was Emily Prentiss doing sitting in the hotel lobby at three in the morning? He supposed that was a silly question. She probably needed a distraction from her thoughts just as he did his. And the novel should have been no surprise. He'd seen her unwind on the jet with a book more times than he could count. He just hadn't realized she suffered from insomnia. His frown deepened. But why shouldn't she? They all got nightmares. He'd talked to Morgan about his more than once, and Reid fairly frequently once the young genius had gotten over his self-consciousness about the issue. He knew JJ was haunted by the cases she didn't bring to the team's attention and he'd been hearing bits about Dave's demons for over a decade.
But what about Prentiss? She'd never said anything and he'd never asked. He sighed. Of course she hadn't said anything! She wouldn't. Not one for showing weakness was Emily. He knew she talked to Morgan once in a blue moon if something was really bothering her, but Morgan had never mentioned anything about insomnia. Which Hotch suspected meant the other man didn't know. In fact, Hotch'd bet his life savings that nobody did. If they did it would have gotten back to him, and if not to him then to Garcia or JJ, which basically amounted to the same thing.
He cursed his own stupidity. Of course she had nightmares. Why hadn't he bothered to ask her about it? He kept tabs on the rest of his team, subtly in Morgan's case, but he still did it. He must have gotten caught up in all the nonsense surrounding her arrival, and by the time he moved past it, well, she'd already proven how well she could do the job that it hadn't even occurred to him to check in, see if she was having trouble. He should have known even she couldn't be that well controlled.
And now she was sitting in a hotel lobby in the middle of the night, probably thinking there was no one she could go to.
That needed to change. His drink forgotten he walked towards her. He was going to do what he should have done ages ago, offer her a sympathetic ear. Or maybe just sit with her if she didn't want to talk. He didn't want her spending the night awake and alone.
"Prentiss," he said softly trying not to startle her.
She jumped slightly anyway, turning quickly to face him. "Hotch!" she said, clearly surprised and maybe a bit embarrassed. "What are you doing here?"
He sat down in the armchair across from hers. "I could ask you the same thing Prentiss," he replied with the barest hint of a smile. When she just smiled self-consciously, he continued. "Couldn't sleep," he admitted easily. "So I decided to come grab a drink from the vending machine. That's when I saw I wasn't the only insomniac in the place."
Emily just nodded and rested her head back against the chair, briefly closing her eyes.
"You want to talk about it?" he asked her softly.
She opened her eyes again with a sigh. "Talk about what?"
He shot her a look. "The weather Prentiss. What do you think? Whatever it is that's keeping you up at night."
She shrugged. "Just couldn't sleep I guess."
Hotch sighed internally, he should have known it would be like pulling teeth. But he could be just as stubborn as she could, and he had no intention of giving up. "Nightmares?" he asked his tone matter of fact and purposefully non-judgemental.
He saw her turn to watch him more closely out of the corner of her eyes. He sighed. "We all get them Prentiss. And if they get bad enough then I need to know about them. Not because you're bad at your job, but because I can't have you sleepwalking through a case."
"I'm fine Hotch," she replied softly. "I'll go back to bed soon. I'll be fine." She repeated, but he wasn't sure which one of them she was trying to convince.
"Okay," he told her. "But I want you to know that you can talk to me, if you want to. I know I haven't exactly been… well… I should have offered long before now. But you should talk to someone if you really can't sleep. Doesn't need to be me. Could be Morgan, or Reid, or even Dave."
She snorted at his last suggestion.
"Glad to see I'm apparently preferable to Rossi at least," he told her dryly.
"Rossi has his good qualities," Emily explained slowly. "But when it comes to personal issues sometimes he… well…"
"Stirs the pot so much it overflows and you're left cleaning up a bigger mess then before?" Hotch supplied.
"Hm," he replied, settling back into the chair and making no move to leave. Sometimes you just had to wait people out.
She didn't disappoint him. "Some cases are worse than others you know?" she said.
Emily nodded. Of course he would, "I just… sometimes I can't sleep, and then anything seems better than sitting in an anonymous hotel room alone."
Hotch's lip twitched. "So you decided to get up and sit in an anonymous hotel lobby alone."
The corners of her mouth turned up slightly. "It seemed like a good idea at the time."
"You could have called me," he told her softly. "I don't like the idea of you sitting up at night by yourself."
"And disturb what little sleep you actually allow yourself?" she shook her head. "Hotch you work harder than any of us and you can't sleepwalk through a case either."
"And does the talking really help?" she asked him suddenly. "Honestly?" she asked him, fixing him with a stare of her own.
Hotch was taken aback, but he couldn't lie to her. "Sometimes," he told her. "Sometimes no. Sometimes it's not the talking so much as just having another person around that helps."
She nodded absently. "Thanks for coming and sitting with me Hotch. You didn't have to."
"Anytime." He paused, "I don't think I'll be able to get back to sleep quite yet. D'you mind if I sit a while longer?"
She shook her head softly. "No, I'd like that."
So they sat. In the middle of the night, in matching armchairs, in a hotel lobby full of floral furnishings, listening to some sort of instrumental music playing softly in the background.
He wasn't sure what made him do it. Maybe it was the fact that she was still just staring, this time out towards the lobby instead of out the window. Or maybe it was the comfort of having another person there in the middle of the night for the first time in over a year. But suddenly he stood and offered her a hand.
She looked surprised, but she took it. He gently pulled her up and into a sort of makeshift waltz. It certainly wasn't perfect, and the woman who'd originally taught him the proper steps all those years ago would probably be appalled. But it was three in the morning, in a near deserted hotel in Iowa and he found he didn't care.
This was nice.
She was a good dancer. She clearly knew the proper steps as well, even if they weren't exactly following them. He'd guessed she would. Ambassador Prentiss no doubt would have insisted. What surprised him more was that she'd come willingly and hadn't pushed him away.
When he felt her head fall on his shoulder and he caught a whiff of her shampoo Hotch realized he didn't care why she hadn't. They all needed some sort of human contact from time to time. And while Prentiss clearly wasn't ready to talk to him at least he could offer a bit of comfort and a bit of a distraction. Besides, this was as much for him as it was for her.
He wasn't sure how long they held each other, moving from dancing in small circles to just swaying back and forth in the lobby. But eventually by some unspoken mutual agreement they both pulled away.
"We should sleep," he told her softly.
She nodded, "Yeah."
"Think you'll be able to?"
She paused, considering, "I think maybe," she told him, her eyes lightening slightly. "You?"
He grinned, "Oh, I think maybe too." Then he offered her his arm, "Come on Prentiss."
She shook her head in amusement, but took his arm nonetheless. He led her back to her room, waiting patiently while she searched for her key and opened the door. She stepped inside, but turned back before closing the door. "Hey Hotch?"
"You too." She smiled at him then. "And Prentiss," he added. "Remember, anytime."
To his surprise when he went back to his room, he was able to get some sleep. Not a lot, but enough.
That night started something. Whenever one or both of them was having a tough time on a case they somehow just seemed to find each other. Sometimes it was the middle of the night, sometimes it was just late, before they turned in for the day. The two of them found a quiet place with some music and danced together. He didn't think any of the team knew about it, though he wouldn't have minded if they had. They weren't doing anything wrong, but it was probably easier without all the questions. And he knew no one would fault either of them for their strange friendship, not in this job. Anything that made the nightmares a little easier was a welcome relief.
And dancing with Prentiss was definitely welcome. It was a few minutes where he could forget about being Supervisory Special Agent Aaron Hotchner. He was just a guy, dancing with a girl. Sometimes it was in hotel lobbies, but more often than not it was at the quiet bar down the street, or the corner of a restaurant, or once around the bed in her hotel room (she'd turned in hours before anyone else and he'd been worried about her). Once it was even in a local park, helped by music from a nearby local band and once, and only once, it'd been in one of the conference rooms of the BAU late at night. They both knew better than to do it at the office even if there was only a skeleton crew still around. The possibility of getting caught and their actions misinterpreted was too high.
Like any bureaucracy the FBI was full of gossip. Which had its uses, but was often less than ideal if you were the subject of it.
It wasn't just the location that changed, but the dance. Sometimes it was a perfect Viennese waltz, other times they were looser with the steps. Sometimes the music was bluesier and the dance was as well. Sometimes the music was upbeat and he twirled her around whatever their makeshift dance floor happened to be until her feet flew and her eyes danced. He liked those days. And sometimes, when things were particularly bad they just held each other and swayed.
Their relationship outside of the dancing was changing too. Subtly, but it was there. He found himself talking to her more. Seeking out her company for a few extra minutes over that morning cup of coffee. Trying to make her smile when she dropped something off at his office. And she seemed to get a bit looser around him. She wasn't quite so closed off. If someone asked him, Hotch would have told them without hesitation that he and Prentiss were friends. The friendship wasn't traditional, but what was in the BAU? He was too pleased that she didn't think of him as some sort of robot anymore to care.
If their coworkers noticed they didn't say anything. They probably just thought it was a natural progression of the relationship, which it was. And if they thought about it at all, they'd be pleased. After all, having a close friend could only be good for both of them.
She was dancing with her boss.
On a regular basis.
Okay, it sounded ridiculous when she said it like that. She knew there was nothing wrong with what they were doing of course, but it was still strange. Or maybe what was really strange was how normal it actually felt.
That first night he'd found her alone in a hotel lobby Emily'd been a bit surprised. More startled than anything actually. Because it certainly wasn't surprising that Hotch would try to help out a member of his team when they were upset. For all his stoicism, Hotch's protectiveness of his people was one of the worst kept secrets in the FBI. And his obvious concern for her, mixed with the slightest hint of guilt for not noticing earlier how upset she'd been, had made her feel better. Not a lot better, but a little.
Besides, she'd appreciated the company. Pathetic as it sounded, she was lonely. And on a case as tough as that one, sitting with the boss, even though he was a man she sometimes felt like she barely even knew, had been nice. Because for a little while she hadn't been alone.
So when he'd held out his hand she'd taken it immediately. After all, even though she didn't know him that well, and wasn't always sure she even liked him all that much, she respected him. And she trusted him. And she knew he'd never deliberately hurt her.
But she certainly hadn't expected to be pulled into an awkward approximation of a waltz. At the time it hadn't even occurred to her to pull away though. It felt too nice to be held. Plus, she'd forgotten about the demons haunting her for just a little while. Whatever else Hotch was, he was warm and strong and solid. And he was there. Which wasn't exactly something she was used to. She didn't need it of course. She could take care of herself. But having another person to be with on the dark days was nice.
After he escorted her back to her room (like a perfect gentleman) she felt just a little bit lighter. She even managed to send him a smile and a thank-you. It'd been a nice little break from reality.
Though not one that Emily'd expected to continue.
Then it had.
A few weeks later, another case. This one in Florida. Little boys disappearing in the dead of night. Basically every parent's worst nightmare. Emily knew JJ was checking in with Will and Henry every chance she got. She was also sure that Hotch had spoken to Jack, though probably not as often, or for as long as he'd wanted to. Their SSA hadn't said anything; if possible he'd gone even quieter than usual. Hotch was closing in on himself, and that wasn't a good thing.
They were making progress, but not quickly. Personally Em was hoping Garcia would come through with one of her miracles in the morning. Heaven only knew what Hotch would do if another boy went missing in the meantime. As it was they were praying the little ones were all still alive since no bodies had actually turned up. Emily stood up with a sigh. She should try and get some sleep, but something was stopping her. So she pulled on her shoes, left her hotel room and went for a walk.
She passed the place they'd stopped for a late dinner and on a whim stepped inside. She wasn't all that surprised when she saw him sitting at the end of the bar playing with an empty glass. As it was she'd bet a month's salary that whatever'd been in the tumbler was no stronger than ginger ale. She walked over to him quietly and tapped his shoulder. Hotch turned to face her then, his eyes widening slightly in recognition.
Emily hadn't even bothered to say anything. What could she possibly say? She just silently held out a hand in invitation.
Hotch hesitated for the briefest second before taking her hand and letting her lead him to a corner of the dance floor. Exhaling softly in her hair as she wrapped her other arm around his shoulders, he slid an arm around her back. He was certainly a good dancer. A strong lead, without being too overbearing or domineering. And it was Hotch so Emily knew she'd never have to worry about him getting handsy. She'd always loved to dance with a good partner, so their little arrangement suited her just fine. And she didn't think Hotch had any complaints.
Not if his general proximity was anything to go by at least.
After a while the music picked up slightly and Hotch loosened his hold. To Emily's surprise he sent her a grin and spun her out of his arms then back again. Emily let out a laugh, but managed to keep up. She was far too pleased that he'd decided not to be so morose for just a little while. When the song switched over and the music slowed back down again, he'd pulled her back into his arms.
"Prentiss, I know I'm not exactly one for compliments," he started to say. Emily'd let out a snort before she could help it, then felt his answering grin near her ear. "I know, I know," he told her. "But I just wanted to thank you for, well, for being you."
She could feel her cheeks growing warm in pleasure and was glad he couldn't see it. "Ditto," she whispered in his ear as they continued to dance.
They must have been there almost an hour all told. Neither of them had said much but it didn't matter. That wasn't what this was about. After walking her back to her room that evening, he'd squeezed her hand once, and sent her a ghost of a smile, before heading to bed himself.
And after that they'd just continued. One of them would find each other after a tough case and they'd just dance. Emily hadn't told anyone and she was fairly certain Hotch hadn't either. This was theirs.
Sometimes he held her close, sometimes he didn't. Sometimes the music was fast, sometimes he led her through a perfect waltz. And sometimes they talked, thought not always. When they did she found herself telling him things. Not her deepest darkest secrets by any means, but things she'd never imagined telling her superior. She told him about the places she'd been as a child or her favourite movie, or the last book she'd read. And he told her things too. Like his favourite restaurant in D.C., or what he and Jack had done on the weekend, or the more outlandish tales from his days as a federal prosecutor. She found herself quite liking her superior's company. And she managed to stop worrying about whether or not he was analyzing her all the time, searching for flaws. They even talked more outside of their late-night meetings. Which meant that Emily got more firsthand experience with Hotch's often elusive sense of humour, something that was perfectly fine with her. She didn't have that may close friends and he was a good one.
Besides, he might need their weird dancing-based friendship more than she did.
They weren't hurting anything. And if the team didn't know, they couldn't gossip.
It was by pure chance that he caught them.
And when he did David Rossi couldn't believe his eyes. In fact, he was tempted to believe he was dreaming. He even pinched himself to make sure.
But no, he was awake.
It was the middle of the night in some godforsaken hotel in the middle of nowhere. He'd woken craving candy. Even though his doctor would disapprove Dave'd never been one to give in to the medical professionals on everything, so he decided to go find himself a snack. He was on his way to the vending machines when he passed by the lobby and to his absolute shock saw two of his colleagues dancing in the corner of the room.
Luckily Dave had the presence of mind to take a step back so that he was behind the wall. He doubted they'd be able to see him, even if they looked, while he had an unobstructed view. Hotch and Prentiss, possibly his two most private teammates, dancing together in the dead of night. Now Dave didn't claim to be an expert on dance, but he knew enough to know that they were both quite good (which come to think of it, was unsurprising). He also knew that they fit well together, which was more surprising, but the biggest shock was that it was obviously not the first time.
He was sure of it. They were just too comfortable with each other.
But the big question was why? Why were Hotch and Prentiss secretly dancing with each other in the middle of the night? And why was it a secret? He was certain it wasn't an affair. Call him arrogant, but he knew he was a good enough profiler to pick up on two of his colleagues sleeping together in secret. That wasn't what this was. He'd noticed them getting closer lately, welcomed it actually. He'd watched one of them make the other laugh almost daily around the office. Hotch was even calling her 'Emily; more often than 'Prentiss,' and Rossi wasn't even sure the man had noticed the change. They were good for each other. And Lord knew Aaron could use the friend.
Was that when this had started? When they'd gotten closer? Dave watched them his eyes narrowing. Or maybe he had it wrong. Maybe the dancing had started and the friendship had followed. But why the dancing?
He watched as Hotch led Emily in a turn and he got his first glimpse of her face.
And then he understood.
The details of their current case came flooding back to him. Tall, successful, beautiful, brunette women were being found dumped in the river, their throats and abdomens cut out.
Emily'd insisted she was fine when Dave'd asked her, and she certainly hadn't looked distracted while she was working the case, but how could she not be affected? She'd have to be made of stone. And anyone who knew her knew that was far from the case.
This midnight dancing wasn't about sex, it was about comfort and he suspected companionship. Dave grinned and nodded. Good. He knew why they hadn't told anyone. Hadn't wanted to explain. He turned to go back to his room without disturbing them. The candy could wait (which would please his doctor). He'd let them have their privacy.
Besides, he'd always liked holding on to secrets no one else knew.
Every so often the FBI decided to have some sort of formal function to celebrate some achievement or other.
This time it was the retirement of one of the other SSAs, and the entire BAU was invited to the party.
They all went of course, though Reid wasn't sure why, pointing out that he was pretty sure Clemmens hated the entire BAU after the fiasco that had resulted from a little bit of uninvited, unofficial interoffice profiling.
"Reid, we're just trying to give the man a nice send-off. Show a little respect," Morgan told him.
"I'm just saying that seems somewhat contradictory given that we told him his car was compensation for the fact that he was losing his hair…" Reid started.
"My lanky little gorgeous genius," Garcia had interrupted. "Don't analyze it. It's an excuse to get dressed up and go to a swanky party. Just congratulate Clemmens if you see him, and for god's sake don't say anything about suspecting his wife is having an affair."
"She is having an affair," Reid insisted. "If you look at…"
"Kid!" Rossi interjected. "Nobody cares. And Clemmens probably already knows, even if he pretends not to. So let's just sit here and try to enjoy ourselves."
"Or if you can't, at least don't get the rest of us involved," JJ said as she walked up from behind him. "Here's your drink Emily," she told the other woman, handing her the glass.
"Thanks Jayje," Emily said with a smile.
"So I miss anything else?" the blond woman asked as she took her seat beside her friend. "Besides Reid wondering for the eighteenth time why we're here."
"Actually this is the nineteenth," Hotch said from Emily's other side. "You missed the eighteenth."
"Ah," JJ said with a straight face, while Rossi and Prentiss smirked.
Oblivious to their teasing, Reid was busy talking to Garcia. The pair was trying to decide what sci-fi series the decorations reminded them off. Morgan was amusing himself by riling them up. And poor Reid was falling for it every time.
JJ looked out across the room. "I suppose we could try dancing," she said, gesturing the semi-full dance floor across the room.
That caught Morgan's attention. "To this music?" he asked. "No thanks. Not exactly my style if you know what I mean."
"What, can't get your groove thang on?" Emily asked sarcastically. Hotch's lip twitched.
Morgan shot her his biggest grin. "You know it Princess. I need something with a little more soul."
"Uh huh," she replied, clearly sceptical.
"Hey, no one really knows how to dance to this stuff anymore," Morgan insisted referring to the mainly instrumental music that'd been playing for most of the evening. "It's just a fact."
"Well, I'll dance with you JJ," Rossi offered. "Just give me a minute to finish my drink."
"Thanks Dave," she said with a laugh.
Morgan just shook his head.
Hotch appeared to be mulling something over in his mind. As the song wound down he turned to the woman next to him. "You know, I feel like I've just been insulted Em. What do you think?"
"I think I might agree Hotch," she replied with half a smile.
Hotch flashed a dimple as he heard the song change. "How do you feel about proving Morgan wrong?" he asked.
Emily's smile widened. "Well you know I'm always up for that."
In response Hotch stood and offered her a hand. "Then may I have this dance Agent Prentiss?" he asked politely. "I'm sure you must have learned to waltz at some point with your background," he added, eyes twinkling.
Emily was momentarily surprised by the offer but she shook it off. "I'd love to sir," she replied, letting him lead her to the dance floor.
The rest of the team watched them go.
"Now what was that about?" Morgan asked.
JJ just shrugged, but Rossi smiled. "Watch," he said half to himself, half to the others.
The team watched as Hotch pulled Emily easily into a waltz. A proper one this time. Rossi was amused, but unsurprised that there was a lot more space between them then when he'd caught them that night in the hotel. Not even Strauss could find fault with it, though Dave wasn't so sure she'd even care anymore.
Garcia clapped her hands in pure glee. "Look at the Boss man up there, leading his lady across the floor! They look so pretty together! Who has a camera? REID?"
The genius shook his head, as did everyone else at the table. Garcia began to pout and mutter about how there had better be security feeds in the room.
"Why am I not surprised Hotch knows how to waltz?" JJ asked.
"Because it's Hotch," Morgan answered.
Garcia nodded. "And just look at my beautiful Peaches with him."
Morgan narrowed his eyes and turned to Rossi, "Why do I get the feeling this isn't the first time they've danced together."
The other man just shrugged. "You'd have to ask them that."
Morgan let out a huff of annoyance.
Garcia clapped her hands, "You really think they go out dancing together? What if…"
"Are you really going to suggest that Hotch and Emily have been having a secret affair for months now?" Rossi asked.
All the profilers in the room shrugged in agreement. Someone would have noticed. Even Garcia deflated slightly. "No," she said slowly. "But they really do look pretty together."
"And Hotch actually looks almost happy," Reid pointed out.
With that they all turned to watch their colleagues.
"We're being watched," Hotch said to his partner with a smile.
"Obviously," Emily replied. At Hotch's look she sighed, "Come on Hotch, it was inevitable."
"Is that why you were surprised when I asked you to dance?" he asked her curiously.
Emily grinned, "Well you don't usually ask, and it's not usually in front of the entire BAU."
"Not just the entire BAU," Hotch pointed out. "Several other teams are here as well."
Emily laughed quietly.
"Besides," Hotch added. "We're not doing anything wrong. It's just a waltz. What could possibly happen?"
"You've obviously never read Arcadia," Emily told him dryly.
"I haven't, though I've heard it's good," he told her. "Stoppard right?" When she nodded he continued. "If you're recommending it I may have to give it a try when I finish with my Dan Brown."
"Which you've been reading for months now so I'm not going to hold my breath," Emily interrupted.
"I only read it sporadically," Hotch defended himself. "I do read other things as well."
"Well, it's a play, so it's considerably shorter than what you're currently lugging around in your Go bag," Emily told him.
"And how is the waltz important?" Hotch asked.
"No way," Emily replied. "It'll spoil the ending."
"Fine," Hotch agreed. "We'll talk about it after I've read it."
Emily grinned at him. "I admit it was nice to be formally asked to dance."
"Maybe I'll have to ask you more often," Hotch replied. Then in a lighter tone he added, "Plus there's the added bonus of making Morgan look foolish."
"That too," Emily agreed. She glanced over at the table where their colleagues were sitting. "Garcia's eyes look like they're about to bug out of her head."
Hotch spun her so he could get a look. "What do you want to bet she's already plotting to find security camera footage?"
"Bet?" Emily asked. "I'd say that's a sure thing."
"You don't mind do you?" he asked her, suddenly worried.
Emily smiled at him, touched. "No Hotch," she told him indulgently. "I'm not ashamed to be seen dancing with you by the rest of the team."
"Good," he told her, before quickly turning her again, making her laugh.
Several minutes later the dancers wandered back to their table.
"My favourite Emily, you were so pretty out there!" Garcia squealed as soon as they were within earshot. Then she collected herself slightly, "You were very handsome too sir."
"Thank you Garcia," Hotch said dryly as he pulled Emily's chair out for her.
She took a seat, laughing. "Thanks Garcia. I've always loved to waltz. It was one of the few things my mother and I agreed on." Then she turned her attention from the team's tech goddess to the profiler sitting next to her. "So Morgan," she said, "Still think no one knows how to dance to this music anymore?"
"Hey, maybe you and Hotch proved me wrong Princess, but you've got to admit, pretty as it was, that wasn't exactly the type of dancing that brings the heat, if you know what I mean."
"Clearly you've never read Arcadia," Hotch said dryly.
Morgan turned to his boss confused, "Why, what's it about?"
"No idea." Hotch told him candidly, causing Emily to dissolve into quiet laughter. "I haven't read it either."
"Oh, Tom Stoppard!" Reid interjected excitedly. "I've read that." And before anyone could stop him he launched into a brief discussion of the play. "It's a play that slips back and forth between two groups of characters in the same house, one from the 19th and one from the 20th century. Characters from both groups actually end the play waltzing. But the more important pair are a young student, Thomasina Coverly, and her tutor, Septimus Hodge. She's desperate to learn the dance and manages to convince him to teach her for a kiss. Despite not thinking it's appropriate Septimus gives in and the pair end up dancing together. But as they do the characters from the future tell the reader that Thomasina is going to be burned to death in her room that night, causing Septimus to go mad and become a hermit." Reid trailed off. He was about to launch into an in depth discussion about how the final events of the play related to its overall theme when Hotch interrupted him.
"Well isn't that a nice little story Prentiss!" he exclaimed.
"Well, maybe not when you summarize it that way!" she shot back, glaring at Reid. "But there's more to it than that."
"I should certainly hope so," Hotch muttered under his breath.
"The point is that both couples are happy when they're waltzing," Emily replied irritated.
Hotch caught her eye and nodded in understanding. The tension in Emily's shoulders started to dissipate.
"Also, Thomasina is trying to seduce her tutor during the lesson," Reid added cheerfully.
Emily nearly banged her head on the table.
"Em?" Hotch asked in amusement.
"Oh no!" she exclaimed holding her hands up defensively. "You were the one who asked me to dance sir, so if anyone was doing the seducing…"
"Ah, but I haven't read the play," he couldn't help pointing out.
"Still," Emily replied quickly, trying her best to ignore the rest of the team, all of whom were trying to stifle their laughter. All of them also failing miserably.
Hotch decided to take pity on her and changed the subject of conversation, "So does this mean I need to follow you home to make sure you don't hurt yourself tonight?" he asked.
Emily grinned easily, "Don't worry Hotch, I think the chances are pretty slim that I leave a candle burning and accidentally light my room on fire," she told him.
"Well, we could modernize the story, say it's a stovetop element," Hotch pointed out.
"Yeah, I don't actually cook that much," Emily replied. "So I think I'll be fine."
"If you're sure," Hotch agreed. "I'm going to get a drink, anyone else want something?"
He listened to their orders. Rossi stood as well, "I'll give you a hand," the other man offered.
Hotch nodded his thanks. The two men stood and walked over to the bar.
"I've seen the two of you before you know," Rossi told him. "Dancing I mean. In the hotel lobby in Vermont last month."
Hotch sighed, he should have known. "Dave, it's not…"
"You think I don't know what it is?" Rossi interrupted. "Aaron, I'm not judging. I think it's a good thing. If you two have managed to find a little comfort in the madness that surrounds this job…" he trailed off.
"Do the others know?" Hotch asked.
"Would it matter?"
Hotch paused briefly before shaking his head. "No, but I was just wondering. It might not look so good for either of us."
"You think anyone on the team would care?" Rossi asked. "You know they wouldn't. They'd all be thrilled for both of you. But no, I don't think they know. Or someone would have said something tonight."
"Well that's probably true," Hotch agreed.
"Now I know it's none of my business…" Rossi started.
Hotch nearly groaned aloud. Whenever Rossi started a sentence like that, you knew he was going to give you advice, whether you wanted it or not.
"But I couldn't help but notice that you've smiled more tonight since your dance with Emily than I've seen you smile in the last month," Rossi continued.
"Our job isn't exactly conducive to smiling," Hotch pointed out.
"No," Rossi agreed easily. "All the more reason to hold onto those precious moments of happiness when you find them wouldn't you say?"
Hotch sighed, "What's your point Dave?"
"My point?" Rossi asked. "My point is that you enjoy dancing with her. You enjoy her company. How many people can you say that about now? Maybe you should take advantage of it is all."
With that their drinks arrived. And the two men walked back to their table only to find Reid trying to explain the evolutionary significance of dancing.
Rossi decided a change of subject was in order, "Alright, who wants to bet that by the end of the night someone sitting at the head table passes out."
"I'll take that bet," Morgan told him in relief.
As the others began discussing odds around them, Hotch slid into his chair next to Emily and handed her a drink. "Hey Emily?" he asked.
"Thanks for the dance," he told her softly.
"Always," she replied just as softly, sending him a smile.
Then she turned to Morgan to put $20 on someone needing to be put in a cab, but no one actually passing out.
A couple of days later Hotch was sitting in his office, finishing up some paperwork when Dave stuck his head in. "Hey," he said by way of greeting. "I think I'm heading out for the night. I'll see you tomorrow."
"Absolutely," Hotch replied. "You the last to leave?"
Rossi glanced towards the bullpen. "No, looks like Emily's still here." He told the other man.
"Okay, thanks Dave," Hotch replied. "Have a good night."
"You too Aaron," the older profiler replied with a shake of his head.
Hotch turned back to his paperwork and added a few more lines and one final signature. Then he glanced out to the bullpen himself. Dave was right, Emily was still around, but it looked like she was almost done herself.
Quickly Hotch stood, gathered his things and headed out the door, stopping by her desk on his way to the elevator.
"You should go home soon Emily," he told her.
"Just finishing up this last thing," she replied with a few final keystrokes on her computer. "There. Now I can head out."
"I'll walk you to the parking lot then," Hotch told her.
"Thanks, just let me get my stuff," she replied.
"Hey Em?" Hotch said suddenly.
"Yeah?" she asked absently as she searched through her bag trying to find her gloves.
"Are you doing anything tomorrow night?" he asked.
Emily stopped rooting around her purse abruptly and met his eyes. "No, I don't think so," she told him. "Why?"
"I know this great place not too far from here," Hotch explained softly. "I thought we could go dancing."
Emily's face slowly broke into a wide smile. "I think I'd like that," she told him quietly.
Hotch sent her a softer smile in return. "I think I would too. Besides, I just finished that play you recommended and you promised that if I did you'd discuss it with me."
"Really?" she asked.
Hotch nodded, "So you ready to go?" he asked.
"Yeah," Emily replied, grabbing her things.
Side by side they left the BAU.
When they got to the elevator Emily turned to him, "Hey Hotch?"
"I don't suppose you know how to salsa?" she asked him.
Hotch grinned, "We'll talk about it tomorrow."