Author's Note: Hey howdy, folks. Long time no see! I told you RL was going to start majorly interfering with the writing and you can see I wasn't just whistling Dixie :) But a few days ago I finally got some free time and I am now on track for postings in a few stories. At least one more tonight if I can continue to avoid spending any quality time with my family. Fingers crossed!

This is the end here. I know I indicated last time probably two more chapters but the thought I had on the in-between, as I considered it, I realized it wouldn't be logical so I changed things up a bit. I'll explain more at the end on that.

The prompt again sets the tone for the chapter, and this one is from the other forum, new picks for November so it's not up yet. And if you like the TV Forum, please do check out the Story Title one, for some reason it's like the Cinderella of the prompts world, but I do promise that it doesn't blow :)

Side Note: Thanksgiving prompts were posted today in the forums.


Story Title Forum – Prompt Set #7

Author: Susan Beth Pfeffer

Title Challenge: Life As We Knew It


Life As We Knew It

JJ stood out in the hallway with her hand in the air.

She was poised to knock. She had been poised to knock for at least the last two and a half minutes. And though she knows that she needs to drop her knuckles down and rap on the door . . . she doesn't.

She waits.

For what she doesn't know. Something. A sign maybe that her decision to be standing in front of this door at this hour of the morning is the right thing to do. That she's not making the same impulsive mistake that she had feared making a mere seven and a half hours earlier.

Though seven and a half hours is quite a long time when you've done nothing but sit and think about your life. Really . . . she tries to reassure herself . . . when looked at in that light, seven and a half hours is an eternity.

Still though, she worries . . . and so she waits. Because what she's about to do can't be undone. And admittedly the ridiculously early hour is perhaps part of the reason behind her hesitation. As she obsessively checks her watch for the tenth time since her arrival thirty minutes ago, JJ sees that it's still, for all intents, the middle of the night. Four fifty-eight in the morning is far too early to be visiting anyone anywhere for anything less than a true emergency. And though her stomach is twisting and her heart is pounding, she knows that she's in no mortal danger. So she really should wait, wait until at least the sun comes up.

For just a second a small bit of the tension in her gut releases . . . her reasoning is sound. She should definitely wait until a more reasonable hour. Maybe go get some coffee and come back at six.

Or seven.

Yeah, seven would be good. Seven would be perfect . . . her hand falls back to her side as she nods to herself . . . so she'll just go find a coffee shop and she'll just sit there until . . . and then suddenly the thought is cut off with one word.

Coward.

And her eyes start to burn as her hand curls into a fist . . . she's using the time as an excuse. She knows that the real reason that she can't bring herself to wake Hotch from his slumber is that she's terrified. Terrified that she's about to make a complete ass out of herself. Terrified that Emily got it wrong and that Hotch has no feelings for her beyond familial love.

Terrified that he thinks of her as just a friend.

Just a friend and nothing more.

And if all of that is true . . . the tears start to pool as she turns away from the door . . . then what is she going to do then? She's already left Will. Well . . . she feels a wave of bitter shame . . . kind of.

He just doesn't know it yet.

When he got home from the bar she had pretended to have fallen asleep on the couch while watching TV. And she'd done that because she'd known that after telling him she had a migraine that he'd leave her there undisturbed.

And he had.

After he'd whispered, "baby, you sleepin'?" and her giving him no response, she had felt him press his lips to her cheek. And then he'd brushed her hair back and pulled the afghan up around her shoulders as he murmured, "'night beautiful."

It had taken everything in her to hold back the tears until his footsteps had faded away.

It wasn't until she heard the creak of the third stair that she'd begun to cry again. Somehow in that moment, that simple everyday snippet of time when he'd come in to say good night, she finally had her definitive answer.

He wasn't the one.

All the questions that she'd been torturing herself with for those two hours she was home with just the baby sleeping upstairs, had boiled down to that one moment. That moment that was an echo following from hundreds of days before it. Because she'd then pictured that echo following her through time, following her for another forty or fifty years. Forty or fifty years of goodnight kisses.

Now that was truly an eternity.

And though it pained her to admit it even to herself, she didn't want those kisses to be from Will. She wanted those goodnight kisses to be from someone else. The someone else whose door she was standing in front of right now at this ridiculous hour.

Hotch.

Of course she knew how wrong it was to have a conversation with this man before she had a conversation with the other. But . . . a tear slid down her face . . . she didn't know what else to do. Right now she felt lost . . . another tear fell . . . adrift. Her life as she'd known it before was over. No matter what happened with Hotch, her relationship with Will couldn't continue as it was. But she couldn't just go home and clean out the medicine cabinet and leave him a note. They had a child together.

They had a life together.

And the conversation that she needed to have with him was going to be hell. And she honestly didn't know if she had the strength for that conversation until she knew for sure that she had a warm place to go when it was done. So here she was.

A terrified single mother on the brink of a beginning a whole new life.

Maybe.

It would depend on whether or not Emily had been right. If Hotch really was in love with her. And if he was, did he really want to be with her. There were rules and policies and so many things standing in their way.

Being with Hotch would be hard, but as her heart started to ache at the thought of leaving, she knew then that being without him would be harder still. And with that realization she finally shook off her yellow streak and brought her fist back up again.

She knocked three times, then she waited for ten seconds and did it again.

Just as she was about to raise her arm a third time, she heard footsteps. And a second later the door opened and she saw the man of the hour standing in front of her. His hair was mussed up.

She'd never seen his hair mussed up before.

"JJ?"

She watched as his confusion morphed to astonishment. And when she heard the shock in his sleepy voice, her eyes immediately fell away from his. Now that the door was open her fear had come roaring back with a vengeance.

Oh God what was she doing? What if she was making a complete fool of herself?

How could she ever look him in the eye again?

Though she knew that she needed to say something to him, to explain what the hell she was doing there in the middle of the night, every question that had just shot through her forebrain was pushing her to the brink of utter panic. "Um," was all that would come out of her mouth. And all of her fears about making a complete fool of herself began to come true. So she just stood there with cotton in her throat as her cheeks burned and her gaze fell down from the white t-shirt that she'd been staring at for the last twenty seconds. As JJ's eyes hit the floor she saw that Hotch's feet were bare. And as her gaze slowly began to work its way up and over his blue FBI sweatpants with the gold lettering, she saw the Glock in his hand.

It was hanging loosely by his left thigh.

And seeing that his feet were bare and that he'd picked up his gun to answer the door, JJ was finally able to swallow over the lump in her throat. Because for the first time in her life . . . Hotch seemed vulnerable to her.

And that vulnerability . . . real or imagined . . . made her feel like perhaps they were on even ground. And as she saw his free hand come up to touch his mouth . . . a nervous twitch of his . . . she took a breath.

And she jumped off the cliff.

Before his hand reached his face, her small fingers closed around his larger ones. And then her eyes snapped up to his face. Though she could feel the tension in his grip, a sad smile touched her lips when she saw the expression on his face.

He was terrified too.

But as she took a step closer she saw that the fear began to mix with another emotion.

Hope.

It was faint, but she was sure that was what it was. And seeing his reaction to her presence, JJ's own fears began to recede ever so slightly . . . at least she wasn't out on this limb alone.

Still though, she couldn't say that she was happy in that moment either. Because though she knew that hope meant that Emily had been right, he did have feelings for her, now she wondered yet again, how long had he felt this way? How long had she been blind to what had been right in front of her?

How much of her life had she spent with the wrong man?

She knew that these were terrible questions, ones whose answers were probably going to cause her more pain. But she couldn't stop herself from asking them. So she took a step closer to him, watching as his entire body froze up and his mask came crashing down.

He was pulling away from her.

So keeping her eyes locked on his, JJ dropped Hotch's hand and reached up to cup his jaw instead.

"Why didn't you tell me before?"

JJ's words were broken and filled with despair. And though Hotch knew exactly what it was she was asking, his mind which only moments ago had been in the midst of a wonderful dream involving JJ and Jack and Henry, was now racing in a blind panic.

He needed a moment to think.

So he said nothing in return as he tried to ignore the warm fingers pressing against his skin. And as he'd been doing for just over a year now, he kept his true emotions masked as he stared down at her beautiful face.

It was the only way to get through this moment with his heart intact.

They were on a precipice, and if he chose to jump he could . . . he could tell her everything. That she was the light in his day, that he wanted no other. That he often pictured what her blonde hair would look like spilled across his pillow. That he often . . . as he did tonight . . . dreamed that Jack and Henry would grow up as brothers.

And that they would have a sister with dimples and golden curls.

His heart was aching to tell her all of those things and a thousand more. But as he saw her looking up at him in sadness and confusion the next thing he noticed etched on her lovely features caused him concern. It was her clear exhaustion.

Tension and exhaustion.

It was clear that she hadn't slept. And that realization was a dagger in his chest. Because if Emily had been right, and JJ really felt the same way about him as he did about her, then how much thinking would she have really had to do? Because if somebody had told him that the woman he was in love with just so happened to be in love with him too, well . . . his stomach began to churn . . . that wouldn't have been news he'd had to stew over for hours.

He would have been at her house in a shot.

Yes, he understood that she was in a relationship . . . but they weren't married. She wasn't choosing to break her vows or sever a legal commitment, so she could have come to him right away.

At least to talk.

So most likely she was simply up all night stressed and worrying about what was going to happen at work. That she was going to walk into the office and he was going to do something ridiculous like declare his intentions.

Not that he would ever do something so insane, but he could see how the fear would be there. And how uncomfortable she would be worrying about her boss making (unwanted) advances on her.

So most likely . . . he felt another dagger . . . she was just here now to get all of this crap out of the way. To tell him thanks but no thanks, she was happy with Will and wasn't looking for any additional suitors.

Okay . . . he took a shallow breath . . . so he'd save them both the trauma of an incredibly awkward let down by simply lying through his teeth. He felt his decision was sound, but he just didn't have it in him to look her in the eyes as he did it.

It would hurt too much.

So his gaze slid to a point over her shoulder.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

To his own ears his voice sounded a bit too gruff . . . a bit too sharp. But that was perhaps because he was dying inside. He just wanted JJ to go away now so that he could crawl back into bed and wake up Emily. And then he could cuddle her close and she would run her fingers through his hair and tell him the sweet little lie that she always did when she knew his heart was breaking.

That everything would be all right.

And perhaps if he was lucky, he could close his eyes and he would get his dream back again. And perhaps for just a few minutes hidden away under the covers with the other woman in life . . . things really would be all right.

As far as he was concerned that was the best case scenario for the remaining hour of darkness.

But unfortunately JJ seemed to have other plans for him. And before he knew what was happening, she'd pushed him back into his shadowy apartment and shut the door behind her.

Though he still refused to look at her face, it was clear that regardless of his feelings on the topic of superfluously breaking his heart, she apparently wanted to have this conversation anyway.

Well . . . he bit down on the inside of his cheek . . . that was just not happening.

The only light in the apartment was coming from the lamp by the window, but it was enough for JJ to see Hotch clearly. And she could see that his jaw was twitching as his eyes remained fixed over her shoulder. And then his right hand clenched into a fist right before he murmured.

"I think you should go home now JJ," he paused for two beats before his gaze finally snapped back down to hers. And he stared at her for a moment, a moment that seemed to go on forever, before adding softly, "there's nothing for you here. There's nothing to discuss."

Though JJ believed Hotch's words to be a lie . . . his eyes had begun to glisten . . . the words still hurt. She knew though that his default was to hide his feelings and create emotional distance. But she had to break down that wall because she couldn't leave this place until she did. Her whole world was in shambles. She didn't want to marry the man sleeping in her bed. She wanted this man in her bed instead.

So why was he being so cruel?

But then she remembered that Hotch didn't know yet why she was there. He could be thinking that she had come over to brush him off. To tell him now that she wasn't interested when she could be assured of complete privacy, rather than waiting until later when they were at work. She could see him having a thought like that. She could see that very easily. Especially because he didn't know yet that she'd already jumped off the cliff.

And she didn't know yet if he would catch her. So she kept right on talking as though he hadn't asked her to go.

There was no other option.

"Please Hotch," her voice started to quiver as she pleaded with him, "please don't push me away. I need for you to talk to me. I need for you to tell me that Emily was right. And I need for you to tell me that because I'm standing in your apartment at five o'clock in the morning." A tear ran down her face as her voice cracked, "and you must know that means something. So please Hotch, please tell me that means something to you," she started to cry, "because it means something to me. And I can't go home," her voice cracked, "because I've spent all night thinking about my life, and I know now that I don't have a home to go to anymore!"

Her voice reached a pitch at the end and her hand came up to clamp over her mouth. And then she turned away as her body was unexpectedly wracked with sobs.

As the seconds ticked passed with only her muffled cries filling the apartment, JJ realized that Hotch wasn't going to catch her . . . this wasn't going to be her safe place.

She'd just hit the rocks.

So she tried to muster up some dignity as she wiped her hand across her face and took a heaving breath. And then she started to move towards the door.

It was well passed time for her to go.

But then she heard one word came out of the shadows.

"Wait."

And she froze, praying to God that the next words out of his mouth were going to be the ones that she needed to hear. If they weren't then she was definitely going to have to put in for a transfer.

Hotch's heart was twisting with grief. The woman that he adored was crying, she was in pain . . . and it was all his fault. And given what she'd just said to him about her life, the little spark of hope that he'd been trying to douse since she arrived at his door had started to flicker again.

The warmth from that flame was enough to break his stance and he put his gun down on the end table. And then he tentatively reached out and did something that he'd wanted to do for months now.

Touch her.

His fingers grazed her shoulder, feeling the rough cotton of her t-shirt. And then they slid down her sleeve until the tips brushed over the warmth of her bare arm and down to capture her fingers.

He squeezed.

"I'm sorry," he whispered softly, "please don't cry. And please don't leave like this. If you want to talk we can talk." She turned to look at him and seeing the tears still running, his heart twisted again as he reached out to brush them away.

"I just figured I already knew what you wanted to say." His tone was soft, but as she turned her cheek into his hand, his voice faded further.

"But maybe I didn't know what you wanted to say," he finished on a whisper. And seeing JJ's eyes brighten slightly, Hotch took a breath and threw his future into the wind.

"Emily was right," he cleared his throat as he stared into the watery blue depths, "what she said was . . . correct. And your other question," he gave her a sad smile, "thirteen months, three weeks and four days."

Seeing the clear surprise on JJ's face, Hotch immediately shook his head. "But I don't want you to feel uncomfortable about that. These are my feelings, and I don't expect you to reciprocate them. You just tell me what you want and I'll respect your wishes," his hand dropped to his side as he swallowed over the lump in his throat. "You say the word and this all ends tonight . . . we'll never talk about it again."

The words were still hanging in the air when Hotch suddenly felt JJ's lips pressed against his. They were warm and soft and he was filled with an indescribable joy. And then he was leaning down and he was kissing her back.

The kiss was soft and tentative and there was still a chaste distance between them, but that didn't diminish the happiness in his heart . . . his feelings were most definitely reciprocated!

Halefreakinglujah!

After almost a minute they slowly separated. As Hotch pulled back he ran his tongue over his upper lip, tasting the faint remnants of the strawberry Chapstick that JJ put on ten times a day.

It tasted wonderful.

And as he looked down at the woman wearing it, he was waiting on pins and needles to see what she would say now that the moment was over.

JJ's heart was racing as she stared up at Hotch . . . that was the kiss that she'd been looking for earlier tonight. That was the kiss that she wanted for the next fifty years. And though she knew that she couldn't have another one until she had that conversation with Will . . . a soft smile touched her lips . . . that was okay.

That one was good enough to tide her over.

Now feeling more emboldened, JJ stepped forward and leaned against Hotch's chest. And as her head settled on his t-shirt, she smiled as his arms came up to wrap around her.

His hugging was almost as good as his kissing.

She snuggled against him, breathing him in as she never had before. It was new . . . yet familiar. And then she whispered against the soft cotton.

"I don't want this to end tonight. I want that to be my goodnight kiss for a very long time. And I want to see you in bare feet with mussed up hair and wrinkled pajamas. And I want you to sometimes bring me breakfast in bed just because and sometimes I'll do that for you for just the same reason," she tipped her back to look up at him, "those are my wishes on this matter," her brow quirked up slightly, "will you respect them?"

Hotch's mouth quivered slightly as he felt another wave of happiness wash over him.

Thank God he'd heard the knock on the door.

"Yes," he gently tucked JJ's small frame back again his body, "yes, I will," he whispered back.

"Okay then," JJ sighed as he pressed a kiss to the top of her head, "that sounds like a solid plan to me." "Me too," Hotch murmured against her hair. And though he knew that they had other things to talk about . . . big things like work and Will and their children . . . he knew that could all wait for a little bit. So he stood there, just holding her as he watched the grey light slowly creeping around the blinds.

After a few minutes he heard JJ whisper, "remind me to thank Emily for having such a big mouth," and his eyes popped.

EMILY! OH SHIT!

His eyes snapped over to the entrance to the short hallway . . . Emily was sleeping in his bed! And the more minutes that ticked passed, the closer they were coming to the time when his alarm clock was going to go off. He usually got up at five thirty to go for a run. And when five thirty rolled around and Emily woke up to find his side of the mattress was cold, she was going to get worried and immediately come looking for him.

And oh Christ . . . he winced . . . she wasn't wearing any pants.

His gaze shifted back down to JJ's blonde tresses . . . and this moment probably wasn't the best one to let his new, whatever JJ was, find out about his half naked sleeping arrangements with her very attractive friend/co-worker. Especially given what had happened last night and the big fight that the two of them had had. JJ might jump to COMPLETELY the wrong conclusion and assume that he and Emily had sex. Comfort sex or revenge sex or whatever you wanted to call it, it was going to look REALLY bad! So in an effort to prevent a so far unexpectedly wonderful morning from taking a very bad turn, Hotch schooled his features and then rubbed his hand down JJ's back.

"Though it would be very nice to stay here with you all morning, unfortunately time's passing and it is a work day," When she tipped her head back his eyebrow rose slightly, "and as the sun's almost up I'm thinking that you probably need to go home and change, yes?"

'Please say yes, please don't say you have a suit in the car,' he prayed in his head.

A little wrinkle set in JJ's brow as she looked over at the white light now spilling freely into the small living room.

"You're right," she bit her lip as she looked up at him again. "I do need to go home. I have to um," she cleared her throat, "well, I need to talk to Will and I really need to do that this morning. I know it's a crappy conversation to have with somebody right before they go to work, but now that you and I have talked if I don't tell him right away what's happening then," her eyes started to get moist, "well, it'll feel like I'm cheating on him. And I don't want to do that. He's been good to me, and he's so good with Henry, I can't let things end that badly," she sniffled to try to get her emotions back under control, "um, so if you don't mind maybe I'll take a little comp time this morning and try to get things with him, uh . . . squared away."

Seeing the tears hovering again, Hotch's expression softened as his hand came up to brush down her cheek. "Of course JJ. Whatever you need to do is fine with me. And if you and Henry need a place to stay for the weekend I have Jack's room," a smile ghosted over his lips, "and given that I'll have a four year old in my bed and you'll have a fourteen month old in yours, I can promise that I will be a gentleman. Just houseguests, nothing more." He brushed her hair back behind her ear, "we can sort out, um," he tipped his head, "other things at a later date, okay?"

He didn't want her to feel any pressure. She was getting out of a long term relationship, and regardless of her feelings for him . . . and he was thrilled beyond measure that she indeed had feelings for him . . . he also knew that she had feelings for Will too. How could she not? He was the father of her child, the man whose bed she'd been sharing for over two years. And he knew from the demise of his relationship with Haley that just because it's time to move on, it doesn't mean that you can simply leave all that baggage behind. Those feelings weren't going to fade away over night. She was going to need a little time, a little time and probably a shoulder to cry on occasionally.

And he could be that shoulder for her until she was ready for more.

Hearing Hotch's proposal, JJ felt her sadness get pushed back by a wave of love and affection for him. And though she knew that she had just placed a moratorium on such things, she couldn't stop herself from leaning up to press one more quick kiss to his lips.

It wasn't so much a romantic kiss as simply a thank you.

Just a thank you for being a really good guy.

As she pulled back a second later she nodded. "Okay, that sounds good. And that would be nice if we could stay here this weekend. I'm hoping that this conversation with Will doesn't go too badly but um," she shook her head, "either way I know this is going to come out of the blue for him. So obviously I want to give him some space to think and it doesn't seem right to uh," her voice started to get husky, "break up with him and then kick him out of the house." She cleared her throat, "it seems cruel actually. So I'll tell him that Henry and I will get out for the weekend and then he and I can talk again on Sunday and figure out what we're going to do about, well," she sighed, "everything."

They might not be married, but both of their names were on the rental lease and somebody was going to have to move. Also most of the furniture they'd bought together so they had to decide what to do about that. Not to mention, they were listed on each other's car insurance, as each other's emergency contacts and as death beneficiaries. They also shared a household bank account for rent and utilities and baby stuff. They each still had personal checking accounts too, but still . . . they had a lot of things to sort out. And then there was the most important thing to sort out.

Henry. They'd need to work out visitation. There were going to be days when she wouldn't get to see her baby at all.

Really . . . her eyes started to water again . . . it was going to be a mess.

But as Hotch pulled her back to his chest again she remembered that she would have a light with her during the darker days ahead. He would help her get through all of this. So she took a moment to preserve this memory of him in her mind . . . she'd need it later this morning . . . and then she pulled away with true regret.

"I have to go now," she reached up to cup his jaw, "I should hopefully be in by ten at the latest, but I'll call you if something happens."

"You call me either way as soon as you're done," Hotch whispered back as his hand covered hers, "I'll come pick you up and we can talk before you come into the office, okay?"

Her eyes started to fill again as she nodded.

"Okay."

And then she turned towards the door before she gave in to temptation and either started crying again or decided to kiss him again.

Or both.

Tonight she could do those things. Not that she wanted to cry again but she most definitely wanted to kiss him again and cuddle up on the couch. And she could do that after the boys were in bed.

Until then it wasn't allowed. So she let herself be satisfied with one last hug before she reluctantly pulled away from him. Then she opened the door and stepped into the hall.

She turned back.

"So I'll call you when it's done." And he nodded back definitively, "absolutely. No meetings this morning so I'll be in my office or the bullpen. Just call my cell."

"Right."

For a second they stood staring at one another, him on side of the doorway, her on the other. And he so badly wanted to say it out loud.

'I love you, and I promise that you won't regret your decisions today. We'll make this work.'

But he knew that it was too soon for declarations like that. So instead he picked up her hand again and kissed the back of her knuckles. Then he brought his other hand up in a fist and tapped it on his heart.

"We'll work everything out," he whispered, "I'll stay with you for all the hard stuff. I promise." And her face brightened as she nodded back with a watery smile, "thank you." Then she pressed a kiss to her fingers and brought her hand up to his lips. After that final act she turned and walked away, her heels echoing in the still empty corridor.

Hotch watched her go to the end of the hall and then turn back to wave before she disappeared into the alcove. For a moment he considered following after her, making sure that she got to her car okay. But then he remembered that it was light out, and that he had felt her gun in the back waistband of her jeans.

She'd be fine.

So he shut the door and set the deadbolt. Then he turned back to the living room and blinked when he saw Emily standing in the kitchen watching him.

She had a huge grin on her face.

"I told you!" She announced triumphantly as she crossed the room, "did I or did I not tell you that it would all work out?"

She'd woken up a few minutes ago to go to the bathroom. When she saw that Hotch was gone . . . long gone, his side of the bed was cold . . . she'd stepped into the hall to find him. But then she'd heard whispering and poked her head around the corner to see him and JJ in a clinch. She'd realized that her presence would most definitely not be welcome right then. But she was afraid to go back to the bedroom either because she didn't want to make any noise to alert them to her presence. So basically for the last three or four minutes she'd just been standing in the hallway with her hands over her ears trying not to eavesdrop. Then she heard the door click and realized it was safe to come out.

Hotch's lips started to twitch as Emily walked up to him . . . still not wearing any pants of course . . . and then he nodded.

"Yes," he tipped his head, "fine, I admit it, you were right," he rolled his eyes, "I was wrong. You're the queen for the day."

Emily raised a smug eyebrow as she poked him in the chest, "I'm going to remind you of this fact the next time you go all morose cave man on me. For all the shit we do, you know that the world owes us more than one favor, and sometimes it actually does pay off it's debts." She smiled softly, "and now I have Rick and you have JJ, and we can all be happy, right?"

"Right," Hotch's eyes crinkled as he nodded, "we can all be happy."

'For today anyway,' he added to himself. But then he realized he was letting the darker thoughts back again. And he didn't want to go all 'morose cave man' as Emily had just said, no for just a few minutes he just wanted to be happy.

It was a refreshing change.

And knowing who was responsible for the happiness he was feeling now, a wave of affection washed over him for the smiling woman in front of him. So he leaned down and picked her up. And as her arms looped around his neck, he squeezed her tightly against his chest.

"Thank you for having a bad temper and a big mouth," he whispered in her ear. And she started to chuckle right before she pressed a kiss to his cheek.

"You're welcome."


A/N 2: And we're done . . . for now. I'm definitely considering this story closed but I really do want to follow up in this world to see JJ and Hotch trying to meld their little families together with the awkwardness of how things will be with Will. Plus the transitions that will be necessary in Hotch's physical interactions with Emily. As I said previously, you can't be in a committed relationship with one person and still sleeping half naked in bed with another. Things will have to change. So for now we'll leave everyone at a projected (eventual) happily ever after, but I'll pick up with them a bit later to follow them through a the ending. Initially I had planned to bring them to work the next day and not having the 'JJ shows up in the middle of the night' convo until the next day. But as I was putting myself in her place I realized that there was just no way that I could go into the office and pretend like everything was just totally hunky dory for ten hours. It would have been torture. And initially I thought, good place to write some awkward pauses! But then it just seemed like 8 hours alone in her own head, she was going to get to the point where she'd know what she wanted. And then why would she want to torture herself further by spending the day with him knowing that she had all these questions for him. It's not like she could corner him in the bullpen for some answers. Really it's been my experience that it's best to make an ass out of yourself with as few witnesses as possible :)

And if you enjoyed this story, shameless plug here, it is up for a CM FanFic award as Best JJ/Hotch :) Thank you so much to whoever nominated me! So if you'd like to vote, and you haven't already, links to the ballots are on my profile page.

Another update on a different story. It's also JJ focused and it'll be up a little later.

As always thanks for the feedback, as you can probably tell from the lack of postings, I've had little time to spend on this part of my life, but as always it's appreciated, and it does remind me that there are people out there that are actually waiting to see what happens in all these fanciful little worlds. Sometimes that's enough to get my brain to carve out a few minutes to focus on the fake lives as opposed to the real one :)