Author's Note: Finally, something fun!

I know I'd said this story was closed, but I'm always getting other ideas. And I just thought this bit here a) could only fit in the Girl'verse, and b) really was perfect as an addendum for the 4th of July BBQ already written.

So this picks up with them a few hours after we closed the last scene. And if you haven't read Making Spirits Bright (the Christmas party at Dave's) I would suggest you do so before reading this story (well, this chapter at least) as there are a couple of little side jokes referencing back to events there that would make more sense in context.

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Twitter: ffsienna27 – For story announcements, etc. If the alerts, (or the site), are down, this is a backup to find out what's going on for postings. There's also some random randomness that is my brain.

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Pop Goes The Fourth

Emily stifled a yawn as she tipped her wrist to look down at her watch.

Barely 6:30 pm.

Still really early, but she had been at Dave's since before noon. Not to mention she'd been up until almost two am cooking . . . then got up less than five hours later to FINISH cooking . . . so at this point she was starting to lose a bit of her earlier excitement for the party.

A party which had . . . her gaze shifted around the raucous group in Dave's backyard . . . grown considerably in size since it had started. As the day had worn on and other neighbors had returned from their respective . . . official . . . holiday cookouts/BBQs, they had wandered over to Dave's for a second go around. It was nothing like the turnout at the Christmas party, but still there were a good thirty or forty people wandering about the patio, pool and backyard.

It was kind of fun.

And really, if not for people showing up with their leftovers from the earlier outings, the food would have probably run out hours ago. But as it was things were still going strong at both the barbecue pit and the bar. And even if most people didn't know the party was her idea . . . okay, basically just Dave and Hotch knew the party was her idea . . . she was still feeling pretty proud about how well the whole thing had turned out.

Not that that meant she felt the need to stay there all night.

Not only was her general energy level starting to lag, but she was really hoping to get home in time to watch the fireworks. Her apartment had the best view around for that activity. And given the traffic around the city on a day like this, Emily knew that she should probably check in with Hotch pretty soon to find out their exit strategy.

She'd like to leave within the hour.

And though for most of the day Hotch had been pretty much glued to her side . . . which had actually been quite fun . . . the last time that he'd gotten up to get her a drink, Garcia had dropped into the seat he'd been occupying. So now Hotch was three chairs down from her talking to Derek about something that she couldn't quite make out.

Though given that the phrase, "semi-automatic weapons" seemed to be getting bandied about, it was probably work related. Regardless though . . . Emily leaned forward slightly to project her voice around Garcia and Kevin's currently empty chair next to her . . . this was just a quick interruption.

"Hey Hotch, what . . ."

And then the rest of the sentence got caught in her throat.

Oh. Crap.

Kevin had just tripped.

He tripped right in front of them . . . he was walking back to his seat on the other side of Garcia . . . and the entire plate of food he was carrying went flying through the air. It had just landed in Hotch's lap.

But not before bouncing off his chest.

Emily's hand came up to cover her mouth. It was about the worst . . . non serial killer related . . . thing that she'd ever seen.

And for a moment there was just a stunned silence . . . pretty impressive given that were almost a dozen people in the general vicinity . . . with Kevin at the center of it, frozen in a rictus of absolute horror.

By Emily's estimation he was most likely having a momentary out of body experience.

But then the tape began rolling again. He clearly came back to himself as he leaped forward, stammering horrified apologies as he dove to clean up the food he had just spilled . . . thrown . . . onto the man that he was most terrified of in the world.

He meant well. That was clear. But Emily see could the horrendous act about to be committed . . . compounding the one that had already been committed . . . and she actually jumped up to stop him.

"NO!" She yelled in horror as she reached out, "KEVIN NO!"

But it was too late . . . she hadn't moved fast enough . . . his hand was headed right for Hotch's crotch.

Oh. Dear. God.

She simultaneously winced and prayed, 'please just let him live to regret it.'

Just before he made actual contact . . . he was obviously going for the hamburger and potato salad but his reasons for touching Hotch down there didn't matter, it just wasn't ever to be done . . . Hotch's fist closed around Kevin's hand.

Emily winced again, this time at the audible crunch as Kevin went down on one knee biting his lip.

"Don't even think about it," Hotch hissed in what was clearly a barely controlled fury. And then he shoved the younger man backwards.

As Kevin fall onto his ass, clutching his cramped fingers, his face was turning a shade of scarlet that Emily didn't know was possible outside of a lobster tank. And for a moment the whole world seemed to stop again. It was a frozen tableau of horrified faces. Morgan couldn't stop blinking . . . Garcia seemed to have stopped breathing. JJ's mouth was moving like an open mouthed bass.

Then Kevin threw up on his shoes.

And that broke the freeze.

Suddenly there was a chorus of "EWWW GROSS!" as everyone scrambled to get back. As far as distractions went, Emily couldn't think of a better one outside of actually pulling her gun and shooting someone.

So she ignored the current spectacle that was Kevin and stepped in front of the prior spectacle that was Hotch.

He was still clearly fuming . . . and still completely covered in Kevin's uneaten dinner.

And that dinner had consisted of . . . by its smeared, splattered parts on his skin and clothing . . . potato salad, a hamburger plus bun, melted cheese, mayo, ketchup and of course . . . lots of grease. This all on the man who had not once in the years that she had known him, shown up to work without a razor's edge crease in his trousers, and a military regimented part in his hair.

Her gut was twisting in embarrassment for him.

"Come on," she said quietly as she tipped her head towards the house, "let's get you cleaned up."

Though he didn't actually acknowledge that she'd spoken . . . it was clear that he was still exerting most of his energy on keeping his temper . . . Hotch did briefly make eye contact with her as he stood up.

Then the hamburger plopped to the ground and his jaw twitched as his gaze shifted over her head.

Okay, yeah . . . Emily bit her lip . . . he was ready to kill someone.

So Emily quickly turned to look over at Penelope gagging slightly as she threw napkins at her . . . at that moment . . . extremely disgusting, throw-up covered boyfriend.

She shot her a look . . . one that clearly said to get Kevin to a safe place, perhaps West Virginia . . . and Garcia swallowed as she gave her a sharp nod in return.

Message received.

Then Emily turned back, her hand gliding over Hotch's back . . . but not quite making contact . . . as she began hurriedly ushering him out of the canopy area. Fortunately few people were paying much attention to them at that point. All eyes were still on Kevin who was slowly pushing himself up off the ground.

Being covered in vomit clearly trumped being covered in potato salad.

So she and Hotch started walking briskly up the hill towards the side door . . . bits of food and condiments falling in mockery with every step . . . but then Hotch stopped short. And just as Emily was about to ask what he was doing, without another word he turned and started moving double time around the back of the house.

And with her wearing flip flops . . . crap . . . he was about to leave her completely in the dust!

So Emily kicked off her 'totally not practical for chasing people down' shoes, leaned down to scoop them up off the ground, and then started running across the lawn to catch up with Hotch before he completely disappeared.

It didn't take a mind reader to know that he wanted to avoid traipsing through the group of men at the barbecue pit.

Poor thing.

Yes, word of what happened was mostly likely going to spread, but those drunken yahoos didn't need to get an up close chuckle at Hotch's expense.

If anyone did laugh at him she was going to have to bust open some lips.

Emily caught up to Hotch just after he'd turned the corner on the far side of the house. With a faint breathlessness . . . she'd been sprinting up an incline . . . she reached out and put her hand on his back.

He stopped short again. This time his jaw was twisting as he turned to give her a deadly look . . . but it was a look that she dismissed outright. His attempts at intimidation no longer worked on her.

So instead of taking her hand away as most . . . sane . . . people would have, she simply slipped it down to take his fingers instead.

Then she pouted at him in sympathy.

"I'm sorry you got dead cow thrown on you. But," her hand tightened around his as she gave him a little smile, "we'll get you cleaned up in a couple minutes and then if you want, I'll go back and kick Kevin's ass for messing up your clothes."

Though she was trying to get a smile out of Hotch, still, dress or no dress, she could take Kevin in a beat down any day of the week.

Hotch's jaw was tight as he stared at Emily for a second . . . and then just like that, with her in her bright yellow sundress carrying her flip flops . . . his anger and embarrassment began to fade. With her unique brand of humor and comfort . . . just her mere presence when nobody else would dare talk to him . . . it did make it nearly impossible to stay upset about stupid things.

He needed somebody in his life like that all the time.

He needed Emily.

And the tension in his jaw faded as his eyes crinkled slightly.

"Thanks, but given that he just threw up on himself, it would probably be best if you kept your distance from Kevin until he has a shower."

Preferably of the Silkwood variety. Jackass. What the HELL was he thinking? Hotch could acknowledge . . . and forgive . . . that tossing the food on him was an accident. But he came within millimeters of direct contact!

For that he was banned from the BAU for a week.

With a faint huff, Hotch tugged slightly on Emily's hand as he started walking through the grass again.

"Good point," Emily nodded seriously as they continued around the house, "but if you change your mind later, just let me know and I'll break out the brass knuckles."

She was relieved to see that . . . as she'd hoped . . . he seemed better now for her effort at both contact and humor. And then she heard a droll, "use of brass knuckles is illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia Prentiss, but nonetheless, I'll keep the offer in mind."

Now he seemed back to his usual self . . . her lips twitched . . . good.

So as they stepped off the grass and onto the driveway in front of the open garage, Emily looked up to give him a little smile as she took the lead in getting him cleaned up.

"This way," she tugged him into the garage, "there's a door in here that leads to the back hallway behind the kitchen. Then we can use that upstairs bathroom. It should be totally clear."

That would be the same bathroom that they used when they had their little spill on the ice last winter.

Ah . . . she sighed . . . memories.

After Emily had maneuvered them around Dave's mint condition candy apple red '67 Mustang (her father had the same car in midnight blue) she realized that Hotch had nothing to change into.

They'd forgotten to stop and get his bag from the jeep.


So she dropped his hand, and when he looked down at her quizzically she tipped her head towards the driveway.

"We forgot to get your ready bag," she pointed as she started walking backwards, "you go on through that door up on the left and I'll meet you up there in a few."

She started to turn, but then Hotch called her name and she stopped, looking back expectantly.


His lip quirked up.

"Jeep's locked."

As he said the words he was pulling the keys from his pocket. Then he tossed them . . . underhand . . . to where she was standing five feet away. Though she could have . . . under other circumstances . . . busted his balls on the girly toss, she was pretty sure that he'd done it today to ensure that the keys didn't go flying over her head and bounce off the mint condition Mustang.

And given her propensity for 'mishaps,' that was probably a good call on his part.

Still though, in this instance luck was on her side. She easily caught the keys in her cupped hand as she smiled and nodded.

"Right. See you in three minutes."

Then she turned and started jogging back out to the driveway. Fortunately the jeep was parked only a few vehicles back . . . they had been nearly the first arrivals . . . so she didn't have too far to go.

After she'd fussed with the alarm, dropped one flip flop, then the keys, then the other flip flop as she tried to pick up the first one, she finally got the doors unlocked.

His bag was on the rear floorboard behind the passenger seat, and once it was in hand, she stepped back to slam the door shut. That's when Emily realized that if she took the whole bag with her, that it would necessitate a return trip by one of them to put the bag back again.

So with a sigh, she stepped forward and placed the duffel on the backseat. Then she dropped her flip flops back on the ground . . . purposely this time . . . unzipped the main compartment, and started digging around inside.

Going on the assumption that the greasy food had soaked through the thin cotton of Hotch's khakis, Emily rooted around until she'd pulled out a pair of clean boxers (blue), a plain t-shirt (white) and the one pair of jeans that he had folded up in the bottom of the bag.

She was presuming that Hotch wouldn't want to stick around much longer after that scene in the backyard. But still . . . she zipped the bag back up and tossed it onto the floor again . . . even if they were just going to be driving home, there was no way that he'd want to continue wearing ANY of the clothes that he had on right now.

They were all quite grubby.

So with his clean clothes now clutched under her arm, Emily slammed the jeep door shut and hit the locks. Then she slipped her flip flops on again . . . it was faster going without them but she had a feeling that she was going to keep dropping them . . . and began hurrying back up the driveway and into the garage.

She entered the house through the same door where she'd directed Hotch, and as expected, she came out in the back hallway not far from the wine cellar that the two of them had visited the last time they were at Rossi's house for a holiday party.

More memories.

Ones she chose not to dwell on right then . . . creepy ex-boyfriend convo . . . as she hung a right, continuing down the empty hall to the back staircase.

When she arrived on the second floor, Emily again went right and began counting doors until she arrived at the one that she was sure was the bathroom.

The last time she was on this floor of Dave's house . . . with Hotch . . . they'd (she'd) accidentally walked in on some trauma inducing sexual acts being performed by a frighteningly unattractive couple. So to prevent any additional hairy flashbacks . . . bleh . . . this time she made sure to knock firmly before she yanked open the door.

Then she waited.

After she heard Hotch's questioning, "Prentiss?" she turned the knob.

Hoping that nobody had come up the stairs behind her in the last thirty seconds, Emily hurriedly slipped inside the bathroom and shut the door. Then she turned to find Hotch in just his pin striped boxers and black socks rinsing out the rest of his clothes in the sink.

It was quite a sight.

And spotting a chunk of potato salad stuck in his chest hair . . . must have happened when he pulled off his shirt . . . her lips began to twitch.

"Wow sir," she stepped closer to pluck the creamy yellow substance from his chest, "you really do give the phrase 'good enough to eat,' a whole new meaning."

When he looked down at her she smirked. "It's really a good thing that he didn't douse you in cookie dough ice cream or I'd be licking you clean."

It was always fun to try to get a rise out of Hotch . . . her eyes involuntarily dropped down to the striped boxers . . . so to speak.

Hotch rolled his eyes as he turned to wash the yellow mustard off his chest.

"Very nice Prentiss. I hope you brought more than just the foundation of a sexual harassment suit in with you."

Once upon a time it might have seemed strange to be standing in a Dave's bathroom wearing only his boxer shorts while Emily made faux sexual advances.

Sadly those days were long gone.

"But of course!" Emily announced with a flourish as she dropped the potato in the trash with one hand as she held up his clean clothes with the other.

"Now," she eyed his bare chest approvingly, "as compensation for my errand feel to keep your cash and just pay me in trade. And by trade of course I'm referring to you completing the rest of the strip show that we've got happenig right now." She raised her eyebrow questioningly, "if it helps you get a good rhythm going, you should be aware that I can effectively hum one full verse of Salt N Peppa's 'Shoop'. After that I start to lose my breath and it kind of fades in and out."

She wasn't done screwing with him quite yet.

And as expected . . . hoped . . . the strip tease suggestion resulted in a look nasty enough to make a small child (or Kevin) weep, so she put her hand up.

"Fine, fine," she went over to place his clothes on the far edge of the vanity, "I'm leaving."

"Good," Hotch muttered flatly as he went back to scrubbing the food splatters off his chest, "don't the let the door hit you on the way out."

Emily smiled.

"Love you too sir." Then just before she turned to step out, a thought popped into her head and she put her hand out instead.

"You know what, just give me your clothes and I'll go throw them in the wash before the stains set."

She'd seen the laundry room was right next to the door leading out to the garage. And she was quite sure that Rossi wouldn't mind if she threw Hotch's clothes in for a quick rinse.

Hotch stared at Emily for a moment before he sighed. "Okay." Then he rung out the shirt and pants he was rinsing in the sink. He handed them to her with a weary, "thanks."

It was a little odd having Emily do his laundry . . . his mother and his ex-wife were the only other women that had ever washed his clothes . . . but her point was more than valid.

But . . . strangely . . . even after she was holding his damp khakis and golf shirt, Emily continued to stand motionless by the door. So Hotch raised his eyebrow, "what?"

Her eyes dropped down to his boxers. "Full monty Hotch."

As she'd expected, the food had indeed soaked through his khakis.

Hotch looked over at her in confusion before he followed her gaze down to his shorts.

His eyes widened . . . God DAMN it! Frigging hamburger!

A growl slipped past his lips as he looked back up to see Emily smirking at him.

"Now, now sir," she put her hand out as she said seriously, "let's be adult about this."

If she hadn't already been having a good day . . . Hotch's public misfortune notwithstanding . . . forcing the man in question to strip down to his socks for her was definitely the cherry on the sundae.

Hotch rolled his eyes . . . adult his ass. She was LOVING this!

But . . . he grunted to himself . . . she was right. If he kept them on he was going to get grease on his clean clothes. And he could see that she'd brought him a pair of clean boxers so that would be stupid not to change now.

Not that she was getting her little show. So he shooed her towards the door with a scowl.

"I'll toss them to you."

Hell was freezing over before he stripped in front of her.

"You're no fun," Emily pouted as Hotch opened the door, shuffling her into the hall as he replied flatly, "and I see that your definition of 'fun' includes trying to get me brought up on sexual harassment charges so that you can orchestrate your coup of the BAU."

"Well, come on Hotch," she immediately shot back, "you know it's the only way that I'm ever going to wrestle control. Even Reid has seniority ov . . ."

The last part of Emily's sentence was cut off by the door slamming in her face. And with lips twitching, she yelled out, "STRIP SIR!" and a second later the door flew open again and she got hit in the face with a pair of striped boxers.

A huge grin slid across Emily's face as she pulled them off her head.

"THANK YOU!" she yelled back through the rapidly diminishing space.

As the wood slammed back into the frame again, Emily turned to see Reid standing open mouthed at the end of the upstairs hallway. Before she could say anything, he put his hand up.

"I don't want to know." Then she heard him mutter to himself as he turned away, "why do I keep trying to use this bathroom?"

She chuckled to herself as she started down the hall.


Ten minutes later Emily looked up from her thumb twiddling to see Hotch standing in the doorway of the laundry room.

"Hey," a soft smile touched her lips as she sat back against the wooden bench next to the swishing wash machine, "you found me."

Though she'd never say it out loud, he looked really cute in just blue jeans and a white t-shirt. With his classically handsome features, it was a very 50s movie star look for him.

James Dean meets old school Cary Grant.

"Yes," with a heavy sigh Hotch walked through the door, "I found you." He dropped down onto the bench next to her, "though I would have perhaps found you a bit faster if you'd given me some clue as to where to find the laundry room. This is the fifth door I walked through," his brow rose up as he looked down at her inquisitively, "did you know that Dave has an entire roomful of wooden ducks?"

Though Hotch wasn't quite sure what a "normal" man to wooden duck ratio was, he was fairly positive that Rossi had exceeded it by a dozen or so.

Emily smiled as she slipped off her flip flops and pulled her legs up.

"Actually, it's not just ducks," she clarified as she tucked her legs under her skirt, "Dave has a woodworking shop off the garage. He makes lots of things but he just has more ducks than anything else because he uses them when he goes hunting."

It was hard to imagine him not moving on to something besides water fowl soon though. Really, how many frigging ducks did a guy need? Didn't they reuse those things?

Feeling an emotion that felt disturbingly . . . and surprisingly . . . like jealousy swirl up, Hotch turned to run an appraising eyebrow over Emily's relaxed form.

"Really?" his brow rose another quarter inch, "and how did you come across all of that information?"

Given that Hotch himself had known Dave Rossi for over ten years, and he had never heard about this . . . apparently all consuming . . . wooden duck building hobby, it kind of begged the question . . . how did Emily know about it? And how did she know where his woodworking shop was? And the laundry room too for that matter.

Just how much time was she spending with Dave anyway?

Picking up a slightly peevish tone in Hotch's question . . . it matched the frown of disapproval on his face . . . Emily's lip quirked up slightly.

"Oh," she responded with a disinterested shrug, "it's just something that he mentioned the other morning in bed."


Hearing Hotch's voice hit an octave that he probably hadn't touched since before puberty, Emily burst out laughing.

"I was just kidding!" She chuckled with a good natured smack to his arm, "you sounded jealous so I was amusing myself at your expense."

And given the fact that she was simply amusing herself at his expense, and that the joke had flown right over his head . . . it was rare that Hotch took anything she said seriously, even for a moment . . . that just confirmed her jealousy theory.

It was cute . . . though somewhat perplexing.

"I sound what?" Hotch sputtered in surprise.

How that hell had she picked up on THAT so quickly?

"Jealous." She said as her smile softened.

"That's just ridiculous," Hotch scoffed with something approaching a righteous indignation, "I am not jealous of Dave."

Yes. He was. It had been a while since he'd felt the emotion . . . it had been a while since he'd had a woman in his life in any capacity to even get jealous about . . . but he certainly remembered what that little burning sensation felt like.

It was unpleasant.

And he couldn't for the life of him figure out why he was experiencing it now. Of course he knew (without her saying it) that Emily and Dave weren't actually sleeping together. And even assuming for the sake of ridiculous arguments that they were, it's not as though he and Emily were themselves romantically involved. And he wasn't harboring any latent . . . inappropriate . . . sexual attraction towards her either. So he really couldn't figure why it was bothering him so much to know that Emily had apparently been spending personal time exchanging life details with Dave.

Not just personal time . . . a little voice snarked in the back of his head . . . a LOT of personal time apparently. She seems to have the run out of the house.

Hotch told the snarky little voice to shut the hell up.

"Really?" Emily looped her arm through Hotch's as she continued quietly, "because the snippy little tone there sounds like you might be kind of jealous. Like perhaps," she sighed as her head fell to his shoulder, "I might be cheating on you with Dave."

When she heard Hotch grunt in response, Emily chuckled softly.

"Hotch do you think that Dave and I are having coffee behind your back?"

"Are you?"

The words came out of Hotch's mouth with a surprising amount of bite. So much bite that his jaw immediately snapped shut as he felt Emily stiffen at his side. And in the . . . very . . . awkward silence that followed, he felt a stab of guilt and fear mixing in with the unexpected jealousy and irritation.

Though knew that he needed to say something . . . he honest to God didn't know what it was that he was supposed to say. He didn't even know what the hell his problem was!

But then a second later . . . before he could get his thoughts straight . . . he felt Emily's fingers brushing across his jaw, the slight pressure guiding him to turn his head.

So he did.

"Why are you upset?" She whispered as their eyes locked.

He shook his head slowly as his gaze started to slide away from hers.

"I'm not . . . I . . . I don't know," he said softly as all of his emotions faded to simple embarrassment, "I just know that I am."

Feeling a surge of sympathy at his clear embarrassment, Emily stared at Hotch's granite profile for a moment trying to figure out what it was that he could not.

Why would he be so bothered at the thought of her having coffee with Dave? At her spending time with Dave?

And then she pictured her and Hotch's day so far . . . all of their days so far, all of the time that they now spent together, all of the things that they now shared . . . and she realized why he was upset.

She was all that he had.

Hotch didn't make friends easily . . . he didn't trust easily . . . so whether or not he'd actually admit it to her, this relationship that they'd forged, it was special. It meant something to him. Something that would be cheapened for him if it turned out that it didn't mean as much to her.

That it wasn't as special.

But it was though. Though she loved all of the team, she couldn't deny that she had come to feel a definitive shift in her loyalties. And that shift was completely to the man at her side.

Maybe it was time to tell him that.

So her expression softened slightly as she tipped her head back to his shoulder. His entire body was rigid against hers.

"Want to hear a secret?" She murmured as her cheek brushed his sleeve.

Hotch was quite for a moment, and then she heard him whisper. "What?"

His voice was slightly hoarse, so she squeezed his arm as she whispered back. "I love having coffee with you. It's become my favorite part of the day. Just hanging out with you, has become my favorite part of the day. And I only know what I do about the layout of Dave's house and his hobby, because the last time we were all here, he gave me and JJ that tour. So the next time that you start thinking something silly, like maybe I don't want to spend time with you anymore, you remember what I said. Spending time with you is the best . . . most fun . . . part of my day. You got it?"

Hotch closed his eyes as both the embarrassment, and the tightness around his chest, faded away. Somehow . . . he reached over to pick up Emily's hand . . . she could figure out to how fix things, even when he didn't know what was broken.

"Yes," he murmured back as he wound his fingers through hers, "I got it . . . thank you. And um . . . ditto."

Okay, that was perhaps not quite as eloquent and heartfelt as what Emily had just said, but he still wasn't that comfortable putting his . . . growing . . . affection for her into words.

He just hoped that she wouldn't take offense.

But then he felt her squeeze his hand right before a chuckle slipped past her lips.

"Smooth talker."

He smiled.


"I can't believe that we're doing this." Emily snorted . . . mostly to herself . . . as Hotch slipped the passkey into the roof access door.

"Well," Hotch paused in his fairly illegal entry to turn back to Emily with a raised eyebrow, "we can still leave if you want. I can just take you home now."

Fat chance she'd say yes to that.

And as he expected, she immediately yelped a "No!" as she waved her hands at him in a shooing motion.

"No! I want to see the fireworks. So please," she smiled sweetly under the flickering fluorescent lights, "open the door sir."

They were in the dank, humid, upper stairwell of an office building on 19th & E, breaking onto . . . okay, they had a key but it was totally obtained under questionable circumstances – a bogus security check . . . the restricted roof deck so that they could watch the fireworks that were about to start booming any second.

After they'd gotten Hotch's still wet . . . but at least clean . . . clothes out the wash, they'd beat a hasty goodbye from the party. Though Hotch's mood had improved considerably, Emily still hadn't trusted him not to toss Kevin onto the fire pit the first chance that he got.

Besides that . . . he began fussing with the key again . . . it was coming up on fireworks time.

And she did so love a good set of fireworks.

But then when they'd gotten stuck in near gridlock traffic heading towards the city, Emily had lamented . . . in a totally not pouty or whiney way at all(!) . . . that now she was going to get home too late to watch the fireworks live from her window, she hadn't actually anticipated the subsequent chain of events.

Really she was just making an observation!

All right perhaps it was a slightly dejected observation, but she hadn't actually thought Hotch would be able to do anything about it! But then he'd tapped his fingers on the steering wheel for about five beats . . . turned and looked at her for another two . . . and then suddenly hit the directional and pulled into the breakdown lane. Before she could even ask him what the hell he was doing . . . if perhaps they'd just been paged to a dump site and she'd missed it . . . he'd already maneuvered them down to the next off ramp into the city. It had dumped them about ten blocks from the Memorials . . . far from the tens of thousands of holiday revelers . . . and then he'd cut around the busiest intersections and dropped them back out in Foggy Bottom. That's when he'd picked a government building . . . apparently at random . . . and stopped the jeep.

And now here they were . . . top of the world Ma(!) . . . about to watch the fireworks from the roof deck of some sub-division of the Department of Agriculture. All it had taken was Hotch flashing his badge at the guard to convince him that they were doing random security sweeps of all the government buildings in the area over ten stories . . . how he picked that floor count she did not know . . . and they were in.

Well, with that and Hotch's patented ultra-serious business glower, and then, they were in.

And now . . . the door suddenly popped open . . . they were really in!

"Yay!" She exclaimed with a delighted clap, "good job!"

And just in time too. She could hear the explosions beginning over the river.

Hotch's lips twitched slightly at Emily's exuberance . . . it was always infectious . . . as he stepped through the doorway and began scouring the roof for a good viewing location.

Hmmm . . . his nose wrinkled slightly . . . they had a bit of a problem.

"I can't see anything."

At Emily's befuddled announcement, Hotch nodded slowly.

"Yes Prentiss, I know," he pointed, "let's try the SW corner."

The best viewpoint would have been the NW corner . . . but there was a giant air conditioning unit and vent blocking that whole section of the roof. Of course . . . he rolled his eyes as Emily hurried past him to get to the corner of the roof . . . he gets her all the way up here and she still can't see the damn fireworks display.

That was about average for his luck these days.

Emily pushed herself up on her tiptoes to lean over the edge of the wall, and . . . nothing. Okay . . . she hooked her fingers around the base of the giant flag pole screwed to the top of the ledge . . . maybe if she climbed up.

She hadn't gotten more than an arm around the base when suddenly she was yanked backwards.

"Prentiss!" Hotch snapped as he grabbed Emily by the waist and yanked her down from the wall she was attempting to climb. "I did not bring you up here to watch you splatter your brains on the sidewalk below."

Christ! She was scaling the damn building like she was Spiderman!

"But Hotch," Emily whined as she looked up at him with a shameless pout, "our fireworks seats are obstructed view. I can't see anything."

Though she knew the whine . . . and the pout . . . were double whammy manipulative, they were most definitely needed at the moment. She'd noticed recently that often . . . used either alone or in tandem . . . she could get Hotch to agree to do things that he didn't necessarily want to do.

It was pretty neat!

And at present he most definitely didn't want her climbing up onto the flag pole ledge. But she had to if she was going to see any of the fireworks display that had just started.

Hence the double whammy.

She was on a time crunch here!

Hotch's teeth ground together as he stared first at the pout and then the flag pole. The pole which was on a wide ledge and firmly affixed to the top of the building. But still . . . no. This was a woman that fell off of high heels. He was NOT letting her hang onto the broad side of a flag pole.

He didn't care how 'firmly affixed' it was.

So he turned around to look across the roof . . . his eyes locked on the AC monstrosity.

"All right," he muttered as he started back to the open stairwell, "you'll get your fireworks. Just give me a second."

There were a pile of milk crates sitting just outside the access door. Most likely used as seating by maintenance employees that snuck up to have their lunch/smoke breaks in the great outdoors. But for him . . . Hotch began scooping them up from the ground . . . they'd make a nice staircase.

Once he'd carried them over to the air conditioning unit . . . given that it was actually ON the roof, and not attached to the side of it, it was a much safer climb . . . Hotch began stacking them to his liking.

But as he stepped back to eyeball the height, he realized that they still weren't tall enough for him to do what he needed to do. So with a sigh, he went back and dragged the last three crates from the pile by the door.

Hopefully they'd be enough.

As Hotch put one of the new crates on the other three, and then made a parallel stack of two and then one next to the first grouping, Emily crowed in delight.

"Oh Hotch!" She slapped his back, "you're the best!"

He'd made a perfect little staircase.

Though as she hurriedly moved to climb up it . . . fireworks weren't stopping just because she wasn't lined up to see them . . . he turned back with a scowl.

"Just wait Prentiss," he stopped her with both the look and an index finger pushed into her shoulder, "please."

The "please" was clearly tacked on as an afterthought less she toss back a scowl of her own, thereby sending the evening down a less pleasant road. Still though, she waited, watching with a raised eyebrow as he climbed up onto the first . . . and then the second . . . stack of plastic crates. Then he craned his neck slightly over the unit . . . presumably to see what kind of guck was up there. Whatever it was couldn't have been too bad because Emily saw him put a hand out to steady himself to climb onto the final set of crates.

The stack of three was a bit high.

And though this whole little climbing excursion was her idea . . . well, she'd started it with the flagpole anyway . . . she still winced as he put his foot on the red plastic.

"Careful," she murmured as she hurried to steady the little tower, "don't fall."

"If I do," Hotch grunted as he hooked his leg over the top of the giant structure, "please make sure that the police report slash hospital intake forms indicate that we were here on 'official' business and not," his voice faded slightly as he disappeared over the ridge, "Emily Prentiss' fireworks expedition."

"Roger that sir," Emily said with a grin as she stepped back slightly from the crates to call up, "can you see anything?"


Her brow wrinkled.

"Hotch?" She projected her voice slightly as she pushed herself to her tiptoes, "you didn't fall into Narnia did you?"

And then his head appeared.

"I was checking the metal for rust spots or defects," he put his hand down, "looks like it should hold us both fine. Come on."

Really . . . he rolled his eyes slightly . . . he couldn't believe that he was not only encouraging, but actually facilitating, this ridiculous excursion. But then he saw Emily flash him a brilliant grin and the grumbling was lost. A faint dimple slipped out in return, which he tried to cover with faux irritation.

"Well, hurry up," he wiggled his fingers, "I'm not up here for my health, you know."

"Coming, coming," Emily said as she scrambled to climb onto the first milk carton. But then Hotch cleared his throat.

"Sherpas don't wear flip flops Prentiss."

The dry remark caused an involuntary snort as she kicked them off.

"Perhaps, but I'm betting that's mostly because of the risk of frost bite. Still though," she stepped barefoot up onto the first crate, "point taken."

And then she winced slightly as the hard plastic pressed into her foot.

"You okay?"

Hearing the concern in Hotch's voice, she looked up to flash him a quick smile.

"Yep, just wish I had a pair of sneakers," she shifted her balance slightly as she bit her lip, "or maybe just a couple of sherpas to carry me up there."

"Do you want me to come back down and get you?"

At the sweet . . . very unexpected . . . offer, Emily's head snapped up in surprise.

"No thanks," she gave him a soft smile, "I got it. Though," she braced her hand against the cold metal unit as she stepped onto the second stack of crates, "my legs are shorter than yours, so just be ready to haul me over the top like a sack of potatoes."

That wasn't really a joke. Given the distance from the top of the milk crates to the top of the air conditioning unit . . . about two and a half feet . . . she wasn't anticipating a 'dignified hoist.'

As she stepped up onto the third stack of crates and they began to wobble slightly . . . sending her heart rate jack rabbitting . . . Hotch suddenly reached down. His hands were sliding under her arms and yanking her up before she'd even had a chance to catch her breath.

The next thing she knew, she was laying half on top of a warm . . . sprawled out . . . body.

"Thanks for the lift," she said with a grin as she pushed herself back to her knees.

"Don't mention it," Hotch raised an eyebrow as he stared up her from his position on his back, "to anyone. Now then," he simultaneously rolled over and hopped to his feet, "fireworks aren't going to last all night," he put his hand down to help her up, "so let's get moving."

"But," Emily frowned slightly as he pulled her to her feet, "can't we just see them from here?"

They'd just climbed eight feet off the ground. So she kind of expected the 'obstructed view' had been de-obstructed.

"Yes and no," Hotch tugged her along, "yes," he waved dismissively with his free hand, "you can see some of them from here," a burst of green fire helped make his point, "but you can see all of them," he stopped short on the other side of the giant metal structure, "from here."

"Oh!" Emily's breath caught as she looked up to see the cascade of colors in the sky, "this is perfect."

Hotch's lip quirked up slightly as Emily stared into the sky . . . and then he realized he was doing a bit of staring himself . . . and quickly averted his eyes.

As he gaze snapped back up to the colorful explosions overhead . . . it really was an excellent viewing location . . . he felt Emily slip her arm through his.

"Thanks for this," she whispered with a little bop of her head against his bicep, "it was really, really sweet."

God, he'd climbed a freaking building for her! On the sweetness scale that was pretty much off the charts! The more time she spent with the man, the more astounded she was that Haley had left him.

"You're welcome," Hotch reached over to squeeze her hand, "just enjoy your show."

It was his way of saying thank you for what she'd done for him earlier after the incident with Kevin. She'd fixed his day again . . . so he was fixing hers.

He knew that she loved the fireworks, and he didn't want her to miss them.

And so they watched the remaining ten minutes of the Fourth of July display like that . . . with her leaning against his side . . . and him holding her hand. And when it was done . . . and she'd 'wa hoo'd in delight at the final cacophony of colors and sound . . . his lips twitched as she looked up at him with a ridiculous grin.

"Best Fourth of July EVER!"

Hotch snorted . . . and then laughed out loud.

"Yes Prentiss," his chuckle tapered off as his gaze shifted to take in the beauty of the cityscape around them, "this was a good one."

It was certainly the best holiday he'd had since . . . he thought back . . . well, probably Christmas of '07.

That was the last major holiday he and Haley were together.


He looked down as Emily patted his arm.

"What?" He asked with a raised eyebrow.

"You want to come back to my place and have a midni . . ." her eyes dropped to squint at her watch, "ten thirty pm, snack?"

Though she was getting tired . . . she was hungry too. Her last plate of party food had been a good five hours ago. And given what Hotch had just done for her . . . fixed a Fourth of July that had been about to go completely off the rails . . . she felt it was only right to have him back for a little bit of thank you leftovers.

"Uh," Hotch hesitated a moment as he considered how long a day Emily had had so far. And he was pretty sure if he could see her face clearly . . . a bit difficult given the lighting on the roof . . . he'd see some pretty significant circles under her eyes.

"Please," she smiled up hopefully, "if I eat with you there then it won't be quite so embarrassing that I'll be consuming a fourth meal today."

"Fifth," Hotch interjected with a grunt as he started walking her towards the edge of the air conditioning unit, "and yes, I suppose I could come up for quick bite."

Climbing buildings did tend to work up an appetite. And also . . . unlike Emily . . . he'd only had three plates of food that day.

"Good," Emily yawned as they stepped up to the edge of the hulking structure, "you can help me finish off the cold . . . cuts."

When Emily's voice faded away, Hotch's gaze dropped down to see what had caught her attention.

His jaw began to twitch.

"Prentiss," he ground out between clenched teeth, "when I pulled you up, did you perhaps happen to kick your foot out as you went over the top of the unit?"

The top two milk crates were missing from the highest stack. And that left a lovely six foot gap from where they were standing to the plastic box on the ground.

A gap that he was going to have to jump in order to get them both down.

Emily's nose wrinkled as she looked at the two crates that had tumbled to the ground . . . and then back up to Hotch's twitching eyebrow.

A sheepish smile slid across her face.


A/N 2: There you go, been tapping away at this one for a couple months. They just kept going on and on with their evening and I was sucked along for the ride. I figured if I could take them through the fireworks then Emily would be happy.

As to whether Hotch would go to the lengths he did to get Emily her fireworks, I say yes. And I say that not just because I wrote it ;) but because ultra- serious Hotch of canon made a spectacle of himself in musical theater(!) for Haley, which seems rather mind boggling when you think about it. So I think Girl'Hotch would at least flash a badge and climb a couple of milk cartons to make Emily happy. And no they aren't in love at this point in time, but in other universes by summer their relationship has already progressed to romantic attachment, so I think the base affection is already there. It's just how he's tapping into it.

If the 'Kevin food goes flying into Hotch's lap' scene is ringing a bell, it was an event referenced once in another universe. I think perhaps the Being Emily stories. But the idea of it, Kevin's panicked efforts to fix what he'd just done blinding him to the fact of what he was ABOUT to do, amused me enough to decide to write the scene live here. Really, had to get Hotch's clothes off somehow :) And of course the upstairs bathroom "incident" with Reid echoed the one back in the Rossi Christmas party.

The Hours will be going up Monday or Tuesday night EST. I actually have two items about ready to go, but one's in a Pound of Flesh and I don't know if I have it in me to read that over right now. But hopefully I can 'power through' before next weekend.

Otherwise, focus for next batch of postings, Second Chances, Horses, and Gingerbread. Plus some Halloween stuff.

Also, we'll be putting up regular & Halloween prompts Monday as well.