In "How to Fight Loneliness," we first meet Reid and Prentiss already married. Through the course of that story, we learn through Emily's recollections how their relationship changed and evolved. This story retells the evolution of their romance...from Reid's point of view.

Chapter 1

He put the files in his bag and Emily walked with him to the door. He had his hand on the knob before he paused, took a deep breath, and turned back. "Emily..."

She shook her head. "It's okay."

"I'm sorry if I was..."

She held up a hand, cutting him off, then stood on tiptoe and placed a kiss on his lips, quick but deliberate. "I said it's okay." She put her hand on his chest, a gesture just a shade too intimate for friends-only coworkers. "I'm not sorry."

He searched her face with those giant, dark eyes like he was looking for the truth underneath her skin. "Me neither," he finally said.

-How to Fight Loneliness, Chapter 3

Reid somehow got into the hallway without making an ass of himself, or at least he hoped so. He heard Emily putting the chain on her door.

Get away from the door, genius. What if she looks through the peephole and sees you just standing out here like a creepy stalker?

Why would she look out the peephole? She's probably going to bed.

She might, to see if you ARE standing out here like a creepy stalker.

It's more likely that right now she's washing her face, or brushing her teeth...getting undressed...

Reid shook himself and practically ran the short distance to his own door. He fumbled with his keycard, dropping it once, and finally made it into the safety of his room. He set down his bag, stuffed full of folders and photos, and sank down on the bed, scarcely able to believe what had just happened.

I kissed Emily. She kissed me back, too. It actually seemed like she wanted to be kissing me.

She'll sleep on it and tomorrow we'll have that "it can never happen again" talk. She'll wake up and it'll be daylight and she'll wonder what the hell she did. Just prepare yourself.

But she said – she said she wasn't sorry.

Maybe she isn't sorry NOW.

I just really want to go back down to her room, grab her and kiss her some more, and do some other things to her that she'll probably never want me to do, ever.

Reid had always thought Emily was beautiful. How could he not? It wasn't as though this was a subjective observation. On any empirical scale, she was beautiful. Even if she wasn't someone's type, they'd agree that she was beautiful. Reid didn't know if he had a type. He'd never noticed that he was attracted to any particular set of physical characteristics with greater frequency than any other set. But Emily wasn't just beautiful, she was smart and funny and tough-minded, she cared about people and she was unexpectedly nerdy in a way that was often a delightful surprise.

Emily wasn't just beautiful. She was amazing.

He'd never considered her as a romantic prospect. For one thing, she was his co-worker. There were rules about that. For another, she was almost ten years his senior. That wasn't a problem for him, but he'd sort of assumed that it would be for her. Apart from those two practical considerations, he'd just never entertained the idea that she'd ever considerhim as a romantic prospect. She had, at times, acted mildly flirty with him – but she did that with everybody.

Had he discounted her because he'd thought she was out of his league? She most certainly was, although he knew her well enough to know that she'd find such an assessment insulting to both of them. It wasn't that he thought he couldn't have feelings for her. Maybe it was because he'd thought he could have feelings for her, deep and intense feelings, and that was frightening. The last thing he needed was to develop a crush on a coworker that he had to see every day and who could never feel that way about him. It was safer to put her in that mental FORBIDDEN category and go about his life as if it weren't an option.

Emily wasn't afraid of danger. She'd looked at him tonight with different eyes. He'd thought he was imagining it until suddenly they'd each looked at each other's lips, and then they were kissing. Emily had been his friend, just his friend, until suddenly – she wasn't.

He let these thoughts percolate as he got undressed and showered. What had affected him the most was that she'd understood his excitement over Niedermeier's pathology. He'd told women he'd dated about his work before. He couldn't help it, it was his life, he had to talk about it or else he'd have nothing much to talk about. He didn't want to tell them about his mother or his childhood or his deadbeat father. What else was there? They'd be interested at first. FBI agent, sure, that's interesting. But inevitably he'd get carried away talking about some sociopath's anger-excitation pathology and they'd get this borderline-alarmed look in their eyes, like perhaps he found it so fascinating because he was like that, too. Even Austin had eventually put the kibosh on any talk about his work because it had "creeped her out."

Not Emily. She understood. She knew why he found this new behavioral profile so enthralling, because she found it enthralling, too. She didn't think he was a freak for being interested. And she already knew about his mother and his childhood and his deadbeat father. There was no artifice there. She knew him and she had never turned away. Even at a time when he'd wanted her to, she hadn't turned away. At the time he'd lashed out at her for it, but now he was grateful. She was the only person who'd ever confronted him about his addiction, which paradoxically meant she was the one he could trust the most with it.

He couldn't help but replay her expressions in his mind as he stood under the spray, letting the hot water pound the long day out of his body. And when she'd told him he had a fantastic smile...

Reid sighed, his body remembering how it had felt to hold her and taste her. He hadn't imagined it. He wasn't daydreaming. It had been real. She'd been in his arms, she'd had her own wrapped around his shoulders, he had felt her body against his, her breasts pressed against his chest. God, how had he ever gotten up the nerve to kiss her? He couldn't even really remember making the decision, it just sort of happened. He'd looked in her eyes and suddenly he'd seen it in his head, the image of himself kissing her, and it felt right. Like that image had been there before, even if he couldn't quite put his finger on it. Then to look in her eyes afterward and see an invitation to do it again. How had he dared to accept that invitation? That wasn't him. He had many useful skills, but the ability to romance beautiful women wasn't really among them.

Do you know that? Have you tried?

Not lately, he hadn't. He hadn't had sex in over a year. A long dry spell, although he'd had a couple of opportunities in the interim, but they'd always seemed like just too much bother. He'd rather go home and read a book.

He got into bed and lay there on his back.

If she'd indicated that's what she wanted, you'd be over there having sex with her right now. So much for all your Reasons Why Not. If she'd invited you, you'd have jumped into bed with her in a heartbeat. No man on earth would blame you.

I think Hotch might. In a very stern and possibly career-ending way.

Well, she didn't and you didn't so now you're here – alone – thinking about how amazing she looks in that red tank top she insists on wearing and how her lips felt and what she smelled like, which was nothing much except clean skin with a hint of soy sauce from the Chinese food we had for dinner.

He rolled his eyes. What are you, a horny teenager?

I feel like one.

He sighed. He wasn't going to be able to get to sleep with all these imaginings running through his head, so he gave in and slid one hand under the sheets to take care of it himself. But for once, he wouldn't be imagining some woman he didn't know.

Reid took a deep breath and knocked on Emily's door. Fresh new day, everything will be back to normal, she'll tell me we'll just forget about it... It was amazing to discover just how much he didn't want to hear her say that.

She opened the door, smiling brightly. She looked ready to go. "Good morning!" she said. "Come in, I just need to pack up my toothbrush and stuff."

He stepped inside and closed the door behind him. "How'd you sleep?" he asked, then winced. It had sounded like an innocent enough question in his head.

She came back out with a small zipper bag. "Fine. know," she said, her eyes twinkling a little.

He shifted his weight and looked at the floor, blood rushing to his cheeks. "Yeah."

Emily put the zippered bag in her carry-on, then walked right up to him. She tugged on his lapels and smoothed the front of his jacket, letting her hands stay on his chest. "I'm not going to say it."

He made himself look at her. "Say what?"

"That thing you're waiting for me to say."

It wouldn't do him any good to keep playing dumb. "Do you need me to say it?"

She shook her head. "No." Her eyes flicked all over his face, then she just gave his chest a little pat and stepped away to put on her coat. Reid's stomach twirled. He hardly dared let himself think that she might want to continue this – whatever this was. She shouldered her laptop bag. "C'mon, we better go, we don't want to miss our flight."

They stopped at the restaurant downstairs and picked up coffee and a bagel to split, then went outside to their rental car. Emily got into the driver's seat without it being discussed. Their hotel was near the airport so they'd only be driving about a mile. Reid munched on his bagel while Emily navigated out of the hotel's parking garage, her half of the bagel clamped between her teeth. It was a busy morning at the airport; it was Sunday and all the weekenders were leaving. They sat in a long line to drive into the rental-car return. They weren't talking, but Reid felt like an entire conversation was going on while they weren't talking. Someone up ahead was honking. Someone else was getting out of their car. Emily sighed, put the car in park and flipped on the hazards. "What the hell is this, now?" she muttered.

"Disgruntled rental-car customers?"

"Let's go up there and shoot them."

"The Bureau might frown on that."

She chuckled, heaving another deep sigh of resignation. Keeping her eyes forward, her elbow on her window ledge and her chin propped on her hand, her right hand drifted over and settled itself just north of his knee. Reid tried not to freeze too theatrically. He kept chewing his bagel and sipping his coffee, acting like it was totally normal for Emily's hand to be on his leg, because frankly, that's how she was acting. Like this was totally normal. This was just how they were. Without discussing it.

A slow smile spread on his face. Oh, I see. So that's how it's going to be.

He felt her looking at him but didn't give her the satisfaction, just kept facing forward, letting the smirk stay on his face as long as her hand stayed on his leg.

The traffic ahead cleared out, finally, and Prentiss had to use her hand to drive, so the moment passed.

They turned in the rental and walked through the terminal with their bags. "You called the airline, didn't you?" Emily asked.

"Before we left the hotel." Reid was always the one calling the airport when the team flew commercial because he always knew their NLETS authorization codes, which permitted them to fly armed. They walked to the security station; the guard in charge saw them coming.

"Are you my LEOs for the 9:00 flight?" she asked, smiling brightly.

"Yes," Emily said. "Special Agents Prentiss and Reid." They both got out their badges for her inspection.

"Our NLETS authorization code is Alpha-Victor-8354-Hotel-Bravo," Reid rattled off.

The guard checked it against a PDA. "Okay, you agents are checked in. May I inspect your carry, please?" Emily unbuttoned her jacket to show the guard her holster, which she'd moved to the middle of her back. Reid showed his, on his hip as usual, under his jacket. The guard made a rather cute scrunched-up face. "I have to ask you to carry concealed, Agent Reid," she said. "Or to keep your jacket buttoned."

"I'll move it to my bag," he said, pulling the holster off his belt and putting it into his messenger bag.

"Thanks so much. Last thing we need is some passenger spotting someone with a weapon. I'll advise the flight crew of your seat numbers. Have a good flight!" she said cheerily, waving them past.

They glanced at each other as they headed for their gate. "That was the friendliest airport security guard I've ever seen," Emily muttered.

"I was just thinking the same thing."

"It's almost – unnerving." She shook her head. "What a sad commentary on our times, when someone being cheerful is cause for concern."

"Actually, excessive cheeriness can be a sign of a deeper dementia. A refusal to accept life's difficulties and an overly optimistic disposition can be signs of denial, masking significant dysfunction. Alternatively, someone suffering from bipolar disorder may experience periods of heightened enthusiasm and friendliness during their manic phase." They were at the gate by now. Emily was just watching him babble, her head cocked and her arms crossed. He made himself stop. "Sorry."

She shrugged. "Don't tell the others, but – I think it's kind of cute when you do that."

Reid grinned. "Really?"

She looked away, her ears pinking up and a tiny smile on her lips. "We'll never speak of it again."

"Whatever you say."

They boarded and settled into their seats. "I'm going to try and take a nap," Emily said. "I didn't get very much sleep last night." The slightest curl of a flirt colored her words.

"Is that so?" he said, eyes on his book. "Bad dreams?"

"Good ones." She fell silent, resting her head on a pillow shoved between her head and the side of the plane. If she was waiting for him to take the bait, he wasn't biting. That would be against the nebulously-defined and totally unspoken rules they were already developing.

By the time they were at cruising altitude, she was asleep. Reid risked a look away from the pages he was reading and watched her.

Something was happening. Something was about to happen. To him, to her, to them. They might not be a him and a her anymore. He wondered if it was possible that they could be an 'us.' The prospect was both exhilarating and terrifying. Terrifying because he was sure he couldn't offer a woman like Emily everything she hoped for and everything she deserved, and it would be monumentally awful to try but fail. Exhilarating because – well, to be something to her? He couldn't imagine it. He could hardly hold in his mind too many thoughts about what it might be like to sleep with her. More than just sex, the prospect of really knowing her was appealing. Getting inside that protected mind, however far in she'd let him, and being something significant to her.

But this was her show. She should set the tone. So he'd give her space. So far, they were doing an odd little dance of talking about it while not talking about it, of acknowledging it without saying it out loud. That was okay with him, for now, at least. He'd take his cue from her. Maybe there'd come a time when he'd ask her out on a date.

That thought made him straighten up and face forward again.

A date. Damn. Where on earth could I take Emily on a date?

Emily had driven them to the airport for their flight, so now she'd have to drop him off at home. The tension in the car was not negligible as they rode in silence towards Reid's apartment.

She pulled up outside his building. "Well," she said, lamely.

"We have a lot of work to do tomorrow."

"Yes," she said. "We're writing a paper."

"I've got two classes at Georgetown this week," he said, not knowing why he was telling her this except for some vague notion that she might have more than a passing interest in his schedule now.

"Which days?"

"Tuesday and Thursday evening, unless we have a case out of town."

"I should go to one of your lectures sometime," she said, smiling. "I've always wondered what you're like as a teacher."

"In theory, I know what constitutes effective teaching. I admit I sometimes have trouble with the execution."

Silence fell. Long pause.

"Well," Reid finally said. "I'll see you tomorrow."

She just nodded, her eyes on his face. He saw her tongue dart out and lick her lips, which gave him just the barest fraction of a second's warning – but it was enough. When she reached out and grabbed him, he was already grabbing back. Seizing each other's faces, they kissed frantically, hungrily, like teenagers trying to get in as much time as they could before someone's father appeared on the porch.

And just as quickly, it was over. They simultaneously yanked themselves apart. Emily faced front, both hands gripping the steering wheel. "Goodnight, Reid," she said.

"Night, Emily." He got out of the car and shut the door behind him. She pulled away from the curb faster than was probably recommended by driving instructors.

Reid sighed and stood there on the sidewalk, hands on his hips, waiting. He shook his head, chuckling to himself.

After a few moments, Emily came driving up from the other direction, having apparently gone around the block. She pulled up to the same spot she'd just vacated. Reid opened the back door of her car and took out his suitcase. "Sorry," she said, looking sheepish.

"Thanks for coming back." He waved. "Goodnight. Again."

She didn't say anything, just drove away. He watched her go until she turned the corner and was no longer visible, then he headed into his building.

Well. There's that. Tomorrow is going to be interesting.