Author's Note: I do have other things in regular worlds about ready to go up (Fracture probably tomorrow), but this is one of those 'dish ran away with the spoon' one shots that suddenly insisted on being written before I could get back to other items. So this is a random one shot in a random universe. I don't get too deeply into the setup so I guess you could say it's canon at some point after Hotch's divorce.
The hotel here, I just picked for it's location, otherwise I took some major liberties with the layout so if you know it, it won't be like you picture it.
Prompt Set #21 (August)
Title Challenge: The Remains of the Date
Hotch was walking through the lobby of the Willard hotel when he suddenly stopped short as he spotted a surprisingly familiar face in the adjacent bar.
His brow wrinkled . . . now what would be the odds that they would both be in this hotel tonight? Especially given that the Willard was nowhere near either of their homes or their office. He was only there himself because he had a friend from law school staying there for a couple days. And with Hotch's schedule the hotel restaurant had been the most convenient place to meet for dinner.
A late dinner.
He hadn't left the office until seven so by the time he got up to the city it had been after eight and they'd just finished up their meal twenty minutes ago. At that point it was nearly ten and Hotch wanted to just get going but Craig had insisted he make a quick stop upstairs before he left for the night.
Craig wanted him to see the view of the city from his room.
It was beautiful, so he had stayed to talk for a few minutes longer. So that's why he was here so late, but why was Emily here? His fingers curled slightly in agitation . . . and why was she sitting alone?
After debating for a second if he should mind his business and keep walking, Hotch's curiosity got the better of him and he took a few steps closer to the entrance to the bar.
At that distance he had a much clearer view of Emily's face as she sat at one of the small cocktail tables in the art deco establishment. Oh . . . his gut started to ache . . . she looked so sad.
She was also dressed very differently than when he'd last seen her leaving the office. When she'd popped in to say goodbye to him a little after five she'd still had on her navy suit and a white blouse. Now she was wearing a slinky low cut red evening gown with matching crimson lipstick. It was a new shade for her.
It was a good shade for her.
Actually he noticed that all of her makeup was more dramatic than usual and her hair was pulled up in a twist with a few loose tendrils falling strategically around her face.
He bit his lip . . . she looked absolutely gorgeous.
And the dress was too elegant for her to have had a night out with her girlfriends so clearly she'd had a date tonight.
Though as his eyes scanned the bar, Hotch couldn't see any remnants of a date with her now. There were a few other men watching her . . . if you were a heterosexual male it was possible not to . . . but of the half dozen people in the bar, nobody was within three tables of the one where Emily was sitting.
Also there was no suit jacket hung on the black lacquered chair opposite hers, and the only drink on the small cocktail table was the half full glass of wine that she'd been staring down at since Hotch had spotted her a few minutes earlier.
He wanted to go check on her, to see what was wrong and to find out if there was any way to fix it, but still he gave it another minute to make sure that there wasn't a man coming back from the bathroom. Because even though he considered her a close friend, and they often spent more than half the day together, he technically had no claim to her personal time.
'Not yet anyway', a little voice in his head whispered, but he pushed that voice away for now. Speculation about a possible change in their relationship in the future wasn't justification for actions in the present. So whatever Emily's reasons for being in this hotel late on a Thursday night, the last thing he wanted to do was embarrass her by intruding on her evening.
Though Hotch's feelings for her had recently developed into something much deeper than friendship, he'd said nothing to her about that. So they still spent no personal time together, and they most definitely did not discuss their romantic entanglements.
That last one wasn't something that they had consciously decided, it was simply the way it was.
Perhaps in the beginning it was because his marriage had been falling apart and he wasn't talking to anyone about anything. And then later when he and Emily became friends and started sharing other pieces of their lives, it was simply a habit that neither of them had any desire to break. Because somehow, without having discussed it, both of them understood that the topic was an awkward one. God knows he didn't want to hear about any of the men that she might have been seeing. And for the occasional female companionship that he sought out, Hotch wouldn't even consider discussing those liaisons with the gorgeous brunette that he'd been staring at for the last five minutes.
Emily was the untouchable, the one he always compared the others to . . . and she was the reason the others always came up short. She was also the one who was going to drive him mad if he didn't figure out what to do with these new feelings for her.
They were becoming a distraction.
A distraction evidenced by the fact that he'd now been staring at her for well over five minutes. And as he took conscious note of that solid passing of time, Hotch realized that was clearly more than enough of a window to confirm that she was indeed completely alone. So after a quick glance down to make sure that he hadn't spilled anything on his suit at dinner, he took a breath and headed across the gold marble floor of the grand lobby.
Emily let out a weary sigh as her index finger traced the curve of her wine glass. It was still half full but she had no desire to finish the contents. Though it was only her second drink over as many hours, drowning her sorrows was never her style and she certainly wasn't going to start tonight. On top of everything else the last thing she wanted was to have a hangover in the morning. So with not even a drink to pretend that she needed to finish, Emily told herself that she should get going.
But of course she had been saying that to herself for the last hour.
And yet still she was sitting there staring down at her glass of ridiculously expensive Merlot. She was so miserable and depressed that getting home seemed like too much of an effort. So for the same hour that she'd been telling herself that she should get going, the other part of her brain kept saying that she should just get a room and sleep here.
Of course . . . she reminded herself again . . . her apartment was a mere twenty minutes away. And given that she hadn't been drinking excessively, she wasn't technically ill, and she only had a small purse with her containing her tic tacs, her keys, her cell phone and her lipstick and powder . . . her pistol was strapped to her inner thigh . . . on its face, the idea of getting a very expensive hotel room rather than simply standing up and going home, was idiotic.
Her eyes started to sting . . . tonight though she felt like she was the Queen of Fools so the odds were pretty good that she was going to get the room eventually. And then she would go upstairs and she would hang her beautiful new dress on a hangar and she would cry herself to sleep. And then in the morning she would get up early, go home, shower . . . and go to work. A place where she could immerse herself in real problems that would make her own seem small and unimportant.
That all seemed like such a solid plan . . . yet still there she sat staring down at nothing.
Suddenly smelling a familiar aftershave, Emily slowly lifted her watery eyes up from the tabletop to see Hotch looking down at her with concern. For a moment neither of them said anything. And though as far as she knew he had no connection to this hotel, for some reason his unexpected appearance didn't truly surprise her.
It was like was a karmic joke . . . look again Emily at what you can't have. But of course . . . she felt a pang in her chest . . . if she could have had it, then she wouldn't be sitting here alone and depressed, pathetically reviewing her life's recent choices.
All of them coming up short.
After a few seconds Hotch broke the silence.
"Emily," he whispered as he stooped down in front of her, "are you all right?"
Now that he was up close he could see the tears hovering in her eyes. They were breaking his heart. And he didn't care how much she protested, he wasn't leaving her here like this.
She was coming with him.
Deliberately ignoring the question, Emily attempted a faint smile as she looked over at him.
"Hey," she asked quietly, "what are you doing here?"
She could tell from the knit of his brow that he hadn't missed the watery eyes, or of course her sidestepping his inquiry about her well being. Now his jaw was twitching as he sized her up.
And she knew that look well . . . he was going to stay until he'd found out what was wrong. But she didn't want to tell him. It was too humiliating.
She didn't want him to know how stupid she was.
Hotch stared at Emily for a moment before he decided to answer her question though she had not answered his.
"I had a dinner with a friend from law school," he said slowly before again attempting to determine why she was on the verge of tears in this luxury hotel. "What about you?" he asked as he gestured to the chair across from hers, "are you here by yourself?"
Of course she had to know better than to assume that he was going to let her answer a question with a question. And that was two direct questions back to her.
She could only ignore him for so long.
Though as the moment stretched out he saw the blush begin to climb her cheeks as the tears in her eyes began to pool. His heart clenched at the realization that he was about to make her cry. Whatever had happened, it was clear that she didn't want to talk about it right now. So though he of course wasn't about to let it go entirely, he knew that questions at this point were the wrong approach to get her to open up.
And as stared at her he was outwardly calm and concerned, though inwardly frantic as he tried to think of what to do to head off the first tear spilling over. Then the song coming from the surrounding speakers changed and he consciously took note of the music in the background.
Suddenly having an idea that might fix both her ruined evening and his distracting new feelings for her . . . the pain he felt in his heart at seeing her so upset was excruciating . . . he put his hand out.
"Would you like to dance?" He asked quietly.
"What?" Emily responded in surprise as she wiped the corner of her eye where the first tear was starting to leak.
She wasn't going to start crying now. She hadn't cried all night . . . that's what the pillow was for . . . the tears had only started to creep up when Hotch began asking her questions. It was that tone he used with her off hours, the intimate one . . . it broke her every time.
"Dance," he tipped his head towards the empty dance floor across the room, "I like this song."
Her heart beginning to pound, Emily stared down at his fingers . . . he was asking her to dance. He'd never done that before. And though she knew that he was only asking now because she looked so pathetic, she couldn't stop herself from reaching out and taking his hand.
Whatever the reasons behind his offer, she wasn't going to lose this opportunity.
Her watery eyes were locked on his as she allowed him to pull her to her feet. And as she stood in front of him, inches from his body, he stared down at her with such intensity that her skin began to burn again . . . but this time for a different reason. And then he squeezed her fingers and whispered.
"You look amazing."
Before she could react or respond in anyway, he turned and . . . holding her hand loosely in his . . . began leading her across the room.
Her respiration was coming in slow, shallow breaths as she followed behind him. She didn't know what was happening here now, but she knew it was something. And it was something that was offsetting her horrible evening so she would have followed him anywhere.
When he stopped on the black and white checked dance floor she thought that there would be a moment of awkwardness as they figured out who was doing what. But no, his movements were fluid as he dropped her fingers, putting that hand on her hip and the other on the small of her back as he pulled her to his chest.
He was confident, assured, and though the actions between them were new . . . they felt old. Like they'd done this a thousand times before. And with the warmth of his body burning through the cold silk of her gown, Emily couldn't help snuggling a little closer, resting her head over his heart as he began to move them in a small rhythmic pattern around the dance floor.
They stayed there for one song . . . and then another . . . and another, and then she stopped counting. But she knew that they were out there for almost an hour. And being there with him pushed back on her embarrassment and sadness. She didn't feel like a fool, she felt . . . cherished.
That was the word, cherished. With his arms wrapped around her, his scent drugging her, the steady thump of his heart calming her, it was like things were the way she wanted them to be.
And not how they really were.
And during that dance no questions were asked, they didn't talk at all, and as time slipped away Emily began to think that she could happily stay there with Hotch for the rest of the night listening to the gold standards of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.
A few minutes later, when the music switched to Bobby Darin and he began to sing about a world beyond the sea Emily felt Hotch pull her in closer, pressing his lips to her ear before he whispered "please tell why you're here," and her eyes started to sting again.
She was being dragged back to real life.
But she knew that the time had come to tell him what had happened. How pathetic real life was. But she wanted to stay with him a little longer so she kept her head resting on his lapel as she whispered back.
"I was supposed to go to the symphony tonight but um," her fingers clenched his jacket, "my date didn't show up."
That was the abbreviated version. If she was lucky that would be enough for him.
"Oh," Hotch winced in sympathy as he gently rubbed her back, "I'm sorry Emily," he paused for a moment, "but are you sure that he didn't get held up for a good reason? Maybe there was an emergency?"
Not that Hotch wanted to support her dating other men, not now when he'd decided to take the steps tonight that he was taking, but at least if there was an emergency that was better than just getting stood up. And really Hotch just couldn't imagine what sort of a moron would actually stand up this woman in his arms.
He'd have to be insane.
Emily took a breath before she reluctantly lifted her head and dragged her eyes up to Hotch's.
Obviously the abbreviated version wasn't going to be enough.
"He was supposed to be here over three hours ago," she whispered, "first he sent me a text message that there had been an accident and he was stuck in traffic . . . that was fifteen minutes after he was supposed to meet me, ten minutes before I was going to just leave and go home. So I said okay, that I understood and I ordered a glass of wine and waited," her eyes started to water again, "and waited. And then forty-five minutes after that text he um," she cleared the lump in her throat, "he sent me another one saying that he'd decided to um, go to the Nats game with his buddy instead, " her voice cracked, "I bought this stupid dress and I had my hair done and he just left me here!"
It was so humiliating . . . the first tear slid down her cheek . . . she was sitting there like a fool for almost an hour thinking he was just running late because of traffic. And she'd been so excited about their date. It was their second one and he had seemed like a nice guy the first time they went out. Not exactly 'father of her children' material, but he certainly hadn't come off as a callous jerk so when he'd called her a few days after last Friday's dinner and said his boss had given him his tickets to the Kennedy Center she'd said yes immediately. She hadn't been to the symphony in years. So in honor of what she thought was a special occasion, she'd decided to get a new dress, she'd even borrowed her mother's ruby choker because Kevin had told her to wear something special, that they were meeting at the Willard for drinks and then after the performance that he had made them late reservations at Teatro.
It seemed like it was going to be a wonderful night . . . another tear spilled over . . . and then for no reason at all he ended up treating her like something he'd wiped off his shoe.
Seeing the tears begin to run down Emily's face, Hotch tucked her back to his chest as he bit down hard on his lip . . . hard enough to draw blood. He'd cancelled their date an HOUR after was supposed to meet her! Not even just that, he'd led her to believe that he was coming, so she'd waited for him all that time and then he blew her off for a BASEBALL game!
If he ever met this guy he was breaking his face into multiple pieces.
Though when he looked down to see Emily trying to hide her face in his jacket, Hotch felt his anger overridden by a wave of longing for her. Wishing that he had the words to make her feel better, that he knew how to take away this hurt and humiliation and make her happy again.
That's all he wanted for months now . . . he brushed his fingers through her hair . . . to make her happy.
Finally the words started to come to him, and he tipped his head down again to whisper in her ear.
"A jerk like that isn't good enough for you anyway."
Hearing the watery, "thanks" murmured against his chest, Hotch deciding to take the plunge and climb out to the end of the limb he'd been teetering on since he'd spotted Emily an hour ago.
So he took a breath and then slowly let it out. And then he leaned back slightly to look down at her.
"Would you like to go to dinner with me next week?" He asked softly.
Still crying, Emily's eyes snapped up to his, "are you just asking because you feel sorry for me?" She sniffled again as she wiped her hand across her face, "because I don't want a pity date."
Hotch gave her a sad smile.
"Of course I'm not asking because I feel sorry for you. I'm asking because I would be honored if you would like to spend time with me," he brushed her hair back behind her ear as he continued gently, "and I should have asked you before," his eyes slid over her shoulder as his voice dropped, "maybe if I had then you wouldn't have been hurt the way you were tonight. I would never treat you that way."
Realizing that perhaps he'd said a little more than he'd planned, Hotch decided to take a moment to let them get their bearings. So he walked Emily over to the wall to finish their conversation.
When he felt like his tongue was back under control again, he his gaze dropped down to see Emily looking up at him in surprise . . . and to his relief . . . hope.
If he was reading things correctly, then perhaps they were on the same page already and that this limb wasn't as rickety as he'd feared.
So with his fingers metaphorically crossed that he wasn't colossally misreading the situation, he brushed his thumb along her cheek before he leaned down and pressed his lips to hers.
He wasn't trying to make a passionate declaration, he just wanted her to know that he was sincere in his desires, that his intentions were romantic . . . that he liked her. And he could see from the way her lips chased his as he started to pull away, that she liked him too.
So he leaned back in again, his hands coming up to cup her jaw as he increased the passion of the moment, their tongues making a cautious introduction before he explored her mouth more fully. Only when he realized that the moment was getting too personal for a public arena did he pull away again with a gentle nibble on her lower lip before he broke the kiss completely.
As first kisses went, it was the best one he could recall having.
When he looked down at her, it was a moment before her lashes fluttered open. And when they did he stroked his finger along her cheek as he whispered.
"You believe me now that I'm not just asking you out on a pity date?"
"Yes," she answered with a breathless smile, "I believe you now."
He'd kissed her! He'd FINALLY kissed her! She didn't think that would ever happen!
"Good," a faint bit of amusement flittered across Hotch's face before it disappeared again. He wasn't a lighthearted man by nature, and even when he was happy . . . as he was now . . . he was still uncomfortable showing it.
Hopefully he would get better with that, with expressing his emotions around Emily. He used to be good with Haley, but then she'd hurt him so badly that he'd gone back behind his walls again.
Also he couldn't deny that on top of his own personal baggage, he had some faint worries about the decision he'd made tonight to finally take a next step with Emily.
He was someone who planned everything, and this wasn't something that he'd planned to do . . . not consciously anyway . . . and now not only had he kissed her, but he'd asked her out on a real 'honest to God let's start spending personal time together,' date.
This was not how he'd seen his evening going. But as he looked down to her happy face, even if he still needed to work out the logistics of their working relationship, he could find no reason to regret the choices he'd made.
Though . . . he took a napkin from his pocket and began gently fixing her smudged mascara . . . he wished that she hadn't had to suffer so much tonight to get to this moment.
"Are you feeling better now?" he asked softly as he used just his thumb to fix where he'd smeared her lipstick with his kiss.
"Yes," Emily gave him a shy smile as she reached up to wipe the red tint from his mouth, "I feel much better."
She was on cloud flipping nine! And when he pulled her into another hug she tried to think of some way to prolong the evening. Though as she snuck a peek at her watch she saw that it was after eleven . . . she bit her lip . . . after eleven on a work day.
Barring actually getting that hotel room and dragging him upstairs with her . . . an appealing option but one she knew would probably be moving entirely too fast . . . she could think of only one other reasonable activity to do this late.
So she tipped her head back.
"I know you had a late dinner, but I'm starving. You wouldn't want to," a shy smile touched her lips as she shrugged, "I don't know, watch me eat a cheeseburger, would you?"
Hotch's eyes crinkled slightly, "I would love to watch you eat a cheeseburger," and when she grinned at him he couldn't stop the dimple that slid out in response.
Apparently they were having their first date tonight.
And as they started walking off the dance floor, Hotch let go of her fingers to slip his jacket off. It was late and this far into the fall he knew that there would be a chill in the air. So he wrapped his coat around Emily's shoulders before pulling her against his side.
On their way out Emily made a quick stop in the ladies room to fix her makeup and when she came out she told Hotch that she still needed to settle up for her two glasses of wine. As they walked up to the bar Hotch noticed the bartender giving him a dirty look and his brow wrinkled in confusion as he looked back at him.
The other man's jaw twitched for a moment as he clearly debated whether or not to say what he wanted to say. Finally he shook his head sharply.
"Nothing sir," he muttered. Then he looked over at Emily, his expression softening as he told her "twenty-two even please ma'am."
Before Emily could open her purse Hotch had out his wallet and was dropping a ten and a twenty on the bar top. Seeing the bartender's jaw twitch again at this action Emily finally understood what the problem was and she smiled as her hand fell on Hotch's forearm.
"He wasn't the one that stood me up."
The place was nearly empty so of course the bartender . . . somebody who could probably interpret behavior as well as they could . . . would have figured out why she had been sitting there alone all night.
And that clearly had been what happened because as soon as Emily said that she saw his demeanor change as he looked back at Hotch. Though he said nothing, it was obvious that he no longer was treating Hotch like some jerk who had just kicked his puppy.
For his part Emily noticed that Hotch seemed faintly amused by the change in behavior . . . though of course the amusement was only apparent to her. And as he slipped his arm around her shoulders again and started walking them towards the door, she realized that though he hadn't been the one that she was supposed to meet tonight, he had been the one that she was waiting for.
And when he paused at the revolving door to tell her that he knew a great 24 hour diner up in Annapolis, and did she want to take a midnight drive, she felt a burst of warmth in her heart. And she leaned up to kiss him again before she murmured against his lips.
"You always could read my mind."
A/N 2: I had picked this prompt specifically with this story idea in mind, of him stumbling across her after she'd had a crappy date. Though I usually have specific story ideas for every prompt I pick, I rarely actually get the time to write them out. This was a nice little quicky that I didn't think felt redundant to anything else I have out there. I know everybody likes a good one shot when you're just looking to kill some time but I hate to write to them. I find it impossible to write in a bubble so every world I create I feel the need to give them a little background (at least in my head) and there are really only so many ways to get them together! But here I felt it was close enough to canon, yet vague enough to background circumstances that I didn't get annoyed with my own back story :)
Again, hoping to get Fracture up tomorrow, and thanks to everyone for all the feedback the last couple weeks. I'm at my busy time at work so I'm very behind on FF correspondence, but as you know it's always appreciated and I'll get back to you as soon as I can :)