Premise: hello, everybody! There's a couple of things you should know before you start reading. First: I am not a native English speaker. I'm Italian, so forgive me for any grammar mistake you might find in the text. I tried my best to be careful, but something might have slipped. Have mercy on me, okay? ;) Second: I write in British English, meaning that details you may consider spelling mistakes are actually correct in the British language (such as recognise instead of recognize, and so on). Since there have been people who told me "It's realiZe, you misspelled it!", I thought I'd be better to stress this detail.
I have to warn you all that what follows is a massive bunch of sheer, utter fluff, so if you are allergic to it, do not bother continuing.
Fine, that's all, I think. Enjoy the reading (I hope!).
Sunday mornings were, out of any doubt, in their utter, beautiful peacefulness, Special Agent Emily Prentiss's favourite moment of the week. Or – more precisely – they were when not affected by stupid, annoying bugs that had been haunting down the entire city for over a fortnight.
It was common knowledge, in fact, that the whole BAU unit were die-hards as to illnesses of any kind: each of them would have rather died from a mere cold, than skip a single day of work to take care of it, and surely Emily Prentiss was no exception.
That very Sunday morning, however, things happened to be slightly different than common.
She took a small sip from her steamy cup of lemon tea and swallowed it slowly, praying for it not to cause any collateral damage to her sensitive stomach.
It had been a week, now. A whole, endless week of dizziness, jelly-legs and insufferable waves of unmerciful sickness. All of this – hadn't it been enough alone – served with a considerable amount of health preaches coming from the very lips that had kindly transmitted the ominous bug to her.
She had begged for it. She had begged for that dangerous kiss that she knew could have inoculated the virus straight into her body, but at the moment little had she bothered to consider the option. She had just demanded for those lips to catch hers, and what had happened just after that was history. Overworked days were the best for overactive nights.
"You feeling any better?" asked a deep, caring voice from the doorframe of the bedroom.
Emily glared up.
She was corpse-pale, heavy grey shadows encircling her languid eyes under a dark mess of lank curls. Her cheeks were drained of any life-like colour and hollow from all the incessant throwing up she had been going through in the last few days.
Not the prettiest sight to behold.
"Just take a look at my face and make a smart guess."
Aaron's expression shifted from loving to genuinely sympathetic.
"I've been there before you," he soothed, sitting down next to her. His hand went up to gently stroke her hair. "I can tell how bad it is just by hearing your coughing from across the flat."
It wasn't long they'd moved in together. Three months, or something like that. It had taken him nearly one year to drop all those nonsense doubts and finally give in to his own inner wishes of starting over again. So there they were, in the first place that both of them had felt like calling home in a way too long time, sharing the outstanding experience of their first flu together.
Together was not a fair definition, though, because Aaron had caught the bug before her, indeed, but he had gotten away with a few sneezes and half an afternoon with the faintest fever ever. On Emily, obviously, it had all fallen a hundred times heavier.
"Yeah, well, you didn't puke your heart out, when it was your turn, did you?" she scoffed, her fingers clutched around the pleasing warmth oozing from the cup.
"No, I didn't." he conceded quietly, his tone crawling silently towards her soul and melting it out in a blink. "But you were still there for me, so I am here for you, now, and I think we should get you to the doctor ASAP, because you really look terrible."
"Thank you, Hotch, really. That's exactly what a woman dreams of hearing from her man."
He addressed her the tiniest smile.
"You know what I mean. If you keep losing weight like this, I'll be forced to suspend you for medical reasons."
Hey eyes widened in shock.
"You won't dare! I'm going back to work tomorrow, no matter what! I'm not saying locked in here for another single day!"
"I cannot let you infect my team. If any case turns up, I promise I'll let you know."
"It's a quite uneventful period, anyway."
"Emily, you're not in the condition to work."
"I am in the condition to do all I need to do!" she protested, slamming the half empty cup onto the bedside. "By tomorrow I'll be perfect. I took a couple of aspirins and I can already feel their magic kicking in."
Aaron said nothing, but his face spoke volumes. He was about to say something, when the phone started ringing.
"I'll get it." He said, and walked out.
Emily sank back into the pillows with a sigh, a smile blooming on her lips. She almost believed she would never get used to seeing Aaron Hotchner in his home clothes. Not that he didn't look good in jeans and a pullover – man, he damn did – but somehow it would never stop leaving her breathless.
Aaron came back seconds later, the phone still in his hand and a significant look painted in his eyes.
"It was JJ." He said. "Three bodies found downtown."
Emily immediately found a new strength. She kicked away the blankets and stood up frantically, eager to get out of those four walls.
"Gonna be ready in a minute!"
But she could barely move a step and her legs gave in.
Luckily, Aaron's prompt arms caught her just in time.
"Where did you think you were going?"
She clutched to his shoulders to steady herself and rest her head into his neck with a muffled groan of frustration.
"Please, don't leave me here all alone one more day."
It was heaven to be right there, cuddled against a firm, warm chest whose heart was beating just under her hand. It felt safe and gentle at the same time, somewhere she would never want to sever from.
"Should I get you a kid?" he offered playfully.
"What?" she mumbled, her head light and fuzzy.
"I said: should I get you a cat?" he repeated.
Emily huffed within his embrace.
"Besides we'd end up getting a cat for the cat, when you're back to the usual healthy you and leave him all alone at home."
"If we had a cat, it'd be all alone at home right now, since I'm going to get dressed and leave with you."
Aaron placed two fingers under her chin and made her lift her face to his own.
"You can barely stand on your feet," he pointed out. "I'm not carrying you in my arms all around the day. Although I have to admit it would be somewhat romantic."
"Shut up!" she half laughed. "I'll be fine. You guys need me."
"Why, that is what I call admirable modesty."
He just watched as she collected some clothes from the wardrobe and put them on one by one. She was still sick, but there wasn't the slimmest chance to persuade her not to go out.
"What?" she asked quizzically as his eyes wandered appreciatively all over her body.
"I was just thinking." He answered.
Emily kept doing the buttons of her shirt without taking her eyes off him.
"Thinking of what?"
"Of how different life can be with the right person beside you."
A sparkle of devotion trembled within her.
"You know," he continued. "Once I used to spend long hours in heavy arguments with my wife about this. Whenever I was about to leave for work, she would yell at me, begging me not to go. And now… now I'm here with you, and you… you're begging me to go with me."
Emily smiled while taking in the beauty of what he had just told her. She knew it was his own way to say that they belonged to each other. Which, by the way, had been a matter of fact to all their colleagues ages before the two of them realised it.
"Guess it wasn't easy for you to close the door behind you onto Haley's yells."
"It was, actually." he confessed flatly. "It was, because being away from her never really affected me as much as it should have. I would miss Jack, but not her."
Emily walked to him and skimmed a kiss at the corner of his lips.
"And does it affect you when you're away from me?"
"Are you kidding me? We are together 24/7. I don't think I even know what being away from you actually feels like."
"Aw, that's sweet!" she purred. "And I'll tell you what else is sweet: you're not going to find it out today."
He added nothing after that, because he was sharp enough to know that questioning with a woman was all but wise, and, namely, questioning with Emily Prentiss was out of anybody's masochistic symptoms.
When Emily Prentiss and Aaron Hotchner walked into the bullpen, that day, all their co-workers knew immediately that there was electricity flashing between the two of them. Nonetheless, the clear hues of sheer devotion that could be spotted in both agents' eyes when glancing furtively at each other conveyed unmistakably that such electricity was one of those wrapping people closer together, rather than pushing them apart, and for two moody spirits like them it was surely a good thing.
When Emily was close enough to Morgan for him to look straight into her eyes, all he received was a quick gaze and a grimace.
"Whoa! Good morning, Sunshine!" he snickered. "Welcome back to the living."
Emily sent him a piercing look.
"If I were you I'd watch my mouth, today, Morgan. For your own limbs' sake." Hotch snapped, but this wasn't enough to cool down Morgan's hilarity.
"Princess Prentiss bites, uh?" he teased.
"Wanna test me?" she hissed back.
"Enough," said Hotch warningly. "Update us, JJ."
As JJ started explaining the situation, Emily dropped herself into one of the chairs and took her aching head between her hands. Maybe it hadn't been a very brilliant idea to go there.
"What's wrong with you?" Rossi whispered in her ear.
She cracked an eye open and furrowed her brows meaningfully.
"White like a ghost, light-headed, nauseated… what do you think?"
Rossi's mouth curled up impishly.
"Don't know… you're pregnant?"
Emily's heart missed a beat at the mere thought, but then rationality kicked in and stole the possibility from under her nose: it was the closest to impossible she could imagine.
"Am not." She muttered. "It's just a damn bug that all of you have caught before me, and I'm just fine."
"Sure you are," he indulged. "It shows."
"Basta così, grazie." She switched to Italian, hoping he'd get it, that way. ("Enough, thanks.")
"Come vuoi tu." He relented, but still not abandoning that irritating smirk. ("As you wish.")
"If you two are done with the Italian chitchatting, your beloved computer magician is here to show you some very interesting thingies."
Emily and Rossi were startled by Garcia's voice coming from the screen in the middle of the desk.
"Thank you." Garcia grinned in mannered mischief. "Rossi, your tie has a coffee stain. Emily… geez, sweetie, you finally bought a wonderbra?"
Emily managed not to glance down at her beast to mask the surprise the comment had caused her.
"What are you talking about?" she mumbled.
"Honey, you boobs look fabulous and – sorry for this – they were never so full and feminine as today."
"Excuse me," Hotch cut in brusquely. "Can we leave the pillow talk for later? We have a case to work."
"Yes, Sir, sorry." Garcia stuttered, then started displaying the pictures taken of the three victims and the respective crime scenes.
Meanwhile, Emily tried her best to avoid JJ's inquiring look as nonchalantly as possible.
Weird days were nothing compared to what the last few hours had had in store so far for Aaron Hotchner.
Emily wasn't doing exactly well: the aspirin seemed to be doing its job and now she looked vaguely better. At least she could walk without wobbling too much. He was still slightly concerned, because the temperature outside was cold and the cloudy sky was all but reassuring. They'd spent most of the day interviewing potential witnesses and the profile emerged from the victimology had led them to three suspects, but as of now their unsub was still nameless and it would be until the analysis of some biological samples wouldn't come in from the lab.
Aaron and Emily got off the car and slammed the doors closed. The others followed suit from the other cars. They had just the time to grab some food and head back to the police station.
When they entered the cafeteria, a strong smell of fried chicken wafted to their noses. Emily's face was instantly crossed by a disgusted grimace.
"What?" Morgan furrowed his brows. "You love fried chicken."
"This smells of dead meat."
"I have a scoop for you, baby: fried chicken is dead meat."
"Well, my stomach can hardly bear a bowl of stock, so sorry if this rubbish makes me feel like vomiting on your shoes."
"Restroom. Now." JJ meddled and, before anyone could say anything, she grabbed Emily by the arm and dragged her away from the rest of the team.
When the door was safely locked behind them, JJ turned to Emily with scary sparkles of enthusiasm glittering in her eyes.
"What?" said Emily, blinking in utter dismay. "Why on earth are we – ?"
"Why didn't you tell me?" JJ interrupted her, enveloping her body in a crushing hug.
"Tell you… what?"
"You. Hotch. The little one!"
After a moment of hesitation, JJ suddenly pulled away and grabbed Emily's shoulders in her hands, fixing her straight in the eye.
"You're kidding me, right?"
Emily just kept blinking blankly. What was going on with everybody, today?
The blonde appeared to be taken aback.
"Are you telling me you don't know?" she nearly squeaked.
"JJ, for heaven's sake, what the hell are you talking about?" Emily blurted out impatiently.
JJ took a deep breath.
"I'm talking about you, your sickness, your engorged boobs and your sudden issues with fried chicken."
"Yeah, so what? I have a bug, that's totally – "
"No, Prentiss, that is not normal, because what you have is not a bug. It's a baby!"
A hearty laugh was all that came as a reply.
"No way, JJ." Emily pointed a finger at her friend. "Is it some kind of joke you all agreed to play on me? You, Rossi, Garcia and whoever else? Well, you know what? This isn't funny!"
"Oh my God, you truly don't know!"
"Emily," said JJ with a gentle and understanding smile. "This is not a joke. This is you showing unmistakable symptoms of pregnancy!"
And as those words hit her, Emily felt her head start spinning and her legs gave in again. All she could register before anything faded to black was JJ's scream of panic and a strange butterfly-like feeling fluttering in her belly.
"Shall I bring some smelling salts for your wife, Sir?"
The voice of a girl.
"It won't be necessary. She has a bit of flu, it's nothing serious. I told her to stay at home, today, but of course, stubborn as she is, she wouldn't listen to me."
Hotch. No denial for the wife thing.
A girlish giggle.
"You can close an eye on the stubbornness with such a beautiful woman, can't you?"
"Even two eyes, at times."
Emily let out a weak groan. Her eyes opened slowly onto Aaron's relieved face. When he made to speak, she raised a hand to silence him and faintly shook her head.
"I told you. I know."
Aaron couldn't help a vague sheepish grin.
"I was about to ask if you were okay, but I can consider that an exhaustive answer."
He helped her sit up and only then she realised they were still in the cafeteria.
"Oh, look at those eyes!" cooed the young waitress in awe as Emily tried to remember what had happened.
Last thing she knew was that JJ had kidnapped her to the restroom and then… then…
"She's a charmer, uh?" the girl went on ecstatically. "You two make such a perfect couple!"
Emily took a hand to her aching head.
"Please, shut up!" she ordered.
Aaron accompanied the order with a quick significant look, so the girl finally seemed to understand. When they were alone, Emily felt Aaron's attention weighting upon her.
"Where are the others?" she asked.
A hand came up to rest on her cheek.
"Back to work. I'll take you home and then get back to them."
Emily didn't dare protest. It would have been quite hypocrite of her, after all had happened.
"JJ said you should take care of what she told you." He added, raising a brow. "What exactly is that supposed to mean?"
Emily bit her lip. She wasn't so sure she wanted to let him know what she and JJ had discussed in private. She would have told him, had she really believed it was just a ridiculous fantasy. Too bad there were some suspicions growing within her, stronger and stronger every second, and she needed to make sure it wasn't true before talking to him.
"She believes that this bug is not a bug but something a bit… bigger."
"Bigger? Since when JJ's been a virus expert?"
"It's… it's something she's had before." She babbled. She was such a good liar, but the shock of the doubt was making her falter.
"Just drive me home, okay? I'll tuck myself in bed and just wait for you to come back and nurse me."
"Sounds reasonable to me." He agreed, then helped her stand up.
On the way to their flat, there were a number of considerations taking place in Emily's mind, each of which made her feel – if possible – even dizzier than she had been recently.
The instructions on the box said three minutes.
Three mere damn minutes were what it took for a stupid stick to let her know if what she had been building up in her heart were just castles in the air or tangible hopes.
Just after Aaron had left her, she had rushed to the closest pharmacy to her condo and bought that thing that only once in her life she had used before. It unburied bad memories in her mind, but she had to face it. She had to do it.
She hadn't been able to use it at once, because the instructions recommended to perform the test in the early morning for a better accuracy, so she had had to wait until now.
The worst part had been keeping Aaron out of it. It had been a matter of a night, but when a profiler was involved you could never be too smart and secretive.
At six o'clock in the morning, Emily lay on the couch with an arm resting on her eyes, fighting once more against another wave of nausea. She hadn't found the willpower to get up and go to the bathroom to check the result of the test. She felt tired and weak and all she wanted was a huge pack of French fries and a liter or two of caramel macchiato. She dreaded, inside, to discover the truth.
"What are you doing down there?"
Aaron's sleepy voice flew to her and caressed her pallid face.
She didn't move and didn't even bother giving him a proper answer. A little grunt would do.
"Are you sure everything is okay with you?"
"Positive." She sighed.
"Positive as in 'Don't wanna talk about it, so just leave me alone, please', by chance?"
"Sort of. Why are you up so early?"
"Why are you?"
She swallowed hard but said nothing.
There was a pause of silence, during which she though he was gone, but then he began again:
"Just so you know, the thing you left in the bathroom has spoken."
Emily's heart stopped. In the brief lapse of time it took her to take in what he had just said, Aaron reached her and sat on her side on the couch.
Was he mad? Was he upset? Both? And, above all, what had the test said?
He took grip of her wrist and made her drop her forearm, so that he could look her in the eye. His expression was unreadable.
"Don't you want to know the response of the question you asked to that little white thing?"
Calm, profound, soft. His voice was a balm for her worries. Even though her hands were trembling, she somehow managed to put together enough courage to look up at him. It was a small smile that she found waiting for her.
"I'm not sure." was all she could murmur.
"Does it have anything to do with your past?"
It did. Of course it did. They had had this talk long ago and he had proven very understanding, but facing it now, under such circumstances, was all another story. She hadn't even dared hope for a baby of her own, so far. She had Jack, now, and she loved him just like a son, but there was a part of maternity that deep inside she longed to experience, and still she couldn't afford hoping for it, because she was quite sure it would never happen. Having a child with Aaron… it was far beyond her highest dreams.
"Your past is an important part of you," he said, running a hand through her hair. "It's thanks to it that you are the amazing woman I love so much and denying it is no use. Besides, I do hope things are going to take a different turn, this time."
A light veil of tears she couldn't control welled up in her eyes. It was the guilt for her past decisions; it was the disbelief in front of the stunning perfection of the man she had before her eyes; it was the deep, visceral thankfulness towards whatever supernatural entity had decided to gift her with such a beautiful twist in her life that went under the name of Aaron Hotchner.
"Would you be ready for it?" she inquired uncertainly.
She thought of little Jack, sleeping soundly in the other room: Aaron already had a child, and they had already had too little time to dedicate to him. A new baby would complicate everything and jeopardise the delicate balance they had managed to gain in eighteen months together.
A silent tear crawled down her cheek and died under his hand.
"I've dreamed of having a child for I don't even know how long." She sniffed. "But I never thought I deserved it. Not after I did what I did twenty years ago."
"You were in a different position, back then." He justified. "Stop blaming yourself for choices that belong to dead times."
Emily's brain stopped connecting with reality. All she knew was that her heart felt about to explode in anticipation.
"You actually said kid." she realised all of a sudden. "Yesterday morning, before we went out… you did say kid, didn't you?"
His guilty face responded for him.
"That might have slipped…"
"So you've been thinking about it, too, in your subconscious."
"I might have given it a thought or two."
"But you still haven't answered me. Would you be ready for a new entry in our home team, Aaron Hotchner?"
He scrutinised her attentively and his seriousness almost scared her.
"Probably not." He admitted, but then a timid smile tugged at his lips. "But honestly I don't care much if I am ready or not. I want this."
His hand appeared in front of her eyes, holding something she hadn't expected. Nor had she expected what she saw on it.
"Two very pink lines." Aaron commented, his eyes glowing. "If I remember correctly, this means that there's no need to get you a cat anymore, right?"
All Emily knew, after that, was that the purest form of happiness she'd ever felt invaded her soul with the beautiful violence of the sunlight breaking through dark clouds. She abandoned herself into Aaron's arms and let everything go on, as she enjoyed the incredible moment in which dreams poured into real life.
"You know what I hate of this?" she said against his chest.
"What?" he marveled.
"I'm going to have to tell Rossi that he was right."
Author's notes: so, if you are reading this, it means that you survived the shameless fluff, and I do hope some of you will want to drop a word or two in a review. Critics are welcome, but only constructive and polite ones. After all, I'm here to have fun, but also to improve my skills. I know I'm new here, so I don't expect getting a hundred reviews, but still I would love to know what you thought of this, so thanks in advance for those who are going to leave a comment, and thanks also to those who won't but had the patience to read so far.