AN: Please do note that this is my first ever CM fic, and so if I have no idea what I am doing, that's why.
Also note that this is also my first ever challenge. I apologize if I fail miserably.
Additionally, I am aware that my characterization is terrible. I just can't seem to get a feel for either of these two quite yet.
Many thanks to my beta, kdzl!
Prompt: Hotch/Emily; Strawberry Bon Bons.
Summary: "This team is like a family, and families take on the traits of their leaders."
No wonder they were all nuts.
Emily sat across from Hotch on the plane and it was the movement that caught her eye. His fingers tapped against his knee almost nervously, and she couldn't wrap her head around it.
She eyed her normally collected boss with unease. She wondered what could knock him off his normal persona like this. He was doing an exceptional job of hiding his discomfort, but that was one of the downsides of working with the best. She noticed as he stilled his shaking hands for the third time since they'd boarded the jet only twenty minutes ago. He was fidgety, and his blink rate was faster than normal. He almost looked like…
She nearly gasped aloud as she realized the correlation. He looked like Reid had when he was suffering through withdrawals, only not in quite as much pain. Emily frowned. That didn't make any logical sense. There was no way Hotch had been on anything lately, someone would have noticed. And she couldn't picture the stoic boss man addicted to anything beyond work and spending time with his rambunctious child.
Pursing her lips, Emily tried to focus on the case file in front of her, but the words blurred before her eyes as she puzzled over her superior's actions.
Hotch sighed internally as he forced his twitching hands to still themselves once more. This was unacceptable: someone was bound to notice something was up, and quickly. He perused the file in front of him once more, trying to still himself. He was angry that he couldn't control himself better; his normal collectedness was thrown by the lack of what he craved. He drew in a deep breath and let it out, calming himself before calling the team together, saying,
"So, what do we know about this UnSub?"
She watched him closely and noted that as Hotch focused 100 percent on the case, the twitching slowed. She frowned. Whatever it was, it was occupying his mind, and as he took him mind off his troubles, his physical reactions reduced to almost nothing. Her eyebrows furrowed as she puzzled over it. Suddenly, his dark eyes rose to meet hers as he felt her gaze. She could almost hear him swearing internally as he realized she had noticed.
He met her searching gaze steadily. His ebony eyes showed no emotion, even to her trained scrutiny. She cocked her head in a silent question, and he tipped his chin down infinitesimally in an equally silent refusal that anything was even wrong.
She shook her head slowly. 'I don't believe that.'
He tipped his chin up this time, as if to communicate, 'You have to.'
She grimaced in a refusal, but after noting Reid's eyes on their silent conversation, she turned back to her files. This was not a surrender, merely a time out. She didn't plan on letting Hotch's cool personality stop him from letting her help.
She couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. She watched Hotch's back as he wrote on the whiteboard they had set up in the precinct. Feeling her eyes on him, he turned around, frowning.
"No, sir," she told him brusquely. Hotch nodded sharply and went back to writing. His letters were shakier than normal, but it was only noticeable because she was already looking for it. Emily frowned, but returned to cataloging the evidence in front of her.
When Garcia came up with a new lead for them to follow, Hotch frowned as he realized that Prentiss was the only other agent in the precinct – most of the rest of the team was interviewing the victim's families.
"Prentiss." He jerked his head toward the door and she followed him out, hopping into the passenger's seat of the waiting SUV.
After riding in silence for a few moments, curiosity won out.
"Hotch, I don't mean to be rude, but is everything all right?"
"Fine," he snapped sharply. Emily frowned and decided she wasn't going to take that for an answer.
"No. It's not. That right there is exactly what I'm talking about. I mean, granted you aren't the most amiable person in the world, but you don't snap at us for no reason."
"I'm not snapping," he said shortly, his failed attempt to modulate his tone undermining his very words.
"Yes you are," she told him softly, knowing he would continue to deny it. "Hotch, whatever it is, at least let me try to help you. Please," she begged, finally dropping all pretense of pride.
It was the last work that shocked him out of denial. Prentiss didn't beg. Ever.
He glanced at her quickly before returning his eyes to the road.
"You can't tell anyone, Prentiss. Swear to me," he muttered lowly.
"I promise that I won't tell anyone unless it is for your own good," she agreed conditionally.
Hotch groaned, but he eventually relented. "It's nothing bad. I'm not doing drugs or anything, I promise. Please, just swear you won't tell," he growled, trying to retain some modicum of dignity.
"You promise it's nothing bad?" she asked hesitantly.
"I swear to you."
"Then I promise I won't tell. But I reserve all rights to break that promise if you've broken yours."
"Fine," he moaned in defeat. She waited for him to continue but sighed when he remained stonily silent.
"So…?" she inquired. "What's up with you today?"
"I… I ran out of strawberry bonbons this morning. I though I had another bag, but I didn't," he confessed with shame. Emily stared at him in amazement for a moment. Breaking through her shock, she examined his face carefully for any sign that this was some elaborate joke. Hotch didn't joke, but even that was more reasonable than an addiction to bonbons. His expression was dead serious.
She burst out laughing. Even the famous Hotchner glare couldn't stop her.
"I knew there was something I forgot to make you promise," Hotch muttered darkly. Emily tried to stifle her chuckles but failed. Hotch's glare kicked up a notch.
"Sorry, sir," she murmured as she finally managed to quiet her chortling. The corner of his mouth quirked almost imperceptibly, just enough to tell her that he wasn't furious. Emily's eyes narrowed as she realized a flaw in his logic.
"Why don't you just stop somewhere?" she asked sensibly. He looked at her, aghast.
"We're in the middle of a case!"
"And you're losing focus!" she countered. He frowned, taking this into consideration.
"I can still do my job," he huffed.
"I never said that you couldn't. Are you doing it to the best of your ability?"
His only answer was to pull into a nearby Walmart. She grinned. He silenced her unspoken "I told you so" with a death glare. Prentiss shut her mouth and smirked broadly.
Five minutes later they were on the road again. Hotch kept one hand on the wheel and his eyes on the road as he scrabbled around in the plastic bag. Emily sighed and pulled the package out of the Walmart bag. Tearing it open, she pulled out a single candy and unwrapped the strawberry patterned exterior.
Passing it to him, she watched as the twitching in his hands slowed and then stopped altogether as his tongue savored the hard candy surface. She chuckled once more as she pondered the strange workings of their entire team. As Agent Jordan Todd had once said, "This team is like a family, and families take on the traits of their leaders."
No wonder they were all nuts.