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Thirteenth in our "Shakespeare Series" of post eps. This one is the Hotch/Emily coda to "Safe Haven". It was also written for the candyland challenge on "Chit Chat on Author's Corner" forum. Prompts were Hotch/Emily and Swedish Fish. We hope you like it.
Thanks to everyone reading, reviewing, favoriting and alerting our stories! We think you're all awesome! And now…on to our story!
The Short and the Long of It
Emily Prentiss stood in front of the snack machine at a loss.
"Are you freaking kidding me, PG?" Emily muttered to herself as she perused the contents of the so-called vending machine in front of her.
There were granola bars, to be sure. But the last one of those she'd taken a chance on, she'd ended up in her dentist's office with a broken tooth. Ellie had been through enough without adding a trip to the dentist to the list.
The bananas and apples appeared questionable at best. The overripe fruits behind the glass looked bruised and discolored, and she knew it wasn't just distortion. Shaking her head, she propped her hand against her waist and tapped her foot against the tiled floor of the break room impatiently.
This has got to be against some kind of FDA guideline," she grumbled, pursing her lips as she once again surveyed the less than sterling options.
"Problems, Prentiss?" a slightly amused deep voice asked behind her.
Glancing over her shoulder at Aaron Hotchner casually leaning in the doorway, Emily Prentiss bit back a groan. Great. Now, in addition to dealing with all of her confused feelings for the mercurial man watching her, she'd have to deal with the fact that he very probably thought she was losing her mind.
Although, she asked herself, he was probably on the right track. She was fairly certain she had taken leave of her senses in the very recent future.
"Hey, Hotch," she said weakly, turning back toward the array of what passed for food at the Bureau.
"You realize you can actually leave the premises and go eat," Hotch said, his tone perplexed as he moved to stand beside her, looking from her face as she concentrated on the selection before her to the machine itself.
"I can," Emily sighed, scuffing her foot against the linoleum. "Ellie can't," she explained simply, her shoulder sagging slightly.
"She's still here?" Hotch frowned suddenly, his brow furrowing. "I thought Garcia was able to locate her mother," he continued, his mind replaying the earlier conversation he'd had with Derek Morgan on the plane ride home.
"She did," Emily replied quickly, turning to meet his dark eyes. "They're waiting for her in Pen's office. But, she was held over in Chicago, so it's going to be a couple of more hours. Hence, the snack patrol," Emily explained, nodding to the machine. "The healthy snack patrol," she stressed, wrinkling her nose at the words. "Garcia was very specific about that."
Glancing at the contents of the machine, Hotch's lips twitched. "I see your current dilemma," he nodded, straight-faced. "Not a lot of nutritious options facing you, are there?"
Offering Hotch a sidelong glance, Emily tried to ignore how handsome his face was as she said, "You've got a kid. What would you go with?"
Raising an eyebrow, Hotch did smile faintly then. She sounded almost desperate in her quest to choose an appropriate food for a little girl she barely knew. It was endearing. He could only imagine how she'd be with her own kids, if and when they came. "Granola bars are generally an acceptable alternative," he commented blandly, attempting to ignore the sudden heat in the pit of his stomach at the thought of her heavy with child.
"Yeah," Emily snorted, glaring at the supposedly healthy treat with beady eyes. "Except those are a hazard to teeth everywhere. I think they've been in the machine since 1985."
Chuckling, he had to admit that she had a point. The last time he'd bought so much as a pack of crackers from the break room, they'd been so stale he'd almost chipped a tooth himself. Apparently their vendor didn't see the benefits of rotating his non-selling snacks, opting instead for the seller's philosophy of allowing it to sit until some unfortunate soul was stupid enough to buy the product. "I'm afraid you might have to go the candy route, Prentiss."
"And face Garcia's wrath?" Emily snorted, lifting a dark brow. "I don't think so," she shook her head firmly. "She's already a little bitter that we're all insisting that she has to give Ellie up," Emily continued, remembering her friend's icy voice as she'd contacted Ellie's biological mother. "She seems to think a dead cow would be a better maternal figure to that little girl than the mother that she's already got."
"What do you think?" Hotch asked softly, aware of the current situation and interested in Emily's take on the problem.
"I think everyone makes mistakes," Emily said, her voice hushed as she pretended to stare at the selection of snacks before her. "And I think everybody deserves a second chance to get things right. Even a parent."
"Wise words," Hotch murmured in agreement. "We all make mistakes. Unfortunately, I think Morgan and Garcia are going to take as much convincing of that as Ellie."
Sighing, Emily nodded. "I guess with my history, I understand having to forgive. My mom and I...well, you worked for her before. You know what she's like," Emily said uncomfortably, suddenly doubting the intelligence of venturing into this line of conversation.
"She's a very unique individual," Hotch offered vaguely, his words obviously guarded.
"She's a bitch," Emily countered with an involuntary smile. "Although, to her credit, she at least admits it. She was never what you'd call the warm mother figure, but she had...has her good points. But I had to be a grown woman before I realized it. And a part of me will always wonder what a normal family was supposed to be like. She made mistakes, but then, who hasn't. I'd hate to think about the person I'd have become if I'd cut her entirely from my life or vice versa."
"Morgan's at a disadvantage," Hotch nodded, dropping his hands into his trouser pocket. "His mother was a paragon and in his world, she hung the moon. I can understand it. She had to be her children's everything after his father died. He's never going to be able to be entirely objective when it comes to Ellie's mother. And his promise to Spicer is weighing heavily on him. He doesn't want to send Ellie to an even worse situation that she's come from."
"I know," Emily sighed, shaking her head slowly. "Then, there's Garcia. Did you hear her say that she was an only child on the phone?" Emily asked, glancing quickly toward Hotch.
"I caught that," Hotch nodded. "Evidently, there's been some kind of falling out within the Garcia family, huh? She's got four brothers, if I recall."
"Stepbrothers," Emily clarified. "And yes, apparently there's some kind of tension there. But that's not what I mean. She's acting...well, like me...a couple of years ago. Remember?"
"I remember," Hotch nodded solemnly. "You wanted to adopt one of our victim's little girls. But, you did the right thing by walking away. We can't get involved, Emily. Objectivity goes out the window when you do."
"Tell that to Morgan and Garcia," Emily muttered, her own bitterness from that earlier incident creeping back into place.
"I have," Hotch replied, meeting her dark eyes head on. "Why do you think it looked like Morgan wanted to deck me when we got off the plane...or why I suddenly have an unexplainable computer virus on my laptop?"
"Ooohhh," Emily grimaced, shooting Hotch a sympathetic look, "You are soooo screwed."
"Tell me about it," Hotch grunted, willing his body to behave as he heard the ever so proper Emily Prentiss use the word 'screwed'. Tapping the glass in front of them, he gestured at the machine. "I'd go with the Swedish Fish. No fat, very little sugar," he said seriously.
"No taste either," Emily said, wrinkling her nose, remembering the so-called candy from her time at one of her mother's many posts in Europe.
"You don't want the kid on a sugar high when the mother gets here," Hotch reasoned. "I think this reunion is going to be emotional enough without adding simple carbs into the mix," he added, depositing a dollar into the machine and pressing the requisite button.
Accepting the colorful plastic bag he handed her a second a later, Emily smiled. "Thanks, Hotch."
"If only all of life's decisions could be this simple, I'd be in business," he replied ruefully.
"Ditto," Emily agreed, offering him one final smile before heading toward Garcia's office.
Her footsteps echoing in the deserted hallway, she felt his eyes following her and tried to suppress her smile. Inch by painstaking inch, she was slowly getting to know her stoic boss better.
Perhaps soon, she'd be brave enough to make her move.
But until then, she had fish to deliver.