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An Unforgettable Present
Shaking his head as if he could dislodge the haze his mind had suddenly been immersed in, Hotch held up a hand as he stared at Emily's shuttered face, her emotions now carefully concealed behind a neutral visage. "Hold on. Rewind a bit."
"Where exactly would you like me to pause the tape, Hotch?" Emily asked, her voice toneless as she met his confused eyes.
"How about the part where Ambassador Prentiss assumes I'd make a decorative addition to her family tree?" Hotch said deeply, wrapping a hand around Emily's forearm and tugging her toward the leather sofa gracing the far wall of his office.
Sinking gratefully down on the comfortable cushions, Emily swallowed. "I think my analysis is fairly self-explanatory. My mother has been duly impressed by you...no easy feat, I'll grant you," she said with a small self-deprecating smile. "At any rate, on her last visit, which incidentally coincided with my unfortunate coup de grace, she remarked that you'd be a more than welcome choice of suitor. I shot her down using the obvious reason of our close working relationship," Emily added quickly, hazarding a quick glance at his solemn face. "And my mother, in her typical take no prisoners style, took it upon herself to eliminate that particular concern," she explained, nodding to the paper she still held in her hand.
"I see," Hotch replied slowly, his agile mind rapidly digesting these new facts with alacrity. "Well, there are two ways we could choose to approach the situation."
"Two?" Emily questioned blankly.
"Mmm," Hotch nodded, smiling slowly as he averted his gaze toward the window of his office, snow now falling in soft fat flakes to the ground below. With any luck, the District just might have the white Christmas that his son had been hoping for. And if possible, more than one wish might just come true this Christmas season. "Two," he confirmed.
"I'm fairly certain killing a United Nations Ambassador is illegal in all fifty states, Hotch," Emily said dryly. "Trust me, if it wasn't, I'd have killed her long ago."
"The options that I had in mind weren't quite so...bloodthirsty," Hotch choked, his lips twitching as he watched Emily scrunch her nose petulantly.
"You're no fun," Emily muttered, dropping her eyes again. "So what are these two ways we can approach this situation?" she asked, mostly to fill the now awkward silence between them.
"Well," Hotch began carefully, "the first is that I can, as your Unit Chief, refuse the transfer. I'll give Strauss and the transfer board a list of very convincing reasons why your departure from the team would be a loss of critical assets vital to the successful resolutions of cases, and you'll agree, stating that the request was filed by mistake."
"It's that easy?" Emily asked hopefully. Giving up a job where she still got to see him every day would be pure torture. It might be best in the long run, but she wasn't really interested in her future at the moment. She was too busy trying to survive her present.
"It can be," Hotch said softly, nodding once. "Or, there's option number two."
"Which is?" Emily asked with a frown.
"You take the transfer," Hotch answered huskily.
"What!" Emily yelped, her body jerking as if he'd lobbed a blow at her.
"Hear me out," Hotch hastened to say, covering one of her cold hands with his. "Please, Emily."
Emily. He'd called her Emily...her first name, she thought as she stared down at the large hand covering hers. And he was touching her. Voluntarily! Licking her dry lips, she nodded once, hoping that one movement conveyed her willingness to listen because, at the moment, the ability to form simple words escaped her. His warm touch eclipsed reasonable thought.
Clearing his throat, Hotch kept Emily's smaller hand covered with his own. "First, before I explain option two, there are a couple of things I think it's only fair to tell you."
Oh, Christ, Emily's mind screamed, her heart beginning to pound erratically in her chest. "Such as?" she prodded hoarsely, hoping her voice didn't sound as shaken to his ears as it did to her own.
"Em, the night I pushed you away..."
"Do we really need to discuss that again, Hotch?" Emily whispered, attempting to jerk her hand from underneath his. Perhaps now would be the perfect time to make your escape, Prentiss, she urged herself, her eyes glancing longingly toward the door again.
"Yes, we do," Hotch countered, tightening his fingers around hers, recognizing a flight risk when he saw one. "Mostly because we never discussed it when it happened."
"That's because that evening is better left forgotten," Emily commented grimly, her lips pressing tightly together.
"Because I pushed you away," Hotch murmured, rubbing his thumb against the inside of Emily's wrist.
Shivers cascaded down her spine as his thumb swept against her skin, sending her pulse skyrocketing, her earlier thoughts of escape suddenly evaporating. "You were right to push me away. What I did was stupid and unprofessional and..."
"Human. It was human, Emily. And contrary to very popular belief, I do have red blood running in my veins. I'm human, too. I didn't push you away because you were slightly tipsy that night. Or because I didn't want you," he added meaningfully. "I did it because I didn't want us to do something we couldn't take back in the cold light of day. Especially when we had to spend that day working as a cohesive unit. I pushed you away because I couldn't risk the working relationship we had. To do that could potentially risk the safety of the team and I couldn't put them in danger. Not even for the sake of my own happiness."
"What are you saying, Hotch?" Emily asked breathlessly, raising luminous eyes to stare into his.
"I'm saying...no, I'm admitting that I wanted you long before that night. I'm admitting that I want you now. And I'm confessing that I'm fairly positive I'm going to want to be with you tomorrow. Especially since I've spent the last half year in a state of perpetual arousal around you."
"I mean, I think you should take the transfer, Emily," Hotch whispered, his eyes seeking hers, needing to see the deep black-purple irises that were unique to her alone. "I think you should take the transfer and see if what we felt that night was as real as what I've imagined it was."
"Hotch..." she breathed, her addled mind attempting to gain control as she felt her heart swell in her chest.
"And I think you should start calling me Aaron," he smiled, lifting a finger to trail it along the line of her jaw.
"Aaron," Emily whispered with a tentative smile, leaning her forehead against his. "Presuming I take advantage of this approved transfer, where would you and I go from here?"
"Honestly, I'm thinking two glasses of wine, a leather couch and a roaring fireplace," he offered, his voice deep and solid as he pressed his lips to her temple. "Is that anything like what you had in mind?"
"Sounds like heaven," Emily sighed, lifting happy eyes to his.
"It will be," Hotch promised.
And it was. And both Aaron and Emily found out that the best Christmas present comes not in a gaily wrapped package, but in the love of another.