Spoilers: A/U Season Four, Spoiler up to and including "Brother's In Arms"
Rating: Strong M for Part 3
Summary: Hotch, trying to find his two errant female agents stubbles on a conversation that changes how he sees things and finally gives him to the push to go after what he wants.
Author's Note: I was watching a re-run of "Brother's In Arms" and thought, could you imagine being in love with Hotch and knowing he was walking around with a big target on his back…. Hum. Uh oh… I feel another one shot coming, okay, so one shot was a bit of a stretch for me, more like a three or a four shot….
So that idea was combined with a challenge from my good friend who followed me from Pogo and we have turned into an absolute H/P junky. She said to me, "I don't think you can write smut" and then challenged me to try (didn't help that I don't really know what constitutes smut). She might be right on that one, but this is what evolved out of it.
Okay, strictly speaking I know JJ wasn't in this episode, having given birth but it was either her or Garcia that Emily had to have the following conversation with, soooo not one you would have with a guy and Todd was still an unknown. So we are just going to pretend that JJ was there, just came back from maternity leave four episodes sooner.
This story is a work of fiction by an amateur writer and is for entertainment purposes only. The writer is in no way associated with Criminal Minds nor anyone connected to the program. No Copyright infringement is intended and no monetary compensation has been received by the creation of this story.
All publicly recognized characters and storylines are owned by The Mark Gordon Company ,Paramount/Viacom, Touchstone Television, CBS Television Studios, ABC Studios, and their related entities.
All original characters, settings and/or storylines are Copyright protected ( Rev. Brandywyne L. Walker 2003 - 2011) Any duplication or distribution of this story, in whole or in part, is expressly prohibited without the written consent of the Author.
Part One – Eavesdropping Supervisory Special Agents
SSA Aaron Hotchner looked around the parking lot before he sighed and dropped his hands to his hips. He stood out in front of the Phoenix Police Headquarters and looked around at the surrounding buildings. There wasn't a soul roaming about which was quite the difference from just a couple of hours ago. It had been absolute pandemonium then.
He was currently missing two of his Agents and more than anxious to find them so they could all head back to the hotel for some much needed rest. First he had seen Prentiss come out here, saying that she needed some air and when she hadn't returned after several minutes he had motioned for JJ to go and find her so they could leave.
That had been ten minutes ago and JJ had yet to return, with or without Emily Prentiss.
It had been an incredibly long and stressful day, for the whole team, but Emily in particular had been looking a little worn after the un-sub was shot that evening. He wanted to see her for himself, assure himself that she was okay and get them all back to the hotel. He tried in vain to tell himself that was the only reason he was once again trying to find Prentiss, but even he knew better.
After having scoped out the parking lot completely and still not finding his agents, Hotch made his way around to the side of the building. There had been some picnic tables and benches under a group of trees that way, where the Phoenix officers congregated on cooler days. That seemed to be the most likely place to find his two wayward agents.
As he came to the side of the building he could hear the soft murmur of voices and slowed his steps. For a moment he contemplated just heading over to where they were sitting but the devils of his better nature got the best of him and he leaned against the wall near the corner and tipped his head to listen in.
Emily Prentiss was one of the most guarded agents he had ever had in his unit and even though he knew he should feel guilty, he couldn't help himself. This was finally his chance to gain some insight into her.
He knew that she opened up with JJ and Penelope in a way that she never did with any of the men on the team and although, he would say they were all very close, he personally, still didn't know much about a woman he was so undeniably attracted to. The chance to glean a little more information about her was just too much temptation to resist.
JJ's voice was animated as she talked about Henry and Will. Emily inserted all of the appropriate noises and words but he could tell, even from where he was standing, that her heart wasn't in the conversation. It never ceased to amazing him at how patient Emily was with the members of the team and all of their various topics and interests.
She would have to be, seeing as how they always seemed to go to her with them. He had heard Reid regaling her with his latest book more than once and had seen her talking to Morgan about his evening out with Penelope, or the latest development in his sister's lives. She was often tucked away in Dave's office, sharing a coffee and chattering on about his misspent youth or the early days of the BAU. The three women of his team bonded in a way that surprised him, considering how standoffish they were with Elle in the beginning. It was a common occurrence for the three to take lunch together or to find JJ and Prentiss in Garcia's command post.
But in all that time he couldn't ever remember her talking about herself in anything other than a superficial way. Oh, they all knew bits and pieces about her but it was all surface knowledge. The little things that you have no choice but to pick up on when you spend as much time together as they all did. She was always quick with an ear but was very slow to share, at least with him. He hoped if he stood here long enough he might finally be able to learn something about the woman, not the agent.
Silence fell between the two of them and he feared he was too late till JJ spoke again causing him to frown in concern. There was sadness in the young woman's voice that he wasn't used to hearing.
"Are you sure you are okay Em?"
Emily? What was wrong with Prentiss? She had seemed fine the last time he talked with her, just after the shooting.
Her voice was tired when she finally spoke but he could hear the amusement in her voice as if she was humoring her friend. "Seriously JJ, I'm fine; I just needed a minute away and a little fresh air."
"Why do you keep doing this to yourself?" He heard JJ let out a soft sigh and grew more confused, this was obviously a conversation that they had before.
Doing what to herself? If she was having issues why didn't someone come to him?
"I'm in love with him JJ. What would you have me do?"
Whoa, he didn't see that one coming. She was in love? When did that happen? It was granted that he had been a bit out of the loop over the last year but certainly he would have heard about this, one of the others would have let it slip.
"I don't know, anything but this." There was frustration in JJ's voice that Hotch never heard before, she was normally so focused that all you ever got from her was a calm monotone. "I watch you every time he's in a dangerous situation and it eats at you a little more. I watch you try and push it all down into one of your 'little boxes' and pretend what you're feeling isn't there."
She was in love with someone on the team? He could feel the tension in his face as his jaw clinched and he started to catalogue who it could be…
Not Reid, she was too maternal with him, her affection while undeniable wasn't what he could see moving into love. She was fiercely protective of him but at the same time she often teased him for his eccentricities in a way that an older sister would.
He knew it wasn't Dave, she was warmer with him than she was in the beginning but there was still something there that said that she hadn't developed that level of comfort with him yet. Besides, Dave was currently chasing the red headed desk agent from H.R. and Prentiss didn't strike him as a woman who would allow herself to get caught up in Dave's skirt chasing antics.
That left Derek Morgan.
Hotch felt white hot anger welling up inside of him at the thought that Morgan had gotten that close to Prentiss when Aaron himself could not, but that little voice in the back of his head pointed out that he hadn't really tried, in fact, he had tried not to.
Heat spread across his chest and he was so startled by the intense feeling of jealousy that he would have stumbled had he not been leaning on a wall. Never in all of the years he had known Derek Morgan had he ever been jealous of the man and it was shocking in a way he would never have suspected.
Emily let out a soft sigh and smiled at her friend. JJ really worried too much about this. It was what she had accepted when she realized that she was in love with him. She could pack it in, or she could tough it out and if there was one thing that Emily Prentiss was, it was tough. JJ made it sound like it was a hardship and, to Emily, it was anything but.
"JJ… I'm okay with this. It would be much worse if I wasn't here because he would still be getting into these situations and at least here I can see him, do what I can to help keep him safe. Reassure myself that he's okay, that we made it through."
Hotch moved stealthily so that he could get a better angle on them and hopefully be able to finally see them, see her.
They came into view as he ducked back behind a grouping of trees that provided a little bit of cover; with the surrounding darkness it was unlikely that they would see him. He started to feel guilty again. There was a reason that they were out here, they wanted the privacy… But he couldn't make himself move away.
Prentiss was crouched down close to the ground and leaning back against the wall. At some point in the evening she had shed her jacket and her arms were flopped over her knees, shirt sleeves pushed up to just before her elbows. His brow gently furrowed. She seemed fine, same as she did earlier. What was it that JJ was seeing?
"Why don't you just tell him?"
"You know I can't. I just…" she shrugged a shoulder negligently, "he doesn't think of me that way. To him I'm just…. Prentiss."
His brow furrowed. That didn't sound quite right, her and Morgan were quite close as he understood it. They spent more time together than any two members of his team, save for Prentiss and JJ, and perhaps Derek and Garcia. Why would she sound so defeated? Morgan cared for her, Hotch was sure of it. His anger at Derek came back but now it was for putting that sound in her voice, the doubt in her tone.
"So instead you do this." JJ's aggravation came through clear in her words.
"It's all I can do." Emily tipped her head down and looked at the ground.
JJ smiled softly at her friend trying to soften her annoyance. "You are far stronger than I would be."
"Not always." She closed her eyes and tipped her head back, letting it rest on the wall behind her. She dropped the rest of the way down till she was sitting on the grass, knees pulled up to her chest and her arms wrapped around them.
"What do you mean?"
"We're going to head back to the hotel and that's where my strength ends."
She looked so sad and JJ had the same intense look on her face that he knew was mirrored on his own. Waiting with almost baited breath for her to explain what that statement meant.
"I wake sometimes in the middle of the night. And I'm sure, that we didn't make it, that the un-sub was a little faster, that we just didn't know enough and he's gone. Most often I end up sitting up all night waiting for morning, just so that I can see him and remind myself that he's okay and still with us. And what I wouldn't give to just be able to touch him, reassure myself of his physical presence, but even then I can't."
"Emily…" JJ's voice sounded unbelievably sad as she uttered that one word.
"I'm okay. I choose this, it's my choice." Emily gave her friend a soft smile at the thought of him.
Hotch felt the jealousy well up in him again, wishing that soft smile was for him and not the man she was in love with.
"I still don't know how you do this, every time we head out. I would be completely insane with worry."
Emily shrugged again and uttered the statement that caused Aaron's heart to stop and his entire world to change, with just a few words.
"Just like you said, I have a little box that is just for Hotch."
Hotch dropped back on the bench nearest to him and floundered. Him? She was talking about him? How could he have not seen that coming? Their voices carried on softly in the distance but he couldn't focus on what they were saying.
She was in love with him… for how long? He couldn't seem to wrap his mind around it. All this time, he had been watching her from a distance, figuring that he never stood a chance and she was in love with him. His hands clinched into fists as he came to a decision, then and there. If there was one thing that couldn't be said about Aaron Hotchner, it was that he was indecisive.
He was just about to move over to them when he heard his name again and paused, wanting to hear the end of the conversation.
"Aaron Hotchner… I have to say Em, I don't really get it."
Emily snorted and looked away. "You wouldn't." There was no derision in her voice, only soft amusement at her friend's statement.
"He's so… impassive, and you are so… not." JJ flapped her hands at the other woman while looking adorably confused.
She gave the blond woman a calculating look, trying to decide how far to go, how much to say. "Have you ever watched him, I mean, really watched him?"
JJ shook her head and waited for the other woman to continue, the curiosity more than evident on her face. Aaron leaned a little closer… This could be more than interesting.
"Try some time when something is on his mind, when he can't quite pin something down. He's complete intense focus and restless energy combined." Emily's eyes got a far off glazed look to them as she remembered the last time, just yesterday when she got to see him like that and felt her blood heat at the memory. "He paces around the room… almost like a caged tiger, searching… hunting, and he's incredibly tactile, he touches everything he passes."
Emily refocused on the woman in front of her, "That intensity has to come out some where and when he finds an outlet, finally finds a woman that gets it, gets him; it's going to be explosive."
Emily shivered slightly at the thought and felt her blood pressure rise. JJ's eyes widened significantly at the change in the other woman's demeanor. If desire ever had a face, at that moment it was Emily Prentiss.
"I don't know… but Hotch is kind of brother like to me, so I just can't see it."
Emily laughed softly, "Or don't want to get it… And that's okay. I really don't want you to get it either."
She let out a knowing smile that caused Hotch's blood to heat at the thought that she just might understand in a way that his ex-wife never could, never tried. "It's like he tries to be two men. There's the one we all know, cool, reserved, controlled, calm, but just underneath the surface there's this other man, one he tries to ignore, keep leashed, and every once and a while he peeks out when his control slips. Take my word for it, there is fire burning there, just below the surface. He's just never been able to let go before."
Aaron closed his eyes for a moment and considered what it would be like, to finally be with a woman where he didn't have to temper his every thought and action. He had loved Haley but there was always a part of himself that he had to keep shuttered away, that she couldn't handle the few times it peaked out from his iron control.
He never had any doubt that Haley had loved him but she loved the young man she thought he was, the one that she thought she married. But she never really understood him, never understood what had driven him away from the law and into the FBI, to Swat and then the BAU. Over the years, he had changed and evolved, but Haley didn't change with him. All she wanted was the 9 to 5, white picket fence, doting husband and father.
She couldn't understand the drive in him, the need that kept him in this job for so many years. It was the part of him that was Hotch, the FBI agent, the profiler she didn't know, didn't understand and had no interest in trying to. Every time that intensity followed him home, she shied away from him, acting nervous and uncomfortable, avoided him or even pushed him away till he regained control. They couldn't even manage a conversation when he wasn't being doting Aaron, forget about having sex entirely when Hotch followed him home.
It was one of the things that signaled the end of their marriage. She wanted only that one part of him and didn't seem to understand that he couldn't be two people, just as much as he could be soft and gentle, there was another part of him that was completely focused and need driven and she wouldn't be happy unless he made that part of him go away. It was something that he couldn't do, though not for a lack of trying.
What he wouldn't give to be free enough to just exist, in and out of the bedroom. To just be Aaron without having to try and keep parts of himself shuttered away at home for fear of offending. The thought alone was staggering and he felt a raging desire flood his system. He wanted that, more than anything, and as he looked over at Emily he thought for the first time that he might have found someone that wanted all of him.
JJ stood and held out a hand to her friend. "Come on, we have to get back to the station, before Hotch sends someone else out to find us."
And just like that, the passionate look in Emily's eyes died and Aaron was reminded of how the whole conversation started. With Emily's fear of him dying. Of waking up alone and being afraid that he was gone.
Well, there was something he could do about that and for once Hotch was going to start things out on the right foot. He was finished with never having what he wanted and he more than wanted the woman sitting just feet from him.
He finally came out from behind the collection of trees and moved towards the women.
Emily started to leaver herself up from the ground when she was startled into silence by the sound of a throat being cleared off to her left. Emily took in the sight of Hotch standing at the corner of the building and her eyes widened briefly before she closed them and allowed her head to thump back into the wall behind her.
She had no idea how much he had heard but she was willing to bet, given her luck, than it was more than she ever wanted him to and felt the blush rising up into her cheeks.
TBC in Part 2 – One Touch Says It All