This is written quite differently from my usual style but I was inspired by a few other short stories so I thought I'd experiment. I'm actually quite pleased with how it turned out, but please let me know if you agree or disagree.
p/s. I am still updating my other epic story, so do keep reading. As always I do not own anything related to Criminal Minds.
They sit in companionable silence, the only sound the quiet hum of the jet engines propelling them closer to their destination. Both their heads are bent down, reviewing the notes on their ipads in preparation for their presentation at the upcoming conference on violent crimes in Salt Lake City, Utah. Their presentation is not scheduled until the following afternoon but he wants both of them to be well rested after having finished a difficult case just 24 hours ago.
She looks over at him surreptitiously, her eyes drawn to the strong lines of his face; his jaw is set, brows furrowed in concentration. His hand flexes as he scrolls down the screen and her eyes follows the movement, admiring the play of muscles in his forearm. She experiences a sudden urge to touch him, run her fingers down his arm, feel the underlying muscles.
Two months ago she would have been surprised by this. But since her return to the BAU everything has changed. She still isn't sure what happened. Whether it was her close brush with death, or the time she spent away from her team, from him. Or maybe it is both. In any case, she realises she has feelings for him. Has had them for a long time. But knowing changes nothing. He is still her superior, she his subordinate. She values her job, her relationships with the team, her relationship with him, however it is defined. It has to be enough.
She knows him too well. He would never cross the line. Even if he ever developed feelings for her, he would never act upon them. He is a highly principled man, holding himself to impossible standards that others never hope to reach. He is the Unit Chief, personally responsible for the team and everything they did. He has to be beyond reproach. He cannot afford to let his guard down or be fallible. So he shuts his feelings away and maintains an invisible wall between himself and the team. The wall lowers when they interact outside of work hours, but it never completely vanishes. He is always their Unit Chief.
So she says nothing and plasters a smile on her face every morning. She gives her all to her job and tries her best to ignore him, which is difficult at times when they are thrown together in a case. But she too can shut her feelings away, after all, she is the queen of compartmentalisation.
But when she hears that he and Reid would be going to the conference, she imagines being together with him alone and she gives in to a momentary weakness. So she asks Reid to pull out at the last minute to which he agrees to after a slight hesitation. She remembers being puzzled when Reid opens his mouth as if to say something further, but then changes his mind.
The pilot announces that they would be landing shortly. They stow away their belongings and put their seatbelts on.
It is bitterly cold when they step out of the jet. She lets out a gasp as the wind sweeps around them, sleet stinging her face and hurting her throat. The chill cuts into her as if she is not wearing three layers of clothes and a down jacket. She holds the rail tightly as she descends the slippery steps and once they are at the bottom he puts his hand on her back, shielding her from the wind with his much broader torso, for which she is thankful.
His hand is no longer on her by the time they are met by a female detective in the terminal. She leads them to a dark blue sedan parked outside the main entrance and they exchange greetings with her partner who is sitting in the front. They get into the back seat, relieved to be out of the cold. Despite the warm heat rushing out of the vents she is still shivering and unthinking, she presses up against him. He doesn't move away and she shoots him a grateful look. An odd expression flashes across his face but disappears before she is able to decipher it. She has a strange feeling that if they had been alone he would have put his arm around her. She looks away, annoyed by her runaway thought.
She is grateful that the female detective is talkative as she gives them a spiel about the city. She is not in a mood for light conversation. She is now worried about the next 30 hours. What has she gotten herself into? She will be in such close proximity with him. She looks down and stares at her thigh pressed tightly against his. A shiver runs through her, this time not from the cold and he puts his warm hand on her thigh. She jumps at the unexpected contact and he snatches his hand back as if he has just touched a hot kettle.
Their eyes meet and he looks embarrassed. The detective asks him a question and he looks up to answer. She knows she should move, she is much warmer now, but perversely her body does nothing. She consoles herself with the thought that he is free to move away if he wants to.
It feels like an eternity and yet conversely it is all too soon when they draw up at the hotel. After thanking the detectives, they go inside and check in. They are given two adjoining rooms on the eighth floor. She tries to calm the butterflies in her stomach at the thought that there are only two doors that separated them. She almost rolls her eyes at this thought. She has been in the room next to him before so this is no different. It isn't as if he is going to invite her into his room.
And yet when she is finally in her room she can't stop herself from looking at the interconnecting door that leads to him.
The moment the door clicks shut behind him his eyes are drawn to the interconnecting door behind which is her. He tells himself to get a grip and throws his ready bag on the bed. He checks his watch, it is still another two hours before dinner. He debates whether to take a shower before he goes to bed. He is tired. Mind numbingly so. The last case had taken a toll on him. A couple had been abducting children and assaulting them for years before killing them when they became too old. He knows she is affected too. She is not completely used to being back in her old role so he knows the case disturbed her more than it would have in the past. Before Doyle.
In his mind everything that has happened was either before Doyle or after Doyle. It is as if Doyle is an actual demarcation of time. Before Doyle his life ran smoothly. He worked, he went home, he looked after Jack. He was lonely, but he was used to it. He expected no more than what he had. After Doyle, after her death, it was as if someone had woken him up from a deep sleep. He suddenly realises then that he misses her. Misses her more than he should as a member of his team, his subordinate. Misses her even more than he should as a friend. He realises he had feelings for her. But it doesn't matter anyway. She is dead.
Then Doyle is killed and he finds out that she is alive. Describing his emotions as being in a turmoil is an understatement. So he does what does best. He shuts them in a box and locks it away. And when she finally comes back to the BAU, he treats her as he always has in the past. Always at arms length, guard never completely down, even when she visits Jack. He tells himself he has to keep a professional distance. He is her supervisor, after all. He tries not to think of her in that way, but his brain mocks him by conjuring up an image of her looking at her notes; the sweep of her dark lashes resting on the pale curve of her cheek, the dark red of her pursed lips as she concentrates.
At first he thinks he is imagining things when he hears a knock on the interconnecting door. Then she calls his name. He opens the door tentatively. She is holding two bottles of shampoo and wearing the hotel robe. Her feet are bare. He notices the dark pink nail polish on her toes and the silver toe ring on the left second toe.
He seems to have discovered a heretofore latent foot fetish.
He is never more thankful for his ability to hide his emotions. His impassive expression firmly in place, he asks her what is wrong. She says that there is no hot water in her bathroom and maintenance is not able to come for another hour. Some sort of major plumbing problem on the ninth floor. She asks if she can use his shower.
Of course, he replies. She thanks him and he tries to ignore the way his chest tightens at her smile.
While she showers he hangs up his suit for tomorrow and lies on the bed, flicking through the channels. When he hears the door to the bathroom open, he tries to look casual, as if she walks out of his shower every day of the week. Inside his heart is drumming a crazy rhythm. She stops next to his bed, near enough for him to smell her strawberry scented shampoo.
He raises his eyebrows when he notices the bathrobe in her hand. Then, good God. All she has on is a very short towel which she clutches tightly in one hand mid-chest. There is another towel around her head. He finally notices the apologetic, slightly embarrassed look on her face. She tells him that her bathrobe fell into the wet bathtub so she has to use his towels. He nods absent mindedly as his eyes follow the trail of a bead of water as it glides from her shoulder down to her towel. The towel is low enough that he can see the start of her glistening curves. He swallows hard and forces his eyes back to her face. A blush colours her cheeks and she bites the corner of her bottom lip, a sure sign she is at a loss for words. Before he can apologise, she thanks him again and vanishes through the doors between their rooms.
He drops his head back into the pillow. So, where's your professional distance now, you idiot?
She shuts the interconnecting door behind her and flops down on the bed, breathing rapidly. She isn't sure what to think. Did he just look at her – no, she must be imagining it. Even if he did, he is just a red-blooded male, it doesn't mean he is attracted to her. Stupid tiny towels. Her treacherous brain paints a high definition picture of him trying to cover himself with one as he steps out of the shower, dripping wet. She grabs a pillow and covers her face to muffle her scream. She wishes she never came on this trip. She is such an idiot.
Her eyelids are heavy and as she drifts off to sleep, she remembers the way he looked at her, as if he was in famine and she was a feast. She smiles.
When he knocks on her door she is ready. She is nervous. She doesn't want there to be awkwardness between them. He apologises for any inappropriate behaviour earlier and she brushes his apology aside lightly, pretending it was nothing. She wants to act like nothing ever happened.
They are surprised to see that the hotel restaurant is full, but are lucky enough to get the last table. The waiter informs them that the hotel is completely booked, there is another conference besides the one they are presenting at, as well as a popular science fiction convention. In fact all the hotels in the city centre are booked out.
She finds she has to bite her lip to stop herself from asking what sort of science fiction convention it is. She may be a nerd, but she didn't need to advertise it to him. Things between them are already somewhat strained. To her surprise, though, he appears relaxed and starts to tell her about Jack's latest exploits at his new school. Dinner passes very pleasantly, assisted by a bottle of cabernet sauvignon which they share.
Finally back in her room, she is unable to stifle an exclamation of dismay when she sees her bed. When she opens the interconnecting door after hearing his urgent knocking, she wordlessly gestures to her bed at his query. He walks over to her bed and after glancing down at it, looks up at the ceiling to see the large damp spot where water was still dripping down. He calls reception but she already knows the answer when his face tightens in displeasure.
He tells her to sleep in his bed and he will sleep on the couch. She looks at the tiny couch then looks over at his his six-feet-two frame in disbelief. He says he will sleep on the floor. She tells him not to be ridiculous (a word she normally would not have uttered if she hadn't drunk half a bottle of wine), they can share the bed. Besides, she says, it is only for a night and they need to be well rested for their presentation tomorrow. He is quiet for a long time. Just as she is about to tell him to forget it, he reluctantly relents.
Half an hour later, they are both lying on their backs in bed, stiff with tension. After a while she tries to break it by suggesting he pretend she is Reid. He tells her in a grim tone that that is not funny. She is hurt by this and rolls onto her right side away from him, glad the room is pitch black. She can't wait to get home, away from him.
Then he apologises in a quiet voice, calling her by her first name. Her breath hitches in her throat. It is only the third time he had done so since she joined the BAU more than five years ago. He tells her how much the case has affected him and she is surprised but pleased that he has opened up to her. She tells him that she is disturbed by it too. She doesn't mention that she thinks there is something more that he is not telling her.
They are silent for a moment. He wishes her goodnight and she replies in kind. This time they both fall asleep.
He blinks as he surfaces from sleep. The room is still dark which means nothing as the curtains block out most of the light, but his body clock indicates that dawn has only just broken. As always he is alert within seconds. He suddenly realises that he is not alone in bed. Not only is he not alone, he is in an extremely intimate, completely non-professional, asking-for-a-sexual-harassment-suit position.
They are lying spooned together, not a breath of air between them. His right arm is under her pillow and his left hand is on the bare skin of her stomach, her T-shirt having ridden up while she slept. His fingers move involuntarily on her soft skin. It is then he realises how bad things really are. His left leg is between hers, pressed up against her intimately. Anyone who sees them now would have no doubt that they are lovers.
He knows that he needs to extricate himself from her before she wakes. He doesn't want there to be any awkwardness between them, which will be unavoidable if she realises what has happened in their sleep. But he doesn't move. It has been so long since he had held a woman in his arms; felt her skin under his fingers, smelt her shampoo in his nostrils, the softness of her body pressed against his.
She shifts against him and he holds his breath, both wanting her to move away from him and yet wishing she never would. She lets out a soft sigh and turns around in his arms, eyes still closed. She snuggles close and slips her arm around his waist and he stops breathing as her hand slides under his T-shirt and glides over the skin of his back. He feels rather than hear her purr as she tangles her long legs with his, straddling his knee which is still partially extended.
She nuzzles his neck and he feels his body react. He wonders who she is dreaming about and feels an unreasonable surge of jealousy, but this immediately changes to wonder when she dreamily murmurs his name. He doesn't know whether to feel relieved or disappointed when he feels her body stiffen as she awakes.
Don't freak out, don't freak out, don't freak out, she repeats to herself like a mantra as she slowly pushes away from him. You didn't do it on purpose. You were just dreaming, everything's going to be all right. She is almost hyperventilating as she meets his eyes. Hers widen with shock when she sees cautious amusement residing there. And something else as well. He is aroused. She isn't sure why she is surprised as she is still pressed up against him and can feel the evidence against her left knee.
They stare at each other in the dim light. His hand slowly comes up to smooth a curl away from her cheek. She doesn't know who moves first but their lips meet in a slow, deep, toe-curling kiss. Emotions in a riot, caution thrown to the winds, their clothes are soon removed and carelessly thrown off the bed as they continue to kiss, both unable to tear their lips apart.
They still for a moment when their bodies join, eyes locking together. She knows that there will be consequences; she can see in his eyes that he knows this too. But nothing matters except for this moment. This is something that is stronger than both their wills.
She has never been happier than she is when he finally draws her into his arms to sleep. She drifts off, her hand resting over his heart.
They are both completely professional as they give their presentation at the conference that afternoon. The attendees are impressed by their knowledge and at how seamlessly they interact, each knowing when to pick up after the other and move onto the next point. If asked, they would have said that the pair have been doing this for a long time, when in fact it is their first time.
No words have been exchanged about what happened that morning. It is an unspoken agreement that they will not bring it up until the conference was over. They both know that they will need to make a decision as to what to do next. And the first chance they will have to talk about it will be on the jet that afternoon.
But fate has other plans for them. The hotel receptionist almost shivers at the intense look that flashes between the two agents when she tells them that all air travel is grounded for the next 48 hours due to blizzard conditions. She does not think that they will mind when she informs them that she only has the one room available. She wonders what the attractive, kind female agent sees in the grim faced agent who has now thoroughly intimidated her. His tone is short as he mentions the leak in the room and there is a placating note in the female agent's voice as she says his name. The receptionist does not fail to notice the tenderness in the raven-haired woman's touch on the stoic agent's hand.
The receptionist is a romantic at heart and gives them the honeymoon suite which the female agent accepts with a heart stopping smile. As they walk away the receptionist sees the female agent wink at him and overhears her mentioning something about a spa bath. A reluctant smile finally breaks out on his face, revealing deeply carved dimples. His eyes are soft as he looks down at his partner. Ah. Now the receptionist knows what the attraction is.
Two days later they are back on the jet, heading back to Virginia. They sit side by side, fingers entwined on the hand rest between them. They are landing soon, but they are yet to discuss their future, if indeed there will be a future. She takes a deep breath and prepares to tell him that she will abide by whatever he decides. Even if it will break her heart. Because she cannot force him into a relationship.
She turns to face him, opening her mouth to speak. But he speaks first.
"Emily, I love you." His eyes burn with an intensity she has never seen before. Her breath halts in her throat. "I don't know what we are going to do, but I know one thing. I am not letting you go again."
She stares at him for a long moment. "Then please don't. Because I love you too."
He lets out a breath. They draw closer and share a tender kiss.
When they part, a corner of his mouth hitches up in a small smile. She looks at him, a question on her face.
He looks at her, a rueful expression on his face. "Since we are going to be in a relationship I should probably tell you that although I didn't plan on the blizzard or the leaking roof or the convention, I did ask Reid if he could step aside so you could come along with me."
There is a moment of silence and then the only sound that can be heard is her laughter as it ripples through the cabin.
I would be oh so very grateful if you can review and let me know what you think of the story.