Chapter Fifteen – Finding Your Soul
Hotch stepped into his apartment and closed the door gently behind him. He negligently dropped his briefcase on the floor next to the door and his keys on the table before leaning against the hard oak and closing his tired eyes. He reached up and scrubbed his face with his hands, trying to wash the images out of his mind that had been plaguing him for the last hour.
He was fine while he was at work. Even on a Friday evening he could keep himself occupied with last minute file notes and catching up on all the things he didn't get to when they were gone. But then he ran out of things to do, reasons to stay shut up in his office, things to keep him occupied. When he finally admitted defeat and headed home that's when his mind started to work.
It was the one real disadvantage to being as focused as he was. All he had been able to think about for the whole drive home was Emily.
She was on a date.
And it was with someone other than him.
She had arrived back from New York that morning and had come into the office to let him know that she was back now, that her mother was doing fine and would be completing her recovery at her home just outside of Washington. Everyone sat around the conference room with her, got caught up and found out what had happened with her mother. They chatted about her case, how things had gone once they got out into the field and let her know that her original case profile had been dead on.
Everything was looking up, there was a positive feeling in the air and he decided then and there that he was going to ask her to have a drink with him after they left for the day. She seemed upbeat and buoyant in a way that she hadn't for weeks and he had a good feeling about trying to talk to her. She was making eye contact with him again, seeking him out to talk to, things that she had been avoiding for the last few weeks and he wondered if she was finally ready.
Just as he was about to approach her, Strauss made an appearance to congratulate her on the work she did before she had to leave. While that was good for Emily, to know that her work was being recognized, it was bad for him because after that he couldn't get close enough to her to ask her for that drink.
Over the next hour he was pulled in every direction imaginable and while it was a normal part of his day, for the first time ever, he resented it.
Finally he manage to pull himself away from his job and was headed down to the bullpen to ask her about that drink when he overheard Garcia asking that very question. With a soft smile on her face she declined, admitting that she had plans that evening and likely would not be getting home until late.
Right then and there, any determination he had to talk to her died.
She looked so happy.
Aaron could feel the mounting tension headache coming on and wanted to do nothing but sink to the floor and stay there for the next couple of hours. Obsess over his thoughts. What they could be doing? What she would be wearing? Would she laugh at his jokes? Would she let him kiss her when he dropped her off at home?
Would she invite him inside?
He turned his head to the side and peaked down at the keys he never did return to her, that night he stayed at her apartment, when he slept just down the hall from her, so close but still not as close as he wanted to be now. He had, for one brief moment, the insane notion to go to her apartment and wait for her, make sure that her 'date' never made it inside the front door.
To finally confront her about his feelings for her, force her to admit what she was feeling for him. He knew it was there, just beneath the surface and even though she never gave him any overt sign of her feelings, there was no mistaking the passion he felt from her when he kissed her that night.
And as much as the idea appealed, to go barging in on her at home as she was coming home from a date, claiming her as his own for everyone to see, he was nowhere near that crazy yet. If he pulled a stunt like that she would more than likely to remove his head from his shoulders and he wouldn't blame her a bit.
Tomorrow would be soon enough. He couldn't change what was happening at the moment and if he tried it might serve to make her angry enough to push him farther away. And in the end, it wasn't worth the risk.
But still he sat at home and was tormented by his thoughts.
He pushed himself off the door and headed for the table where his bottle of scotch was waiting for him. Seemed like a fabulous time to get just smashing drunk.
"You have always taken the path of least resistance."
The words swirled around in his head over and over again. Was that what he was doing this time too? By waiting until tomorrow, putting it off one more day, was he just letting her walk away because it was easier than confronting her about how he was feeling? Did he really believe that admitting to her that he cared for her, was in love with her, that it would drive her away?
"You look tired."
No, he knew Emily. He knew her heart and she would never hold it against him. Even if he confronted her and he was wrong she would still be his friend. The last few weeks had shown him that. Even when things were strained between them, when she had to have realized that something had changed for him at least, he could feel how much she cared for him. She would never push him away like that.
He looked down at the keys still held in his grasp, gently fingering the small pieces of gold and silver. Should he take this as a sign, the fact that she never asked for them back? She had to know he still had them; she wasn't careless with her safety. But for some reason she never mentioned them again. Perhaps it was her way of showing him that she was interested in more. That she wanted him to come to her. Not on a conscious level of course, she was never that deliberate, but perhaps it was the sign he needed.
With that thought in mind, Aaron lifted himself into a sitting position and was determined that he was going to go and talk to her, to hell with her date. Unfortunately the forward momentum set off his slightly intoxicated mind causing the room to swirl slightly and he allowed himself to flop back, returning to the relative safety of the couch he had been laying about on for the last couple of hours.
Perhaps he would wait till the room stopped shifting on its own, then he would go see her. Somehow he didn't think in his current state that he would be able to present any kind of a valid argument should he need to and perhaps he should have thought of that before he had his first glass of scotch.
His mind was shifting to the thought that he could always take a cab over when he heard a gentle tapping on the door. Rather than getting up he lifted his head off of the arm cushion and glared at the door, willing the person on the other side to go away.
Yes, he was more than aware he was sulking.
After the last couple of years he figured he was entitled to a little self-pity.
He closed his eyes and let out a soft groan as the knock came the second time, just a little harder than the last, but still quietly enough not to wake him if he was sleeping; it was certainly late enough for that. That alone got his curiosity going and he levered himself up from the couch, making his way to the door. Leaning over and looking through the peep hole he let out a soft gasp at the sight that met his eyes.
Hotch pulled open the door and sucked in a hard breath at the sight before him. Emily, the woman he had been thinking obsessively about since that morning was standing at his door. For a moment he looked down at the glass still clutched in his hand and her apartment keys dangling from the other and had to wonder if she was nothing more than a figment of his slightly intoxicated imagination. Fortunately, he wasn't anywhere near that drunk, which could only mean one thing.
She came to him.
For the life of him he couldn't understand why she was there, he couldn't seem to wrap his brain around the idea and as a result he stood there, blocking the doorway with a rather intense scowl on his face as he tried to make it make sense. She was supposed to be on a date, with what's his name, not here, with him. And to make matters worse, she looked so incredibly beautiful tonight. He could feel his breath catch in his chest, and with it a pain screaming at him about what wasn't his to have. It was like a new form of torture for his already weary heart.
She had left her long dark hair loose with a slight wave to it but it was free to flit about her slim face, somehow making her look younger and more relaxed than he was used to. Her make-up also added to the effect, in that she had almost none on, just enough to enhance her own natural beauty, but did nothing to detract from what a beautiful woman she was all on her own.
His brow furrowed slightly at the rest of her, where he would have expected a dress or something similar she was wearing soft, flowing black pants glided along her legs from the hip and gave it a slightly more dressy feel than her normal dress pants, combined with that was a soft, satin red blouse, the sight of which made his blood flare. God he loved her in red. He looked down at her bare stocking clad feet and almost smirked, dangling from the tips of her fingers were her black pumps.
Emily shifted from foot to foot as she waited for him to say something, anything, to give her an indication of what he was thinking. But as the moments passed she felt what hope she had been harboring since she left New York fading away.
When he tried to talk his voice was so husky he had to clear his throat before trying again. "What's wrong?"
She looked back at Aaron and felt a jolt of nervous energy flow through her blood. God, she prayed she was right about this. Her eyes took the same path as his own had with her, examining him, detailing everything about him. His hair was slightly mused from running his fingers through it, the stubborn few strands at the back sticking up as they were prone to do, making her fingers twitch with the desire to reach up and run her fingers through his hair, gentling the strands back into place.
His shirt was creased from the days wear, causing her to clinch her right fist again in an effort not to reach out and smooth out the wrinkles. At some point he had taken off his tie and rolled up his shirt sleeves, making him look so much more relaxed and welcoming than she had the right to hope for. This mess was mostly her making and she just hoped she had the chance to fix it, that her own fear hadn't left things too long.
"Can I come in?" Emily took in his stance, the way his body was blocking the doorway and was seriously afraid that he would say no.
His eyes widened at how off-putting he must have seemed. He hurriedly moved out of the way so that she could slip past him. "Please."
Aaron stood to the side and as she made her way past him, carelessly dropping her shoes and clutch bag just inside the doorway next to his previously abandoned briefcase and he sucked in a deep breath at the sight, how right it looked. He caught a breath of her soft delicate scent and clutched hard at his glass to control the impulse to reach out and just grab her, pull her to him.
Watching with cautious eyes, he stood back as she moved through the room until she stood in the middle of it. Realizing he looked like an idiot, standing there holding the door open. He quickly shut it and made his way over to where she was standing. He tried to get her to look at him but she kept shifting from foot to foot, her eyes darting about the dimly lit room. She seemed embarrassed and uncomfortable in his presence.
It wasn't something he was no longer used to.
Hotch reached out and gripped her hand in his. Setting his glass and the keys down on the table he reached for the other and turned her to face him.
When he finally spoke his voice was soft, comforting. "Why are you here Emily?"
In his mind what he was really screaming was tell me how to fix this.
Emily sighed and looked down at his hands, the gentle, comforting way he was holding her own. It symbolized everything about them, he was warm, holding her if she needed it but would let her go if she pulled away. She swallowed hard, trying to figure out where to start, how to tell him what she had discovered, or what she had finally admitted to herself.
This is where she belonged, the thing she had always been looking for but was so very afraid of. "I was just on my way home. You're lights were still on so I took a chance."
Hotch scowled as he glanced at the clock, his voice hardening marginally. "I would have thought you would still be out this early in the evening."
Emily frowned at him, trying to understand the look he had, the tone of his words. Her mind flew though everything that had been said and done in the last few weeks before it finally hit her. Her eyes widened in understanding and her breath was driven from her as she attempted to reassure him. "Oh… Oh no. No Aaron." She gave his hands a soft squeeze with her own. "I was with my mother tonight, helping her settle in."
His face relaxed slightly at that but there was still a tension in his frame that couldn't be mistaken. Emily stepped closer to him feeling the heat radiating from him. "I said no… repeatedly. That day, in the office, Pen took it the wrong way when I agreed to have a coffee with him, as friends, nothing more, and then everything was moving so fast that I never had a chance to explain."
As he relaxed more she moved closer, until they were standing just inches apart. "I said yes to a short coffee this afternoon while I waited for my mother to get back from New York, nothing more. He knows there will never be anything there, at least not for me."
His voice was soft, curious, although he half dreaded what she might say. "Why?"
"Why did I say no to a date? Or why would there be nothing for me?"
"Yes… to both." He needed her to say it, definitive words, telling him what she wanted, what she needed, he just prayed that it was what he wanted to hear and that he was ready for them, whatever they were.
Emily looked down at the floor and closed her eyes, ready to open up to him, to share what she was feeling and prayed that it turned out the way she hoped. "He wasn't you Aaron, he would never be you."
Emily looked up into his eyes and saw them darkened faintly but he gave no other indication that he had heard what she said. Fear filled her and she started to talk, faster than her mind could form the sentences. "I spent most of the time over coffee, making small talk, bored out of my mind. All I kept thinking about was… I couldn't stop thinking…" she let out a trembling breath before she continued, "I kept wishing I was here… with you. Wanting to feel…" Her voice trailed off and when it became apparent that she wasn't going to finish, he finally started to push.
"Feel what Emily?" His voice was raspy as he attempted to repress what he was feeling, letting her finish what she needed to say.
"To feel the way I did when you…" Again she stopped speaking but this time she raised trembling fingers and trailed them across his lower lip, causing Aaron to suck in a hard breath as desire filled his blood at their meaning.
He gaped at her, his mind slowly processing what the words meant, that it was everything he had hoped for. Hotch let go of her hand and took a step back not realizing how the movement would seem to her. Now that the moment was in front of him every well-rehearsed line that he had thought to say to her had left him. She was the only woman in all of his years that could leave him feeling this tongue tied.
Emily closed her eyes at the pain caused by his sudden distance from her, panic flaming her blood and she could feel the fight or flight instinct taking hold.
Oh God, Oh God, I was wrong… He doesn't want me.
She could feel the blush creeping up her cheeks and knew she had to get out of there before she did something monumentally stupid, well even more stupid, like beg him to love her. She turned sharply and bolted for the door, determined to get away from him and this feeling that she had. She made it as far as the getting the door opened before it was forcefully closed, his hand pressed hard against the wood in front of her.
She closed her eyes and let her head fall forward till it was resting on the cool wood.
Aaron let his head rest against the back of her own and his free hand dropped to her waist. Tentative at first he slipped the tips of his fingers along the fabric before becoming bolder and allowing his hand to follow the line of her waist till his arm was banned around her, holding her to him, keeping her from leaving him.
"Please… Just let me leave." Her voice was so soft, so sad that it broke his heart just a little bit, but he swore to himself that he was going to make sure that she never had cause to sound that way again.
"No." He felt her tremble and pulled her tighter to his frame so that the entire length of his body was draped along hers. "No Emily, how could you possibly believe that after saying something like that I would ever let you leave me?"
Aaron turned her from the door and cupped her face in the palms of his hands, tipping her head up so that he could look into her beautiful brown eyes.
He pressed his lips to hers and Emily let out a soft gasp. Where the last time was soft, slow and tentative, this one was all about heat, and need, longing. His tongue tangled with hers as he attempted to devour her, pulling her tight so that not even air could come between them anymore. His hand slid around her waist, pinning her to his body, the other reached up to cup her neck, preventing her from pulling away from him.
Now that he had her here, the way that he wanted her, he was never going to let her leave. Emily reached up and grasped his shoulders to maintain her balance as she was almost pulled off her feet. She slid her hands along the width of his shoulders to band around his neck, finally allowing her fingers to tangle in his hair.
Aaron stumbled backwards and came to rest against the wall with a thump. Since Emily was still draped over him he made no attempt to move, just settle back and continued to enjoy what he had been hoping would happen for months.
When air finally became an issue he pulled away and Emily allowed her desire drugged eyes to blink open. As she looked at him she felt tears welling up in her eyes. He looked so relaxed and open, so… joyful.
Emily's eyes darted to the side as she confessed what she had been feeling over the last few months. "I'm scared Hotch. I don't know how to do this. I've spent my entire life trying to hide from this very thing, and I'm afraid that I'm going to mess this up and it's too important, you're too important. That's why I ran from you that night."
"I know you are sweetheart and I can't promise you that this isn't going to be a lot of work or that it's not going to be messy but we can make it, if we try, together." His voice was just above a whisper and her eyes were drawn back to his.
The look on his face was so honest and so sure that she could feel the tension leaving her muscles as she relaxed back into him. Aaron reached up and he softly petted the skin of her face with the tips of his fingers, taking in the details of her up close, before leaning down and pressing a soft kiss to her lips before pulling back again.
After the third time he leaned in to kiss her she let out a soft, childlike giggle over how he was behaving, but unable to pull away. Anything to keep that look on his face just a little bit longer.
"Emily… I love you." His lips quirked up at the soft gasp she let out at that. "Promise me, you won't run from me again."
"I promise." There was a slight quiver in her voice as she responded but the happiness still lit her eyes so he leaned down and kissed her softly again. "I promise."
She leaned back into him and let her head come to rest on his shoulder and Aaron unable to resist leaned his head forward and buried his nose in her hair by her ear, just breathing in her scent and enjoying the warmth of her body, finally, so close to his own.
When he spoke, it was soft, hesitant to break the mood that had settled around them. "I'm so sorry Emily. I know I made this harder on you. When things started to change, when I started to see something different in us, I should have come to you, told you what I was seeing, but I too was afraid, afraid of losing what we already had." With a gentle finger under her chin he tipped her face back up and softly kissed her lips. "I realize now, what I was doing and won't let it happen again, I promise."
She snuggled in closer and breathed out against his neck. "Perhaps, but I don't even know if I would have been ready to hear it. Maybe we had to do things just this way."
He let out a soft murmur and nibbled gently on her ear causing Emily to gasp at the warmth filling her body. "Shall I tell you now, what I see."
She pulled away, just far enough to see his face clearly, letting her fingers trail along the length of his jaw. "Tell me."
"Are you sure you're ready."
She nodded her head and let her eyes flitter shut as he kissed her softly before pulling her head back to rest on his shoulder. "I can see everything, anything possible. I want a home with you Emily, children; a family. I want to grow old with you."
Emily pulled away from him and looked up into his hopeful face. "Aaron…" She trembled against him and let the tears leak from the corner of her eyes.
He pressed his lips to hers again, seeming unable to get enough of the soft, intimate contact. "Sshhh, the rest can wait, just tell me you want that too."
"I do." Emily swallowed hard and felt the smile break across her face. For once she felt no fear. "I want all of that… with you." She leaned up and this time it was her that stole a soft kiss from his lips. "And just for the record, I love you too."
He let out a blinding smile at her words. "Thank god." Hotch cupped her face in his palms and pulled her lips to his; sealing them together, refusing to ever let her go again.
Emily let out a soft groan as he pushed himself off of the wall and swung her up into his arms. Without thought he started to move through his apartment with only one destination in mind.
She considered that he was right, this was going to be complicated, scary and a lot of hard work but she thought with a smile on her face when he finally gave her enough air to breathe…
It was going to be so worth it.
Author's Note: So there you have it, the end. Seven months of blood, sweat, tears, and frustration. In the end I have spent too much time working on this and it's evolved in so many different ways that I can't even tell if it's any good anymore… so I will let all of you be the judge.
In the end I want to thank everyone for their kind words and support and unbelievable patience. I hope that you have enjoyed this story and in parting all I have to say is this…
Thank God it's over!