A/N: Here it is, the last part. I hope folks have enjoyed this story. It went on much longer than I thought it would and to be honest, my original outline probably would have made this story even longer. I had fun with this challenge and I hope people enjoyed reading it. Now that it's completely, I also hope that all those folks who have signed up for alerts will take a moment to leave me some feedback. It does help and is appreciated it. Thank you again for sticking with this story.
On the plane ride back, even if anyone had missed the signs of Hotch and Emily's new relationship while at the hospital, they couldn't ignore it now. As soon as they boarded, Emily almost fell immediately asleep, exhausted by the ride to the airport as her still healing body protested all the activity she had partaken of that day. Having to be seated when they took off, she fell asleep in her chair and Hotch didn't want to wake her by moving her to one of the couches. The chair also restricted her movements somewhat and she would be less likely to aggravate her wound. So he had let her sleep in her chair, making sure he was seated next to her. As her head dropped over onto his shoulder, he had tenderly kissed her hair and tucked her blanket more securely around her before he too closed his eyes and took a nap. Eventually, in their sleep, their hands somehow found each other, their fingers twining together and they held hands as they continued to sleep.
All this was observed by their teammates. Some were happy and amused for the couple like Rossi and Seaver. Reid was simply surprised. Morgan couldn't help but feel a little put out by these new developments. While relations with Emily had been strained, he always felt that if she was to go to anyone to confide in or ask for help, it would be him. But now with this relationship with Hotch, Derek felt a little replaced. She had no reason to seek him out now, to let him play the hero, to be her confidant, she would have Hotch. And that hurt a little, to know he was a little less important in Emily Prentiss' life.
JJ watched the sleeping couple with a bit of rueful jealousy for what they seemed to have, something she had lost when Will walked out of her life. No, if she was to be honest with herself, she probably lost it when she just assumed he would always be there no matter what she did, including deciding to return to the BAU without discussing it with him first. She looked away from Hotch and Emily to stare out the window. It was time to stop blaming others for her troubles. She needed to take control of her life and re-assess and reevaluate what was truly important to her.
When they landed, Emily was still a little groggy from the combination of her nap and the medication she was still on. Hotch gently helped her into an SUV and Seaver rode with them. He had reluctantly agreed that Emily would be staying at her place during her recovery and Ashley had offered to stay with her for those first few days until she was well enough to be on her own. It wasn't what Hotch wanted, but he had agreed to give Emily some time and space.
After helping Emily to her apartment and getting her settled into her bed, Hotch still lingered, even though the brunette had mumbled a "goodbye" and then promptly turned over and fell asleep. He stood there in her bedroom, a room he had never been in before, and simply watched the woman who had stolen his heart sleep.
"Sir, Hotch," Ashley called out softly though he heard the faintest trace of amusement in her voice. "I think we should let her get some sleep."
Hotch nodded and with a kiss on Emily's head, he reluctantly left the bedroom. Out in the living room, he relentlessly went through all the information he felt Seaver needed to know. If anything happened, she was to call him immediately. She was not to leave Emily alone, no matter what the woman said. If she needed a break, she was to check with him first to see if he could make it over and if for some reason, he could not, she was to call Garcia or Rossi. He made sure, again, that she had the phone numbers for Emily's doctors, both her personal ones and the ones who had treated her in the Hamptons, in case they needed to be contacted.
"I think I can handle it, sir," Seaver told him solemnly, though her eyes twinkled.
Hotch stopped himself, realizing he was sounding like an over-anxious parent leaving his child alone with a sitter for the first time. He looked sheepishly at Seaver and nodded his head before he took his leave.
Ashley turned around from the stove which she was about to turn on to heat up some water for tea. Emily was standing there, in her bathrobe looking a little more alert, but still with traces of fatigue in her face.
"Just left," Seaver replied. "I thought you were sleeping?"
"I was, but I woke up thirsty," the other woman said as she slipped onto one of the barstools that flanked the granite counter between her kitchen and living room. "Are you making tea?"
Seaver nodded and turned on the burner. She retrieved two mugs and went to the cabinet where she had noted earlier Emily stored her tea. "What kind are you in the mood for?"
"I have some Hot Cinnamon Spice tea in there."
"Sounds good," Ashley said as she fished out the box.
They remained silent as the water began to boil and it wasn't until Seaver had filled their mugs with hot water and the tea began to steep that she finally spoke.
Emily frowned. "For what?"
"My assignment was to be your back up, and I wasn't there when you needed me the most." The younger agent bit her lip. "I'm sorry I screwed up."
Emily's face softened and she silently began to dip her tea bag in and out of the hot water. "You didn't screw up, Ashley. You had my back."
"Oh, you mean by getting Hotch there? Well, we were kinda late so a lot of help that was." She wasn't moved by Hotch's words a few days ago and she wasn't moved by Emily's now. The guilt she felt for failing the other agent was crushing.
"No, I mean you've had my back since I came back," Emily said quietly. She smiled at the startled blonde. "And I've never really thanked you for that. So don't feel as if you didn't have my back, because you, Ashley Seaver, have had it from day one. Thank you."
Ashley only stayed for a few days and then she saw her time at Emily's drastically reduced. Hotch's promise to give Emily some "space" only lasted about three days and he was suddenly a daily visitor at her place with each visit becoming much longer than the last one. Emily, however, didn't seem to mind. Perhaps she didn't need as much space and time as she originally thought, at least where Hotch was concerned.
Since Hotch was over so much and Emily was doing so well, the need for Ashley to be there became less necessary. However, she was still doing some errands for Prentiss as the brunette wasn't cleared yet to drive, though she could take short walks. Seaver was entering Emily's apartment with some groceries when she nearly tripped over a pair of shoes Prentiss had left near the front door.
"What the-?" Seaver mumbled. One thing she had noticed was that Emily Prentiss was a bit of a neat freak who liked everything in its place. For her to leave a pair of shoes in the middle of the floor was unheard of as was the plastic CVS bag that Seaver could easily see a few feet from the shoes.
"Emily?" Ashley called out cautiously as she set the groceries down and her hand went to her weapon. She moved forward into the apartment and noticed a trail of Emily's possessions leading to her bedroom. There were her keys, her purse, her sunglasses, all discarded on the floor as if she dropped them in such a hurry, she couldn't be bothered to take five seconds to place them on a table.
Cautiously, Ashley entered Emily's bedroom. She didn't see the woman but she heard a muffled sob come from the bathroom. She felt a modicum of relief. Maybe Emily just really needed to go. She walked over to the bathroom door and noticed it was ajar. She knocked gently. "Emily?"
She heard another sob and concerned, Seaver pushed the door opened and looked into the room. What she saw left her speechless for a full minute. Seated on the bathroom floor was Emily Prentiss who had the most terrified expression on her face. But that was not what rendered the young agent mute. Around Emily Prentiss were four separate home pregnancy tests and from what Seaver could see, each of them showed a positive sign.
"Oh. My…," Ashley said lamely. She looked at Emily whose head came up to meet her eyes.
"I'm pregnant," Emily said in a panicked voice. "I'm pregnant with Hotch's baby!"
"How, I mean, what made you think to check?" Ashley said as she sat down on the bathroom floor next to the distraught woman.
"My last check-up when they were seeing how well the wound was healing, they took some blood to do some standard tests. They called this morning."
"And you didn't believe the doctors with their blood tests so you had to buy four drugstore pregnancy tests to be certain?" Seaver asked in amusement.
"Mistakes can be made, especially by labs," Emily snapped. She looked at the various pregnancy tests. "Oh God, what am I going to do?"
"Well, should I be saying congratulations? I mean, do you want to have the baby?" Seaver looked at the woman curiously.
The beatific smile on Emily's face was answer enough but she said the words anyway. "More than anything. I thought it would never happen for me and now that it has, it feels like a miracle. And for the father to be Hotch…" Her eyes widened. "Oh God, Hotch! He didn't sign up for this! I don't know if he wants any more kids! We're not even an official couple! He's going to think I trapped him!"
Ashley could see the brunette was having a full blown panic attack and reached out to put her hands on Emily's shoulders before she hurt herself. "Emily! Hotch is going to be thrilled! He loves Jack. The man loves kids and he loves you. Besides, he's not the one who needed more time. He seemed pretty certain what he wanted in his future and that was you. I'm positive he's thought of the possibility of more children so I don't think this is going to freak him out."
"But what is the Bureau going to think? Oh my God, what will people say? I got knocked up by my boss!"
"Have you decided if you're going to be staying?"
"No, I'm still trying to sort that out. God, my life is a mess and now I'm bringing a child into it."
"Well, the kid won't be here for another few months so you've got time to sort out your life. Besides, you've got part of it already figured out. Hotch."
The beautiful smile appeared on Emily's face again. "Yeah," she whispered. "I think I had already made up my mind about him days ago." Her hand moved over her flat stomach. "This little guy in here just seems to reinforce what is meant to be."
"Emily?" They heard Hotch call out from the living room.
Knowing he must have let himself in, the two women looked at each other. Ashley patted Emily's knee. "Here's your chance to tell him all of that." She stood and called out to Hotch where they were. She went out to the bedroom to meet him before he saw the brunette and the pregnancy tests.
Hotch entered the bedroom cautiously, and like she had earlier, he came in with a wary look on his face, his hand near his weapon. He had obviously been disturbed by the trail Emily left in the apartment just as she had. He looked questioningly at the blonde.
"She's in the bathroom and she wants to talk to you," Seaver informed him. He was about to ask, but she anticipated his question. "She's fine, but she needs to tell you something." She gave him a mysterious grin and left the room and the apartment completely, knowing her presence was not needed.
Curious, and a little worried, Hotch stepped into Emily's bathroom. He frowned in concerned when he saw her sitting on the floor. "Em? Sweetheart, what's wrong?" He noticed then the number of used pregnancy kits surrounding her and his eyes widened. "Are those-? Are you-? Are we-?"
"Pregnant," she said softly. She watched his reaction closely.
At first, he was stunned and his surprise was plain to see. Then his face cracked into a smile; a genuine, full faced, double dimpled smile and he knelt down next to her to draw her into a bear hug.
"A baby!" he cried out joyously. "We're having a baby!"
Emily let out a laugh filled with happy tears as she hugged him back. "We're having a baby."
He suddenly pulled back from her and looked anxiously in her face. "You do want this, right Em? I mean, I know we've never talked about children and I know you still wanted some time to think about us. I don't want to force you into-"
She cut him off with a kiss, letting him know he should stop talking and that her answer was a definite yes. Yes, she wanted a baby with this incredible man like she wanted a life with him. He eagerly returned the kiss, shifting their positions so he wound up sitting on the floor with her pulled into his lap. Gently they separated and leaned their foreheads against each other. One of his hands buried itself in the soft silk of her hair while the other came down to caress her stomach.
"Our baby," he whispered with the smile still on his face.
"Our baby," she repeated. She let out a snort of laughter. "Well, I guess I should have realized that this could have happened even though we only did it three times. I should have known you would have over-achieving sperm." Emily sighed. "Being on the pill, I would have thought that would be enough, even without a condom. But that afternoon, it didn't even occur to me to ask if you had one."
He made a noncommittal noise in his throat and Emily looked at him suspiciously. "You didn't plan this, did you? To sort of make it more likely I would want to do this. Us, I mean."
"Em, I think it's usually the woman who tries to get pregnant to trap the man, not the reverse," he said in a wry tone.
She laughed at her own foolishness. "You're right." She snuggled against him. "So where do we go from here?"
"Wherever we want, sweetheart," Hotch said as he pressed his lips to her fragrant hair. "We have our lives before us and I see it as being a beautiful one with you, me, Jack and baby Prentiss-Hotchner and maybe a couple of more Prentiss-Hotchner kids."
"Let's start with one Prentiss-Hotchner baby first and then go from there," she said in amusement. They settled into a comfortable silence, but Emily felt she had to say something about the other issues she had been grappling with since their return from the Hamptons.
"About the BAU and the team," she began.
"You don't have to make any decisions now," Hotch told her quickly. "Take all the time that you need."
"This baby changes things in some ways, but…," She pulled back to look at him. "He or she and you and Jack are my number one priority. Not the BAU."
"Do you want to quit?" he asked quietly.
Emily bit her lip. "At the very least, I want to take a leave of absence. I don't want to risk this baby in any way. Hotch, I've been stabbed twice in two years. I'm not going to risk something happening to our child." She snuggled back into him. "I don't know, maybe I am done with the BAU and want to move on to something else."
"Mmm," he growled softly, letting her feel the rumbling in his chest as he pulled her tighter to him. "That something else include me?"
"Oh you're a major part of that something else," she replied softly as she kissed his neck. She sighed. "I'm also not sure if I'm ready to deal with JJ and Morgan yet. So much has happened and…Hotch, I was just so hurt by them and I know they feel I've hurt them too."
He nodded. "It'll take time. It's not something any of you can rush. And truth be told, sweetheart, whatever is less stressful on you is what I'm happy with."
Emily smiled and hugged him tighter. She always knew Hotch was one of a kind; a wonderful man. She just hadn't realized how wonderful he truly was. "I love you," she said softly.
She hadn't said it since she told him weeks ago as she lay bleeding in Bernard Mason's mansion. Hotch hadn't even said those words yet either while she was conscious, not wanting to put added pressure on her when she said she needed space. Now, sitting here on her bathroom floor surrounded by used pregnancy tests, it wasn't the place or situation either of them had ever imagined they would be exchanging "I love you's". Yet, in some strange way, it seemed to be "them".
Hotch smiled at her and said in a low voice, "Wow, that's a good thing because I love you, Emily Prentiss."
He kissed her smiling mouth and when they pulled away from that sweet and simple kiss, he heard her sigh.
"So where do we go from here?" she asked as she played with the lapel of his suit coat.
"Well, first we get off of this cold bathroom floor because I think my butt is falling asleep and then we go and face out beautiful future. Together. Because that's how it's going to be from now on, Em. The two of us together."
She looked up at him and saw in his dark eyes all the beautiful possibilities that she had always thought would be forever out of her reach. Little did she know when she walked into the BAU all those years ago with her small box of belongings and her hand held out that the man she met then would be all she needed to find that happiness that had always eluded her.
Hotch shifted her gently off his lap and then stood. He offered her his hand and Emily looked at it, knowing that by taking it she was not only being helped back onto her feet both literally and figuratively, but she was also embarking on the next phase in her life, a phase that promised to be filled with love, laughter and light.
She placed her small hand in his large one and he gently tugged her up. With his arm around her waist, they left her bathroom and stepped towards their beautiful future.
A/N 2: I hope folks have enjoyed this story. Now that it's completed, I will be resuming "Reckoning" and my CM/NCIS crossover, "A Rose By Any Other Name" so if you're interested in those stories, updates are coming soon! Thanks!