A Moment Out Of Time

Pairing: Aaron Hotchner & Emily Prentiss

Spoilers: A/U Season Five – Set between "Slave To Duty" & "Retaliation"

Rating: M

Summary: Just as the title suggests this is a single moment out of time where Hotch and Emily find comfort and connection in each other. One Shot… Really, just a one shot.

Author's Note: So welcome to my contribution to the "Hooking Up At The Office Christmas Party Prompt" issued by the wonderful TigerLily888.

I wanted to take a bit of a different tact with this idea, in that, this can fit into cannon at any point and in the end it wouldn't affect anything that happens latter, what I have always known as a cannon/episode eclipse. So the idea is that it's really pretty when you read it but after it's over, everything goes back to the way that it was before.

I hope you enjoy. I'm not sure if I managed to get the prompt just right but when I started to think about it this is what came to mind. It doesn't take place anywhere near the office but it's a Christmas party for the BAU, does that still count?

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 (ã Rev. Brandywyne L. Walker 2003 - 2011) Any duplication or distribution of this story, in whole or in part, expressly prohibited without written consent of the Author.

A Single Moment Out of Time

(Hooking Up At The Office Christmas Party Prompt)

Emily stood at the entrance to the room and cringed at the thought of going any farther than she was. If she could have found a way to get out of it without getting herself into trouble with Dave, she would have. The thought flitted through her mind that she should just march herself back upstairs, get changed again and go home, forgetting about the whole thing.

The Academy was hosting a Christmas party at the Marriot this year for the staff and students, as well at the agents assigned to Quantico. It was the first year they had ever done anything like this and when she saw the invitation she had shuddered, adamantly refusing to go. It reminded her too much of the functions she had to attend with her parents as a teenager and she swore to herself that she wouldn't ever get roped into another one so long as she lived.

That was until she encountered David Rossi.

With Hotch still being out of commission since Haley's passing, Dave had taken it upon himself to make sure that the BAU was represented by the team. Morgan seemed like he honestly couldn't have cared one way or the other but Dave had insisted that they all had to come, whether they wanted to or not.

He had reasoned that not only were they agents assigned to the academy but they were also teachers and it was important that they be there, important for the students, so that they could see that the lessons they tried to teach them about enjoying life, amid all of the madness that came with their job, was true not just empty words said in a classroom.

She had to admit, even if it was only to herself, he kind of had a point.

And of course Dave wouldn't settle for anything less than all of them coming and like the rest of the team she had a really hard time saying no to him.

So here she stood, wishing she could find a way out of it.

Emily looked about the room trying to spot the familiar faces of her team and given how full the room was it took a few minutes. She could find JJ and Will, and Morgan but none of the others and her shoulders slumped. She had been hoping that Hotch would come but if he was going to he would have been there by now.

The man was early for everything, always there before the rest of them, always the last to leave at the end of the day.

She had been watching him over the last month, they all had been, as he became more and more isolated from the outside world and felt powerless to stop it. Knowing it was all a part of the process but wishing that he would let her ease some of the burden. She could help him if he would let her but that was the crux of it. He wouldn't let any of the team help. And in the end, it really wasn't her place to interfere in his life, she tried to offer him a shoulder, more than once, but he wouldn't accept it.

Not from her and not from the others.

She didn't even think he was letting Dave in and that surprised her a bit.

Emily really had been hoping that Jessica would be able to talk him into coming tonight, and honestly it was a large part of the reason she came, to offer her friend that support. She knew that a large part of the reason he didn't want to come was all of the subtle pushing he would get about coming back to work, and even though they all knew he was going to come back eventually, he didn't seem to be ready for it.

So in that, she couldn't really blame him for wanting to stay away.

Pasting a smile on her face and doing her best to push the thought in the back of her mind she made her way over to JJ and Will, who were hovering around the wet bar. The smile dropped from her face when she saw that the look the blonde was sporting mirrored what Emily had been feeling since she arrived.

"He's not coming is he?" JJ looked past her friend, towards the door, hoping to see Hotch's tall figure in the doorway.

Emily gently shook her head and gave JJ a sad smile. "I don't think so. He would have been here by now."

"So Jessica didn't have any luck then?" Dave's voice came from over Emily's shoulder and she turned to look at him.

"Doesn't look like it." Emily shrugged lightly as she thought about it. "She said she would try but even she wasn't holding out any hope."

Morgan sauntered over and looped his arm around Emily's shoulders. "He'll come. Have a little faith. If anyone can get him to come it'll be Jess."

In the last month Morgan had turned into the optimist when it came to Hotch, seeming to see the sunny side to the dour man's disposition. Emily and JJ both gave him a halfhearted smile for his encouragement before turning to Reid as he arrived.

Reid looked around at the others before his face also dropped at the sight of their missing Chief. "She didn't have any luck huh? I really thought Jessica would be able to get him to come."

Over the last month the team on a whole had adopted Jessica into their fold as if she was one of their own. Understanding, that like Hotch, she had lost the last of her remaining family, save Jack, and it somehow seemed natural to absorb her in as they struggled to help Hotch with his issues. As a result she had become quite close with most of them and had been equally as distressed when Hotch flat out refused to attend the party.

Jessica had promised them that she would do everything she could to get him to come but made them all promise not to bring it up when talking with him so that he wouldn't feel like they were ganging up on him. Pushing Hotch usually had a way of backfiring on the person doing the pushing. Emily figured that if there was one person in the world that could get away with pushing Hotch, it would be Jessica.

But it looked like she hadn't succeeded.

Emily tried to turn her thoughts away from that path and let Will distract her with a conversation about the different facets of the academy. She smiled softly, knowing it was information that he already knew and thanking him silently for the distraction.

Hotch got out of his cab and the moment it pulled away from the curb he was tempted to call it back. Looking up at the tall building in front of him, he asked himself for the hundredth time since he left the house, how he managed to get roped into this. He pulled his overcoat tighter about himself and started up the steps, dreading each one. The only bright spot to the evening was the team, but that in itself was causing a different kind of apprehension. This would be the first time since the funeral that he was with the team, all together. Sure he had seen them all several times in the last month but never all together and not in so public a venue. The worst part is that he couldn't even begin to explain what was making him feel this way.

Straightening his shoulders forced himself to move forward, pushing the front door open he reminded himself of all of the reason he was doing this.

"I don't understand why you aren't going?" She let out a gentle huff of annoyance as if the reasoning should be obvious. "You're still a member of the BAU and you should be there."

"I just don't think it's time yet. Jack needs me here, she's only been gone a month and I he's still waking at night looking for her. I don't want him waking up and not being able to find me either."

She knew there was much more to it than that, but there was no way he was going to open up about it. She had never met anyone who could be as circumspect as Aaron.

"You can't keep putting it off forever."

"I know, I just don't think it's time yet."

Jessica let out a deep sigh and dropped the subject but Aaron was smart enough to know that this was not going to be the end of it. For one reason or another she really thought he should go to the Christmas party and when she got an idea stuck in her head nothing would shake it loose. He let out a sad smile; she was much like her sister that way.

Hotch allowed his eyes to move over the room and tried to find his team. He could admit to being more than a little surprised at the number of people in the room. If he had to guess there was at least two hundred people in attendance, likely half of the academy seemed to have come.

Spotting his team on the other side of the room he felt warmth fill his chest as he took them in. Emily and Dave were leaning against the wet bar listening to something Reid was talking about but even from the distance he could see their repressed mirth as the genius got more and more worked up about something. Not far from them were the other three. Morgan and Garcia seemed to be having some kind of disagreement. Morgan seemed to be attempting to get his hands on Garcia who was using a lost looking JJ as a shield while she dance away just out of reach of Morgan.

This was home. This was his family.

He figured that Jessica had been right, he should be here and he had been putting this off for far too long. Putting one foot in front of the other he moved across the room, trying to keep his head down and praying that no one would stop him.

Jessica leaned against the doorway and watched the careful conversation that was going on between father and son. She could clearly see what he was doing; she just didn't understand why Aaron couldn't. Although she could understand his reason for it, even if it was subconscious, her brother-in-law was normally much more self-aware than this.

Silently she moved away from Jack's room and headed for the kitchen. Pulling a chair from the table she braced herself for the conversation that was going to come.

Hotch closed the door to Jack's room and turned towards the light in the front of the apartment. He knew Jessica was still here and a part of him was tempted to head to his room just to avoid the conversation that was coming. It had been building for most of the day; he had seen it lurking in her eyes.

Resigning himself to his fate, he got a coffee and sat down across from her. In a move of self-defense he crossed his arms over his chest before uncrossing them and leaning on the table, making the conscious effort to relax. He might not like what was coming but she wouldn't do or say anything to deliberately hurt him.

"Okay, say it."

"Say what?" She blinked at him, having expected him to avoid the discussion.

"Whatever it is that has been building in you today. I know there is something you want to get off your chest, so just get it out."

Jessica let out a weary sigh and considered where to start. It was likely that if she didn't tread carefully this could make things difficult between the two of them. But she had never been one to play it safe so it seemed just best to say it out right.

"I think you should go to the Christmas party."

Aaron sighed before leaning back in his chair. "We've already been over this."

"I know but I still think you should go."

"Okay, why?"

"You have been shut up in this apartment for the last month, only going out when you absolutely have to. That can't be good for you, you need to get out and have interaction with other adults."

"I'll get enough of that when I go back to work."

"And when exactly will that be?" When he didn't comment she pushed forward. "She's gone and it's been over a month. You are allowed to start the process of moving on. No one is going to think less of you… I won't think less of you."

"It's not just that, and you know it." His voice turned on a hard edge. "Jack needs me here, not off at a Christmas party."

Jessica swallowed hard and played the last card she had, hoping it would work and wouldn't drive a wedge between them completely. "And what does it say to Jack that his father shuts himself up in the house all the time and refuses to go out. You say he's having trouble adjusting. Maybe he needs to see you adjusting before he can."

His eyes darted away from hers and she almost gasped in shock at what he let slip, what he had unconsciously allowed her to see. Fear, unmistakable, unmasked fear.

It made sense now that she thought about it. She had seen the way he had pulled back when they visited, as if he had dropped an imaginary wall between him and the world whenever it there was anyone more than the three of them around.

She reached across the table and gave him such a sad look as she took his hand. "They aren't going to hurt you… and you… you aren't going to hurt them either."

His first instinct was to lash out, protect himself from the things that she was saying and then he looked in her eyes. He couldn't do it and let his shoulders slump, admitting to himself that she might had a point… on all counts.

Other than visits from the team, which had been stilted and uncomfortable on all counts, and short trips to the store, the only interaction either he or Jack had with the outside world was in the form of Jessica, someone who was safe.

In the end it hadn't really matter what reason he might have had, he couldn't present a valid argument that Jessica couldn't shoot down. So when the time came she all but pushed him out the door, insisting that he go and refusing to give him a chance to back out at the last minute, even going so far as to elicit Jack's help.

What was he avoiding by staying shut up in his apartment all of the time?

He heard her laughter carry though out the room and realized that he just might know.


For a moment Hotch really look at Emily and felt a shocking swell of desire in the pit of his stomach, so surprising that his steps faltered for a moment.

She was stunning.

Her long dark hair was loose around her shoulders and fell in soft waves, unlike the normal straight she seemed to prefer when she was working. Her shoulders were bare and led the way down to a deep dark red form fitting cocktail dress. God she looked good in red. Hotch could feel his breathing picking up and found himself stunned at the fact that it was Emily Prentiss that was making him feel this way.

She threw back her head and laughed as Dave teased Reid and he was captured.

He'd always known she was beautiful. You couldn't have eyes and not realize it, but he had never acknowledged it as anything more than an abstract thought. She was his friend, his co-worker, his subordinate and he was always very careful to not think about any of the women he worked with the way he was thinking about Emily right now. And right now, how unbelievably desirable she was in that moment was all he could think about.

Emily was the first one to spot him and her face lit up with a thousand watt smile, distracting the others from the things they were occupied with. He struggled for a moment to push down everything he was feeling and thinking, lest anyone else see where his thoughts about the female agent had taken.

Weaving his way through the other people he made his way across the room, unable to take his eyes off of her and that smile until he was standing amidst his team.

Dave thumped him on the shoulder and he was grateful for the distraction. "Aaron, glad you came." The other man reached out and shook his hand and Hotch couldn't miss the pleasure in the other man's eyes. Pleasure brought on by nothing more than his presence.

One by one they all greeted him, giving him pats on the back or hugs, depending on who it was. Everyone asked how Jack and Jessica were doing and the conversation went around in circles about the latest goings on in everyone's lives.

When there was a lull in the conversation JJ was the one that finally picked it up "We didn't think you were going to make it tonight."

He let out a silent laugh at that. "Jessica didn't really give me much choice; she all but shoved me out the door tonight."

He looked around at the group standing around him and let out a groan. In the end it was Reid and Garcia that gave them away, standing next to each other and shifting uneasily from foot to foot.

"You all knew didn't you?"

"Knew what?" Emily blinked at him with wide, innocent eyes and he didn't buy into it for a second.

"You knew about Jessica's campaign to get me to come." He tried to look stern but the looks of happiness on the team's faces made that next to impossible.

Reid shuffled around a bit before he finally spoke, saying what they were all thinking. "It wouldn't have been the same… if you weren't here."

Hotch looked down at the floor and smiled softly at the thought. Sometimes he felt so disconnected from the rest of the team but in moments like this he was reminded that they were family. "Thank you."

As he lifted his head to say something else, he spotted one of the higher ups headed for them; he knew that look and let out a deep sigh. First would be the artificial condolences for his loss and then the subtle questions about when he would be back to work. And this was exactly the reason he didn't want to come in the first place.

Emily looked up into his eyes and saw the almost hopeless resignation that rested there and straightened her back. This was something she could do for him. In the last six months she was powerless to help him with anything, not for a lack of trying but he wouldn't allow it, but this, this was something she could do. With that she spun on her heel and marched away.

Hotch's eyes widened in surprise as Emily fled the group and it took him a moment to figure out what she was doing. The others all looked slightly befuddled until she reached the Assistant Director, heading the man off at the pass. She threaded her arm through the older man's and subtly turned him away from the team. She laughed, smiled and chatted along until she managed to maneuver him into the sights of someone who would keep him distracted.

She turned and he caught her snickering to herself as she headed back over to them.

Aaron raised an eyebrow at her, looking for an explanation.

They both glanced over at the man who was now engaged in a conversation he hadn't been planning and looked confused as to how he got there. Emily gave him a bright smile and nodded her head. "I love doing that to people."

"And what exactly did you do?" He raised a brow at her waiting for her to explain.

"Nothing really, just distraction… that and a little bit of subtle maneuvering." She glanced over at her shoulder at the guy she had led away from him and shrugged gently. "Sometimes there are advantages to growing up like I did."

His face softened at the thought that she did that for him; there was no other reason she would have had to. Emily stepped closer so that she wouldn't be overheard by the others on the team. "I figured you wouldn't want to deal with all of the interoffice crap."

He looked down, slightly embarrassed at having been so transparent and Emily had to resist the urge to reach out and touch him. "Just relax tonight and let us deal with all of this. Dave and I can make sure no one bugs you. He can take care of anything work related and I'll just distract everyone else."

Her eyes softened as she understood part of his problem, what he needed. Emily reached out and gently grasped his hand with her own, moderately surprised when he didn't pull away. "For tonight just forget about being the father, the widower or the unit chief and just be… Aaron."

His brows rose slightly at the familiar address but let it pass as he thought about what she said. Did he even know how to do that? Just be Aaron, without all of the other titles that he lived day in and day out?

For the next hour he leaned against the wall and chatted with Garcia and Kevin about the goings on at the BAU. The things that he didn't often get to hear about because it was shielded from the boss' ears. More than once he found himself having to repress his laughter at some of the antics that were often carried out by the computer people and for a moment he mourned the things he missed out on each day.

And through it all he watched Emily.

She and Dave both would profile anyone who headed for where the team was standing. Depending on what they saw, one or the other would intervene before they managed to make it to Hotch. Occasionally they would let someone through, a few of the students and a couple of the other agents but always it was people who held some amount of affection for the Unit Chief.

Aaron was left with a lump in his throat by the time dinner was being called and they were making their way to their table. In his grief, stress and worry over the last few months, he had forgotten how much he genuinely liked the people he worked with and it seemed as though Emily and Dave would only let passed the people that reminded him of that fact.

Dinner was a noisy affair and as much as Emily resented having to come at the beginning of the night she was glad that she came now. There was much laughter and teasing around the table. This was something that had been missing for far too long and it was so good to see it again.

"Will no. I don't care how many times you ask me, I'm not going to. You know I have two left feet at the best of times, let alone in four inch heels." JJ gave a put out look but everyone at the table could tell that it was just for show.

Will grinned and held out a hand to Emily. She was always game for a little of the more formal dancing, when he couldn't get JJ to give it a go.

Emily smiled and took his hand, allowing him to help her found of the chair. "Can one of you give it a try? She refuses to believe she can learn."

With that Will escorted Emily out onto the floor and began the steps to a simple contra waltz. For a few moments they watched the two of them dancing about the floor before turning back to JJ.

Garcia gave her a gentle poke. "You know he's never gonna stop until you agree to learn don't you?"

"Yes, I'm well aware of how stubborn he can be." JJ gave an amused glance at the floor before huffing her annoyance. "He tried once and I almost broke his toes, I don't know why he doesn't give up."

Aaron leaned back in his chair and watched the conversation moving around the table, all of it focused on poor JJ and her resistance to letting anyone attempt to teach her how to waltz. Periodically he would allow his gaze to travel to the floor space that had been cleared for dancing after dinner.

But every time his eyes moved that way they were drawn to the woman dancing, the one he shouldn't be thinking about the way that he was but couldn't seem to stop.

Surprising everyone he stood from the table and held out a hand to JJ. When she looked up at him with trepidation, not wanting to say no but really not wanting to go out on the floor, he rolled his eyes at her.

"I taught you how to shoot with your left hand; I think I can manage to teach you a simple box step."

JJ's shoulders slumped with defeat and allowed Hotch to pull her up. "Fine but when we all end up in the emergency because I broke your foot, I'm gonna say I told you so."

Aaron just grinned and led her out to the floor. After explaining to her how to count the beats of the music and the simple movement of the steps he tried to lead her through a circuit before dropping his hands.

"JJ, I'm not your boss tonight. You are not going to be graded on your performance. Could you at least attempt to relax?"

"Sorry Hotch." JJ once again placed her hand on his shoulder and listened intently to what he was saying before trying again.

From across the floor Emily and Will watched as the pair moved about in a simple dance and he grinned at her. "I swear to you, that man could get her to jump off a building without her even question why."

"Mmmm." She looked up; expecting to see jealousy but all she saw was affection. "We are all a bit like that I'm afraid."

Will looked down at Emily with open affection, like he held for all of the team. "I had been half afraid when I moved here that I could never compete with the bond you all share but JJ is a really remarkable woman, she loves equally and without reservation when she chooses to."

Emily nodded her head in understanding. She had lost more than one potential relationship for the same reason. "You are very lucky, I envy you both."

She glanced over at the two of them and felt a moment of sadness. She wasn't going to find that with someone… at least not any time soon. But before she could let the depression take hold she shook it off. Emily was nothing, if not patient, especially when it was something as important as this could be.

Will tipped his head to the side, indicating the other two. "Would you mind terribly?"

"You read my mind." Emily smiled at him and allowed him to lead her across the floor.

Hotch noticed the other two coming closer and felt his heart rate speed up. Shaking it off, he turned his attention back to the woman in his arms. "See, not so hard. You just need to relax."

"Thank you Hotch." The smile JJ gave him was slightly embarrassed, over her earlier reluctance.

Aaron came to a standstill and held her hand out in his. "Now if I'm not mistaken, someone has come to take you away from me."

Will held out his hand to JJ and she stepped away, leaving him alone with Emily. They stood there for a moment and watched the other two. Hotch making sure that JJ was doing okay and Emily with a soft sigh of envy.

She turned back towards the table, prepared to return to her seat but gave a startled gasp as she felt a warm hand capture hers.

"Dance with me." Without waiting for a response, Hotch pulled her back to him and drew her into his arms for the remainder of the song.

Emily nodded her head in agreement as she felt his hand slide along her waist before coming to rest just above her hip. She repressed the shudder that wanted to escape, trying to lock down what being in his arms was doing to her. This was so unfair that he should be touching her like this right now. The heat radiated from his body as he pulled her in closer and started to move them to the beat of the music.

Emily nervously darted her eyes around the room, afraid of what he might see if she looked at him for too long. Her thoughts and feelings still a little too close to the surface.

He was graceful, just as she had suspected he would be. She glanced up at him when she saw him looking back at her their eyes held.

"Hotch?" Her voice was soft and trembled slightly at what she could see in his eyes.

Heat. Desire. Need.

He shook his head and gave her a warm smile, squeezing her hand in his, asking her to just let it be for the moment. And Emily closed her eyes in acceptance, knowing that now as not the time.

As the music changed Aaron shifted his hand on her back, pulling her closer, giving him a better position to lead from as the music became more seductive and bluesy. Leaning his head forward, he breathed in the scent of her perfume and the unique fragrance that was Emily alone. He knew he should pull back from her, this felt… different. They never touched, were never close like this.

But now that he had her in his arms he didn't want to let her go.

The feeling of her body swaying against his own caused him to have to repress a moan and her earlier words kept on a repeating loop in his head.

"Just be… Aaron."

With that thought he locked everything else away and surrendered to the feel of her body against his own, the low lighting and the soft music. He tucked her hand into his chest, pulling her just a little closer that was proper and let it all go.

From the table Morgan nudged Penelope and tipped his chin at the floor. "Will you look at that?"

Garcia looked over to where he was indicating and smiled softly at the picture the two of them made. Anyone else, anyone who didn't know them, wouldn't think twice about what they were doing but for those on the team, they could see the start of something.

"It looks good on them. She's been so worried about him."

Morgan nodded his head and then did his best to ignore what his friends were up to, turning back to the conversation going around the table.

After saying goodnight to JJ and Will, who were anxious to get home to Henry, Aaron looked about the room and tried to find all of his missing team members.

Dave and Kevin were parked at the table having an intense discussion about one thing or another. The younger man slumped slightly forward and he was tempted to laugh. He could have told him that attempting to match David Rossi drink for drink was never going to work but then as the night continued they had all seemed to lose some of their inhibitions. The drink had flowed and with it more dancing and more conversation. It was one of the most enjoyable nights Hotch could remember having in recent memory.

And to think at the start of the night, he hadn't wanted to come.

Morgan and Garcia were out on the floor, dancing to the livelier music chosen as the night went on. It seemed strange to him sometimes that they hadn't changed all that much when she became involved with her fellow tech analyst but then again, he never claimed to understand how the friendship between the two of them worked in the first place. He was just really glad it did.

Reid who was at a table close by had managed to find a group people willing to talk with him about one of his hundreds of varied topics. And with the introduction of just enough alcohol were becoming just as animated as the young genius was.

All that left was Prentiss. She had been talking with one of the faculty advisers just a few minutes before but he had managed to lose her and for some reason that distressed him.

Making his way over to the other table he waited until Reid stopped for a breath before interrupting. He leaned over and placed a hand on the younger man's shoulder, drawing his attention and asked in a quiet voice. "Have you seen Prentiss?"

"Um… yeah, she left a few minutes ago." At Hotch's look he was quick to reassure the other man. Emily seemed to have made it her personal mission tonight to make sure that their supervisor remained calm and enjoying himself.

"I think she just went out to get some air." Reid thumbed his finger towards the exit and Hotch didn't wait just turned and headed in the direction he pointed.

Hotch couldn't even say why it was important that he know where she was. The little part of his brain that wasn't feeling the effects of too much spiked eggnog would be wondering but he just knew he had to see her, find where she went.

Aaron found a doorway heading outside that was off to the side of the room the academy had booked for the evening. He looked down and grinned at the piece of wood jammed in the bottom of the door, keeping it propped open and preventing it from locking anyone else out and he knew just on the other side of that door stood the woman he was looking for.

As he pushed the door open Emily turned to look at him, not startled or even surprised by his appearance, she seemed to be filled with a kind of calm acceptance. He found himself stalling out just in the doorway as he took in the sight of her standing there. Somewhere above them was a soft lamp that shone down directly on her and gave her a kind of ethereal glow.

Every thought he had since he arrived that even flashed through his mind and in that moment he knew exactly where the events off the night were going to lead. And judging by the look on her face, she seemed to know too.

Stepping forward, he let the door swing shut behind him, leaving them both in the cold semi-darkness, alone. Slowly, as if he was afraid she would pull away he lifted one hand and allowed it to cup her cool cheek.

"Hotch…" Her voice trailed off, knowing that something was about to change and at the same time knowing that nothing would.

He shook his head, forestalling whatever it was she was about to say. "Aaron."

Emily let out a trembling breath at that, at the way he told her in a single word that this was going to be something different than their normal interactions. Not that he ever touched her, for any reason before tonight, so that too was different.

He moved closer to her and she shivered as she felt his body heat closing in, enveloping her in his warmth and just before his lips connected with hers she heard a single, whispered word fall from his mouth.

Spoken with such longing… "Emily."

Even though she expected the touch she still gasped at the feel of his soft, warm lips pressing against her own. He pulled her flush against his body, wrapping one hand around her back and the hand that had been cupping her cheek slid along her skin, tangling in her hair, holding her in place as he tipped his head slightly.

She shivered at the feeling of his tongue tracing her bottom lip, soft flicks before he nipped at her upper lip causing her to gasp softly and he dove in.

His mouth was so hot against her own as he traced the edges of her teeth with his tongue before tangling with her own. His hands didn't remain idle either, rubbing and petting any portion of her skin he could reach without letting her free of his lips.

This had not been what she had expected from him.

Somehow in the back of her mind she had always assumed that Hotch would be controlled and methodical in his kissing, like he was with everything else.

There was no control here and Emily felt as though she was caught up in a tide that was attempting to pull her out to sea.

A tide called Aaron Hotchner.

He pulled back, gasping for breath and looked deep into her eyes; his own a well of unmasked longing. Without thought, he backed her up against the wall next to the door, pressing the full length of his body against hers, holding her captive to his desires. The feeling of the cold bricks on her overly warm skin caused her to hiss in a deep breath and he took full advantage of it, darting his tongue into her mouth again, tangling with her own, consuming her.

Hotch felt the moment that she surrendered and gentled his hold on her, but there was nothing that would calm his need, not now that he finally had her right where he had been thinking about her for years.

In that moment, in the haze of desire and relief he could finally admit it. He could finally admit how much he wanted this, how many times he had thought of her touch, how hard it had been to repress it each time the thought crossed his mind.

Just this once he was going to be Aaron and forget everything else. He was going to just let go and let himself have her, have everything that her touch promised, even if it was for just one night.

Aaron slid his hands down the length of her body till they came to rest on her hips, pulling her tight into him, allowing her to feel the full length of his desire as he pushed one of his thighs between her legs, keeping her wedged between him and the wall, feeling the moist heat of her thought the material of his pants. One hand slid down and pulled the fabric of her dress up high enough to grip her bare thigh, tugging up till she had it wrapped around the back of his leg.

Feeling her shiver hard, he recognized that it wasn't desire that fueled it but the cold, he released the hold on her lips and let his forehead rest against her own.

Emily panted for breath as she opened her eyes, looking up into his dark orbs, seeing the same crushing need that she herself was feeling.

"Please…" His voice was a whisper against her skin, needy, desperate.

Just for tonight.

The words weren't spoken out loud but she heard them all the same and nodded her head in acceptance. Both of his request and the silent caveat attached to them.

Aaron pulled back from her, just enough so that she could move away from the cold wall but not nearly enough so that she could pull away from him. She held out her hand and trembled again as she felt his fingers thread through hers, before pulling him through the door.

Emily had fully expected that he would let go of her hand, not wanting anyone to see, but when she tried to let go he gripped her hand tighter. As she looked up into his eyes, she could see that he was afraid.

Afraid that if he let go the moment would be lost.

As if she would ever allow that to happen.

Together they stepped onto the elevator and as Emily pressed the button for her floor Hotch moved behind her and slowly wrapped his arms around her waist, allowing his chin to rest on her shoulder and his cheek to press into her neck, savoring the warmth and closeness.

As they ascended to the twelfth floor where her room was located they stayed like that, silent but communicating so much, just enjoying the comfort of each other's presence.

The door opened with a soft ping to a dimly lit hallway and rather than pull away Hotch gripped her hips tightly when she attempted to move forward and pulled her back against his body. He ran his lips softly along the length of her neck, gratified to feel her almost silent moan before reaching down and grasping her hand in his own.

He gave her a slightly shy look, head tipped down and looking at her from the side of his eyes as he tugged her forward out into the hall. The trip to her room was made silently as their soft footfalls were absorbed by the deep plush carpeting.

Hotch was half afraid that this was all going to be a dream, one he had many times over the last year. That somehow if he stopped touching her, even for a moment, that she would disappear on him. Now that the barrier had been breached he had no desire to see it come back anytime soon.

Oh, he knew it would at some point, it had to, but that didn't mean that he didn't want to hang on to this feeling for as long as possible.

Emily reached into her clutch and pulled out the swipe card once they arrived at the door. Just as she was about to swipe the lock Hotch got a devious look on his face and trailed the backs of his fingers along the bare length of her back, causing her to tremble and miss the lock all together.

When he snickered she turned and gave him a teasing glare. "You are going to pay for that Aaron."

His eyes closed at the sound of his name on her lips. Somehow, he didn't expect it to make him feel like it was. It was almost like a missing slot to the puzzle that was him had just been filled and when he opened his eyes there was such heat and intense longing. Longing for something he was just discovering he wanted very much.

Reaching around her body, Aaron took the card from her and unlocked the door, pushing it open. When she turned to go in he leaned down and swept her up in his arms, causing Emily to let out a small shriek at the shock. He hooked his arm under her knees and marched into the room, kicking the door shut behind them.

She was almost tempted to laugh at his uncharacteristic behavior until she looked into his eyes, possessive, feral, needful, all wrapped up in the most enigmatic and taciturn man she had ever known. But at the moment he was completely transparent to her, and unfortunately just as confounding as he was an hour ago.

Once they were in the room with the door firmly shut behind them, Aaron allowed her to slide down the length of his body, enjoying the rush of having her, warm and soft, against his own form. Finally, where he had wanted her for longer than he cared to admit, or would even admit to himself.

Admitting it would mean admitting that his barriers weren't quite as strong as he assumed although, at the moment, he was hard pressed to explain why he needed them at all.

Emily slowly closed her eyes as he reached out and cupped her face in his palms, luxuriating in the feel of his warm skin enveloping her own. Feeling his breath fanning her skin she let her lips part slightly and waited.

For long moments he just stood there with his forehead pressed to hers and the anticipation was killing her, waiting to see what he would do next.

Slowly she opened her eyes and blinked up at him as he pulled back and what she saw there…

Was that… trepidation?

"What is it?" Her voice was soft with her query.

At first she thought he wasn't going to answer her, he was quiet for so long. "I'm… nervous."


"I'm not sure really. No reason I guess, or a hundred reasons."

She watched him, looking a little deeper, the ability to read him, finally, and figured that she knew what at least part of the problem was. "Aaron, in the morning I'm still going to be the same person I've been for the last three years."

"It's not that." He pulled back from her, allowing his shoulder to droop. "I'm afraid of changing things, of things changing with us. Of losing you, the person you've become in the last few months, the friend that I've found." Emily could hear it in his voice, knew what that admission had just cost him.

"You aren't going to." She moved towards him, grasping his hand in her own. Her eyes met his and she willed him to see the certainty in her own. "I know that seems easy to say but honestly, I know what I'm doing and I know what to expect from tonight." She paused for a moment as another thought occurred to her. "But maybe you aren't ready for this yet, maybe it's too soon. I can see the thought lurking there, behind your eyes."

Hotch moved over to the side of the bed and sat down hard, balancing his elbows on his knees he buried his face in his hands, scrubbing over the skin, trying to drive out the thoughts that were rattling around in his head.

How did he explain this to her, without sounding truly pathetic? She was so worldly, experienced. He had listened to her talking with the others, the things she had seen and done in her life time left him feeling cloistered, sheltered. And that carried forward to women as well.

Emily watched him for a brief moment before she made up her mind and moved over to where he was sitting. She kicked off her shoes and hiked up the end of her dress before kneeling on the floor between his knees. Very carefully she pulled his hands from his face and looked up at him.

When he wouldn't meet her eyes she dropped her voice to a whisper. "Aaron, look at me, please."

He forced his eyes to hers and she almost wept at the wealth of emotion in their dark depths. "You haven't been with anyone other than her, have you?"

He paused for a moment before he shook his head looking away from her again.

"Do you want to go? Or do you want to stay here… with me."

For long moments he just looked at her there, kneeling at his feel, her beautiful brown eyes, full of concern and affection and in that moment he couldn't think of anywhere else he would rather be. All of the thoughts raging through his head, that he had been able to ignore while taking care of Jack and adjusting to life, seemed unimportant. This was Emily and above all else, she was his friends. Over the last six months she had proven that beyond a doubt.

When he finally spoke, his voice was husky from repressing what he was feeling. "Stay. I want to stay with you… more than anything."

She gave him an understanding smile and in that look Emily managed to tell him everything he needed to know. For the first time in all the years they had worked together, there were no barriers, no repression, everything, every thought, every feeling was on the table for the other to see.

"Then trust me."

"I do."

With those quiet words Emily leaned up and kissed him, doing her level best to obliterate every other thought in his mind.

Emily would be the first to admit that this was not that different for her. She was accustomed to being the aggressor in a relationship, the one who was bold, more forthright. But somehow with Hotch this felt different, she felt different. In his passive acceptance of her, his surrender to what they were feeling, added a new depth to what they were feeling, a deeper level of intimacy.

Hotch never surrendered to anyone.

She lifted her hands and ran her fingers through the sides of his hair, feeling their soft texture under her fingers and nearly moaned out loud. How many times had she looked at him, sitting across from her on the plane or riding in a car and thought about touching him, just like this?

It was surreal… yet heartbreakingly so.

After a few minutes of passive acceptance he finally shook off the last of his nerves. This was Emily. There was no other woman in the world that he trusted more, not only with his safety but he suspected he could trust her with his heart too, He could trust her to understand him, in a way that no other woman could, to not hurt him as he had been in the past.

He was safe here with her.

Aaron reached out and cupped her shoulders in his hands before sliding his hands down her sides, till he was cupping her ribs in his warm palms and pulled her up off of the floor. He pulled forward till she was forced to straddle his thighs on the bed, resting her weight against him.

She pulled back and let out a soft chuckle.


"Thank you… that was killing my knees."

He laughed softly as he allowed his hands to drop to her knees and rub them gently before the seriousness of the moment took over again. Carefully, he ran his hands up the length of her thighs, pushing the ends of her dress up with him as he went. She lifted herself just slightly so that the material didn't pull and let out a soft gasp as his hands cupped her ass, bringing her forward, flush against him.

Unable to repress it any longer, he gasped at the feeling of her heat, separated from him by just a few strategic pieces of fabric. Leaning back slightly he looked up into her down turned face and smiled lightly, feeling free in a way that he hadn't in longer than he could remember. It was shocking to him, in that moment, how natural this all felt, to have Emily, of all people, sitting in his lap.

This was something that he could honestly say that he never expected to experience.

Emily leaned down and feathered a soft kiss at the edge of his lips and then another, and another, until he couldn't resist and captured her lips with his. She wrapped her arms around his neck and let herself fall into the feeling.

Now this, this was everything she ever expected a kiss from Aaron Hotchner to be like. He was methodical, direct, firm but so passionate and heartbreakingly gentle. She felt one of his hands slide up the length of her back to tangle in her hair, holding her closer to him, allowing her no room to move, no means to escape. He nibbled gently on her lower lip, hesitantly asking for permission to come in and with the first touch of his tongue on hers, she was lost.

Slowly, trying not to break the seal of their kiss she slid her hands along his chest, pushing off his suit jacket as she went. He let out a soft growl when he had to let go of her long enough to shrug the material away, flinging it off the end of the bed. Emily leaned back and tried to repress her laughter.

She had always expected he would be one of those men that stopped in the middle of a heated embrace to carefully undress and fold his clothes.

And from the look on his face, he knew exactly what she was thinking. Without any warning or hesitation he flipped them over on the bed so he was leaning over her, she let out a soft screech at the unexpected movement.

"I'll show you." He growled in her ear and then proceeded to trail his lips down her neck, biting and nibbling as he went.

Slowly he gripped the strap on her shoulder and lowered it, inch by inch, scratching lightly at her skin, causing her to let out a series of soft deep moans as his lips followed in the trail of his fingers. Unable to resist, he followed the line of her dress from one shoulder to the others, nuzzling gently against her soft skin, mouthing unheard words as he went.

Aaron repressed a shudder as her fingers threaded through his hair, scrubbing at his scalp as he repeated the same process with the other spaghetti strap, delighting in her unarticulated whimpers just from the feel of his lips and tongue tracing along her skin. Pulling back slightly he raised his hands to brush the hair back from her face a slight frown marring his features.

"What is it?" Her voice was so quiet when she spoke, afraid to break the mood.

"You are so incredibly beautiful." His eyes traced her features, not stopping for more than a second on any one.

She raised her eyebrow at that. "Then why do you look as if this information has annoyed you?"

"No… not annoyed." He leaned down and pressed his lips gently to hers before pulling back again. He ran his fingers through her hair, fanning it out on the bed beside her as he considered what he was thinking. "I just don't understand how I never really noticed that fact before."

Emily's face softened and she gave him an understanding smile. "Because you couldn't see it, could you?"

Now it was his turn to raise a brow at her and she laughed at the dumbfounded look on his face. Calming herself she reached up and traced the line in his cheek, the one that told her that he used to smile. "It's easier to compartmentalize when you can look at someone and just see the agent, not the person, especially when it's someone that you find attractive."

She squinted her eyes, trying to decide if this was information she wanted him to have, that little bit of power, before decided that yes, she could trust him with this.

Her face turned slightly shy as she spoke and he had to lean closer to hear what she was saying. "It's the same reason whenever you take off your jacket at work and roll up your shirt sleeves, I can usually find somewhere else to be.

Following action to words she allowed her fingers to trail along with length of the arm that was holding he weight off of her.

His face softened with understanding and smiled at the small amount of trust she was giving him by sharing such a personal thought. "But you saw it didn't you?"

"Yes." She pursed her lips before grinning again. "But then I can compartmentalize better than most people. You included."

He acknowledged the truth in her words by a tip of his head. "Do you think I'll be able to put it back in the box, now that I've accepted the fact?"

She laughed at that, surprised that he even needed to ask. "Save me, out of all of the people I have ever known you are by far the best at being able to repress what you are feeling. Even if this was going to go somewhere Aaron, you would be one of the few people I don't think would ever have that issue."

He grinned to acknowledge what she was saying, trying not to get caught on the "if" part of that statement. That was something best left for when he was alone and had time to process and consider what that would mean and right now was not the time for that.

Right now was the time to enjoy and with that he pulled away from her, levering his body from the bed. He was tempted to laugh at the sight she presented, her clothes and hair all disheveled, leaning up on her elbows as she looked up at him in confusion, trying to figure out why he left her there.

Unable to hold it in any longer he laughed as she frowned up at him, feeling for the first time in a long time, joyous. He held out a hand to her, helping her up off of the bed and into his arms. In the space of a moment the mood turned serious again and he was tempted to thank her, for giving him this, by accepting him, letting him feel… happy, even if it was just for the one night.

Her hands running along the length of his back brought forward a resurgence of the desire he had been feeling, desire that had been tempered slightly by their conversation. It was odd for him that he could feel so many things in the course of one evening, with one woman and the night wasn't even over yet.

Aaron trailed his hands down her sides, molding the shape of her curves with strong hands, bending slightly as she reached the end of her dress. Slowly, teasingly he bunched up the fabric as he made the return trip, allowing the backs of his fingers to caress her soft, warm skin, pulling up till he was able to lift it over her head.

Aaron opened his lips in awe as he looked at her standing before him, her arms lowering slowly as she stood before him in nothing but a black lace strapless bra and panty set. The dark color against her already pale skin, made her look almost otherworldly in the low lighting of the room. He trembled slightly at the heated look in her eyes as she moved forward, her long fingers pulling at the ends of his tie, slipping it off his neck before moving on to the buttons of his shirt.

Emily slowly slipped each button, following each new piece of skin presented with a press of her lips and light flick of her tongue. Her hands pulled the tails of his shirt from his pants as she pressed her lips to his throat, nipping slightly at flesh when he tipped his head back and moaned as her hands firmly moved along his pecks, grazing his nipples with her nails.

When she started to push his shirt off his shoulders, her eyes watered at when the first of his many scars came into view. Without thought she leaned forward and pressed her lips hard to the darkest and jagged of all of the scars, the one just below his clavicle, the one closest to his heart.

"Emily… No…" Aaron attempted to push her away, keep her from seeing them. For the time they had been together in her hotel room, he had forgotten about their presence.

"Yes." She reached up and cupped his face in her hands. "They are beautiful." Emily pressed her hand to the one just below his right ribcage and was saddened when he flinched, looking away from her.

"How can you say that?" There was a definite note of disbelief in his voice.

"Because they show me how strong you are, how resilient." She pressed her lips against the same one, just about his heart, putting as much feel as she could into her next words, pulling back so he could see the truth in her eyes. "Because they show me that you survived and are stronger because of it." Her voice was so soft but so strong that he was forced to look back into her eyes. "They show me you are still here."

Deliberately, keeping her eyes locked on his eyes, she lowered her head back to his skin and traced the first one, the one above his heart, the one that could have killed him had it been just an inch away from where it was. He slid her lips along the length of it before extending the tip of her tongue, lapping at it, sucking on the still sensitive skin.

For long moments Hotch stood there with his eyes on her, watching intently as she traced each of his nine scars, giving each one the same loving attention as the first. The fanciful notion crossed his mind that she was trying to heal them with her touch, but even more so than that, he could feel it, feel different about it. A part of his had always been afraid that any woman that saw him this way would be repulsed by them, but seeing the raging desire in the dark depths of her eyes, it was more than obvious that she wasn't.

Unable to hold himself still any longer he grasped her arms, jerking her forward, before propelling them both back onto the bed again.

He attacked her lips with small nips and licks till she gasped and let him in. His tongue tangled with hers, doing his level best to absorb her, everything about her, her scent, her taste, the feel of her. He trailed his hand down from her jaw till he reached the mound of her breast, molding and shaping the soft skin till he reached the closure at the front, giving it a flick with his fingers, allowing the delicate material to part.

Emily trembled as his gun calloused fingers trailed her skin before coming to her achingly hard nipple. She slammed her eyes shut at the sensation of the slight tugging of his fingers.

"Oh god…" She lifted her eyes to the unbelievable sight of his mouth suckling on her flesh. She slammed her head back onto the pillow, trying to catalogue all the feelings raging through her body.

His hand trailed down her side till he gripped the small strip of material at the top of her hip. She reached down and scratched at the skin of his back, feeling him shudder slightly just before the delicate elastic snapped under the strain of his grip.

Emily sawed her legs till she managed to flip him over onto his back. He looked up into her eyes and smiled at how proud she looked of herself, she trailed her hands down his chest, tickling the skin softly as she leaned forward, claiming his lips again in a hard kiss.

Emily tugged on the ends of his belt before snapping open his pants, together their hands pushed them along with his boxers down his legs until they were far enough down so that he could kick them off the end of the bed.

Rolling back again till Hotch was situated between her legs, his hard length pressed against her causing her to roll her back with pleasure. He reached between them and was surprised when she gripped his wrist before he reached his goal.

"No Hotch, no more foreplay." Her voice trembled with the effort to repress her desire.

He nodded his head before leaning down to kiss her, lining himself up against her he traced the head of his substantial erection along her folds, ensuring that she was ready for him, before he started to push.

Emily pulled back and gasped at the first touch and Aaron traced her features with his eyes, before burying his face into her neck, afraid of what she might see in his eyes, as he pushed the first inch inside her. His lips trailed up, panting breath on her skin. "Christ Emily, you're so soft… so tight." His voice trembled with the effort it was taking him not to drive his full length into her, to give her time to adjust.

Emily arched her neck hard at the first feel of him, gasping for breath, trying to calm the heat flowing through her blood but it wasn't working.

"Please… I need… Just…" Her voice trailed off, unable to express what it was she needed. Not sure she could be that vulnerable, even with him.

"Just what Emily? Tell me and I'll give you whatever you need." His voice was soft but still with that core of strength that had always attracted her to him and she finally gave in to what she was feeling.

"Just take me." Emily ended in a scream as he did just that, driving into her, deep and hard. Pleasure just bordering on pain filled her body as he pulled the full length out before driving in again, pushing her into the bed beneath them, claiming her for his own.

Their movements were frantic, pushing, pulling, as he filled her again and again. He listened to every moan and whimper she let out trying to remember every single moment, a part of him afraid he would never feel like this again.

Emily banded her legs around his waist, pulling him deeper inside of her, clutching his shoulders as the both strove for release. She could feel the tingling in the end of her toes, and when he slipped his hand between them and gently touched her clit her body jerked hard and she let out a cry as her mind whited out with her pleasure. Feeling her trembling around his length, Hotch finally let go and cried out softly in her ear as he came deep inside her, his arm banded about her body, holding her as close as humanly possible.

But in the midst of the euphoria that always came with release there was something else, under the surface, struggling to be seen.

As his breath slowed and he allowed his body to relax against her softer one he looked deep within her eyes and it found its way to the surface.

Peace… and love.

The missing piece of his heart, the ones that had been shattered for so long were starting to find their way back to the places they belonged.

All because of Emily.

Hotch flicked off the light to the bathroom and straightened his tie out as he looked at the woman lying in the bed, gazing back at him with soft, warm eyes. Emily looked so comforting in that moment that all he really wanted to do was strip his clothes back off and climb back with her.

At some point after he had gotten up to shower and dress she had wiggled her way into the warm spot that he had left and was currently curled up on her side watching him with understanding eyes and he was humbled by what he saw there, especially knowing the conversation they would need to have before he left.

He moved his way over to the bed and settled gently on the edge next to her. Picking up her hand he placed a gentle kiss on the back of it before holding it to his chest. He opened his mouth to speak but she cut him off, not giving him a chance to start.

"You don't have to say anything Hotch. I understand."

And she did, he knew that, it was one of the many reasons he found himself up in her hotel room that night.

"I really think I do." He bushed her hair back from her face and gave her a sad smile before he continued. "I need to say this for both of us."

Aaron allowed his gaze to move to the wall as he tried to figure out what to say to her, well, not so much what as how. He looked down at her laying with her head nestled in the pillow he had used just a short time before and wanted to rally at the heavens for how cheated he felt at the moment. To have found this and knowing he was going to lose it before he even had a chance.

"I'm not ready for this." She opened her mouth and he smiled softly, placing a finger on her lips, stilling the words before she spoke. "Shhh. Let me finish."

Emily nodded her head and stared up at him and for once he didn't plan out what to say and just let things come.

"I wish it was a different time for us, that we had come together a year ago, or a year from now. But too recently, too much has changed for me and I'm a bit of a mess right now." He looked down at her before letting his gaze move away from her face, feeling it would be easier to say without seeing that understanding look in her eyes.

"Haley is gone now. I'm still not sure how to live in a world that she's no longer a part of and now I have to figure out how to be a father to my son without having the buffer of his mother to help." He reached up and pinched the bridge of his nose, feeling the pressure coming back, pressures that had been non-existent when he was in her arms.

"Not to mention that after everything that's happened in the last six months I'm going to have to try and figure out how to integrate myself back into my job and the BAU. So much has changed and for the first time in my life I feel lost."

He leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to her lips, allowing it to linger for a moment longer than he needed to, trying to memorize the feeling of her, of being here with her like this, the warmth, the affection, the honesty.

Aaron braced his forearm on the bed to keep them close as he leaned over her. "You are such a wonderful, sensual, beautiful woman. And you deserve no less than absolute focus from the man who loves you and I can't give you that right now." He let out another soft sigh. "But God do I wish I could."

Hotch sat up again and prepared to leave her, even though ever male instinct he had was screaming at him not to.

Emily followed him up, sitting in front of him and allowing the sheets to pool around her waist. He let out a near silent groan at the sight and she chuckled lightly at his obvious appreciation of her body.

She wrapped her arms around his shoulders and pulled herself closer to him, enjoying his warmth and attention for the last few minutes.

"I knew all of this when I led you up here. I knew that tonight was all we would have, that it would be a moment out of time for us and I'm okay with that." She reached up and gently ran her fingers through his hair, smoothing it back into place, as she had wanted to do thousands of times in the past. "You needed this and to be honest, I've been so worried about you, I need it too."

Hotch wrapped his arms around her back and allowed the tips of his fingers to trail down her spine, reveling in the shiver that passed through her body at the feeling. Looking at the way her eyes dilated with desire he had to wonder how long it would be, before he needed this again but couldn't have it.

"Monday morning we'll be back at work, and things will go on just as they always have been." Emily saw the sadness pass through his eyes and kissed him softly, enjoying the lingering taste on her lips as she pulled back and let go of him. "But Aaron, things won't always be like this for you. One day you will be back on even footing and when that happens…" She sucked in a deep breath, hoping she wasn't suggesting too much. "I'll still be here, waiting, if you want me." Her voice trailed off at the end, almost questioning.

His eyes widened at the thought that she would wait for him to get it together, that one day he might be able to have this again but felt a shock pass through him at the idea that she could even question that he might still want her.

Emily watched quietly as the tension he was holding in his frame loosened and his eyes crinkled slightly at the corners with pleasure and she waited. Waited to see what he would say to her offer and prayed that it would be what she hoped.

"I would never ask that of you Emily." When she opened her mouth to object, he swooped forward to kiss her, cutting off whatever it was that she was going to say. "That doesn't mean I won't take the offer."

"It's not an offer, it's a promise. You, Aaron Hotchner, would be more than worth the wait." She smiled as he pulled her forward into his arms again.

"Emily… I think I'm…" He looked hesitant, like he was unsure of his words.

Emily reached up and pressed a finger to his lips. "Shhh. Not now. You don't have to say it. Everything else can wait, until your mind is all back together in one piece, until you are ready. Don't say something now that you are going to regret when you walk out the door."

His brow furrowed at her words, not understanding why she would say them. "I would never regret saying that to you."

"Yes, you would." At his frown, she gave him a kind, understanding smile. "I know you Aaron and if you said the words you are thinking, the moment you walked out the door, knowing that nothing has changed between us, you would start dissecting it, dissecting the entire evening. Looking at it all, over and over again and it would change how you feel about it. You don't do anything half way and those words would change things."

He looked slightly chagrined at how well she seemed to know him and the worst part was that he never knew, never suspected.

Emily decided on a spur of the moment, from the look on his face, to meet him half way at least. "I know how you feel; you don't have to tell me, because I feel that way too. But the words can wait and I'll still be here when you are ready to say them."

He looked deep into her eyes, his own glowing with happiness and pressed his lips to hers. Sealing the promise between them and savoring the hope of what might come in the future.

Aaron stood at the front of the hotel and breathed in the cold early morning air while he waited for his cab to arrive and take him back to his little apartment and his son. Leaning his head back, he watched as the small tiny flakes fell from the sky, enjoying the way they felt as the landed on his skin and quickly melted away.

There was a hope in his thoughts that wasn't there twelve hours ago and he secretly thanked Jessica for pushing him into coming. He remembered back to how much he was dreading it and was so grateful for the way it turned out.

He thought back to the woman that was laying in the bed twelve stories above him and felt a genuine smile cross his lips. Tonight was something he never would have expected in a million years but he couldn't find a single part of him that regretted the night they just had.

He didn't know what was going to happen in the next week or even the next month but as he ran his tongue along his lips and savored her lingering taste, for the first time in over a year, he felt hope.

Hope for what the future could bring, and the possible changes that could come from something he never would have considered.

Aaron gave the hotel one last lingering look before opening the door to the cab and slid into the back.

He quietly told the driver his address before letting himself relax back into the seat. He figured it was time to start changing the way things always went with her. He didn't know when he might be in a position for something more, something he was finding with each passing minute that he wanted desperately, but for now he could at least accept the friendships she had always offered him.

It was a start.

The End

Author's Note: So there you have it… a cannon eclipse and my contribution to Tigerlily's prompt. I'm really thinking at this point I need to learn to be less long winded. This was supposed to be a short one shot… Not so much.

There are parts of this that need a little more work but I pushed it out before giving it my last run through so that I could post by the deadline… might have to polish it a bit later on. So as a result there are likely to be grammar and spelling errors though out and if you find any… well, I'll get to them later.

Happy holidays to all of you and thank you for taking the time to read, I hope you enjoyed it!

Many blessings, Brandywyne