Author's Note: Another Girl'verse stand alone. It's a follow-up to the Em & Hotch out hat shopping. Bartholomew Cubbins Had Nothing On Emily Prentiss. This is the bikini shopping. You can read this one without the other, but I think that they flow better if you start with their first outing.

This one has a bit more ballast to it than hat shopping, but that's what tends to happen when I'm not really in a fluffy state when I start something. Then all of a sudden pointless stuff has a "point," and God knows none of us want that. Seriously though, more bonding than fluff, but they're still in that nice fluffy, no stress, (generally) no angst, stage to their relationship. So it ends much lighter than it starts :)

By Girl canon, this is mid-August 2008. And it's a long one!

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Bonus Challenge #18 - Summer Fun!

Show: SpongeBob Squarepants

Title Challenge: The Battle of Bikini Bottom


Itsy Bitsy, Teenie Weenie . . .

"Let's keep it moving Prentiss. We're NOT here shopping for blouses."

Hearing the bite in Hotch's tone, Emily's attention snapped away from the red silk blouse on the rack, and up to see Hotch glaring down at her. And seeing that it was a 'genuinely pissed off' glare and not just a 'slightly exasperated at Emily's slow poking through Women's Casual,' glare, she felt a little dig in her chest.

It wasn't like him to be so mean to her.

"I was just looking at the price," she mumbled as she pulled her hand out of his and curled her fingers back into a fist, "no need to be so grumpy about it."

The grumpiness was surprising given that the whole reason behind their Macy's shopping excursion was so that he could help her buy . . . aka watch her try on . . . a bikini or three in preparation for her upcoming beach vacation with her parents. But for some reason that she'd yet to determine, he'd been cranky since they'd left the office.

Not that he'd been snapping at her all that time . . . she wouldn't have tolerated that . . . but 'the mood' could not be missed.

He was distracted and tense but he wouldn't tell her why.

Twice she'd asked him about it and he just waved her off, said he was fine and then lapsed into silence. So it was clear that he wasn't fine, but she had no idea what the problem was. And he was of course entitled to be in a bad mood if he so chose. But what he was not entitled to do . . . she crossed her arms at her chest . . . was to be mean to her when SHE had done absolutely nothing wrong.

That wasn't okay.

And just as she was about to suggest that they push off the bikini shopping to another night . . . really, it was just going to be ridiculously awkward even looking at bikinis with them now in a 'tiff' . . . Hotch suddenly dropped his hand onto her shoulder. No words came with the action. But then he started guiding her over to an evening wear display.

They stopped behind a rack of black and red polka dotted cocktail dresses.

And right as she opened her mouth to ask him what the hell he was doing, Emily suddenly found herself wrapped up in an unexpected bear hug.

Though at first she remained stiff in his arms . . . she still didn't know what in God's name was happening there(!) . . . as Hotch squeezed her to his chest, she heard him murmur in her ear.

"I'm sorry. I didn't mean to snap at you."

And that's when her irritation with him began to melt. Then he rubbed his hand up and down her back and she sighed, finally giving up on being standoffish as she slipped her arms around his waist.

Her head fell to his chest.

This right here was exactly why it was impossible to stay mad at him about anything for more than a few minutes. He was a really good apologizer, and a really good hugger.

Though unfortunately . . . through-out their time together . . . the two activities had often gone hand in hand. But the necessity of the apologies in general had been fading the more time they now spent together. Still though . . . she sighed . . . it would be nice if there came a day where there was random awesome hugging without it EVER coming with a corresponding apology. Of course world peace would be nice too.

But she wasn't holding her breath for either of those outcomes.

So she whispered against his chest.

"Okay, I forgive you for being a jerk."

A second later Emily heard a relieved sigh of "thank you," in her ear. But she wasn't about to let it all go quite yet. The words might have been forgiven, but the problem was not forgotten.

Something was up.

"But Hotch," she tipped her head back to look up at him, "now would you please tell me what's bothering you? Because it's very obvious that something is. And I think if you keep letting it sit there, the more likely it is we're going to be coming back around to this moment again an hour from now."

Feeling a painful dig at Emily's comment . . . and knowing full well that she was right, though he was probably in danger of falling right back into his "jerk" behavioral pattern again in well less than an hour . . . more likely ten minutes from that moment . . . Hotch closed his eyes in disgust.

Just because you knew that there was a problem, that didn't necessarily mean that you knew how to fix it. And he didn't know how to fix this one.

So perhaps it would be better just to take Emily home.

And he started to say just that thing, that it would probably be better if they just picked this up another day. But then his words faltered as he felt a warm hand on his cheek.

"Come on, it's just me." She whispered, "You know I won't tell anyone."

And then she put her head back on his chest, her hand falling down to meet the other one in a lock at the small of his back.

She had wrapped herself around him like a glove.

And feeling her that way, so loving and affectionate, and after he'd just been so shitty to her, brought an unexpected sting to Hotch's eyes. Sometimes he felt like this friendship of theirs . . . this friendship that had come to mean the world to him . . . was just a one way street. That all he did was take, and all she did was give.

That he didn't deserve her kindness at all.

'No,' a little voice in his head immediately corrected, a little voice that sounded like Emily, 'that's not true. You're being unkind to yourself, and to her.

After all . . . the little voice reminded him as he tucked her in closer . . . Emily wasn't a masochist. She wouldn't spend time with him if she didn't enjoy herself.

If she wasn't getting something from him too.

And he knew that she liked him. A lot. She'd told him that flat out. And he liked her a lot too.

Sometimes too much.

And if he was being honest with himself . . . and he was working on that . . . that's why he had taken advantage tonight. He had let slip some of the ugliness because part of him thought it was okay, that she had become so much a part of his personal world, and not just his professional one, that she would put up with it anyway.

But she hadn't. And good on her for that. For calling him on his shit.

That's what he needed.

So he decided to take a new step . . . to try a new path.

Sharing.

He took a breath.

"We got a new case today," he whispered as his eyes slowly opened, "I don't want to get into the specifics now." He cleared his throat, "we're covering it tomorrow morning. But um, it's bad and it keeps um," he made a spinning motion with his hand, "it keeps running in my head and uh . . . I'm sorry," he shook his head, "this is not your problem, this is my problem. I'm sorry for um . . . I'm just sorry."

Well . . . he thought with disgust . . . so much for sharing.

Idiot.

And for a moment after that embarrassing display, he kept his eyes fixed at a point over Emily's shoulder. He was looking at a mannequin wearing a purple dress. But then he finally accepted that he was being a coward. He was afraid of what she would think of him, of his inability to have a normal conversation like a normal adult.

He wanted to just leave.

But obviously that wasn't an option. Nor was continuing to avoid her gaze . . . after all she was standing right in front of him. So finally he looked down to find Emily staring up at him. Her expression was soft, kind . . . sympathetic.

It made his chest hurt.

He abruptly let go of her body. Even that little step of just telling somebody that he couldn't handle something, that might have been too big of a step for him.

And needing some space . . . and having absolutely none in the claustrophobic racks of gowns . . . he tried to move away from Emily. He got far enough back that he could feel the dress rack behind him pressing into his shoulder.

"I don't think I'll be very good company tonight," his voice dropped as his gaze shifted back to his friend, the mannequin, "so I think that it would be best if I just take you home now."

He wasn't ready for this. It just wasn't in him to open up . . . not in that way. Not in any way. He didn't ask her for support and understanding from anyone, about anything. And certainly he'd never reached out to anyone to discuss his feelings about his work.

That would be ridiculous.

But still . . . his fingers curled into two tight fists . . . Emily had deserved an explanation for his behavior. For how he'd spoken her. But that was it. That was the end of it. Having her see him this uncomfortable was making him feel even worse now than he had before.

Just because Emily also did this terrible job . . . just because she might have some perspective here that would help him . . . that didn't mean that he was capable of asking for that help. Not yet.

Not today.

Emily bit her lip as she looked down to see the two foot gap now separating her from Hotch. A wave of sadness washed over her.

The distance between them wasn't just physical. For just a moment . . . a tiny moment . . . he'd tried to let his guard down. And for that moment when he'd begun talking, she'd had a glimpse of the hurt and pain that he hid from the world. But then he realized what he'd done.

Let himself be vulnerable.

And being vulnerable . . . being human . . . just wasn't in the Aaron Hotchner handbook. Superman didn't tell Lois when he had a bad day. Superman just saved the world and when he came home, he simply hung up his cape.

And then he moved on to the next thing.

And that's what Hotch was trying to do now, move on to the next thing. And the next thing was the door. He was trying to push her away.

Fat chance.

"Did I ever tell you," she started softly, her gaze still locked on the linty carpet separating them, "that when Reid was taken, that night I went out behind the dumpsters, and I cried?"

Perhaps if she could give a little, he would take a little.

Though Hotch knew Emily was throwing a line out to him . . . a line that he wasn't sure he wanted to catch . . . he of course couldn't let that question go unanswered. Then he would be failing her, and not just himself.

That was not a choice at all.

So slowly shook his head.

"No," he bit his lip, "you never told me that."

So many things they shared . . . and so many things they still had to learn.

"Yeah," Emily ground her teeth, "I know that you all thought I was being a complete hardass . . . totally disconnected and unfeeling about the situation . . . but I wasn't. I mean," she shook her head, "I was, but I was because you were. All of you, but you especially. You were so capable and strong. And I didn't know if I could be as strong as you. So I had to try to stay disconnected, because that was my only way to cope. I had no other outlets, nobody to confide in," her eyes snapped up to his. A sad smile touched her lips.

"I had no friends on the team."

"Prent . . ."

Hotch tried to cut her off, but Emily wasn't having it. She just put her hand up.

"No, Hotch it's fine. I was new and we were all still feeling each other out. I just . . ." she tipped her head, "it was just a bad time for everyone. But what I'm saying is . . . that was a long time ago. I have outlets now, I have people to confide in," she reached out and took his hand, "I have friends. And you do too." She gave him a watery smile.

"You have me. So you don't have to be strong all the time. Sometimes you can just be human."

Seeing Hotch's eyes were starting to water, a tear slipped down Emily's cheek.

So," she took a breath as she stepped forward to press her hand to his chest, "if you ever want to talk about this stuff," she gently tapped her fist over his heart, "I'm here, okay?"

So much that they shared, there was still so much that he in particular kept bottled up. Not that she was Miss Share A Lot with the deep dark thoughts . . . especially her personal traumas . . . but she was still better than he was.

She'd have to be.

But of course they had built this friendship coming from very different views of life. She believed that humans needed bonds with other people to survive in the world, and Hotch . . . Emily leaned forward to place her head back on his chest . . . Hotch did not.

But he was getting better. Or at least she thought he was.

This moment would be the test.

And then she felt him press a kiss to her temple.

"Thanks. And maybe um," Hotch cleared his throat, trying to cover the lump forming, "maybe sometime I might take you up on that one."

She always found a way to speak to him that cut through whatever defenses he tried to keep up around her. And even if he wasn't ready for that type of conversation tonight, he knew . . . intellectually at least . . . that it was time to pick up a sledgehammer and start taking down that wall between them too.

Again, he was trying very hard to turn over a new leaf, to make genuine emotional connections again. And that was hard to do that when you kept most of your emotions walled off. But he couldn't deny that it would be nice . . . wonderful . . . to be like the others.

To have somebody to talk to about their work. Not just the ugly facts of it, but the ugly truth of it. How much damage it caused, how much it hurt to do it day in and day out. To pick up the next case file after the last case nearly destroyed you.

To share that burden would be a blessing.

It was actually somewhat of a miracle that Emily had stuck with him as long as she had. But here she was, squeezing him tight and accepting him for the damaged F'd up, masochistic workaholic that he was.

She was an angel.

Feeling Hotch leaning back to pull her off the ground, Emily smiled against his chest.

"You are such a good hugger."

"Got a medal for it somewhere," he whispered back as he gave her a tight squeeze.

And she chuckled, "is it the chocolate covered with gold foil kind?"

Now it was time to let Superman hang up his cape.

Hotch lowered Emily back to the dirty carpet, before looking down at her with a small smile. Then he brushed her hair back behind her ear.

"How did you know?"

Sometimes just this . . . just her laughing at something he said . . . it was enough.

"Come on," Emily smile changed to a smirk as she let out a huff of air, "let's go pick out a bathing suit that's going to shock my dear Catholic mother."

Hotch shot her a worried eyebrow.

"Okay, but just make sure that she doesn't know I was there when you bought it."

God help him if the Ambassador knew that he went bikini shopping with her daughter! The woman would take a testicle! And of course . . . he huffed to himself . . . said daughter was now laughing openly at him.

"Are you afraid of my mommy, sir?" Emily asked mockingly.

If he was, it was kind of understandable. After all, there were world dictators afraid of her mommy!

Though she saw Hotch respond to her question with a huff.

"Pfft, damn right I am," but then a second later he flashed her a dimple, "but that doesn't mean that I still don't want to see something tonight in the 'string variety.'"

There had been many wonderful advances in the bikini world since Hotch was a teenage boy . . . the last time he sat around ogling women on the beach . . . and as long as he had his own personal swimsuit model with him, he sure as hell wasn't going to miss out on the best stuff!

Seeing that little twinkle in Hotch's eye . . . the one that came and went all too infrequently . . . Emily felt a little warmth in her chest. It was so nice to see him happy.

So she leaned up to whisper in his ear.

"I'll see what I can do."

/*/*/*/*/*/*

"How about this one?"

"Very nice."

Three minutes later.

"What about this one? I wasn't sure about the white."

"That's nice too."

Three minutes later.

"How about this one? See it's got a ruffle on it? Do you like the ruffle?"

"I do," Hotch nodded firmly, "very much so."

Emily rolled her eyes in exasperation.

"Hotch" she huffed as her hands fell to her waist, "you're not being very helpful. I can't possibly look good in EVERY bikini in here."

Five bathing suits so far and every one he'd looked at with that uber intensive Hotch stare . . . once a little off putting and now completely normal . . . then his lip would quirk up two millimeters right before he'd nodded and murmured some sort of affirmative statement.

In Hotch to Human translation, that was like "two thumbs up!"

And that was nice that he was being, well, nice. But really, him being nice (which was nice) wasn't at ALL helpful in her decision making process. This was important stuff! She was trying to pick out a BIKINI for God's sake!

The most crucial of all women's outerwear!

Hotch's brow quirked up as his gaze shifted slowly up from Emily's fantastic calves to her amazing abs, before finally snapping back at her fabulous breasts.

It was the fifth time he'd checked them out in the last ten minutes.

But to be quite clear, this was just a review of her general appearance. He was NOT 'lusting' after his friend/agent. Not at all. He was simply making objective assessments as an objective observer, of how each swimsuit looked on her body. And as an objective male observer, he could state quite emphatically in a court of law, that 'fantastic, amazing and fabulous,' were the correct adjectives to use when describing Emily's body.

No doubt about it.

So after a brief . . . again, totally objective . . . reassessment of the skimpy, two piece pink string bikini she was wearing, his eyes finally snapped back up to hers.

"Have you looked in a mirror lately?" He asked drily.

Christ, the woman could come out here in a bikini made of flypaper and she'd be setting the place on fire!

At Hotch's praise, Emily felt her cheeks start to get warm.

"You're just being nice." Came the embarrassed murmur as Emily shifted slightly to cross her arms at her chest.

Okay, yes, she knew that she had a nice figure, but there was no way that she looked THAT good in every damn swim suit in there! Different styles flattered different body types . . . and skin tones . . . and she had just tried on four . . . purposely . . . completely different bathing suits. She was trying to find something fashionable, but also something that she could wear for a couple of years.

Given how rarely she got to the beach, she'd at least like to get her money's worth out of the thing.

And as far as she was concerned . . . her gaze locked with Hotch's . . . only the second suit (the blue one) had actually been particularly well suited for both her physique and her somewhat pasty mid-drift. She really needed to hit a tanning salon before vacation.

She looked like a damn Oreo.

Seeing Emily's clear discomfort at his praise, Hotch stifled an eye roll.

Occasionally her self-esteem issues were quite exasperating.

But of course . . . he reminded himself . . . as was evidenced from their earlier 'dust up,' occasionally his entire PERSONALITY was quite exasperating. So obviously of the two of them, in this relationship, she was coming out on top every time.

So after giving the bikini (and Emily) one more brief . . . totally non-lusty . . . scan, he stood up.

"No," he shook his head firmly as he walked over to meet her in the doorway of the dressing room, "I'm not." Then his eyes crinkled slightly as he reached out to touch her pink cheek.

"You look beautiful, always."

Feeling the slight heat in her face blossom to a full blown inferno, Emily bit down on her lip.

"Thanks." She whispered.

Never let it be said the man wasn't good for her ego. Still though . . . she leaned up to smack a quick thank you kiss on his cheek . . . that didn't solve her swimsuit problem.

At sixty bucks a pop she couldn't afford to buy ALL of them.

So she looked up at Hotch with a raised brow, "but which one should I buy?"

"The white one, you looked WICKED hot in the white one baby!"

Emily almost got whiplash as she spun around to see the source of that startling . . . totally unsolicited . . . remark.

White male, twenty-five to thirty years old poking his head up from behind the returns rack. She had NO idea what he was doing back there . . . or where the hell his HANDS were (!) . . . but it was obvious from his comment that he'd been spying on her from suit one.

That was the white one.

EWWW!

Feeling a wave of nausea and disgust . . . yes, she was wearing a bikini in public but that was just NOT cool . . . Emily immediately reached out to grasp Hotch's fingers as she shifted to hide behind him.

Where the HELL was her gun when she needed it?

But then she caught the tightness of Hotch's grip on her hand . . . and the tension rolling off of his body . . . and she realized that her level of upset in that moment, wasn't coming CLOSE to his.

"You need to leave now." He stated coldly.

"Man, come on I was ju . . ."

The guy tried to protest, but then Hotch took a half a step towards the rack, still tightly holding tightly to Emily's fingers.

"If I have to say it again," Hotch cut in with a deadly calm, "then I'm going to walk over there. And trust me," his jaw twitched, "you do NOT want me to walk over there."

It took just two seconds for the guy to realize that he was in imminent danger of ACTUAL bodily harm. And Emily knew the moment it happened, because his eyes widened in a way that she had seen so many men's eyes widen before.

The knowledge that they were TRULY about to take a trip to the hospital, had just sunk in.

And after a muttered, "oh shit," he spun around and took off at a dead run.

He nearly flattened a woman in ladies' intimates.

Once he'd disappeared from view, Hotch turned back to her, his face apologetic as he reached up to put his hand on her shoulder.

"I'm sorry," he shook his head, "that was my fault. I should have seen him over there."

God knows what the hell he was doing back there. Actually Hotch had a pretty good idea what he was doing back there. Little pervert!

Emily's lip quirked up in a sad smile.

"It's okay," her nose wrinkled slightly, "even Superman had his off days."

Though Superman probably didn't take his off days quite so hard as Hotch did. As was evidenced by the way his attention was now bouncing around the store like they were on a protective detail.

For the President.

"Hey," she caught his chin, forcing his gaze back onto hers, "you can stand down solider. It was just one more pervy guy in the world. I could have just as easily run into him on the beach," she gave him a soft smile, "but then you wouldn't have been there to play bodyguard."

She leaned up to wrap her arms around his neck.

"So thank you," she whispered in his ear as his arms slipped around her waist. And then she sighed as he tugged her close.

After a few seconds . . . a VERY few seconds, like three . . . he patted her back.

"Don't take this the wrong way," he loosened his grip to lean back slightly and look down at her, "but if you want a proper hug, you REALLY need to put some clothes on."

The hugging by itself was fine, and the bikini by itself was fine, but put the two together . . . Emily started to giggle . . . not fine.

Though he didn't ordinarily view Emily in a sexual light, it was a little hard to ignore the fact that he had a mostly naked . . . EXTREMELY attractive . . . woman pressed entirely against his front. She was soft and smooth in places where she wasn't usually quite so soft and smooth.

And his body did not know from off limits!

"Sorry," Emily chuckled as she stepped back, "wasn't thinking."

He'd become such a good friend that sometimes she kind of forgot that Hotch was still just a regular guy too. A really special guy . . . she reached up to pat his cheek . . . but still a guy. God knows she'd have known better than to do something like that with Morgan or Dave!

And of course if their positions were reversed . . . like if Hotch was standing there hugging her in a SPEEDO . . . that would probably be kind of hard for her to ignore too.

The man was pretty hot.

"Okay," she huffed as she jerked her thumb back over her shoulder, "I think that's enough looking for tonight. I'll go get dressed and then you can take me to dinner."

That had been the deal, he got to watch her try on bikinis, he got to pay for dinner. And as she saw his eyes crinkle slightly, she knew that he remembered that too.

"K," Hotch nodded.

Then he watched as Emily started to step away to turn back into the dressing room. Right before she turned the corner he called out.

"Prentiss?"

She turned back.

"Yeah?"

"I was thinking," he gestured to her mid-drift, "about your earlier question. You know, which one to buy? Get the blue one," his left dimple slipped out, "I really liked the blue one."

She always looked good in blue. And the blue one was a top AND bottom string bikini.

Couldn't go wrong there!

Emily laughed.

"Okay," she nodded firmly, "I'll get the blue one," then her nose wrinkled slightly as she thought back on the white one Perve Boy liked so much, "and I'll see about them burning the white one."

Ick.

And seeing Hotch's matching expression of disgust, she knew that he agreed.

"Good idea."

Hotch nodded as Emily gave him a little smile. Then she disappeared around the corner. And then he stood there for a second, chewing his lip thinking about the blue bikini, and just how well Emily had looked wearing it.

Hmm . . . Hotch finally spun around on his heel, and started back to his chair . . . maybe he should talk to Dave tomorrow about throwing another team get together at his house. Something for a little 'morale building.'

And nothing built up morale quite like a pool party.

Hotch's lip quirked up as he flashed again on how well Emily filled out the blue string bikini . . . yep, nothing like a pool party to boost morale. He was feeling pretty 'boosted' just thinking about it.

But then his boosting got a shot of cold water as another thought came to him. If he had Dave throw this party, he really had nothing to wear to it. He hadn't gone recreationally swimming in years. And it's not like he could sit by the pool in his khakis and golf shirt while the women . . . Emily in particular here he was considering . . . walked around in their skimpy bathing suits.

He'd look like a pervert.

So that meant . . . he scowled . . . God help him . . . he had to buy a bathing suit too. It would just be trunks of course but still, damn it! Always a catch!

For a second Hotch debated with himself as to whether or not he really wanted to go down this road. If his desire for some harmless fun with Emily in a two piece was worth the aggravation of . . . second eye roll . . . swimsuit shopping.

It was kind of a toss-up.

But then he actually stepped back from his personal considerations and realized that he was being kind of selfish. A pool party would genuinely be good for the team. Starting with Garcia's shooting, and then New York and . . . his chest ached . . . Colorado, it had been a terrible year. So it would be nice to (try) to close out the summer on a positive note.

Still though . . . third eye roll . . . that meant that he needed to go shopping for an item he had no desire to go shopping for.

Just then Emily walked out of the dressing room. She was back in her black suit and white tank top, with the white and pink bikinis tucked under her left arm and . . . his brow quirked up . . . two other ones clenched in her right hand.

After she'd deposited the returns on the return shelf, she walked over to him with the blue bikini that he had chosen and . . . his lips started to twitch . . . the yellow one.

With the polka dots.

"Going to play Beach Blanket Bingo Prentiss?"

She smacked his arm.

"Hush, it's cute. And," she looked down as she held the bottom up in front of her waist again, "it's classic."

It was kind of like a pinup girl style with the halter top and square bottom. Provided she kept the nachos and pizza intake in check, she could technically wear this one for years.

At least she'd get her money's worth out of it.

"Besides," she looked back up at him, "you told me that you liked this one too."

"I do," Hotch flashed a dimple, "I was just teasing. It looked good."

Again, everything looked good on Emily.

"So," he passed her back her gun and holster from where he'd had it tucked onto his right side, "I was thinking, if you wanted to get that red blouse, the one you were looking at when we came in, I'd get it for you." He squeezed her fingers as his voice dropped slightly, "you know, if you wanted it."

Just a little 'sorry for being an asshole' present. He hadn't bought one since the divorce.

But if he was going to have a woman in his life again . . . even if she wasn't a woman that he was sleeping with . . . then he was going to need to start breaking out the credit cards again. That was how you made amends for being a complete schmuck.

With presents.

Emily stared up at Hotch for a moment, considering the offer. She'd already forgiven him his earlier trespasses, so it wasn't really necessary.

But on the other hand . . . she shifted slightly . . . he was the primary reason that she was wearing a thong today. After all, if she'd been bathing suit shopping alone then she could have worn any damn underwear that she'd wanted.

Nobody would have seen it but her.

But with him there, and this being a little treat of sorts for him . . . okay, it was a big treat, one that she'd owed him for her little deception on their last, way less fun, shopping outing . . . she had to at least keep the swimsuit mystique up for him.

And her ladies briefs really wouldn't have been all that attractive sticking out from under the bikini bottoms. Still though for that . . . for the thong that he didn't know she was suffering with just for him . . . he could buy her the blouse.

It was the least he could do.

"Okay," her lip quirked up, "if you really want to, I'll really let you."

"That's very big of you Prentiss," Hotch smirked back, "thank you."

Emily leaned up to smack a kiss on his cheek.

"You're welcome. Now then," she tugged on his hand, "let's go grab my pretty new blouse and then blow this Popsicle stand."

Her stomach had started growling two bikinis ago. If she didn't get some food in there soon, she was going to be taking Hotch's emergency 'keep Emily's blood sugar up' candy out of his pocket. And she knew at present that the 'candy' option was a lemon menthol cough drop.

She'd finished off the good stuff last week.

Still though . . . she quickly checked her watch . . . Hotch should actually be getting pretty hungry by now too. It was closing in on eight o'clock so he should be just as anxious to get going to eat as she was.

But to Emily's surprise . . . as she started to walk back in the direction of the silk blouses . . . Hotch pulled his hand out of hers.

She looked up.

"Actually," Hotch jerked his thumb over his shoulder as he started walking backwards, "I need to go grab something else before we go. So you go pick out your blouse, and I'll meet you at that register there," he paused to point to the one between women's bathing suits and women's shoes, "in ten minutes."

Might as well get his trunks shopping over with now. Really, there was no way he was going to get back to the store on his own anytime soon.

Or, ever.

And he was hoping that Emily wouldn't question his decision to separate. But he could see that big brain of hers whirling, trying to figure out what he was doing.

And why he didn't want her with him while he did it.

"You're not going to buy me diamonds are you Hotch? Because really," her lip quirked up, "the blouse is enough."

Where was he running off to? And why did he have his Secret Squirrel look on right now?

It looked like he was up to something.

"No Prentiss," Hotch replied drolly, "I wasn't going to buy you diamonds. I just need to run grab something quickly, something personal," he shot her a look, "and then I'll meet you back at the register."

"Personal?" Emily sputtered in disbelief. "You just spent forty plus minutes watching me modeling next to NOTHING for you! How freaking personal could YOUR purchase be? What are you buying, an enema bag?"

Eww . . . her nose wrinkled . . . okay, she'd just grossed herself out with that one. But seriously, what the hell could HE be buying that SHE couldn't see?

After a momentary blanching at Emily's 'enema bag' comment, Hotch rolled his eyes.

She was right . . . as usual. After forty-five minutes of bikini shopping with her, it wasn't quite fair for him to disappear off on his own to buy his own suit.

What was good for the goose . . . and all that crap.

So he sighed.

"If you must know, I was going to ask Rossi to throw an end of summer pool party so you could try out your new bathing suit. But then I realized that I don't have anything to wear to a pool party myself. Soooo," he dragged out the 'o' as he rolled his eyes again, "while you were picking out your blouse, I was going to go pick up a swimsuit for myself."

Now she was either going to get really excited about the party . . . or she was going to completely bust his chops. One of these two things was about to happen.

But then . . . to his surprise . . . neither one did.

She just smiled.

"A pool party at Dave's sounds really nice," she took his hand again, "and you helped me buy my suit," she started them walking towards the men's area, "so I'll help you buy yours."

"Okay," Hotch responded cautiously, "thanks. But just so you know," he shot her a look, "I'm not 'modeling' anything. I'm just grabbing some trunks and we can go. This is a one and done pick up."

God knows he didn't want her getting any ideas in her head. Ideas like him 'doing the catwalk' or something.

She probably knew the lyrics to that hideous song.

"Oh I know," Emily nodded, "no modeling, just a pickup." Then she was quiet for a second as they walked along.

"Though," she started slowly as she leaned her head against his bicep, "there are other pickup options besides trunks. You could . . ."

"No."

"Bu . . ."

"No."

"Ho . . .

"Prentiss," Hotch cut in for a third time, though this time swiveling his head to look down at her, "it's not happening. Just let it go."

Emily pouted up at him.

"But then we could have matching suits."

"Yeah," Hotch grunted as he looked away, "why don't you pick us up some matching coffins while you're at it."

It was quiet for a moment, and then Hotch heard Emily snort at his side. A second later she laughed out loud.

"Oh, God," she chuckled as she moved to tuck her arm through his, "I do love you sir."

The things that came out of his mouth sometimes!

"I love you too Prentiss," Hotch murmured as he patted her hand.

"But I'm still not getting a speedo."


A/N 2: Really, it did seem a shame for Hotch to help her pick out the bikini, and then not have any place to go with her to watch her wear it. And now I have another one shot to write. Someday :)

I've noticed that my summer stories tend to go up in the winter, and my winter stories tend to go up in the summer. So look forward to AWESOME Christmas tale next June! :)

This was about the last point in their relationship, August, that they could do an 'I Love You' exchange where it was just lighthearted joking around. Because round about September is when things start taking a deepening turn so there would have been a cease and desist on those jokes. And I was doing the bonding bit, I realized for all of the 'slow burn' to their relationship throughout Girl (in all incarnations) there was never really a point where Hotch opened up at all about his feelings on the cases. It's clear by their end coupling that he is pretty much completely dependent on her, but it was not clear just how much of that dependence has been articulated. I thought this was a good opportunity to hit it.

I'm on half days Thursday and Friday, then off through Monday so I should (if things go well) be able to get up the rest of the items in my folder. Keep a good thought!

Thanks as always for the feedback!