Chapter 1 - I'll Run Right Beside You
Aaron Hotchner started to take his usual running route through the park, and then he saw Beth just a bit up ahead on the path.
Well, Rossi had told him to make a move…maybe now was the right time.
He approached her, and just as had happened every single time he tried to talk to her, he found himself thrown by her forward and overly-flirtatious nature. The profiler in him concluded that she was attempting to compensate for some deep insecurity, so he stumbled over his words.
Finally, he got a space to ask her.
"So, Beth…do you think you'd like to-"
He was suddenly cut off by someone yelling at him from further down the path heading in his direction.
"Hotch! Is that you?"
He couldn't believe what he was seeing. There was Special Agent Jennifer Jareau wearing tight, short, black running shorts, professional running shoes, and a dark blue tank-top…which matched him almost exactly. What was she doing here?
Completely forgetting about Beth, he turned to her as she approached at a fast clip, slowing as she got closer.
"JJ? What are you doing here?"
She gave him one of her disarming smiles that he loved and tilted her head in that way of hers as she caught her breath.
"I'm training for the FBI triathlon. What are you doing here?"
He gave her an easy smile, feeling comfortable talking to her. "The same thing, actually…I had no idea that this was your kind of thing."
Hotch gave her a look and she just grinned back.
"What do you mean, Hotch? Did you forget who you're talking to? Soccer scholarship, small town…I also did track and swimming in my spare time, you know. Not much else to do in a small town besides play sports and ride bikes."
He returned her grin, enjoying their banter, but then a cough interrupted their moment and that was when he remembered Beth.
"Oh," he said, realizing her should probably introduce them. "Uh, JJ, this is Beth, my, uh…my running partner. Beth, this is JJ, one of my friends that I work with."
JJ reached out her hand and shook the brunette's, giving the woman a friendly look.
"Nice to meet you, Beth…sorry, but Mr. Silent here hasn't mentioned you." Beth gave her a look, but JJ explained. "Oh, it's not a surprise, Beth, really…Hotch likes to keep his personal life away from the BAU, that's all."
Beth nodded and then gave the blonde a scrutinizing look and then said,
"Yeah…Aaron's mentioned you before. You were the media liaison, right? Now you're a profiler with the team?"
JJ looked at her, surprised by the fact that he had mentioned her, and then nodded.
"Yeah, that's right. Who'd have thought I'd become one of them one day?"
Beth just simply gave her a tight-lipped smile and nodded. She wasn't blind, nor was she born yesterday…she might not have been a profiler, but Aaron's body language spoke volumes to her. He was extremely comfortable with this woman, in a way that he obviously wasn't with her.
He was always flustered around her, which she had thought was cute, but she would much rather have this Aaron, instead.
The Aaron that was relaxed and easily gave his smile, and leaned in slightly when standing near her…but he was focused on JJ and probably wasn't even aware of the signals that both he and the blonde profiler were giving out.
The way that JJ had said his name, "Hotch", in such a casual and easy way, and the way that his eyes had lit up when she'd arrived, become more animated…
…Beth quickly realized that he had been taken, but simply hadn't realized it.
She decided to extricate herself out of the situation.
"So, Aaron…I've actually got to get going. I just realized that I need to get a head start on some errands, so…maybe I'll see you around?"
She purposely left it open-ended and felt slightly hurt when he simply shrugged and nodded and answered with a casual, "Sure." With that, she took off down the path, casting one last glance to the two of them…yes, he really was taken.
Hotch stared at JJ, barely noticing the fact that Beth had left and another smile, mostly of confusion, crossed his face.
"So…you're training for the triathlon? When did you start doing that?"
JJ shrugged and then reached out and placed a hand on his shoulder, balancing herself as she reached down and grabbed her ankle with her other hand and started to stretch her hamstring.
"Sorry," she said giving him a sheepish smile, but he found that he didn't mind, and then she continued. "Well, about a week ago I was complaining to Rossi that I was desperate to actually do something, and he mentioned that the FBI was doing a special triathlon for just the agents in the Bureau, so I thought why not?"
She then let go of his shoulder and he found himself slightly bereft at the lack of contact.
He shrugged the feeling off and watched as she then bent down and re-tied her laces. From where she knelt on the ground, she said,
"So…why are you doing it?"
Hotch shrugged. "I guess the same as you…something to do."
She lifted her head and smiled, and then stood back up, quickly stretching her arms over her head and flashing him a smile.
"So, looks like your regular running partner's gone…mind if I join you? I could use the challenge…if you can give me one."
He could hear the teasing in her tone and immediately his ego came out, and he arched his eyebrow as he spoke.
"A challenge? I think I can manage a light-weight like you, Agent Jareau." He grinned, showing her he was teasing, and she grinned right back.
And with that, she took off down the path and he quickly followed. They took turns taking to the lead, going back and forth, the entire time exchanging smiles and devious grins, trying to egg the other on, push the other a little bit harder.
After three miles, they stopped, close by to where they originally started their circuitous route.
They each took their time to catch their breath, and while they did so, JJ looked down at her watch and Hotch watched as her eyebrows shot up in surprise.
"Well, look at that…best time yet."
He checked his own watch, and he, too, was surprised to see their time for their three miles.
"Twenty-four thirty-two?" Hotch said, still panting a bit, trying to catch his breath, but at the same time grinning. "I can live with that."
JJ laughed at his statement and just shook her head.
"Yeah, Hotch…I think anyone could. Looks like you're good competition…"
He gave her yet another smile and JJ was slightly thrown by how many times that she'd seen him smile in just the last half-hour of time that she'd spent with him. He finally responded to her comment, the grin not leaving his face.
"So are you…"
They shared a look and then she saw something in his eyes and felt her stomach flutter slightly. What was that?
She quickly shoved the irregular feeling to the side and focused on stretching, easing her muscles out slowly so that she wouldn't be sore later on that day.
Hotch, stretching as well, found himself staring at JJ more than he normally would, his thoughts jumbled and confused.
This feeling he was having…wasn't it supposed to be like this with Beth? This feeling of easy banter and exchanged smiles, comfortable silences and shared time together was what it was supposed to be like, he was sure of it…but why was it happening with JJ?
Suddenly, on an impulse, he decided to run with Rossi's idea anyway, knowing that it would cause him to have a conniption, while at the same time satisfying his curiosity about what he was feeling towards his friend of eight years.
"JJ," he said, catching her attention.
She turned her head towards him, a questioning look in her eyes, and he pushed forward, not letting himself back down.
"Would you like to have dinner with me this Friday?"
She looked slightly surprised, but then, completely unexpectedly, as he was sure that she would say no, she replied…
"I'd love to." But then a look crossed her face. "But what about Jack?"
"Jessica has him this weekend," he gladly explained and JJ grinned again, but then he countered with, "And Henry?"
She bit her lip, something that was slightly endearing and gave him a look. "Will can watch him."
They shared a smile, both of them seemingly unable to keep from doing so.
JJ then said, "Then it's a date."
With that, she flashed him a huge smile and walked towards the parking lot, heading to her car. As he watched her retreating form he silently applauded himself for not backing down. He had a date this weekend, and he had a pretty good feeling that he'd made the perfect first step…
…He couldn't wait to tell Rossi.