A.N. - So, I was re-watching the season finale of Criminal Minds, and my ears caught this beautiful line! I love the line simply because it opened up the floodgates for my JJ/Hotch story! A little idea that popped into my head, and I had to get it down. I hope that you enjoy it! :)

Rossi looked at the groom.

"So, you nervous?"

Will gave him a shaky smile, and gave him a shrug.

"Only if she doesn't come back down."


JJ was nervous as her mom slid up the zipper on the dress, which fit her perfectly.

"Oh, JJ," her mom breathed. "It fits you so well, sweetheart…you look beautiful!"

Her daughter responded with a shaky smile and turned to look at herself in the mirror on the side of the room. She looked like she was about to get married…but she didn't feel what she thought that she would feel at that moment.

There was nervousness, but it wasn't the kind that was supposed to be there.

It was the kind of nervousness that she experienced before a grueling trip to an unpleasant case.

Instead of fluttering butterflies in her stomach, she felt a churning in her gut, along with a slightly nauseous feeling. She swallowed, trying to control her instinct to bolt.

She instead ran her hands along her hips, smoothing the fabric, admiring the dress, pretending that she was wearing it for someone else.

Suddenly, her mother stepped up behind her and placed her warm hands on her daughter's shoulders, giving her a look in the mirror, a pleasant smile on her face that soon turned wistful as she looked at her daughter in the white dress.

"Oh, Jennifer…I can't believe you're getting married, already! It seems like only yesterday that you were my precious little girl who wanted nothing more than to be a famous soccer player…"

JJ let out a nervous laugh, and her mother chuckled as well, and then said,

"Well, then…I guess we just need someone to give you away…"

At that, JJ's blue eyes clouded over slightly, and her smile faded.

Her mother squeezed her shoulder in reassurance. "Don't worry, sweetheart…I know just the person to do it."

With that enigmatic statement, she left the room, leaving JJ alone to her thoughts, which was a dangerous thing to do, though her mother was unaware of it. As she stood there, she felt the churning in her gut turn cold and hard, and it soon felt as though she had a ball of lead in her stomach.

A thought then hit her with all the subtlety of a freight train derailing…

…What was she doing?

What the hell was she doing?

Did she even truly love Will? He was the father of her child, and she loved that he was a good father, and she felt strong affection for him, but her heart wasn't it.

She had to be honest with herself at this point, because she had deluded herself for too long. She had managed to bury the truth of her affections for the man that shared her home and her bed, and she had let her fear for his life override her true feelings, and had clung to him out desperation.

Yes, she loved him…but she wasn't in love with him.

There was a difference.

There was a huge difference.

At this thought, she had the sudden urge to rip the dress off and hide in the closet, but before she could say anything, someone appeared in the doorway.


She looked up in surprise at the voice. It was Hotch. What was Hotch doing here?

"Hotch, what are you…?" she began to ask, but her voice faded when she saw her mother standing behind him, a grin plastered on her face. Oh. So this was who she wanted to give her daughter away.

"Oh. I see…" was all she could say.

Hotch simply stood there, his mouth slightly open in surprise, staring at her as though he'd never seen her before, and JJ suddenly felt nervous. Butterflies-in-the-stomach nervous.

She slowly twirled in a circle, letting him see the dress, and then stopped when she was facing him once more.

"So…you like it?" she asked, her tone hesitant, as though afraid of what he might say.

He simply nodded, a soft look in his eyes, his tone low as he answered.

"You look beautiful."

At this, JJ's mom quickly spoke up, completely unaware of the tension that was slowly building in the room. "I thought that your boss would be perfect person to give you away, as he's known you the longest out of everyone on your team, right?"

JJ nodded, unable to turn her gaze to her mother because her eyes, for some unknown reason, were glued to the eyes of the man in front of her, and she couldn't tear herself away from them.

With her nod, her mom nodded in return.

"Excellent. See you downstairs in a few!"

With that, she disappeared down the stairs, leaving the two of them alone in the room.

The silence stretch between them, until JJ finally spoke up. "So, you're going to give me away, huh?"

Hotch gave her a grim nod. "Yes, apparently. According to your mother I was the only logical choice. She said Rossi didn't know you long enough, Morgan was more like a brother to you, and, your mom's words not mine, I'm apparently your father figure."

They shared a look, and then she couldn't hold back any longer.

A snort of laughter broke through and she quickly covered her mouth, but she couldn't hold it in, and soon the both of them were laughing at the absurdity of it all.

A few tears escaped her eyes and she quickly wiped them off, looking at him with a grin.

"Father figure, huh? Shows you what my mother knows about profiling."

Hotch returned the grin, and she felt a faint warmth suffuse her chest at the sight. Gods, it was disarming. He was usually so…what was the word? Not stern, not serious…focused. Yes, that was it…wait, no. It was something else, something like…intense. Intense. Yes, that was the word that she was looking for. Intense.

This side of him however, was the complete opposite: relaxed. She felt herself soon at ease with his smile, welcoming it as she felt the warmth in her chest spread.

The large grin on his face faded to a soft smile, and he offered his arm to her.

"So…shall we?"

She began to reach for his arm, and then stopped.

Instead, she reached for his hand and twined her fingers with his, ignoring the look that he gave her, and then she slowly shook her head.

"Not yet…Aaron."

At hearing her say his first name, he knew that something was wrong, and that she needed to talk, so with his free hand he pulled the door to the room closed and led her to the small couch at the side of the room, and sat her down, his right hand still enclosed in her left.

After they sat down, he waited, knowing that she needed to be the first one to speak.

Finally, after a long moment of silence, she spoke.

"Aaron…I-I don't think I can do this."

He could feel her pulse racing in her wrist where it pressed against his own, and so he tried to reassure her.

"JJ, that's normal. All you're feeling are pre-wedding nerves. It's okay, you'll be fine."

He placed his free hand over top of hers, where it lay on his right hand, so now her left hand was gently cradled between both of his. However, he then felt and saw her tense up, and he knew that he had said something wrong.

"No, Aaron, that's not what I mean…" She paused, and he waited. She took a deep breath. "I don't think I can do this, because…because…"

Her voice faltered, and he gently pushed.

"Because why, JJ?"

She lifted her head and stared him straight in the eye as she spoke, firm conviction in her tone.

"Because I don't love him."

Watch my back, no one will
Water falls, fire kills

PART 1/?