WARNING! SPOILERS FOR THE MOST RECENT SEASON 8 FINALE! (like, the entire story, pretty much, so don't read if you don't want spoilers)
Hotch couldn't help but feel relieved the instant that he saw JJ walk into the room.
Even though he was in New York visiting his girlfriend, his heart still leapt every single time that he saw the blonde profiler step into the same room as him. He quickly debriefed the team, and then pulled her to the side for a private moment, unnoticed by anyone else on the team.
They stepped into a separate room and were soon fused together, their lips saying everything that they couldn't say with words.
They finally pulled back.
"You're here," he whispered against her lips, and she nodded.
"Yeah, well, it's your brother, Hotch…of course I'm here."
He nodded in return, holding her head gently between his hands, still marveling at the fact that he never felt any guilt when he was with her; somehow he never felt that he was cheating on Beth, because being with JJ felt so right, so perfect.
JJ was in much of the same mood as Hotch was in, not a single shred of guilt marring her feelings towards him, either.
The idea that she was being untrue to Will never really crossed her mind, because, for once in her life, she felt as though she was being true to herself.
They held each other, neither wanting to let go, but by silent mutual agreement, they slowly pulled back.
Hotch took a long look at her, drinking in the sight, savoring it because he knew that he wouldn't get the chance to look at her in such a way for a while. A very long while. He wanted nothing more than to keep her next to him for the duration of the case, which meant he would have to keep her away from him.
JJ reached up and placed a gentle hand along his jawline.
"He's with Beth," he said, inwardly wincing at mentioning her.
She said nothing and brushed it aside, knowing that it was simply a reality. Relationships between agents was strictly forbidden, but neither of them cared, and gladly broke the rules for each other.
They had started their relationship back when they'd first kept the secret of Prentiss from the rest of the group. And even though they met other people and moved on, they'd secretly stayed together.
And it was worth it.
"You're lucky you have Beth," said Rossi.
Hotch simply said, "I know," but silently corrected the older man in his mind, I'm lucky that I have JJ.
He was aware that the ride back on the jet was going to be painful, and that he would want nothing more than to wrap his arms around a certain blond profiler and never let her go, and he was fairly certain that she felt the same way, but they would have to satisfy themselves with glances.
Like they always did when in front of the team.
Over the past few months, he had been pairing her with Morgan on cases for several different reasons.
The first reason being was that he didn't trust himself to be alone with her and not act on his emotions. The second reason was that if he paired her with any of the other three, he was fairly certain that one of them would deduce their secret.
Morgan was the one least likely to figure anything out.
He was the safest.
"If he wanted to kill all of us, he could have," said JJ, while Hotch simply worried about her.
He hid his emotions regularly, so it shouldn't have been a problem to continue doing so, but they had just crash landed in a helicopter in the middle of a field at night, and he was having a much harder time at concealing his worry for the blonde profiler who was five steps ahead of him.
He was vaguely aware of what Morgan and Reid were saying, but his mind kept on drifting to JJ.
He hoped she was alright.
JJ found the C4 and the bomb.
She and Morgan rushed back to where Reid and Hotch were freeing Blake, and then Reid, after speaking his thoughts out loud for a moment, then yelled just as Blake stood from the chair, "Wait, don't get up! It's a pressure sensor…"
Suddenly, the metal door slammed shut behind them, and JJ felt her heart plummet.
She could feel Hotch standing behind her and she wanted nothing more in that moment than to simply reach out and hold him as tightly to her body as was physically possible, but she knew that it wasn't going to happen; not even here, facing her death.
Her thoughts went to Henry, and she was certain that Hotch's thoughts went to Jack.
They all sat around the table, sharing their stories, and JJ took cares to make sure that they were sitting next to each other.
Their legs touched underneath the table, and even though most of their smiles were at the stories that were being told, most of them amusing, at times they were there because of a shift of a leg, or JJ gently rubbing her calf over his shin, reassuring him that she was there for him.
She flashed him a smile at one point, and even though he didn't look in her direction, a faint smile rested on his lips and she knew that he knew it was there.
And then Rossi tapped his glass and said, "Last year, right here, we had a very different celebration. Of life, of love, and good people…"
She felt a pang grip her heart and she looked down at the table, not wanting anyone to see the truth in her eyes. That the man she truly loved, was sitting right at that table, right next to her, gently pressing his leg against her own.
"This year it's the other side of that, because…um, that's what families do…"
There was solemn silence.
"It's been a hard year…" JJ fought the urge to look over at Hotch. "But tonight," continued Rossi, "We celebrate a life well-lived, well loved…"
Rossi raised his glass.
"To a good woman," he said, and everyone else followed suit and raised their own glasses. "And an even better mother…to our friend." Everyone nodded. "Who I will miss very much."
At Rossi's closing words, JJ glanced over at Hotch, wondering what was going on through his mind, but resolved herself to the fact that would not find out at that time, and instead leaned in and toasted everyone else's glasses.
"Richard Balk wrote, The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but one of respect and joy in each other's life…"
It was after their brief meal, that JJ found herself out in the large expanse of hedges that Rossi called a garden, silently contemplating the stars above her.
She felt a presence at her shoulder and she smiled.
"Aaron," she whispered. "Are you following me?"
He let out a low chuckle.
"Maybe. Does that bother you? Is it, uh, too awkward considering the work that we do?"
JJ shook her head and gave him a small smile of reassurance and turned around, crossing her arms over her chest, trying to keep herself warm at the sudden chill that nipped in the air. Hotch saw this and quickly pulled off his coat and placed it over her shoulders.
She looked down at it and then looked back up at him, a wry expression on her lips.
"Thanks…good to know chivalry isn't dead."
He grinned and said, "No, it's not dead, just off hiding in the corner of some old room."
She smiled at his words, glad to see this side of him and pleased to know that she was the only one who ever saw this side of him…besides Beth, that was. Quickly, she shoved that thought to the side and turned around, resuming her perusal of the heavens above her.
She heard him take a few steps closer and she sighed…and then she heard the faint strains of music coming from the house.
Congruously, JJ remembered her wedding, which had taken place on these very grounds.
Almost as though reading her thoughts, she heard Hotch say behind her, "You know…you and I never did dance at your wedding."
She said nothing, trying to figure out what he was implying. She knew why she hadn't danced with Aaron at her wedding; if she had, the whole world would have been able to tell by her body language how she felt for the man who was her superior.
With Will, she had been affectionate and done the whole besotted routine…but with Aaron…
She would have plastered herself to him and never let his lips leave her own, and, quite possibly, would have dragged him off the dance floor to take him somewhere upstairs in Rossi's mansion to have her wicked way with him.
She was pulled from her reverie when she felt his hand on her shoulder.
"Dance with me?"
The words were soft, barely audible, but she heard the meaning behind them loud and clear.
Not thinking for once, she turned around and wasn't the least bit surprised at how easily their bodies fit to each other, almost as though they were made for the other person, and that one person alone. He lead her easily, moving them in a slow circle between the tall hedges that hid them from prying eyes.
A stolen moment.
A needed moment.
She rested her head on his shoulder and said, "You know…when we were locked in that room, I wanted to grab your hand. I wanted to hold onto you, if it was the last thing that I did."
He said nothing, his body tightening like a wire beneath her, but then all the tension was released from his frame in one breath as he said, "Me too."
Their dance stopped too soon for both of them, but they knew that the team would notice if they were gone for too long, so they shared a brief, soft kiss and one last look, and then walked back out of the garden, holding hands for as long as they could, dropping them just before they turned the corner.
Rossi smiled when he saw them.
"There they are! Where'd you two get off to?"
Hotch spoke up and covered for both of them, something that JJ was grateful for, as she had problems coming up with fast lies.
"I noticed she was gone and went looking for her. Found her lost in your maze, Dave, stargazing. We talked a bit about the wedding she had here, and now we're both looking for another drink…"
Rossi chuckled at that, and motioned them towards the bar area he had set up on his back patio, his eyes much lighter than they had been earlier in the evening.
Blake watched with curious eyes and waited until JJ and Hotch were out of hearing range and then said, "Do those two just not notice the fact that we can see JJ is wearing Hotch's coat?"
Rossi just shook his head at Blake, making a shushing gesture with his hand.
"We know, Blake. We know…"
The rest of the team said nothing, but each of them sent an individual glance up towards the two agents, all of them knowing how precarious the balance was. The team pretended not to know about it, and they said nothing about the fact that JJ was married and Hotch was seeing someone.
It was their relationship and they wouldn't judge, but all of them inaudibly wished they would simply see the truth.
They were meant for each other.
No…they needed each other.
They all silently resigned themselves to the fact that they were going to have to wait.
A.N. - I was kind of pissed at finding out that Hotch was still going with Beth, so I wrote this. Every moment that could have been and a few that I added to. I just believe in JJ and Hotch so much, that I refuse to believe that Will and Beth will be staying! Arggh...oh, well. That's what fan fiction is for, right? :)