—𝒐𝒇 𝒕𝒆𝒓𝒓𝒊𝒃𝒍𝒆 𝒄𝒐𝒇𝒇𝒆𝒆 𝒂𝒏𝒅 𝒍𝒂𝒕𝒆-𝒏𝒊𝒈𝒉𝒕 𝒓𝒊𝒅𝒆𝒔
summary: a collection of moments throughout your relationship with one Aaron Hotchner.
pairing: Aaron Hotchner x reader
word count: 28.8k
warnings: lots of heavy stuff, lads. mentions of: r*pe and sexual assault, slightly graphic descriptions of violence, hotch gets stabbed, reader gets shot. age gap, SMUT (including dom/sub undertones, oral, floor sex).
notes: takes place from the start of season five to 7x02 i believe? lots of time skips so DONT KILL ME but pls......................come shout about hotch in my askbox.........................i have many thoughts
At 23 years old, you’re a valued member of the BAU. On a daily basis, you’re met with a barrage of gore, carnage, blood — safe to say, you’re not exactly weak-stomached. It takes a lot to scare you — which is why, staring at the blank, emotionless face of an unconscious Aaron Hotchner, you’re confused as to why you’re completely petrified.
He isn’t supposed to be this… still. This vulnerable looking. He’s always been intimidating — large and broad and stone-faced, his voice hard and impassive. Even in his moments of amiability, he manages to be unfalteringly reserved. You always made fun of him for it; teased him lightheartedly when he laughed more than usual, cooed over his grin and threatened to poke at the dimples in his cheeks. You think he lets you get away with it because you’re the youngest. He’s always had a bit of a soft spot for you.
And now his face is vacant, his body is visibly frail, and the only thing telling you that he’s alive is the steady beeping of his heart monitor. There’s a bag of bloody clothing somewhere off to the side — you’d barely been able to look at it without feeling a wave of nausea travel up the length of your throat.
He looks almost peaceful — and that should offer you some respite, but if you know Aaron Hotchner, you know he’s playing everything in his mind over and over, unconscious or not. Stab after torturous stab. The hopelessness as nobody came to his rescue. The fear as the knife traced his insides.
And fuck, you knew something was wrong — as soon as he didn’t answer JJ’s calls, as soon as he didn’t answer your calls, you knew something was wrong. He always answered your calls, no matter what. You’d offered to go and check up on him with Prentiss, but Reid needed your help with looking through the possible list of unsubs so you’d stayed back. And look at what happened. Dropped at some hospital under the wrong name, stabbed nine fucking times.
Your nose stings and your eyes feel heavy and you think you’ve had to stop yourself from crying, like, five times. And everyone can tell — Rossi, with his hand on your shoulder, and Prentiss with the soft, concerned looks she sends across his bed.
They’re treating you like you’re made of glass, and it’s stupid. You’re not a kid. You’re not a baby. This entire job is gift-wrapped in loss and sadness, and you knew that walking into it, so—
So why are you holding back tears? Why are you getting this antsy, anxious feeling in the pit of your stomach? This red-hot anger that’s just stewing in your limbs — you can’t even think of Foyet without threatening to burst out into angry tears.
It’s because it’s Hotch, your brain tells you. Because it’s him.
You don’t even bother to argue with yourself. You’re fucking tired, both emotionally and physically — you’d gotten less than four hours of sleep on the jet after a case in Canada, and then you were thrown back into another one right here in Virginia, before the metaphorical cherry on top presented itself: being told that Hotch had been attacked by the Boston Reaper, and was being tended to at a nearby hospital.
Your unsub was in shackles and captured with little injury, though Reid had taken a shot to the knee that was getting checked out. The entire past 36 hours have been little more than a fast-paced fever dream, it seems. Once the adrenaline wears off — once you know Hotch is okay — you’ll have no qualms about knocking out and shutting the world out for another few hours or so.
For now, you simply sit there and let your thoughts read you for filth. So, yeah: maybe you have something for Hotch. You don’t really want to put a name on it — he's more than twice your age and recently divorced and he’s got a kid, for God’s sake, and all of that is with ignoring the fact that he outranks you professionally.
You’ve all but resigned yourself to the fact that you’ve got no chance — and it hurts, you won’t lie, but you hadn’t expected anything else when you first realised you had a bit of a crush. At this point, you’ve accepted the fact that you’ve stolen the title of annoying-niece-slash-kid-sister in the minds of everyone on the team — and usually you don’t mind, y’know? Derek’s always prepared to beat up anyone who looks at you wrong, and Prentiss teaches you curse words in other languages at least once a week, and Rossi says he’s invested in showing you the difference between bad and good wine.
(There isn’t any difference — you’re of the opinion that they’re all bad, but he swears he can change your mind.)
So, yeah. You’re all too aware that your feelings are unrealistic, but… but that doesn’t exactly impede your emotions. Doesn’t stop you from chewing your bottom lip to shreds with nerves — doesn’t stop you from having to dig your nails into your thighs to calm your breathing.
You just — you want him to wake up. He promised that he’d teach you how to play poker the next time you’re on the jet.
“Kid.” It’s Rossi, and he leans down to speak quietly to you. “He’s okay. He’ll be up in a while.”
You swallow. “I — I know. I’m just—” A sharp inhale to clear the lump in your throat, and you shake your head, throwing a glance around the room. It’s too — it’s too much. The air is warm and stifling and your palms are beginning to sweat. “Do you — do you guys want coffee? Water? I need something to drink.”
Nobody jumps to pipe up, so you stand up and head out. You’ll regret acting so erratically later, you think — it’s definitely not the most embarrassing thing you’ve done in front of them, but still. You just keep walking.
You know the nurses said he’d be fine, but now you’re thinking about it. Your brain has latched onto the idea, onto every wrong turn that could have ended up in a coffin instead of a hospital bed. If Foyet had wanted to kill Hotch, he could’ve done it — and so fucking easily, too. A bullet to the head, to the heart. A knife in the chest, or against his throat. The fact that Hotch’s life had been so precariously dependent on the ever-changing whims of a psychopath—
You grind your teeth and press yourself against the walls of the elevator, gaze flickering between your reflection and the light above the doors — red eyes, trembling bottom lip; fourth floor, third floor, second floor, first.
There’s some strange comfort in knowing that you look just like any other person here — that, at first glance, you’re just another upset face in a hospital.
It’s with a sigh that you step out into the lobby. You need a coffee — well, vodka, more preferably, but you’ll take whatever you can get; a shitty, burnt-tasting latte will have to do for now. After forking over the dollar-seventy it costs, you meander around the little waiting areas they’ve got — benches and tables with magazines, large ceiling-to-floor windows that look out onto the highway and parking lots. You don’t know what you’re doing, not really. All you know is that being down here is far better than being up there, where you can feel your every move being scrutinized and analyzed.
That’s how JJ finds you ten minutes later: peering out onto the highway with your knees on your elbows, swirling your unpleasant coffee around in its styrofoam container. You sense her before you see her; she has this gentle, motherly way about her — not to mention, her shoes have a habit of clicking as loudly as yours.
“You’ve been down here a long time,” she begins, taking a seat beside you. “Something you wanna talk about, sweetie?”
“Nothing to talk about.” You shrug, but you can’t meet her eyes. “Room’s just stuffy.”
You hear her sigh. “_____—”
“I see the way everyone’s looking at me,” you interrupt, frowning. “And I — I know what you all think.”
Still as soft as ever, she tilts her head. “What do we think, _____?”
Don’t make me say it. Don’t make me say it. Don’t make me say it.
“That I—” An irritated huff, more at yourself than anything else— “I like him.”
“You don’t? He’s a pretty good boss.”
“You know what I’m talking about, JJ.” There’s a beat of silence, and you move to fill it, “What have you guys theorised? That my dad didn’t give me enough attention and now I like older guys? That I have overbearing parents and I’m desperate for approval from my superiors? Humour me, please.”
She gives a laugh, shaking her head — sheets of blonde shining honey-gold in the artificial light. “We haven’t. Believe it or not, it’s none of our business.”
“Really?” You say, unimpressed. “You’re telling me you haven’t talked about me? Not even once?”
“I’ve... thought about it,” she admits. “You’re like a little sister to me, _____. I want you to be happy and safe, but that doesn’t mean you have to explain yourself. Some things, you can’t control. Some things, they… they just happen."
Your brain is whirring, and you don’t think it’s from the caffeine. Maybe you weren’t far off with your self-assessment of ‘desperate for approval’, because your heart feels like it’s thudding out of your chest. Having a chance with Hotch or not, it still means the world to have someone assure you that you’re not the scum of the earth for liking your boss.
If you weren’t so emotionally tired, you would’ve told her that. Instead, you nod and shoot her a small smile, before staring down into the lukewarm, muddy depths of your drink. “Thanks, JJ. You don’t have to worry about anything, though. Trust me.”
She seems much more at ease as she stands, like a weight has been lifted off of her shoulders. She’s just like that — in her mind, helping people is what helps her. "Of course. Coming back up?"
"I, uh, think I'll stay a while longer," you say. “The room’s too cramped.”
“I’ll call you if anything.” JJ pats your shoulder as she stands. “Come up when you’re ready, okay?”
You don’t end up returning of your own volition; you’re called upstairs to stand watch in Hotch’s room while the rest run out — hopefully to stop a slaughter.
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* *:･ﾟ✧*:･ﾟ✧
George Foyet stabs Aaron Hotchner a total of nine times. He recalls in flashes.
He remembers the ceiling staring back at him — the wrinkles at the corner of Foyet’s eyes. The bitter, acrid smell of the Reaper’s breath against his face. The feeling of bile rising in his throat, and the roughness of carpet against his hands.
“Do you know how much you have to study the human body to stab yourself repeatedly and not die?” Foyet’s features had contorted in an imitation of humour. “I don’t want to brag, but I’m somewhat of an expert.”
And the knife had found itself embedded back into Hotch’s abdomen — searing, aching pain, and he grits his teeth—
As if called forward by his own panic, the scene changes. A happier memory, something to ease his pain — and the contrast between this memory and the last jolts him.
It’s your first day at the BAU. You show up on a Monday morning — bright-eyed and bushy tailed, spine ramrod straight and legs crossed at the ankles. You’re sitting in one of the seats in his office, and when he spies you through the half-open blinds his steps stutter to a stop.
He was aware that he was getting a new agent — vaguely. He just hadn’t expected you to be so…
“Younger than I expected,” comes a voice from beside him. David’s got a cup of coffee in hand and a ballpoint pen in the other, his eyes zeroed in on the figure sitting pretty a few feet away. “You think she can handle it?”
Well, if the commendations from your superiors over at CJIS were anything to go by he’d say you could, and then some. With the way they’d sung your praises he’d imagined someone a bit older, more weathered — he hadn’t exactly had time to pour over your files like he usually would. He’d simply taken Strauss’ word that the new addition would be a worthy asset to the team.
Hotch eyes the curve of your nose, the slant of your jaw. The way you hold yourself prim and proper. You’re wearing a tailored pencil skirt — black — and a sweater — tucked in, baby pink. Sleeves folded neatly up to your elbows. Glossy lips and jet-black eyelashes — it’s obvious you take pride in your appearance. Professional, yet fresh. Open-minded. Sweet.
“Only time will tell,” he says finally. And with that, he leaves Rossi in the bullpen, ascending the stairs that eventually lead to his office. He strides in with purpose, immediately gaining your attention, and only stops to put his briefcase by his desk. He holds out a hand. “Aaron Hotchner, or Hotch. You must be—”
You shoot up from your seat, smiling brightly. “_____. From—”
“CJIS, yes.” He clears his throat — tries not to let his eyes linger on the way you push a strand of hair behind your ear. “Have you had the chance to meet the team?”
“Oh, um, not yet.” He catches a whiff of something — geranium, maybe? Rose? Something feminine, sweet. “I was just told to wait here, and—”
“Come on, I’ll introduce you.” He rounds his desk just as quickly as he had approached it, hand hovering somewhere near your back to urge you away. The bullpen is as bustling as it usually is, but he’s never had any problem with clearing a path. “There’s, uh, Prentiss, Morgan…”
He points towards Spencer, who’s perked up at the sight of a new face— “Reid, Rossi… Garcia’s in her office, and — JJ should be around here somewhere…”
“Nice to meet you,” you chirp, sounding only slightly overwhelmed as you’re surrounded by your new teammates — but you take it all in stride, he notices, shaking every hand and meeting everyone’s eyes. “I’m looking forward to working with you all.”
“Looks like Reid isn’t the youngest anymore,” Morgan jests, grinning. “You must’ve sped through your training, huh?”
At that, you turn bashful — clasp your hands together and smile coyly. “I — I guess.”
“Ay, no space for modesty here!”
It’s nice to see you’re already getting settled in, joking and laughing with the team. It’ll only help your adjustment to working with them — God knows the job isn’t easy, and not everyone’s suited for it, but it’s easier when you’ve got people who care about you around. He… knows. From personal experience.
“Prentiss will show you to your desk,” Hotch announces a moment later — realising quite suddenly that he’s spending maybe a little too much time on a newbie’s induction, especially given the size of the pile of work folders that’ve made themselves comfortable on his desk. “Need anything, my door’s open.”
He spares you a rare smile — and when you smile back, almost painfully sweet, he swears his sudden breathlessness is from the tie wrapped around his neck.
And then Foyet is there again.
“Do you wanna see my scars?” Hotch remembers that, too: how Foyet had shed his jacket, his shirt, and proudly stood above him — chest mottled with puckered, grotesque scars. Sixty-seven of them, and all self-inflicted.
“Yours are gonna look just the same.”
And then the white of his ceiling fades away to the white of the jet’s interior, and he’s spun away again.
It's the night after your introduction, and you’re already being deployed on your first BAU case. One briefing in the conference room and another aboard the jet, before you’re all left to your own devices.
There are certain post and pre-assignment rituals that the team carry out, whether or not they realise it. Spencer reads as many books as he can — usually psychology or philosophy, Hotch has noticed; Morgan and Rossi go immediately to their headphones — Rossi’s Italian opera is so loud that you can hear it if you sit close enough. JJ reads the case files over and over and over, almost until her eyes hurt. Prentiss — if the flight’s short enough — just stares out of the window, thinking. If you ask her what about, she’ll always say nothing.
The rituals are foregone in the blackness of 3 AM. Everyone is in some state of sleep — except for him.
Except for you.
You’ve never been on a jet before, Hotch thinks. You fidget in your seat near the back of the jet — one moment, your hands clasped together in your lap. The next, your fingers tightening around your armrests. At one point your shoes start tapping against the floor, your lips pursing as you stare out of the window, and—
He’s paying far too much attention to your mannerisms, he realises — but the crime scene photos have begun to melt into each other. Normally he wouldn’t humour any conversation, either, but before he can stop himself—
“You’ve never been on a jet before.”
It’s not a question — it’s a statement, and your head shoots up at it.
“Tapping your foot, fidgeting… You’ve never been on a jet before.”
“Ah.” You swallow visibly, a sheepish smile tugging at your pretty lips. “Nervous tics. That obvious?”
“Well, in a plane of profilers…”
“Stupid question,” you fill in. That same smile is still on your lips, and as you glance down at your lap, Hotch finds himself just… looking at you. 3 AM is always hazy, fuzzy in a way that makes everything seem like a dream, and the interior of the jet glows a golden yellow, now — it suits you. You look warm. Sweet as spun sugar.
Hotch inhales sharply, and looks away.
He’s... tired. His thoughts have no filter — they just go and go and go, no matter how unprofessional they are. He clings to the sudden clarity that settles over his brain, straightening up unconsciously in his seat.
“I’ve never been on a jet before,” you admit again. “It’s just — it’s weird, not seeing any other people — being so confined like this.”
He offers a tiny smile (and he hasn’t smiled so much at work in such a short time, he realises — he’s suddenly glad that the rest of the team are asleep). “You get used to it.”
“I’ll try.” Your bottom lip finds itself tugged between your teeth. The conversation has halted in mid-air, but you make no move to move your eyes away — neither does he. Time has a funny way of warping itself, in in-between moments like this — he’s not sure whether it’s 10 seconds or 10 minutes before a sharp snore from Reid snaps you both out of your reverie.
A strange feeling of guilt wells up in his chest. He doesn’t have time to unpack it — clears his throat instead, sparing you a half-smile. “You should get some sleep. You’ll need it.”
“I will.” There’s a lilting in your voice — a hesitance — that says you want to say something else, but you seem to think better of it. “Night, Hotch.”
Hotch doesn’t sleep a wink.
The dream — memory — fades to black, and his senses begin to trickle back one by one: the dryness of the air, the hum of breathing and talking. The ache all over his body, but more pointedly in his torso — the sterile, sharp scent of disinfectant. His eyes flicker open to face stark white — and then a face swims into his field of vision.
Prentiss. He swallows, turning his head to the side. JJ, Morgan, Rossi. Reid’s missing. So are you.
“Where am I?” He says — croaks. His throat is almost painfully dry, and he can barely keep his eyes open for longer than a few seconds without the light burning him.
“In the hospital,” Rossi’s voice comes from his left.
“How did I get here?”
Half-delirious from pain or not, he sees the deep frown marring Morgan’s features. “Foyet drove you."
“Can you remember what happened?” Prentiss asks gently.
A black mask. A gun pointed at his head. Foyet’s voice, low and droning.
“You should have made a deal.”
Hotch inhales, and ignores the question. “What did he take?”
“What — what do you mean?”
“The reaper always takes something from his victims.” He knows that more than he knows himself. Foyet has haunted him since the 90s — this case has haunted him since then. He knows every detail like the back of his hand; kept the ins and outs locked in the back of his brain, ready for use if need be. "Do we know what he took?"
"There was a page missing from your day planner. In the address section, the b's."
He knows, then. He knows what Foyet's after — what he's always been after: Hotch's destruction, physical and emotional. Haley's maiden name is Brooks, and despite his efforts to keep her information hidden, keep her details under her maiden name instead of his, Foyet—
Foyet just… seems to know exactly how his brain works.
He tells them this — that Haley's maiden name is Brooks, not the rest. He's still pushing through the fog of pain hanging over his head, voice barely above a mutter. “He also leaves something with his victims.”
Prentiss stammers for a second. “I — I looked over your whole apartment. Nothing felt out of place—”
“Where are my clothes?”
She takes the bag in the corner of the room in her hands — empties it frantically onto his bed. There’s his shirt, covered in blood. His pants, covered in blood. Morgan’s stolen credentials tucked into an envelope, and when Hotch moves to open them with shaky hands—
A picture of Haley and Jack that hadn’t been there before.
He keeps it in his hands, even as the team clears out in a hurry. He stares at the round, happy face of his baby boy and the beaming visage of the woman he’d once pledged himself to, and he feels dread fill every inch of him.
“You should have made a deal.” Foyet’s voice had come from behind him, back at the apartment — a bullet had flown right past his face and into the wall behind him, and yet Aaron hadn’t moved one bit. Not one little flinch.
“Is this part of my profile?” There’d been amusement in George’s voice. “You can't show me fear?”
“If you don't see fear, maybe it's because I'm not afraid of you.”
“You said that like you actually meant it.” A pause. “How's my friend Agent Morgan?”
He’d been trying to rile him up. Get him angry, frustrated. Remind Hotch of how he’d hurt his team, hurt Morgan. Goad his lack of fear — and he was scared. He might not have shown it, but he was. Staring down the barrel of Foyet’s gun, knowing that his life could very well be over in a quick squeeze of a trigger, knowing that he’d left so much undone and so much unsaid—
“Are you here to kill me, or are you here to play games?”
“You tell me. Enlighten me about my behavior.” And he’d wrenched off the mask on his face and Hotch had surged forward, fist meeting the Reaper’s jaw—
“Agent Hotchner. Can you hear me?” Beeping. Rapid, steady beeping, and the memory dissipates. His vision is blurry, dull, but he recognizes the face of his doctor above him. He almost hoped that it was you.
“I'm… okay.” But he can barely speak — feels the energy just seep from him with each passing second, his hearing and his sight gradually clouding once more. The last thing he registers before he passes out again is the doctor instructing him to keep breathing.
“Hotch!” Your voice is a melodic croon — you don’t even bother with a knock before you push open the door to his office.
It’s the end of the night; your skirt’s rumpled and your sweater’s creased and you give him this cute, droopy grin when you lean against his door frame. There’s a pencil shoved through the precarious bun in your hair, and you’ve swapped your regular work heels for the more comfortable flats you keep hidden in your desk. “We’re going out. Like, the entire unit, Hotch.”
He raises a brow, looking up from the reports on his desk, and he can’t help but return your beam. “Out? Are you sure that’s the best idea?”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” And oh, then the pouting starts. You fold your arms and drag your feet as you walk deeper into his office, only stopping when you’ve gotten close enough to drop yourself into a chair.
“It means you need rest. You’ve been working hard.” You have. The entire team has, but you in particular. It hasn’t gone unnoticed — and it’s not because he finds himself watching you closer than the rest of the team, going out of his way to keep you protected. It’s just... clear to see. This case, for whatever reason, meant more to you than the others. You worked yourself to the bone.
You hum in agreement. “Which means I deserve a drink, right?”
“I’m not quite sure that that’s what it means—”
“Well, the rest of the team agrees with me,” you say, smug. “And they want you to come too!”
“I can’t.” He holds up the folder currently under his scrutiny. “I’ve got work to do.”
“Oh, come on,” you whine, “They can be done tomorrow. I’ll even take half.”
“I’m not doing that.”
“Hotch. Just this once — I swear, just this once. Please?” And as if that wasn’t enough, you jut out your bottom lip and bat your lashes real pretty, swaying your shoulders side to side as if it would sway his mind easier. (It does.) “C’mon. Pretty please? Don’t be an old man, Aaron Hotchner. I know you’ve still got some partying left in you.”
He sighs, fingertips coming up to rub at the bridge of his nose. “If you put this much effort into your reports…”
“We both know that reading my reports is the highlight of your week,” you tease. Still, you tilt your head expectantly, a glimmer of hope in your eyes, and he knows he can’t say no.
A heavy breath. “...Half.”
Your victorious grin is almost rewarding enough for him to forget the annoyance he’ll surely feel tomorrow night when he’s stuck inside with even more work. “Deal. C’mon, everyone’s waiting!”
Again, the scene changes — it’s like watching a movie.
The four walls of Hotch’s office melt into the loud, thrumming atmosphere of a local bar — music playing, lights flickering, the team huddled into a booth that’s way stickier than any of them would like if they were sober. He’s had a beer or two — Prentiss and Garcia are competing for the title of ‘most out of it’, it seems, with the amount of shot glasses lined up between them.
“Next round!” Garcia cheers — and then Morgan’s agreeing, and JJ, and Prentiss, and soon the entire table is pushing for another. “____, my sweet darling—”
“I know, I know,” you say, huffing in that faux-annoyed way that you do, squirming out from your place between Reid and JJ. “Youngest orders.”
“Make sure to bring your ID!”
“I don’t get ID’d, thank you very much!” And you stroll away.
He watches you. Maybe the two beers are going to his head, despite his infamous reputation as a heavyweight — all he knows is that his eyes follow as you slip through the crowds, sending beaming grins to some people you know from the office, and—
You don’t know, do you? You don’t know how you make people feel. How you make every person you lay eyes on feel like they’re the only one you see; like they’re one in a million. Important. You capture their attention with just one look and you keep it, too. You never go away — you burrow yourself into his brain and make a place for yourself there and—
Their brains. That’s what he meant.
Even now, he watches as some cocky desk-jockey you’d briefly greeted follows you to the bar — leans against it nonchalantly, his lips moving all the while. He likes you, that much is obvious; from the way he attempts to appear calm and collected, to the buttons undone on his shirt — and then he’s moving closer, a hand touching your waist, and Hotch—
Hotch peers to the left at the knowing eyes of David Rossi. Too knowing, it seems: they glance down to where Hotch is clutching his empty glass, much too tightly. “Hm?”
Dave nods towards you, that mischievous little smile still on his face. “The kid. She might need help.”
“Y’know, carrying all those drinks back.”
For a fraction of a moment, Hotch wonders just what Dave’s motivations are. What he’s picking up on between you and Hotch — what exactly he’s insinuating. Then the moment passes, and he realises that there’s nothing to pick up on. Your relationship is completely platonic — anything else would be utterly inappropriate.
“Oh. Uh, yeah — I’ll go—” So without a second thought — without another ounce of criticism or skepticism — he slides out of the booth after you. Rossi and Reid are the only two to notice — the former for obvious reasons, the latter because he can’t help but take notice of his surroundings. It’s nothing to worry about — nothing strange about a man helping his coworker out, right?
He advances through the crowd of chattering people, and he can’t help but realise how different you both move. You seem to slip through places, meandering and twisting, but Hotch — something about him has people unconsciously clearing away, forming paths. Something like that wouldn’t mean much to the average person, but for someone whose entire career is psychology-based—
“Need help?” He’s fully aware as he steps up beside you that he’s interrupting the man — boy — trying to chat you up at your other side. It doesn’t matter; his words are faltering at the first sight of Hotch, and when you peer over your shoulder to him, the boy seems to realise that he doesn’t stand a chance. You don’t even realise when he walks away, Hotch notices.
“Thank you,” you gush. “I don’t know how I expected to carry eight drinks by myself.”
“Sorry for interrupting.”
“That man. He was talking to you.”
“Was he?” You shrug, scooping up half of the drinks and turning. “Oops.”
In hindsight, Hotch should’ve known then, in that moment, that he was in over his head: when the fact that you didn’t care about some guy chatting you up pleased him. When he felt some sort of smugness — territoriality, almost — over the fact that you so easily abandoned somebody else to talk to him. When, upon returning to the booth with the drinks, you slip in beside him instead of across from him, pressed so close he can feel the heat of you.
He’s not the type of person to be in denial — that kinda starts to go away when you make psychology your career. He's almost too self-aware.
He just — it confuses him. Makes him feel ashamed. Not only because you’re you, but because he’s him, and he’s just separated from Haley and — and he still loves her — maybe not the same way he used to when they were young and new, but it’s still love. It’s still there. It was the job that separated them, not loss of love.
He can’t love two people at the same time. That’s not fair. That’s not right — even if he can feel it in his chest as you giggle with Garcia, even if it pulls at the corner of his lips when you try and push Reid to go and do karaoke.
He never does end up making you take half of his reports the next day.
A sudden beeping wrenches him from his thoughts — high-pitched, almost melodical. It comes again. And again. And again, and again, and again, and Hotch realises quite suddenly that he’s not there anymore. Not in that rowdy bar, not in his office, and sure as hell not his apartment.
The hospital. He was dropped at the hospital. Foyet knows where Haley and Jack live — the team are going to check up on them. They caught their unsub before he could do any more damage. He’s fine. Everything is fine. Everything will be fine.
“Hey, grumpy.” It comes softly from somewhere to his left, and he recognizes it immediately. If nothing else, Hotch would be able to pick your voice out from a crowd. He turns his head, having gained enough strength over the last few hours to move with relative ease, and there you are. Smiling sweetly and sitting pretty even in the shitty fluorescent lights of his hospital room.
(Hotch wonders, vaguely, if they’d put him on any medication since the last time he’d woken up. Usually he’s got a finer filter on his thoughts.)
“Haley? Jack?” He asks — feels his stomach turn at the thought of them being anything other than safe, but your eyes are kind. And red. Is he imagining that? No, he’s not — your eyes are red. And now that he’s looking for it, your voice is strained — your shoulders are hunched forwards defensively, too. He frowns. You’ve been crying.
“Don’t worry,” you say softly, “The team’s got them. They’re fine. They're on their way here.”
The ball of nerves settles. Unknots. And even though he knows they’re nowhere near, yet, he still finds himself peering out of the open door of his room, watching as a nurse passes by. The hospital’s decently empty, especially with the entire team gone — well, almost the entire team. You’d stayed.
A large part of him is glad — he can’t protect himself in this state. That’s not to say he expects the Boston Reaper to come barrelling into his hospital room — he wants Hotch’s end to come slow and painful, and this, here, doesn’t satisfy Foyet’s need for grandeur. Still, he appreciates the fact that somebody’s here. He appreciates the fact that it’s you.
Maybe he should tell you that; a brush with death really puts your own morality into perspective, after all, and the things that would’ve been left unsaid if he’d died are almost overwhelming, but—
But no. He can’t. Some things, he reminds himself, are better left unsaid — and this wouldn’t be the time nor place for what he would have to say, anyway.
“You weren’t there when I woke up earlier.”
“Oh, yeah.” You shift. “Uh — needed a drink. By the time I was finished, everyone was leaving and you were out like a light, so…”
He clears his throat. “And you chose to wait here with me instead of joining them?”
“What can I say?” You scoot your chair closer to his bedside. “I stayed for the riveting conversation, of course.”
He can only manage a huff of a laugh — understanding (not for the first time) why you respond to brat as much as your actual name — and you give him another one of those smiles. One of those bright, beaming ones — the ones that have the younger male agents around the office trying to get your number when you’re off-duty. It fades, though, when his own smile gives way to a pained wince — the reality of the situation sinks in like a stone in one’s stomach, and silence settles over the room once more.
That is, until his mind returns to the scratchiness of your voice. “You’ve been crying. Why?”
You shake your head as if in disbelief — run a hand over your forehead and slouch in your seat, and Hotch observes that you’re taking it harder than he’d expected — that's another thing about you, though. You feel everything so deeply.
Sweet, teary-eyed girl.
You’re not just her superior, he has to remind himself. You know you’re not. You’ve always been something more.
And therein lies the problem: Hotch isn’t stupid. From the first day you arrived he’s felt some sort of protectiveness over you — and in the same way, you latched onto Hotch in a way that nobody else ever has. You didn’t mind his prickly attitude or his ‘drill sergeant’ humor; you’re not afraid to poke fun and tease him and make jokes, and you go out of your way to invite him to places even when you know he won’t go. You’ve got this sweetness about you that isn’t just a product of your youth — a need to include everyone and make everyone feel welcome, while still not being overbearingly friendly.
You have some sort of fondness for him. Whether it’s completely platonic or bordering on something else is none of his business — as long as it doesn’t impede your ability to work or jeopardise your relationship with the team, it’s no harm. It’ll pass, probably.
(Maybe that’s what he’s been telling himself, too.)
“Hotch, you — you got stabbed.”
“And I’m alive,” he reminds you, not unkind.
"I know." Your subsequent inhale is sharp, almost as if to stave off another wave of tears, and Hotch — despite it all, despite himself — smiles. A small smile, barely noticeable, but a smile nonetheless. "Glad to see I’m entertaining you.”
“It’s not that,” he says immediately — and when you raise a brow, clearly urging him on, he shakes his head. “...Thank you. For caring.”
“The rest of the team care too, y’know—”
“But not in the way that you do.”
You still. You stare. For a moment the entire room pauses, the entire hospital pauses. Hotch watches you back, and some — some understanding seems to pass between you, and your entire face contorts in an image of badly-veiled embarrassment. It’s endearing.
“What can I say.” You cough, shrugging. “You’re… a good boss.”
And the moment passes, and that’s that.
The morning Hotch returns to work after his leave, the team is tense. Hell, you’re tense. It’s practically been radio silence on his end for the entire month: all of your texts answered with one word answers, every offer to help politely declined, and, well—
You’re a tad angry. Just a bit. Because Hotch implied that he knew how you felt and then he ignored you for a whole 34 days, and you’re well aware that this isn’t about you, but — but the least he could do is tell you what’s going on! That’s all you’re asking for. And then, anger aside, you’ve worried yourself to death, too: wondering whether a month is really enough time to get over the fact that he was attacked in his own home, or that his family has gone into hiding, or that the Reaper is still out there.
But you know Hotch, and you know he wouldn’t be able to stay away from working for any longer. This job is everything to him, and you know that being able to do it to the best of his ability is largely dependent on his focus…
You just… you know you wouldn’t exactly have your head in the game if you’d been stabbed. Nine times. And you know he passed the evaluation and was cleared, too, but he knows perfectly how to bypass every question. He wrote them, for God’s sake.
His mental health is important, is what you’re trying to say. And you think he’s always put his job above it, and you wish he’d just — just put himself first for once. At least before, he had Haley to look after him and bring him up for air, so to speak, but now… He’s alone, essentially. A part of you wants to step up, wants to fill the vacancy, but you know it’s not your place.
Garcia’s place, maybe. She made Hotch cookies. Get well cookies. Spencer had pouted about the fact that he couldn’t eat them for, like, an hour straight, and then he’d made sure to point out that Hotch would hate any special treatment — or bringing any attention to his absence at all—, so...
You sigh, watching as Morgan gets up from his desk yet again. He’s been walking past Hotch’s empty office for the last hour. You were tempted to remind him that secretly peering into his office wasn’t going to get him there any faster, but you were just as bad. Every time the door opened your head would shoot up, hoping that your grumpy unit chief would be the one walking through the door.
The only person who’s been cool and collected, you think, is Rossi. You wish you shared his ability to remove emotion from every situation — maybe then you wouldn’t be anxiously tapping your foot against the floor at the speed of light, words on your computer fuzzing and flopping about in your brain.
As it turns out, Hotch doesn’t enter the office — he only rejoins the team when you’re all congregated on the jet, going over the details of the newest case in Kentucky. You hear a shuffling at the entrance, and Prentiss and Hotch walk in, and—
You don’t know what you were expecting. He looks just like he always did; serious, frowny, handsome. He doesn’t even seem to mind that the entire team is staring at him — just strolls in with a good morning.
“Good to see you,” Rossi says, and you notice that he’s watching him carefully. Morgan, too — wary and calculating. You find your own brow furrowing at that; he’s only returned, and already he’s subject to scrutiny? They didn’t even give him ten minutes.
“You too.” He passes by JJ and Morgan, heading towards his usual seat — the one beside you.
“You look well, sir,” Garcia says kindly from the screen of the laptop.
“Thank you.” His gaze finds Reid, and the crutches at his side. “How long do you have those for?”
“I’m not really sure,” Reid replies, chewing the inside of his cheek, “Welcome back.”
“Thank you.” He finally reaches his seat — him taking the aisle spot, you by the window — and exhales. You restrain a deep breath of your own: the heat of him beside you and the smell of his cologne are things that you didn’t know that you missed until now — but you daren’t tell him that. You know how his train of thought works: now that the formalities and the ‘glad you’re back’s are out of the way, he can focus on the case and forget about himself — so you’ll save your words for when you’re alone, you think.
(Especially considering the looks that JJ is shooting you from across the table.)
“Any other attacks?”
As if a spell has been broken, the team snaps into work mode, and any talk of Hotch’s month-long absence is left in the dust — theories discussed and gameplans made. You find yourself deep in thought for most of the flight, and even when you, Morgan and Hotch head to the crime scene, the car ride is almost completely silent.
You don’t even know what you’re thinking about, really. It’s just strange, you suppose, having to reacclimate yourself to being around Hotch again. How are you supposed to just go back to normal after how much his life has been shaken? His wife and son are in protective custody. His entire apartment has probably been marred with the memory of Foyet — and the man himself is still out there. Still waiting for the right moment to finish the job. You know that’s haunting Hotch, too.
It seems insensitive, is all, to pretend like nothing’s changed — to act like nothing’s happened — but then you’re a chronic overthinker, as well. It’s probably all in your head, you think, pulling a pair of gloves over your hands. Nobody else seems to care.
Case in point: you and Hotch begin to inspect the body of a victim of a stabbing spree while Morgan talks to a witness, working together with the ease that you usually do. You’ve bent down to examine the gash in the man’s neck, and Hotch takes a look at the surroundings — the spray of blood and the way some products had fallen off the shelves around him, trying to inject himself into the unsub’s mind.
At some point he stops: folds his arms and leans against on the shelves, watching as you search the body for any other injuries.
“There’s something on your mind.”
“Is there?” You muse, pulling your gloves taut on your hands.
“You’re quieter than usual.”
You risk a glance up at him. His eyes are on the body, expertly tracing the length of it with a critical mind, but you have no doubt that he’s also somehow focused on you. You shrug, turning back to your task.
“I don’t know,” you say, voice softer than you intend it to be. “I’m just glad you’re back, grumpy. We all are, I mean, but—”
When you look back up, then, you find that he’s already gazing back at you — though it’s not with the same level of tenderness he’d treated the others with. For a moment, even, you’d say he’s come out of work mode; his frown lightens and his lips aren’t pulled quite so tight and he might’ve even shown you the ghost of a smile.
“I missed you, is what I’m trying to say,” you finish — quite lamely, if you do say so yourself, so you shift back to the work in front of you. Your cheeks feel hot, and you know your embarrassment shows in your eyes, so you’re glad to put him behind you.
You don’t need to be looking at him to know that he’s hiding a smile. “...Thank you, _____. I missed you too.”
And Hotch has never been exactly forthcoming about his emotions — not like this, at least. Not with the team, and not with you, save for that one moment in his hospital room all those weeks ago — and it completely catches you off guard. Like, heart-thudding-in-your-chest off guard. Hands-going-shaky off guard.
You’re endlessly grateful when Morgan calls you both over to exchange information — Hotch is back to business, and that’s that.
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* *:･ﾟ✧*:･ﾟ✧
The jet back from Kentucky is tense.
Long story short, Hotch isn’t as stable as he was claiming to be. He’s… erratic. Too daring. He completely put his life in danger, ignored everyone’s warnings and — he just strode into a house with the armed unsub alone, despite the fact that the profile specifically said that the unsub was unstable and volatile.
And yeah, he’d gotten out fine. The kid that was taken hostage was released, but the unsub’s father — who’d been the endgame, so to speak — was dead. Shot dead. You heard the gunshots — gunshots, because there were three of them, all fired in rapid succession — and the house was stormed within seconds by armed units. Your heart was in your throat, your limbs shaky with this sudden onslaught of dread because you really, really thought for a heart-stopping moment that he was dead.
And now, here you sit, opposite Hotch instead of beside him. You’d taken the single seat instead of the double, and he’d noticed the second he stepped onto the plane. You know you don’t have any reason, in reality, to be angry at him. He made a decision as the SSA of this unit and you saved the hostage. The unsub’s father was a real piece of shit, too, so you don’t feel any guilt whatsoever about that.
Maybe you’re just angry that he seems to have no concern for himself — and you get why that is, really. You can’t imagine how it must feel to have your family taken away from you, but putting his life at risk isn’t helping anything. Not his family, not himself, and it’s sure as hell not benefitting your blood pressure, either.
After a game of cards with Prentiss — which he won, unsurprisingly — he turns to you. Reid’s sleeping, Rossi is listening to music. JJ and Prentiss are talking quietly between each other at the back of the plane, and Morgan’s far into dreamland, too. Nobody is paying attention to you, which is why:
“I know you’re bothered about what I did today.”
You look away from the window, and meet his eyes with a frown. You could go two ways with this: the path of truth, or the path of subordination. More often than not, it’s the truth that Hotch wants to hear — you’re just not sure if you have it in you to tell him, especially considering that your first instinct when confronted with emotion is usually to cry.
“You’re the boss,” you say finally, shrugging. “What you say goes.”
His eyes narrow on you, more thoughtful than vindictive. He leans forward just slightly, and you find yourself mirroring him unconsciously even though you’ve made it clear that you’re uninterested in divulging more. That’s just how you are with him, you guess.
“If you have a problem with what I did today,” he says quietly, “I’d rather you told me. This team works best on honesty and—”
“This team works best when you’re alive,” you interrupt. Your voice is low but you still find yourself glancing briefly over his shoulder, worried that even the slightest inclination of anger in you could alert them — worried that, as your eyes begin to sting, they’d accidentally look over and catch on. “And I don’t know, Hotch, it seems like you’re trying very hard to be the exact opposite.”
“You’re upset,” he acknowledges, “And that’s understandable. You’re—”
Frustrated tears spring to action, but you’re quick to push them down. “Don’t try and profile me, Hotch. Do not try and profile me.”
He realises then, you think, that above all, you want him to listen — not to try and console you just for the sake of putting it behind you, but to actually listen.
“I know you’re going through a lot,” you begin, “and I’m sorry for that, Hotch, I really am. You deserve better, okay? Foyet being in the wind and your family being in protective custody — it’s hard. But being reckless and — and putting your life on the line—?”
Your voice breaks before you can stop it, and you push yourself back into your chair, as if on reflex. God, it should be embarrassing — really, it should — but Hotch has long since passed the title of boss. You can’t bring yourself to feel more than a slight sense of apprehension — but as you sit back and fold your arms, pouting away your tears, you imagine you’re radiating a very vivid image of a spoiled child.
“It’s not smart,” you finish, “My opinion doesn’t matter. It’s just — it’s not smart.”
Hotch exhales, and matches your posture — spine flush against the back of his seat, arms folded. It strikes you, then, that he looks completely exhausted. The bags under his eyes seem deeper, darker; his mouth downturned and earnest. He’s tired, and your heart aches for him, but you need him to understand. During the entire time you’ve known him, you’ve never dared speak so far out of line — jokes are one thing, but this is another.
“You’re right.” After a few seconds of pause, he sighs again and meets your eyes. “You’re right. What I did was dangerous and I let my own irritation get the best of me.”
Oh. Well, you hadn’t thought it would be quite so easy—
“These days, not everyone is willing to be completely forthcoming with me,” he admits, continuing on. “And I…” His gaze flickers downwards, only momentarily — a nervous tell, you realise, “For the record, I value your opinion greatly. I need you to know that.”
It feels like the air’s been stolen from your lungs — dramatic, maybe, but true. Maybe it’s because he’s the SSA, maybe it’s because he’s him, but to know that you’re held in such high regard — and to know that Hotch is very clearly bashful about it — makes your stomach flip. It’s not like you don’t know your worth on the team (you’re indispensable, just like everyone else), but to hear it is an entirely different thing. Especially from Hotch.
You hazard a nod, eyes wide. “Any — any time.”
A smile makes itself known on his lips — and not for the first time, you lament over the fact that he doesn’t do it more often. He really, truly is devastatingly handsome. Even more so when he’s happy.
He picks back up the cards he’d been playing earlier, and begins to shuffle them with practiced ease. One is placed in front of you — then another, and another, and another, until five cards lay face-down in front of you. He steals the bag of pretzels from Prentiss's table, too, and divides them between you two.
“What are you doing?” You ask quietly, watching.
He looks up, quirking a brow inquisitively. “I told you once that I’d teach you how to play poker, didn’t I?”
Your mouth opens, closes, opens, closes. Finally, you settle on a small, bashful smile — your fondness written as plain on your face as it is on his. “...Yeah.”
“Well, then. Listen carefully…”
10:23 PM. The work day technically ended two hours and 23 minutes ago, but Hotch hasn’t left his office. Most of the lights in the bullpen are off, save for the desk lamps of the few workers who hadn’t yet gone. He supposes he’ll be here until midnight, maybe — not because he’s got a particularly large workload, but because, well—
Here’s better than there. That apartment, big and empty and lifeless. He’s been averse to returning home early ever since the divorce — it’s nothing like the house he’d shared with Haley. No toy cars littering the floor, no Jack babbling and laughing. It’s always cold, too, no matter how much he turns up the thermostat, so he’s elected to stay in his office for as long as possible and work ahead.
(It’s better than wallowing in his own loneliness, right?)
Somewhere around the 11:49 PM mark, he finds himself standing and stretching, hoping for a cup of coffee from the break room. As he steps out of his office and down the stairs into the bullpen, he tries not to think about how his health definitely isn’t benefiting from his numerous late nights — Haley used to scold him for working late, for drinking too much coffee. It’s ironic that that’s what he’s doing to fill his now-vacant nights.
His eyes almost unconsciously drift towards what should be your empty desk as he heads towards the break room — and his movements stutter to a stop.
You’re still here. Hair removed from its earlier updo and your sweater slung across the back of your chair. From the looks of it, you’ve removed your contacts, too — thick frames resting on the bridge of your nose. The light from your lamp is soft and golden, and he’s reminded of that first night — the jet. How you’d grinned, nervous and sweet—
Hotch shakes those thoughts from his head. You look exhausted.
“What are you still doing here?” Hotch asks quietly, tapping his fingers gently against the desk. “It’s late.”
You jolt, as if only realising that you had company then, and he restrains a fond smile. Your eyes are big and blinking as you peer up at him, a yawn caught somewhere in your throat. “Oh, I—” Your hand fumbles with one of the many manila folders strewn in front of you— “Uh, reports. Lots and lots of reports.”
He eyes the pile, before returning his eyes to you. “You should get more sleep, _____.”
“Oh, you’re one to talk, grumpy,” you mutter, pushing your chair out. “You’ve stayed late every night for the past three weeks.”
Without prompting, both of you begin towards the break room. You’re dragging your feet and fighting back yawns every few seconds, and Hotch bites back another hypocritical piece of advice — something like, coffee won’t help you in the long run or the amount of caffeine you drink is worrying. He supposes it’s like that for everyone, isn’t it? The wellbeing of someone you care about is much different to your own — if he had his way, he’d have you home and well-fed and asleep, most importantly. As fate would have it, though:
“This coffee is terrible,” you mumble, but you pour yourself a large cup anyways, and one for him, too. You always take it with too much creamer and too much sugar, a contrast to how he takes it black. “I’m sure there’s room in the budget for better coffee.”
He huffs a laugh, following you as you move to take a seat at one of the tables nearby — and as he takes a seat opposite you, he realises just how intimate the entire ordeal is. It’s almost completely quiet, the lighting low and gentle. You’re sitting so close that he can’t move without bumping knees.
And for a while, it’s just silent. You sip your coffees and sometimes you’ll nudge his knee playfully, the tiredness slowly yet surely dimming in you — not diminishing completely, but lying dormant. He has no doubt that in an hour or two it’ll come back full force, and he makes a note to himself to make sure you’re out of the office by then.
“How’s Jack?” You ask, then, out of the blue. “A-and Haley?”
“Oh, uh — they’re fine. Adjusting, y’know.” The reminder jars him. For a moment, he’d… not forgotten about them, exactly, but for the first time in a long time, worry for them wasn’t at the forefront of his mind. There’d been some reprieve, for a minute.
“Good. That’s… good. I mean, it’s terrible that they’re—”
Another short, quiet chuckle — more of a breath than a laugh, really. “I know what you meant, _____.”
“...Right.” You take another sip of your too-sweet coffee, and he watches a bead of it linger on your lips. It’s quickly swept up by your tongue, though, and he averts his eyes quickly, clearing his throat. “We’ll — we’ll get him soon, Hotch.”
And it’s cute, really. He doesn’t mean that in a demeaning, patronising way. It’s just… sweet. Sweet that no matter what, you always go out of your way to make people feel better, to reassure those around you, even when you can’t guarantee what you’re saying — but even still, he can see that fierceness in your eyes. You fully, really believe with all your heart that Foyet will end up in shackles, and Hotch thinks that if the Reaper’s fate was determined by the amount of dedication you’ve got in you, he would’ve been locked away a long time ago. If he was a braver man — a more emotional man, maybe, less cautious — he would’ve told you that.
Instead: “I know we will.” And you share a smile over the lips of your disposable cups — almost secretive, like you both know that it means much more than it looks on the surface.
When Hotch returns home that night, it doesn’t seem quite so cold.
It’s not often that the team spend their days off together. Most of the time their own families get the full brunt of their attention, what with a majority of the team having spouses or children of their own.
Hotch isn’t exactly sure when you started spending so much time over at his house. After Haley passed… things were hard, that goes without saying. He simultaneously withdrew himself from everybody except his son and threw himself into his work, and just like the time when he’d been crazy with finding Foyet, you broke him out of it.
“It’s hard,” you’d said. “I know it hurts, and you’ve got all this pressure and responsibility on you, and I get it. But your son needs you with your head straight, Hotch. We’re here for you — it’s not a crime to lean on your family when you need it.”
That was around the time you started coming around. He was struggling with balancing his work and taking care of Jack full time, even with the help of Haley’s sister. He tried — really, he did — to leave work at the door, to dedicate time at home 100% to his son, but sometimes he couldn’t help it.
That’s when you’d end up coming to work with pre-made dinners for him and Jack — for the days where the days ran into each other — or arriving at his house on days off to keep them company. At first it was strange, to say the least: everything felt weird. He wasn’t in his suit and you weren’t in your work clothes, either, and his home was much different to the office. He had half a mind to put a stop to it, but it — it helped, it really did. And you seemed so willing and happy to help, even if he insisted he didn’t need it.
You’d play with Jack while Hotch finished up some work in his home office; on weekends you’d both take Jack away for a couple of hours to the local playground and for some ice cream, or a movie, or the zoo — and he’s gotten used to it, really, but he can’t help but wonder why—
“Hey, Jack!” It’s the first thing that comes out of your mouth the second the door is opened. “What’s up, buddy?”
—It’s a Saturday. The first free day in three weeks, and you’re here instead of with — he doesn’t know, friends your age? A date? A yellow sundress falls slightly just above your knees and you toe off a pair of strappy sandals at the door, letting your canvas bag fall gently to the ground seconds later. You send Hotch a grin before bypassing him completely in favor of scooping up his son.
“We’re making cookies!” Jack cheers, winding his arms around your neck. “And — and daddy said we can have some before dinner!”
“Cookies? Oh, wow. I didn’t know you guys were such pros!”
As you meander your way through the house, he tries not to think about how comfortable you seem in his house, his space. You move through it like it’s an extension of your own home — you fit in like you were made to, stepping over a toy truck and setting Jack down on the kitchen island. The makings of a cookie dough are splayed out beside him — flour and sugar and butter and eggs and way too many chocolate chips, but Jack insisted.
You peer up over Jack’s shoulder at Hotch. “Got much paperwork to do?”
“Uh, no, surprisingly.” He drifts closer until he’s standing right beside you, reaching out to ruffle his son’s hair. “Like Jack said: cookies are the priority.”
“Well, mine are always hit or miss.” You puff out a laugh, before looking up at him through your eyelashes. “So I guess you’ll have to lead, huh?”
(He pretends that that doesn’t steal the breath out of him.)
So the three of you set off to make cookies, and it’s as much of a chaotic affair as one could guess: flour on the countertops and an egg that had fallen to the floor with one wayward flap of Jack’s arm — not to mention the numerous chocolate chips that had mysteriously gone missing. Soon, though, the cookies are in the oven, Jack’s washing himself up in the bathroom, and you’re both finishing cleaning up the mess that had followed.
He doesn’t know why he says it — scrubbing some hardened sugar from the table while you dry off the dishes. “You don’t have to do this, you know.”
He doesn’t say it rudely — he hopes you can tell. He loves that you’re here, he appreciates it greatly, but he doesn’t want you to feel obligated to spend time with your boss while you could be doing… doing whatever it is girls your age do in your free time.
“What?” You say, glancing over your shoulder.
“This—” He waves a hand around— “Baking cookies and playing with Jack and — I appreciate it, but you don’t have to. I’m sure you’ve got better things to be doing — friends and… dates…”
Immediately, he winces. Dates. Why did he say dates? It makes him seem like he’s fishing for information — which he isn’t, of course, because there’s no reason, in reality, for him to be interested in your dating life—
“I like being here with you,” you say gently. You turn, leaning back against the sink, a half-dry bowl in your hand. “I mean — both of you. Jack’s sweet, and, well — guys my age are pigs, so no dates there.”
He pretends that his chest doesn’t relax with relief.
“Well,” he says instead, “Thank you. From Jack, and from me.”
You shrug, hiding a coy smile, and reach over to playfully punch his arm. “C’mon, Hotch. You know I’d do it any time.”
Hotch also pretends that when you leave, he doesn’t miss your presence quite as much as he actually does. It’s harder than it looks.
Charles Nelson is a textbook sexual psychopath. He craves power, manipulation, control. He’s incapable of guilt or remorse, and views women as items for him to possess and dominate. He’s also a narcissist — believes he’s better and smarter, that the entire world somehow revolves around him. He’s a genius, too. As in, actual genius. Spencer Reid level genius, almost, but not quite — so unfortunately he technically is smarter than most.
From his background — unearthed by the ever so talented Penelope Garcia — it was found that he studied psychology, human behaviour, criminology. Hell, he’d even attended some behavioural analysis lectures funded by the Bureau — and it would be ironic, laughable, even, if he wasn’t a serial killer.
He’d killed twelve women between the ages of 20-25 — across different races, body types, backgrounds. The only similarity is their personalities: good girls — innocent, sweet. High achievers. He gets off on seeing the light drain from their eyes, and just looking at him makes you feel cold all over.
Hotch is the one most likely to break him, the one most likely to find out where the remainder of the bodies are. His natural dominance should make Nelson uneasy; he’s stoic and impassive, and very clearly thinks lowly of the man in front of him.
He barely spares him a second glance as he flicks through the hefty file that had been gathered, features unimpressed and callous. Nelson just watches on, a look of amusement on his face. The thick, brown beard that covers his jaw does nothing to mask his smile.
“Twelve women,” Hotch begins, voice crackling through the intercom. “Nine bodies found. All mutilated, sexually abused, hair cut. Buried in various spots in the Shenandoah National Park.” He leans back in his chair, “You’ll give us the location of the other three.”
Nelson’s eyes turn towards the mirror — and for a moment, you swear he’s looking right at you. He’s quick to turn away, though, and back towards Hotch.
“Will I?” He muses. “You’ll find that I’m not in the habit of doing what I don’t want to.”
“I’m guessing that’s why your mother abandoned you when you were 8,” Hotch continues smoothly. “She was young, wasn’t she? Only 24 at the time. She was raped and left with a child she didn't want when she was 16.”
“My mother has nothing to do with this.”
“But she does. You’ve attended the lectures, haven’t you? You’re projecting your hatred for your mother onto women who remind you of her, and then you’re murdering and sexually abusing them.” No room for discussion. It’s matter-of-fact, harsh.
There’s a few moments of silence in which the tension reaches astronomical heights. Neither of them looks away from the other, and it remains like that for the next thirty seconds or so.
Charles makes a sound, then — a little inquisitive sort of hum, and he leans forward— “I wonder, SSA Hotchner, if you’re quite so stern with her.”
You exchange befuddled looks with Rossi.
“What is he talking about?” You whisper, combing your brain for what he could be referencing.
Rossi shakes his head, equally as unsure. “Keep listening.”
Hotch only raises a brow, but you can tell he’s equally as confused. “Excuse me?”
“The girl.” Nelson smiles, almost giddy, and you shake your head. What is he playing at?
“You’ll have to be more descriptive,” Hotch replies — glaring, now, and hard.
“I saw her,” the murderer continues, not a care in the world, “when you arrested me that night. I pointed my gun at her and you stood right in front of it — pushed her behind you and told me to drop it.”
Your blood runs cold. He’s — he’s talking about you.
Rossi seems to catch on — and then Morgan, and Prentiss, and the officer in charge of the investigation. You can only look between them, mouth opening and closing.
“That interested me. I found myself watching, then. Always watching… You checked up on her often when she was being examined for injuries — I saw from the back of the squad car. When she was released, you guided her towards her ride with a hand on her lower back, as if to protect her.”
You — you remember everything he’s recalling, but — but that’s just how you and Hotch are. Hearing it repeated back, in this context, with these insinuations, throws you for a loop.
(And it’s not because you haven’t thought about it yourself, or because you haven’t wished for it, but because you really didn’t know it could be taken that way by, uh… outside parties.)
“The body moves unconsciously when dealing with those we love,” Nelson goes on, smile widening slyly. “We aim to protect them. I’m surprised your teammates haven’t picked up on it.”
“We need to get him out of there,” Morgan interrupts, halfway between worry and pure, unadulterated confusion. “He’s gonna lose his head.”
“No,” Rossi says. “Keep him in. Just wait.”
Hotch finally speaks. “Textbook narcissism. Your control has been taken away from you and you’re lashing out.”
“Maybe.” Nelson nods, seemingly unbothered. “Yes, maybe. But my eyes don’t fail me.”
He inhales, then, as if in thought.
“She’s pretty,” he admits, and you almost feel sick to your stomach. “Doe-eyed. Kind hearted, I could tell. I’m only sorry I didn’t see her outside of this investigation. She would’ve been the perfect addition to my—”
“Let’s be clear.” Hotch looks furious. Furious, and yet, still with some semblance of control. The hardness in his eyes is enough to stop Charles in his tracks, and you think for a second that the man the press have dubbed the Shenandoah Slasher realises he’s made a mistake by bringing you up. Hell, even you’re nervous now. “You’re going to prison for life. You won’t be getting out, and from what I've heard, they're not too fond of women-killers there. You’ll be lucky if you’re alive within the first two weeks.”
Silence, again. The staring continues, though Charles looks like he’s breaking — his jaw clenches, visible even through his beard, and you know that the reality of it all has just settled in. Still, he manages to compose himself; wears a self-righteous kind of smile.
“I’ll tell you where they are,” he decides. “But I want to talk to her.”
There’s a beat — a pause. And then Hotch gets up, and storms out.
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* *:･ﾟ✧*:･ﾟ✧
“Hotch,” Rossi says carefully.. “Think about this.”
“I have, and I’m saying no.”
“I can do it!” You interject, frowning. “I go in there, he gives us the locations.”
“A man like that doesn’t want to give them up — they’re the only thing he has over us. He’ll just get off on the fact that he has the power to order us around.”
This is all the last 3 minutes have been: Hotch refusing to let you in, the rest of you trying to convince him otherwise. Nobody has addressed what Nelson had been trying to insinuate — Hotch seems completely adamant on ignoring it, actually, so you follow suit.
“We have to at least try!” You argue back. “Those families deserve closure. If we have a chance to do that…”
“She’s right,” says Morgan, looking over to Hotch. “You know that.”
Hotch’s eyes flicker between the two of you, and you can tell that his brain is going at 100 miles per hour. His lips are pursed and his scowl is deep, but you all know that this is your only shot. Emotions and personal slights will have to wait.
Finally, he exhales, gesturing you towards him with a tilt of his head. “Fine.”
You leave the observation room and emerge into the hallway, positive affirmations repeating over and over again in your head, but before you can enter the interrogation room, Hotch stops you.
“Don’t show him fear,” he tells you sternly. “But don’t act in a way that he might skew as insulting. His ego needs to constantly be boosted, especially by beautiful young women, or else he’ll lash out.”
You nod obediently, brain stuttering and lingering on beautiful young women—
“Our goal is to find the burial site,” he reminds you. “But if you feel like you need to leave, at any point, tell me. Is that understood?”
“Yes. O-of course.” And then, added hurriedly: “Sir. Yes, sir.”
Hotch inhales, eyes trailing carefully over your face before his face softens. “You’ll be fine. I’ll be right there with you.”
That’s one of the only reasons you’ve got enough courage to go in, in all honesty. Knowing that Hotch would never let anything happen to you.
“I know,” you assure him.
We aim to protect our loved ones. I’m surprised your teammates haven’t picked up on it.
“Okay. Let’s go.”
The door is pushed open, and Hotch strides in first. There’s no real reaction from Charles until you walk in afterwards — he coos, pushing his chair out just far enough to begin to stand. “There she is—!”
“Sit down,” Hotch orders, barely waiting for the words to leave his mouth. You notice that he takes the chair closest to him — that he angles himself mostly towards him, too, like he’s prepared to slot himself between you both if need be. As much as you hate to admit it, Nelson’s words repeat themselves in your head yet again.
“Now, what’s your name?” He presses, smiling widely.
You risk a glance at Hotch, who nods encouragingly. “My name’s _____.”
“Oh. I hope I’m not being sleazy when I say it’s a beautiful name for a beautiful girl.”
You fight a wince.
“Thank you for agreeing to talk,” you only say. “It means a lot to me that the families of these women can get some closure.”
Act as if you’re indebted to him. As if you’re asking for his permission — giving him some pretense of power and control, but ultimately allowing you to draw the conversation towards a confession.
“I bet,” he replies. He tilts his head inquisitively, then. “That’s the type of girl you are, aren’t you? So kind… So compassionate. I like girls like you.”
And it’s the way he says it, really — the way you can just tell that he’s imagining you in the place of all those other girls — that makes you freeze. You remember them all, every single photo: every perverse twisting gash on their bodies, the rough and brutish choppiness of their cut hair. You’d consoled the grieving families. You’d promised to find their daughters.
What if that had been you? What if — just like Nelson had said — he saw you outside of this investigation? Walking down the street, doing daily errands. All it would take is a moment of weakness — a moment of distraction. You'd be buried down in Shenandoah with the rest of them.
There's a nudge against your foot. Gentle enough to go completely unnoticed by the man sitting opposite you, but hard enough to rile you from your thoughts. From the corner of your eye you can see that Hotch is still staring straight ahead, pen in his hands, but you know what that little jab had meant: are you okay? Need a time out?
You swallow, and power through your own discomfort. “You promised that you would tell us where you buried the girls.”
“And I will, in due time.” He looks much too comfortable sitting there in that metal seat — slouched as if it’s his throne. How can he just — just relax like that? As if he hasn’t done what he has, as if there aren’t twelve families mourning because of him. That’s the difference between people like him and people like you, you suppose. “But I want to talk.”
It’s annoyance that makes itself known, now. It’s always irritated you how you have to entertain them, how you have to tiptoe around their desires. It’s necessary, you know — you have to play your cards right, worm your way into a confession or a slip up or something. Even so, you find yourself having to school your features.
“Okay,” you say carefully. “What do you want to talk about?”
“I’m quite interested in your relationship with Agent Hotchner.”
You take a slow, deep inhale, trying not to instinctively glance over at the Agent in question.
“Really?” You nod as if you understand, though in reality you’re trying extremely hard to not feel devastatingly mortified. As if having a serial killer call out your relationship with your boss in front of your colleagues isn’t bad enough, now your reactions can be scrutinised, too! Perfect. Just perfect. “What — what interests you?”
“You were recruited at a very young age.” Your question has just been… ignored. He moves on, and you get the feeling that he’s speaking at you, not with you. “Twenty… one, was it?”
You grit your teeth. “...Yes.”
“You’ve been a member for three years, now. Almost four. I suppose when you’re young like that, it’s only natural to latch onto figures of authority.”
He’s speaking to you like you’re a child. Like you’re an idiot. Like you weren’t recruited at 21, like you’re not a profiler, like you’re some ditzy girl pulled off of the street. He’s trying to get under your skin, and it’s working, and you hate it.
“You’re obviously very close,” the man muses. “And I’m sure you were listening to my earlier ramblings. What are your thoughts?”
Is he seriously trying to do this right now? You’re caught in a limbo between fiery anger and terrible, terrible embarrassment. You can only imagine how Hotch is feeling, and that only has your temper catching even more.
“My thoughts are that you’re all too aware that you’re about to be shipped off for the rest of your life, and you’re doing everything in your power to give yourself a few extra hours on the outside,” you say sharply. “My relationship with SSA Hotchner is that of any work relationship. Are you satisfied?”
A second passes.
And then another.
A too-broad smile spreads over the weathered, ogreish face of Charles Nelson.
“You’re defensive,” he notes. “Many profilers would take that as a sign of dishonesty.”
You only stare, jaw hard. You’d just played right into his hands, and you feel your heart stutter in your chest. You’re such an—
“Beside the Shenandoah River,” he speaks, then, a sickeningly victorious look on his face. “Twenty or so minutes off of Route 340. I advise you to bring some scent hounds.”
God, you’d like to just — just launch yourself across this table and claw his beady eyes out with your nails. There’s a reason they’re over regulation length—
“We’re done here,” Hotch asserts — hand tapping the nape of your neck to rouse you from the anger-fueled staring contest you’d gotten yourself into. “Agent.”
When Hotch stands, he makes sure you stand too. He guides you towards the door with a hand hovering over your back — makes sure you leave first before he closes the door behind him.
And you hate that your first thought is Nelson’s words.
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* *:･ﾟ✧*:･ﾟ✧
Nursing a cup of what Morgan would call ‘cream and sugar with a side of coffee’, you’ve been deep in thought for the past two hours or so. Hotch and Rossi are heading the search for the hidden bodies, and Morgan and the local officer in charge of the investigation are informing the families. With nothing more to do, you’d taken the short drive back to the BAU and copped a cup of coffee, beginning on your report of the case.
It’s 9 PM, and you hadn’t expected Hotch to be back so early. Or rather, you’d hoped he wouldn’t be back so early, because then you’d have to remember what happened earlier and face your fears of being terribly rejected—
(But, the hospital, your brain reminds you, as if to give you hope. He told you that you cared, and not in the way that the rest of the team do. Surely that — that counts for something, right?)
“_____,” he repeats, bowing his head towards you.
“Oh, sorry. Sorry, just — tired. You found them, then?”
“Yes. All three.”
“Good. That’s good.”
It’s with a muted exhale that Hotch takes a seat on the corner of your desk, folding one arm over his chest and reaching the other one up to rub at his eyes.
(Tired eyes. They get darker by the day, and you wish you could just help. Run your hands through his hair and kiss his forehead and wrap him in your arms and tell him that he’s doing okay — that his best is okay, and it always has been—
No — those thoughts aren’t going to do you any good, not right now.)
“I’m actually about to head out,” you say, pushing your chair back. Fingers scramble for your coat, and then your half-finished report. “I didn’t get much sleep yesterday—”
“Let me drop you back. I’m heading home anyway.”
You curse the fact that you’ve been taking public transport to work, because Hotch doesn’t trust it whatsoever — especially at night. He would’ve offered any other night, too, but the fact that it’s this night makes you groan to yourself.
Of course he has to care about your wellbeing. Of course he does. He couldn’t just… just let you take the subway at night like anybody else.
(You’re being stupid, your brain adds.
Yes, thank you. I know.)
“Yeah,” you breathe, shouldering your handbag. “Sure, thanks.”
Ten minutes later you’re both packed into his SUV and you realise that this is the first time in a few weeks that he’s leaving the office before ten. He most definitely was not ‘heading home anyway’, and you think he knows that you know that.
The ride is silent for the first 15 minutes or so. He’s got his Beatles CD in like always, which is only the cutest thing imaginable, and it’s playing at the lowest volume possible. Barely audible, but so much better than nothing. You watch the city and landscape roll by, desperately trying to disassociate in the hopes that you could just snap back to reality when you’re parked outside your apartment complex, but—
“We should talk,” he says suddenly, voice careful, “about what Nelson said.”
Fuck. Fuck. Of course he just comes out with it — he’s Aaron Hotchner. Not one to beat around the bush, you don’t know why you expected any different.
“What Nelson said?” You try — and immediately, you know it was stupid to try and feign ignorance. As if Hotch couldn’t see the turmoil on your face as clear as day. You chew the inside of your cheek anxiously, glancing out of the window again. “...Right.”
Neither of you speak for a few seconds. It’s like you’re both letting the reality of it all settle in, finally. You’ve known each other for years, and you’ve been close for a majority of it — and now you’re both analysing the other’s actions. Combing through every joke whispered under your breath or teasing poke at his side, every late-night pep talk and impromptu coffee break.
“What Nelson implied was… inappropriate,” he says, sounding for all the world as if he’s tiptoeing through his thoughts. His eyebrows knit together, that crease between them deepening. His fingers tap against the steering wheel. “And I’m sorry if it made you uncomfortable.”
God, what are you supposed to say? Yes, it was wildly inappropriate, and yes, it made you uncomfortable, but not because of him. Not because of the idea of you and him.
“I do go out of my way to protect you,” Hotch continues. “Not because I don’t think you’re capable of doing it yourself, but because the people we deal with — they… You’re important to me, is what I’m trying to say, and I try to keep the people I care about safe.”
And you don’t doubt it — it’s obvious that he means what he says, and that confession already renders you a bit breathless, but… He’s avoiding something. Walking around what he really wants to say.
(And if you’re right about what he wants to say — and you think you are —, you know he’s much too proper to say it without prompting. After all, at the end of the day, he’s still your unit chief.)
“Hotch,” you murmur — and his eyes immediately flicker between you and the road. “If there’s something you want to tell me…”
You trail off, and a hush falls over the car once more.
“Nelson said,” you try again “that he watched you. That he saw the way you treated me, and — and he said that—”
“He’s a psychopath—”
“He’s a genius,” you interrupt, laughing in disbelief, “psychopath or not. And he wasn’t lying, was he? Huh, Hotch? Because as protective as you are with JJ and Prentiss, it’s not the same way you are with me.”
“You’re — you’re different. You’re the youngest.”
“And that’s why you don’t want to admit it, is it?” Fuck, what are you doing? Blatant insubordination — and work aside, just plain disrespectful, not to mention embarrassing if you end up being wrong.
“I’m not sure what you’re insinuating.” But his jaw is clenched hard, back ramrod straight, so fuck insubordination. You’re obviously close to hitting the nail on the head—
“You don’t want to admit that you’ve got feelings for me because you think it’s wrong.”
You’re surprised when he doesn’t immediately begin to defend himself. Instead: “It is wrong.”
You’re even more surprised when you don’t point out how he didn’t deny it. “How so?”
“There’s a complete power imbalance both in terms of rank and of age, _____, you know that. Not to mention the psychology of men who gravitate towards younger women—”
Unfortunately for Hotch, he rolls to a stop at a red light. There’s no driving for him to focus his attention on anymore. He leans his elbow against his window, bringing a hand up to cup his jaw.
So that’s what it is. He thinks he’s like one of them. There was a case a few years ago that sticks out to you in particular: Megan Kane, a call girl who murdered the rich, older men who hired her. While you didn’t completely agree with her methods, you at least had an inkling of understanding as to why she did what she did. Many of them were rude, callous, pigheaded. They enjoyed the thought of a younger woman desiring them, but the attraction was only skin deep.
Hotch — and you can’t stress this enough — isn’t like them.
“You’re one of the most self-aware people I know.” He’s still resolutely facing forward, but his gaze wavers over to you when you wriggle in your seat. “So tell me: is this a fetish of yours? Young ladies?”
“So what are you worried about, Hotch?” Swallowing the still-present nerves in your throat, you shift until you’re almost sitting sideways — and you reach forward, clasping a hand over his on the wheel. He’s warm, and your skin seems to jump at the prospect of touching his. “You think I’m — that I like you against my will? That I’m — I’m doing this because… I don’t even know what you’re theorizing. God, Hotch, are you dense?”
His Adam’s apple bobs, before he attempts — attempts — to smile. It’s more of a grimace, if you’re being honest, but you’re just glad he seems to be calming down. “Hey — I’m still your superior.”
You snort. “Yeah, yeah.”
The red light glows emerald, and he begins driving again.
“I wasn’t uncomfortable because of Nelson, by the way,” you say, placing your hands back in your lap. “I mean, he was creepy, but… I just — when I imagined being told that you liked me, it wasn’t in front of our colleagues. And in an interrogation room, either. Or with a serial killer, for that matter.”
There’s a lilting pause — Hotch glances over at you with a little cheeky smile that makes your cheeks flush with heat. “You imagined that?”
“And you didn’t?”
It’s such a weird scenario. You’re both in that strange limbo between ‘feelings revealed’ and ‘explicit dating’ — you have no idea where to go from here. Even thinking about how you just essentially released years of pining — and without the catastrophic natural disaster you’d over-exaggerated a few times — makes your head spin. You have no doubt that you’ll be staying up late tonight.
“What do we do now?” You say, only slightly hesitant. It’s less intimidating — ‘it’ meaning the entire ordeal of navigating a (possibly) new relationship — knowing that Hotch is beside you. “With… you know. The team and everything.”
“It’s best to keep this under wraps.” And he’s back to team leader — you don’t think he ever stops being team leader, actually. It’s just in his blood, you guess, to lead. “At least for a while. Not only could it interfere with the team’s flow, but… We don’t know how this could affect either of our jobs.”
“We’ll have to inform Strauss, at least,” you add, chewing your bottom lip. “I mean, after we… figure this all out. And we’ll have to file a relationship form, too, after a while.”
God, the team. How would they react once they found out? You understand keeping it a secret — you’d been about to suggest it yourself — but it still feels strange. They’re as close to family as they can be, but then you guess your relationship shouldn’t be up for public scrutiny anyways. They’ll understand, you’re sure.
Hotch pulls up to your apartment complex not one minute later, coming to a stop in your designated parking space that you never actually use. Now that the ride is over, you’re not quite sure what to do with yourself — you don’t want to get out, not yet. You like being in Hotch’s company — not to mention, it feels like there are some things left undone.
The beginning notes of I Will filter through the car’s stereo, and you’re reminded that this is Hotch’s favourite album.
“I want you to know,” he begins, tone mindful, “That if you decide — at any point — that you want to stop this—”
“Hotch,” you interrupt — and you place a hand over his, the one that’s on the steering wheel. You held his hand not even 10 minutes ago, but this is in entirely new circumstances with an entirely new context and you're entirely flustered. “You know I trust you. And you know I have no problem mouthing off.”
He restrains a smile. “More than I should.”
Another few moments of heavy, anticipatory silence follow — a few moments in which you find yourself remembering just how handsome Aaron Hotchner is. Not that you’d ever really forgotten.
In the dim light of the SUV — faint yellow light shining through the windows from the streetlamps outside —, he looks as handsome as ever. And now you don’t have to hide your admiration, which is only the strangest feeling in the world.
“And you’re sure about this?” He repeats again. “Completely sure—?”
He’s getting in his head again — which is why you push yourself up and lean over the centre console, and plant a kiss right on him. His words die in his throat, and when you pull back he’s just… looking at you. Wide-eyed — a far cry from his usual frown.
“I’m sure,” you mumble, peering up at him. “More than sure.”
And Aaron Hotchner takes the reigns, this time: removes his hands from the wheel in record time and you barely register them landing on your cheeks before you’re being whisked into a kiss much less chaste than the first one—
At first it’s as innocent as a kiss can be — a simple, sweet peck. And then another, and another, and the time between each one gets shorter and shorter until you’re moving against each other like you were made to.
His lips are surprisingly soft, is your first cognizant thought; the next, quite gracefully, is holy fuck, because holy fuck, Aaron Hotchner is kissing you. And he’s good at it, which you hadn’t doubted for a single second, but you hadn’t exactly thought that he could make your stomach do flips the way he is.
He tastes like coffee, mostly, which isn’t surprising. He drinks just as much — if not more — than you. This close, you can smell his cologne — you can reach up and tug his hair between your fingers, and you do, goddamnit, because you’ve been dreaming of doing it for years and you’re not going to restrain yourself.
Silky soft, just like you’d thought.
At some point, your need for air outweighs your need to press yourself as close as possible to each other — you separate with dazed eyes and heavy breathing, giddy off a new love that’s been a long time coming. Hotch still holds your face in his hands, so fucking gentle, and you have to bite your lip to stop yourself smiling too wildly.
(You’ve never seen him look so… affectionate. Not to this extent, at least, but you’re sure the doting smile that’s on his face is mirrored on yours. A pair of fools, the both of you.)
“Get some sleep,” he says fondly, his thumb rubbing over your cheek. He’s breathless, too, and you have to stop yourself from leaning up again and just— “I need you in at 9.”
“You got it, chief.” You have to tear yourself away from him. You gather your bag and your coat, rubbing away the smudged lip gloss on your bottom lip. “Um, you’ve — you’ve got a little something…”
He doesn’t take his eyes off of you as you lean forward, wiping away the transferred gloss smeared around his mouth. It’s no secret to either of you that you’re both desperately trying to repress silly, childish smiles.
“Say hi to Jack for me, okay?” You say finally.
“Um — goodnight, then, Hotch.”
“Aaron.” You’ve never really called him anything other than Hotch. “Have a good night, Aaron. Get more than a few hours sleep?” You push the door of the SUV open, one foot already on the cold, wet tarmac.
Aaron nods, a half-smile still on his face. “Promise.”
He stays until he sees the light in your apartment flick on — and then he drives off into the night.
You find yourself pressing your back against your front door, hands cupping your mouth.
You’re not going to squeal. You’re not going to squeal. You’re over squealing.
(You’re totally not over squealing.)
Hotch claims that he’s out of practice. He really couldn’t be further from the truth.
Your first date is to a little Italian restaurant. Jack’s got a babysitter over for the night, and you both sit side by side instead of across from each other, snacking on good bread and a wine that you actually like. After the last few months of non-stop work, it’s a respite you’re both grateful for, you think — though halfway through, you’re both summoned back to the office. You come to learn that being interrupted by work is a common theme.
(You have to enter separately to avoid suspicion, that night — Hotch in his slacks and shirt and you in your little black dress and red lipstick. Morgan is the first to notice — Looking good, _____. Hot date?
From the corner of your eye you see Hotch lift his head slightly.
Yeah, you answer, smiling coquettishly. Real hot.)
Your second date — which could be your third, actually, or fourth — is dinner at the Hotchner household, which has been a part of your weekly routine for at least a few months, so you’re not sure if it counts. You and Jack help stir the sauce while Aaron cuts the vegetables — music plays from a radio propped somewhere on the dining room table. You cut Jack’s meatballs small so he can eat them easier — he’s just lost a front tooth, and he’s struggling, to say the least. You don’t miss the fond way Hotch looks at you when you do.
You stop keeping count of dates after that — with your hectic work schedule, you barely have time to actually register them as dates. Soon, it’s just… days spent together, y’know?
A trip to the farmer’s market or a nearby theme park (Jack’s idea, of course); more often than not, there’ll be flowers sent to your apartment when cases run into each other — sweet, quiet car rides on your way home from work, because apparently he’s made it his personal goal to never have you take public transport at night ever again.
The team is blissfully ignorant. Garcia has her suspicions that you’re seeing someone — “Nobody is that distracted at 9:30 unless they’re thinking about a special someone!” — which, yeah, you can’t argue with. What can you say? Your nights are so good that they make the mornings a tad harder to stomach, especially when your boyfriend is so close but practically untouchable.
Back to your point, though: out of practice, Hotch says. Your experience with dating has been astronomical — you remember quite vividly telling Aaron that guys your age are pigs, and you weren't lying — but even so, you know that he goes above and beyond. Maybe that’s just another perk of dating an older guy. It’s not ostentatious or over-the-top by any means, but just enough to show that he cares.
This is no exception.
With a rare extra-long weekend, you had an idea of who you were going to be spending it with — your last off-day was given completely to your girlfriends and a bottle of tequila, so needless to say you’re itching for a night in. Aaron was, too:
“Dinner,” he’d said over the phone, a smile clear in his voice. “I’ve got some wine I think you might like. Jack’s — uh, he’s off with his aunt.”
Oh. And that’s another thing — because this is exactly where your brain goes when he tells you Jack is away for the entire night— you haven’t exactly gone all the way yet. Not for lack of wanting on either part, because there’s been many a heated makeout that’ve ended in uncomfortable boners for Hotch, but, well—
There’s never enough time, is there? You think it’s fair to say that you mutually don’t want your first time together to be rushed and pressured. And, more pressingly — even though he hasn’t yet brought it up — he’s still grappling with his own guilt. It’s been almost two years since Haley, but there’s still apprehension there.
That’s why you haven’t been pressing anything — you want him to come to you: willingly, with no pressure or regrets, because as much as you want to help, a majority of it he has to overcome himself. All you can do is be there for him while he does it, you suppose.
“Hey.” He answers the door seconds after you knock, dressed in jeans and a white shirt. It’s pleasant — domestic, even — to be around him with no reminder of work to be seen. As much as you like the suit, there’s something about him like this that makes you monumentally more happy.
The door is opened wider — he stands aside, and waves an arm to usher you in. You notice that — like always — his eyes do a sweep of the road before he closes the door. Old habits, huh?
The door’s barely clicked into place before his arms are around your waist, drawing you closer so that he can plant a kiss on your lips. You find yourself melting into him the second his hand meets the curve of your waist — a content hum on your lips as you return his kisses.
“You brought flowers?” He asks once he’s pulled back, eyes darting down to the bright bouquet clutched tightly in hand. “Thought it was supposed to be the other way around.”
“Actually, I brought them for when Jack comes back,” you tease, even though it’s half-true. “He likes dahlias.”
His brows rise just the slightest bit, and his joy shows light and carefree on his face — he says nothing more about it, though, just: “C’mon. Let me get them a vase.”
Dinner’s already made — chicken and vegetables and rice, all beautifully seasoned and smelling really good. Your stomach gurgles loudly, and you can’t even bring yourself to feel embarrassed when Hotch snorts. He’s just finished setting the flowers on the windowsill over the sink, and instinctively you reach for two plates.
“I didn’t eat lunch. I spent my day getting pretty,” you pout, helping him set the table. Two glasses, two plates, two sets of knives and forks. “Pretty for you, Mister Hotchner, so don’t tease me.”
“Don’t have to try hard for me, honey.” A grin shot at you over the bottle of wine he’s uncorking.
“Smooth.” But your cheeks are warming, so you should just be quiet before you eat your words.
Dinner itself is a quiet, pleasant affair — the wine isn’t bad, but you limit yourself to a single glass; the food is perfect, and you beat Hotch at footsie under the table (even though he swears that there are no winners — something a sore loser would say).
At some point, when you’ve cleaned the table up and migrated to the living room, the matter of the oh-so-dreaded relationship form is brought up. It’s an informal kind of claim you have to file with Strauss — minor details of the relationship to prevent any mishappenings and compromises in the workplace. Knowing Erin, there’ll be a few meetings accompanying it, too. The unit chief of the BAU doesn’t just begin dating his younger coworker with no explanation.
“First thing Monday?” You suggest, following him to the couch. You’ve got your side and he’s got his — without prompting, he tugs your legs onto his lap, and you’re reminded quite starkly of what you expect to happen. Still, you keep your cool: “If we get there early we can be in and out of her office before anyone notices.”
It’s a weird feeling, finally talking about it. A couple of months ago you wouldn’t have even considered it, but now? You’re almost looking forward to letting another person in, because you want people to know — you don’t want to keep hiding how much you love him, and you know the same is true for him. How many times has he had to stop himself from reaching for you while with the team? Professionalism aside, it would be nice to not be hiding.
At the same time, though, you know it’ll open you and Aaron up to a world of scrutiny. Just another thing to get through together, huh?
“You’re gonna be up so early?” Aaron jokes, tilting his head towards you.
“Wow. You know, you should do stand-up, Aaron, really—”
“I know, it’s my backup.” A finger unconsciously taps at your ankle, and you bite at your bottom lip.
Dinner’s finished. Music’s playing softly. Aaron’s still got another half a glass of wine to drink. His hands are so… large. Large, and warm, and trailing over your calves casually, and it’s driving you insane. Your entire body is heating up — gently, comfortably, and you don’t think it’s from your single glass of wine. No; it’s the baritone rumble of a sigh in his chest; the way his hand trails up and down your leg.
You gather your thoughts — snorting, you pull your legs out of his lap. “Let me know how that goes. Back in a sec.”
You pad into the hallway and then, the bathroom. The door clicks silently behind you as it shuts, and you puff out a long stream of air.
You’re hot. Like, flustered hot. Luckily the bathroom’s quite cold — you sit yourself on the edge of the bath as you gather your wits, pressing a paper towel to your cheeks to blot your makeup. You check your hair in the mirror, pull your shirt down the tiniest bit to show a tad more cleavage. You look good, so you’re not worried about that — you’re not worried at all, actually. You trust Hotch with your life (the job kinda demands it) and you know you love him… It’s just this ball of anxiety sitting in your stomach for no apparent reason, but you suppose every big step is like that.
When you get back to the living room, he’s standing again — leaning against the doorframe between the kitchen and this room, his phone in one hand, glass in the other. He’s frowning, and your stomach sinks—
“New case?” You ask, sighing. It’s easy to assume the worst, what with new cases interrupting a large chunk of the time you spend together.
“No, actually. Just a message from Jessica, checking up on Jack.” He looks up from his phone, then, eyes finding yours across the room. He raises a brow, setting it down. “You okay? You look flustered.”
You know better than to argue with a profiler, especially when you’re one, too. You know you’re flustered — your pupils are probably dilated, and you’ve no doubt that he’s noticed your shirt is pulled lower than it was earlier.
Instead, you roll your eyes, wandering back over to him. “That’s your fault.”
You hum — a traitorous giggle following when he winds his arms around your waist and tugs, sending you almost barrelling into his chest. Before you can chastise him, though, you’re kissing him — arms looping around his neck, kiss just teetering on the side of messy, and you feel him guiding you back, back, back—
“Wait,” you gasp out, pulling away suddenly, “Aaron?”
“Is this okay?”
“Yeah — yeah, totally, but… Are we — are you…” You grapple with your words for a second, brain just a bit muddled, before you have a brief moment of clarity— “Are you okay? With this?”
“What do you mean?”
“I just — I want you to be sure. Y’know, about me.” When his face clouds with confusion, you continue: “About us.”
“You don’t think I’m sure?”
“That’s not it — I think you are, but… I don’t know.” Fuck, are you ruining the mood? It’s important to you to make sure he’s not going to end up sabotaging himself over his choices — he’s wont to do so, you’ve learned. “I don’t want you to regret it afterwards. You always internalise your guilt—”
A spark of humour ignites in his eyes, and you feel relief flood you. That’s an answer in of itself, and you both know it. “Are you profiling me, _____?”
“Maybe a little,” you say, smiling sheepishly. You’re suddenly made aware of your position again — standing chest to chest, your arms around his neck — and your cheekiness returns tenfold. “So… are you gonna fuck me?”
Hotch freezes for a moment — it’s actually quite funny — before he huffs a laugh, quiet and almost disbelieving. “Brazen.”
“And you love it.” A swift nip to the underside of his jaw, and you part from him with a teasing grin of your own. You can feel him watching you as you mosey on over to the fireplace, considering the trinkets there like you have a million times before — there’s a reason why you chose this skirt. Your hips look phenomenal in it, and that’s not being cocky, it’s just a fact.
“Well?” You say, glancing over your shoulder. “Are you?”
He doesn’t say anything, at first. Just continues to watch you, glass lifted to his lips, and you realise suddenly that he’s not smiling anymore. His eyes are narrowed — more in thought than in annoyance, and he tilts his head. “Have you…?”
“Done this before?” You finish for him, raising a brow. “Uh — yeah. Yeah, I have.”
“But this would be your first time,” he assumes. “With a man.”
“I’ve been with—”
“Boys.” His frown deepens, eyes almost analytical in their study of you. He takes another sip of his drink. “College boys who don’t know where to put their hands.”
You swallow. You don’t know what you’d expected: of course you never thought he’d be submissive, but you never thought he’d be this dominant, either. Dominant, and confident in it. He seemed like the guy who fucked missionary every night — and that’s not to say you don’t think he knows how to please a woman, because you know he most definitely does. This, though? This is natural, he doesn’t need to try.
Whip-fast, your usual bravado is pulled out from underneath you, and you find yourself floundering again. Instead of answering him, your eyes focus on details that only make you fizzle with anticipation even more: the ungelled hair flopping against his forehead; the crease between his brows; the spread of his fingers over his glass. You feel like you’re heating up from the inside out, warmth ebbing and flowing over your skin, and you’ve got no doubt that there’s sweat beading at your hairline.
“What are you gonna do about it?” You try, grappling to keep your confidence in its place. “Teach me how it should be done?”
“Is that what you want?” He shoots back, his eyes not moving from yours — still unfalteringly calm. “Because I could. I could tell you to sit down on that couch, and remove your clothing, and spread your legs. Would you do that for me?”
“Yes.” You breathe it out before your brain can double-check your thought process. “I would.”
“You like following orders.” And it’s not a question, no — not even an assumption. It’s a statement, a fact, an observation.
“Only from you.”
Oh, he likes that. He doesn’t move, but the corners of his lips angle upwards and his chest heaves with what you can tell is a pleased exhale. “Do it, then.”
You squirm underneath his gaze as you step out of your shoes, first — strappy sandals with a short block on the heel, cute and girly — before taking a seat on the couch behind you.
“Before we do anything, I need to ask,” he says, before you can continue. He drops slowly to his knee in front of you, commanding your attention easily — meeting your eyes with the same intensity and seriousness he operates with at the office. “You’re sure about this?”
“Aaron, I—” You cut yourself off, shaking your head. You’re almost in disbelief — has it not been obvious that you’re fully prepared to jump in head first? That you’re serious about this? You literally just asked if he was going to fuck you. “I… I thought that was obvious.”
Quick as a wink, he presses a short kiss to your lips. “You can never be too careful.”
And he stands up again, goes back to his space by the doorframe, and just… expects you to go back to undressing. Which you do, of course, but not without sending him a pout.
You jerk off your socks with excited hands — you tug your skirt down, then. Blue denim that presses tightly against every curve, blue denim that reveals what was called a thong but is really just a strip of lacey fabric. You don’t miss how Hotch shifts in the corner of your eye, but you say nothing.
The skirt joins the socks on the ground, and you sigh at the feeling of the couch against you. The coolness of the black leather underneath you is an appreciated respite for your overheated skin, spreading over the backs of your thighs.
Your shirt is last to go — pulled right over your head, discarded as a small, pastel pink lump, and you watch as Hotch gets his first sight of what you’ve proudly named your knockout bra: caramel brown silk, gold accents, lace covering the cups.
He’s almost statue-still. You watch him watch you — the look on his face is… for lack of better word, heady. His nostrils are flared and his grip on his glass has visibly tightened, the beginnings of a bulge pushing against his slacks. His eyes trail, slow and steady, up the entirety of you — over the curve of your thighs and the roundness of your cloth-covered breasts, the bare expanse of your stomach.
Even with barely a hair out of place, he’s beginning to look as wrecked as you feel — it’s in the way his brows furrow, and his jaw clenches and his breathing turns slightly more heavy. It has you pulsing around positively nothing, pressing your thighs tightly together.
“You’re beautiful,” he speaks — and it’s so fucking tender that you feel heat rise up the entirety of your neck. He really is softer than he lets on.
There’s a gentle shuffling as he stands up, again; a clink as Hotch’s glass meets the table, and you watch with eager eyes as he unbuttons his shirt at the wrists, before ambling back over to you. He gets on his knees once more, in between your legs, and—
“Tell me, honey. Again.”
One large hand comes up to cup your cheek — the other, somewhere beside you on the couch. The breath is almost stolen from you when he looks right into your eyes, pools of dark, dark brown.
You clear your throat, pretending that his sudden exhibition of dominance doesn’t affect you as much as it does — you have no doubt, though, that he sees right through it. “I’m sure. I… I want you.”
An amused hum, and before you can make a smart comment to earn back your attitude, he’s leaning forward and pressing his lips against yours again. All other thoughts simply fade away, tucked in the back of your brain for later — or never. It’s pretty hard to think about anything else when he’s kissing you like this — slow and methodical, but lingering on the edge of sloppy. Tongue pressing into your mouth and intertwining with yours, your nose bumping against his, and—
One moment you’re seated on the couch, and the next you’re slipping off of it and onto his lap — your hands cradling his jaw, and then smoothing over his hair, and back and forth and back and forth because you can’t make up your damn mind. He holds you tightly against him, chests flush; one of his arms has slung itself around your hips, a hand splayed out against your spine — and then there’s tongue, and you’re whining softly — could be his name, could be a plea, you don’t know. All you know is that his lap might just be your favourite seat from now on.
You realise, soon enough, that his hands on your back are there to keep you steady while he lays you flat against the floor — because all of a sudden you’re laying back against the wooden floors of his living room, breathless and too hot. His lips follow without pause: ducking to brush against your clavicle, before setting to work with trailing kisses along the column of your neck.
"You better not be giving me hickies," you warn, though it's weak and much too obviously a jab at him. "I'll be wearing scarves for the next week."
"A small price to pay," he jokes, and you can feel his smile against your skin. By the time he decides he's finished with your neck, you know you'll be powering through an entire tube of concealer this week.
His lips only move further downwards — pausing for a moment on the softness of your breasts, before he reaches underneath you with a quick whisper of can I…?
"Yeah," you gasp out, "Yeah, of course."
The clasp is undone expertly, of course, because you don't think he's ever been bad at something in his life. That's proven twice over when his mouth focuses its attention on your bare chest — tongue flicking out over your nipples, lips suctioning in such a way that your hips buck up off the floor.
"Patience," is muttered against the underside of your tit. And then, just to be an ass, you suspect, he licks a slow, long strip down the valley of your breasts — eyes flickering up to catch the gentle o of your mouth victoriously.
Ever so patient, he moves onto your stomach, tapping two fingers quickly against your side when you squirm. You can't help but tense your muscles underneath his ministrations, but other than that you try your best to stay still. He very obviously enjoys giving orders as much as you enjoy following them.
You can't see him anymore, which is a shame, but you can feel him continuing down, down, down… At the point where your panties begin, you hear him hum—
"I need to hear you say it," he announces, sitting up once more. You blink, dazed and drunk on pleasure, nerves fizzling with pent-up energy.
He snaps the band of your panties against your skin, and you hiss.
“You want me to do this?”
In theory, yes. But the last time someone ate you out — or tried to — it had been 30 minutes of awkward licking and slurping. It ended with a faked orgasm and a grimace-like smile, and you can’t help but think back to Hotch’s words:
“College boys who don’t know where to put their hands.”
Ain’t that the truth. Thirty minutes of heavy petting and kissing with Hotch left you more breathless than anything any of the other boys had ever attempted, but you can’t help but think that maybe it’s a lost cause. Maybe you just don’t get off on it.
“I — I don’t think…”
He watches you carefully, consciously. “You don’t want to? That’s okay.”
“No! No. It’s just,” you stutter for a moment, suddenly unsure, “nobody’s ever made me… y’know… like that. By doing that.”
“...That’s not your fault.” He almost seems amused — almost. His eyebrow quirks, a tiny uptilt to his lips. “If you don’t want me to, that’s fine. But if you want me to put my mouth on you — and I recommend that you do — you'll have to say it.”
Fuck. He recommends it, huh? That’s either some badly-veiled praise for his own skills or a hint that he’s big enough to need some more extensive foreplay, but either way you’re reminded of another part of Hotch that you like so much: that silent self-assuredness. He knows he’s good — doesn’t feel the need to brag, but the sentiment still stands.
You sigh at the ceiling, resorting back to good old-fashioned brattiness. "Is this what gets you off, Aaron Hotchner? Forcing me to tell you what I want? Here I thought you were completely vanilla."
When you look back at him, his brows are raised in amusement, no sign of giving in present. You roll your eyes, head hitting the ground once more — a last show of impudence before you inevitably submit.
“I’d… appreciate it… if you…” You huff once more— “Put your mouth on me. Aaron. Please.”
An appreciative croon, and his fingers slip underneath the elastic of the waistband. “Now, that wasn’t so hard, was it?”
With a sharp pull, the thong is pulled down to your knees, and then slips from around your ankles with the next. You shiver as you’re bared to the air, Hotch’s arms looping under and around your thighs and tugging. You’re pulled further towards him, his hands flat on your stomach, and then he—
Fuck, he just goes right for it — slots his mouth right over your pussy, licking a thick, long line up the length of you, warm and wet and smooth. An almost pained moan leaves your lips as the first jolts of pleasure flicker up your spine, his tongue suddenly dragging back and forth over your clit. His fingers press divots across your stomach, shifting and squeezing with each suppressed wiggle of your hips.
Like the rest of him, his technique is no-nonsense but skilled at the same time. He doesn’t try to tease you with feather-light strokes, but he doesn’t overwhelm you, either; there’s a grey area there, and that’s where he happily operates. Strong presses of his tongue against your weeping slit, rhythmic rolls against your sensitive ball of nerves.
Breathing slowly growing more and more laboured, you reach a shaking hand down towards him — you barely get a single finger through his hair before he’s humming against you, and holy Jesus—
“Fuck!” You squeak. “F-fuck, Hotch, you’re — you’re really good at this, holy shit—”
Your fingers tighten around midnight locks, and you’re rewarded with another short groan — you think he likes that, but you hardly have any time to linger on it because he’s gently rocking his face back and forth, and you can only throw your head back against the floor and pant up to the ceiling.
At some point, the fight just — completely leaves you. You're spaghetti-limbed and borderline overwhelmed by the pleasure he continuously wrings from you. One particularly powerful suck of his mouth around you has you removing your hands from his hair and cupping it over your mouth, because what the fuck—
It hasn’t even been 10 minutes and you feel like you’re on the brink, like every inch of flesh is trembling and thrumming and just waiting to fall over the edge. And it comes, of course — oh, it comes: the confident, determined motions of Hotch’s tongue soon have you scrambling for purchase, your chest heaving, your voice growing steadily weaker until—
Your back arches from the ground but his hand on your stomach keeps you flat — your fingers find themselves threaded back through his hair, his name a mantra on your tongue as the wave rises and crests. It shudders through every limb, toes curling and fingers tightening, a shivery type of pleasure that’s so unexpected that you literally can only stare at the ceiling, mouth agape in disbelief.
He rides you through it, of course — because what does he not know how to do — gently coercing you down through the haze, humming and cooing your name quietly, thumbs smoothing over your stomach and hips.
As you’re regaining your bearings, blinking through it all, he sits up again; loops his arms around your thighs again and pulls you until your legs rest around his waist. Then — while smiling quite smugly at the dazed look on your face — he hunches back over you, dragging his lips up your neck.
“Aaron Hotchner,” you breathe, finally gaining enough energy to think straight. You wind your arms loosely around his neck, sighing at the feeling of him pressed against your sensitive pussy. “You were holding out on me.”
His chest rumbles with a laugh, and a sloppy, open-mouthed kiss is placed right on your lips. The taste of you is still on him — tangy and salty and a tad bitter — and you don’t even bother to restrain the helpless little sound you make. All you know is that now — post-orgasm, warm and light and with Hotch’s arms around you, you’re the most content you’ve been in a while. And that’s saying something.
“More where that came from,” he mutters against your lips.
You hum, reaching your hands down to fumble with his belt — and fumble is the right word, because you’re still trying to kiss him. You’re relying on touch alone to get it undone, and for some reason the simple buckle is much harder to undo when you’re impatient.
“Just wait,” you gasp out, “until I return the favour.”
“Next time,” he asserts. He stands up, then — you would’ve mourned the loss of him on top of you, except he’s quickly undoing the buckle and slipping his pants and briefs off, and oh. Turns out I recommend that you do was referring to both his skill and his size. He’s not fully erect yet, maybe only half-way, but he looks to be about 6 or so inches already — and he’s thick, too.
Your breath is quite literally stolen from your throat when he wraps a hand around himself and begins to slowly pump himself fully hard, his eyes steady on you. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck. That’s all you can think. Your brain feels like it’s short-circuiting with each pass of his hand, each heavy breath he takes.
You swallow. “Trying to rile me up?”
“Looks to be working.” He stops, then, folding his arms. “C’mon, up.”
“Bedroom’s that way.”
You whine. “We don’t need a bed.”
He shakes his head, smiling slightly. “We’re not having our first time on the floor.”
“Why?” You tease. “Too scandalous?”
He doesn’t look too bothered, and so you resort to pouting. “C’mon, Hotch. We’ll have plenty of time for beds. And couches. And kitchen counters.”
No answer; he just considers you, eyes narrowed playfully.
“C’mon,” you goad, only slightly breathless. You lift your legs, knees coming up to hover above your chest. The dewy, swollen lips of your pussy are bared to him once more, and you grin. “Don’t keep me waiting, old man.”
“Old man, huh?”
He kneels to his haunches, rifling through the back pocket of his pants and procuring a foil square. You almost snort — of course he was this prepared. With your bottom lip bitten between your teeth, you watch as he tears it open. He doesn’t put it on, though; he wants you to, you realise, as he walks back over to you. You peer up at him through your eyelashes as he comes to a stop, very obviously playing coy. He holds it out to you.
“Put it on.”
Well, fuck. No need to tell you twice, especially when he’s all stern like that. You push yourself up and take the condom from his hands, pinching the tip and taking his cock in one hand. You have to stop yourself from leaning forward and pressing a kiss to it — it’s warm and throbbing in your grip, and you want to get your mouth on it, but you also think that if you don’t have him inside you in the next five minutes you might combust, so. Pick your poison.
Once the condom is fully on, neither of you waste any time — your back is suddenly pressed against the floor once more, and he’s taken the position he was in before: your legs around his waist, his hands clutching your hips. He bows down, then, resting his elbows on either side of your head. Through slow, deep kisses you feel him prodding at your entrance — and then with one swift move of his hips, he begins pressing into you.
You vaguely register him murmuring into your ear through the stretch — reassurances and sweet nothings, little praises of you’re doing so well, just a little more — until he’s seated fully inside you, and you’re both clinging to each other like your lives depend on it. You don’t think you’ve ever actually been so stuffed; it almost hurts, but in the best possible way.
“Fuck, Hotch,” you whine, wiggling your hips, “M-move, please.”
There’s no verbal answer, but the suppressed groan that follows right beside your ear is as good an affirmation as anything. He starts off gently — slow, shallow thrusts to get you used to the length of him inside of you — but even Aaron Hotchner can lose his patience, and before you can really register it, his hips are driving into you, deep and grinding and somewhere between too-slow and too-fast—
You don’t think he’s ever had it like this before — dirty and rough and just a tad painful, your nails digging into the skin of his back and his teeth nipping against your neck. In fact, you don’t think he’s fucked on the floor ever. You hope it doesn’t do his back in — but then, it would be worth it, wouldn’t it?
You tell him that — gasp it into his ear with a laugh, but you eat your words when his hips press flush against yours, almost too deep, his body rutting against your clit.
“Brat,” Hotch grunts against you. “Goddamn brat.”
“And you love it,” you manage, biting back a moan, “Fuck — just — right there, fuck—”
It’s all you can do to lay there and take it — hardwood gnawing into your back, hips aching from keeping them up around his waist, tits bouncing between your bodies. You thank God for Hotch’s stamina — he just keeps going and going, his breathing hard and heavy in your ear.
Your toes begin to curl again — you’re so fucking sensitive that you’re not even sure if you can cum again, but his pubic bone is grinding against your clit and his cock presses up against that one spot and fuck, he lifts one of his hands up to grope blindly at one of your tits, and—
“Shit!” It’s a gasp — a garbled curse hemmed by equally unintelligible moans, and your head hits the floor as your orgasm flushes through your body once more. Every nerve and inch of skin thrums as if on the brink of overheating, and it’s only heightened when Hotch’s pleasure follows. He lets out a throaty groan that has your stomach swooping and your walls pulsing around him — and despite the sudden exhaustion that filters through you, you find yourself locking your ankles behind his back and pulling him in as deep as possible.
The only thing to be heard in the comedown is heavy breathing. Your mind is fuzzy, and you’re hit with the sudden desire to fall asleep and never wake up. It’s warm here, and Hotch is a pleasant weight on top of you, and you’re so tired…
Fingers gently sweep away the hair plastered to your forehead. Eyes fluttering open, you blink up at the man hovering above you — there’s a soft smile on his face, and when he sees you peering up at him, he hums.
“Good?” He asks, bowing his head to press a kiss to your nose.
“I’m — I’m great. Better than great. I’m—” A yawn cuts you off, and your face contorts in embarrassment. “I’m… tired.”
He puffs out a laugh. “I can imagine. Give me a second, I’ll be back.”
You can only make some noncommittal sound of acknowledgement, shutting your eyes once more as he slips out of you and stands. Fuck. You don’t think you’ve ever been so drained after sleeping with someone — at the least, you always have enough energy to sneak out while they’re asleep. Now you can barely even fathom the idea of moving. In fact, by time Hotch is back, you’re almost completely sure that you could fall asleep on the floor of his living room with no qualms.
“Honey,” he calls, amusement clear in his voice, “You can’t sleep on the floor.”
“...I can try.”
“You can,” he agrees. His voice nears, and when you open your eyes he’s approaching you, boxers on, two water bottles in hand. “But you’ll regret it, trust me. C’mon—”
He holds out his free hand for you to take, and it’s with a frustrated groan that you let yourself be tugged up. “There we go. Can you walk okay?”
You want to be cheeky and tell him that you’re not that fucked, but the second you try to take a step your knees just buckle. If he hadn’t been so close you would’ve fallen to the floor — luckily, not even post-coital bliss can undermine his reflexes, and he catches you by the waist before you can make an utter fool of yourself.
Aaron Hotchner has rendered you completely spaghetti-limbed. And you have no problem with that whatsoever.
“...I don’t think so, actually,” you say sheepishly.
And so, he promptly hefts you up — a smug grin on his face — and totes you to his bedroom, which you’re no stranger to. You’ve spent many a night (fully clothed) dozing with him when your apartment seems too far away; the sheets feel softer, somehow, when you’re naked. Even more so when he gathers you into his arms and presses his lips to your hair, and:
“Do you remember the night of the Charles Nelson interview?”
Your answering laugh is whisper-quiet. “How could I forget?” It’s the night you admitted your feelings to each other — the night of your first kiss. It replayed in your mind for days after.
“In the car, you asked me what I was afraid of.”
“I… did,” you say after a beat, hesitating. “You don’t have to—”
“I want to.” His hand on your arm tightens, as if to comfort him as well as you. “I — I’m terrified of losing the people I love. I’m scared that… that I’ll make a mistake — make a call that costs everything. Jack, you. The team.”
He takes a second to clear his throat, and you immediately shift to hold your hand over his. You don’t dare interrupt — it’s taking a lot for him to admit this, to confide in you. He’s so used to shouldering everything, keeping his emotions and fears and everything bottled up.
“I’m scared that people will think less of you for dating me, too,” he adds — and even though he tries to inject some humour into his voice, tries to say it as if it’s a joke, you know it’s been weighing on him for a while. He doesn’t want you to answer, particularly — he just wants you to listen, and that’s fine.
You’ve never had any doubts that Hotch cared about you. None at all. Even before you started dating you knew that he cared about you, just as he did everyone on the team, and the sentiment was clearly returned. He was more open with you — though that wasn’t saying much —, less harsh, more forgiving. So no, no doubts.
Still: this? The fact that he trusts you enough to bare his mind like this to you? Your heart flutters in your chest, your eyes wide and dewy when you shimmy up in bed and turn to look at him.
“I’m…” You swallow dryly, shaking your head. “I’m really fucking in love with you, Aaron. I hope you know that.”
You pretend not to see the way his eyes grow glassy, his lips splitting in a beaming smile. “Beat me to it. I love you too.”
Suddenly not so tired anymore, you push the blankets off of you and clamber onto his lap.
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* *:･ﾟ✧*:･ﾟ✧
The weekend passes quickly — you sleep in late the next day, and most of the morning and afternoon are spent making love and preparing for when Jack comes back. It’s no surprise that Hotch has to drop you off at your house before work on Monday — the marks all over your neck call for a little more than your average scarf. No, this is an industrial concealer and powder foundation type of dilemma.
You stride into the BAU an hour or so later to a muffin and cup of coffee on your desk — Aaron’s office blinds are closed, but you know they’re from him. Hiding a grin, you only manage to sit down before—
You blink, wide-eyed as Garcia slams her hands onto your desk. Your muffin almost goes flying, and you squeak as you lunge for it.
“God, Penelope — what is going on?”
“You can’t fool me,” she accuses. “I know a concealer-caked neck when I see one. Who’s the lucky guy, huh?”
“I have no clue what you’re talking about — hey!” Her fingers swipe out in an attempt to reach you, and you bat away her hands. “Penelope—!”
“If you want a coffee so bad, baby girl, I’ll get you one,” Morgan’s amused voice comes from behind you.
“I don’t want coffee,” she says, voice sugar-sweet, “I want to know who _____’s frisking!”
“Who’s frisking who?” And Emily joins the fray.
You groan. “No-one is frisking anyone.”
“Emily, look at her neck. Tell me that’s not makeup!”
Prentiss whistles, and you splutter as she leans forward to take a gander herself. “That’s… that’s a lot.”
Spencer and JJ approach, then, clearly interested in the small circus that’s gathered around your desk at 9 AM. “What are we all looking at?”
“_____’s trying to cover up her weekend.”
“Okay,” you say loudly, “I’m confused — don’t you all have, like, jobs?”
“This is much more interesting,” JJ teases, and you roll your eyes.
“I bet it was Jakoby from Organized Crime. He was all over her at O’Keefe’s—”
“I’m literally right here—”
“No, that’s not her type.”
“Really? _____, you’ve got a type?”
Even over all of the chatter, you all hear the sudden clearing of a throat. The chatter comes to a lilting pause, and all eyes shift over your head — and even though you know who you’ll find, you turn, too.
Hotch stands behind you all with a raised brow, case file in hand. It’s ironic — the man who caused this grief is the one ending it, unbeknownst to the team. You have to restrain a laugh at the amusement he hides expertly, his fake frown more comical to you than anything — he’d obviously been eavesdropping.
“Sir,” Garcia squeaks. “We were just — um, we were—”
“We’ve got a case,” he says, turning. “Conference room.”
You make sure to send Garcia a smug smile as you follow behind, muffin and coffee in hand.
The night Prentiss dies, he finds you sitting on the floor of the break room. Your back’s pressed against the cupboards and your knees are tucked underneath your chin and your face is wet with tears — he has to steel himself, then, standing in the doorway.
As much as he wants to tell you, you can’t know. Nobody can.
You had disappeared after JJ and he had announced it. Took the first ride back to the BAU, he expects. When he passed Prentiss’ desk, he noticed your coat was piled atop it — and it’s not much work to find out where you’d ended up. The entire office is empty: skeleton crew in the security rooms, and a few agents on the other floors, but the BAU is desolate.
The lights to the break room are on, and the door is open.
His steps are quiet as he makes his way across the bullpen; the door barely squeaks when he nudges it further open with his hand. The room appears empty, but then there’s — there’s a sniffle, and he steps farther in, rounding the corner of one of the tables, and he sighs.
There you are.
He doesn’t say anything for a moment: truth is, he’s not sure what he can say. He’s completely out of his depth — because as much as he knows how to comfort a team member, that’s not all you are. That’s not all you’ve ever been, really, if he’s honest. He wants to reassure you, comfort you, but how can he? How can he, when he knows that Emily Prentiss is alive and well? When he knows that you’re mourning a woman who never died?
You’ve always felt more than anyone else. Deeper, he means. Every win hits you hard and every loss hits you harder — you remember every face and name. You’re still young, you haven’t been weathered down yet, and selfishly, he hopes you never will be. Staying this way is a gift. You love — God, you love. With your entire mind and heart and every fibre of your being, and Prentiss was family. He can’t imagine what you must be feeling.
Finally, he drops down beside you, back against the cupboards, too — and as he gathers you in his arms, and the sobs begin to wrack your body once more, he realises that words are unnecessary.
This is what you need.
You’ve never been shot before.
It’s weird, isn’t it? How quickly things go. You expect there to be a slow-motion shot — a panning of the metaphorical camera to the bullet that’s heading right for you. There isn’t, by the way. Just in case someone's interested. The unsub raised his arm and there was a bang and then your chest hurt, and—
“Hey, hey — don’t close your eyes, honey. Look at me. Look at me, _____—”
The unsub is dead — a bullet to the heart, not even 6 feet away, and you try to replay the events that had led up to it. You got to the abandoned warehouse where he’d been hiding out — you took the back entrance, Morgan and Reid took either side entrances. The rest came through the front. The back was supposed to be the lowest risk entrance, and yet…
The girl was barely breathing when you arrived — what was her name? Erica? Eliza? You — you can’t remember. All you can recall is how you’d ran to check her pulse, and there was a click behind you, and then — and then Hotch was there, and he was telling the man to put the gun down, and—
Then you were shot, you suppose.
“Hey.” You vaguely register the rest of the team calling for medical in the background, but all you can focus on is him. His hands are pressing down on the hole in your chest, and he keeps looking between it and your face like you’ll magically disappear if he looks away for more than a few seconds.
Something in the corner of your eye moves — oh, it’s Morgan. Morgan and Rossi, kneeling down beside you, faces contorted with shock. They look strange — like you’re looking at them through glass. Blurry, steadily dimming…
“Stay awake,” Hotch urges, hand slapping the side of your face gently. “C’mon, sweetheart, you can do it. Don’t fall asleep on me.”
“But ‘m… tired,” you slur, whining with another twinge of pain. “An’ — an’ my chest hurts, Aaron, it hurts—”
“I know, honey,” he’s gasping it out, now — he’s holding back tears, you realise, and you can’t fathom what for. “You’re doing so well, okay? Medical — where’s medical?!”
“They’re on their way,” somebody says.
“What’s taking them so long?” Somebody else exclaims.
“I… I…” You — you can’t speak. You can’t. You’re too tired — your lips almost refuse to move, and it’s getting harder to formulate words, and you’re so tired— “Aaron, I… love you… okay…?”
The panic in his voice increases— “Hey, no, don’t—”
But against your will, your eyes roll to the back of your head, and the world fades to black.
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* *:･ﾟ✧*:･ﾟ✧
The journey to the hospital passes in flashes. The ambulance ride is a flurry of hushed talking between paramedics, the siren numb and shrill in the back of his mind. You’re too still. Too grey-looking, too pale, and he knows the image will stick with him. Just like—
Just like Haley. Just like Prentiss.
He walks with you as far as he can — has one bloodied hand on the side of your stretcher until one of the doctors who’d gathered around you kindly tells him that you can’t be past this point, sir because you’re going into surgery. You’re going into surgery because you got shot in the chest and your blood is all over his hands and he’s still got his bulletproof vest on and—
“Aaron, you need to clean yourself up.”
The team arrived maybe — he eyes the clock opposite him — 10 minutes after he did. He registered them walking towards him, registered the way they stopped and stared. He guesses he made an image, sitting with his elbows on his knees and his head bowed, blood up to his forearms. He told them what the doctor had said, word for word, but that wasn’t much — and then he didn’t say much afterwards, either. Just sat and stared at the ground, mind moving too fast for him to keep up with.
They’re not much better. It’s all too much — Prentiss, and now you? They won’t be able to take it. They won’t. Hell, he knows Prentiss is alive and it’s still too much. For the better part of two hours there’s minor conversation — a few phone calls explaining their whereabouts, a few discussions about the case with local police, but nothing more.
The third hour in, though, Rossi leans over, a firm hand on Aaron’s shoulder. “C’mon. We’ve got your go bag, you can change in the bathroom.”
He wants to tell him no. He wants to say I'm not moving from this spot, Dave, because leaving runs the risk of missing something, and he can't afford to—
Dave's voice lowers to a clandestine whisper. Pitying, melancholy. Much too understanding. "I saw you out there, Aaron. I know what you're going through. Trust me: she'd prefer if you were taking care of yourself."
...He makes a good point.
The truth is, realistically, Aaron knows you won’t wake up in the short while it’ll take to change. He knows he'd benefit from not being packed into his vest, too, and… he also doesn’t think he can take much longer with your blood on his hands.
But there's always that childlike fear lingering in the back of his brain — the second you step away, it jeers, you'll lose her. You'll never get to say goodbye.
He's never been one to buy into that voice — or its rhetoric, either. He prefers to… to look at things emotion-free, remove himself from the situation, figure out what’s best in the grand scheme of things.
It’s hard. It’s fucking hard. It was hard with Haley and Jack, it was hard with Prentiss, it’s hard with you, but it’s a fear that has to be overcome.
So he takes his go bag from Morgan. Stands, rolls his aching shoulders.
“I’ll be back in a moment,” he asserts. “I’ll… if anything changes—”
“You’ll be the first to know,” Rossi assures him. “Promise.”
He gets dressed in the hospital bathrooms — too sterile, too white, much too quiet. The only clothes he has in his bag are work clothes; slacks, a pressed white shirt, a suit jacket. He forgoes the jacket — too formal — and washes his hands and forearms, dying the water a sickly pink.
He looks up. Stares at himself in the mirror.
That’s when it sets in — that’s when the tears start. He grips the sides of the sink and bows his head low, chest shuddering with strained, quiet sobs. It’s all coming back — the wetness of your blood on his hands, your pained whimpers — Haley’s body, still and covered in a blanket — “Aaron… I… love you… okay?”
You’ve never called him Aaron before — not while with the team. Always Hotchner or Hotch or grumpy or sir. He dreads to think that… that it may be the last time that you—
No. No. He can’t — he can’t think like that. You’re alive, that’s what matters. You’ll be out of surgery in a few hours and you’ll be fine and he’s not going to torment himself thinking otherwise.
Deep breath. Deep breath. He straightens up, rubs his nose and his eyes, blinks away the redness. Not only do you need him, the team does — and that’s what gets him out of there, really: the knowledge that despite everything, he’s still team leader. Somebody needs to take charge, reassure them — especially after Emily — and maybe… clear up the confusion that’s undoubtedly been wrought from the words you spoke before you passed out. He needs to be that person.
Shouldering his bag and taking one last firm inhale, he rejoins the team where they’ve gathered. Reid and Morgan stand against the wall, talking quietly between themselves; Rossi’s rosary beads have made a rare appearance, pressed to his lips; JJ passes her phone between her hands, no doubt keeping Garcia up to date. When they notice his approach, all attention shifts to him.
He clears his throat — drops his bag on his seat, rubs his hands over his face wearily.
“She’ll be okay,” he says finally. “She… she’ll be okay.”
It’s obvious that he’s trying to convince himself as much as he’s trying to convince them. He sees it in the pity in Rossi’s eyes, the worried frown on Morgan’s face. Reid looks close to tears, and Hotch has to avert his eyes because he’s close to them, too.
“How long have you been together?” says Rossi, then, and Hotch can’t say that he’s surprised. In a team full of profilers, it’s a miracle that you kept it a secret as long as you did, really. Still, when the words leave Rossi’s mouth, Hotch can only freeze.
The few times you talked about telling the team you imagined it would happen over dinner, or… well, not in a hospital waiting room, that’s for sure. Not… not like this. Never like this.
Morgan’s head snaps towards Rossi — then to Hotch. JJ and Spencer exchange confused glances, and then they’re staring at him, too.
“...Since the Charles Nelson case.”
Rossi exhales, and his head bows low. Hotch has the feeling that he’d been hoping more for a what are you talking about? rather than a flat out answer.
“Wh— together?” Morgan echoes, shifting where he stands. “What do you mean ‘together’?”
“You’re dating?” Spencer asks hotly. “Wha— when were you going to tell us?”
“We… wanted to be careful. With work, that is. We told Strauss but—”
“You told Strauss but not us?” JJ interrupts.
“Look,” he interrupts, “We were worried about our reputations more than anything. The BAU’s image as well as our own — it wasn’t because of you. You know what people would say about us — about her—”
A stretcher is rolled past the group, and his mouth shuts. Now that the adrenaline from the night is beginning to wear off, he just feels drained. He collapses into the chair next to his go bag, pinching the bridge of his nose — and that’s when it sets in for the team, then.
He’d lost Haley. He closed himself off for the better part of two years, and just when he opens himself back up to love, this happens. He could lose you too.
JJ is the first to hug him. Morgan, then. Reid and Rossi join quickly after, and they sit like that for God knows how long.
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* *:･ﾟ✧*:･ﾟ✧
It’s not the most graceful way to emerge from unconsciousness, you’ll admit. Then again, emerging from unconsciousness in itself is not a graceful act. The lights are too bright and your mouth is too dry and you’re somehow too warm and too hot at the same time — and don’t even get you started on the throbbing ache radiating throughout your chest, arms, and general upper-body area. It’s hell.
Things start glitching out when you think about how the hell you got here in the first place — you remember driving to the abandoned warehouse, splitting up, and… well, you’re not stupid. You can guess what happened next.
“Hello to you too,” a voice says — not just a voice, your mind corrects you. Aaron, and immediately you’re seeking him out, trying to push yourself up. “Easy, easy.”
He comes into view, hovering above you. One hand gently presses down on your stomach, forcing you back down. He tries a smile — it’s more of a wince, really, especially when he’s frowning like that. “You shouldn’t be sitting up yet. You’ve been out for two days.”
“Noted.” You grimace. The pain in your torso isn’t exactly the type that you can just push through, so you don’t doubt it. “The unsub…?”
“Dead. Gunshot wound.” His eyes drift to the general area where your own gunshot wound is, pulsing and throbbing with pain beneath the bandages and hospital gown, and you’re not ignorant to what he’s thinking: that could’ve been you. “Any pain? Need me to call a doctor?”
“No. No, I’m fine. I mean — as fine as… y’know…” A beat of silence, and you cast a glance around the room. “Where’s the team?”
“They should be a minute. I told them to go back to the hotel, clean up.” It’s only then that he sits back down, pulling his chair closer to your bedside. You watch with timid eyes as he runs a hand over his face — you don’t think he’s slept. No, actually: you know he hasn’t slept. He tends not to when under stress.
“You look tired, sweetie,” you say quietly. “You haven't been taking care of yourself, have you?”
“You were shot in the chest,” he’s quick to interrupt, voice steady and stoic as usual, his eyes narrowing defensively, “You were in surgery for three hours, unconscious for two days. I was worried.”
“You almost weren’t, _____.” There’s a tremble in his voice that makes your heart plummet, and you’re reminded of what he’d divulged just last week. I’m terrified of losing the people I love. I’m scared that I’ll make a mistake — make a call that costs everything.
“Aaron,” you mutter, reaching for his hand. The warmth of him dims the pain for a second, and you take a deep, steadying breath. “I can’t guarantee that I’ll never get hurt, okay? And neither can you. And that’s — that’s terrifying, really, when I think about it, because I remember sitting at your bedside after Foyet, and I remember how it felt seeing you so… so still and pale and…
“My point is: I can’t promise that. You know I can’t, and neither can you. But I can promise that I will do everything I can to prevent it. That I’ll do everything I can to reassure you time and time again that it isn’t your fault and it never will be — that… that—”
You cut yourself off, because your throat constricts with a sudden wave of emotion — you can’t even put a finger on what it is. Guilt and sadness and fear — fear, because fuck. You could’ve died. You didn’t, and that’s a relief, but what if the bullet had just been a few inches to the right? You would’ve left him alone. Jack, too. Spencer and JJ. Morgan and Rossi and Garcia. Your mom — who you haven’t spoken to in a long, long time — would get a call: Your daughter’s dead. Sorry for your loss. And that would be that.
“I’m sorry,” you blabber, because suddenly you’re crying and sniffling and Hotch is standing from his seat, cupping your face in his hands, “I — I didn’t even see him — he just came out of nowhere, and—”
“Hey, look at me — honey, look at me—” Just having his hands on you — having him guide your eyes towards him instead of around the room — is enough to get your sobs to quieten to whimpers, and he works quickly: “We’ve all had our fair share of hospital stints. This wasn’t your fault, do you hear me? He’s gone, and you’re not. You’re here, and he’s not.”
You clasp your hands over his, bottom lip trembling— “Aaron, I’m so sorry—”
“There’s nothing for you to be sorry about.” He stares at you as he says it, as if not blinking will help you understand better. And it does, in a way, you suppose: your chest doesn’t feel quite as heavy, and you find yourself nodding along with him. “You’re okay now. That’s all that matters.”
That’s all that matters. That’s all that matters. You’re alive, and safe, and that’s all that matters.
“Could you — could you kiss me, please?” Because you almost died and it’s only setting in and you want your boyfriend to kiss you, goddamnit. You can have this — if nothing else, you can have this.
There’s a split second before he leans in where he’s face just contorts in sadness — his eyebrows arching upwards and his jaw clenching, and he looks so heartbroken that for a second you feel like you could cry again.
But the moment passes, and he presses his lips to yours, and you feel… you feel right again. Like the anxiety that had been lying dormant in you dissipates into thin air, fizzles out of existence. All there is is Aaron and his warmth and the softness of his hair and the smell of his cologne and how firm and sweet he holds your face between his hands—
“Hope we’re not interrupting.”
—and then there’s… Rossi. He rattles his knuckles against the door, snickering like a child when you pull your face away from Aaron’s at the speed of light — and then the rest of the team trickle in, all tired smiles and well-wishes.
Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck — how are you supposed to expla— why is Hotch not panicking—?
“Guys!” You exclaim, eyes darting between them all. Is your chest actually hurting or is that just your own panic? “I — we can explain—”
“Cat’s out of the bag, kid,” Morgan says, his grin soft and fond, “We know.”
“You… you know,” you repeat dumbly. Your eyes find Hotch — he’s already looking at you, wearing a soft, bashful grin of his own. “They… know?”
“They know,” he confirms, reaching for your hand — and you don’t miss the way Morgan nudges JJ’s shoulder when he does. “One less thing to worry about, huh?”
“I — I mean, yeah. Totally.” It doesn’t take a profiler to know that you’re suddenly flustered to hell and back with the attention being poured on you from every direction. You know they want to tease you — you know they’re all hanging on to their jokes and quips, save maybe Reid, who just looks happy to see you both happy.
“One hell of a reveal,” Rossi jests at last. “You didn’t need to get shot, y’know.”
You scoff, “Oh, yeah. Let me keep that in mind for the next time.”
Aaron’s hand tightens around yours, and he sends you a mostly joking look of warning. “There won’t be a next time.”
“Seven months ago, I made a decision that affected this team.”
Hotch has been gone for the better part of seven months, too. An investigative task-force in Pakistan — all details need to know, so naturally, you knew virtually nothing. Texting was limited, video-calling even more so. When the team downsized after Emily, it was only a matter of time before he was whisked away.
You didn’t even know he was coming back until an hour ago. He can’t meet your eyes.
“As you all know, Emily had lost a lot of blood after her fight with Doyle.”
You don’t know why he’s explaining this. You all know. You were all there. You’d buried her, mourned her, and continued to do so. The entire team was rocked by her loss. It changed you all. Morgan is running himself to the ground going after Doyle — Reid spends most of his free time at the shooting range. Garcia frantically mothers the entire team like it could bring Emily back, but—
“But the doctors were able to stabilize her, and she was airlifted from Boston to Bethesda under covert exfiltration. Her identity was strictly need-to-know, and she stayed there until she was well enough to travel.”
Your head snaps up — as does Garcia’s. As does Morgan’s, Reid’s, Rossi’s — and his eyes instinctively find you. He’s quick to look away, though, retaining that ever-so-stoic leader facade. You feel like you’re going to be sick — you feel like you’re in a dream. This isn’t real. This — this can’t be real—
“She was reassigned to Paris where she was given several identities, none of which we had access to, for her security.”
The silence in the room swells, dips, rises once more. Garcia’s the first to speak — her eyes glassy and her face the image of heartbreak. You imagine you look no better, because you’re not even attempting to hide what you’re feeling.
“But… we buried her,” Reid says next, confused and hurt and — he doesn’t deserve this. None of you do. How hard had he beat himself up for her death? How long has he been coming to you with his heart on his sleeve, crying his eyes out?
“As I said, I take full responsibility for the decision. If anyone has any issues, they should be directed toward me.”
“Any issues?” You almost think it’s you that speaks, because the anger that’s so clear in Morgan’s voice is what you feel. “Yeah, I got issues—”
The sound of approaching footsteps — heels — draws everyone’s attention. Heart in your throat, anger in your veins, shock fogging over your thoughts, you follow everyone else’s lead, and turn towards the doorway.
There stands Emily Prentiss — alive. Well. Looking healthy and glowing and sheepish, and you’re not sure whether you want to be furious or glad or both or neither or—
“Oh my God,” you breathe, pushing your chair out. “Emily, oh my God—”
You’re crying. God, you’re crying, but you don’t care — you cross the room to her and wrap your arms around her as tightly as they can go. She still uses the same perfume, you notice. It’s like nothing’s changed, and yet—
Everything. Everything has changed.
✧･ﾟ: *✧･ﾟ:* *:･ﾟ✧*:･ﾟ✧
Hotch realises that you’re avoiding him quite quickly, which is to be expected.
You haven’t hugged him. Kissed him. Talked to him alone, even, apart from a hurried welcome back, sir — the rest has been case talk, and not for lack of trying on his end, because he’s tried. You go home before he can catch you on the way out; you slip off to the ladies’ bathroom when he enters the break room. Every attempt to start a conversation is quickly snuffed out with a quick sorry, I’ve got to get this to Garcia or sorry, sir, I’m busy.
You just… you need time.
You’ve always… found it hard to open up to people. You have no problem caring for others, or comforting — you’re naturally extroverted and it’s never bothered you. You like talking to people. People like talking to you. You feel every emotion deeply — too deeply, sometimes — and you used to hate it.
You recall the death of your beloved pet fish, Sammy, when you were 14. You cried for a week straight. Over a fish. And now, at 25, you still haven’t managed to stop caring as much as you do — Hotch knows that. He’s reprimanded you for being too emotionally involved in certain cases, but it’s not something you can just turn off.
He knew that when Prentiss died, it was like a part of you died, too. She was like a sister — is, you remind yourself. She is like a sister, because she’s still alive.
She’s alive, and you’re supposed to… to just go back to normal. You’re supposed to pretend that you didn’t bury her — an empty coffin, rather —, that the entire team hasn’t been rickety and crumbling ever since her supposed death.
And don’t get you wrong — you know that you’re being immature. You know the whole deal with Prentiss was out of both of their hands and Hotch was doing what was best, but it doesn’t stop you from feeling painfully, indelibly betrayed. He saw what Prentiss’s death did to you. He saw and he sat there and he held you, comforted you, knowing what he knew.
So maybe avoiding him wasn’t the most sophisticated decision you’ve ever made. You can admit that — still, your pride is bruised. You don’t plan to try and talk to him until the Doyle case is cleaned up and stored away, except—
Except he catches you off guard one early morning.
In your defense, it’s before 7 AM, and you’d hoped you would have another hour or two until the rest of the team arrived. You’re walking through the hallways outside of the BAU, eyes trained on the grainy surveillance photos in hand, when somebody grabs your wrist and pulls you back the way you came.
You catch the back of a head full of ebony hair and a tall, lean figure, and you curse.
“Hey—!” You exclaim, trying to tug your hand back— “Hotch, stop! What are you doing—?”
“You’ve been ignoring me.” He experimentally opens the first door he sees, and peeks his head in — it’s an empty office, and he must decide that it’s perfect, because he pulls you in after him.
“I haven’t been ignoring you—”
“I haven’t seen you in seven months.” He sits on the edge of the great, sleek desk — the room’s centrepiece — and he looks at you with that look. You know: the raised brow, folded arms. The one that says I know what you’re doing and I want you to explain.
You shuffle in place, suddenly ashamed. “You saw me yesterday.”
“You feel betrayed,” he says, eyes still fixed on you. “I kept Prentiss a secret from you. From the entire team.”
And God, it irritates you. You want him to argue. You want him to snap — if only so that you can snap yourself. You don’t want him to be understanding and empathic because then you can’t be angry at him, and if you can’t be angry at him then it’s just going to well up and eat you from the inside out—
“Can we do this another time?” You say, about to turn on your heel—
“_____.” His voice takes a stern turn. “I know what you’re doing.”
“Oh? Humour me, Hotchner. Profile me.”
He scoffs a laugh, an amused little smile tugging at his lips, and your eyes narrow. “I’m not gonna do that. You wanna get angry? Get angry. Tell me what you think. Tell me why you’re avoiding me.”
“I’m avoiding you because I don’t know what to say, Aaron!” You finally exclaim, stepping forward. “I don’t know what to say, because I know why you kept it a secret and it still hurts. I’m angry and I don’t even know who I’m angry at! You let me mourn for months — we buried her! I — I tormented myself over what I could’ve done better — I cried, and I didn’t sleep properly for weeks after, and I — and then you were gone, too!
“You were gone, and she was gone, and it was hell, okay?” You finish — and you huff, then, turning your back to him because your eyes are beginning to sting and you’re embarrassed. “I needed you and you were gone, and it wasn’t even your fault. I… I didn’t have anyone to blame, so I blamed myself.”
Your bottom lip trembles, and you roughly wipe away whatever wetness is staining the corner of your eyes. “It doesn’t matter. You’re both back now, and… everything is going back to normal, I guess.”
Hotch stays silent, watching intently as you turn back towards him. You have no more to say — that’s all of it, compacted into a few lines and a few tears. Seven months of hardship squished into one rant. You can only stare right back at him, breathing heavy, eyes glassy, until—
“Come here, honey.”
For all your determination about avoiding him, the second he opens his arms, you fall right into him. Call you weak, you really don’t care — seven months is a damn long time, and all anger aside, you missed him. Your bad mood has fizzled into a resigned sense of acceptance, at this point — you just needed to let it all out.
You practically melt into him. Maybe you hold him a little too tight, but his arms aren’t exactly loose around your waist, so you don’t trouble yourself over it. You just… allow yourself to exist with him, for a moment, completely free of burden and protocol and Doyle and everything. You breathe in his cologne and feel the softness of his suit against your cheek and the broadness of him in your arms — and there’s a sniffle against your shoulder, but you’re teary, too.
“You know why I did it,” he murmurs against you, “but I’m still sorry. I wasn’t there when you needed me, but — but I’m here now, okay?”
And as he pulls back — just slightly, mind you, just enough to press his lips gently to yours — you know, wholeheartedly and completely, that that’s enough.
(“Am I missing something?” Prentiss watches — mouth agape, eyes wide — as Hotch whispers something over your shoulder, grinning widely. He’s standing close behind you — much too close, might she add — and nobody else seems to be bothered.
She looks on, her eyebrows progressively rising and rising as you laugh, lifting your glass of wine delicately to your lips — Hotch’s arms wrap around your body to chop the onion Rossi had placed on your cutting board. Emily should be learning how to cook carbonara, too, but her eyes keep drifting back over to you.
“I’m — I’m missing something, aren’t I?”
“Oh — nobody told you?” Garcia asks, tilting her head as she passes. “I thought they did.”
“Told me? Told me what?” Emily calls after her. “Wait — Penelope! Told me what?”)
6K notes · View notes