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up against stone and steel

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Here is what you should already know:

He calls and she answers.






The ambulance ride is bumpy, and Emily watches JJ wince every time a tire hits a pothole.

Emily had been the only one who could convince her to go to the hospital. JJ had been desperate for Will and Henry, and Emily had understood but also knew it was necessary to be practical. That JJ needed her to be practical. So, she pressed and needled until JJ eventually simply grew tired of arguing.

Now they sit side by side on a gurney tucked away in the back of an ambulance because JJ adamantly refused to lay down and Emily knew when to make concessions.

They are mostly silent. The monitor attached to JJ’s arm beeps periodically, and the suspension groans as tires drive over every bump and crevice in the road. The EMTs look everywhere but at them, scribble notes on a clipboard, and talk quietly amongst themselves. Emily drowns it all out, focuses on the even sounds of JJ breaths. Reminds herself that her friend is mostly alive and mostly intact as she catalogs the bruises blossoming into deep shades of purple on her face, on her neck, around her wrists.

“London suits you, Em,” JJ says quietly. It takes Emily a moment to realize she is talking. “I don’t like it.”

JJ tries for a smile, but it must hurt because quickly thereafter she presses her lips into a thin line.

“You would like it,” Emily tells her. “You should come visit. Bring the boys.”

JJ hums something in the back of her throat. “Maybe,” she says. There is a beat then, “Emily, I…” she starts and stops, searching for words.

Emily reaches for her hand. Holds on. “I know.”

When JJ breaks down, when the tears start and cannot stop, Emily simply pulls her friend closer and holds her until the moment passes.






At the hospital, he finds her near the vending machines. She is idly watching as dark liquid sloshes into a paper cup. Emily can hear him before he even enters into her peripheral. Recognizes the sharp inhale when he catches sight of her, the subtle shift in his gait as he crosses the distance between them.

Still, she startles when Hotch’s fingers graze her elbow in lieu of a hello. Looks first at the spot in the crook of her arm where they are connected by touch and then to his face. His expression is unreadable. She expects nothing less. Hotch drops his hand to his side too casually, takes such a small step backward it would appear insignificant to anyone but her.

“She’s going to be okay,” Emily tells him. “A few broken ribs, but…”

He nods, quick and severe. They are quiet for a long moment. An announcement is called over the speaker system; there is a code blue in the ER. People rush about around them, all running with the same urgency towards the source. It looks and sounds like mayhem for a good forty-five seconds and then everything settles again.

“Thank you for coming,” he says softly.

A glance is spared in his direction. His expression is still mostly unreadable, but she sees the gratitude there, the sheer relief. She grabs the newly filled cup of coffee and presses it into his hands. Their fingers brush and it is not clear which one of them lingers, which one of them welcomes and leans into the warmth, but Emily is ultimately the one to pull away. Digs a dollar out of her pocket and loads it into the vending machine. Orders another cup of coffee and listens as the machine whirs to life again.

With a shrug, she mumbles, “You asked, so.” And leaves it at that.

Around them, the hospital is too bright and smells of antiseptic. It makes her head ache. She remembers then, very suddenly, waking up in a cold room with lights that were too bright and him being there next to her. Remembers the way he had grabbed her hand, relieved when she said his name in a voice that did not sound like her own. Remembers him not letting go when she cried as he told her Emily Prentiss was dead. She flicks her gaze towards him again. Finds him watching her. She figures he is remembering too.

Off to the right, JJ and Will are being reunited. Henry grabs helplessly at his mother’s hand and even with a good fifty feet between them, Emily can hear the strangled sob Will releases when he pulls JJ towards him.

Emily looks down at her feet.





At the bar, she drinks too much.

It is an adjustment being back in DC. One she really didn’t have to make until now because she hit the ground running the moment the plane touched down in Quantico and never stopped until JJ was brought home. Being back is an adjustment and the adjustment is difficult. This realization hits her harder than she thought it would. Makes something rise and catch in her throat as she watches her people orbit around her in the middle of a crowded bar.

In London, Emily is always in constant motion.

She moves and keeps moving with unrivaled efficiency and determination. She is excellent at her job. She is a fierce leader. She has a new team and new friends, but they are completely separate entities divided by a single, bold line. It is easier this way. Simple. Emily knows this because when she wakes in the morning her first thought is almost always of them, of the people she left behind, of the life she traded in. Her second thought is an act in remembering: there were reasons she left and those reasons still mostly stand.

The routines are still familiar, though. Almost akin to muscle memory. And even though she has been back in the states for less than forty-eight hours it is all too easy to fall back into old patterns.

Nearly two years gone and these people still feel like home.

Emily finds that it is both a comfort and a hindrance to her. She has never liked feeling beholden to anything or anyone.






Hotch offers to drive her to the airport.

Emily is quiet for most of the ride and so is he. It is comfortable, easy.

He is about to take the exit to Dulles when her phone chimes. An alert informs her that her flight is delayed. Indefinitely. Apparently, there are storms in London. He makes a joke, his mouth twisting when he says something along the lines of that’s what you get for flying commercial. Emily laughs but it sounds tired. The jet leg and exhaustion settles in deep, licks at her nerves.

Hotch offers her his spare bedroom. Tells her Jack is visiting with his grandparents.

She drank too much at the bar, she thinks but mumbles okay anyway.






Hotch’s apartment is exactly how she remembers it. The first thing Emily thinks about as she crosses the threshold is that she can still pinpoint the exact spot where Foyet carved him open inch by inch and the red of his insides spilled onto the white carpet.

Emily walks around it.

There are reminders of Jack everywhere. The apartment is well lived-in, and she supposes that might be the only difference she can note from then and now. This place feels like a home, more so than the last time she was here. She is happy Hotch has this, knows he certainly fought hard enough for it.

Smalltalk is made as they settle in. They hold it for as long as they can until the exhaustion becomes unforgiving. The sweatpants and t-shirt he gives her are too big, but they smell like him and Emily takes comfort in the familiar. His guest room is small, full of boxes and old toys. It is more a catch-all rather than a room of designation. He is a little sheepish when he shows it to her, the tilt of his head something similar to an apology. She mumbles something about it being better than a couch, and it is true. It has a mattress and a pillow and it is only for one night. Her flight has already been rescheduled tentatively for 5 AM by her assistant back in London.

Emily lays down, closes her eyes, evens her breathing because she is desperate for sleep to find her. It never does. The adrenaline from the day still pulsates through her, a livewire under her skin. Whenever she manages to fall into some state of unconsciousness that resembles sleep, she becomes restless. Tosses and turns helplessly.

The sound of creaking floorboards jolts her awake. She listens carefully. Hears the refrigerator door open and close. The clinking of silverware. Emily counts five Mississippis in her head. Twice.

She goes to him.






I need your help, he had said.

She did not need to know anything else.

She never did.






“Can’t sleep?”

“Not tonight apparently.”

Emily lingers in the doorway. The sweatpants hang off of her hips and she pulls them up in annoyance. Watches as he shovels spoonful after spoonful of cereal into his mouth.

For a while he does not look at her and Emily cannot help but find it incredibly odd.

Then he does and she understands why. When he looks at her, finally, it is very carefully, and she watches his gaze flick over her from top to bottom. She sees his features darken. Takes note of the way his tongue darts out quickly to lick his lips.

And she remembers.






They share a secret that nobody else knows, a secret they have managed to bury so deep they sometimes go days and weeks and months without remembering.

They fucked once.

After Foyet tore him and his world apart but before they bury Haley. That span of time where Hotch had been held together with nothing but sheer will and determination and the rest of them were merely along for the ride, waiting with bated breath for the eventual fall.

There had been a case. Emily cannot remember the exact details except for the fact that she almost died and Hotch had been so angry with her because of it. Called her reckless for separating from Morgan, irresponsible for chasing after the Unsub without backup, insubordinate in the way she ignored his order to wait. Hotch was angry and mean and when they were back at the hotel she went to him and called him on it. Told him he was being unreasonable. That he could keep taking it out on her because she had survived much worse, that she could survive him, but there was only so much some of the others could handle. He would lose them, she said, and he had looked so broken, so bereft in that moment it shook the very core of her.

It is important to note that Hotch was the one to reach for her, to cross the line, but Emily did not hesitate.

When he kissed her then it was hard and bruising. She felt it in her teeth.

He was not kind in the way his hands tangled in her hair and pulled. He was not gentle with the intensity in which he held her to him. He was not apologetic about the pressure of his fingertips on her hips, the way they dug into bone, leaving reminders she would carry with her for days after. The want he had for her was clear. She felt it in the weight of his mouth against her own, the hardness of his cock against her leg. But the need was present in every moment, every movement, every flick of his tongue against hers, every guttural and desperate moan she swallowed and made a part of her.

Even though she knew the need had absolutely nothing to do with her and everything to do with the slowly imploding world that existed outside that room, outside of that moment, she did not shy away from him. Matched it with her own bit for bit. Kissed him back just as hard, the clash of their teeth causing vibrations to reverberate in the base of her skull, sparking down the path of her spine before settling in there. She pulled his bottom lip between her teeth, applied pressure until his blood spilled into her mouth. A reminder he would carry.

Tension hummed through her violently, made her dizzy, clumsy. Reckless.

There had been a moment – just one – where he pulled away, tried to even his breathing. Looked at her. There was a question there, buried under all the emotions he never allowed the world to see but were laid bare for her then. She read it easily. It should have given her pause, made her think, redraw lines and boundaries instead of crossing them blindly. And maybe if she were a different person, if they were different people altogether, things would have been different. They would have stopped, would not have gambled so hastily.

Instead, she merely jutted her hips against his in a way that told him there was no need for pretense.

She understood what this was, what this meant, and did not care.

He fucked her first with his mouth and then with his cock buried inside her. She came both times. He was urgent in the way he took and took and took from her and she was steadfast in the way she gave him what she understood he needed.

It was only after that Emily realized they never even spoke.






They have never needed to fill the space between them with noise.

Hotch finishes his bowl of cereal and Emily continues to linger in the doorway. He does not ask her if she wants anything for he already knows her answer. He knows her. He has an intimate knowledge of her and she of him. It is the result of years of the work, yes, but also from friendship, from a fundamental understanding of each other that was finally built after a few fits and starts. There was loyalty between them. Trust.

It is how they were able to gamble so recklessly all those years ago and still come out ahead.

The chair scrapes the floor as he stands. Hotch places his now empty dishes in the sink. Runs water over them for a few seconds. Crosses the room until he is in front of her. Until they are both standing in the middle of an entryway that is not wide enough to hold them both.

He does not touch her and she does not touch him but Emily can feel the weight of his breath against her skin, can feel the warmth radiating off of him because he is standing so close, too close to be mistaken for anything except deliberate. But also because her body is already hyperaware of everything about him. Their immediate future spills before her. She already knows how this will end.

He stares at her. Hotch’s gaze is unyielding, intimate in the way it tears into her. It makes her feel too vulnerable before him. Uncomfortable, like he is peeling her layers back one by one, exposing exactly who she, exactly who he knows her to be.

She forces herself not to look away.

She does not kiss him. He does not kiss her.

For the longest time, they simply continue to stand there in a space that cannot hold them both and stare at one another. Breathing. Waiting. The inevitability of it gets her so keyed up she can feel the anticipation thrumming wild and hot through her veins. She can already taste the sugar on his tongue from the cereal, the remnants of the scotch he had at the bar. She can already feel the weight of him against her, between her legs, inside of her. Emily has not allowed herself to think of this, to think of him this way for so long that she honestly had forgotten until this moment right here and now.

Emily still does not kiss him and he still does not kiss her. She knows what he wants, reads the dare he offers with his lack of inaction. Emily is stubborn to a fault, but here, with him, the arousal and want and need coils viciously in the pit of her belly, blinding her, forcing her into action. She does not kiss him then, does not give in completely, but she does reach for him. Her fingers tangling in the white of his t-shirt and pulling, dragging him forward that last fraction of an inch towards her.

He smiles then, mouth curling at the corners, and she thinks she hears her name, but cannot make it out over the white noise pounding in her ears.

When they do kiss it is a compromise, a draw, as the two frantically meet somewhere in the middle.






She allows him to take her to his bed. Allows him to pull his sweatpants down her legs with care, pull his shirt over her head. Allows his mouth to slide between her breasts, his tongue tasting her skin as he moves. Hotch is slow and gentle, and she allows him a few moments to become reacquainted with her, to try his hand at tentative, at tender before she turns it into something filthy.

With a bend in her knees, Emily moves until she is straddling him, a thigh on either side of his. Slants her mouth against his furiously, pushing her tongue against his, flicking it against the hard bone of the roof of his mouth because she remembers he likes it. Hotch moans, the sound settling heavily between her thighs, and his hands follow the path, press against her roughly. There is another moan then, this one almost feral when he finds her already wet and waiting against his palm.

Emily is unashamed with her want, with her own need, and grinds against his hand, desperate for friction.

There is a slick pop as he pulls away and tries to catch his breath. He moves both hands to her hips, stilling her, and stares at her just as he had before in the kitchen, stares as if he is looking right into her. Like he has already figured her out. It is too much. She does not want to look away. Does not want him to know that is likely the truth. Does not want him to know how vulnerable she feels before him, so she simply tangles her fingers into his hair and pulls him back to her mouth. Kisses him with an urgency, a violence that cannot be mistaken as something more or something less. Her mouth takes control of his own. Her hand finds his where it presses into her left hip, guides it hastily between her legs. She shows him what she likes. It is almost instantaneous the way he remembers, the way he takes over, pressing one finger then two into her and curling. She shudders when his thumb flicks against her clit just the way she needs. He opens her up inch by inch with just his fingers, and she feels the pressure build, feels herself start to come undone so easily she is angry with herself for it.

Emily is greedy in the way she takes and takes and takes from him and he is unyielding in the way he gives her what he knows she needs.

There are no pleasantries exchanged, no permission asked for or granted.

She removes his hand between her legs, pins it with the other one above his head. She likes the way he struggles initially then gives into her completely. Her hips roll against his until his body is begging for hers, until he tears away from her mouth to sink his teeth into her shoulder just to keep himself from saying please.

Emily is brutal in the way she fucks him. She is a bitch in the way she slides herself over and onto him without any preamble and does not wait for the necessary accommodation. She is unforgiving in the way she moves and keeps moving until he is coming apart underneath her, and she is the one watching, her eyes on his the entire time.

Above their heads, her fingers leave imprints on his wrists where the bones collide.

Later, she will dig her fingers in his hair, hold his head between her thighs as he uses his mouth and tongue to wreck her, to hollow her out completely.






They sleep.

Hotch on his stomach, spread out with his hands clenched into fists and Emily on her side, curled facing the door.






Early the next morning there is a text sent from the safe confines of a cab heading across town. It is less than he deserves, less than their history demands, but it is so much easier.

Her thighs still ache with reminders of him when she clicks send.






Here is all you really need to know:

They have already forgotten.

They will continue to forget.

Until they need to remember again.