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The first time they were back in the plane with the team he was uncomfortable with how much it felt like theirs.

He was sitting in same spot, reviewing the file, when she walked in with JJ. She hesitated mid laugh, for just a moment. Not enough for JJ to notice, but enough for JJ to step ahead and settle into the window seat. Leaving Emily to slip into the seat directly across from him.

But by then she was composed and he was still just a little off, so when their feet bumped under the table, he was the one who missed a beat talking to JJ. Emily greeted Reid with an eager question about his weekend, and Hotch got off with only the slightest frown from JJ before she enthusiastically joined the conversation as well.

 

The rest of the case went by without incident, though Emily seemed slightly more weary than usual.

To his surprise, she chose to sit next to him on the way home. She tore through most of a Vonnegut, consumed three cups of coffee, and fidgeted the entire time. She spent most of the flight leaning away from him, propped on the armrest, but her thigh never strayed so far away from his that he couldn’t feel her warmth through two layers of cotton and the space between.

When they landed he agreed to a single beer, and the real reason was that he was worried about her.

He was surprised when she too begged out of a second drink. As they slipped out, warm goodnights floating in their wake, she caught his forearm.

‘I’m fine Hotch, honestly.’

 

His weekend with Jack was lovely, quiet. Checkers and macaroni and cheese and The Incredibles and the zoo and the park and more stories than he could count. He thought of Dave as he was cooking the elbow noodles, JJ as Jack made a friend who reminded him of Henry, Reid when the zoo keeper entranced Jack with information about armadillos, Derek as he chatted with the father of Jack’s new friend, Penelope as they read about Miss Bessemer. He thought of Emily twice. The first time was Jack, sweet as ever, happily pointing to a Renoir in the book they were reading, exclaiming that she looked just like Emily. The second time she slipped into his mind all on her own, much to his chagrin, the image of her stretching an early morning the week before, her shirt pulled tight against the breasts he’d never been able to ignore, and riding up to show off an inch of stomach.

He froze mid-stroke, rolled over, and waited for sleep to come.

It wasn’t the first time he’d had an unwelcome fantasy, of course. He was comfortable with his sexuality, and entirely familiar with healthy yet socially inappropriate fantasies. So when he walked into work on Monday, they exchanged easy, friendly smiles.

He wasn’t all that surprised that she beat him in. He was surprised that her fingers did not look unusually ravaged. Her coffee intake told him that she wasn’t sleeping enough. Her cough made him wonder whether it was a matter of also not eating enough or whether she’d been pushing herself through runs in the cold.

He was surprised when she left early for lunch with her gym bag, though not, naturally, when she returned with wet hair. Her energy level, on the other hand, spiked notably for approximately an hour.

He packed up at exactly five o’clock, eager to spend another evening with Jack. The determined look on JJ’s face told him that she would soon be doing the same. He paused at Emily’s desk, watching her type slowly but steadily, not wanting to draw attention to her, but wanting the reassurance that she’d be okay. She shot him a tired but apparently genuine smile of reassurance. After returning it, he continued on his way.

 

The two days that followed passed almost identically. Everyone noticed, but as her behaviour was merely unusual and she really did seem to be - as she insisted - fine, no one pushed. Hotch was just grateful that the constancy of her exhaustion meant that she was getting enough sleep to get by.

Five o’clock on Wednesday had Hotch packing up once again, but packing lighter and with less enthusiasm. It wasn’t that he didn’t want to go, dinner would be nice and Jack was excited for the birthday sleepover - but, as ridiculous as it made him feel, he was going to miss Jack. Five days had gotten him impractically used to spending every non-working moment with his son. Rationally, he was glad this was being dealt with now and not in whichever poor town they were next in. But it didn’t make it any more enjoyable.

He was distracted enough that he bumped into somebody at the bottom of the stairs, and was promptly splashed with hot coffee.

‘Fuck!’ It spilled out of her lips at the same instant as his own, calmer, ‘Shit, sorry.’

Emily shook her head. ‘No Hotch, I’m sorry, I’ve just been a little...’

He shook his head, smiling warmly and cupping her elbow. ‘Don’t worry about it, I was going to change anyways. I’ll see you tomorrow.’

He moved to pass her just as she tried to duck out of the way, and they collided again - though thankfully without any more spills. Hotch smiled and Emily shook her head with a chuckle, staying still this time as he moved past her. He waved distractedly at Morgan and Reid, a slight frown back on his face. He stepped into the elevator, puzzled. There was something peculiar about what had just happened, something odd about...

She smelled like smoke.

Barely there, just that underlying acrid hint that he recognised from when Haley was writing her honours thesis and pretending she hadn’t touched a cigarette since high school. Suddenly the pattern of Emily’s energy over the past three days and the daily lunch-time workouts made sense. He wondered where she was smoking - after her workouts and before her showers - and remembered mention of a new cafe she had discovered. He could practically see it: morning cigarette and coffee, shower and perfume, morning of work, workout, chain-smoking through lunch, shower, afternoon of work.

He would have to talk to her about it, he knew that. The knowledge that she could take care of herself, that she would not jeopardise her place on the team - while pertinent, and suggestive that she was going to stop - was not enough in face of the evidence that this had become a pattern.

They were on stand-down, likely the weekend past was an indulgence, and the weekend coming had been designated to serve as a return to habit, but he knew that he needed to address it anyways. He tossed his things over onto the passenger seat and took a deep breath. He would interrupt her pattern tomorrow, they could do lunch. He could stew about what he would say to her later, in his empty house.

As it was, he had a darling boy and a birthday dinner to get to.

 

The dinner had been adorable, Jack was gleeful, and Hotch felt bereft. He drove back to work without thinking it all of the way through. Given his early departures through the week, there were certainly tasks to be found and immersed in.

His sweater and jeans provoked a double take from the security guard and Hotch sighed, looking forward to the consistent monotony of paperwork.

When the elevator let him out on their floor, he was surprised to still see the light on at nine thirty while there was nothing pressing to keep them there. He wished he was surprised to see Emily hunched over her desk, alone.

He cleared his throat and she whipped around. ‘How’s it going?’

‘What are you doing here?’ She seemed mildly panicked, and as he stepped closer, he could smell why. With no one to hide it from, she had obviously gone out for a smoke, uncaring of whether the scent lingered.

‘Jack’s at his cousin’s birthday, I figured it would be a good chance to get some paperwork done.’

She narrowed her eyes for a moment, then they widened in understanding. She eyed him thoughtfully. ‘I was thinking of finally picking up A Serious Man, if you’re interested?’

He was suspicious that this was not-quite-true, that she had no such plans, but the offer seemed sincere, and her anticipation when he mentioned wanting to see it the week before had seemed genuine. He looked at her appraisingly.

‘Have you eaten yet?’

She opened her mouth as if to brush him off, then closed it and shook her head. ‘No, but I’m not very hungry. I’m sure there’s something at home.’

‘There’s leftover mac and cheese in my fridge, if you’re interested,’ he offered. Her face lit up comically. When she had first gotten back to DC, fresh from the dead, he and Jack had invited her over for supper, Hotch hoping to provide some much needed distraction, a familiar reprieve from the tension at work. She had come obligingly, excited to see Jack, understanding of Aaron’s concern. He had made his mother’s macaroni and cheese on a whim, and was surprised to discover that she absolutely adored it.

She bit her lip. ‘Are you sure?’

His brows knit. ‘Of course.’

Her smile was tentative and achey and he was possessed by the uncomfortable urge to pull her close and breathe her in - smoke and coffee and all - and somehow banish her doubt. He settled for beckoning with his head.

‘Come on.’

 

He felt ridiculous that she had beat him to his own apartment. He had offered to get the movie as she finished up what she was doing. She had thanked him as she scribbled away at a file.

Given the cardboard box and paper bag sitting next to her on the planter in front of his building, he was suspicious that he had been misled. Of course, it was hardly her fault that he had gotten stuck behind a bickering married couple at the store, and then a snowplough on the way home.

She looked amused as she watched him, sitting and smoking.

‘Get lost?’ Her voice, even huskier with smoke, made it hard for him to focus. He suspected his glare was a little weak.

‘Yeah, yeah,’ he pointed at her haul, ‘what about you?’

She shrugged. ‘I figured a child’s birthday party means shitty birthday cake,’ she looked away as she took a last drag before flicking her cigarette away. ‘I figured you deserve something for your trouble.’

He clenched his jaw as she stood. ‘That’s not trouble, that’s being a good friend,’ she ducked her head at the sound of her words being parroted back to her.

As they entered the building she slipped a pack of cigarettes out of her pocket conspicuously, shaking it so that he could hear it was empty, and tossed it into the garbage. He held the door open for her, acknowledging the significance with a tight nod, and she led the way up the stairs.

 

He woke up suddenly - the only indication of time the weight of the darkness - to dull keening very close to his ear. There was a struggling weight on his chest that for a moment he was unable to place.

The moment of befuddled panic was quickly replaced by a concentrated concern, though it was still a bit panicky. The blue light of the television illuminated Emily’s contorted face, still asleep.

‘Emily?’ He struggled to coordinate his body into a sitting position, hampered by his own exhaustion as well as her added weight. ‘Emily,’ her shook her lightly, ‘Hey, it’s me, you’re right here.’ She whimpered and there were tears slipping out from under her closed eyelids. Hotch reached out to cradled her face in his hands. ‘C’mon Emily, wake up. It’s over.’

‘Hotch?’ Her eyes fluttered open, her voice rough, clearly still half asleep.

‘Yeah,’ he wiped a tear off her cheek with his thumb, ‘you’re alright.’ He brushed her slightly sweaty hair out of her face and tucked it behind her ear.

Her eyes shuttered as she leaned into into the gesture, gripping his forearms, almost as if to make sure he was real. ‘Thanks,’ it was soft in the silence of the night.

They sat back on the couch, letting go of each other but resting flush from ankle to shoulder. He listened to the sound of her breathing.

After a moment she sighed. ‘Fuck I want a cigarette,’ her tone was both light and sincere and he chuckled softly. ‘What time is it?’

He switched the tv to the listings channel and muted it. It was two thirteen.

‘Thanks Hotch,’ Emily put a hand on his knee, ‘really. I’ll see you tomorrow.’

‘Emily,’ he stopped her from standing with a hand on her arm. ‘How much sleep have you been getting?’

He could see her lick her lips and look away in the light from the tv. ‘About four to six hours. Usually in chunks of two or three.’

He moved his hand gently to her shoulder to get her attention. ‘Then stay.’ When she opened her mouth, looking distressed, he continued. ‘You just got four hours in one go. We can put some inane children’s movie on and you can use me as a pillow again.’ She looked hesitant, but not strictly opposed to the idea. ‘Please?’

Emily sighed. ‘I can’t let you sleep on the couch because of me, Hotch.’

Hotch raised an eyebrow. ‘I’ll have you know that this couch was bought expressly with overnight comfort in mind.’ Emily raised an eyebrow right back. He pursed his lips and nudged her shoulder with his. ‘Ha ha,’ the dryness in his tone made her smile, as did the fact that he didn’t actually deny the implication.

She took a deep breath, torn.

‘Hey look,’ Emily frowned and turned to the screen. He turned up the volume as an entire safari dropped to it’s cartooned knees. She huffed out a laugh and shook her head.

‘Hotch...’ His smile slipped and he tilted his head, letting her choose without pressure. She sighed and slipped back into the couch. ‘Thanks.’

He smiled slightly and caught her pinky with his thumb. She squeezed lightly and let her head fall back.

 

It was minutes before six, twilight just barely peeking through the window, when Hotch’s - not very soft, but rather lovely-smelling - pillow jumped. He raised his head slowly, shaking it, and Emily turned her face into his shoulder.

‘Sorry,’ her voice was rougher than he had ever heard it, and the vibrations made him bite his lip.

‘Don’t worry about it,’ his own voice hardly at its best. ‘You okay?’ She nodded with her cheekbone resting on his shoulder.

‘Yeah, I, ah, managed to wake myself up before it got too bad,’ she took a deep breath. ‘Thanks Hotch,’ she pressed a kiss to his cheek, ‘really.’

 

For the first time in a while, Hotch beat Emily into the office.

When Reid walked in, looking automatically to her desk, he frowned at her absence. When she shot him a warm smile on her arrival, comparably bright eyed and far more relaxed, his whole face broke out in a grin.

She ducked her head and settled into work. Rossi checked in with a concerned look when found her curled over her paperwork at full pace, the same way he had found her every other day. When she simply greeted him with an easy ‘good morning’, Hotch saw Dave’s whole body relax. And quickly ducked his head before Dave frowned up at him.

Twenty minutes later, when Emily headed for coffee, Hotch joined her.

‘How are you doing?’

She waited until he was standing next to her to shoot him a smile - the kitchenette was hardly private. ‘Better,’ she let her knuckles brush his.‘Thanks Hotch, really.’

‘Again, no problem. You look better,’ she licked her lips reflexively at his sincerity, then exhaled a chuckle. He winced. ‘Oh god...’ She grinned and clapped him on the shoulder.

‘You too, hot stuff.’