"The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned." Maya Angelou
The lights in Hotch's office went out. Staring at the darkened office windows, Emily Prentiss drummed her fingers against her desk. Just a few more minutes and he would come down the stairs. Still time enough for her to change her mind and leave. Like she had done the last six times. The last six days. Almost a week. She had been back home almost a week.
After seven months of absence she was sitting on her old chair behind her old desk. But there was a new scratch on the desk surface that wasn't her doing and she had found a hair tie in one of the drawers that wasn't hers. Things had changed. She had changed, too.
Hotch's office door opened and closed again. She heard him locking the door, then his steps going towards the stairs. Holding his briefcase in his right hand, he emerged at the stair way and paused as their eyes met.
"Prentiss?" He slowly came down the stairs. "I thought everybody had already left."
So she was the only one stalking her boss. What a surprise. Emily stood up and walked around her desk, picking the nail of her left index finger. "I wanted to ask you something." Her voice broke, she gulped. "A favor."
He frowned and the lines in his face deepened. She didn't recognize all of them. Another thing that had changed during the seven months she had been apart from him. She wanted to trace the lines with her finger tips.
"Why didn't you come into my office?" he asked, stepping off the stairs.
"Because you're always sitting behind your desk."
"Yes." A single nod, further steps in her direction. He raised an eyebrow. "So…?"
"I wanted you to be standing."
"Okay." He stopped in front of her workspace, tilting his head to the side. "What is it, Prentiss?"
She wished he would use her first name. "It's just…" Emily nibbled at her bottom lip. Now they were only an arm's length apart. His arm's length, but if she were to stretch her fingers, she could touch him. She had missed him so much while she had been in Paris; she had missed seeing him like this. His black suit, his shaven face, his stern look. SSA Hotchner, man of duty. She really wanted to stretch her fingers.
Six days ago, when Reid had closed her into his arms, Emily had first realized that she was home now. Not just in her city, the place where her apartment was, her things, but where her friends were. Her home.
Because home is, where your heart is, right? And her heart had decided long ago to stay with that man standing in right front of her.
Six days ago Hotch had just nodded at her when he had seen her entering the room, his arms crossed. From all of the people who had been in this room, it had been him whom she wanted to feel close to the most. And it always had been him who kept her at the greatest distance. At arm's length.
Maybe she should've left. Maybe she was being greedy. Maybe she shouldn't ask for the things he wasn't giving her freely.
He put his briefcase down. "What is it, Emily?" His voice was soft and low. She loved how he said her name. She would ask. Suddenly she felt lucky.
"After I came back I hugged everyone," she said. Reid, who almost didn't let her go. Penelope who had just fallen into her embrace. Morgan, whom she had to persuade into the hug, into forgiving her for being gone. JJ. Rossi. Everybody. Maybe he would understand and she wouldn't have to spell it out for him. Maybe he would step closer and embrace her.
His brows narrowed. "I know."
She had missed the sound of his voice. The calm way he spoke. His voice always made her wonder what his hands would feel like against her skin. She imagined him gentle. She wanted to feel his hands now. Not on her skin, she was aware that would be asking too much, but she wanted from him what everybody of the team had granted her.
"It was kind of a big deal," she said, "because I nearly died and they thought I had died but then I came back and I'd missed everybody so much."
Looking at the floor, she picked at her index finger again. "I didn't hug you yet, Hotch."
The silence that followed burned in her ears.
Then his voice again. "Oh."
She glanced at his face. He was still frowning, pressing his lips together. Damn. She should've left. But there was that stray of hair that stood up and she was torn between wanting to brush it in it's place and wanting to run her hands though his hair to mess it up as well. She wanted to touch him so badly.
"And I wanted to ask, if I…" Meeting his gaze again, she shrugged, faked a brief smile. "I know you're not the hugging kind," she said and took a breath before she continued, "but because of the circumstances maybe you could make an exception and–"
The warmth of his right palm, sinking through the fabric of her jacket, close to her elbow, interrupted her.
"Okay," he said, the corners of his mouth twitching upwards.
It was like her throat closed up and she could breath more freely at the same time. They touched. Barely, but still.
Her left hand glided over the material of his suit as she stepped towards him. They stared at each other. She was afraid of what he might see in her eyes but she feared he'd leave if she'd blink. Stupid. As if her gaze held some kind of magic.
His hand wandered upwards and curled around her upper arm. She could feel his other hand on the dip of her waist, sending goose bumps down her spine. She wanted to rush, she wanted to throw her arms around him and hold on for dear life. On some level, she thought that was exactly what it was. Holding on for dear life. The dearest. She had missed him so much. Coming another tiny step closer she placed her other hand on his shoulder. He gulped; she inhaled.
When she leaned into him, she had to break eye contact. Their upper bodies touched, her forehead came to rest aside his collar. The fabric of his suit jacket felt soft against her cheek. He smelled so good. She wrapped both her arms around his neck. If she hadn't been wearing her high heels, she would be tip toeing now.
His hands went to her back, touching her gently without pressure. She wished he would hold her against him. Greedy, she was.
"Thank you," she whispered into his jacket. She wanted to whisper in his ear. She wanted to kiss along his jaw until she reached his mouth. Now that his arms were around her, with his scent filling her nostrils, she wouldn't be able to resist that temptation.
"You're welcome." His voice raspy.
She felt his breath on her hair.
"No, Hotch." She rose her head, looked him in the eye. He didn't understand, of course he didn't. "Thank you for everything. For saving my life. For everything else." For letting her touch him, for holding her, for allowing her so close.
His arms tightened around her. "You're welcome."
Sighing she hid her face in his collar. She was home. She was in trouble. Because this felt so good, because she didn't want to let go, because she longed to kiss him. Greedy again. Because she loved him.
She had dreamed about him in Paris. In the good dreams, she touched him, kissed him and caressed him. In the bad ones she only had seen the blood on his apartment floor, Hotch's blood that Foyet shed, and the strong impression of his absence. Whatever she had dreamed, she always woke up to that absence of his.
Hotch shifted against her. "Emily?"
"Shouldn't we…?" He shrugged his shoulders, her arms followed his movement.
She should let go, step back, give him space. She only lifted her head and looked at him.
"Is Jack waiting for you?" she asked.
He shook his head. "He's at a friend's place."
"Hm." She gulped. "Know what? After Foyet stabbed you; we didn't hug then."
"True." His hands wandered up and down her back. Caressing.
She never wanted him to stop. "I think you owe me a hug for that too."
His eyes, they were so open, no narrowed brows taking away from them. She loved his face like this: relaxed. Not calm and controlled like when he worked, but loosened up.
"I could probably come up with enough events to hug you for an hour," she said.
His answer was a smile and she exhaled her next words without thinking, "I missed you so much."
His smile faded, his brows narrowed. So serious. She loved that expression too, even though it made her worry about his reply.
"I missed you too," he said.
Her hands untangled behind his nape and cupped his face. Another thing she had been aching to do. She tip toed and her lips were above his, connecting. Her eyes fell shut and all she sensed was his touch. His chest against upper body, his hands that warmed her back, his legs that brushed against hers. His mouth. She was overstepping, but she could not resist. He tensed. Just another second and she would pull back, promised.
Then his lips moved against hers.
His kiss was sweet, tender. Sighing, she sank against him. His arms tightened around her body.
After a few minutes, he pulled back. Way to early. She licked her lips and tasted him. Staring into his eyes, she wondered if she could get away with stealing another kiss. Or ten. She wanted to take him home with her, share her bed. So greedy.
"We shouldn't do this." His voice was hoarse; he cleared his throat.
His arms still held her, her hands were in his hair. "Why not?" She couldn't hold back that question. "Because you don't–"
"Because this is serious, Emily. Because you mean so much to me and I don't want to–"
"You're my home," she blurred out. Oh, she loved him so much right now.
"Somehow, you became the safest place I can think of." She couldn't hold back her words; she waited too long to say them out loud. "You are the person I want to be with."
"You mean that." It wasn't a question, it was a realization.
She nodded, suddenly unable to talk. His face was blank now, his gaze scrutinizing. If not for his arms around her body, she would freak out. He was still touching her. She hoped that was a good sign. Then his mouth was back on hers and she was sure.
Next time it was her who broke away first. "In case you're wondering," she whispered into his ear, kissed his earlobe before she continued, "I'm not going to kiss the others."
He chuckled. "Good to know."
She felt his smile against her lips when he kissed her again. Home.
"There is a magic in that little world, home; it is a mystic circle that surrounds comforts and virtues never known beyond its hallowed limits." Robert Southey