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The Big Book of Tropes and Cliches

Chapter Text

“I knew I’d find you out here.” Aaron stated as he approached the picnic table on the grass outside of the precinct. The small Iowan town they were in seemed like any cute, perfect quaint Small Town USA; apart from the rapidly devolving serial killer who had been terrorising the town. Now that they had apprehended yet another unsub, the rest of the team had been packing up the precinct before returning to the small hotel they were staying at. The town was little more than a village, with a handful of shops, two churches, an elementary and combined middle and high school and two bars. However, what had reinforced the size of the town was the lack of light pollution. 

The night sky was completely filled with stars. Far more than they would ever see on the clearest night in DC. Aaron had never learnt the names or managed to ever find any of the stars but he knew that it was a secret passion of Emily’s. He remembered how she had made the significance of the Heavenly Waters during the Angel Maker case. There was a crescent moon steadily rising through the night sky. 

Silently observing the heavens was Emily. Sitting on top of the picnic table, resting her weight on her elbows, Emily didn’t break her gaze from the sky at the sound of Aaron’s voice. “Is it time to go?”

“Not yet,” Aaron said as he sat on the table beside her and turned his gaze upwards. “It’s an amazing view.”

“You should see the night sky in Egypt. One Eid, we hired some quad bikes and rode out into the desert to watch the New Moon rising. You could see the Milky Way and literally millions of stars. It was like nothing I’d ever seen.” Emily replied; her grandfather had taught her the different stars, planets and constellations and how to find them in the night sky. It had been one of her comforts throughout her childhood and time with Interpol. No matter where she was within the Northern Hemisphere; the stars remained the same. 

“It sounds amazing.” Aaron said as he squinted at a group of three stars together. “Is that Orion’s Belt?”

“That’s part of Virgo. Orion’s Belt is way over here.” Emily said as she pointed it out and traced it with her finger. “Over there is the Big Dipper, the Bear and if you follow up from there, that’s the Pole Star.” 

“It looks like a saucepan with a bent handle.” Aaron commented and Emily laughed. That’s what she had thought too when her grandfather had pointed it out. 

“I know, I was so disappointed that it didn’t look like a bear when my grandfather showed me it.” Emily recalled. “I thought there were actually dolphins and lions and dragons in the sky. I was also six. So what’s your excuse?”

“I have no imagination.” Aaron replied in a deadpan tone causing Emily to burst out laughing. 

“Your words, not mine.” Emily laughed as she kept her gaze on the sky above. There was always something about the night sky that was comforting and soothing. Like the blanket of stars was like a literal blanket that caressed and supported them. No matter where in the world she travelled, the stars were always there. How many people stared up at the stars above, searching for the same patterns or seeking refuge in the night sky? How many people were looking up at the sky right now and seeing what she was seeing? It made her feel connected and at the same time, reinforced how small everything on Earth was. 

She had once read somewhere that due to the amount of time it takes for certain stars to reach the Earth, looking into the night sky was a way of looking into the past. 

Aaron smiled softly at the tranquil, relaxed expression on Emily’s face as she looked up into the sky, occasionally furrowing her brow as she attempted to find a specific constellation. He wasn’t sure when he had started to see her in a way that he knew could no longer be considered platonic but watching her as she stared up into the night sky, transfixed by the eons of stars, myths and legends, he allowed himself to attach a word to describe how he felt. 

Love. 

He was in love with her. 

 

The day would come when he would tell her, but for now, he was happy to sit by her side and stare up into the night sky, scattered with stars.

Chapter Text

“Here, take these. You’ll feel better.” Aaron insisted as he passed Emily two cold and flu tablets and a glass of water. Emily dutifully took the tablets and a swig of water. Aaron took the glass and set it on the bedside table next to the box of tissues as Emily let her head fall back onto the pillow. 

“Can you leave me to die now?” Emily asked balefully. She had felt a little sniffly and had a slight tickle in her throat when she went to bed last night. This morning however, she had woken up with a splitting headache, a stuffed up nose and a throat that felt like it had been scrubbed from the inside with steel wool. Even before Aaron checked her temperature, she knew there was no way she was going to work. She had barely made it to the bathroom without passing out. 

“You’re not dying, it’s just a cold.” Aaron reminded as Emily glared up at him. She knew he was right and he knew that she turned into a brat when she was sick. 

“I feel like shit,” Emily complained as she rolled onto her back and put an arm across her eyes. “My head is killing me.”

“You’ll feel better when the medicine kicks in.” Aaron reassured as he sat on the mattress next to her and reached for her.

“I don’t want you to get sick,” Emily said as she covered her mouth. Of course the fact that she kissed him last night and that he had spent the night sleeping next to her meant that she had probably already infected him with her cold and flu germs. Besides, she just wanted to be left alone. 

“I’ll be alright,” Aaron said softly, “Let me check your temperature.”

Emily was about to remind him that he just had when Aaron took her hands in his and gently pulled her into a sitting position. Emily sat up and he moved his hands from her hands in order to cup her pink cheeks and tilt her head forward until her forehead was pressed against his. She could feel the coolness of his skin against her sweaty, aching forehead and even though she knew it wasn’t real; Emily could almost imagine the throbbing pain in her skull ease slightly as Aaron’s forehead rested against her’s. 

“You’re still quite warm. I’ll call and see how you’re feeling later.” Aaron said as he moved back and kissed her forehead. 

“If I’m not dead,” Emily muttered as she lay back onto the pillows again. Aaron shook his head fondly as he pulled the duvet over her, the same way he would for Jack when he was sick. He knew that the stereotype was that men acted like they were dying if they had a cold or flu but Emily was prone to the dramatic too. 

“You’ll live,” Aaron smiled as he picked up his bag and left the room. By the time he shut the door, he could tell that Emily had fallen asleep again. As he punched in the security code, he hoped that they wouldn’t have a case. He didn’t like the idea of Emily being left alone while she was sick. Even though he knew she’d be fine, he just wanted to take care of her.

And what was wrong with that?

Chapter Text

Emily sighed deeply as she retreated into the relative safety of the gardens of the extravagant country house; her mother’s ‘quaint’ country retreat. Because nothing said ‘quaint’ like a sprawling mansion large enough to get lost in.. Her mother had twisted her arm into making her come to the masquerade ball and she had resisted the temptation to punch any of the drooling, leering idiots who her mother had encouraged her to dance with. All of them were either desperate social climbers, eager to gain the Ambassador’s  approval; or else they were on the prowl for their latest mistress. It didn’t help that Elizabeth had been watching her like a hawk and had clearly bribed all the staff to ensure that she couldn’t get drunk. Like Emily couldn’t tell the difference between normal and alcohol-free champagne. 

Emily glanced at her phone, she had already texted JJ and Aaron several times, practically begging them for a case, an escaped prisoner, extra paperwork. Anything that could get her out of here. The Ambassador had made it clear that nothing but the most extreme of emergencies would allow her to dismiss Emily from the ball. JJ had replied, sending her regrets and letting her know that she was enjoying a night of cuddles courtesy of Will and Henry. She hadn’t heard a thing from Aaron at all. 

Emily had hoped that he hadn’t overheard Garcia’s excited insistence that the masquerade ball would be romantic and that she was bound to find someone. That she would fall instantly in love with a mysterious masked stranger who was actually a prince or something. She sometimes wished that she lived in Garcia Land where everything was like a Disney movie. Instead of the reality of stifling music, false conversations and lecherous creeps who were yet to learn that when it came to cologne; less was definitely more. If she had him here with her, it would be a lot more bearable. 

Not because she had feelings for him, just the company of a friend, someone who she knew wouldn’t be using her for his own gain, would be enough. 

 

“Emily, there you are,” Elizabeth’s curt voice called as Emily turned around. Elizabeth was approaching her and Emily knew what was coming. “There is someone who is here to see you.”

Emily rolled her eyes and twirled the handle of her mask in her hand. It made it easier to avoid dancing with someone when she only had one hand free in order to keep her mask in place; which was exactly why she had chosen it. “Who is it this time? Someone who can at least tie his own shoes by himself or someone looking for another mistress to string along?”

“Don’t sound so harsh, you will be pleased to see him. I daresay, you’ll even like him. He’s ambitious, hardworking, respectful and very handsome.” Elizabeth replied. For a split second, Emily thought she saw a look of bemusement in her mother’s eye before she decided her eyes were playing a trick on her. The only sort of person her mother would be pleased to see her with would be some politically-ambitious halfwit with more money than sense and Kennedy-level family influence. The venn diagram of people Emily liked and who the Ambassador approved of were two circles with a hundred miles between them. Emily placed her mask back across her eyes and followed Elizabeth back inside. 

As she followed Elizabeth, Emily wondered which gormless Ken doll Elizabeth had chosen for her. Maybe the one in the too-tight shirt who clearly wanted to relive his glory days as the golden boy of his private school days. Or the mommy’s boy who clearly thought getting married would free him from his mommy’s control. Not. Or the obviously closested middle-aged man who was trying to hide behind a facade of bravado and toxic masculinity even though his eyebrows were plucked better than hers were. She supposed out of the three of them, the closested one wouldn't be too bad. Provided she let him know that she knew his secret, even if she wasn't going to be his beard. 

“Agent Hotchner, there you are,” Elizabeth said as she spotted Aaron. She hid her amusement at the surprised look on Emily’s face as she realised who was standing before them in a midnight blue mask. Aaron smiled at Emily and took her arm. He could tell that she was trying to figure out what he was doing here and as they were out of earshot, he explained.

“The top brass had all been invited and she requested that I represent the BAU.” Aaron explained. “Maybe she thinks I can keep you in line.”

Emily playfully elbowed him and smiled sincerely at him. “I’m really glad you’re here.”

Beneath his mask, Aaron smiled back at her. He had heard Garcia gushing about how beautiful she imagined Emily would look dressed up for the masquerade but nothing compared to the reality of how beautiful she was. And to be with her, to see her looking as beautiful as this, to spend the whole night in her company; that was what would make tonight even more perfect.

Chapter Text

It had been the last thing that she had expected to hear when Aaron had asked to speak to her. For a moment, she wondered if she had misunderstood what he had said however as she watched the flash of embarrassed panic cross his face, she knew that he had meant it exactly how she had heard it. 

“I love you Emily.”

Aaron loved her. 

Not as friends. 

Not as a sister. 

He loved her. He was in love with her. 

There was a time when that revelation would have stirred feelings of joy within her, excitement and relief that those feelings she had buried deep within her for so long were reciprocated. Today however, hearing those four simple words felt like a dagger in her heart. There was a time when those words would have caused her to leap into his arms, to kiss him, to never want to let him go. 

Now all she wanted to do was run. Run before his love for her got him killed. 

She knew her time was running out. That Doyle was getting closer and closer to her. She didn’t need to be warned about what he would do. How he would enact his revenge. He was pragmatic when it came to handling those who betrayed him. She had watched how he had taken out a supergrass; an informant for the British Government. It was how she learned the Valhalla moniker didn’t just start and end with his alias. The supergrass had been a liar, a sneak, a silver tongued serpent. A Loki. 

And like Loki; Ian made a point of sewing the man’s mouth shut, stifling his screams before he silenced him permanently with a bullet in his head. 

However, she knew he wouldn’t sew her mouth shut. She had stolen his family from him, he would do the same to her. Emily knew that when they inevitably faced each other, her odds on coming out alive were low but that didn’t matter. As long as she could keep the team safe, that was what mattered. 

 

“Emily,” Aaron prompted, jolting her back to reality. Although he hadn’t meant to admit just how he felt for her, he wasn’t going to take it back. He loved Emily, he was in love with her and right now, he was worried about her. He had noticed the changes in her; how she was skittish, evasive and jumpy. The long lunches and whispered phone calls, the fact that she was constantly on edge; like she was waiting for something terrible to happen. Like there was some sort of huge, blindingly obvious danger coming towards them but only Emily could see it. He wanted to reach out, to let her know that he was there for her. Whatever it was, he could help her through it. He wanted to help her. He wanted to help her face whatever this thing was, he wanted to help her feel safe again.

He wanted to see her smile again. 

“I have to go,” Emily replied quickly. “I’m sorry Aaron,”

“Emily!” Aaron called as Emily turned and hurried out of his office. She didn’t turn around. She didn’t stop. She didn’t look back. Not when he called after her. Not when he tried to follow her into the elevator. Not when the rest of the team called after her, wondering what had caused her to run off like that. 

“I’m sorry Aaron,” Emily whispered as she wiped at the tear as it slipped down her cheek.

Maybe if things were different… 

… except things weren’t different.

And if she had to break his heart now to keep him, Jack and the team safe and alive, then that was what she had to do.



She just wished it didn’t hurt so much.

Chapter Text

If there was one thing that Penelope Garcia loved; it was love. Love was the most powerful thing on Earth and she made her mission in life to spread as much Love as possible. Whether it be in the form of lavishing affection on the people nearest and dearest to her or helping mere mortals realise they were loved or had someone who loved them; spreading love was something she was immensely talented at.

Therefore, when she realised that not one, but two of her nearest and dearest friends were in love and in love with each other; she felt duty bound to do something about it. 

She had noticed the subtle little changes in their interactions. The fact that he called her by her name, not Prentiss. The fact that she was the only one who could gain a genuine smile from him. The little shoulder touches, the way they finished each other’s sentences, the little glances when they thought that nobody else was looking; it was so totally obvious to her.

Aaron Hotchner and Emily Prentiss were in love with each other. But neither was willing to act upon it. She saw the longing glances that Aaron sent Emily from the safety of his office. She saw the glint of desire in Emily’s eye as she watched Aaron walk out of the conference room. She noticed how often they sat next to each other on the jet and several times they had paired off together on cases. She saw the signs, even if, apparently, no one else did.

 

“Are you sure? Are you really sure?” JJ asked skeptically as she leaned against Garcia’s desk, her hands fiddling with a stress ball as she listened to Garcia’s claims.

“Of course I am JJ! I know this stuff! Don’t tell me that you haven’t seen how they look at each other.” Garcia insisted. Surely if she could see it, the rest of the team who were actually profilers, had to see it too. 

“Honestly, no.” JJ replied truthfully. “Yeah, they’re close but I don’t think there’s anything between them.”

“Trust me JJ, they are in love with each other but they won’t do anything because they think the other doesn’t love them back.” Garcia insisted and JJ shook her head fondly. She knew better than to argue with Garcia but she was certain that if, if, Aaron or Emily had feelings for the other, the others would have known about it.

“I’m not saying that I don’t believe you but I just don’t see it.” JJ said as Garcia stood up and took her arm. “Not so tight!”

“You’re fine,” Garcia dismissed as she led JJ out of her lair and towards the bullpen. “Look at them and tell me what you see.”

JJ stepped into the bullpen along with Garcia and blinked at the sight of Aaron standing next to Emily’s desk. Initially, she thought it just looked like a normal conversation. Then she looked again and looked closely. She saw the faint blush on Emily’s cheeks, the soft smile on Aaron’s face. She noticed the relaxed rest in Aaron’s shoulders. The almost casual way that Emily brushed her hair from her face as she kept her gaze on Aaron. They were flirting, subtly flirting, but still flirting. 

JJ turned to Garcia who nodded knowingly at her. Now JJ understood and saw what Garcia had seen between Aaron and Emily. They were in love. Very obviously in love with each other but unaware that those feelings were reciprocated. JJ and Garcia understood what they had to do.

 

It was time to play matchmaker.

Chapter Text

This wasn’t her bed. 

Emily was used to waking up in beds that weren’t her own. Working cases that had her and the team zigzagging across the country meant that more often than not, she slept in beds that weren’t her own. This bed, however, was different. For a start, it wasn’t a hotel bed. Secondly, she tended to wake up in a pair of her pajamas, not a pair of underwear and a baggy t-shirt that she had snatched when she got up at two thirty to use the bathroom. Thirdly, the other side of the bed, although empty, was still slightly warm from her bedfellow. 

Emily’s hand stroked the warm spot on the pillow as she kept her eyes shut and wondered what to do.  Not that she had never been in this position before. But usually in those cases, the other person was still asleep and didn’t notice when she slipped out or it was her bed and they left her apartment. Besides, this was different. This wasn’t just some guy she was seeing or some one night stand like she was still in college. This was Aaron.

Emily lay back against the pillow and allowed flashes of the night before to flicker through her mind. They had danced around their feelings for so long but as they sat up, putting the world to rights, laughing and smiling, something shifted between them. Emily was certain that she had kissed Aaron first but he had definitely led her into his bedroom. 

The sound of the bedroom door opening caused Emily to open her eyes. Instead of Aaron approaching his bed or standing in the doorway, Emily found a pair of curious hazel eyes peeping over the edge of the bed and a teddy bear alongside him. After quickly checking that she was decent, Emily propped herself on her elbow and smiled softly at Jack as he scrambled up onto the bed. 

“Hi Jack,” Emily said carefully. Jack sat on top of the bed and looked at her curiously. He looked even more adorable than usual in his Spiderman pajamas and his hair still tangled and tousled from sleep. 

“Hi,” Jack replied. “Daddy said that you had a sleepover last night.”

“We did,” Emily replied, she wondered if he was confused or upset by the idea of she and Aaron possibly becoming more than friends. “Is that OK?”

Jack nodded and flopped forwards onto the bed. “Daddy’s making pancakes for breakfast. He said we could eat in here because you had a sleepover. Can you sleep over every night?”

Emily laughed at his innocent logic. She had been worried about how Jack would have reacted to seeing her but clearly, if he could be won over by the idea of pancakes, maybe it wouldn’t be too bad. “We’ll see what your dad says.”

“I’ll go ask him!” Jack exclaimed as he slid off of the bed and darted out of the bedroom. Emily shook her head and pushed back the duvet. Before she could get out of bed, Aaron walked into the room, carefully balancing a tray in his hands. Aaron smiled softly at Emily as he set the tray onto the bedcovers and gently kissed her. Emily kissed him back, smiling into the kiss at Jack’s innocent disgusted noise as they broke apart. Aaron sat on the edge of the bed and scooped Jack up to sit onto the bed and shared out the plates of pancakes and cups of coffee and juice. As they sat and ate their breakfast together, Emily felt a wave of warmth within her that didn’t come from the breakfast, coffee or the warmth of the bed. 

She had had her doubts about her and Aaron becoming more than friends but she had to admit, she could get used to this.

Chapter Text

“Is that my sweater?” Aaron asked as he looked at Emily who was sitting on the long seat, curled up in a ball. He had been looking for the sweater for weeks, he had convinced himself that he had to have left it somewhere or misplaced it. Emily looked up from the book she was reading and smiled innocently. She lived her life by one rule: finder’s keeper’s. Aaron had left his sweater in her apartment a few weeks ago and therefore it was her’s now. 

“No.” Emily replied as she pointedly pulled the sleeves down over her hands. The burnt orange sweater hung loosely off her frame and it was definitely a lot more comfortable and snug than anything else she owned. Besides, there were two large hidden pockets that fit her phone perfectly.  “It’s mine now.”

“Since when?” Aaron asked as Emily shrugged her shoulders. Behind him, Morgan shook his head sympathetically. Morgan had fought and lost this battle far too many times before but it seemed that Aaron hadn’t worked out that this was one he wouldn’t win. 

“Since you left it at mine.” Emily replied. “You clearly didn’t want it anymore.”

“Give me back my sweater,” Aaron said as Emily smiled innocently at him and nestled further into the sweater.

“No.” Emily replied as she shut her book and lay down on the seat. Aaron shook his head and before he could say anything, he felt a hand on his shoulder. 

“Forget it, you’re not getting that back.” JJ pointed out. Some of her favourite items of clothing were hoodies that she had stolen from Will when they first started dating. It was just one of those things, once a hoodie or sweater was claimed, it was gone. 

Aaron sighed knowingly. That was one of his favourite sweaters and he had suspected weeks ago that Emily had taken it. He knew all along that he wasn’t getting it back. Then again, it did look a lot better on her.

Chapter Text

Aaron was aware of the warm weight on his shoulder the instant he felt it. However, he knew better than to move or try to disturb her. Instead he sat back slightly to allow Emily to rest her head more comfortably on his shoulder. It had been a difficult case for all of them and they had all been running on very little sleep. Everyone else on the jet had already fallen asleep and Aaron knew that he was only still awake due to an overload of caffeine and his own stubbornness. 

Aaron turned his head and smiled softly at the sight of Emily sleeping on his shoulder. Most of her face was hidden by her hair or nestled into his suit jacket. He wanted to stroke her hair or brush it from her face so that he could see her better. However he also didn’t want to risk waking her from the first decent bit of sleep she had gotten in days. 

They had made the decision when they had started dating that they would keep having separate rooms. Although it was useful in terms of professionalism and keeping their focus on the job, not christening various parts of the hotel room furniture; it also meant that when things were difficult, they were apart from each other. It was another reason why the two of them had struggled to sleep during this case. 

They were used to sleeping with the other beside them. 

As he watched, Emily stirred slightly in her sleep but didn’t wake up. Instead she nestled closer to him and her arm slid across his stomach. Aaron gently stroked her hair and turned his attention back to his reports. He wasn’t tired yet but he was content to let her sleep.

Chapter Text

“There’s something else I have to tell you.” Emily said as she looked at the team. She knew they were reeling from the discovery that the past fifteen months had been based on a lie. However now that Doyle was dead and Declan was safe, she was able to come home and she hadn’t come alone. “There’s someone who I need you to meet.”

“Who?” Morgan asked curiously. Although he was still angry at being kept in the dark about Emily being alive for over a year, he couldn’t be angry at the fact that she was home, alive and safe. 

“It’s complicated,” Emily replied as she looked at Aaron. “I wanted to tell you but my handlers were watching everything I did. I couldn’t make phone calls, had no access to the Internet and when I tried to send a letter, they intercepted and destroyed it.”

“Tell me what?” Aaron prompted and Emily struggled to find the words. She had had thirteen months to consider how she would have this conversation. Now that the moment was here, the words couldn’t come. 

“It’s better to show you,” Emily replied and stepped out of the room. Aaron shrugged his shoulders at the rest of the team. Even he had no idea what she was talking about. As far as he knew, it was just Emily who was in hiding. Nobody had gone with her and Clyde Easter had smartly made himself scarce after Emily’s ‘death’. 

Emily stepped back into the conference room. Nestled in her arms was a sleeping baby girl, dressed in a cream and beige romper suit dotted with little bumblebees. She was sucking on a purple pacifier and had a few strands of dark hair on her head. The team stared at her in shock as Emily shifted her hold on the baby to allow them to see her better.

Aaron felt his breath catch in his throat as he did the math. The baby was no older than three months old. Ten months before that, he had been the one to take Emily to Paris, provide her with her documentation, back accounts and a promise that someday she would return home. He was meant to stay in his own hotel room that night. He hadn’t. They had both known that it would have been the last time that they would have seen one another for the foreseeable future. It had been their one chance and they had taken it. They had been focused on one another, putting everything that they wanted to say and needed to say into their actions in Emily’s bed, over and over again that night. 

“What’s her name?” Aaron asked as Emily placed the baby into his arms. Although it had been so long since he had held a baby, especially a baby so small, his arms formed into a cradle for her and she nestled into his chest. 

“Abigail, Abigail Rose Hotchner.” Emily replied. “She was born on the 25th of March. I gave her your name and put your name on the birth certificate. I figured that if anything happened to me, they would return her to you. She looks so much like you.”

“She looks like you,” Aaron insisted. He couldn’t believe it. Not only was Emily home and safe but they had a daughter. The most beautiful, perfect daughter in the world. There were so many questions left to answer, so many things to try and make sense of, there were arguments to settle, relationships to rebuild. He would have to tell Jack that he was a big brother. They would have to figure out what this was between them; they had been dancing around each other before Emily had gone into hiding but they were bound for life now. There would be time to answer those questions later. For now however, all that mattered was Emily. Emily and Abigail. His perfect little girl.

Chapter Text

“You guys are being ridiculous.” Emily dismissed, shaking her head.

“You’re being stubborn and refusing to listen to us!” JJ retorted sharply as she resisted the urge to throttle her best friend out of frustration. “You know we’re right.”

“No you’re not, that has to be the stupidest thing either of you ever said!” Emily insisted. “Hotch doesn’t have feelings for me.”

“Yes he does!” Garcia and JJ said simultaneously. Usually that would have prompted laughter and broken the tension. Instead Emily rolled her eyes skyward. She had no idea what had prompted her two best friends to lose their minds but she would play along. After all, she had nothing better to do today. 

“Alright, I’ll bite. What makes you think that?” Emily asked as she leant against Garcia’s desk. It was completely ridiculous and she was only going to listen to what they had to say so that she and Aaron could laugh about it later when everyone else had gone home. 

“You mean apart from the fact that he always pairs off with you when we’re on a case? Or that he always wants to sit next to you on the jet? Or when we’re sharing ideas, he always looks to you first to get your opinion?” JJ challenged as Emily shook her head. 

“OK, first of all; we don’t always pair off together. Second nor do we sit next to each other on the jet. Besides, there are a limited number of seats. Thirdly, of course he looks to me. I’m the best.” Emily joked, ducking as JJ launched a soft octopus at her head. The toy octopus hit the screen behind her and Garcia picked it up, stroking it lovingly before she set it back where it belonged. 

“Alright Little Miss Skeptical; what about the fact that he brings you coffee every morning and sometimes that includes a scone or a croissant, especially when you’re running late because you slept in?” Garcia challenged and Emily shook her head. Sometimes when she slept in, she had to skip breakfast to get to work on time. If Aaron picked up some food for her along with a coffee, it was no big deal. That was what friends did for each other.

“So your evidence is that a friend buys me coffee?” Emily asked, bemused. "That's so weak, that it's not even funny."

“You know we’re right!” Garcia insisted. “The boss man’s in love with you!”

“No he’s not,” Emily dismissed as she left Garcia’s office. “You guys are crazy!”

 

Emily walked back towards the bullpen. Everything was quiet today; they had been on stand down for a few days and they had managed to catch up on all their paperwork and the annoying, nitpicky jobs that never seemed to get done. Morgan and Reid were being suspiciously quiet and she knew that if they didn’t have a case soon, there would be another full-fledged prank war between the two by the end of the week. Emily headed up towards Aaron’s office and paused outside the door. 

The door to his office was ajar by the merest crack and as she approached, she heard Aaron’s voice as clearly as if the door was wide open. Emily was about to enter until she heard Aaron speak and she froze in stunned shock.

 

“Of course I can’t tell her Dave!” Aaron said as he shook his head in disbelief. He couldn’t believe that the only piece of advice Rossi could give him was to be honest with Emily how he felt. 

“Why not? Clearly being subtle isn’t working,” Rossi replied. He had watched Aaron moon over Emily for weeks and clearly Aaron’s attempts to get her attention weren’t good enough.

“Maybe I should give up. She clearly doesn’t see us as anything more than friends.” Aaron said. He didn’t want to risk his friendship with Emily by blurting out his feelings like an idiot but he had been dropping hints for weeks, no months, that his feelings for her had grown. He tried getting closer to her physically, pairing himself with her on a case or sitting next to her on the jet. He always seemed to seek out her gaze, her response because he knew that although he had to treat the team’s thoughts, opinions and ideas equally, he valued hers a little bit more. Aaron knew she had a tendency to skip breakfast on mornings when she had slept in or was too comfortable to get out of bed until the last possible minute, therefore he had developed the habit of picking up breakfast for her when she texted him to let him know she might be a few minutes late. They both knew it was because she hadn’t rolled out of bed yet and their shared favourite place to grab coffee was a coffee shop not too far away from Jack’s school. So it became his morning routine to grab a coffee for Emily as well as one for himself and if she had texted him, he knew to pick up a scone or a croissant or something for her to eat because it was better than letting her go hungry. Taking care of her became second nature to him, even if he knew nothing would ever come of it. 

“You don’t strike me as the giving up type,” Rossi teased before his expression turned serious. “You know Emily would believe you if you told her.”

“What if she didn’t?” Aaron asked quietly. He wasn’t worried about her not reciprocating his feelings. He had accepted long ago that there was no way on Earth that someone as wonderful, amazing and perfect as Emily Prentiss would ever have feelings for him. He didn’t want to risk their friendship but he also couldn’t bear the idea of telling Emily how he felt and having her not believe him. Aaron knew that she would never laugh at him but somehow, her thinking it was a lie or a joke hurt a lot more than any other form of rejection she could offer him. 

“Of course she would. Emily knows you would never lie to her. All you have to do is tell her how you feel,” Rossi encouraged. He had a few more tricks up his sleeve, however he doubted Aaron would appreciate the reminder of the promise he had made to Haley before her death. That was his last resort and he hoped that he wouldn’t have to use it. 

“Right Dave,” Aaron scoffed. “I go up to Emily and tell her that I’m in love with her. Even if she did believe me, there’s no way that anything would ever happen between us.”

“How do you know?” Rossi prompted gently. It was rare for Aaron to be so open with any of them, especially in relation to his emotions, therefore he was going to be a good friend and see how long he could keep him talking for. 

“Because I know she doesn’t feel the same way about me but that’s fine. I don’t expect her to,” Aaron explained and a small, self-deprecating smile flickered across his face. “If we just remain friends, then that’s OK with me. I’d rather have Emily in my life as a friend than not have her at all.”

 

On the other side of the door, Emily stood frozen into place as Aaron’s words echoed around her head. He loved her. He was in love with her. But he wouldn’t tell her because he was worried that she would reject him. However she would never reject him. She wasn’t sure what or how she felt; she had always assumed they were just friends, nothing more than best friends. She had pushed aside those feelings for so long because she had always assumed that nothing would ever happen.

Emily realised that her hand rested on the door handle but instead of opening the door and speaking to Aaron directly about it, she turned and went to find JJ and Garcia. Maybe this time, she would listen to what they had to say. 

Chapter Text

“You can see him now.” The young nurse advised with a smile as she approached Emily and Rossi. “I would just advise that he has had to have a higher dose of anesthesia than expected. There may be side effects.”

Emily and Rossi explained a look. The bemused look on the nurse’s face, instead of one of concern, told them everything that they needed to know. Rossi chuckled and pulled out his phone as Emily led the way towards the room that Aaron was in. 

Oh this was going to be good, Rossi thought to himself as he hit record and held up the camera as he and Emily stepped into the room and approached Aaron’s bed. Aaron lay back against the pillows, his eyes on the ceiling as he hummed and mumbled under his breath. Emily stepped towards the bed and smiled at him.

“How are you feeling Aaron?” Emily asked as she took his hand. Aaron attempted to move his hand away, it flopped against the mattress. Aaron attempted to glare at her; the effect slightly hampered by the obviously stoned look on his face. 

“Hey! Hey! I have a girlfriend!” Aaron protested weakly as he looked at the mysterious, beautiful woman standing by his bedside. He didn’t know who she was but she wasn’t his Emily!

Rossi snorted with laughter as Emily looked at Aaron. “I know Aaron, I am your girlfriend.”

Aaron pulled a face at the stranger and looked away. “No you’re not! You’re not my Emily! My Emily’s an FBI agent like me. It-it’s illegal to impe-imp-pretend to be an agent.”

“Show him your badge,” Rossi suggested, his shoulders shaking with laughter. Emily looked at Rossi and flipped him and the camera off as she reached into her pocket for her badge. 

“He’s going to kill you when he’s back to normal,” Emily reminded Rossi who shrugged his shoulders. 

“Worth it,” Rossi said casually. “Besides, if I didn’t video him then Garcia and Morgan would kill me. Either way, I’m dead so may as well get a few laughs out of it.”

“See, I’m Emily,” Emily reassured as she showed Aaron her badge. His unfocused eyes glanced at the badge before he lay his head back onto the pillows, shaking it from side to side. 

“Nuh uh. Not my Emily.” Aaron protested as Rossi chuckled. He could see the potential here; Aaron and Emily were so secretive about their relationship. This was his one chance to get all the news and scuttlebutt straight from the horse's mouth.

“Why don’t you tell us about your Emily?” Rossi suggested and Emily contemplated shoving that phone right down his throat. However Aaron looked at Rossi and his face lit up. A wide, goofy, stoned smile crossed his face as he thought about his Emily.

“She-she’s like my angel! She’s so beautiful! She has long black hair and it’s so shiny! And she has a perfect smile and I love her.” Aaron gushed happily as he thought about his Emily. “She’s not just pretty! She’s so clever and strong and when she takes down an unsub… damn. It’s very sexy.”

“You must love her,” Rossi said, ignoring the shake of Emily’s head and the faint blush on her cheeks. 

“Well duuhhh, ” Aaron retorted causing Emily to laugh. The image of a stoned Aaron Hotchner looking at Rossi like he was an imbecile was something she never knew that she needed until now. “Anyone, anyone who saw her would love her. Best bit, my son loves her too and that’s important because if he didn’t love her, then I’d have to lose her and that would suck.” 

“She sounds really special.” Rossi smiled. “Are you going to marry her someday?”

Emily’s head jolted up at that comment but before she could say anything, Aaron attempted to sit upright and Emily helped him into a comfortable position. A look of excitement crossed his face as his arm flopped around, clearly in an attempt to summon them closer. 

“Shh, shh, I need to tell you a secret,” Aaron said in an attempt at a whisper, which was really no different to his usual volume of speaking. Emily and Rossi approached the bed as Aaron smiled at them. “I’m gonna ask her to marry me.”

“Are you?” Emily asked. She was unsure whether to be stunned or bemused by the confession. She and Aaron hadn’t been dating that long but she also knew that since he didn’t realise that he was talking to her, she ought to take those words with a pinch of salt. 

“Yep!” Aaron replied simply and yawned. Emily took that as her cue to let him rest and to try and stop Rossi from filming any more before he got them both killed. 

“Well, why don’t you get some sleep and I’m sure that when you wake up, Emily will be here to see you.” Emily reassured. Aaron yawned and without another word, flopped back against the pillows and fell asleep. Emily waited until she was certain that he was asleep and that Rossi had put his phone away before she looked at him. “You better delete that.”

“Already sent it to Garcia,” Rossi replied and laughed. “Looks like there’s some wedding bells in your future.”

“And a funeral in yours when Aaron learns what you’ve done.” Emily said and Rossi shrugged his shoulders. 

“He’ll get over it, I’ll go tell the others that he’s going to be fine.” Rossi said as he stepped out of the room. As he left, Emily could hear him humming the Wedding March and she wondered if there was a bedpan nearby that she could club him around the head with. Instead Emily sat next to Aaron’s bed and allowed herself a smile as she waited for him to wake up. 

 

The first thing he was aware of when he woke up was the throbbing, pumping pain in his head. Although the last thing he recalled was being shot in the arm, the throbbing pain in his head told him that whatever pain medication the doctors had given him had worn off. In his experiences, coming off of anesthesia or painkillers was like waking up with a hangover without the fun night of drinking to precede it. Aaron turned his head to see Emily sitting by his bedside, her gaze on her phone. 

“Emily?” Aaron croaked, his throat felt dry. Emily smiled at him and fetched him a cup of water from the bedside table. 

“Hey, how are you feeling?” Emily asked. She could tell by his demeanour that the drugs had worn off and he clearly remembered who she was now. 

“I’ve been better, are you alright?” Aaron asked as he gratefully sipped the water she offered him. 

“We’re all fine.” Emily said and smiled teasingly at him. “I guess the anesthesia's worn off.”

Aaron groaned and lay back against the pillow. He knew that look and he knew that he never handled any form of pain medication well but anesthesia did to him what a bottle of tequila did to most people. He had no idea what he said or did but he knew one thing; he must have made an absolute ass of himself. “Please tell me there isn’t a video.”

Emily bit her lip and Aaron covered his face with his hands. He was going to murder whoever had videoed him tripping balls and talking utter nonsense. Whatever he said or did; he was never going to live this one down.

Chapter Text

“How can someone be so dense?” Emily asked, sighing in frustration as she flung herself back dramatically onto JJ’s bed, covering her face in her hands.

“And ‘hello, good evening to you too,’ Emily.” JJ remarked sarcastically as she shut the hotel room door and sat on the bed against the pillows, tucking her legs up behind her. One hand rested on her stomach as she felt the baby wriggle and settle down for the night.. “Did one of the locals say something stupid to you again?”

“No; they’re a whole other category of dense.” Emily replied. “It’s Aaron I’m talking about.”

“Oh,” JJ said quietly and Emily scoffed.

“Oh.” Emily repeated mockingly. They had had this conversation before. At first it seemed sweet that Aaron was unaware of how much Emily was flirting with him. She had started subtly with little gestures. She would smile at him a certain way, try to catch his eye or make him smile. She made comments, flicked her hair and nothing. The man had had no idea. Everyone else knew. Even Reid knew, and Reid normally couldn’t recognise flirting if it dropkicked him in the face. 

“What happened this time?” JJ asked curiously. Initially, she had thought the idea of Emily having a crush on a clueless Aaron was sweet; that he would quickly figure it out and they would have been together by now. Instead, it had been weeks, if not months, and he was still as blind as ever. 

“One of the officers tried to ask me out and I turned him down, respectfully, no big deal, he took it on the chin. That wasn’t the issue,” Emily explained as she looked at JJ. “The problem is that Aaron looked at me after he left and said and I quote: ‘ He shouldn’t be flirting with you, it’s unprofessional.’”

“Are you serious?!” JJ demanded as she slapped her own forehead. “So he can recognise when someone is flirting with you but not that you’re flirting with him?! He can’t be that stupid!”

“That’s what I’m saying!” Emily insisted as she dragged a pillow over her face and contemplated either screaming into it or asking JJ to hold it over her face until she stopped moving. “How can someone who is so smart, who is able to profile and read behaviour better than anyone else I know, just so... dense?”  

“Maybe he doesn’t want to believe that you could actually have feelings for him?” JJ suggested fairly and Emily lifted the pillow off of her face and shot JJ a scathing look.

“Because the idea of me having feelings for someone is so horrific? Thanks JJ, I love you too.” Emily retorted as JJ rolled her eyes. Clearly Aaron wasn’t the only one being dense this evening.

“No you idiot, think about it. Apart from Haley, there’s not really been any other relationships in his life. And they got together in high school. Maybe he genuinely doesn’t realise that you’re flirting with him or maybe he doesn’t believe that you do because he’s not used to it.” JJ explained fairly as Emily sat up and held the pillow to her stomach.

“So either he knows that I’m flirting with him and he thinks this is all some sort of big prank on him; like we’re all laughing behind his back, or he’s so appalled by the idea of me having feelings for him that he’s just ignoring it or he is just that clueless. Which one of these is meant to make me feel better?” Emily asked and JJ shrugged her shoulders. 

“Sorry,” JJ apologised. “I think he knows that you would never flirt with him as a joke or think it was some sort of prank or be appalled by you. I genuinely think he either doesn’t know you’re flirting with him or more likely, he doesn’t know how to react so is ignoring it. You know, like how most guys refuse to discuss their feelings.”

“Except for Will, who literally fell in love and wouldn’t shut up about you ever since we met him.” Emily retorted as JJ blushed slightly and lowered her head to try and hide behind her hair.

“No he didn’t,” JJ lied and Emily scoffed.

“Oh please, that first case we worked with him in New Orleans, he was either working with you or was wondering ‘where Agent Jar-eau was because gosh, she sure is purty ,’” Emily retorted, adopting a mocking take on Will’s accent causing JJ to grab her pillow and smack her with it. “Hey!”

“It’s the hormones, deal with it.” JJ muttered as she looked down at Emily. “So what are you going to do about it?”

Emily sighed heavily and looked up at the ceiling. That was the million dollar question. The reason she hadn’t taken the flirting further was because Aaron had never given any indication that he was interested or not. Surely if he wasn’t, he would have told her to knock it off or took her aside and let her down gently. If he had worked out that she was flirting and he was interested, maybe he was too shy or unsure to admit how he felt. There were so many uncertainties and all she wanted was just some acknowledgement, good or bad, to let her know where she stood with Aaron. 

“Maybe I should just get a cat.” Emily muttered and JJ smiled at her. She wished she had some useful advice to give Emily but she couldn’t deny the truth. Everyone in the BAU knew that Emily was flirting with Aaron, except of course, for Aaron himself. However, JJ knew better than to get involved, she was sure that Aaron would work it out.

 

Eventually.

Chapter Text

Aaron tapped his pen on the desk thoughtfully as he glanced out of the window at Emily. He couldn’t put a finger on what it was but there was something different about her lately. Ever since he had mentioned the cop flirting with her on their most recent case, she had been acting off around him. She didn’t joke around as much with him, had made a point of sitting away from him on the jet and there was something not quite right. Emily still spoke to him, they still worked together to take down the unsub but it was as if something had shifted between them and he didn’t understand why.

He and Emily had grown a lot closer recently. They had bonded one evening when they had been working late, trying to catch up on paperwork and lamenting on the fact that they always promised not to let it pile up before inevitably letting it pile up. Their complaining and joking had led to Emily joining him in his office so they could work together and most of their time was spent joking around, sharing stories and only reluctantly working when they had to. On that night, Aaron couldn’t recall the last time he had laughed so much and when he had said as much to Emily, a strange look flickered across her face for a moment. It was one that he had spotted a few times since, a split second micro expression that appeared if they were joking around or if she was in a particularly playful mood. Just for a second and then it was gone. 

He still hadn’t worked out what that look was. Had it been anyone else giving him that look or if Emily had given anyone else that look; he would have said it was one of longing. Like she wanted him to kiss her, which was ridiculous. He knew that Emily didn’t have feelings for him. Someone as wonderful, as amazing, as perfect, as Emily Prentiss could never be interested in someone as dull and broken and serious as him. Besides, he was probably misreading the situation. They were close friends, best friends. Best friends joked around together, they worked together and had an understanding of one another. 

He and Emily just had that bond. They just clicked when they worked together. It was why he tended to pair up with her because he knew how well they worked together, bounced ideas off of each other and he enjoyed picking her brain and debating ideas with her. They had long since had an agreement to never lie to one another and also to never be afraid to call the other out. If Emily was to call him out, he listened to what she had to say. If he needed her to rein it in on a case, she didn’t argue with him. That level of honesty extended to outside of the BAU. Over time, Emily became the person he turned to when he needed to speak to someone. Whether it was about Haley and Jack or laughing about the team’s most recent night out (especially as the most recent one which ended up with Morgan waking up in a bathtub in Rossi’s mansion) or if the nightmares had him jolting awake in the middle of the night. Emily was the person he reached out to. She was always ready with a listening ear, sound advice and a way to make him smile. Emily always could tease a smile, even when he was at his worst points. There were times when he wondered why she wasn’t dating someone; anyone would be so lucky to have the love of Emily Prentiss in their lives and if they were smart, once they had Emily, they would never let her go.

Now that he thought about it, Emily hadn’t mentioned going on a date for a while but he was certain he had heard JJ make a comment about her having a crush on someone. He hadn’t meant to eavesdrop but when JJ had said it, Emily had flushed scarlet and glared at JJ so he decided not to pursue it. After all, he figured that Emily would speak to him about it if she wanted to, since she hadn’t, he had decided that it was none of his business. Aaron had noticed how Emily turned heads wherever she went; it was impossible for anyone to deny how beautiful she was. And clever. And funny. And brave. And kindhearted. And compassionate. Yet although many seemed to fall at her feet or trip over themselves to try and get her attention (the guys had all been told the legend of FBI Brad), he had never really seen her flirt with anyone. Not on nights out, not in the bullpen, not when they were hanging out together. 

For a moment, he tried to picture Emily flirting. 

 

Tried to imagine her flicking her hair...

Emily smiled at him and tucked two strands of hair behind her ears, a slight pinkness on her cheeks as she turned her attention back to the whiteboard.

 

Or catching someone’s eye as she laughed at their joke..

Emily held a hand to her mouth in an attempt to stifle her laughter at Aaron’s comment. They had been watching Morgan try and pick up the waitress and Aaron had made a pointed remark about the waitress’s ring that Morgan clearly hadn’t noticed. She caught his eye for a moment before she took another sip of her drink.

 

Or using physical gestures and touches to show her affection. 

He hadn’t noticed before just how tactile Emily was. Somehow her hand found its way onto his arm when they sat on the jet. When she got tired, she would rest her head on his shoulder. If they went out for drinks and she got too drunk, he would find himself being the one with one of her arms slung around his shoulders and one of his carefully around her waist as he walked her to the cab. The strange thing was that she wasn’t as tactile with the others.

 

For some reason, when he tried to picture Emily flirting, all he could think of was how she acted around him. But surely, if she had been flirting, he would have picked up on it. Then again, that was just how Emily was. She was an open and affectionate person. Except… she didn’t tuck her hair behind her ears when she spoke to JJ. She wasn’t sitting next to Morgan on the jet. She didn’t laugh at Reid’s terrible jokes. She never rested her head on Rossi’s shoulder when she was tired. She never leaned against Garcia when she was drunk at the end of a night out. She only ever did any of those things with him.

So if those actions were all different examples of Emily flirting…

...and she only acted like that around him…

...then that meant…

Oh. 

 

Oh.

Chapter Text

“Emily? What are you doing here?” Aaron asked curiously as he spotted Emily walking into the school building. Emily looked surprised to see him and her cheeks flushed pink slightly as she resisted the urge to play with her nails. It was the last place he had expected to see her on a Thursday night and also the last place in general he expected to see her. They had also been ever so slightly avoiding one another since their kiss two nights ago. They hadn't spoken about it or denied it ever happened. Neither had wanted to take that next step to see where the kiss could lead them but at the same time, neither was sorry that it happened. 

“Jack asked me to come,” Emily explained and realised that she had been hoodwinked by a six year old. In her defense, he was the only six year old that she could never say no to. “He said that you forgot to invite me.”

“He’s been spending too much time with Dave,” Aaron muttered, although Jessica pointedly avoided looking in their direction and was pretending to look for Jack. He should have spotted her hand in this. “I am glad you’re here. Jack’s really excited.”

“He told me that he has to recite a poem,” Emily said and Aaron smiled. Jack had been practising it for weeks along with his lines for the class’s play. Each grade was performing something different and Jack had been excited that the first grade got to perform an actual play, as opposed to the Kindergarten who sang a collection of Christmas carols; however they all did look adorable in their little Santa hats. The event had been split over two nights; the kindergarten, first, second and third grades were performing tonight and the fourth, fifth and sixth grades had their performance tomorrow night. 

“He does, he’s very excited about it.” Aaron smiled proudly as they walked towards Jessica. Most of the parents, grandparents and other guests were being led towards the assembly hall while teachers and teaching assistants rounded up runaway kids, gathered props from classrooms and kids in various costumes ran around excitedly. “Did you know Jack invited Emily, Jess?”

“No,” Jess lied as she smiled at Emily. “It’s good to see you, he’s so excited.”

“I can imagine,” Emily replied. Some of her most vivid memories of elementary school were performances like this. Nativity plays, off-key Christmas carols and nervous kids reciting poems that they had learnt by heart. 

Aaron glanced at Emily who sat beside him as the curtains drew back for the first grade’s play. As was a tradition in the school, the kindergarten sang a series of Christmas carols and songs as opposed to trying to get them to perform an actual play. Both first grade classes were working together to perform a play about a wicked fairy who enchants Santa to fall asleep and the elves had to wake him up before Christmas. Although Jack wasn’t Santa, he was one of the ‘rock star elves’ who played guitars to try and wake Santa up. He smiled proudly at Jack and laughed as Jack shook the kid playing Santa before he sighed heavily and put his hands on his hips and looked out to the audience.

“Well that didn’t work!” Jack announced to laughter from the audience as he held up a toy guitar. “Let’s play our music!”

“He sounds like you,” Emily whispered to Aaron who shook his head fondly at her. Beside them, Jessica smiled softly to herself as they watched the first graders perform. When the play was over, they clapped as Jack held hands with his classmates and bowed. After the second grade performed a play about different customs and traditions about Christmas, one of the two  sixth graders who was serving as an announcer, stepped onto the stage. 

“Now we have Jack Hotchner reciting a poem called ‘ My Daddy the Boss’.” The sixth grader announced and Emily stifled a laugh behind her hand as Jack stepped onto the stage and the sixth grader lowered the microphone to his height. Jack looked nervously out into the crowd before he spotted Aaron, Jess and Emily and he smiled and began to recite the poem he had learnt.

“My Daddy the Boss is always in charge
His job list is long and very large
Every day he has to wear a suit and tie
Which he can’t get dirty, even if he tries.
Daddy says he has work hard day and night
Because no one else can do things right!
My Daddy the boss says that he makes the rules
And being at work is like being at school
Except he’s forgotten one thing you see,
Daddy’s the boss at work but he’s not the boss of ME!”

Jack finished his recitation by pointing to himself. Throughout the poem, he had made the audience laugh with actions to emphasise his words; like pointing his finger or shaking his head. Emily had been laughing throughout, she had never heard the poem before and she wondered if Jack and one of his teachers had made it up. Aaron nudged her playfully as Jack stepped off the stage and darted down the aisle to find them.

“I’m not that bad,” Aaron protested and Emily looked at Jess and neither of them said a word as Jack climbed onto Aaron’s lap and hugged him tightly. “You were great Buddy.”

“Thanks Daddy, hi Emily,” Jack smiled at Emily who reached over and hugged him.

“Hi Jack, thanks for inviting me, I loved your poem.” Emily whispered as the sixth graders announced the third graders were about to perform the Nativity. After the third graders had finished and taken a bow and the audience were invited to the cafeteria for refreshments, Jack took Emily’s hand and led her out of the hall.

“They have a really sweet bond,” Jess commented and Aaron shook his head. He couldn’t have this conversation, not tonight. Just as they reached Emily and Jack, some of Jack’s classmates had darted up to him. One was dressed an an elf and one was the little girl who played the fairy who sent Santa to sleep. 

“Jack, is this your stepmommy?” the little fairy asked as she twirled her wand in her hand. 

“No, she’s my Emily,” Jack explained proudly as he swung Emily’s hand back and forth. Emily felt her heart swell with those words. Although she and Aaron had been awkwardly dancing around whatever this was between them; they both knew that they were no longer ‘just friends’ but were yet to put a label on it and decide fully what it was. However for Jack, that didn’t seem to matter. He didn’t care if she was his dad’s friend or girlfriend or whatever. All that Jack cared about was that she was his Emily and that His Emily had come to his school to watch his Christmas performance. Apart from that, nothing else mattered. 

Chapter Text

“You should get some rest,” Rossi said quietly as he stepped back into the room, a cup of lukewarm vending machine coffee in his hand. He knew it was a pointless comment, Aaron hadn’t moved from the bedside for the past three days, save to use the bathroom. He had barely eaten, hadn’t slept and it wasn’t good for anyone. Not the team, not Aaron himself and definitely not Emily. 

“I can’t,” Aaron whispered, his voice thick with emotion and exhaustion. “I can’t leave her Dave.”

“I can stay with her, you need to rest. You’re not doing either of you any favours by torturing yourself like this.” Rossi explained wearily as Aaron shook his head. He shut his eyes to try and hold back the tears that had filled his eyes but two tear drops slid silently down his cheeks as Rossi put a hand on his shoulder. “This wasn’t your fault.”

“Then who’s fault was it?” Aaron muttered spitefully, his brain and heart were both torn between worry and fear over Emily’s condition and condemning himself with self-loathing and guilt for being the one who had caused such pain. 

 

“Where’s Emily?” Aaron asked as he stepped into the bullpen. JJ, Morgan and Reid exchanged a look that turned from confusion to fear when they realised that Emily still hadn’t arrived into work that morning. Emily was never late; the one day she had been ten minutes late, they had joked about sending out a search party for her. As for taking a sick day or skiving off; Emily by her own admission had a cast iron stomach and never got sick. So for her to be late or absent was completely unlike her. 

“I’ll try and call her,” JJ offered as she pulled out her phone and dialled Emily’s number. JJ frowned as the phone went directly to voicemail. “That’s weird.”

“Let me try,” Aaron said as he did the same. This time however, the call connected and rang for a few seconds before it was picked up. “Emily? Where are you?” 

Aaron felt his blood turn to ice as a voice that he had come to dread; a voice that he associated with nightmares, pain and death spoke in a casual, taunting response. “I’m sorry Aaron, Emily can’t come to the phone right now.”

 

“She’s going to be fine,” Rossi reassured. He had said those words far too many times over the past few days. To Aaron. To the rest of the team. To himself. They were the only five words that they could cling onto. They had found her in time. The surgeons had did everything that they could. They were just waiting for the blood transfusions to be completed before the doctors could begin to wake her up. Once Emily was awake then they would have proof in what Rossi had been saying. That Emily would be fine. There was nothing else that they could do; they couldn’t heal Emily’s wounds for her. They couldn’t drag her back to consciousness. All they could do was sit and wait. And pray. 

“You can’t know that, you saw what he did to her.” Aaron reminded bitterly. He might not have been the one to physically inflict the wounds onto Emily but it was because of him that she was in this position. He had let her get too close, he knew it was too dangerous for her to be near him but he had been selfish. He hadn’t wanted to or felt able to let her go. He knew it was putting her in danger, that He was watching Aaron and therefore watching Emily. He may as well have delivered Emily to the bastard himself. 

 

“Foyet,” Aaron said as Morgan and JJ leapt to their feet as though scalded. JJ sprinted to find Rossi and Morgan burst through the glass doors, almost breaking them in his rush to get Garcia to track Emily’s phone. Reid, limited by his wounded leg and crutches, snatched a pen to take down anything of use. 

“Long time no talk Aaron. How are the scars? Do they hurt sometimes? Mine do,” Foyet commented casually as he examined his knife. 

“Where is she?” Aaron demanded and Foyet smirked as he looked at the barely conscious Emily, her t-shirt soaked scarlet and clinging to her. He had taken his time with her, she had tried to fight him. She fought a lot more than Aaron had. Not that he minded, it just made it more fun. 

“You know, I would think that a man who had lost his family wouldn’t be jumping into bed with his subordinate. Maybe I did you a favour by sending Haley and Jack away? Tell me, does she fight as much in bed as she did with me?” Foyet mocked as Aaron swallowed back bile. Not Emily. He couldn’t lose Emily. If he lost her then he would lose everything. 

“Where is she?” Aaron demanded again and this time, Foyet laughed mockingly down the phone. As if he didn’t know Aaron’s precious team weren’t frantically tracking the phone in an attempt to find them.

“You know where she is. Come and find her.” Foyet retorted and hung up the phone. He turned back to Emily and lightly tapped her cheek. Her eyes flickered behind her eyelids but she didn’t open them or move. Either she was too wounded or feigning unconsciousness. Either way, he knew she would feel this.

Emily groaned in pain as he swept his fingers across the numerous wounds, gathering enough of her blood to daub a final message to Aaron Hotchner on her forehead.

FATE?

 

“And she survived,” Rossi said as they looked back at Emily. “She’ll wake up soon.”

Aaron shook his head as he looked at Emily. Her skin was deathly pale and her arms and chest were covered in bandages and wires. The machines and monitors beeped in a repetitive rhythm that was supposed to be a comfort but just served to taunt Aaron. Each one reminded him that this was his fault. It was because of him that Emily almost died. Could still die. Because of his worthless, useless, despicable self. He didn’t deserve her love or care or kindness and if she ever woke up; he knew that he would never, ever deserve her forgiveness. He would deserve it if she never wanted to speak to him again, see him again. It would tear him apart but if that was what Emily wanted because of what he had done, he would accept it. Because a world with an Emily Prentiss who was alive and hated him was better than a world without Emily Prentiss at all. 

“What if she doesn’t?” Aaron whispered. None of them had dared even voice such a thought aloud. They had thought it over and over again and the longer it took for Emily to wake up; the thought became louder and louder in his mind, taunting him with a repetitive, endless loop. What if she never woke up? What if he never saw those bright shining brown eyes again? What if he never heard the musical sound of her laughter? He couldn’t even recall their last conversation. It had probably been something pointless, like a reminder to finish her paperwork. Not an ‘I love you’ , not an ‘I appreciate everything you’ve done for me’ or even a ‘thank you Emily, for everything’. Nothing. What if he never heard her voice again? How would they cope if they lost Emily? He knew they wouldn’t. He wouldn’t cope. Not without Emily. 

 

By the time Rossi and Morgan reached Emily’s apartment, the EMTs had already taken her to hospital. Foyet was long gone and in the wind again. They were no closer to catching him or tracking him than they had been before he attacked Emily. It was a taunt. A reminder that he was one step ahead. That he could and would attack them whenever he felt like it and they wouldn't see him coming. Aaron, Garcia, Reid and JJ had spent hours in the waiting room; time inching past at a snail’s pace. Rossi and Morgan arrived before she was out of surgery. There was nothing; no signs of how Foyet broke in, nothing taken, nothing left. It was just part of a game for him. 

The hours in the waiting room had passed in silence. Apart from rare offers to fetch drinks or something to eat, none of them spoke. JJ had kept her phone clutched tightly in her hand, Will had Henry and was receiving updates from his officers who had responded to the 911 domestic disturbance call at Emily’s apartment. Garcia hadn’t been able to stop crying and Reid had been trembling with fear. Morgan had paced the waiting room like a wild animal trapped in a cage. Rossi had his rosary beads clutched in his hand, his thumb running from bead to bead with each recitation of a Hail Mary or Our Father. Aaron hadn’t said a word. What could he have said? When this was all his fault? That because of him someone he lov- someone he cared about was in surgery, had almost died because of him.  

It seemed to take an eternity for an exhausted looking doctor to approach them. “Family of Emily Prentiss?”

 

“She will wake up, Emily’s a fighter.” Rossi reassured as he sat carefully on the edge of Emily’s bed, mindful of the wires as he looked directly into Aaron’s eyes. “This wasn’t your fault. Emily wouldn’t blame you for this so you shouldn’t blame yourself.”

 

“She should blame me. If she wakes up.” Aaron stated bitterly as he kept his gaze focused on Emily. He was exhausted; mentally, emotionally and physically, however he couldn’t bear to leave her for a moment. Emily had stayed by his side when he had been in hospital and so he had to return the favour. Besides, he had to be here for when or if she woke up. He had to apologise for what he had done and beg Emily for her forgiveness. Even though he didn’t deserve it, he wanted to think Emily would forgive him. She had the strongest, most compassionate, loving heart but even someone with a devoted heart as her’s couldn’t possibly forgive him for what he had done. 

“She won’t because Emily knows that this wasn’t your fault. There is only one person to blame and it’s not you.” Rossi stated firmly. “And if she was awake, she would be telling you to get some sleep or to eat something.”

“Not until I know she’s OK.” Aaron persisted as he turned his gaze away from Rossi. After a moment, Rossi sighed heavily and stepped out of the room. He knew it was pointless to keep arguing with Aaron. Right now, their best bet was to wait until he passed out from exhaustion rather than argue with him again. 

 

As soon as Rossi left the room, Aaron reached over and took Emily’s hand in his. The back of her hand had an IV attached and her palm was softer than he expected. Three days of unconsciousness had allowed her nails to start to regrow. She had been picking at them again. Her hand was warm in his and he wanted to squeeze it, however he knew that could risk damaging the IV and instead settled for just holding it. If he could, he would have willed his strength to pass through from his hand to hers, so that she had enough strength to open her eyes. Just for a moment, so that he knew that she would be OK. 

But would she be OK? She was like him now, scarred, marked. He knew that she would put on a brave face in front of the others but in private, she would be disgusted. Because he was. He despised the marks that littered his chest and torso. Now Emily had a dozen of her own. Some on her stomach, her chest, her arms. Some were lighter, merely skin deep, others had almost or barely nicked some of her organs and the blood loss alone was enough to keep her comatose. The doctors couldn’t attempt to help her wake up until the blood transfusions had been completed. However on their last check, the doctors and nurses had advised that it wouldn’t be long now. Yet even if they had woken her in that moment, it was still too long for Aaron to wait. He needed to see her, speak to her, he had three words that he needed to say to her. Three words that could never be enough to cure her or undo what had been done to her. Three words that she could dismiss, ignore or throw back in his face but that he still needed to say. 

Aaron knew that if he said them now, she might hear him. She might not. He had said it before, over and over again and he would say it again now as he sat by her bedside, holding her hand and wishing that she would just wake up.

 

“I’m sorry Emily.”

Chapter Text

She slowly felt herself wake up. Her body sluggishly returning to consciousness. Before she even opened her eyes, she could feel the brightness of the lights piercing into her eyelids. As her mind struggled to catch up, her senses explored her surroundings. First of all, the bed didn’t feel like her bed. The covers were a rough, starched linen. Her left hand felt heavier than usual and her right hand felt warm. Someone was holding it. There was also something in her mouth and her nose. Whatever was in her mouth felt heavy around her tongue and she could hear a slow, rhythmic, annoying beeping sound. 

Even before she opened her eyes or remembered what had happened to her. Emily knew exactly where she was.

The hospital.

Again. 

Slowly, Emily opened her eyes and groaned at the intense brightness of the neon light above her head. She shut her eyes again but clearly whoever was in the room with her had noticed she was awake. Emily could sense the lights had been turned off and there was a moment that whoever was holding her hand had let go but just as quickly took her hand again.

“Emily? Emily, can you hear me?” Aaron asked, hardly daring to believe what he had just seen. In their most recent attempts to get him to leave Emily’s side and rest, Reid had pointed out that at four days without sleep, he would struggle to differentiate between reality and hallucinations. He had slept. For two hours and even then, he slept lightly enough to stir at any movement or noise. 

Emily attempted to speak but her tongue was still weighed down and she moved her hand instead. As she moved her hand, she felt a flash of pain shoot down her arm but before she could question it, a doctor and nurse stepped into the room. As her eyes focused, Emily watched Aaron carefully step out of the doctor and nurse’s way as they examined her, removed the tube from her mouth and handed her some water to sip. 

“You gave us quite a scare Agent Prentiss,” the doctor advised as he examined her. “Do you recall what happened.”

Emily shut her eyes as the memories, unwelcome and unbidden burst into her mind. 

 

Returning from the case feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. Not bothering to do anything other than kick off her shoes and shrug off her jacket. She brushed her teeth before she fell on top of her bed and fell asleep. She ought to have checked the door. She thought she had. But she hadn’t. 

She didn’t wake up to her alarm. She felt a gloved hand ghost down her cheek followed by a gravelly, cold voice that she didn’t recognise but somehow knew at once.

“Wake up Agent Prentiss.”

 

Emily looked at the doctor and nodded slowly.

“I remember,” Emily whispered, her voice hoarse and croaky from days of unuse. She didn’t want to think about the other details right now. Emily knew that she would be forced to think about, discuss and relive each wound, every second that she could recall before she passed out. Right now, she didn’t want to think about it. Surely, she was owed at least one minute of ignorant bliss. 

“You’re lucky to survive. Some of the wounds came close to severing vital arteries or catching vital organs. We have had to transfuse several pints of blood but you still need a lot of rest. We’ll be back to check on you soon.” The doctor advised and swept out of the room. The nurse finished adjusting her IV and smiled supportively at Emily as she left the room. 

 

Once the door was shut, Emily looked at Aaron and really examined him for the first time. He looked terrible. His face was pale and drawn with heavy dark circles under his eyes. His hair was ruffled and tangled as if he had ran his hands through it hundreds of times. His suit was crumpled and creased and she could tell that he hadn’t changed out of it for days. There was also several day’s worth of stubble across his cheeks and chin. She had never seen him go so long without shaving and she found that the look suited him. However she also understood what his dishevelled state meant. However long she had been out for; he hadn’t left her for a moment. 

“How long?” Emily asked finally as Aaron held the glass of water and a straw up to her lips. She took a few more sips as she waited for his answer.

“Four days,” Aaron replied and her eyes widened in surprise. “I’m so sorry.”

“This wasn’t your fault,” Emily said as she caught the look of self-loathing and disgust on Aaron’s face. “I’m serious.”

“He targeted you because of me.” Aaron insisted. “I almost got you killed. I may as well have attacked you myself.” 

“You didn’t try to kill me, I mean your BO might, but you didn’t.” Emily replied, she knew her attempt at distracting Aaron with humour was pointless. However, considering she had woken up from a coma, Aaron made a point of sniffing the air before he looked at her. 

“You don’t exactly smell like roses either Emily.” Aaron stated weakly. There was no humour or bemusement in his tone. They both knew that she was trying to distract him from the fact that she had almost been killed because of him. 

“I’ve been in a coma, what’s your excuse?” Emily pointed out as she reached up and touched her hair. It was lank and greasy and she definitely needed a shower as soon as she was able to stand. 

“You’ve been in a coma,” Aaron pointed out and looked away from her,  “because of me.”

“No.” Emily said fiercely as she attempted to push herself up. The movement sent flares of pain down her arms and torso and Aaron pressed the button on the side of the bed to gently elevate her head up. Despite her face being racked with pain and the sheer effort to hold back her cries of pain, Emily stared at Aaron until the pain subsided enough for her to speak. “We are not having this conversation if you are blaming yourself.”

“But it is my fault. He came after you because of me!” Aaron insisted as the thoughts, vicious, self-loathing, regretful and venomous thoughts threatened to burst out of him at once. 

“No, he came after me because I’m a member of your team and probably from his perspective; I was the easiest target.” Emily explained. “We profile men like him; they all think alike. A woman who lives alone, no matter who she is, is going to present as the more vulnerable target, even if Reid is on crutches and Morgan and Rossi also live alone. Plus he got the jump on me while I was asleep. Had I been awake, I could have taken him.” 

“But I made you a target.” Aaron protested and Emily shook her head. She loved this stubborn, foolish man but something she wanted to shake him by the shoulders until some common sense got shaken into his head. 

“No Aaron. I made myself a target.” Emily replied and at his confusion, she explained. “Think about it; I was the one who went to your apartment that day. I was the one who stayed in the hospital, who insisted on taking you to and from the BAU. We’ve been spending a lot of time together and if he’s stalking you, watching you, then he would have seen that. I knew he was watching and if he was going to target someone, better it be me than one of the others. We knew he would strike at some point, I figured that I may as well give him a target.”

“But why? Why would you do that?” Aaron asked. It was unbelievably reckless, dangerous and completely selfless. Only someone as brave, as loyal, as foolish as Emily could have considered such an action, and to do so without telling anyone… 

“You know why,” Emily whispered as she lay back against the pillows. “I’m tired.”

“Get some sleep, I’ll be here when you wake up.” Aaron reassured as he touched her hand again. Emily drifted off back to sleep and with his free hand, he reached for his phone. After briefly calling Morgan to relay the news that Emily had woken up, he set his phone aside and kept his gaze on Emily. 

 

Those three words bounced around his head as he watched her chest gently rise and fall. The machines still showed a steady heartbeat and although he knew she was mostly calm now; he knew the fall out would come. She would have to see her scars, relive her attack over and over again, there would be nightmares, disgust and pain. All because of him. Despite what she said, he knew it was his fault. He hadn’t been the one to plunge a knife into her repeatedly but it was because of him that it had happened. Aaron still couldn’t comprehend her actions. Why had she put herself in danger like that?

“You know why .”

Did he know why? Why would someone put themselves in harm’s way? Why would they risk literally everything to taunt a serial killer to turn their focus onto them? Why would she flung herself into the crosshairs? Why would she do something so reckless? Why would she risk her life for his family? For him? Why did she think he was worth her plotting such a dangerous course of action, knowing it would potentially cost her her own life? 

Why did she do that? 

There was only possible reason, however he wasn’t sure if that was the real reason why or a sign that his brain was finally beginning to struggle with sleep deprivation. Because there was only one reason why someone would risk everything; their safety, their life, everything for another person. A reason as old as time but a reason he never considered Emily would use. At least, not for him. He didn’t deserve it, he didn’t deserve her. He could never deserve Emily or her heart. 

“You know why.”

“Oh Emily,” Aaron whispered softly as he looked at the sleeping figure on the bed beside him, her hand still resting in his. 

He did know why.

Chapter Text

“Where’s Aaron?” Emily asked quietly as she looked around the room. Ever since she had woken up two days ago, Aaron had finally allowed himself to go home, shower and change. She hadn’t been left alone for a moment, the team and Will insisted on rotating shifts of babysitting her in the hospital, even though she had no plans of going anywhere. Rossi and JJ had been the ones to brave going into her apartment to grab some clothes and toiletries for her. Emily hadn’t asked for any details but the fact that JJ had hugged her extra-tightly when she returned told her enough. She wasn’t looking forward to returning to her apartment but she was damned if she was going to let Foyet scare her out of her home. 

“Strauss called him and Morgan into a meeting.” Rossi replied as JJ helped Emily to her feet. After almost a week lying in bed, she staggered like a newborn lamb when she attempted to stand and JJ insisted on helping her into the bathroom down the hall. Normally, Emily would have made a joke about JJ helping her but she could tell today wasn’t a day for telling jokes. 

“Do you need help washing your hair?” JJ asked and Emily shook her head. JJ tactfully avoided her gaze as she helped Emily out of her hospital gown and towards the shower. She probably did but she drew the line at JJ helping her shower. Luckily there was a seat in the shower so she wouldn’t have to stand. 

“What’s the meeting about?” Emily asked as she drew the shower curtain and turned the faucet on. 

“Strauss is pulling us off of any other cases. Now that both you and Hotch have been attacked by Foyet, the priority is catching him.” JJ replied as she heard Emily’s soft gasp. “Emily? You OK?”

Emily hesitated as she looked down at her torso, breasts and arms. She hadn’t looked too closely when the nurses removed the bandages and checked the stitches before they moved her out of the ICU and into a regular ward. Now she could only stare at each and every one of them. There were three superficial wounds on her shoulders, one on her left and two on her right. Some were longer than others from where the blade was dragged, such as under her left breast. It was like a distorted jigsaw pattern, a makeshift Frankenstein’s monster, the puckered, stitched skin vivid red in contrast to her naturally pale skin. 

“Emily?” JJ’s voice called again and Emily nodded.

“Fine,” Emily replied as she began to lather shampoo into her hair. She couldn’t deal with this now, this was something she would think and talk about later. By the time she was finished her shower and had awkwardly wrapped a towel around herself, she pushed back the curtain and JJ stepped over to help wrap the towel around her properly.  When Emily was dried and changed into a fresh set of pajamas, JJ helped her out of the bathroom and back into bed. As they entered the room, Rossi stood facing the window, his phone in hand. 

“Yeah, she’s just come back in. I’ll hand you over.” Rossi said as Emily sat on the bed and took the phone. She already knew it was Aaron but also knew that he needed to hear her voice. 

“Hey, how was your meeting?” Emily asked as she lay against the pillows. 

“Long but not terrible. How are you feeling? Rossi said you were in the shower?” Aaron asked gently. He knew without Emily saying a word what she was thinking. Because he had gone through the same. The first time seeing those wounds, knowing those marks would be a part of you forever, it’s a lot to take in. He hadn’t been able to speak to anyone who understood just what an impact that first sight, first shower had on him but it meant he could be there for Emily. 

“I’m alright, I feel clean which helps. Are you-” Emily began and trailed off. She knew there was so much that Aaron needed to do and he had spent enough time by her sickbed but after her shower, after seeing the scars for herself, she needed to see him.

“I’m already on my way,” Aaron reassured, his voice softer and kinder than she had ever heard it before. “It’s OK Emily, I understand.”

“I know,” Emily said quietly as she looked at Rossi and JJ. She hated the pitying, concerned expressions on their faces; that was the look that everyone wore when they saw or spoke to her. Usually she attempted to diffuse the tension with humour but she was struggling to find something witty to say. “I’ll pass you back to Rossi.”

 

Emily handed over the phone just as one of the nurses came in with another round of medication for her to take. There were far too many with long, complicated names for her to recall them all and their functions. She knew some were to prevent blood clots, others to repair tissue damage and a few to prevent a build up of scar tissue under the skin. As the nurse prepped the dosages for Emily, JJ looked at it curiously, Emily could see the cogs turning in her brain. Given that Foyet had given Aaron exactly the same scars as his own, they were running with the theory that he would need to take the same medications as Aaron. However, that was a needle in a haystack that not even Garcia’s systems could narrow down. 

“What is it?” Emily asked as she took the first few with a swig of water. 

“I was just thinking. You know how in that case in New Mexico two weeks ago; the wife was using her cancer medication to help improve the victim’s hormone levels and fertility instead of using fertility drugs and hormones so that the husband could impregnate them faster,” JJ explained and Emily had to commend the nurse’s poker face. She hadn’t even blinked as she sorted Emily’s final dosage and stepped out of the room.

“What about it?” Emily asked as she took the second handful and swig of water. Rossi, it seemed, had cottoned onto JJ’s line of thought. 

“Some drugs can be substituted for others.” Rossi finished and JJ nodded as she pulled out her own phone. “Stuff you can get over the counter.”

“We’ve been working on the assumption that Foyet’s getting all of his drugs via a pharmacy but if he’s substituting some; we can narrow down the list to the ones that cannot be substituted. We get those, we get him.” JJ explained as she quickly hugged Emily and hurried out of the room, her phone to her ear. “Garcia, we have an idea,”

“Do you think it will work?” Emily asked as Rossi looked at her and sat on the edge of her bed. 

“I think right now, we can’t afford to leave any stone unturned.” Rossi replied as he kept eye contact with her. “How are you feeling?”

“Like I got stabbed a dozen times,” Emily replied dryly. “How bad was he?”

“He refused to leave your side, save to use the bathroom. Even then, he would only leave if one of us was there so that you weren’t alone.” Rossi explained. It had been a heart wrenchingly difficult four days. The team weren’t just worried that they would lose Emily; they were worried that they would lose Aaron too. Had Emily not woken up when she had, or hadn’t woken up at all; he dreaded to think what would have happened. 

“At least he’s had some sleep and started to take care of himself.” Emily said quietly. “I was worried he would end up in a bed beside me.”

“And not in the way you planned.” Rossi quipped and Emily gave a flicker of a smile. “There, I’ve not seen that smile in a while.”

“There’s not been much of a reason for any of us to smile.” Emily pointed out. When was the last time any of them smiled; when was the last time they were able to just have fun, to forget about the terrors for a moment? 

“Well, hopefully those times will come again soon,” Rossi said as he took Emily’s hand. Out of everyone on the team, Emily was the one who had become like a child to him. After James had died, he had never been lucky enough to have any more kids of his own and while he had pseudo-adopted the team as his own; if he was honest; Emily was his favourite. “What were you thinking Kiddo?”

Emily shrugged her shoulders and considered what she had said to Aaron. “We knew he would be stalking Aaron. Shaunessy told Aaron that he could tell Foyet had been stalking him, watching him for those ten years. He would want to watch Aaron fall apart. I figured that since he would have seen me on that day and afterwards, checking on him, giving him rides, that I could be a possible target.”

“That was an incredibly reckless thing to do,” Rossi pointed out and Emily gestured to herself and her hospital bed. The message went unspoken. She knew it was reckless, dangerous and whatever other adjective Rossi wanted to use to describe her actions. However she didn’t regret it. 

“I know,” Emily said quietly. “I figured that it would be better if he came after me; that if we took him down and got Haley and Jack back because he came after me, it would be worth it.”

“I don’t know if it would be,” Rossi stated fairly. “This isn’t where one life is worth more than another. We couldn’t sacrifice you like that.”

“I know, but I could. If it got Aaron his family back; if it kept them all safe, then it would be a fair one to make.” Emily said with a light shrug of her shoulder as Rossi tightened his hold on her hand. He knew these two idiots had been dancing around things for far too long but he had to admit, this wasn’t how he expected things to work out. 

“Does he know?” Rossi asked and Emily thought back to their conversation when she first woke up. Although they hadn’t said anything more definitive; both of them being aware that having a serial killer attempt to kill both them and remain on the loose was not exactly the best time to be issuing spontaneous declarations of love.

“He knows,” Emily replied as she thought about how he had acted afterwards. Neither of them had said those words out loud but he conveyed it through actions. Ensuring she was comfortable, that she was able to eat and drink, holding her hand through that first night after she woke up when the nightmares and flashbacks appeared with a vengeance. He had even sneaked her in some coffee yesterday even though she wasn’t allowed it.

“He knows I love him,”

 

Aaron hesitated outside of the door at those words. He hadn’t wanted to intrude on Emily and Rossi’s conversation. Rossi had had to try and be strong for all of them even when he had been terrified that Emily would die. Although he hadn’t heard those words from Emily, he did know how she felt. They had talked about how there was only one reason why she would have done what she had done and although he was still unsure how he felt, if he was honest with himself, those feelings were straying further away from being platonic. He wasn’t ready to admit that they were romantic and with everything else going on; it was the worst possible time to act on it. 

“Well, he’s lucky to have someone who loves him that much,” Rossi said wisely as Aaron backtracked a few paces and approached the door, knocking before he entered. “Speak of the Devil.”

“No, Morgan and I had to meet with the Devil earlier,” Aaron remarked dryly as he approached Emily and gently hugged her. That was another thing that had changed since she had woken up, they were more physically affectionate with each other. Hugs were a common thing, as was holding hands. Aaron kept a tight hold on Emily’s hand as he sat beside her bed and Rossi smiled softly at them. 

They had no idea what would come next, but he knew that the team wouldn’t rest until they had Foyet captured or dead. When this was all over, he had no doubt that Aaron and Emily would be able to explore and discuss their feelings for one another properly. Even though anyone could see how devoted they were for each other. Their time would come. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

Chapter Text

“Here, allow me,” Aaron said as he took the brush out of her hand. Emily looked at him through the mirror on the dressing table she sat in front of but let Aaron brush her hair. Normally she would have protested him making such a fuss, however as she was currently sporting a dislocated shoulder due to their most recent unsub, she was willing to indulge him. 

“Are you sure you know what you’re doing?” Emily teased as she watched Aaron brush her hair. He smiled at her playfully before he brushed her hair into three separate segments and began to braid them together. “OK, what are you doing?”

“I figured this would be easier than you trying to brush your hair in the morning.” Aaron replied as he focused his attention on Emily’s hair. He always loved her hair, it was always silky smooth and soft to the touch and shone whenever it caught the light. One of his favourite things about waking up with Emily in bed beside him was the feeling of her hair on his chest or hands and the scents of her shampoo and conditioner tickling his nose. 

“Since when can you braid hair?” Emily asked and Aaron shrugged. It wasn't something that he tended to brag about but he had been able to braid hair for years. Nothing too elaborate but he could do a good French plait or fishtail braid if he needed to. 

“Haley showed me how to. I would plait her hair for her sometimes and when she was pregnant with Jack, it helped keep her hair out of the way when her morning sickness was bad. Sometimes if there was a really bad case, I would sit and braid her hair because it was something I could focus on and not have to worry about it. ” Aaron explained. It was one of the memories of Haley that didn’t hurt to think about. Mainly because no one else knew except for just them. Haley never even told Jess that one of Aaron’s favourite things was to comb and braid her hair. Especially a French plait. 

“You really are full of surprises aren’t you?” Emily asked, touched that he would share something so private and clearly still very special to him with her. She knew that he still sometimes struggled to share his stories and memories about Haley with anyone who wasn't Jessica or Jack so his revelation was as much a surprise as the fact that he could plait hair in the first place. 

“I try,” Aaron smiled softly as he continued to braid Emily’s hair into a French plait. When he reached the end of her hair, he tied it with a hair tie and Emily turned her head to look at the plait in the mirror. 

“Not bad,” Emily smiled. Admittedly, it was better than what she could do. She couldn’t even remember the last time she had put her hair into a plait. “Maybe if the profiling doesn’t work out, you could be a hairstylist.”

“Ha ha,” Aaron remarked sarcastically. “Come on, it’s late and you need to rest.”

“Alright then,” Emily sighed. She knew that although she had taken some painkillers, her shoulder would undoubtedly hurt her throughout the night. Still, it was better than if she had been shot or stabbed by the unsub. Aside from some discomfort, she was mostly fine. Mostly. 

As they got into bed and switched off the light, Aaron smiled softly as Emily lay on her uninjured side to try and keep her wounded shoulder raised. He reached out and lightly ran a hand down her plait before he gently slid his arm across her waist and curled in close to her. If he moved just slightly, he could catch the scent of her shampoo just as he drifted off to sleep with Emily safe in his arms. 

Chapter Text

He wasn’t sure why but there was something uncannily familiar about the newest member of the team. He felt certain that they had met before but he couldn’t remember when or where. However Aaron also doubted that he would have forgotten meeting Emily Prentiss. Of course, Aaron recognised her family name; although he was sure that he had only met Ambassador Prentiss once but there was something about Emily herself. He just couldn’t put his finger on it. He felt as if he knew her, that their paths had crossed at some point but for the life of him; he could never figure out what it was. It was completely impossible for anyone to ever meet Emily Prentiss and forget having met her; therefore the fact that he had been unable to place her in his mind and each attempt to try and recall where they had met just left him frustrated and confused. 

There was something about Emily.

And he felt like it was something obvious.

Something that he couldn’t just ask her about because he felt that he ought to know it. Even as they became closer friends and he began to suspect that maybe his feelings weren’t entirely platonic, he couldn’t shake off the feeling that he was meant to know her from somewhere or sometime. Sometime before the BAU. However he racked his brain as much as he could, running through years of various teams, jobs, places; none of them matched up with Emily. 

Aaron had resolved to just ask Emily outright when everything changed.

As it had been for most of his life; everything changed due to Sean.

Sean who had turned up in the BAU unannounced, strutted in like he owned the place but instead of heading to Aaron’s office, had spotted Emily as she walked down from Aaron's office, having handed in her files for the day. 

“EMMY-BEAR!” Sean yelled just as he sprinted across the bullpen and grabbed Emily in a forceful hug that sent both of them to the floor. Emily had shrieked in shock before she burst into laughter when she realised who had tackled her to the floor. They stood up and hugged one another tightly, ignoring the surprised and confused looks they were receiving from the rest of the team.

“Oh my god Seany! It’s so good to see you!” Emily beamed as she stepped back and looked at him. She could see the gawky, cheeky kid who she spent most of her childhood in the States playing with. He had grown up handsome but he was still the Seany that she knew, “You’ve barely changed a bit!”

“Handsome as always,” Sean joked as she thumped his arm. “I can’t believe Aaron didn’t tell me that you joined the team! He mentioned that there was a new agent on the team but I had no idea it was you!”

“I think he’s only just realised who I am,” Emily laughed as she glanced towards where Aaron was standing on the walkway outside of his office. Before he could hide the look on his face, he knew the realisation must have been all over his face. 

“Wait a minute, how do you two know each other, Emmy-Bear?” Morgan asked teasingly as Emily glared at him.

“You call me that and I’ll rip your arms off.” Emily warned Morgan as he held his hands up defensively. “When my family were in the States, we lived on the same street as Sean and Hotch. Sean and I grew up together.”

“Not Hotch?” Reid asked curiously as Aaron walked down and joined them.

“He was older and too cool to play with us,” Sean teased Aaron who rolled his eyes. Now that he realised who Emily was, he remembered why she was so familiar. She and Sean used to be glued at the hip but she was only ever there for a few weeks or months at a time and when she was gone, Sean insisted on writing letters to her. 

“Except for when we had water fights,” Emily reminded. “You used to chase us around the garden with the hose.”

“Because you were both getting on my nerves,” Aaron smiled at the memory. In his defence, he was seven years older than both of them and when he was fifteen; it had been the best way to stop the two eight year olds from bugging him. 

“So you remember that now,” Sean teased as Aaron rolled his eyes. He had the feeling that he was never going to live down the fact that he hadn’t realised that Emily was the same Emmy with pigtails and skinned knees who used to ride bikes, play in the park with Sean and follow him around with Sean at her side, demanding he play with them or buy them candy or ice cream. 

“Anyway, what are you doing here?” Emily asked as Sean smiled at her.

“Came to see Aaron but if I’d known you were here, I would have come to see you sooner,” Sean explained as he put his arm around her shoulders. One of their favourite games as kids was to pretend they were twins and they were more like brother and sister than best friends. However it seemed that Aaron no longer saw Emily as the little kid she had been. He never expected to see Aaron look at Emmy-Bear in that way. 

“We’ll have to arrange something,” Emily smiled as she hugged him again. 

“Definitely,” Sean smiled and smirked at Aaron as he followed his brother up into his office. As he shut the door, he spotted Emily chatting and laughing with the rest of the team, no doubt avoiding or answering their numerous questions about her and Aaron’s shared past. He leant against the door and studied Aaron who was pointedly avoiding looking at Emily or at Sean. They might not be kids any longer but he could always read his brother like a book. And right now, that book was telling him that Aaron had a crush on Emily and had for some time and either the revelation that Emily was the same Emmy they knew as kids was going to push him into making a move or send him running for the hills.

“How long have you had a crush on her for?” Sean asked and Aaron stilled as he considered his answer before deciding on the only obvious one. 

“Shut up Sean,”

Chapter Text

“Are you sure you’re alright?” Clyde asked Emily as they walked towards her office. Her face was pale and he had noticed her rubbing her temples and her balance was off-kilter. As if she was dizzy. She had also kept her hand resting lightly over her lower left abdomen but had winced when she had actually touched her stomach. Had it been the right hand side of her abdomen, he would have suspected she had appendicitis. But he knew that was exactly where Doyle had stabbed her. 

“I’m fi-” Emily began before her stomach lurched and she vomited onto the floor. With horror, Clyde realised that the vomit was speckled red but before he could process that, Emily swayed and he caught her before she hit the floor. Two nearby agents ran over to help place her into the recovery position and phone for an ambulance. 

As the paramedics lifted her into the ambulance, Clyde climbed in and caught the words ‘internal bleeding’ and took her hand. It looked like Emily wasn’t the only one who could come back from the dead. Ian Doyle clearly wanted his turn of causing chaos from beyond the grave. The moment they arrived at the hospital, Emily was rushed off to be prepped for surgery and Clyde looked around the waiting room before he sighed deeply and pulled out his phone. 

“Agent Hotchner? It’s Emily, she’s in surgery.”



Emily looked down at herself in puzzled shock. The last thing that she remembered was an agonising feeling in her stomach before she had fainted. Now she was standing in the middle of a deserted street in front of a cinema. The bright lights had caused her to duck her head away. That was when she noticed that her clothes had changed. She had worn a trouser suit that morning but now it had been changed to a scarlet silk gown. Emily touched the soft, smooth fabric as she looked back up at the cinema building. The title of her movie caught her attention. Decisions, Decisions. 

Cautiously Emily stepped inside the cinema. There was no one in sight but the lights were on. From one ajar door, she could hear soft music playing. With no other option and no idea what was going on, Emily followed it and pushed open the door. She stepped into an almost empty cinema. The screen was blank and apart from one figure sitting in the middle seat of the middle row, there was no one else.

“Hello?” Emily called as she walked towards them. “Sorry, I’m a bit confused. Do you know where we-”

Emily trailed off as the figure turned and smiled warmly. She knew that face and that smile anywhere. Her heart broke at the sight of him and her sense of confusion skyrocketed. This was impossible… he was the handsome, fresh faced, bright eyed teenager she had known. Her most dearest and missed friend whose death she still felt an overwhelming, devastating guilt for. But what was he doing here? How could he be here? Where even was Here? It brought back memories of sneaking into movies with him, hiding in the back of R-rated and porno movies, throwing popcorn and candy, giggling at the bad acting and blowing raspberries on their hands until ushers threw them out. But it was still impossible. It couldn't be… 

“Matthew?” Emily asked breathlessly, tears pricked her eyes as he smiled that beaming smile at her and reached for her hand, squeezing it as tightly as he had on that day. 

“Hi Emily.”



Aaron hung up the phone and hurried out of his office, almost knocking over Reid as he headed for Rossi’s office. Rossi looked up from the photo of the vintage car he had showed Reid as Aaron hurried into the room. 

“What’s wrong?” Rossi asked. He only saw that level of panic on Aaron’s face twice before. When Foyet had lured Haley and Jack home and when Emily had fled to Boston to take down Doyle.

“It’s Emily. She's in surgery. I need to go. Now.” Aaron explained as Rossi’s eyes widened and he all but shoved Aaron out the door. There was no time to discuss details, what mattered was Aaron getting to Emily as soon as possible. 

“Go. I’ll handle Cruz and the team. Go. Take Jack with you.” Rossi ordered as he changed tact and literally pushed Aaron out of his office. By the time he grabbed his case and got into the elevator, he and Jack had been booked onto an American Airlines flight headed to London that evening at 6:30. That gave him enough time to pack a bag for Jack, grab their passports and pick Jack up from school before rushing to the airport. He knew it was reckless, impulsive and foolish to drop everything and fly halfway across the world but he had to.

For Emily. 



“I don’t understand, what’s going on?” Emily asked as Matthew guided her to a seat and looked towards the screen.

“It’s starting,” Matthew replied as Emily looked at the screen. She wasn’t sure what she expected to see but a black and white image of her with the team at JJ’s wedding wasn’t what she expected. She remembered that night; the bittersweet knowledge that she was leaving combined with the romance of JJ and Will’s impromptu wedding and the comfort of being with her family. “I knew you’d find a family who loved you.”

“I wish you had,” Emily whispered. “Matthew, I’m so sorry. I should have done more to help you. I should have challenged that priest or spoke to my parents. I expected too much of you.”

“No you didn’t. I wanted to help you and everything that happened after, those choices were mine. You’ve helped so many people. Especially those two.” Matthew said as the image on the screen changed to her, Jack and Aaron and her heart swelled with emotion. She remembered that night.

 

“I brought marshmallows.” Emily smiled as she produced the bag from behind her back along with skewers. Jack cheered at the sight of them and Aaron smiled at her. They were at a barbecue at Rossi’s and while the others were having a few drinks, chatting and laughing, Jack and Aaron were sitting at the fire pit, Jack nestled in his father’s arms. 

“How many can I have?” Jack asked as Aaron accepted the skewers and a pair of marshmallows from Emily. He poked a marshmallow onto each skewer to roast over the fire.

“Only a few, it’s late,” Aaron replied as Emily winked at Jack and slid him another skewer with four marshmallows attached. 

“Thanks Emily,” Jack beamed as he held the skewer over the fire to roast the marshmallows. Emily grinned at Aaron who shot her a playfully scolding look as she held her own skewer of marshmallows over the fire. 

 

“You care about them, you love them. So why did you leave them?” Matthew asked and Emily shook her head. There was so many possible answers but none of them seemed to fit. None seemed right to explain to Matthew. How many nights had they spent dreaming and talking of the future; how no matter how high their aspirations were, the one thing both wanted more than anything was to have a real home and family. Matthew was right; she had a home and family, yet she left them. 

“I don’t-” Emily began as she felt a familiar prickle across the back of her neck. She knew that feeling. The feeling of dread, horror and pain. Only one person could make her feel like that. Her breath caught in her throat as she heard approaching footsteps. He couldn’t be here. But if Matthew was somehow here and fifteen again, how could he not be here too? The footsteps neared. Then stopped. She could feel movement against her arm as he sat down. She couldn’t turn around. She couldn’t face him. She didn’t know what he was doing here. She didn’t want to see him. 

Yet despite herself, Emily found herself turning around and looking into the cold blue eyes that haunted her nightmares for years. He smiled at her, that smile that could be loving but turn vicious in a heartbeat. 

“Hello Emily,” Ian Doyle smiled at her.



“We’re boarding the plane now,” Aaron said over the phone to Clyde as he tossed his and Jack’s bags into the overhead lockers and let Jack bounce into the window seat. He had spun it as an exciting adventure for Jack. Emily was poorly so they were going to surprise her with a visit and cuddles to help her feel better. “How is she?”

“Still in surgery but they’ve not told me anything bad. After all, she’s survived worse than this.” Clyde replied as he paced around the waiting room. He lived by the mantra of no news was good news in hospitals and bad news on missions. 

“We’re due to land at around six am London time.” Aaron said and glanced at the stewards and stewardesses who were beginning to make their way up and down the cabin. “I have to go. The promise I made you still stands. Anything happens to her and I’ll destroy you.”

“Duly noted. I’ll be at Heathrow to pick you up.” Clyde said and hung up the phone. Aaron sat down and checked Jack’s seatbelt was fastened before he fastened his own. His thoughts flickered to Emily as the engines roared into life and the plane took off down the runway. 

‘We’re coming Emily.’

 

“What are you doing here?” Emily spat at Ian, turning instinctively to shield Matthew from him. She couldn’t protect Matthew when he was alive but she could protect him now. 

“Oh that’s nice,” Ian remarked sarcastically as Matthew placed a hand on her shoulder.

“It’s OK Emily, I invited him,” Matthew reassured her as Ian smiled at her, a teasing look in his eyes at the enraged look on her face. She always did look her prettiest when she was mad. 

“Ah come on, we’re all friends here Emily. And as a friend, can I say, you look as lovely as you did on the night I murdered you.” Ian remarked as Emily’s expression darkened. 

“Fuck you,” Emily spat and turned back to Matthew. “Why is he here?”

“Because you need to let both of us go.” Matthew replied, a somber look in his eyes. She remembered that look. It was the same one he had when they met with Father Ricoletti and he warned that if she had the abortion, they wouldn’t be welcome back in mass. He had gripped her hand tightly then and he did again now. 

“I don’t know how,” Emily admitted quietly. She still carried the guilt of being unable to save Matthew; not being there when he got lost in his addictions, of losing contact with him, not knowing he was in danger until he was gone. She still carried the fears that Ian had instilled in her. That she could never really be safe, or happy, or have a home. Because she would destroy it with distrust, lies and it was just better for everyone if she never had a home. 

“You do, they can help you.” Matthew reassured as he looked back towards the screen. Different images flickered across the screen. Several included the team but most focused on Aaron and Jack and Emily. 

Reading bedtime stories to Jack, making him giggle as she did the accompanying voices.

Giving Jack a piggyback across the park, despite being hungover, after Aaron’s triathlon.

Working side by side on a takedown with Aaron, their actions perfectly in sync with one another.

Snuggling with the two Hotchner men on the couch after a night of pizza and movies.

Having a snowball fight in the park, shrieking as Aaron shoved a handful of snow down her back.

Dancing with Aaron at JJ’s wedding; they only had eyes for one another. 

As the screen showed Emily at the wedding, barefoot and carrying a sleeping Jack in her arms as he clung to her like a koala, memories of that moment filled her mind. Although the movie was silent, Emily could remember the sound of her and Aaron’s voices as he tried to take Jack from her arms. Aaron had insisted he carry Jack and Emily was stubbornly determined to do so, even if she was slightly tipsy and Jack had grown a lot since she had last carried him in her arms. 

 

“He’s such a cute wee lad.” Ian commented as he looked at Jack. “Does he look good as a dead kid too?”

Emily glared at him but didn’t answer. Instead she watched the screen and felt her heart tighten. Leaving Aaron and Jack behind to move to London had been the hardest part of her decision but she knew she had made the right choice at the time. She had been too scared to stay, to try and build a family with them. Now the chance was gone forever. 

“You still have a chance,” Matthew reassured her gently. “Don’t let the past steal your future.”

“How? It can’t work,” Emily admitted quietly. Aside from the fact they were 3000 miles apart; there was too much history, too much had happened, could they really be happy together? It had always seemed impossible, that there would always be a barrier for them. 

“It can, if you want it to.” Ian stated wisely as the screen went blank. He stood up and flicked the lapels on his coat. “I’ll see you out there.”

Emily stood and Matthew kept a hold of her hand as they walked out of the cinema screen into the lobby. It was as deserted as it had been at the start when she first arrived. Matthew hugged her tightly and smiled at her. “Find your happiness, it’s out there.”

“I can’t let you go,” Emily admitted and Matthew squeezed her hand reassuringly.

“We’re already gone. They’re not.” Matthew reminded her as Ian walked over to them. To her surprise, Ian hugged her tightly and kissed her cheek. 

“Matthew’s right Emily. Let us go and find your family. There’s a wee boy out there who needs you as his Ma and his daddy might need a new wife too.” Ian advised as he nudged her playfully. “We’ll have to do this again sometime.”

“Maybe,” Matthew laughed as Ian turned and walked away, vanishing from sight before their eyes. Emily looked at Matthew and he gave her a final hug. “Go and find your happiness.”

“Goodbye Matthew,” Emily said as she wiped her eyes. Matthew smiled that beaming, cheeky smile one last time as he walked towards the doors, vanishing from sight as he reached them. Emily stepped out of the cinema building and onto the deserted street. A car pulled up and she got inside. As she rested against the leather seats, Emily closed her eyes and wondered when or if she would see Aaron and Jack again. 



“She’s just waking up now,” A nurse with a thick Liverpudlian accent commented, breaking through the fog that was Emily’s mind. On a tangent, Emily acknowledged that Liverpool accents were one of her favourite English accents. Emily blinked in the brightness of the hospital room and shut her eyes again. She allowed her other senses to explore her surroundings. 

She could hear the beeping of various machines and she could feel the itch of starched bed linen under her hands. On top of her left hand she could feel the pinch of an IV under her skin. She could smell antiseptic and what she was sure was Clyde’s aftershave. “Clyde?”

“Hey, welcome back to the land of the living,” Clyde smiled as he dimmed the lights. Emily opened her eyes and looked at him.

“What happened?” Emily asked. The last thing she remembered before she passed out was throwing up and an unbearable pain in her stomach. Only with the vivid, surreal intensity of her dream, part of her was unsure whether this was even real or not.

“Internal bleeding caused by a build up of scar tissue. It seems Ian Doyle is still bugging you from beyond the grave,” Clyde remarked and Emily nodded wearily as she considered her dream.

“Tell me about it,” Emily muttered. “How long have I been out for?”

“Almost twelve hours.” Clyde explained as he glanced at his watch. It was half six now, she had fainted at about seven the previous evening. Because Emily never did anything by halves; even recovering from life-saving operations. 

“It didn’t feel that long,” Emily mused as she looked at Clyde. She knew him well enough to know that he was hiding something from her. “What is it?”

“Nothing,” Clyde said quickly. Too quickly. “Get some rest, I’ll be back in a minute.”

Emily was about to argue but the lure of sleep was too enticing to resist. As she drifted back off, she could have sworn she heard Clyde mutter about stubborn jackass Americans under his breath and she hoped he wasn’t referring to her. If he was, then internal bleeding or not, she could kick his ass. The last thought before she fell asleep was that she hoped Clyde had spoken to Aaron, even though she knew it was next to impossible. Partly because she didn’t want Aaron to worry but also because she knew that he and Clyde still despised one another. 

 

The next time she woke up, she felt more alert and awake. The IV had been removed at some point and she could feel two hands holding hers. One was large, calloused and rough. The other was smaller, soft with stubby little nails. She wondered if this was another dream and Emily was reluctant to open her eyes to discover that it was just a dream. 

Finally she opened her eyes and her heart skipped a beat at the sight of the two relieved, smiling faces looking back at her. Her mind raced with questions as Jack hugged her tightly and Aaron pressed his lips to her forehead. When she felt able to, there was only one question that she could ask.

“What are you doing here?” Emily asked. She hadn’t even expected Aaron would have received a phone call to inform him that she had collapsed. To wake up to have both him and Jack in London, by her bedside, was the last thing she thought would happen. Maybe that happiness wasn’t impossible for her to find after all…

“Clyde called and told me you collapsed. We had to come and see you,” Aaron replied, a faint blush crossed his cheeks at the full realisation of what he had done hit him. He had dropped everything and taken his son halfway across the world to see Emily in the hospital. However he didn’t regret it. People did crazy things for their families and because they were in love and when it came to Emily; she was both of those reasons. 

Emily kissed Jack’s cheek and squeezed Aaron’s hand. They both knew there was a lot more that they would need to discuss but for now, being together in this moment was enough. 

Chapter Text

They all knew Emily was in danger. She had been the one to sense the impending catastrophe. She had the most first hand experience, could sense it even without being warned. She could feel it in her gut; when there was a chill down her spine and that roll in her stomach that served as harbingers of despair, destruction and disaster. The team could see it in her sudden change in stance and pallor. Her spine straightened, her face was paler than usual and her eyes darted around for the signs, the sounds, the impending horror that was to befall her. As soon as the team saw her expression; they knew.

There was only one thing they could do.

Their priority was to get her to safety. At all costs.

Emily looked around at the team; she knew there was no way that all of them wouldn’t make it out alive and she hated that she had to be the priority. But there was no other way. This wasn’t like anything else they had handled. It was a situation more dangerous than any take down. The person they had to shield her from, more ruthless than any unsub. However, she wasn’t making it easy for them to bundle her away. Admittedly, she was terrified at the sheer hellfire that was about to be unleashed upon them all. Unleashed because of her. And yet they wanted to protect her. Aaron wanted to protect her but she couldn't let him. She couldn't ask him to do such a thing for her. He had Jack to consider after all; she couldn't lose him. Not like this. 

“You can’t do this!” Emily insisted as she grabbed Aaron’s arm and tried to pull him away. Normally, they tried to keep their relationship out of the BAU but this foolish, reckless, brave man was willing to risk it all for her and she couldn’t let him do it. She couldn’t let him fling himself to the wolves just to protect her. 

“One of us has to and we know that it’ll be better if it’s me.” Aaron explained as he cupped her face and tenderly kissed her, for once not caring that they were surrounded by the team. Emily kissed him back, hoping against hope that it wouldn’t be the last time she did so. Reluctantly, they broke apart as Morgan tugged on her arm.

“Emily, we have to go,” Morgan advised as he tugged her arm and Reid checked his watch.

“Fifteen seconds, it has to be now.” Reid insisted, his stomach churning with worry and adrenaline. For once, he was willing to run, to get the hell out before it was too late instead of staying and seeing it through. 

“Go, I’ll be fine. I promise,” Aaron smiled gently as he kissed her again. Emily kissed him back and steeled herself.

They had less than ten seconds.

They had to go now. 

“Let’s go,” Emily said to Morgan and Reid. As they hurried out of the room, Emily glanced back over her shoulder at Aaron who smiled reassuringly at her. How she loved him. As much as she hated being a damsel in distress, she had to admit; having her own knight in a well-tailored suit was a benefit in a situation as dire and desperate as this. Only Aaron would be so brave, so reckless, so courageous, so loyal. When he got out of this alive, she was going to show him how grateful she was that she had him in her life and that he loved her even a fraction of how much she loved him. 

Aaron watched Emily be led away to safety by Morgan and Reid before he remembered himself and turned back to JJ and Rossi who were watching him apprehensively. There were just seconds left; they probably hadn’t had enough time but if they could guarantee Emily’s safety even for a few moments; then it would be enough. He was doing this for Emily; even if he didn’t make it out alive; if it ensured her safety, kept her from harm, it would be enough. 

The final few seconds ticked down. JJ took a deep breath. Rossi made the sign of the cross and Aaron steeled himself, ready for what was to come. Finally, Anderson knocked on the conference room door and uttered the four words that were to seal Aaron’s fate. Emily, he reminded himself, he was doing this for Emily. 

 

“Ambassador Prentiss is here.”

Chapter Text

“Thanks so much for keeping an eye on him.” Aaron smiled at Emily as he stepped into the apartment. They had been about to leave when he had been called into a meeting but as Jess was going out to dinner that night, he had been unsure who could look after Jack. Emily had volunteered and he had left his son in her more than capable hands. 

“Anytime, we had fun, didn’t we Jack?” Emily asked as Jack ran over to hug Aaron tightly. Aaron scooped him up into his arms and kissed Jack’s cheek.

“Yeah! Emily’s the best!” Jack beamed. “We had pizza and she drew pictures with me and we played with my action figures.”

“Wow! It sounds like you had a lot of fun,” Aaron smiled at Emily over Jack’s head as he set him back down. “Thanks for this Emily.”

“Honestly, Hotch, I was more than happy to do it,” Emily reassured. Aside from the fact that she adored Jack and spending time with him, it was nice to do something that was fun, carefree and innocent. And of course, it allowed her to indulge those feelings that she tended to keep locked away. Feelings and thoughts wherein she and Aaron were more than coworkers and friends. 

“Daddy,” Jack suggested after a moment of silence. He had been thinking this all evening and it made perfect sense to him. “Can you marry Emily?”

Aaron’s gaze jolted away from Emily and back to Jack. it had been the last thing he expected his son to say and he had absolutely no idea how to answer that question. What could he say? How could he explain to his son that apart from the fact that they were just friends; there was absolutely no way that someone as amazing and wonderful as Emily would ever be interested in him like that. 

Emily’s eyes widened in shock and she felt her cheeks flood scarlet at Jack’s innocent question. Before she could stop herself, she blurted out the first thought that foolishly popped into her head. “I didn’t ask him to say that.”

“I know,” Aaron replied as he knelt down to Jack’s eyeline. “Why did you ask me that Buddy?”

Jack shrugged, this wasn’t exactly how he thought it would work. Uncle Dave said that his daddy and Emily were in love and would definitely get married if he asked. Besides, he liked Emily and knew she would be fun to have around forever. “She’s fun and she’s really nice and she let me have two cans of soda with my dinner.”

“One and a half,” Emily corrected and Aaron nodded at her as he looked back to Jack. 

“Jack it’s great that you like Emily but I can’t marry her just because she let you have extra soda at dinner.” Aaron explained gently, pointedly ignoring the way that Emily bit her lip; clearly attempting to hold back her laughter. 

“But Uncle Dave said that you’re in love with her. And if you’re in love with someone, you marry them.” Jack explained and Aaron felt blood rush to his cheeks as Emily bit her lip awkwardly. That was it. He was never allowing David Rossi near his son again. And the next time he saw Rossi, he was going to kick his ass to Mexico and back again. 

“Maybe I should go,” Emily said quietly. This wasn’t cute or funny anymore and she could tell that Aaron was feeling uncomfortable and awkward by what Jack had said. She had little doubt that Dave had been making fun of Aaron and Jack must have misunderstood. She and Aaron were friends and she knew that he didn’t have feelings for her and was most definitely not in love with her. 

“Did I say something bad?” Jack asked sadly, his eyes filling with tears. Uncle Dave had said that his Daddy and Emily would be happy if someone told them how silly they were. That they were in love but just couldn’t see it. He thought they would be happy or kiss, even though kissing was yucky, but his daddy looked sad and Emily looked worried. 

“No, no Jack, you didn’t.” Aaron reassured. “It’s just...”

“You surprised us,” Emily finished as she put her arms around Jack and he latched onto her. “Whatever Uncle Dave told you, he didn’t tell us so we’re just surprised.”

“So you will marry Daddy?” Jack asked and Emily shook her head. “Why not?”

“It’s complicated. Your daddy and I are friends and we care about one another. A lot. Besides, you have lots to do before you marry someone and we’ve not done any of it.” Emily explained, ‘like admit that these feelings even exist…’ she thought to herself as she looked at Aaron who had stood up but seemed to be avoiding her eye. 

“So Uncle Dave lied to me?” Jack asked and Aaron shook his head. 

“He misunderstood,” Aaron said. “I’ll talk to him tomorrow but for now, say goodbye to Emily and go tidy your toys. OK?”

“OK, I’m sorry Emily.” Jack said as he hugged her. “Can you still come and look after me again?”

“Of course, nothing would stop me from seeing you,” Emily smiled as she tightened her hold on him before Jack scampered off to tidy up. As Aaron walked her to the door, neither of them spoke for a moment. The tension hung thickly in the air between them and although neither was ready to break the silence, they knew that something was about to change.

“If I were to have a ‘chat’ with Dave tomorrow,” Aaron began and Emily smiled reassuringly at him and nodded.

“You were with me the whole time, we have no idea what happened and it’s such a tragedy that he’s dead. Whoever could have done such a thing.” Emily recited playfully, they had perfected several abilis if such a situation were to arise. For a split second, a flicker of amusement flashed on Aaron’s face and Emily felt a moment of brave recklessness. They both were two people who struggled to express their feelings, they preferred to lock them away, pretend there was nothing there. But at some point, the boxes had to be unlocked. Someone had to take some small step forward and she knew, it would be her.

“Thanks,” Aaron said sincerely. “For everything.”

“Anytime,” Emily replied and hesitated, looking him directly in the eyes, determined to use this moment of courage before it vanished. “Just so you know; whenever you’re ready to ask me anything, my answer will be Yes. I know it won’t be today or tomorrow but when it’s time. That’s what my answer will be.”

Aaron blinked back the sudden dampness in his eyes. How lucky was he to have fallen for someone who understood him so well? All else aside, he knew that he wasn’t ready for a relationship, there was still so much he needed to process for him and his son but the fact that she was willing to wait, wait for him , said more than anything else could. After he swallowed the sudden lump in his throat, he attempted a soft smile for Emily who smiled back at him and opened the door.

“I’ll see you tomorrow,” Emily said before she stepped out of the door and was gone.

Chapter Text

Aaron smiled softly at the video that he had received from Emily. Although he had spent most of the day in the precinct trying to help Reid narrow down the geographical profile and mark several names off of their potential suspect list; it still felt like they were going nowhere fast. It also didn’t help that Emily had had to stay at home, Jack and Nicole had both come down with chicken pox and he had won the coin toss to go on the case with the team. Although the kids seemed to have gotten over the worst of it, he knew it had been especially hard on Emily to have to look after them while they were itchy and irritable. He hated being away from all of them, especially when their kids were sick but Emily had been sure to send him photos and videos of the kids and he spoke to them on the phone every day. He was unsure what to make of the message caption that preceded the video.

Emily
We were looking at the photo albums, look at who she points out at the end

Aaron sat on the bed and let the video file load. Nicole’s little spot-marked face appeared on screen and Emily had a photo album on her lap. The camera was a little wonky as Emily attempted to keep it focused on both Nicole and the photo album.

 

“Who’s in that picture?” Emily asked as she pointed to a snapshot of her, Aaron and Jack taken in the park.

“Mommy and Daddy and Jack,” Nicole announced, proudly pointing to each of them in turn before she shook her head, her little dark pigtails bobbing as she did. “But no Nicole.”

“No Nicole, it was before you were born,” Emily explained as she pointed to another photo. “What about this one?”

“Nonno! Nonno Dave! Nonno Dave!” Nicole stated gleefully pointing to Rossi and ignoring the rest of the team in that photo, a shot that had been taken one night when they had had far too much to drink and had far too few memories the next day. The camera flickered to Emily rolling her eyes at Aaron before it turned back to Nicole. Emily turned the page and Nicole pointed eagerly at one of the photographs. 

“And who’s that lady Nicole? The one next to Jack?” Emily asked and Nicole beamed at the camera and pointed at the smiling woman who was next to Jack. Even though Nicole had never met her and never would, she knew all about her Most Special Auntie Ever. She was even more special than Auntie Penny and nobody was more special than Auntie Penny. 

“Auntie Haley!” Nicole explained proudly. “Auntie Haley lives in the sky.”

“Auntie Haley who lives in the sky with the angels, Clever Girl. She’s your auntie but she’s what to Jack?”She's not Jack's auntie, who is she?" Emily asked, Nicole was very clever at remembering names and they made a point of telling her all about her aunt and Jack’s mommy who had died before she was born and how much Auntie Haley loved Jack and her.

“She Jack’s Mommy but not my Mommy. You’re my mommy!” Nicole explained cheerfully, pointedly shaking her head when she said ‘not my Mommy’ to emphasise her point. 

“That’s right,” Emily said. “Now say bye-bye to Daddy.”

“Bye bye Daddy!” Nicole said as she waved at the camera.

 

The video ended and Aaron wiped his eyes. He and Emily found out that Emily was pregnant not long before his attack. They had had to tell Jack and Haley in the hospital as a way of encouraging Jack that when he got back from ‘vacation’, that he might have a new brother or sister to play with. Nicole had been born six weeks after Haley died and she was what helped him and Jack cope with their grief. He, Emily and Jess ensured that they talked about Haley, keeping her memory alive for Jack and letting Nicole know about the aunt she would never have the chance to meet. 

Aaron called Emily’s number and waited for the call to connect. He knew he ought to get some rest but that could wait. Right now, he needed to speak to his wife and amazing kids.

Chapter Text

Emily groggily sat up in bed at the sound of a knocking at a door. It took a moment for her to realise that it was her apartment door that was being knocked on. Wincing at the brightness of her phone screen, she saw that it was 1:28am and she decided whoever it was who had woken her up was getting tossed headfirst down the stairs. Emily got out of bed and wrapped a dressing gown around herself as she headed towards the door. There hadn’t been another knock but she knew she had to check, just in case. 

Emily approached the door and checked the spyhole. The sight of her visitor on the other side of the door jolted her wide awake and she quickly opened the door. “Aaron?”

He looked a mess. His eyes were reddened, there was a day’s worth of stubble across his cheeks and chin, his hair was tousled as if he had been running his hands through it repeatedly. Aaron wiped his eyes and looked at her as if suddenly realising how late it was. Aaron cleared his throat as Emily reached for his hand and he jolted his hand away from her’s. He shouldn’t have come here. He shouldn’t have woken her up. It was the middle of the night. Emily getting sleep was more important than him. Why should she even care about him? What made him think that he was worth even a second of her time. 

“Aaron, what’s wrong?” Emily prompted gently as he wiped his eyes.

“I-I didn’t know where else to go,” Aaron admitted quietly as Emily led him inside. She guided him to the couch and headed into the kitchen to switch on the coffee maker. Although it was the middle of the night, she knew neither of them would be getting any sleep for a while. Emily set Aaron’s cup on the table and sat on the other end of the couch, drawing her legs up underneath her as she held the warm mug in her hands, letting the heat seep into her fingers. 

“Was it the nightmares?” Emily asked after a moment. Aaron shrugged his shoulders as he tried to think of how to describe it. How he saw movement in every shadow, how the silence seemed to deafen him, how as soon as he was about to drift off for even a moment, all he could hear was the sound of cries, screams and reminders that all of this was on his shoulders. That it was the consequences of the decisions he made and the actions he took. He couldn’t bear to lie in bed anymore with that same thought repeating itself over and over and over again in his head.

He should have taken the deal.

He should have taken the deal.

He should have taken the deal.

“No, you shouldn’t have,” Emily said and Aaron looked at her, realising that he had said it aloud at least once. “I wouldn’t have either.”

“You don’t know that,” Aaron said and an uncharacteristically serious look crossed Emily’s face as she glanced down at her unmarked wrist and back at Aaron. 

“Yes I do.” Emily said with such strength and sincerity, Aaron found that he believed her. Many people had tried to reassure him that in that moment, they would have done the same thing, that he had made the right decision, that it wasn’t his fault. But it didn’t make him feel better. He could understand, support and help correct other people’s decisions and mistakes but he could never justify himself making the same.

“Being there, I’m just alone with my thoughts and it’s not even the memories of what happened that night; it’s just all of it.” Aaron explained and Emily nodded sympathetically. She knew better than to suggest that he consider getting a different apartment for a while. For one, she knew he wouldn’t and for another reason, it wouldn’t make a difference. “It’s stupid, isn’t it?”

“Of course not, you’ve had a series of difficult things happen to you at the same time; honestly, if you weren’t feeling like this and were genuinely OK, then I’d be worried.” Emily said and a split second flicker of a smile crossed Aaron’s face as he reached for his coffee cup. “See, you know I’m right.”

“Or maybe I’m too tired to argue with you.” Aaron countered as he glanced at his watch. By this time it was almost two am and they had work in the morning. “Emily, I’m sorry, I didn’t realise it was so late.”

“It’s fine,” Emily said and Aaron shook his head. Emily had already done so much for him, he couldn’t stop her from getting enough sleep too. 

“No, it’s not fine. You need your rest.” Aaron stated and Emily shrugged her shoulders. 

“Honestly, I’ve had less sleep and done more with it. Besides, I would sleep better knowing you were feeling slightly better than leaving you to stew in your own thoughts.” Emily said as she pointed a warning finger at him. “And I know you. If you dare say that you don’t deserve our help or support or care then I will knock you out.”

That comment got a genuine laugh from Aaron and he knew better than to argue. He had watched her and Morgan practice sparring. She was one of the only ones who was able to take Morgan down. Therefore he knew not to underestimate her in a fight. Plus he wouldn’t exactly be able to stop her from knocking him out if she was determined enough. 

“I should probably go,” Aaron said after a few minutes and Emily shook her head. 

“You don’t have to, the spare bed’s made up.” Emily said. “I’ll even make breakfast.”

“You’re trying to bribe me with breakfast? I mean,  I’ve tasted your cooking.” Aaron quipped and he set the coffee mug on the floor before he threw up his arms to block the cushion that Emily aimed at his head. 

“Rude!” Emily retorted as she stuck out her tongue. “Fine, I’ll buy breakfast if it means you get some sleep.” 

“Ok then,” Aaron conceded as Emily took their cups and poured them down the sink before she led him to her guest bedroom. 

“I’ll be just down the hall, try and rest.” Emily advised and Aaron smiled softly at her. Even in the middle of the night, when she was absolutely exhausted, she was still willing to put anyone and everyone ahead of herself. He wasn’t sure how he got so lucky to consider her a friend but tonight, he was glad of it. 

“Thanks Emily, for everything,” Aaron said as Emily stifled a yawn behind her hand and smiled back at him. 

“Anything Aaron, I mean it.” Emily said as she stifled another yawn. “Although next time, call or text me first.”

Aaron smiled gently as he stepped into the guest bedroom, ready to try and get some sleep. “I will,”

Chapter Text

Emily bit back a yawn as Elizabeth made her way towards her. The team had just arrived back from Florida this morning and instead of relaxing at home, trying to forget the insanity that was their most recent case in Florida. Whatever jokes and comments people made about Florida being the most insane place in the country, they were true. Now to add to it, she had to endure another of her mother’s functions. Mostly due to Elizabeth twisting her arm by reminding her that Emily had faked her death for seven months and she wasn’t informed by it. She knew she would be paying for that one for a while. 

“At least try to look interested.” Elizabeth scolded Emily as she approached her. “There are a lot of eligible men here who would love to meet you.”

“Yes, who wouldn’t want to meet the woman who came back from the dead,” Emily remarked sarcastically as Elizabeth sighed at her. Emily bit back a groan, she knew what was coming before it did.

“Emily, you’re not getting any younger. I just want to see you settle down and have a family. I would like grandchildren at some point,” Elizabeth stated as Emily rolled her eyes. “Don’t roll your eyes. There is someone here who I think would be perfect for you.”

“Great,” Emily muttered sarcastically. She had no idea what her mother’s idea of ‘perfect’ was but she knew it wasn’t what she considered. She couldn’t help but compare her mother to Mrs Bennett; it was just a shame that she hadn’t found Emily a Mr Darcy yet.

“Actually it is. He’s someone who I think you’ll like. He’s hardworking, ambitious but not politically ambitious and he’s not bad to look at either.” Elizabeth explained. “I’ve known him for years and he’s a good man.”

“Wonderful,” Emily muttered as she wished she had been able to drag a member of the team along with her. However Morgan had been tackled down a flight of stairs by the unsub, she couldn’t ask Reid to endure this hell, Rossi was too busy, Garcia had a meeting with her bereavement support group and JJ was on a date night with Will. Out of desperation, she had even begged Aaron to give her extra paperwork to try and get out of it. Instead he had given her a reassuring smile that most definitely did not make her weak at the knees and told her that she would be alright. Not that she had any sort of feelings for Aaron Hotchner. Not at all. 

Emily realised that Elizabeth was still talking about this supposed perfect match for her. What surprised Emily was the realisation that Elizabeth actually sounded sincere. This was someone that Elizabeth genuinely liked and approved of. Not in her usual political politeness way but a genuine respect and fondness for him. Whoever this person was, she was now interested. How the hell had this mystery person managed to get the Ambassador’s impossible approval. 

“There he is now,” Elizabeth said as she led Emily around a group of random guests. “Agent Hotchner, I’m so glad you could make it.”

Emily blinked in surprise at the sight of Aaron approaching her, dressed in a new, well tailored tuxedo and he smiled warmly at her. Of course. Who else fit her mother's description and who would be somehow able to gain her approval? Emily smiled back and as reluctant as she was to admit it, for once, her mother was right. He was a good match for her.

Chapter Text

“So he’s been injected with a truth serum?” Morgan asked sceptically. “Seriously?”

“Well, technically it’s a psychoactive drug that lowers the inhibitions and verbal restraints and causes the victim to become suggestible and unable to withhold their ability to vocalise their thoughts.” Redi explained as JJ looked at Morgan.

“Yeah, truth serum.” JJ confirmed. “Rossi’s with him now, he has no verbal filter whatsoever.”

“Wait, wait, wait, you’re telling me that Hotch was injected with a truth serum. So no matter what we ask him, he’s going to tell us?” Morgan asked as a grin unfurled across his face. Mirroring grins appeared on Reid and JJ’s face as the full implications of this gift they had received became clear to them.

“I’ll get Garcia,” JJ said as she scrambled to her feet and the three of them rushed off to find Rossi and Aaron. They knew that he would most likely kill them when the truth serum eventually wore off but they could not not have some fun with this. It also helped that the only person who they assumed would attempt to stop them out of fear of what he would reveal, was the one person currently interrogating the unsub.

Rossi huffed with amusement as JJ, Garcia, Reid and Morgan burst into the conference room at the same time and Aaron shook his head wearily. Rossi had already made him feel like he was being cross examined. Aaron sighed heavily and wished, not for the first time, that someone, anyone else had been injected with this damned serum instead of him.

“Go on, do your worst. Not like I can stop you anyway.” Aaron muttered as Morgan stepped forward. They were going to decide who got to ask the first question by rock, paper, scissors but Morgan called ‘dibs’ before they could.

“What’s the deal with you and Emily?” Morgan asked outright. The team had been debating the circumstances of the relationship between the two agents for months and could never agree on what it was. Sometimes it seemed like there was something more than innocent flirtation, other days they could argue over the colour of the sky if there was nothing else for them to argue about and then there were the times when the tension between them was just unbearable.

“There is no deal between me and Emily. We’re friends. Nothing more.” Aaron replied, as much as he hated it, it was the truth. “Even if I wanted there to be something else. Fuck!”

“Well that answered my next question.” Morgan laughed. “JJ, you’re up.”

JJ stepped forward, her normally innocent expression slipping away to reveal the true evil mastermind that lurked behind the wide blue eyes and butter-wouldn’t-melt expression. “When did you start having feelings for her?”

“Colorado. When I heard her being attacked by Cyrus and all I wanted to do was run and save her. I couldn’t bear to hear her in pain. That’s when I knew that what I felt for her wasn’t just platonic anymore. I knew that I loved her. Even if she doesn’t feel the same way about me, it’s OK. Because I love her.” Aaron replied, unable to stop himself from blurting out those thoughts and reliving that feeling of horror, pain and dread and also love for the brave, selfless woman who was risking it all to protect a friend.

“You’re in love with Emily?” Garcia’s soft voice asked. She was genuinely surprised by his confession; they had expected him to admit that he had a crush or something. She wasn’t expecting him to admit that he was in love with her.

“Of course I am,” Aaron replied sincerely and the simple answer was enough for the team to silently agree to halt the interrogation. There was a line that they had unexpectedly crossed and none of them had had the heart to make fun of him any further.

 

“So when are you going to tell them that the unsub actually injected you with a placebo and you could have lied to them or avoided answering their questions at any time?” Emily asked quizzically as she leant against his office door. Aaron smiled as he glanced out at the empty bullpen. After their impromptu interrogation finished, the team had become worryingly polite around him, clearly feeling bad at taking advantage of his ‘vulnerable’ state.

“I’ll give it a few more days. Reid didn’t actually ask anything but Rossi was relentless before they turned up. I think another day or two of guilt might remind them all to mind their own business.” Aaron said with a smile as Emily laughed.

“They deserve it,” Emily laughed as she looked at him playfully. “When do you think they’ll finally work out that we’re together?”

“Probably if we ever moved in together or got married. Even then, they probably wouldn’t realise it until you were halfway down the aisle.” Aaron joked as he pressed a kiss to her temple. Emily smiled at the thought as she laced her hand in his. It had been a long, trying day for the pair of them and now it was time to go home.

Together.

Chapter Text

“These are for you!” Jack announced as he handed over the bunch of flowers to Emily. He had sprinted into the bullpen, almost tripping over in his excitement to give the bouquet of daffodils and lilies to Emily. Emily felt a wave of affection at the sight of Jack clutching a bouquet and his beaming smile was enough to light up the bullpen. 

“They’re beautiful Jack, thank you so much,” Emily smiled as she inhaled the sweet scent of the flowers and set the bouquet gently onto her desk. She would have to get some water for them later. As soon as the flowers were on her desk, Jack climbed up onto her lap and her arms wrapped around him protectively. “Why did you buy me them?”

“I didn’t, Daddy did.” Jack explained as Aaron joined them. “Uncle Dave said that when you like a girl, you buy them flowers and since Daddy likes you, he had to buy you flowers but he only did it when I asked him to.”

Aaron pointedly coughed and Emily could see the faint pink spots appear on his cheeks and she felt relieved for his sake that Morgan was currently helping Reid with his physical. Since Reid had come off his crutches, he had had to pass a physical to allow him back into the field. Morgan was either helping him train or torture him, Emily wasn’t too sure but she suspected Reid was regretting putting that chilli power into Morgan’s coffee yesterday. Emily smiled at Aaron and knew that right now, Morgan wasn’t the only one plotting revenge. Something told her that Rossi was going to have to be reminded not to run his mouth. Again. 

“Well, they’re beautiful and I love them.” Emily smiled as Jack hugged her tightly. She chose to not push the comment about Aaron liking her further. She and Aaron were close friends and she had been more than happy to spend time with Jack. Although once again, it seemed that Rossi was misunderstanding things and passing on that misunderstanding to Jack. “Are you going to have a chat with Rossi?”

“Not yet, there’s still too many potential witnesses. Anyone asks, we were having dinner at my apartment and we have no idea how such a tragedy could occur and inside the BAU too.” Aaron replied drolly and he smiled at Emily. She refused to accept that her heart skipped a beat at the beaming smile. But it might have. Maybe. 

“Make it Chinese and I’m in.” Emily laughed as Jack looked at them. One thing that he did find weird about his dad and Emily was that they sometimes said really weird things. When he had asked his Uncle Dave about it, Uncle Dave said it was a sign of them liking each other, they had their own secret language. 

“Is Emily coming for dinner?” Jack asked and both Aaron and Emily laughed at his innocent comment. 

“Yes she is,” Aaron replied as he lifted Jack off of Emily’s lap. “But first, we have to do some work and I need to have a chat with Uncle Dave. So if Emily is OK with it, she can drive you home and we’ll have dinner together later.”

“And ice cream?” Jack asked eagerly as Emily hid a smile behind her hand. If there was one thing Jack Hotchner loved above all else, apart from his Daddy of course, was ice cream. 

“And ice cream, but only if we get all the work done first.” Aaron explained as he carried Jack up to his office. Jack waved over Aaron’s shoulder at Emily who beamed back at him. He was definitely the sweetest, most loving kid she had ever met and she had to admit, he was definitely his father’s son. 

 

Just as Emily placed the bouquet of lilies and daffodils into an old plastic glass that she found at the back of the cupboard with the shared coffee cups, Garcia walked into the bullpen and spotted the bouquet on Emily’s desk. Her eyes widened at the memory of Aaron asking her whether daffodils and lily’s were still Emily’s favourite flowers and the rather obvious realisation hit her over the head. Garcia turned and darted down to JJ’s office to confirm her suspicions with JJ. She was right. There was definitely something going on between Emily and Aaron and she finally had proof of it.

Chapter Text

“Daddy!” Jack yelled excitedly as he burst into Aaron’s office, a sheet of paper clutched in his hand. Aaron looked up from the forms he was signing off and smiled as Jack leapt onto his lap. Rossi chuckled warmly at the sight just as Jess appeared in the doorway and shrugged her shoulders apologetically at them. 

“Hey Buddy, what are you doing here?” Aaron asked as Jack passed over the slightly crumpled paper to him. 

“We’re having a career day and all the mommies and daddies are coming and talking about their jobs and stuff. Can you come? Please, please , please !” Jack asked eagerly as Aaron read the letter from Miss Duncan and Miss Emily. The two kindergarten classes at Jack’s school held an annual career day for the parents and guardians to come and speak to the kids about their jobs and careers. It was next Friday afternoon and the parents were invited to either stay afterwards for a stay and play until hometime or take their kid home early. 

“I would love to Jack, but-” Aaron said but he could already feel the unease in his stomach. He would let Jack down, he just knew there would be some case, some meeting, something to prevent him from being there. He could already see the disappointment in Jack’s eyes with that three letter word.

“You will be there,” Rossi said as he snatched the letter from Aaron’s hand and skim-read it. The date was typed in bold but that wasn’t what had caught his attention. Rather it was the second of the two signatures at the end of the letter just above the confirmation slip. Miss Emily.

Ever since Jack started school, he had heard a lot about Miss Emily. About how good she was at doing the voices when she read stories to the class; her rendition of ‘We’re Going On A Bear Hunt’ having had them all in fits of laughter. How she was the best at treating grazed knees and bumped heads. How she danced in the classroom with them on their Friday Four-Dance Disco. Most importantly about how much Aaron smiled at Miss Emily on the rare occasions he got to pick Jack up from school. The way he used to smile when Haley was alive. Therefore if his suspicions were correct, and he knew they were of course, then that meant… 

“Dave,” Aaron began warningly but as always, Rossi simply ignored him and snatched a pen from Aaron’s desk. 

“I, Aaron Hotchner, the parent of Jack Hotchner will be attending Career Day on Friday November 14th. Yes I will be staying for Stay and Play afterwards.” Rossi said aloud as he filled in the form and passed it back to Aaron. The ‘will not’s and ‘no’s having been repeatedly scored out by his pen. “Sign here.”

“You’re the worst.” Aaron muttered but he did sign it. As soon as he did, Rossi snatched it back and handed it to Jess, who had been watching the scene play out with bemusement. As soon as Jack had mentioned the Career Day, she had been worried that Aaron would be unable to make it. That there would be a case or an emergency and Jack would be left disappointed and broken hearted. She should have realised the team would be able to ensure otherwise. Especially as it meant he would also get a chance to spend time with Miss Emily. 

“Thank me on your wedding day,” Rossi retorted. “So Kiddo, what did you do at school today?”

As Jack excitedly rattled off the events of his day at school, including his phonics lesson, exploring the outdoor learning area and sharing cookies with Layla and Tommy and Miss Emily explaining the concept of Career Day to them, Aaron glanced back at his files and wondered just what the hell had Rossi signed him up to do. Not only had he to miss half a day of work, at least, but he would have to somehow explain his reasoning to Struass, potentially bench himself from a case or leave early from one, but he also had to somehow explain his work at the BAU in a child-friendly manner. Although Jack knew he worked the case and hunted bad guys, he wasn’t quite sure how to explain it any other way. How did you tell a class of five year olds that you caught serial killers, rapists and paedophiles? 

“Don’t overstress it,” Jess reassured as she read his mind. “If you’re worried about it, why not just ask Miss Emily when you pick Jack up on Thursday?”

“I wa-” Aaron began and trailed off as he glared at both Jess and Rossi who were looking at him innocently. “Stop it, I know what you’re thinking. Stop it.”

“I was just going to say that Emily would know what you could bring with you.” Jess replied innocently but with the same cheeky glint in her eye that she and Haley always had when they were up to something back when they were kids.

Aaron sighed and shook his head. He wasn’t going to argue with them anymore but he wondered what he could even say to Emily before the Career Day and what he could bring with him. 

 

“Miss Emily, my daddy wants to speak to you!” Jack announced as he ran back across the playground to his teacher. Emily looked over and smiled at Aaron. She could feel Miss Duncan’s eye on her as Aaron walked towards her, keeping a watchful eye on Jack and seemingly unaware of the hungry looks he was receiving from several of the other moms and a few of the teachers and teaching assistants. Ever since the first day of the year, he had become the unspoken (and spoken) Designated Hot Single Dad and anytime he came to school, there was a flurry of excitement amongst staff and parent alike. Especially today, when he looked exceptionally handsome in a navy suit and his sunglasses. Aaron removed his sunglasses as he reached Emily and put a protective arm around Jack.

“Is everything all right Mr Hotchner?” Emily asked. Several of the parents who had agreed to come to Career Day had asked a few questions and she assumed he would ask some too. Not that she needed to be, she was pleased that she had worn her red sweater today. She always looked her best in red. 

“I was wondering about tomorrow. Is there anything that I should bring or what would be suitable? I’ve never done anything like this before.” Aaron explained. When he was a kid, Career Day wasn’t really a thing. Even if it had been, his father wouldn’t have bothered to be there. 

“Well, some of the parents are bringing items from their work. One is a firefighter so is bringing a helmet and others are just going to talk about what it is they do.” Emily explained to Aaron. “So you could bring your badge or something like that. Although, maybe not photos of serial killers.”

“I’ll leave those in the office,” Aaron remarked playfully as he glanced around the playground. “Will there be many parents tomorrow?” 

“Quite a lot have confirmed they will come but you’re one of the few who offered to stay later. Jack was so excited to tell me that you were coming. He loves telling the kids about how his daddy fights the bad guys and how you go on adventures.” Emily explained lightly, ignoring the flicker in her stomach as Aaron smiled down at Jack. 

“I had to convince my whole team that they couldn’t come too. They had a case in Arizona but our technical analyst still wants to come. She tried to get Jack to convince me to let her tag along.” Aaron explained. It had been a job and a half to explain to Garcia that she couldn’t come with him to Jack’s Career Day, especially as the team were on an active case. 

“She would be more than welcome.” Emily replied lightly as Jack tugged on Aaron’s hand. “I’ll let you take Jack home. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Bye Miss Emily!” Jack beamed as he waved at her. Emily smiled as father and son walked back across the playground hand in hand. As she returned to her classroom, Emily wasn’t surprised to see some of the other teachers hanging around in the hallway outside her classroom, eager to know what he had been asking her about. She knew that at some point tomorrow afternoon, there would be some ‘visitors’ to her classroom, seeking glue sticks and a sneaky look at Mr Hotchner. Not that she blamed them too much, she probably would have done the same. 

 

The next afternoon, Aaron sat in the brightly coloured kindergarten classroom watching Jack and his classmates come in from the playground. The desks had been pushed to the sides to allow chairs for the parents to be placed into the classroom with space on the carpet for the children to sit. Jack grinned excitedly at Aaron and as he took his place on the carpet, Jack turned around and waved at him. He wasn’t the only one, most of the kids were doing the same, seeking out their parents, waving at them and chattering excitedly. 

“OK, clap once,” Emily said as she sat on her chair by her desk. The kids all clapped their hands. “Clap twice,” They clapped twice and she smiled at them. “So, this afternoon, we have a lot of special visitors. We need to make sure our listening ears are switched on, our looking eyes are ready and we sit like superstars. Jack, you’re sitting beautifully. Aimee, so are you.”

Emily looked at the parents and at her class list. “Grown ups, we are going to go in alphabetical order. Mr Archer, you’re up first.” 

Aaron watched as the kids sat enthralled by their parents. He could tell which child belonged to which parent as their kid would straighten up and beam proudly at their parent as they talked about their jobs. One parent who worked as a firefighter brought his helmet and fire coat. One who worked as a sport’s coach got the children to do some exercises. Others talked about their jobs. Jack’s best friend Luke’s mother taught sign language and taught them to sign some basic words and phrases. As each parent spoke to the class, Aaron felt uncharacteristically nervous, especially as Emily checked her list and smiled in his direction. 

“Thank you Mrs Hopkins. Mr Hotchner, it’s your turn.” Emily said as the room applauded Mrs Hopkins and Aaron walked up to the front of the room. He saw Jack’s beaming grin and his nerves faded away. The fact he was here was enough for his son. 

“Well, I’m Mr Hotchner, I’m Jack’s daddy and I’m an FBI agent.” Aaron said, smiling as some of the kids exchanged excited looks. “The team I work with are called ‘profilers’. Sometimes when there’s a bad guy who the police can’t find, we help them. We look at behaviour and learn things about people.”

A little girl, he recognised as Jack’s friend Aimee put her hand up. “Do you have a badge?”

“I do,” Aaron replied as he took it from his pocket and handed it to Aimee who examined it and passed it around the other kids. “Sometimes when we go to catch the bad guys, we have to wear special clothes to keep us and other people safe. It can be dangerous but we keep people safe. Would you like me to show how we do what we do?”

“YEAH!” Twenty five excited voices yelled back at him and he couldn’t help but laugh at their excitement. There was only one person who he wanted to do it to, if she was willing to. 

“Who should I do it to?” Aaron asked playfully as he gestured towards Emily as the kids laughed and shouted her name loudly. 

“MISS EMILY!!” The kids yelled excitedly as Emily stood up and walked over to him.

“I might regret this. Do I need to do anything?” Emily asked as Aaron looked at her. Those eyes seemed even more intense as he looked at her and around the classroom, trying to see into her world. 

“Well, I can tell that Miss Emily, you care a lot about all of your pupils. Not just this class but all of the ones you teach. The artwork on the wall by your desk and notice board is from different years and pupils. I know you put so much care and consideration to ensure everyone is welcome and included in your class. The language in your letter was to parents and guardians as well as referring to us as ‘grown ups’ instead of parents. You do have one nervous habit. You pick your nails when you’re stressed and your nails are red and uneven, I would assume planning this Career Day was more stressful than it seems. Am I correct?” Aaron said. He could have included more but didn’t. Namely because it was still a professional setting and because he didn’t want to risk upsetting her. However, he knew he was right as her gaze fell to her nails the moment he mentioned it. 

“Wow,” Emily said. She had always considered herself to be closed off however he had read her so easily, it was astonishing. “All of that was right. Thank you Mr Hotchner.”

As the others clapped, Emily glanced at her list and tried to swallow the butterflies in her stomach. “Ms Keyne, you’re next.”

 

After the adults had shared information about their careers, Aaron hung back as the parents who elected not to stay until hometime, even though it was twenty minutes by the time it finished, filed out of the room. The kids whose parents had been unable to stay crowded with their friends. Out of the twenty five kids, there were ten who stayed behind and only three other parents aside from Aaron himself. Jack bounded over along with Aimee, whose parents were both on call at St Sebastian’s hospital and unable to be there. 

“That was the best!” Jack exclaimed as he hugged Aaron tightly. Aaron smiled as Emily returned into the classroom and checked her watch. 

“OK so we have just enough time for our Friday Four-Dance Disco,” Emily said as the remaining kids bounced with excitement as she turned to her computer and loaded up a YouTube video of kid-friendly music. Aaron couldn’t hide a grin as the kids alternated between jumping and dancing. He watched as Emily took one little boy’s hands and danced with him. He realised that Jack was tugging his hands expectantly and so he stood up and danced with him. Aimee looked at him hopefully as Aaron took her hands and guided her into a twirl and a twirl back. 

Within moments, three more kids had joined them and Emily could see the three remaining mothers looking at Aaron with as much hunger as her pupils looked at their snacks at snack time. The fact that Ms Harper from the Fourth Grade and Mrs Treynor from the Sixth Grade (whose divorce was not finalised yet) had conveniently wandered down to the kindergarten supposedly in search of scissors did not miss her attention either. 

Four songs later, it was home time. Once again, Emily thanked the parents who had stayed. Even if the three mothers had sat chatting for the remaining twenty minutes, when they weren’t ogling Aaron anyway. The three mothers and their kids left first and as Aaron waited for Jack to put his coat on, Emily felt a moment of brave recklessness. She mightn’t be a profiler but she had spotted the way he looked at her and she knew that the way he made her feel when he was profiling her had to mean something. Emily grabbed a post it note from her desk and a pen and took a risk. 

“Thank you for coming Mr Hotchner and for staying. The kids loved your talk and that you danced with them.” Emily said and Aaron smiled bashfully.

“Just don’t tell my team about the dancing. I have a reputation to maintain.” Aaron joked and Emily smiled. She got the feeling that with his job, he didn’t get to joke around much. 

“I won’t,” Emily said and before her courage could abandon her, she took his hand and pressed the post it note into it. His hand was warm, calloused and yet, also gentle. They both knew they hadn’t imagined the spark of electricity that passed between them as their hands touched. Just at that moment, Jack bounded back over to them and Aaron slipped the post it into his pocket and picked Jack up into his arms. “Bye Jack, I’ll see you on Monday.”

“Bye Miss Emily,” Jack said as he waved at her and Aaron nodded at her. They didn’t need to say anything, they both knew that he would call her later. 

 

After all, well, anything could happen.

Chapter Text

She wasn’t sure what had spurred her to get into her car and head for Aaron’s apartment. It could have been any of the things they had witnessed and uncovered over the past 48 hours. That 89 people had been brutally and mercilessly butchered to feed the whims of a psychopath. That those innocent victims could never even be buried or shown a shred of dignity that had been robbed from them. All that remained were pairs of shoes. 178 single shoes. 89 pairs. 89 victims. 89 people whose loved ones, if they could be tracked, would be given the unbearable news. 89 people, lost and alone in the world, now forever gone. 

This case had hit all of them far worse than it normally had. Ever since they first heard of William Hightower crashing into the border checkpoints, there had been a deep, instinctual feeling in the pit of her stomach. It was as if they were running blindfolded into danger, like something horrific was going to happen and none of them could stop it. There had been a few occasions when Emily had experienced that feeling before. The Tobias Hankel case in Georgia; the New York terrorist cell, Benjamin Cyrus’ compound. However what made it different, the reason she got into her car, was the fact that on those cases; that feeling ended when the case did. 

For the entire duration of the flight back to DC, the attempted debrief at the BAU before they all piled into their cars and returned home to try and pretend that they hadn’t had their hearts and faith in humanity ripped from their bodies; Emily had that foreboding feeling in her stomach. Every last one of her instincts was screaming that something was terribly wrong. It felt like… it felt like the final few minutes of a horror movie. Those old-school slashers where the Final Girl is safe and the killer is dead and everything is normal. Until there’s that final jumpscare ending. Emily knew it was a ridiculous feeling, besides Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees and Freddy Kruger were nothing compared to the real monsters in this world. 

But still, that feeling persisted. 

 

She had decided to go to Aaron’s for two reasons. The first was that she knew he would listen and understand why she was feeling like this and why she couldn’t speak to the others. The second was that everyone else had someone; JJ had Will and Henry. Rossi had whichever skirt he was currently chasing. Reid and Morgan were begged by Garcia to have a sleepover at her’s. She didn’t feel like gatecrashing any of them. So the two lonely members of the team may as well be lonely together. 

As Emily arrived at his apartment building, the feeling in the pit of her stomach intensified as she got out of her car and walked towards the entrance. Just as she opened the door, a man in a dark hoodie brushed past her on his way out.

“Sorry,” the man said in a voice that seemed somewhat familiar but in that moment, she couldn’t place it. Emily glanced back at him but he continued walking, hood up, head down. She shrugged her shoulders dismissively. She had probably seen him on the rare occasions she had stopped by Aaron’s building. Emily hurried up the stairs towards his apartment. She knew she ought to have called before but she hadn’t thought. She just did. 

 

Emily walked towards the apartment door and froze. The door was ajar. She knew Aaron as well as she knew herself. He would never be that stupid or reckless to leave his door unlocked, much less ajar. Instinctively, her hand reached for her gun before she remembered that she had, foolishly, left it in her apartment. Listening carefully, there was no sound coming from Aaron’s apartment. Recklessly, she covered her hand with her sleeve and pushed the centre of the door, not touching the door handle. Just in case.

“Aaron? Hotch? It’s Emily. I’m coming in.” Emily called gently as she pushed open the door and stepped into the darkened apartment. “Are you- oh my god!”

In a growing, scarlet pool of blood, Aaron lay in the middle of the floor. Her instincts clashed with her training as Emily darted to his side and felt for a pulse. It was weaker than it ought to be but it was thankfully there. His eyes were lidded but the low groan he made told her that he was still conscious. Each breath he took was shallow and his white skirt was crimson with vivid streaks and splashes of blood. With fumbling hands, Emily pulled her phone from her pocket and dialled 911.

“This is Agent Emily Prentiss from the FBI’s Behavioural Analysis Unit. I have an agent down. Requesting EMTs and police.” Emily said as she relayed the address down the phone. She looked around for something, anything that could staunch the blood but there were so many wounds and he was bleeding so much. What if he didn’t make it?

“We have an ambulance already en route. Estimated ETA three minutes.” The person on the other end of the phone said. The word ‘already’ stuck in Emily’s mind but the fact that EMTs were coming meant that she would be the one who had to keep him conscious and alive for the next three minutes. 

“Did you hear that Aaron? Three minutes. You can hang on for three minutes.” Emily insisted as she stripped off her jacket and pressed it over his chest. The pressure made him cry out in pain and his eyes flashed open, unfocused and his fists clenched. “Aaron, Aaron, it’s me. It’s Emily. Just stay still. Can you hear me? Who did this to you?”

“He, he was just there,” Aaron rasped in between gasps of breath.

“Who? Who was it?” Emily asked as Aaron shut his eyes. Everything just burned and hurt so much. Flashes sped through his mind. 

 

Opening his door.

Pouring a drink.

Footsteps.

The clicking of a gun.

“You should have made a deal.”

A gunshot.

A fight.

Being knocked to the ground.

Pain. blood. Agony. 

Foyet’s voice. Frantic. On the phone. 

“I heard yells and screams. I think someone’s been shot. Please! Hurry!”

More footsteps. He could feel the knife being waved tauntingly in his face.

“Aaron, I gotta go. I need to go see Haley.”

 

“Haley,” Aaron whispered and in that instant, Emily felt her heart break but she kept her focus on the task at hand. Of course Aaron was thinking of Haley. Who else he would want to see in his hour of need? Clearly not her. She was foolish to even consider it. 

“No, it’s Emily. Come on Aaron, stay with me.” Emily insisted as EMTs hurried into the room. The three minutes had seemed like a lifetime. Emily took a step back as the EMTs fought to stabilise Aaron, place him on a stretcher and carry him out of the apartment. She fielded the questions with the few details that she knew and climbed into the ambulance with them. 

Aaron was still barely conscious. The EMTs were scrambling to tend to his wounds and as one cut open his shirt, he swore under his breath and realisation hit Emily at the sight of his bloodsoaked chest. Despite all of the blood, there were clear sources, areas where the blood was darker and heaviest. Nine stab wounds. Nine stab wounds and the EMTs had already been called by the time she had. 

A victim stabbed nine times, barely clinging to life when the EMTs arrived and barely managed to save him. A victim who had turned out to be the very unsub they were hunting. An unsub who had been on the run for the past two and a half months. An unsub who had offered Aaron the very deal that had kept him dormant for a decade and lashing out when it was rejected. She remembered his face now. A mixture of terror, disgust and self-scolding crashed over her as she realised that not only did she remember him.

She had seen him.

She walked right past him as she arrived at Aaron’s building. How could she have been so stupid? How could she have not recognised him? She could have apprehended him on the spot. She could have ended this tonight. But she hadn’t and he was in the wind again. 

“Foyet,” Emily breathed as she tightened her hold on Aaron’s hand. “Aaron, listen to me. Was this Foyet? Did he do this?”

“He did,” Aaron whispered as his face seemed to become even paler and his breathing more laboured. Emily didn’t need to hear the EMTs who were frantically treating Aaron yell at the driver to hurry up or feel the increased speed of the ambulance as it roared through the streets of downtown DC in the middle of the night. They were running out of time. Emily tightened her grip on Aaron’s hand, so tight, it was painful for both of them but she didn’t care. As long as he was conscious and speaking to her, she knew he would be alright. "Haley. I need to- Haley."

"Haley's fine Aaron, stay with me." Emily pleaded, dropping all aloofness as she felt panic and terror take over. He was becoming paler and she could feel his hand becoming weaker within her own. No. This was not how it ended. 

“Oh no you don’t,” Emily warned. “Don’t you dare, don’t you dare die on me Aaron Hotchner. We made a pact, remember? We die together in a blaze of glory or we don’t die at all.”

She felt the faintest grip against her hand and before she could stop herself, the three words that she had kept locked and hidden away, pushed to the back of her mind, never to be spoken, slipped out of her mouth.

“I love you.” Emily confessed. “I love you so much. So you better not die on me. If you die on me, I’ll kill you. Understood?” 

 

Aaron didn’t move or make a sound but everything happened quickly after that. As soon as they arrived at Saint Sebastian’s; he was rushed off to be prepped for surgery and she was providing the doctors with the limited information she had. After she had washed her hands and was guided to the waiting room for the OR, Emily pulled out her phone and began making phone calls. She wasn’t surprised that none of the team answered their phones. Undoubtedly, everyone was asleep with their alarms switched off and their phones on silent. Instead, Emily left them voicemails, telling all of them to get to the hospital as soon as they woke up. She made the decision to tell them about Foyet when they arrived rather than on a voicemail. Her next calls were to the Metro PD who would undoubtedly be treating Aaron’s apartment as a crime scene to let them know that any and all evidence ought to be sent to the BAU as it related to an active case. Reluctantly, she left a voicemail on Strauss’s phone to inform her that Aaron was in the hospital. 

Finally, it was the most important call that she had to make. She tried to pretend that it hadn’t hurt when he had said Haley’s name but she understood. They had been married for so long and it was understandable that coming so close to death would help them to reunite. Maybe they would see that they could have a second chance and she would have to take a step back. She loved Aaron but if he still loved Haley and Haley still loved him, she wouldn’t stand in the way of their happiness. 

Emily scrolled though her contacts for Haley’s number. As the phone rang, she waited to be connected to voicemail. Finally a groggy, sleepy voice answered the phone.

 

“Hello?” Haley asked as she propped herself up in bed and rubbed her eyes. “Who is this?”

“Haley, it’s Emily.” Emily said as she took a breath. “It’s Aaron, he’s in hospital.”

“Oh my god,” Haley gasped, wide awake now. She pushed back the duvet and jumped out of bed. “Is he alright? What happened?”

“He was attacked in his apartment. He’s in surgery. We’re in St. Sebastian’s.” Emily explained as she looked around the room. The fears and worries that had been building up from the moment she spotted Aaron lying on the floor threatened to overwhelm her. “It’s not looking good. You need to get here. And Jack.”

“I’m on my way.” Haley said as she tugged on a pair of jeans. She had always known this day would come; that Aaron’s luck would run out. He had to be alright. It was Aaron. She had just spoken to him before she had gone to bed. He was going to pick Jack up tomorrow and have an extra weekend with him. She had seen the case in Canada on the news and she knew he needed to see his son. 

It was only after she scooped Jack out of bed and bundled him into the car did she wonder what Emily had been doing at Aaron’s apartment in the middle of the night. Haley had wondered if there was something going on between the two of them but she knew now wasn’t exactly the best time to ask. 

 

Emily paced restlessly around the waiting room, picking her nails and wondering why no one had told her anything yet. She knew that hospitals swore by the mantra of no news was good news but right now, she needed to hear something. Just so that she knew that Aaron would be OK. The idea of losing Aaron was unthinkable. Losing him as a leader, as a friend, as a… it was unbearable to even consider. 

She had meant what she had said. Emily had wished she hadn’t waited until he was clinging to life to say it. But when she knew he would be OK, when he woke up, she would say it again. Just so he knew that she meant it. Even if he didn’t love her back. 

“Emily?” 

Emily turned at the sound of Haley’s voice. Haley walked into the room, a still sleeping Jack in her arms. “Haley, I’ve not heard anything else.”

“What happened? You said he’d been attacked, what’s going on?” Haley asked as she took a seat on one of the chairs. Jack nestled into her shoulder and slept on. It was one of the times that she was relieved that her son slept like the dead. He hadn’t even stirred when she had lifted him out of bed, put his socks, shoes and coat on and carried him to the car. Whenever she had mentally prepared for this moment, she imagined leaving Jack with Jessica but something, whether it was instinct or common sense (it was two in the morning after all) made her bring Jack with her. The moment Aaron woke up, he would want to see his son. 

“I’m not too sure. All I know is that he was attacked in his apartment. He was stabbed nine times and I think, I know, that George Foyet, the Boston Reaper attacked Aaron.” Emily explained to Haley who’s eyes widened. She had heard that name before, she remembered that Aaron had spent six weeks in Boston trying to track the Reaper. She had followed the news story, had listened to Aaron reassure her that they would find him. At the time Haley had wondered if he was reassuring her or himself. Now she knew. 

“Where’s the rest of the team? How did you find him?” Haley asked. Usually when a member of the team was hurt or in danger, the others closed ranks and rushed to their sides. It was something that she always admired and respected about Aaron’s team. That no matter what, they were never alone. 

“I called the others and left messages. None of them have gotten back to me yet. I went to see him, I wanted to check in on him. When I got there,” Emily trailed off and shook her head. She knew that Haley never had the stomach for the blood and gore side of the BAU and she would understandably not want to know about how Emily found him in a pool of his own blood. 

“It’s a good thing you did, what if you hadn’t?” Haley asked as she tightened her hold on Jack. it was her worst nightmare and one she had had to consider far too many times. How would she tell Jack that his daddy was dead? How could she bear to raise Jack without his father? How would that conversation play out? 

Emily swallowed the hot lump in her throat and decided to not mention the fact that Foyet had already called 911. Undoubtedly this had been done for two reasons. The first as a twisted parallel to his own self-stabbing, when he called 911 and turned the knife on himself, knowing they would arrive in time to save him. The second was a clear taunt. Had he not made the call, Aaron would have died. He controlled Aaron’s life. He was Fate. 

“Let’s not think about that,” Emily said quietly. Aaron wasn’t going to die. There was no way. Not now, not like this. He wasn’t going to die on her. They had made an agreement, a pact and there was no going back on it. “He’ll be OK. He has to be.”

Haley glanced over at Emily. She recognised that tone, that look in her eye. Maybe it was the concern, the need for some sort of distraction or because it was clear that the two of them were both far too stubborn for their own good but something prompted her to say the next few words. “You love him, don’t you?”

Emily’s head shot up towards Haley who looked at her calmly. Jack still fast asleep in her arms and her gaze was fixed on Emily. She wasn’t sure what to expect. Aaron and Haley had been divorced for over a year but they still cared about one another deeply. Emily knew that she didn’t have a place in this story but she also found herself unable to lie.

“Yes,” Emily admitted. “How did you know?”

“It wasn’t that hard to work out,” Haley replied gently. Maybe this was the worst time to say it. Maybe it was the best. She wasn’t sure. All she knew was that it was the truth and once Emily knew and Aaron was awake, they would figure the next bit out together. 

 

“And because he loves you too.”

Chapter Text

“What do you mean?” Emily asked quietly as Haley rubbed her hand up and down Jack’s back as she kept her gaze on Emily. She hadn't expected Emily to react like that. She genuinely thought that Emily knew that Aaron loved her too. It was obvious to anyone who saw them, there was something special between them. 

“Exactly what I said.” Haley replied. “The way he talks about you, it’s obvious that you mean a lot to him.”

“It’s not-” Emily began and trailed off. Aaron was in surgery, barely clinging to life and she was having this conversation with his ex-wife. “Do we have to talk about this now?”

“No,” Haley said calmly. “I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable.”

“It’s OK, I just, I didn’t expect it to happen like this.” Emily replied as she resumed pacing around the waiting room. There was nothing to distract them from their endless vigil. Time crept slowly, seconds inched by like hours until finally, just after 5am a doctor stepped into the waiting room. 

“Family of Aaron Hotchner?” the tired looking doctor asked as she brushed her long hair over her shoulder.

“That’s us,” Haley said as she stood up and joined Emily. “How is he?”

“He’s going to be fine. He’s lost a lot of blood but we were able to stop the bleeding and stabilise him. He’s heavily sedated so it will be some time before he wakes up. We’re moving him to the ICU. you’ll be able to see him in about twenty minutes.” The doctor explained as she stepped out of the room. In relief, Emily and Haley hugged and the movement jostled Jack who finally stirred and woke up.

“Mommy?” Jack asked sleepily as he looked around, confused. “Wazgoin’on?” 

“It’s OK Sweetie, we had to come to the hospital. Daddy has a sore tummy but he’s going to be OK.” Haley explained as she sat down and let Jack slowly rub his eyes and wake up. Emily watched them as she pulled out her phone and began making calls again. As before, Rossi and JJ’s phones both went to voicemail and she left them a message to let them know Aaron would be OK but to still get to the hospital as soon as they could. When she rang Morgan however, the phone picked up. 

“Emily? What the hell is going on? My alarm just went off and I heard your message. What happened to Hotch?” Morgan asked frantically as he tossed a cushion at Reid’s head in order to wake him up. Ignoring Reid’s shocked, indignant yelp, he kept his focus on Emily. 

“Foyet’s back. He ambushed Aaron in his apartment and stabbed him. He’s just come out of surgery.” Emily replied. She could hear Morgan relaying the information to Reid and hurrying footsteps. She assumed Reid was going to wake Garcia. 

“Son of a bitch,” Morgan cursed. “Have you heard from the others? What about Haley?”

“I left messages with JJ and Rossi. Haley’s here with me. I left Metro PD at his apartment but I’ve not heard anything from them yet.” Emily explained. “Get here when you can.”

“We’re on our way.” Morgan confirmed and ended the call. As she slid her phone into her pocket, Emily turned to sit next to Haley and Jack. Jack was now a little more awake and slid over onto Emily’s lap and hugged her tightly.

“Mommy said you needed a hug,” Jack explained innocently. “She said you helped Daddy.”

“I guess I did,” Emily said as she hugged him back. “He’ll be OK.”

“Because he’s Daddy. No one beats Daddy.” Jack stated confidently and both Haley and Emily smiled wryly at those words. No one beat Aaron but Foyet damn well came close and they both knew it. 

“And no one beats Emily either,” Haley added kindly. The unspoken message being received by Emily loud and clear. That Haley had every faith that she and the team would find Foyet and make him pay. 

 

“You can see him now,” The doctor advised as she returned into the room and guided them towards the room Aaron was in. “He’s still sedated but it shouldn’t be long until he wakes up.”

“Thank you,” Emily said as she spotted Aaron through the window. Halfway down the hall, Haley hesitated as Jack tugged on her hand. “Haley?”

“I just need to take Jack to the bathroom, we’ll be back in a moment.” Haley explained as she led Jack towards the restroom. For a split second, Emily felt a flash of panic before she reassured herself. Haley and Jack were totally safe. Foyet was after Aaron and the team. Emily turned back towards Aaron’s room and stepped inside. 

The man lying unconscious on the bed was almost unrecognisable as Aaron. He looked exactly the same, there had been only a few minor lacerations to his face. However it was unrecognisable because she had never seen him beaten, she had never seen him down . Not like this. Various wires, tubes and IVs were laced across his arms and there was a cannula in his nostrils. She wanted to take hold of his hand, offer him false reassurances that things would be OK; that they would find Foyet and rip his head off of his shoulders, that this wouldn’t be how things ended. 

“You just need to be careful, Daddy’s sleeping.” Haley explained gently as she placed Jack onto the bed. He looked at Aaron with wide fearful eyes and turned back to Haley. Haley scooped him back into her arms and took a seat in the chair beside the bed as Morgan, Garcia and Reid hurried down the hall towards them. All three showed signs of having woken and dressed quickly. Reid was wearing two odd shoes, Garcia’s face was pale without a trace of make up. Morgan’s t-shirt was on back to front. Emily stepped out of the room to meet them in the hallway. 

“We got through to JJ and Rossi. Will’s helping us with the Metro PD and she’s running point with him. Rossi said he’d handle Strauss.” Morgan explained. Just as Reid got through to JJ, Garcia had been able to call Rossi. “How did this happen?”

“I don’t know, I went to his apartment last night. The door was ajar and when I went inside, I found him. I called EMTs and they said that a crew was already on the way. It was only when we were on route that I realised what Foyet had done.” Emily relayed, guilt and regret still twisting heavily in her stomach as she admitted the next part. “I saw him.”

“You saw him?” Reid asked, wide eyed with shock.

“As I was walking into Aaron’s building, he walked out. I didn’t see his face, he had a hood up and his head down. I didn’t realise it was him until it was too late.” Emily explained helplessly as Garcia hugged her tightly. She let him get away. Had she realised who he was, she could have ended this. Ended him. Now, he was still on the loose and could attack any of them at any time. 

“You couldn’t have known.” Garcia reassured and Morgan nodded in agreement. It was the last thing any of them had expected to happen. After Foyet escaped, they had offered their help to the US Marshalls and Massachusetts state and federal police but it had been declined. 

“OK, Reid and I will head to Hotch’s apartment and see if there’s anything we missed. He always took something and left something with each victim.” Morgan stated. In his case, the son of a bitch had stolen his badge and left the bullet he would have shot him with, had Morgan not been knocked unconscious by the rugby tackle through the window. He swore to God, as soon as he got his hands on Foyet, the bastard would wish he had botched his own stabbing job. 

“He’s going to be alright, isn’t he? I mean, he’s Hotch.” Garcia stated fearfully as she looked into the hospital room. She remembered the fear, terror and pain she felt after she had been shot and Battle was on the run. She couldn’t imagine that pain nine-fold.

“Yeah. he’ll be fine.” Emily said and smiled weakly. “I told him, if he died then I’d kill him.”

Garcia and Emily stepped into the room and took a seat by the bed. It didn’t take long for them to notice Aaron stirring slightly and the three of them looked up. None of them spoke, instead they waited for him to wake up and speak to him. 

 

The pain was the first thing he had been aware of. Dull slightly by the medication, each mark burned fiercely on his chest. He could smell antiseptic and feel the starched linens beneath his fingers. He vaguely recalled flashes. Voices. A siren’s wail. A hand gripping his tightly. An angel’s voice speaking to him. 

“No, it’s Emily…  I ... so much... better not die on me…”

No, not an angel. 

Emily.

Emily had somehow found him, had saved his life. And even without asking or opening his eyes, he knew that she would be by his side. Because had their roles been reversed, he would be by hers. 

“Emily?” Aaron whispered as he opened his eyes and shut them again. The lights above his head were blinding. He could sense the lights being dimmed before he attempted to open them again. “Emily?”

“I’m here,” Emily said as she felt a moment of bravery and took his hand, gently holding it in her’s, mindful of his IV. “How are you feeling?”

“Sore,” Aaron replied before he remembered and tried to sit up, his stomach and chest screaming in protest and white hot flares of pain shot across him. Emily carefully eased him into a reclining position again. “Haley, he’s after Haley!”

“Aaron, Haley’s here. I called her. She and Jack are right here,” Emily reassured as Aaron looked up to see Haley sitting by the bed, Jack in her arms. Aaron leaned back against the pillows and shut his eyes. Not before a tear trickled out of one. Emily and Haley exchanged a look and Haley stood up.

“I need to get Jack something to eat. Garcia, do you want to come with us?” Haley offered and Garcia nodded. She could tell that something else had shifted last night between the two dark haired agents and she had noticed that Emily hadn’t explained why she had gone to Aaron’s apartment in the middle of the night. 

“Sounds good, Em, I’ll grab you a coffee and a bagel.” Garcia offered and followed Haley out of the room. As soon as they were out of sight, Emily playfully thumped Aaron on the arm. He yelped, more out of surprise than pain, and looked pointedly at her.

“What was that for?” Aaron asked. In case Emily had forgotten, he had been the one who had been stabbed, not the one who had done the actual stabbing. 

“Don’t scare me like that again,” Emily replied. “I thought we were going to lose you.”

“That wasn’t his plan.” Aaron reminded her. “What did he take?”

“I don’t know, I didn’t see anything was missing but Morgan and Reid are heading to your apartment.” Emily explained. “I saw him, I didn’t realise it was him. He was leaving the building just as I arrived. I should have recognised him.”

“It’s not your fault. How do you think he got in?” Aaron asked. He was trying to work that one out. He always locked the door, set the alarm and triple checked the windows before he left for a case. 

“No, maybe Morgan and Reid will figure that one out.” Emily replied. “Aaron, just now when you woke up, you mentioned Haley. You said Foyet was after her. Why did you say that?”

“Because he is,” Aaron replied heavily. “He told me that he was going to find Haley.”

“Damn,” Emily breathed. They both knew what that meant. Foyet’s attack on Aaron would put the entire team under the spotlight but while they could be trusted to protect themselves, Haley and Jack wouldn’t be. And with a serial killer with dozens of victims to his name and the tenacity and patience of George Foyet, there would only really be one option. Haley and Jack would have to go into Protective Custody for the foreseeable future. 

 

By the time that the others had arrived at the hospital, they only could confirm what Aaron and Emily suspected. Morgan and Reid had found Morgan’s FBI badge lying on a table next to Aaron’s address book and planner. The B’s section of which had been torn out, There was also a photo of Haley and Jack, both of them with their faces smeared with Aaron’s blood. Foyet’s intentions were clear to all of them. The decision by the higher ups had already been made to send Haley and Jack into Protective Custody. With other evidence left at the scene or signs of how he had broken in, there was no other option. 

“Are you sure it’s the only way?” Haley asked as she watched Jack play with Emily and Reid in the hallway under the watchful gaze of the rest of the team.  JJ and Garcia had offered to go back to Haley’s house and pack some clothes and essentials for her and Jack. Morgan and Rossi had tagged along, both as protection and as a lookout. Just in case. Now they were back and time had run out. It was time to go. 

“I’m sorry, I know you didn’t ask for any of this,” Aaron explained. “I promise, we will find him and when this is over, I will spend the rest of my life making it up to you and Jack.”

“I know you will,” Haley said as she fetched Jack and carried him into the room and set him onto Aaron’s bed. 

“Hey Buddy, did Mommy tell you that you’re going away for a little while?” Aaron asked and Jack nodded. “What is it that I always tell you when Daddy has to work on a case?”

“That you love me lots and lots.” Jack replied and Aaron hugged him tightly. He pressed kisses to Jack’s forehead and cheeks and he didn’t want to let his son go. Not yet. After a moment, Jack squirmed in his arms. “Daddy, you hug me too tight.”

“I’m sorry,” Aaron apologised as he slowly let go and kissed his forehead. “I love you more than anyone in the whole world. And I always will.”

“I love you too,” Jack said and Aaron gave him one final hug. Haley stepped over to the bed and hugged him carefully, mindful of his injuries.

“We’ll be OK Aaron. You just look after yourself. And Emily.” Haley instructed as Aaron looked at her, perplexed. This had to be the last possible thing on Haley’s mind. The last time they had spoke, she had been convinced that Emily loved him back. Haley had been the only one he could confide in about his feelings for Emily. Mainly because she was the first one who figured out that his feelings for Emily were clearly not platonic anymore. 

“Haley,” Aaron began but Haley shook her head.

“It’s fine Aaron. She knows.” Haley reassured as she helped Jack slide off the bed and took his hand in her’s. 

Emily stood up as Haley and Jack approached her. Sam Kassmeyer from the US Marshall’s service was waiting down the hall and a few more agents were scattered around, trying and failing to be inconspicuous. Haley let go of Jack’s hand and hugged Emily tightly. A smaller pair of hands latching around her waist, told Emily that Jack was hugging her too. 

“Take care of him,” Haley whispered. “Don’t let him get lost in this.”

“I won’t,” Emily promised. “I’ll look after him. Jack, I’ll see you soon.”

“Bye Emily,” Jack replied as Haley took his hand and led him towards Sam. Emily and the team watched as Haley and Jack were led into a dark sedan and driven away from the hospital. Without a word to the rest of the team, Emily walked back into Aaron’s room, sat down beside his bed and took his hand once more. The two agents didn’t say anything but they didn’t need to. This was a moment after all, when there were no words. 

“They’ll be OK, won’t they?” JJ asked worriedly and Rossi nodded, feeling a sense of optimism that he didn’t quite believe in. 

 

“They have each other, let’s hope that’s enough.”

Chapter Text

Without a doubt, the most dangerous thing that could ever come out of Penelope Garcia’s mouth at any given time was the phrase “it’ll be fun.” Mainly because Garcia’s idea of fun usually resulted in a whole lot of trouble. Therefore when their weekly gathering at Rossi’s place to drink some of his expensive alcohol after he fed them (Rossi insisted that the team eat a home cooked meal at least one a week, even if that meant he had to cook it for them) turned into ways to amuse themselves after topics of conversation were exhausted, they knew they were in for it.

“Let’s play ‘Never Have I Ever’!” Garcia insisted as she refilled their drinks. They had more than enough alcohol to ensure they had an unbelievably excellent game. Besides, they already knew enough about one another to make it fun.

“No way! I’m not playing with her!” Emily insisted as she pointed to JJ who grinned innocently at her. “JJ targets people.”

“No I don’t!” JJ lied. It was just the simple fact that people told her things and when the opportunity arose to discuss those things, she took it. Besides, like everything else, she played to win. There was nothing wrong with that.

“Yes you do!” Emily, Morgan and Reid shouted and Rossi shrugged.

“It can’t be that bad, we all already know far too much about each other.” Rossi stated. “Aaron, since we’re tied, you decide. Are we playing?”

“I don’t see why not,” Aaron shrugged. “Obviously nothing that gets shared leaves the seven of us.”

“Of course Bossman! I’m starting!” Garcia said excitedly as she looked around at them. “Never have I ever had sex in a car.” 

All of them, except for Reid drank but before Morgan could make a comment, JJ leapt in and took her first shot. Her gaze fell on Emily who rolled her eyes. She knew what was coming. In fact, she knew the moment that she came back from the dead, that JJ would inevitably use this in a game of Never Have I Ever.

“Never have I ever had sex with an unsub.” JJ said quickly and Emily flipped her off before taking a drink. 

“My turn,” Morgan insisted before anything else could be said. “Never have I ever cheated in a relationship.” None of them drank and he looked proudly at them. Even with his reputation as a player, he never cheated.

“Never have I ever,” Reid paused as he considered a challenge. He didn’t want to target anyone but he couldn’t think of anything amusing or fun. “Been married more than once.”

“Very funny,” Rossi muttered as he took a drink.

“Should be one for each wife,” Aaron commented and the others laughed. Through their laughter, his gaze fell on Emily as her face lit up and her body shook with laughter. God he loved when she laughed, especially when he made her laugh. That was what he missed most about her when she was gone, the sound of her laughter. And the sound of her voice. And seeing her everyday. And the way that she loved all of them and was the smartest, bravest, kindest person he knew.  “My turn. Never have I ever hidden a relationship from the rest of the team.”

“It was one time.” JJ muttered as she took a drink. “Who’s turn is it?”

“Mine!” Emily insisted cheerfully as she grinned at Morgan and Reid. This was never not funny to remember and talk about. “Never have I ever freaked out in an elevator.”

As both Morgan and Reid drank, JJ, Aaron and Garcia laughed at the memory and Rossi looked slightly puzzled. “OK there’s a story there, what happened?”

“Just after Gideon left, we had this case where the unsub was using people’s worst fears to kill them. The three of us went to a victim’s apartment. I took the stairs, they didn’t and then the elevator got stuck.” Aaron explained with a wry smile at the memory. He remembered thinking how dodgy the elevator looked and he could hear their panicked shouting as the doors finally opened. 

“And you panicked? You two catch serial killers and you panic in an elevator?” Rossi laughed as Morgan shook his head.

“No! Reid freaked out! I was annoyed that he was freaking out.” Morgan argued. He challenged any of them to keep calm when Reid was in their ear frantically explaining how likely it is that they would die or be seriously injured or suffocate if they didn't get out of there. 

“And then you freaked out,” Emily finished with a grin. 

“OK Em, it’s on. Just know that paybacks are a bitch.” Morgan warned and Emily held out her hands, silently challenging him to a fight. JJ had already played the Doyle card on her, nothing Morgan did would be worse than that. 

“OK kids, my turn.” Rossi said as he looked at them knowingly. “Never have I ever made out with someone of the same sex.”

Garcia and Emily shrugged and both drank. At the other’s shouts of surprise and laughter Emily held up a hand to explain. “In our defense, JJ told us we had to drink for her because she was knocked up and Garcia had had a fight with Kevin so we were extremely drunk, she was crying over a piece of shit and yeah, stuff happened.”

“And did anything else happen?” Morgan asked eagerly. “Also, why was I not told about this?!”

“No and because of this, you’re a pig about it.” Emily retorted. “Who’s turn is it?”

“Mine! Mine! Mine!” Garcia said excitedly. “OK, never have I ever went streaking.”

Morgan and JJ drank and JJ took her next turn. The game progressed for a few more rounds with various secrets, embarrassing stories and pointed targeted questions being aimed at members of the team. Memories of events such as Garcia’s infamous ‘talk dirty to me’ comment to Strauss, Emily’s goth phase as a teenager and Reid being banned from casinos due to card-counting were shared. The team were the right mix of buzzed and tipsy when it was Aaron’s turn again. 

 

“Never have I ever,” Aaron paused as he stared Rossi out, “been caught making out with Chief Strauss in a supply closet.”

Rossi grinned proudly and took a drink as the others screamed in horror, disgust and shock. They knew about Rossi’s reputation around the BAU and they had suspected that maybe something had happened between the two but they never thought it would be true. 

“I knew it! JJ I told you they had had a thing back in the day!” Garcia yelled as Morgan, Reid and Emily looked at him with disgust. Reid looked horrified as Emily pretended to throw up at the thought while Morgan looked at him stunned.

“I respected you, Man!” Morgan yelled dramatically over the shouts and laughter. Rossi shook his head and looked at Aaron. If that was how he wanted to play it, bring it on. If Aaron was willing to hit below the belt, then he would too. That would teach Aaron to tell him something and ask to keep it secret. Even if it was something that blindingly obvious to everyone else. Except for Emily herself of course.

“Alright, you asked for it.” Rossi warned and the split second flash of panic in Aaron’s eyes told him that he knew what Rossi was going to say. Good. Rossi maintained eye contact with Aaron, letting him know the question was deliberately aimed at him. He had warned Aaron, if he wasn’t going to man up and tell Emily how he felt about her, Rossi would. 

“Never have I ever, currently right now, at this moment, been in love with someone but felt too afraid to tell her.” Rossi stated and the atmosphere in the room shifted as the others exchanged a look. Emily looked at Aaron concerned and felt her heart threaten to break as she felt a rush emotions, partially fuelled by the large amount of high percentage alcohol that she had just drank. What had Rossi meant by that? Aaron was in love with someone and was afraid to tell her? He was in love? With who? Why hadn’t he told her? Surely they were close enough for him to confide in her about it? Indeed as she watched Aaron glare at Rossi before he took a deep swig of his drink; her heart shattered.

 

He was in love with someone. 

And it wasn’t her...

Chapter Text

“I’ll be back in a minute.” Emily said as she stood up, her sense of balance slightly askew for a moment before she stepped out of the room. Aaron watched her go and turned back to Rossi and glared at him. He had seen the pain and heartbreak on her face and he knew he had to talk to her.

“Thanks a lot,” Aaron muttered as he stood up. “I’ll go talk to her.”

“Are you sure?” JJ asked Aaron. She had been the only person who Emily had confided in about how she felt about Aaron but it seemed that he had finally worked out that maybe those feelings weren’t as unrequited as he thought. Maybe it would be better if she spoke to Emily, helped clear the air before Aaron did. 

“I’m sure,” Aaron said as he left the room. Just as the door shut behind him, he could hear the others scolding Rossi for his question, however he didn’t care. All he wanted to do was to speak to Emily. He hadn’t realised that she could have felt the same as he felt for her. Now what had seemed as an impossible idea just moments ago now felt possible. If she felt what he felt then maybe, maybe it was possible. 

 

Emily wiped her eyes as she took a deep breath to try and compose herself. She knew that nothing would have ever happened between her and Aaron anyway but the fact that he had feelings for someone, that he was in love with someone, had cut her deeply. Selfishly, she had hoped that if he were to develop feelings for someone, if he were to open his heart to love again, he would develop feelings for her. They were close friends, best friends, and she knew that she hadn’t felt platonic affection for him for a very long time. Now she had to go back in there, face the others and try to act like everything was fine. Even though the fact she walked out of the room made it obvious that she had feelings for Aaron and had just made a fool of herself. 

“Emily?”  Aaron said softly as he stepped into the room and shut the door behind him. He knew that she normally liked to step outside if she needed a break but the sound of rain lashing against the windows had prevented that. Therefore he wasn’t surprised to find her in Rossi’s second lounge. The one that was usually reserved for special occasions, like Christmas and Thanksgiving. It was her second favourite spot for a moment of quiet. 

“Hey,” Emily replied as she attempted a faltering smile. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

“Actually, I wanted to talk to you,” Aaron said as he felt his stomach twist with nerves and his heart beat faster in anticipation and fear. What if he had gotten it wrong? What if she didn’t feel the same way? What if instead of being upset, she had come in here to laugh hysterically at the idea of him falling in love with someone as wonderful and perfect as her?

“Um, sure,” Emily said as she took a seat and resisted the urge to pick her nails. Here it came, he was going to tell her all about this wonderful, perfect person he had fallen for. She was undoubtedly someone who was beautiful and who Jack adored and didn’t have a messed up past like she did. “What about?”

“You know what about,” Aaron said quietly as he sat beside her. He wanted to take her hand but he didn’t know if she would pull away. He didn’t know if he could bear it if she did. He thought he knew what was going on between them. It was crystal clear to him that although he loved Emily, she didn't have feelings for him. Now however, he wasn't so sure. 

“It’s just a dumb game,” Emily dismissed weakly. “Can we talk about something else?”

“No, we need to talk about it now.” Aaron stated and gathered his courage. “I think you misunderstood.”

“No,” Emily scoffed. “I understood perfectly. You’re in love, which is great. I just don’t know why you didn’t tell me. We’re friends. Whoever this wonderful person you’re in love with is, I don’t know why you didn’t tell me about her.”

Aaron’s eyes widened in realisation. She wasn’t upset that he hadn’t told her, she was upset because she thought whoever he was in love with wasn’t her. Because she had feelings for him too. She hadn’t realised that she was the one he loved. But really, who else could he have fallen in love with? She was one of the most important people in his life, the time they spent apart when she was in hiding had been unbearable and it had only been then, when she had been in life threatening danger, that he had finally been able to accept the truth. He was in love with Emily Prentiss and now he wasn’t afraid to tell her anymore.

“You really didn’t know,” Aaron began and Emily glared at him.

“You don’t have to rub it in,” Emily muttered, the alcohol and her emotions making her feel more spiteful than usual. 

“No, that’s not what I meant,” Aaron said and took a breath. It was now or never. “The reason I didn’t tell you that I was in love with someone was, was because, well, it’s you.”

“What do you mean?” Emily asked and Aaron looked at her. There was something about those piercing dark eyes. No matter what he was feeling, no matter how well he hid it behind a stoic mask, there was something about his eyes. Honest eyes. 

“You know what I mean,” Aaron said and smiled softly as a faint blush crossed his cheeks. “You’re the person I fell in love with.”

Emily’s eyes widened in realisation as his words sank in. She studied his face for any signs of lies or falsehood. There were none. He was telling the truth. Emily sighed and covered her face with her hands.“Oh God, I am such an idiot.”

“No, you’re not.” Aaron reassured as he took her hand. “I didn’t know how to tell you, I was so sure that you could never feel even a fraction of what I feel for you.”

“Then maybe we’re both idiots because I genuinely never thought you would have feelings for me.” Emily stated wryly and Aaron chuckled softly.

“Maybe we are a pair of idiots in love,” Aaron smiled as he reached up and gently stroked her cheek, rubbing his thumb against her soft skin. Emily shut her eyes and leaned into the touch. The air felt thick with the tension between them and as they moved to close the gap between them, their lips mere millimetres apart, Aaron hesitated and moved away. 

“What ar-” Emily began as Aaron put a hand over her mouth and put a finger to his own lips.

He tilted his head towards the door and quietly stood up. With four swift, silent steps, he crossed the study. Emily stood up from the couch and stood beside him as Aaron twisted the handle and flung the door open. 

“Seriously?!” Emily asked as JJ, Garcia and Morgan fell into the room. Their ears having been pressed firmly to the door as to not miss a word. Reid and Rossi stood on the other side of the doorframe and Reid pointed at Morgan accusingly.

“It was his idea.” Reid blurted out.

“Seriously Kid?!” Morgan snapped as he pulled himself up to his feet. Aaron and Emily exchanged a look before they looked back at the team. Out of all of them, only JJ looked slightly apologetic for having been caught eavesdropping. 

“We’ll, uh, leave you alone.” JJ said as she shut the door. They could hear the sounds of the team arguing and debating over who’s fault it was they had gotten caught as their footsteps faded down the hallway. 

 

“Anyone would think that they didn’t have lives of their own,” Aaron muttered and Emily smiled mockingly.

“Clearly ours are far more interesting.” Emily teased lightly as she slipped her arms around his neck. “Now, where were we?”

Aaron laughed softly before he lowered his lips to hers. Emily could feel his hands slide around her waist and pull her closer to him. As they stood kissing, Aaron’s tongue gently pushed against her lip and Emily opened her mouth, allowing the kiss to deepen and intensify. Nothing else mattered, everything else faded away except for the two of them, in this moment, in this embrace. Everything that they had wanted to say, had needed to say, all of it had been poured into that one kiss. That perfect first kiss.

Finally, reluctantly, they broke apart and Aaron rested his forehead against Emily’s. Her cheeks were flushed pink and she looked almost bashful as she shifted slightly and rested her head against his shoulder. Aaron moved his arms to allow Emily to hug him tightly and he pressed a kiss to the top of her head. Now that he had kissed her, he never wanted to stop. In that moment he made a promise, he was never, ever , going to pass up any opportunity to kiss her. 

“What is it?” Aaron asked after a moment. He could tell she was thinking of something. He himself was wondering what was going to happen next. Was it too rash of him to ask her to stay with him tonight? Not for sex, well, it was a possibility, if she wanted it. But more because he loved the feeling of having her in his arms and he wasn’t ready to give it up yet. 

“I was just thinking,” Emily replied quietly as she grinned up at him. “Never have I ever confessed my feelings for and then kissed a team member in Rossi’s mansion.” 

Aaron laughed and grinned at her. “More than once.”

With that, he kissed her again.

Chapter Text

“That’s it,” Rossi muttered to himself as he watched Emily glance hopefully towards the door for the tenth time in the past ten minutes. They had been invited to the annual FBI formal gala and although the majority of them had decided to make it a team night out and relish the chance to get dressed up and have some fun, there was one certain member of the team who had gone AWOL. By the time the guys had left the BAU to get ready, the women having escaped hours before for their hair and make up appointments, Aaron was still determinedly burying himself in paperwork and missing the chance to see what was right in front of him. Namely the fact that there was a certain member of the team who hoped to spend the night dancing with him. 

“Where are you going?” Garcia asked as he stood up from the table. Reid had gone to the bathroom and Morgan and JJ were at the bar getting another round of drinks. 

“To fix a mess. I’ll be back.” Rossi replied as he walked out of the ballroom and removed his bow tie as he got into his car. Luckily he was prepared for such an eventuality, thanks to his secret partners in crime. The three of them knew that Aaron wouldn’t turn up unless he was dragged there by the ears so that was what he was going to do. 



Aaron flexed his fingers as he finished the most recent report he had been working on. It was his own fault for slacking off and letting the paperwork pile up but it didn’t exactly make him feel better. Especially when he had made the mistake of looking at his phone to see the photos that Garcia had already sent him. All of them were shots of the team, posing in their suits and gown, laughing, joking and having fun. Without him. 

He had felt his heart skip a beat at the sight of a photograph of Emily. Her hair was curled and styled in an updo with the curls hanging gracefully over one bare shoulder. She was wearing a one shoulder dark blue dress and looked more beautiful than ever before. He hadn’t even known such a thing was possible. 

Maybe next time, Aaron told himself. Maybe next time he would get a chance to be involved with the team’s fun. Maybe he would see how beautiful Emily looked for himself. Maybe he’d even be able to dance with her and allow himself to imagine that maybe, maybe , she would have feelings for him too. 

Yeah right, Aaron rolled his eyes inwardly. Like that was ever going to happen.

“What are you still doing here?” Rossi asked, despite knowing the answer. Aaron looked up and looked at him puzzled. The last he had seen, Rossi was at the gala with the others.

“What are you doing here?” Aaron asked in response as he resisted the urge to glance into the bullpen to see if Rossi had come alone. Not that he imagined Emily would bother leaving just to fetch him. 

“What I should have done hours ago.” Rossi replied as he threw a garment bag at Aaron. Aaron caught it and looked at it confused. He could have sworn that this was the one that hung in the back of his closet. How had-

“Did Jess put you up to this?” Aaron asked as Rossi picked up the files and carried them towards his office.

“She was involved but this was my idea. And Jack’s.” Rossi called over his shoulder. “Now hurry up and get changed. There’s a certain beautiful brunette who is waiting for you. And only you.”

Aaron looked at the garment bag and shook his head in disbelief. Firstly, he doubted that Emily was waiting for just him. Secondly, he still wasn’t finished his paperwork and if that wasn’t done, it was his ass on the line. Thirdly… 

...who the hell was he kidding?

 

In less than five minutes, Aaron had changed from the crumpled suit he had been wearing all day into the tuxedo that had been hanging in the garment bag. The last time he had worn it, it had been slightly loose. Now it seemed to fit him perfectly. Relieved that he had kept his go bag by his desk and that his favourite cologne was inside, Aaron sprayed some on and felt a flicker of excitement as he left his office. He was actually going to spend time with the team, with Emily. Sure the mountain of paperwork would still be there tomorrow but for once, he didn’t care. There was something more important he had to focus on tonight.

“Dave,” Aaron called and Rossi emerged from his office, his eyes on his phone. “What is it?”

“Just telling Garcia we’re on our way,” Rossi replied as he put his phone back into his pocket. He decided not to tell Aaron that he had made a point of telling Garcia to tell everyone but Emily that he was taking Aaron with him. Call him a romantic but he felt like the two of them needed a moment. “Come on Cinderella, you shall go to the ball.”

Aaron rolled his eyes and resisted the urge to cuff Rossi around the head. “Shut up Dave,” 



“I guess he’s not coming,” Emily said to Will as he led her onto the dance floor. Rossi had gone AWOL and they had quickly suspected that he had gone to try and convince Aaron to come and join them. However when Garcia informed them that Rossi had been unsuccessful, she couldn’t help but hide the disappointment that she had felt. Tonight wasn’t anything too special, she had been attending these sorts of events since she was a toddler, however it was the first time in what felt like forever that they had had a chance to dress up and have some fun. Despite herself, she had hoped that he would turn up. That maybe they would have a romantic moment when they were all dressed up and dancing. Yeah right. 

“The night is still young,” Will reassured as they danced. JJ was currently dancing with Morgan and Garcia had dragged a reluctant Reid onto the dance floor. They all knew that despite Aaron and Emily’s insistence that they were just friends, there was something more between them. Both were just waiting on the other to make that move. 

“Maybe,” Emily said disheartenedly. Although the team had had a fun night so far, it wasn’t the same without Aaron with them. 

“Hey what was it you told me that time in Florida?” Will asked. “Have faith and it will work out.”

Emily wanted to remind Will that back then, he and JJ had already been in a committed relationship for a year and they had all known, despite JJ’s attempts to keep it secret. However that had been when she had found him after he and JJ had argued and she had wanted to offer reassurance and support. She did appreciate the sentiment, even if her faith was a little lacking. She had worked out long ago that fairy tales had no real place in her life.

“Hey, Emily,” Will said after a few minutes of dancing together, joking around and Emily playfully teasing him. Emily looked at him as she sensed someone was standing behind her. “Have faith.”

Emily turned and beamed at the sight of Aaron standing behind her on the dance floor. A bashful smile crossed his face as he took her hand and without a word, they began to dance together. There would be time to talk later but for now, all that mattered was being in one another’s arms. Everything else faded away except for the two of them, captivated with dancing with one another. They both knew that tonight would indeed be the night that everything changed between them. They had danced together before but it had never been like this. There had never been this spark between them, this feeling of completeness. Their hands had never fit together as wonderfully as this. Their lives had never been like a fairytale before. But this, this felt very close to it. 

 

“You’re a miracle worker,” Garcia complimented Rossi as she, Morgan and Reid joined him, Will had rejoined JJ and as they danced, they looked back over at Aaron and Emily before they smiled knowingly at the rest of the team. Rossi smiled proudly as he watched his two best friends dance together and finally seem to see the light. 

“Indeed I am,” Rossi said proudly. If it meant these two finally got some damned happiness in their lives, then he was more than happy to be their fairy godfather. Not that he’d admit that.

Chapter Text

Aaron stirred awake at the sound of footsteps outside his bedroom door. Although he was still half asleep, he was aware enough to slide open the top drawer of his bedside table. Beside him, Emily stirred slightly in her sleep but slept on as the door opened. The wind howled and rain lashed against the window and as Aaron made out the small, trembling shape in the doorway, he understood. 

“Jack, are you alright?” Aaron whispered as Jack hurried to his bedside. Aaron picked him up and as he hugged his son, he could feel the dampness on his cheeks and the force of Jack’s little body shaking with sobs. 

“I had a bad dream. George was there and he found me and I shouted for you and Mommy but you didn’t come.” Jack explained tearfully, hiccupping through his sobs. Aaron rubbed his back with one hand and reached for the lamp with the other. Even before Haley died, Jack had been scared of two things; storms and the dark. As the soft light illuminated the room, Emily groaned and screwed her eyes shut tight.

“Goddammit Aaron,” Emily cursed sleepily as she yawned loudly. “Wazgoinon?”

“It’s OK Emily, Jack had a nightmare,” Aaron reassured as Jack turned his head towards Emily as she sat up in bed and rubbed her eyes. As cranky as she was at having been jolted awake, she could never feel irritated with Jack.

“I’m sorry Sweetie, I didn’t know you were here. Are you OK?” Emily asked and Jack shook his head. He gave a jump of fright at a particularly loud crack of thunder and burrowed his head into the crook of Aaron’s neck. Aaron continued to rub his back and whisper reassurances into Jack’s ear. 

“Can I sleep in your bed?” Jack asked worriedly and Aaron glanced over at Emily. Although she had only stayed the night a few times before, this was the first time Jack had joined them in the bed. At least, the first time that Aaron hadn’t had to toss him onto the bed in order to wake Emily up. 

“Of course you can,” Emily reassured as she held out her arms. Jack crawled under the duvet and nestled close to Emily. Emily wrapped her arms around him and kissed his forehead gently. “Go back to sleep. Daddy and I are here.”

“Promise?” Jack whispered and Emily felt her heart swell with love at the single word. Jack could ask her to promise him the Moon and she would find a way to remove it from the sky to give it to him as a gift. She would promise him anything.

“I promise,” Emily said as she tucked Jack into the bed and lay back down on the pillow. Jack cuddled close to Emily and as they drifted back to sleep, Aaron reached over and flicked off the lamp. 

He swallowed a hit lump in his throat as he lay back down in bed and reached an arm across in order to hold Jack and Emily close to him. He knew that Emily loved him and Jack but seeing just how much Emily adored Jack, it solidified a thought in his head that he had been considering ever since Emily had blushingly agreed to go on a date with him. 

He was going to marry her someday. He didn’t know when but he would. Someday.

Chapter Text

“What the Hell happened in here?” Emily asked as she and Reid stepped into the bullpen. Instead of the plain office they had left yesterday, it was as if they had walked into an explosion of tinsel, ribbons, twinkling lights, baubles and paper chains. 

“Garcia and JJ’s Christmas decorations.” Reid reminded her. Every year they went over the top but it seemed that this year, they had outdone themselves. Then again, compared to last year when it had been just weeks after Haley had died, anything was over the top in comparison to the sombre feelings of last year.

“It’s the first of December,” Emily reminded with a shake of her head. Apart from spending half her childhood in countries that didn’t celebrate Christmas, it was still far too early for them to be getting into the festive spirit. 

“Oh don’t be such a Grinch!” Garcia scolded as she bounded over to them, already glad in a festive jumper and a hairband with a sequined Santa hat attached. “Besides, the Boss Man said it was OK.”

“We found more decorations.” Morgan announced as he and JJ returned to the bullpen, each carrying a large cardboard box in their hands. Emily shook her head and grabbed her files and headed up to Aaron’s office. If there was one place and one person with whom she could indulge her inner Grinch, it was with Aaron in his office. 

“Hiding from the decorating committee?” Aaron asked wryly as she walked into his office. He had known better than to refuse to let Garcia spread some festive cheer in the BAU. Mainly because she had threatened to decorate his apartment if she couldn’t decorate the bullpen. It was definitely the lesser of two evils.

“That obvious?” Emily remarked. “I know they all love it but it’s too early.”

“Tell Jack that, we had to put the tree up the day after Thanksgiving and that was the latest I could get him to agree on. He wanted it the day after Halloween.” Aaron explained as he thought about the joyful look on Jack’s face as he helped to cover the tree with decorations and Aaron had lifted him to put the angel on top of the tree. 

“Yeah but he’s a kid,” Emily pointed out as both of them rolled their eyes at the sound of loud Christmas music starting to play from Morgan’s computer speakers. “This is going to be a long day.”

“It is,” Aaron said. “Let’s hope we can avoid the worst of it.”

 

For the rest of the morning, they were able to focus on catching up on their files and paperwork, all of which had accumulated over the past few weeks of back to back cases. From the bullpen, the Christmas music continued, JJ and Garcia had attempted to persuade/drag them out to help decorate the bullpen and conference room and Morgan finally getting annoyed with Reid as they untangled the lights for the Christmas tree that he wrapped Reid from head to toe in tinsel; it had seemed like a full day had passed by the time it was just lunchtime. Emily knew that JJ and Garcia were going to interrogate her later for having spent hours with Aaron in his office and although it was just to do paperwork, she knew that her two best friends would dig deeper into every word and action that she and Aaron even considered. 

“I feel like we’re about to run the gauntlet.” Emily quipped as they prepared themselves to brave the bullpen after the decorating binge. 

“Go down, get lunches, get coffee and run like Hell.” Aaron replied drolly, smiling softly to himself as Emily laughed at his comment. 

“Basically.” Emily said as she opened the door. Indeed the bullpen had somehow become even more lavishly decorated. Every window in the conference room was bedecked with baubles, ribbons and decorations. Tinsel and twinkling lights surrounded every desk and the others were fixated on both decorating the tree, including a newly-untangled Reid. 

As they reached the kitchenette and finished making their coffees, a loud shriek of delight from Garcia caught their attention. “Oh my Gosh! Emily and the Boss Man! It’s Emily and the Boss Man!”

Aaron cocked an eyebrow and Emily shrugged her shoulders at him. She stopped questioning Garcia and her actions a very long time ago. However the excited grin on JJ’s face and Morgan’s smug smirk and the slightly awkward way that Reid scratched the back of his head didn’t fill them with hope.

“Look up!” Morgan smirked. This was undoubtedly his greatest act of genius. Unlike some certain people, he didn’t tend to brag about being a genius. He simply showed he was. Namely by sticking mistletoe in strategic places to ensure his own sweet Christmas Treat but also for moments just like this. 

“Shit,” Emily breathed as she glanced up to see the white berries and green leaves that hung directly above her and Aaron’s heads. 

“It’s OK,” Aaron reassured, “You don’t have to.”

For a moment, Emily wondered if she had misheard the tone of self-deprecation in his voice and the flash of pain in her eyes made her understand. He wasn’t worried about it appearing to be unprofessional. He meant it as a reassurance that he wouldn’t force her to kiss him. Even if he wanted to kiss her. Well, she did want to kiss him, however knew that mistletoe or not, 

“It’s fine,” Emily smiled as she reached up and gently kissed his cheek. Nothing too risque or inappropriate. Just enough to be a moment between friends. 

As Emily stepped back, Aaron smiled understandingly at her, both of them with a soft blush on their cheeks. Although they still had work to do, they knew that they would talk about it later or maybe try and ‘accidentally’ find themselves under the mistletoe.

Ideally when none of the others were around.