When Aaron slams the front door shut, he knows his marriage is over. Maybe not officially, but it’s the beginning of the very end. He purposefully ignored Haley’s final ultimatum, once again choosing this job over his family. And it’s not even the hurt on her face that lingers in his mind as he throws his bag into the front seat, but the fact that he didn’t even hesitate to make the choice he did. The disintegration of their marriage has built over time, an almost natural erosion of the intimacy they’d shared in the early days. What used to be Haley’s proud acknowledgement of the challenges of his job has turned into shades of resentment. It’s a constant ebb and flow of disappointment and hurt, coupled with the challenge of being rendered a single parent not in name, but in practice. Not to mention, the cold slap in the face of her all but confirmed infidelity. That had been the final straw. The worst part is, it isn’t his marriage that he grieves anymore. Grief is reserved for his son, the one whose life will soon change drastically when the inevitable happens and the papers are signed.
Aaron can pinpoint exactly when things finally spiraled past his control, much to his chagrin. The arrival of a certain dark haired agent less than a year ago, with a box in her hands and a smile on her face. They’d met before, in another lifetime, when she was barely an adult, privileged and proud, while he struggled to be one at all, barely making ends meet but worlds happier than he is now. The turning of the tables nearly makes his head spin.
And even though Aaron knows better, he’s driving to Emily’s apartment with his foot on the gas just a little heavier than usual. It’s technically against protocol to get her address from her personnel file, but he doesn’t have to, because what he’d never tell anyone is that he’s taken her home once before. Once, early on, when she needed a ride thanks to a flat tire. Twice , if he counts the time he drove them all home from the bar after New Orleans a few months ago. He’d purposefully saved her for last, and she’d fallen asleep in the front seat after dropping a very tipsy Penelope off. Emily had blushed with embarrassment when he woke her up, her eyes glassy and ringed with exhaustion, insisting that no , she hadn’t fallen asleep, and of course not , when he suggested walking her up to her door. I can walk by myself , she’d said, stumbling on her own two feet towards her building.
There’s another secret he’d never tell a soul. He kissed her once. To be fair, she kissed him back. It had been a mistake, they’re both abundantly aware of that. But San Francisco had been hell , particularly for her - arson is never easy - and he had a front row seat to her more human side that had stayed so carefully hidden since she’d joined the team.
Aaron offered her a drink in his office upon their return, against his better judgement, when he found her in the doorway with her reports in her hands. He doesn’t tell her they’re a few days late. He’ll cut her some slack on this one. She quickly refused the drink, a nervous shake of her head, muttering something about getting home as she passed over the paperwork. “Have a good night, Sir.” The discomfort in her voice is evident, still unsure of how to read him.
“You did well in San Francisco.” It might be one of the first times he’s complimented her work, at least privately. “This wasn’t an easy case, you know.” His voice echoes through his empty office, and he can’t help but wonder how many more of these lonely nights he’ll have, just himself and a wayward custodian for company.
“None of them are,” Emily says somewhat dismissively with a wave of her hand and a nervous laugh. “But thank you.” She looks tired and drained. “I … appreciate that.”
“I was wrong, you know.” It’s about time he told her the truth. She’s more than proved herself at this point. “You are an asset to this team, Emily. Please know that.”
To his surprise, she doesn’t even crack a grin, just stares at him in surprise, waiting for him to say something else.
“And I’m sorry for not acknowledging that until now.”
She nods slowly, her eyes narrowing just enough to tell him she still doesn’t fully trust him. He can’t explain why it bothers him, or the fact he’ll think about it for hours afterward.
“I’ll walk you out.” He doesn’t have to walk her out at all, they both know this, but he does, just a few inches too close to her than he should. It’s the subtle attraction to her he feels that possesses him to do it, and before he can stop himself, right before she steps into the elevator, he wraps a hand around the back of her head and kisses her, quick and chaste, on the lips.
What he didn’t expect was for Emily to reciprocate, a hand slipping around the nape of his neck. Her lips collided against his, deepening the kiss for a moment that felt frozen in time, yet all too brief. And before he can think it through, she’s pulling away, her eyes on the ground as the elevator doors open, then close, with a metronomic chime.
He stares at the closed doors for a full five minutes after she’s gone.
They both knew it could never happen again, and it wasn’t spoken of after that. Sometimes, Aaron has to remind himself that it actually did happen, and the fact that he even thinks of it often is another issue entirely.
And all of that aside, Emily Prentiss had surprised him. He’d all but fought against her appointment to the BAU and reluctantly agreed to give her the chance she deserved, and certainly didn’t make it easy for her in the early days and weeks. It’s a twist of irony that Haley was the one who suggested he give her a chance, for the stress of being down an agent had already taken its toll on the team but mostly him. And now, he can’t imagine the BAU without her.
Aaron knew Strauss would have it in for their team after Atlanta, Manhattan, and most recently, Flagstaff. Mistakes had been made, that he wouldn’t deny. But what he didn’t see coming was that Strauss would have gone after Emily, too. Foreign Service Exam my ass, he’d thought when she came to him with the news. He swallows angrily, yet feels an undeniable surge of pride, for she’d beat Erin at her own game by resigning. Another surprise, Aaron thinks as he makes the final turn onto her street. What he’s about to do is a gamble at best and downright stupid at worst, but it doesn’t stop him from taking the five hundred steps through her building, up the stairs, until he’s standing outside her door, his knuckles tapping against the smooth metal.
Emily clearly wasn’t expecting to see him standing there. The shock on her face is evident when she opens the door, her displeasure of him being there, in her home, even more so.
“Can I come in?”
Emily says nothing but lets him through, eyeing him warily as she closes the door behind him. It’s the first time they’ve ever been alone together, besides the kiss he’s spent months trying to forget. He wonders if she remembers it too. The silence is deafening as he takes a quick look around her apartment. The view of the Capitol is impressive, he notes with interest, before turning back to face her.
“The team needs us. They’re working a case in Milwaukee.” Best to keep it simple, he thinks. The fewer questions she asks, the better . “Gideon hasn’t shown up, and don’t tell me you quit or I put in for a transfer.”
“You put in for a transfer?” She asks with disbelief, still tense.
“They’re both still hung up in the system, so technically we’re both in dereliction of duty by not being there.” He keeps his tone even, reminds himself to keep his eyes on hers instead of letting them trail over her body.
“I’m sorry,” she says pointedly. “I can’t go.”
As he expected. “Right. Sorry I barged in.”
“Wait.” Her voice pierces the air, questioning his ulterior motives. “Can I ask - why are you really here?”
There’s the long answer and the short; he knows she’ll soon figure out both, and for a moment, grapples with his words. “I think Strauss came to you and asked for dirt on me.”
Emily stiffens, her teeth biting into her lip as her foot taps against the floor nervously at the accuracy of his statement. There it is , he thinks. He guessed correctly.
“Why would she do that?”
Aaron patiently explains his theory - the culmination of the drama with Gideon and Reid, Strauss’s desire for top leadership at the bureau, and her face twists into a frown when he reaches the final blow. “I think she put you on our team, and expected something in return.
Her reticence tells him everything he needs to know. “And to your credit, you quit. Rather than whisper in her ear.”
“I told you, I hate politics,” she shoots back, her tone full of contempt.
Aaron remembers that conversation well. It was months ago, back when he was all but annoyed by her presence, unable to admit her talent at profiling and maybe that she did belong on their team, as she insisted from day one. He’d been more than dismissive of her, and yet she’d proved herself time and time again. He’d messed up, and now it’s come to a head.
“Come to Milwaukee,” he presses her, his eyes never leaving hers. The way she bites her lip tells him she’s at least considering his request. Her head tips to the side, revealing her neck, and he swallows because his throat suddenly goes dry. “I’ll make you a deal. If your bag isn’t here, packed, I won’t bug you anymore. If it is, I want you on that plane with me. One more case.”
“I already turned in my badge and gun.” She tries to push him off but he sees right through her, unwilling to leave without her.
“That’s just hardware.”
Emily eyes him suspiciously, knowing he’s won, and she silently curses him in her mind because her bag is indeed packed, on the floor in her bedroom just a few feet away. But then something else catches her eye - something she can’t miss.
“Where’s your wedding ring, Aaron?” She asks coolly, taking full notice of his bare left hand.
The use of his first name could be considered insubordination. But, technically, she doesn’t work for him anymore, having given her resignation to Strauss, and the first thing that comes to mind is how much he likes the sound of his name rolling off her lips.
Not the time, he tells himself.
“Is that why you’re taking on this case?” Emily isn’t stupid - she’s seen the signs that things at home weren’t exactly great for him. His distraction around the team, the indifference when a well-intended question about Haley or Jack was all but brushed over. It’s been like that for weeks, and she’s too astute to not have noticed.
“My marriage is over,” he confirms, the confession ringing in the air.
Emily’s eyes widen, her mouth falling open ever so slightly, at a loss for words. She says nothing, just stares at him for a few long moments, blinking in disbelief.
“It’s been over for a long time,” he adds. “But today … I left. There’s a lot to figure out but it’s done. It’s been done.”
“And you came here?” The expression on her face is one he can’t identify but isn’t sure he wants to. There’s anger and confusion, but also intrigue, as if she learned a secret she shouldn’t ever know in the first place. “Why?”
“You belong in Milwaukee. We both do.” Maybe so, but that’s not the only reason he came here today, despite what he tells himself. He knows it, and so does she.
Emily looks indignant. “But that isn't the only reason.” She’s challenging him, calling him out on what he’s denied since that night in her office, maybe even before that. “Don’t lie to me.”
“What are you talking about?” Aaron swallows nervously, doing his damn best to hide the fact that all he wants to do is exactly what he shouldn’t.
She steps towards him defiantly, deliberately invading his personal space. “I think you know.” There are a million reasons why they shouldn’t be doing this, but it’s inevitable.
He takes a step closer, the distance between them all but closed, drawing a ragged breath that matches hers. When their lips meet for the second time he knows there’s no chance of him being able to stop things, and what comes next happens before either of them have a chance to think better of it. Aaron’s hands slide into her hair as he kisses her, pulling gently to expose her neck, and he gives her a moment to breathe as he sucks a bruise right beneath her jaw. Emily’s hands push at his shoulders, an attempt to rid him of his suit jacket, and it falls to the ground in a heap at their feet. But the sudden absence of the confines of the material gives him the leverage he needs to wrap her in his arms, and he does, anchoring her against his chest as he takes her mouth again with his own. It’s dizzying, the scent of her intoxicating as he kisses her, his tongue pushing past her lips, delving into her mouth.
Except Emily isn’t passive in her response to him, her teeth clashing against his as he explores her mouth with his own. She digs her fingers into his arms, bites at his bottom lip, sweeps her tongue across his teeth, then shifts to press her mouth to his neck as his hands drift down to the hem of her blouse. Aaron pulls away, running his thumb over her lips, cupping her chin in one hand as he looks her over.
He wants to tell her she’s beautiful but he can’t form the right words, just holds her chin in one hand, pushing her hair from her face as he slips a knee between her legs, applying pressure that causes her eyes to roll back just enough that he keeps it there. The moan that escapes and the buckle of her knees are the impetus he needs to lift her up onto the counter, a pile of mail and loose papers falling to the floor along the way.
Aaron gets his hands to the openings of her blouse, pulling too hard as the fabric tears open, falling around her shoulders. It reveals a practical beige lace bra, something he’s almost surprised to see - he had her pegged as someone who only wore red. But he deftly unhooks the back clasp, letting it fall from her shoulders, and her skin flushes scarlet as she’s bared to him. As he already anticipated, she’s as beautiful, if not more so, than he imagined. He’s done that a few times over the last few months. He palms her ribs with gentle hands, much more gentle than his mouth had been just moments before, fingers dipping between the delicate bones and over soft skin. Emily mewls in his ear, her head tipped to the side as he explores her. His fingers smooth over her breasts, paying equal attention to each as he starts to kiss her again, then bends to capture one of her nipples in his mouth. Her hands grip the sides of his head, holding him in place as his teeth scrape and his tongue soothes, a rhythmic pattern of pressure that starts to blur her vision. Aaron’s hands span across the width of her back, his fingers stroking the delicate curve of her spine as Emily arches into his mouth, pressing herself against him.
“ Aaron ,” she moans, her heart fluttering against his chin, and it sounds like she’s forgotten to breathe this whole time. And when he fully stands, taking her face in his hands again, his eyes darken with lust as he kisses her, lush and full, one more time.
“Back,” he says, pushing her flat until she’s laying on the counter, hair spilling over the edge, her legs hooked over his arms. She perches on her elbows, watching him intensely with hooded eyes as he unbuttons her jeans with a deliberate slowness. His hands are steady as he drags them down over her hips and past her knees. The muscles in her stomach flutter as Aaron repositions her legs on his shoulders, carefully spreading her open to him. Emily’s back arches up even though he hasn’t even touched her as he presses kisses to the insides of her knees.
“Aaron,” she pleads again, needier this time, her eyes dark and her legs trembling on his shoulders, and when he finally touches his tongue to her clit, she doesn’t even try to muffle the sound that comes from the very back of her throat. He does it again and her hips fly up, her fingers sliding through his dark hair, then gripping his head in place. “Fuck,” Emily chokes when his tongue pushes inside of her this time, dragging her hand down her face as he continues to stroke her with his tongue languidly until her moans become constant, a beg for more. Not that she had any doubt, but he’s somehow better at this than she ever imagined.
“You should see yourself like this,” Aaron says darkly, his lips on her knee as he gives her a moment to breathe, still spread out on her counter. “You are beautiful,” he tells her and he means it, pushing her leg higher as his head ducks back between her legs, this time he sucks her clit between his lips and pushes two fingers inside of her, curling up to press against the spot his tongue had found just moments before. Emily comes almost instantly and loudly, nearly sliding right off the counter as she writhes beneath him. Aaron pulls her up to his chest, wrapping an arm around her back as she shudders against him, her skin glazed over with sweat. Emily kisses him, her hands scraping down his back as she tastes herself on his tongue, smiling into his mouth as he groans. Her arms wind around his neck, his fingers dip in the curve of her spine, a soothing comedown coupled with his voice in her ear.
Aaron is still almost fully dressed, and Emily wastes no time with the buttons of his dress shirt, almost forceful in her attempts to divest him of his clothes. “Careful,” he breathes, his hands closing around her wrists. “I only have one shirt.” He helps her get it off the rest of the way, followed by his pants and belt, and he hisses when her hand wraps around the length of him. Her own eyes widen ever so slightly, and the kiss that he presses to her forehead is reassuring as he surveys her kitchen and living room. He doesn’t want to fuck her on a counter, at least not now. “Not here,” he decides, and with more finesse than he anticipated, carefully gets her legs around his waist and lifts her up. “Bedroom?”
A jerk of her head in the general direction guides him to her room, and with her body wrapped around his, he carries her there, carefully depositing her onto her bed before he settles over her.
“Yes?” Aaron rasps, his forehead pressed against hers as her chest rises and falls in a series of breathy pants, her fingers smoothing over his cheek. Emily nods, giving him the permission he asks for, her legs closing around his hips as hovers above, lining himself up against her. The initial press of him inside, coupled with how sensitive she already is, emits a slight whimper from Emily, her eyes fluttering as she adjusts to the stretch of her body around his. It’s a few moments of complete stillness, careful kisses and gentle touches, his body spread over hers. It takes most of his effort to remain still, giving her those few moments.
“God,” Emily breathes a few long seconds later, when he’s fully seated, her eyes locked on his. At her insistence he moves, a series of tentative thrusts that only leave her needing more, her legs tightening around his back to keep him as close as possible. He begins to thrust faster, every drive of his hips pushing her higher and him too.
“You feel amazing, Emily,” he encourages as her hips meet his thrusts, a rhythm that comes almost easily to them both. “So fucking good.” His movements become erratic as he nears the end, but he’s determined for her to go first. “Come for me,” he murmurs into her ear, lifting her legs over his shoulders in one smooth motion. The change of angle nearly sucks the air right out of her lungs. “Come on,” he coaxes one more time with a firm push of his hips. “One more time.”
Emily gasps then curses faintly when she finally clenches around him, Aaron sealing his mouth over hers to stifle the scream that would most definitely be heard by anyone in the apartment next to hers. The sensation of her fluttering around him, moaning his name, her nails scraping down his back are enough for him to follow suit, and he kisses her once more before tipping over the edge too, spilling into her with a groan.
Aaron buries his face in her chest, Emily’s hands hold his head in place, for another few peaceful moments, ones that will soon vanish.
When it’s over, Aaron can’t help but feel inordinately guilty. He isn’t exactly sure why, but the voice in the back of his mind tells him he fucked this up, royally. Not because of what might wait for him beyond the confines of her apartment, but because now she’s a part of the mess he’s in, whether she likes it or not. Just add it to the list.
This shouldn’t have happened, he thinks as they search through the pile of clothes on the floor - some his, some hers - and it’s an awkward, side-stepping dance around one another, the first of many.
“You ruined my shirt, you know.” Emily holds up the torn halves of her red blouse, covering herself with her other free hand. Her skin is still flushed, her hair askew, and he wants to tell her she has other things to worry about right now than a torn shirt. Like the rapidly forming bruise on her neck, thanks to his teeth, or the scrapes that undoubtedly mar the smooth skin of her back, because he’d gone a little too far. It’ll be hard to explain that bruise (and any others that might appear) once they get to Milwaukee.
“You mean to tell me you don’t have another one?” Aaron quips, busying himself with fixing his suit jacket, fastening his belt, taking note of his own appearance in the mirror. There’s a small bite mark on his neck that’s easily hidden by his collar, and a few on his shoulders. She’d given as good as she got, clearly.
Yet no one will suspect a thing. As it should be.
Emily scoffs, rolling her eyes as she disappears into her room, grumbling about it being an expensive shirt, but he barely hears her. Instead, the events of the last half hour replay on loop in his mind, one he won’t forget for quite some time. The tension between them hangs in the air even after the bathroom door closes, the sound of the shower permeating his thoughts.
This all just got a hell of a lot more complicated, and it’s just the beginning.
“Don’t we have a plane to catch?” Emily impatiently taps her foot against the floor a half an hour later, dressed in different clothes - a pink shirt and a different pair of jeans. The marks on her neck are covered, he notices. Somehow he still manages to stare at her, despite his best intentions not to. “Or are you just going to sit there thinking about how you just fucked me for the next thirty minutes?”
By the time Aaron has processed what she just said, she’s already halfway out the door of her apartment, and all he can do is follow her to the car.
As he expected, Milwaukee is a mess. Strauss’s presence doesn’t make anything easier, and he certainly wasn’t expecting Emily to take matters into her own hands and almost get herself killed at the hands of Joe Smith. But it’s what happens, and less than twenty-four hours after showing up in her apartment, he watches from a safe distance as a paramedic cleans and dresses the wound on her forehead.
“How’s your head?”
“I’ll live,” Emily says with a wince. It doesn’t take a genius to know she’s lying right through her teeth, because she’s clearly in pain, not that she’d ever admit it. “But is it weird I’m glad to be back?”
“I’ll make sure it stays official.” It’s all he can say with the rest of the team hovering close by. He makes a mental note to order her to get medical clearance before she returns to the field as he moves closer to Strauss. She’s clearly ready with a few choice words of her own, having watched them all like hawks as Joe Smith was led away in handcuffs, his son in the back of a police car. There isn’t much to convince themselves this was a win. It’s anything but that - women murdered, a child’s life forever changed. Not at all a win. In fact, it feels like a loss.
As if today couldn’t get any more complicated.
Aaron drives her back to her apartment, because once they get back to Quantico, Emily realizes she has no other way of getting home. She’s taking out her phone to call a cab when he’s at her side, a gentle hand pressed to the small of her back with an offer to drive.
It makes her flinch and yet she’s too tired to turn him down; the thought of riding in the backseat of a bumpy cab down 95 makes her stomach churn. So she agrees reluctantly, and sits as far away from him as she can in the passenger seat of his sedan. And history repeats itself once again when she firmly refuses his offer to help her get settled.
Not a chance , she thinks, her mind flashing back to the events of the day before. She’s smart enough to know it’s only a matter of time before it happens again.
Emily showers and changes into sweatpants, being careful to avoid irritating the wound on her forehead. It still hurts; she knows it will for a few days, and that doesn’t begin to cover the headache that throbs through her temples. Only when she’s taking another dose of Advil does she hear the knock at the door.
A glance through the peephole makes her blood pressure rise. “What are you doing here?” She sighs tiredly. “You came all the way back to check on me? I told you, I’m fine . I have a headache. I will live.”
“I never left.” Aaron says honestly and simply, shifting from foot to foot outside her door. He feels exposed, scrutinized under her gaze.
“You’ve seriously been waiting outside my door all this time? You don’t think that’s a little … invasive?” She sounds annoyed and rightfully so. He has no right to be there in the first place. Just because they fucked once and kissed twice doesn’t give him those privileges.
His jaw flexes, a hand runs through his hair. “I sat in the car for a little while.” Admitting it sounds a lot worse than he anticipated. In fact, she looks downright annoyed at his revelation. “Can I come in? Please?”
And for the second time she relents with a heavy sigh, letting him past. “Fine. What the hell is going on?”
“Are you sure you’re okay?” He stands a little closer than he did before, reaching out with an unsteady hand to touch the gauze pad on her forehead. “I was worried … I am worried.”
“I’ve had concussions before,” she tells him curtly. “This is no different.”
“Then you should know you shouldn’t be alone.”
Emily laughs bitterly, now fully aware of his intentions. “And you think you’re going to stay here? Keep me company?” She waits, her hands on her hips with a shake of her head. “Or are you here because you can’t go back home?”
Aaron opens his mouth to speak, attempting to smooth things over because clearly something has changed since Milwaukee, but she cuts him off again.
“No. I can’t do this. I’m not your rebound until you figure things out.” Her eyes flash with anger, maybe even a touch of regret, which only makes him feel worse about it all. Maybe it should never have happened in the first place.
“There’s nothing to figure out,” he attempts weakly. “That’s not what I -”
“You need to figure things out with your wife, Aaron. What happened between us was a mistake. One we’re equally responsible for. But it cannot happen again.” She folds her arms over her chest, already going for the door to throw him out.
“Emily - “
“Go home, Hotch . I’ll see you tomorrow.” While she wears a brave face, there’s no hiding the disappointment in her eyes, the subtle hurt she undoubtedly feels at knowing all of this was never supposed to happen. Only then does it come to him that maybe, just maybe, she wanted it just as much as he did, and knows it can never be. “And don’t worry. The secret is safe with me.”
He’s about to object - to tell her what he should have already said - when the door slams in his face.