A/N: Hi, guys! So, here it is – the third and final chapter. Considering that we all know PB will leave CM (at least as a regular cast member), writing this felt different. Like the last scene that's (probably) not meant to be. I hope most of you appreciate Emily's choice in this story. After pondering other options, I eventually sticked with the one I had in mind right from the beginning.
Again thank you so much for your alerts and your reviews. Since I unfortunately didn't find the time to get back to all of you who reviewed the last chapter individually, let me send virtual hugs to all of you lovely reviewers in this way:
greengirl82, NicknHotchfan, Danzjaron, TigerLily888, skinnymini01, Ncisluver, Yovillelova, Au Hunter, emmasong95, History05, anon, Rugbygirrl, starryeyes12, HGRHfan35, believesvueo, FannyK, Catulicious, lou3174
Of course, I'm especially eager (and nervous, always nervous) to read what you think about the last chapter. So, please, please, please R&R.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Criminal Minds is owned by CBS. But if someone of TPTB wants to pick up the idea of this story to write Prentiss out of the show, I'm open to negotiation – just drop me a line. :)
They sit side by side on the floor, backs against her sofa that is piled high with boxes and stuff waiting to be packed.
Stay with me...
After Hotch's offer, if you may say so, Emily at first stared at him perplexedly and in disbelief. Then she walked over to her cupboard, took out a bottle of wine and two glasses and handed one of the glasses over to him wordlessly. She poured the wine, and they had just half-drunk the first glass standing, an awkward silence surrounding them, when Emily suddenly moved away from him at a brisk pace and turned off the lights. The huge windows in her apartment let in enough light from outside so that Hotch could still make out the furniture and her outline, but he couldn't distinguish the exact facial expression anymore. Probably that was the point. She gestured toward her sofa and told him to sit down on the floor in front of it because this way they had at least a backrest. All the seats in her apartment were piled high with stuff, and obviously she had no intention to put some of the boxes away so that they could make it themselves more comfortable. So they just sat there on the floor, the awkward silence lingering on for a couple of minutes, until Hotch picked another random memory. He started to talk, and to his surprise she joined in. He remembered this. She remembered that. And they talked, shared the memories, and it felt good. No one mentioned that she still owed him a response.
It probably is way beyond midnight by now. The lazy tiredness in his body tells Hotch that it has to be late or early, depending on your point of view. He has lost his track of time, but it doesn't matter. It is one of Jack's nights with Jessica, and Hotch doesn't have to worry about his son. He could sit here all night and talk to Emily although he knows that his legs and back will hurt in the morning due to the unaccustomed and slightly uncomfortable posture. Or he could close his eyes and just listen to her – her words, her soft voice. It simply feels right and good to be here.
The awkward tension between them vanished into thin air. Everything about their current situation oozes comfortableness. They sit closer to each other than before. Their bodies almost touch. He can feel the warmth of her skin.
"The bottle is empty. I'll get us another one," Emily stands up, struggles a little in the middle of the movement and supports herself against the sofa behind him. Suddenly she is so close that he could kiss her, her hair brushing his face, and he smells her perfume or maybe just her. Hotch doesn't know, and it doesn't matter. It makes him lightheaded and dizzy anyway. Then she is gone, and the air feels cold.
She comes back with a fresh bottle that she hasn't opened yet. "Do you want another glass of wine?" she asks, about to open it. But she stops when he doesn't answer. "Or do you want to go home?" Is this wistfulness in her voice? Does she really want him to stay that much? Or is she just trying to delay the inevitable? Her response.
Emily sits back down next to him and puts the unopened bottle away. "Do you?" she repeats her question. "Want to go home that is?" Let alone that he would have to call a cab. Hotch is not drunk, but there is too much alcohol in his blood. He shouldn't drive anymore. Neither of them should. She isn't drunk either, but they both had their fair share of wine. Save that she doesn't have to go anywhere. There is a soft bed waiting for her somewhere in her apartment. Suddenly Hotch becomes very aware that they are alone in her apartment. At night. In the dark. Sightly drunk. His skin starts to prickle in anticipation of...
"Hotch?" she interrupts his reverie. "Have you fallen asleep?" She is trying to make a joke, but he can hear the slight insecurity in her voice. Sharing the memories was safe ground, but every deviation immediately leads onto rough terrain.
"No," he speaks quietly, but his voice is still too loud in the silent room. "No," he repeats and touches her arm to enforce his words. "I haven't fallen asleep although I have to admit that I'm a little tired, and I don't want to go home. But I think we should quit the wine for tonight. Or at least I should since I'm not used to it." Emily freezes, and first Hotch considers it to be an odd reaction to his words until he realizes that he never touched her before. She is not reacting to his words. She is reacting to the physical contact. This is the first time. He is the unit chief and always keeps the distance, watches the other team members hug and squeeze when one of them celebrates his or her birthday but never participates. Therefore he never embraced her, never touched her before, doesn't know what it feels like to hold her.
"When Reid and you came out of the compound alive, I was so relieved and wanted to put my arms around you so badly...," his voice trails off as he remembers the moment. Her battered face, the blood on her clothes, the extensive bruises he knew had to be all over her body because they all had heard how Cyrus had beaten her up badly.
"Then why didn't you?" Emily doesn't seem to mind the change of subject. Her question, however, is rhetorical. Hotch didn't embrace her simply because he is like that.
"Didn't want to scare off Reid by pulling him into a hug," despite the rhetorical question Hotch's answer is surprisingly witty, and Emily chuckles only to catch her breath suddenly.
Hotch notices that he unconsciously started to caress the bare skin of her lower arm where he touched her. It's an almost innocent contact, and yet he feels as if he's on fire. And she seems to feel the same, considering her reaction. He looks at her and even if he still can only see her outline, he can make out that she is also looking at him, her mouth slightly open. And when her tongue slips over her lips – a habit she most likely is not even aware of, but one he knows too well – he feels a traction in his groin and lets his hand slip in a sudden brave move to her stomach.
This time he thinks she has stopped breathing completely until he feels how she covers his hand with hers. He expects her to pull his hand away, to tell him to stop, but she just leaves her hand there.
"I didn't embrace you after Cyrus because if I had... I don't know what my reaction would have been," Hotch admits hoarsely after a moment. Somehow it seems to be the right time for this confession. "I had been so scared for your lives, Reid's and yours, and the physical contact combined with the emotional relief – I shied away from that. Call me a coward."
"Well, then you can call me a coward, too," Emily responds after a brief thoughtful pause. "I turned off the lights because I couldn't look at you after... what you said to me."
Stay with me...
She feels his hand twitch under hers, but he stops himself from pulling it back. His posture has to be uncomfortable by now. He leans forward to be able to touch her but had to stop halfway because otherwise his body would be pressed against hers. Somehow this uncomfortableness represents their relationship. Sometimes they were almost halfway there, but neither of them followed through with it and made the first move.
Except that Hotch now knows how her skin feels and how her breath changes when he touches her. He has crossed more than one line tonight, and on the spur of the moment he decides that he will cross another line if she lets him.
The darkness prevents Hotch from looking directly into her eyes. He is pretty sure, though, that he would find confirmation in there that what he is about to do is what she wants, too. He also is pretty sure that Emily Prentiss would have taken over control in a situation like this with any other man by now, but she won't do this when it comes to him. He messed things up, and he has to make it up to her. He has to make the first move.
Hotch closes the distance between them and kisses her. What starts softly and cautiously, becomes a fervent duel of their mouths and tongues at a great pace. Only when he feels her body pressed against his at full length, he realizes that he has pushed her down on the floor and is already half on top of her.
"Hotch...," Emily holds him back softly. "Before we do this, please know that this has nothing to do with my decision. This is now. This is tonight. And I want it. But if you're rushing things in a desperate attempt to..."
He stops her words with another kiss. As much as he needs to know what her answer will be, she is right. This is now. This is tonight. And for a while they don't talk anymore. And eventually Hotch experiences what it feels like to hold her, to touch her, to make love to her.
Hotch leaves Emily's apartment at first light. His suit is crinkled, and he can't remember having such a severe lack of sleep in... he doesn't know how many years. At least he is not hungover. They didn't drink that much. He stops by at home to change clothes and when he arrives at the office – a little later than usual but not too late so that the other team members don't notice anything – Emily is already there. The night without sleep obviously hasn't affected her at all. She looks fresh and well rested, but perhaps an inner glow can fake that.
"Oh, Hotch," she follows him when he walks up to his office as if she has something important to tell him. And in a way she has.
Once they are in his office, he turns around to face her, and she closes the door. "Come here," she whispers, and he steps closer to her so that they are both standing right behind the door, and no-one is able to see them through the blinds that are still open. This sudden familiarity is surreal, even more so considering that she just yesterday handed over her resignation to him right here. When Hotch looks at her, he sees his insecurity and self-consciousness reflected in her eyes.
"So... is there a chance that you don't have to work overseas?" he asks in a low voice – on one hand to distract himself or rather his body from her nearness and on the other hand because he simply has to know.
Last night she made a decision. In a way they decided together. She will leave the BAU and take the new job offer as painful as it will be for them not to work together anymore. But staying with the BAU would create the same cycle over and over again, they agreed on this. There might be a chance that she won't have to work overseas or at least only for a short time. Foreign affairs provided several options when they offered her the job, and Emily took the one that would bring her as far away as possible from Hotch. Now things have changed. Perhaps she can even stay in Washington. The team still won't be happy with it, but at least she'll be around so that they don't lose their friend, too. Emily will tell them as soon as she leaves Hotch's office.
"Yeah," she nods and smiles, finally answering Hotch's question. "I called them as early as the etiquette allows it, and it looks good. Either it is three months overseas before I can come back, or I can directly start here. At least I won't have to work abroad for extended periods of time."
Three months... Hotch has to swallow. "Three months is a long time, and I don't know whether the upcoming cases will allow me to visit you in between," he voices his thoughts.
"Hotch...," Emily grabs the lapel of his suit and pulls him closer. She acts cool and almost unaffected but when he leans against her, he feels her heart race beneath her sheer blouse. "We waited more than five years for this. I think we can wait another three months if need be."
This causes him to raise an eyebrow, "You call last night waiting?"
Her lips brush against his as an answer, and he hisses and pulls back because if he gives in, he will not care whether the damn blinds are shut or not.
"We are really doing this, right?" she sighs, every word a soft breath, and Hotch's thoughts wander back to last night, to a situation in which he also felt her breath on his skin.
Stay with me...
After they made love and dozed off for a short time, she eventually responds to him.
"Does your offer still hold?" Emily asks partly seriously, partly joking, her head resting in the crook of his arm, their limbs entangled, a blanket covering their bodies. They are still on the floor, never made it to her bed. Not even the second time. "Or is it obsolete now that you got what you wanted?"
Of course, her last addition is nothing but a joke. One, though, Hotch isn't able to laugh about. "Don't say that," he replies almost angrily. "Never say that."
He is greeted with silence and almost fears that his reaction alienated her. Then he realizes that she is composing herself for whatever she is about to tell him and tenses up. She won't tell him no, will she? Not after tonight?
But then he hears her voice, almost inaudible, a wisp of wind – barely noticeable on his skin and yet tantalizing, " Well, if your offer still holds, then I guess I won't turn you down."
And just like that everything is different; everything is possible.
Hotch realizes that he hasn't answered Emily's question. With all the memories and flashbacks this is really becoming a bad habit because he doesn't want to give her the wrong impression.
We are really doing this, right?
He remembers the first time he saw her in his office. How he told her that there had been a mistake. That she wasn't supposed to join the team. How easily none of this could have happened.
For five years they have been walking on eggshells, denied their feelings, made their lives unnecessarily complicated when this only has been a heartbeat away.
"Yes, we are," he responds softly. After all there is really nothing else left to say.
Writing (and especially finishing) this story made me sad and happy at the same time.
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