Never Gonna Be The Same
By Meowser Clancy
Kate felt completely at a loss when Hotch called her into his office. They'd just wrapped up a tough case, and she was just trying to get everything together so she could go home.
So they could go home. He'd given her a key to his apartment, something she knew was a huge step. She usually didn't go over if he had Jack; he was taking baby steps this time around because of how things had ended with Beth, and he really didn't want to introduce another woman to Jack unless he was really sure they'd work out.
Which Kate understood. She definitely would never introduce Hotch as her boyfriend to Liz and Joe unless they were in a serious, committed relationship.
Well. They'd never had that talk. They'd been…hanging out for six months. Low key and casual. Not many 'real dates'. While Kate loved romance in theory, she didn't find it necessary in real life, and she'd just let them coast. They'd go to his place after a tough case, have a glass of wine. More often than not they ended up in bed together, and more often than not Kate ended up staying the night. Staying the night and getting served breakfast in bed, be it pancakes or just a yogurt if they were in a hurry.
Hotch always tried to treat her. And she just always tried to be there for him, even if he never fully opened up. She always just wanted to present herself as a person he could trust, someone he could open up to, someone he could lose control in front of. Someone with who he could let that hard façade slip, just a bit.
She'd let him in. After one case involving a girl that looked so much like her niece Meg, and after they hadn't been able to save her in time…
That had been a rough night. Hotch had been there for her, all through the night. They'd even broken their rules; he'd let her into his hotel room since they were still on the case. She remembered that night as a changing point, because he'd never let her that close before, even when they had sex.
She'd spent the whole night just in his arms. They'd tried to find a funny movie to watch on the TV, but she'd ended up crying at just past 2 a.m. Everything came to a head and she couldn't keep it back anymore.
And after that, Hotch had let his guard down. Or that's what she'd thought. He'd quietly announced to the team that he and Kate were 'pursuing the possibility' of a relationship, and asked for space. She remembered clinging to his arm and just beaming up at him, as the team reacted with kindness and love.
In this moment, though, with Hotch waiting for Kate to come up to his office, four months later, she could only remember what they hadn't said.
She didn't remember JJ saying they could go on double dates now, she didn't remember Rossi slyly promising a bottle of his finest vintage, she didn't remember Reid's shy hug or Morgan's booming laugh, and Garcia squealing, applauding and announcing that she'd been dying for them to out themselves.
She remembered the silence, after she and Hotch had left the round table room. She'd doubled back to grab a file, and everyone sitting there had been so silent, sober faced, not saying anything and not really making eye contact.
She was a profiler. She knew what that meant.
They didn't think this relationship would last. They knew Hotch so well, and for some reason, they couldn't see him working out with Kate.
The next few months hadn't been what Kate had expected. It was like before then, they'd been on some sort of honeymoon period. The relationship was new, the hormones were strong, and they were living on the highs. On the moment when Hotch had lifted her onto the kitchen counter and they'd just made out in her kitchen, losing themselves in the moment, until they were dizzy, out of breath, clutching at each other and unable to form words.
But now that they were 'out', so to speak, Kate could feel things change. She'd expected to do things as a couple now, even if they had never had that defining conversation, even if she'd never pushed it.
They still didn't go out. More often than not, they just went to his apartment. Buying wine together at the grocery store always felt so exhilarating, because it was one of the rare times they were together in public. Hotch would slowly reach for her hand, put his hand on the small of her back while they walked in together, he'd place his hand on her neck while they searched for a bottle…
When they were in public together, he became all hands. Not in an inappropriate, sloppy teenager way, but in a protective, claiming way. He was always announcing to the world that she was his, and to keep away.
But they never had a real date. Even on the date she called their six month anniversary, from when they'd first kissed, admitted feelings, nothing. He'd brought her flowers, came over to her apartment surprising her, and he'd brought dessert, and he'd made dinner for her. It had been an amazing evening, full of great tastes and lots of kissing on countertops.
And then this past month since then…things were off.
He was quiet. He didn't move to sit next to her on the airplane anymore; he was distancing himself and she couldn't figure out why. She wondered if it was because a higher up had said something about keeping things professional; she ended up never saying anything because it was just such a small thing; why let it bother her?
Kate stood up, feeling Reid's eyes on her. She could see Rossi in his office, mid phone conversation, suddenly stop talking and look over to where Kate was now standing. She could feel everyone's eyes on her, and she hated it. She hated being the center of attention, and she hated why.
They knew what was coming. They knew Hotch better than she did.
She finally walked to Hotch's office. The team's pity around her felt palpable, like a sticky cloud. She fought through it, twisted his doorknob open. He was standing there, and he waved her inside.
"Callahan," he said, clearing his throat. "I find myself at a crossroads, and I was trying to make this decision without worrying you, but that was wrong of me, first of all. And second of all, I can't make this decision."
"Hotchner," she replied, voice stiff, having no idea what to do after he'd addressed her like that. "Please, tell me your problem."
The office door swung shut behind her, and his blinds were closed. Hotch suddenly stepped forward, pressed her against the door, and kissed her. She kissed back without a thought, tasting him, breathing this moment in, because she could tell it would be over as quickly as it had started.
Indeed, Hotch was pulling away, looking down at her, so serious. "Either I have to resign, you have to resign, or we have to break up," he said, all in a rush. "And none of those are options."
"Yes, one is," Kate said. "I'll resign. Andi would take me back in a heartbeat, and I suppose we should have seen this coming. I just thought they okayed it."
"They did, originally," Hotch said. "But I suppose something happened in another department and while we could be dating if I stepped down as Unit Chief, they don't want superiors dating agents. But Kate, I can't let you do that."
"Let me?" She asked wryly. "When have I ever waited for you to let me do something?"
His lips twitched. "Kate, I-"
"Seriously, Aaron," she whispered, placing a hand flat on his chest. "I can go back to Andi's team, and guess what? Our relationship will be stronger for it. We can make this work."
He lifted one of her hands, pressing a kiss to it. "Have I ever said I love you, Kate Callahan?" He whispered, the words fervent. "Because I do."
"You haven't," she said, her lips curving in a smile. "But I love you too."