The only time Aaron Hotchner had kissed Emily had been out of desperation. And out of love. Because he loved her. Must have been the irony of life that he had needed the desperation to bring up the courage to finally kiss her. He wondered, if he would ever be that brave again.

Maybe he could kiss her after they found his family

He couldn't forget about her words and that sweet look on her face. He had wanted to kiss her right then and there, but he had wanted their next kiss to be about them. He had wanted her to have no doubt about his intentions the next time.

But things didn't turn out like they both had hoped.

He had his son back, thank god, a god he wasn't even sure he believed in, but Jack was alive and save.

But a month ago he had buried his ex-wife. Haley was dead. He still had trouble believing that, he still wished he'd wake up and it'd all be a bad dream. He wished, Jack still had his mother. Jessica was great, but … He just wished that Haley was still alive. Even though their marriage had been over, he still loved her.

That had been one of the toughest lesson life had taught him so far. Sometimes you love somebody and then your love changes. When he first had met Haley he had been so sure that she would be the love of his life. The marriage with her had made him a better man and the day Jack had been born had been the happiest of his life and he would always, always love Haley for giving birth to his son. But things had changed in their relationship. He hadn't been able to make her happy an longer, so she had asked for a divorce. To be honest, she hadn't been able to make him happy as well. He still had loved her dearly, but it had not been the same kind of love. He had felt relieved when the divorce papers got delivered to him. He had felt free. Free of the guilt that always laid on his shoulders whenever he had to take a case, to save lives, knowing that Haley would disapprove of his leaving. And he had felt ashamed because of that.

And then there was Emily. Sometimes it felt like she understood him in a way that Haley never could. With Emily he never felt ashamed of the fact that he loved his work and that he was good at it too.

Three days ago he had started working again and he was already staying late to catch up with the paperwork. With a sigh Hotch put the last report for the evening in its folder. When he looked up he saw Emily standing in the doorway to his office.

"You look tired," she said.

"I am." He smiled thinly. Tired was a kind word to describe his state. Truth was, he was overwhelmed. Haley was dead, he was a single parent and he couldn't stop thinking about that woman in front of him. He wanted to be with her. And he wanted her to be happy. He just doubted that he could have both. His life was such a mess. He was such a mess.

"I could drive you home," Emily offered.

Hotch shook his head. "That's not necessary. But thanks for the offer."

He had expected her to leave now, but she stayed put and watched him closely.

"I'm here, if you need me," she said. Times like today, Emily understood him better than he'd liked.

"I know." He gulped dryly. She always managed to make him feel less alone. "Thank you."

"You're welcome."

He remembered what she had said the day after he had kissed her. That he should be careful with her, because she would cling to the hope. He didn't want to hurt her. He should tell her she wouldn't need to do that, he should set her free, but he was too selfish. As long as she kept coming to him, he wouldn't sent her away.

"I've nothing to offer to you," he said. He wouldn't send her away but he needed to warn her.

Emily narrowed her eyebrows. "That's not true."

"My ex-wife got killed by the psychopath that stabbed me. My son is traumatized. I haven't figured anything out."

"You don't need to get through everything on your own." Emily took a step into his office. "Repeating myself here," she said, "but: I'm here."

"Why aren't you with a nice guy, instead of watching after me?"

Emily shrugged. "You are kind and smart and I always feel saver when you're around, even in the days where you were still deciding if you liked me or not. You calm me and sometimes you're the only person that I feel connected to. With you I feel more like myself." She sounded so calm and reasonable as she said that.

His insides clenched. "Even now?" he asked.

"Even now."

He was in pain now. The pain you feel when you were completely frozen and your body finally starts to warm up again. He wanted to stand up and press himself against her so her warmth would melt the rest of the ice inside him. He longed to kiss her. Still he hesitated. "I don't know if I can give you what you deserve."

Emily sighed. "I worry about you, you know that? I know you can't see that right now but you're great with Jack. It's so good to have you back at work, you're always there when you are needed. I wish you would take better care of yourself."

He could just stare at her. She was perfect. He wondered how he had deserved to have such a beautiful person in his life.

"I'm not here to make demands, Hotch."

He took a breath. "You're too good for me."

"Probably."

They both smirked at her remark. He loved her sense of humor as well. Her ability to take the tension out of serious situations.

"Do you sometimes think about that conversation in my apartment, about our kiss?" he asked. He knew, it was insecure and selfish, but he wanted to hear that if he would try, she would still allow him to kiss her. Maybe then he could stop being a coward. Right now he felt just desperate enough.

"Of course." For the first time this evening she avoided his gaze. "I won't make demands, Hotch. I meant it."

He stood up and walked to her. When he touched her arm, she looked at him again. In the heels she wore, she was as tall as he.

"You saved me that day," he said quietly. "You are the only one I feel connected to and without you I would've given up."

She inhaled and stepped into his personal space. "Kiss me", she said.

He rubbed her arms with both hands. She felt so soft and he wanted to comply so badly. "I want you to be happy and I don't know if I can give you that."

Her hands clasped around his elbows.

"You still don't get it," she said. "I love you." She leaned her forehead against his. Her breath felt warm on his skin. This was surreal.

He felt warn and connected and hopeful. So very hopeful. "I love you too." His hands wandered to her back and he pulled her closer.

"Then kiss me." Her arms sneaked around his neck, her nose brushed against his.

He tilted his head slightly and their lips met. Her mouth was just as soft as he remembered. He felt her arms tighten around him as she opened her mouth to his. She was so sweet and wonderful and maybe they had a chance.

The second time Aaron Hotchner kissed Emily Prentiss was about hope.

o0o

"I have found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love." Daphne Rae

o0o

Finally completed! Took me long enough, I know.
It gave me a bit of trouble and I had to rewrite it twice. I'm still a bit unsure about it.
I hope, you guys like the ending. If you could spare the time, I'd love to hear your thoughts on it!

Thanks to Firefly1228 for pointing out a few mistakes!