Title: For the First Time
Type: Criminal Minds, Hotch/Prentiss.
Spoilers: Up to 6X18 Lauren
Disclaimer: I own nothing but an over-active mind and a verging-on-pathetic love for the H/P ship lol.
Summary: Post-Lauren (quite a while afterwards), inspired by the song “For the First Time” by The Script. First attempt at writing this fandom.
A/N: I didn’t actually want to write this fic myself, because I’m not entirely sure I’m well immersed enough in the fandom yet to realistically write the characters, but I threw the idea out there and didn’t get any takers so I figured I’d better suck it up and write it myself. So that is my defence if this sucks serious ass lol. Hopefully it’s not too bad. Special thanks to floatingamoeba for putting our ship differences aside to hold my hand through this lol and be the best beta ever. You always know what little things will make it sound so much better. -hugs-
She's all laid up in bed with a broken heart
While I'm drinking Jack all alone in my local bar
He stared into his glass as he pondered the woman who seemed to dominate his thoughts. Ever since her return, he had been conflicted about what to do when it came to her. As he had expected, Emily had quickly thrown herself back into work, and looking at the surface, an outsider would believe that everything had gone back to the way it was before.
But he knew better, and the team knew better. To a group of profilers, the subtle changes in her behaviour were obvious. She was quiet and withdrawn, spending little time with them outside of work. She wasn’t sleeping well, she was losing weight, and she was always on edge. Hotch drained the remaining whiskey from his glass. They had decided as a group not push her, to let her compartmentalize and deal with what happened in her own way. She would come to them when she was ready to talk.
Then one week became a month, and one month became three, and Emily had yet to tell a single one of them anything about her time away. He knew some of them were a little hurt that she wasn’t willing to confide in them yet, when they had once been so close. Hotch was more concerned that she was never going to open up. She went to her required sessions with the bureau psychiatrist – at least that was something – but the updates he received only confirmed her silence. Even there, within the walls of confidentiality, she would only talk about the here and now.
A frustrated sigh tore from his lips. What if it started to affect her work? How long could he bury his head in the sand before it was time to intervene? And if she did tell someone, could he handle knowing? What would he do if she never gave the answers up?
These were the questions that led him to this bar after every finished case to try and drown them out.
It was a losing battle, but at least he knew how to fight it.
She needs me now but I can't seem to find a time
Another two weeks passed with no change. He could feel the tension rising in the group as they grew more anxious to approach her and she, sensing the change in dynamic, further distanced herself from her BAU family. Naturally, Garcia had taken this the hardest. Having originally planned drop-by visits, they had all encouraged her to stick to phone calls, even if they ended in less than a minute and were mostly just pleasantries.
But today, each and every one of them, starting with Reid and ending with Dave, had stopped by his office to express concern and seek reassurance that they were doing the right thing. He took that as his official cue to intervene. This was eating away at their team and it was only a matter of time before it broke them.
He made his routine stop at the bar after leaving work, needing a drink to soothe his uneasiness. This was definitely not a conversation he wanted to have. He didn’t even know what he was going to say...assuming that she actually opened the door to let him say something. With a sigh, he looked down at his watch. One measly glass of whiskey had taken a ridiculously long time to drink. Clearly this was procrastination at its best.
No, he admonished himself, no more putting this off. Like it or not, this was happening tonight.
Someone help us ‘cause we're doing our best,
Trying to make it work but man these times are hard
Even though she was awake, the knock at the door startled her and sent her heart rate skyrocketing. She wasn’t expecting anyone, especially not this late. The visitor knocked again and she took a deep breath, reaching for her gun before climbing out of bed. Reaching the front door, she stood to one side, gun ready, and called out in what she hoped was a calm tone.
“Who is it?”
Hotch frowned at the nearly imperceptible quiver in her voice. “It’s me.”
Sighing heavily, she leaned back against the closed door. “I’m fine, Hotch.”
“Open the door.”
“Did Garcia put you up to this? She already called four times tonight.”
“No one put me up to anything. Now open the door. Please.”
Emily groaned, “Hotch, I’m fine. Just go home.”
“I’m already here and I’m not leaving unless you let me in.”
The silence stretched on, and he was just about to ask if she was still there when he heard the sound of a lock turning and a chain sliding. But the door remained closed. Tentatively, Hotch reached out and turned the knob, gently swinging the door open to step inside and closing it quietly behind him.
He spotted her sitting cross-legged on the couch with her back to him, her gun resting on the coffee table in front of her. Wordlessly he walked around to take a seat next to her. She didn’t move to face him, so he faced straight ahead, fighting the urge to look over at her. He waited minute before he spoke, giving her one last chance to initiate the talk neither wanted to have.
“Are you ever going to talk about this?” he asked eventually. He hadn’t meant to speak so bluntly, but old habits die hard.
Emily shook her head. “I don’t need to. It is what it is. I’ve made my peace with it.”
“Then why push us away? Why pretend that you’re not hurting?”
“Because it doesn’t matter anymore, Hotch. It’s over! Why can’t anyone just let it go?”
He shifted to look at her properly. “Have you let it go?”
“Yes.” She answered too quickly, and they both knew it.
“So you always bring your gun with you when you answer the door?”
“It’s late. Don’t you teach us to be extra vigilant?”
The muscle in his jaw twitched. “And there’s no particular reason you’re having trouble sleeping?”
“Who says I have trouble sleeping?”
“We both know you were awake when I got here. You don’t sleep on the jet. JJ says you stay up reading when we’re away on cases. Is that all just a coincidence?”
Emily stood suddenly, her eyes flashing.
“What do you want from me, Hotch? You want me to tell everyone how every little sound in my own home makes me jump? That I’m scared to sleep on cases because I know I’ll have a nightmare and wake everyone up? That while intellectually I know he’s dead, I still don’t feel safe? That I only wear blouses and turtlenecks because I hate seeing that stupid brand every time I look in the mirror? Is that what you want me to say?”
“I just want you to say something! You know what you’re doing isn’t healthy. You know it’s wearing you down. What you don’t seem to know, is that it’s wearing on the rest of us too. Just tell me this: why do you feel like you have to keep this to yourself?”
She swallowed hard. “I did a lot of things I’m not proud of.”
“You did what you had to do,” Hotch replied quickly, and she wondered how long he’d been telling himself those same words. Emily sat back on the sofa, her hands trembling.
“I’m still the same me,” she continued, “I don’t want everyone to think I’m a completely different person that they don’t know, and that their Emily was just an act.”
“They know you were in extraordinary circumstances that called for action above and beyond standard procedure. They know you did what you did to survive. And they know that the real you is the compassionate, loyal friend you’ve always been. What else?”
When she didn’t reply, he chanced a look in her direction. Even in the moonlight barely seeping through the windows, he could see the distinct glimmer of fresh tears on her cheeks. As if she could feel his eyes on her, she looked up and met his gaze.
When she spoke, her voice was just above a whisper. “I don’t want anyone to see me like this.”
Hotch reached over and took her hands in his. “No one else has to if you don’t want them to. But you need someone to talk to. And I know I’m probably the last person on the team that someone would think of when it comes to discussing emotions,” They both grinned, and his heart gave a slight flutter, “But if anyone could possibly know what you’re feeling, wouldn’t it be me?”
Emily considered that for a moment. He certainly had a point - he had been hunted, isolated from his family. He’d garnered scars as reminders of the pain, both physical and emotional. Just like her.
“If I tell you about it, will you tell me what it was like for you?” she asked hesitantly. He was silent for a moment, then nodded slowly.
“That would only be fair.”
“Alright. But I need a drink to get through this though. You want anything?”
“I’ll have whatever you’re having.”
We're gonna start by drinking old cheap bottles of wine
Sit talking up all night
Saying things we haven't for a while
By the time they polished off the second bottle of wine, the stories of private turmoil had drawn to a close and they sat in companionable silence. At some point, they had edged closer to one another, and she now found herself half in his lap with her head resting against his shoulder. Not that she was about to complain. This closeness held the greatest sense of normalcy she’d felt since she came home. They had been toeing the line between friends and more for a while before her “death” and despite the ever present danger at the time, one of her greatest fears while she was gone was that the two of them would never make it back to that point. She wondered if he had thought about that too.
“Can I ask you an odd question?”
“What was it like after I…left?”
“It was…difficult. I don’t think we realized how much we’d come to rely on you until you weren’t there. You have this way of always knowing what everyone needs and being right there with it when we turn around. I don’t think I’d noticed that before.”
Emily nodded. “It was weird not having you guys around. I mean, I’ve lived alone for most of my life, but I was never really lonely until then. Here I always had that knowledge that if I needed someone, you were all there, but then that was gone.”
“The team missed you.”
“I missed them.”
After a beat, Hotch said quietly, “I missed you…probably more than I should have.”
“Hmm, I know the feeling.”
He looked down at her suddenly. “You missed me?”
Emily felt a smile tug at the corner of her mouth, “You sound surprised.”
“It’s just…I guess I figured it was just me. I mean, I knew you would think of us from time to time, but you had so much else to contend with.”
“If anything, you were what I thought about most.”
“You as in the team, or you as in me?”
She sat up, and both of them missed the shared heat. “As in you, Hotch.”
“I wish I had figured out how much I need you, how I felt about you, while you were still here.”
“I’m here now.”
We're smiling but we're close to tears
Even after all these years
We just now got the feeling that we're meeting
For the first time
Emily let her eyes shut as he closed the short distance between them, softly pressing his lips to hers. It was a brief touch, but she instinctually wrapped her arms around his neck and leaned in to kiss him again. One of his hands moved to rest on her hip while the other tangled in her hair. Her lips parted slightly, allowing him a quick, teasing taste of her before she pulled back to catch her breath.
Hotch was almost afraid to ask, but he had to. “Are you sure this is what you want? Us?”
“This is all I’ve wanted since we said goodbye.”
“If you need more time –”
She put her finger to his lips, silencing him quickly, and the dazzling smile he loved lit up her face. “I think we’ve lost enough time. I know it won’t always be easy, and we’ll have some things to sort out, and I still have a lot to sort out myself, but that’s okay. I’m ready to fight through it. We’ll make it work.”
She withdrew her hand as he nodded, smiling back at her. “We’ll make it work.”
Oh these times are hard
Yeah they're making us crazy
Don't give up on me baby
A/N: Sooo yeah I didn’t actually mean for this to be a) that long or b) that angsty lol. But I got it back to where I wanted it to go in the end, so I guess there’s no harm done to my initial idea. Not gonna lie, I’m actually slightly terrified to post this lol. I hope my first attempt at writing these characters wasn’t a total epic fail.