It was late one Friday afternoon, early in the month of July. The sun was hot and the air was thick and still. Almost expecting in a way, as if prepared that something of great substance was about to happen. But then again how could the air really know that?
SSA Aaron Hotchner, best known to his friends simply as Hotch, had just dropped off his son Jack at their apartment after picking him up at his summer baseball camp. It was his and the almost-ten-year-old's tradition. All other days it was Jack's aunt Jessica who picked him up, but Fridays belonged to father and son.
As Jack sat quietly watching a movie Hotch closed the front door behind him after carefully setting the alarm. He walked through the front gate and made his way down to the local park to have his weekly walk. As usual he needed to clear his mind. He didn't want the grime and the gore of the Behavioral Analysis Unit of the FBI to take over the weekends that were just his and Jack's.
Swiftly walking down the same path he'd always preferred he savored his surroundings as he felt the late summer sun beaming down on his furrowed face. He could hear vibrant laughter somewhere up ahead and he felt the tension in his tired muscles slowly seeping away.
He turned a corner, absentmindedly letting his eyes trail along the graveled path. Then all of a sudden he saw something that made his entire body go rigid. Stopping dead in his tracks Hotch stared at the patch of grass a short distance ahead of him.
His eyes wide and his mouth hanging open he just stared. It was all he could do. He shook his head a little in an attempt to shake away the dream he was surely having. But the image in front of him did not shift. This just couldn't be. She was supposed to be living in New York. She had been living there almost five years now.
He still vividly remembered their last time together. It was four years, ten months and five days since he'd last had a conversation with her. If you could even call it that. They'd been so angry at each other that day. Shouted at each other. Said things he knew neither of them had meant. After that day they hadn't talked again except for when she'd handed in her transfer request. Two weeks later she was gone.
He looked at the woman again, letting his eyes trail from the top of her head down to the tips of her toes. There was no mistaking that shiny raven hair, those long legs accentuated by the denim cutoffs she was wearing and that beautifully pale skin. No, that was indeed Emily Prentiss sitting on a blanket just twenty or so long strides ahead of him. She was laughing happily. It was her laugh he had heard before. Why hadn't he realized. She sounded so different from the last time they'd spent together.
He couldn't will his legs to move, neither forwards nor back down the path he had come. So he slowly sank down onto one of the white park benches behind him. That way he was obstructed from her view by a large rose bush, but he could still see her.
Sitting there, gazing at her, he let his mind slowly wander back to that day almost five years ago.
Forcefully yanking the door open Emily stormed into Hotch's office, raging fire burning in her brown eyes.
"That was completely uncalled for, Hotch!" She exclaimed after slamming the door shut behind her.
"Prentiss?" Hotch said, using her last name without really thinking about it.
"Oh! So it's Prentiss now, is it?" Emily huffed. "And then later tonight when you wanna get laid I'm back to being Emily?" She snapped. "You can't have it like that, Hotch."
"We have to be professional at work, Emily." Hotch snapped back.
"Where lies the professionalism in calling me out after a foot chase just because I am a woman? Or maybe just because I'm your girlfriend." Emily stared defiantly at him.
"You fell down a flight of stairs, Em!" Hotch exclaimed. "I was worried." He got up from behind his desk and took a few steps towards her but she backed away.
"Both you, Morgan and Reid have been in worse accidents and neither of you have been reprimanded for not waiting." She pointed an accusing finger at him. "I had him Hotch!"
"No you didn't!" Hotch shouted back. "You're too reckless! You endangered yourself and others. I should suspend you."
"I'm not reckless and you know it!" She snapped back. "You just don't trust me!"
"Yes I do!"
"Then why don't you let me all the way in?" She shouted close to tears, before quickly turning around and hurrying out of his office.
Hotch just stood there looking at the door she'd left open. His heart wanted him to follow her but his feet didn't comply. He didn't know what to do. He didn't know what to say. So he just stood there rooted to the floor of his office and watched with tears pooling in his eyes as she grabbed her bag and left the bullpen.
He leaned back against the hard bench, all of a sudden feeling very tired. Before him he saw Emily the day she'd walked into his office carrying a box full of her stuff. He was still married then, but he knew somewhere deep down that was when his feelings for her had started to grow.
It was different with their friendship. He didn't really know when that had started forming. He just knew that it was around the time when he'd separated from his wife and then got divorced. She came up to his office one day with two coffees and a shoulder for him to lean on. After that it just grew from there.
They used to have a lot of fun together. He never had fun like that anymore. He always had the best times and a lot of fun with his son but that was different. He just didn't have any friends his own age. He had his team. They were all very close, but not like the way he'd been with Emily.
Emily was the one who was there unconditionally for him after he was nearly stabbed to death by a psychopath. She never doubted him when others did. And again after that psychopath murdered the mother of his child. She was there.
Emily would take care of him in her own unique way. She would stay behind at the office more and more frequently. She would come up to his office just to have a chat. They'd have coffee, and sometimes something a lot stronger, together. He knew that she was doing it because she worried about him, but he never said anything.
Then that close friendship grew into something more. At least it did for him and he was pretty sure that it had done so for her too. A stolen look here. A slight touch on the far side of friendly there. But they kept dancing around each other. Avoiding the thick sexual tension between them for months. Kept it clean and at least somewhat professionally distant.
Until then one blistering hot July night when they were on a team night out. They were drinking and laughing and drinking some more. Emily even convinced him to dance with her. They'd both had a few too many drinks and in the middle of that dance floor, when they were dancing close together, something snapped between them. Maybe it was the heat that got to them. He had looked deep into her eyes and had seen only dark unadulterated lust.
They didn't even make it back to either of their apartments. She had dragged him or he had dragged her, he didn't remember, to a far corner in the bar and they'd slipped into the one of the restrooms in the back. And he had taken her there, against the wall. Raw and primitive. Not at all the kind of expression of his emotions that he had wanted. But that was what had happened.
They tried having a relationship beyond friendship after that. But to no real success. He loved her deeply and he knew in his heart that she loved him too. But for some reason, he didn't know why, maybe fear or doubt or just plain stupidity he never told her how he really felt. So they'd built their relationship on lust. And that's never really a solid ground to build something on.
Their whole relationship became filled with a silent uncertainty. Never completely sure of the other's feelings, but never able to disclose their own. He blamed himself for that. He held everything in and that made her doubt him and them. That made her keep to herself. He never stopped regretting not telling her how he really felt. If he had maybe their lives would have turned out differently. But back then he'd buried his feelings and now he had to live with the consequences.
Then came that day when it all had unraveled. It was still ringing clearly in his head. They'd been together a month and all that time, and probably years before that, he'd been pushing his feelings down. Until that one day when they'd just erupted like an awoken geyser.
He hadn't known what to say. He should have told her that he loved her. But he didn't. He'd just stood there and watched her walk away. Four years, ten months and five days ago.
The sound of another voice, a smaller voice, pulled him from the fog of the memory. He'd been so fixated on Emily before that he hadn't noticed that she wasn't alone. Running around on the soft grass in front of her was a tiny little girl. She wore a red frilly dress and had long raven hair that flowed in the wind. She was jumping up and down happily chanting "Mommy! Mommy! Look at me!" And when she smiled he could see the tiny dimples in her rosy cheeks.