"Hey, Hotch," JJ said, flopping down on the bar stool next to him.
"JJ!" Hotch exclaimed, his voice slurred. He blinked at her a few times. "What are you doing here?"
JJ nodded at the bartender. "Your new friend called me. He said I was the In Case of Emergency contact and he figured you not being able to drive constituted an emergency."
"That's George. He's a nice fella."
JJ burst out laughing over Hotch's use of the world "fella." He shot her a sloppy grin, her laughter warming the coldness in his heart. "I missed you."
She looked at him amused and a little surprised. "Hotch, I've only been gone for four days. It was a short vacation."
"Four long days. Long." He drew out the word. "Every day is long without you since you came back." He slung his arm around her shoulder suddenly and pulled her into an awkward hug. "You're not allowed to leave me ever again."
"Okay, Hotch," she said gently, as she shrugged off his arm. "What is going on with you?"
Hotch let out a dramatic sigh. "I got dumped... again."
"Dumped," JJ repeated, her eyes growing wide. "Oh! Morgan was right. You have been seeing someone."
"Yep," he replied, taking another sip of his drink.
"For how long?"
Hotch frowned, focusing on the glass on the bar. "Our first date was just over a month ago. Her name is Beth and she is so, so nice and funny and sweet and pretty.
We used to run together."
JJ touched his arm to bring his attention back to her, while surreptitiously sliding his glass down the bar for the bartender to grab. "So, what happened?"
"She asked me what happened to Haley and I had to tell her the truth." Hotch grabbed both of JJ's hands, holding them tight. "I had to tell her it was my fault that Haley died."
"Oh, Hotch," JJ breathed out. "It wasn't your fault."
Tears welled up in Hotch's eyes. "You sure? Because Beth sure didn't see it that way. She told me that she didn't think she could be with someone whose work caused the death of their wife."
"She's wrong and if she couldn't see that, couldn't see the wonderful, amazing man you are, then she doesn't deserve you." JJ extracted her hands from his and used her thumbs to wipe away his tears. "Come on. Let's get out of here."
"You taking me home, JJ?" he asked, brightly, the sadness gone from his voice.
JJ nodded. "There is a very comfy pull out couch in my apartment with your name on it."
Hotch sighed, blissfully. "That sounds like heaven." He swayed as he stood. "We should do this again sometime."
"Sure," she agreed, "but next time, why don't you invite me out for the beginning of the evening?"
"Hey!" JJ said, cheerfully, as she sat down next to Hotch.
"Hi!" Hotch replied, astonished that she had shone up.
JJ placed her drink order before turning her attention back to Hotch, an eyebrow raised. "Do you have to sound so surprised that I'm here? I mean, you did invite me."
"I just didn't think you'd want to spend time with your bully of a boss, outside of work."
"Well, you're wrong." JJ picked up the martini in front of her and took a sip, smacking her lips as it hit the right spot. "I happen to like spending time with my bully of a boss, especially when he's not being my boss. He's just being my friend."
Hotch ducked his head to hide his smile. "So, I ran into Beth yesterday morning."
JJ's head snap up. "Why didn't you say anything?"
He shrugged. "I didn't want to make a big deal out of it."
"So, what happened?"
"I was running my normal trail when I heard her call out from behind me. I stopped to talk to her. She, uh," he paused to take a drink, "she apologized for her reaction, said she was just thrown by the information that I told her. She asked for a second chance now that she had time to think things through."
JJ gripped the stem of her glass tightly, her heart beating a little faster than normal, though she wasn't sure why. "And what did you say?"
"I told her no. I told her that I would rather be alone than with someone that would treat me like that."
JJ grinned at him. "Good for you."
Hotch's own smile faded and a contemplative look took it's place. "Do you think that's true? Do you think I'm always going to be alone?"
"No," she told him, emphatically. JJ covered his hand with hers. "I think that someday you're going to find an amazing woman that is everything you deserve.
Whoever she is, she will be incredibly lucky to be loved by Aaron Hotchner."
"Thank you. I'm pretty sure you're lying," he teased, "but thank you all the same."
JJ shook her head as she removed her hand from his. "What do you say we play a round of darts? Loser buys next round."
"I should really just pay up now," he grumbled as JJ led him away.
JJ was sitting in a back booth when Hotch arrived at the bar. There was a shot glass full of tequila in her hand, and two empty ones in front of her as well as a large mug of beer. She looked up when he sat down, her eyes red. "Sorry, I didn't wait, Hotch. I needed to get a head start."
"What's going on?" he asked her, sitting down across from her as she swallowed the shot in her hand. He was concerned by her defeated posture.
"Will's been seeing someone," she told him. She shook her head when she noticed Hotch's fist curl into a ball. "It started after we broke up, but it's serious enough that he wants Henry to meet her in a couple of weeks. He actually asked me for permission."
Hotch reached across the table and gripped her hands with his own. "I'm sorry, JJ.
I know how hard this must be for you."
"You know what the real kicker is?" JJ released one of his hands, but held tight onto the other. She took a long chug of her beer. "I don't know that I was ever in love with him. I know I liked him a whole lot and I love him for giving me Henry, but I don't think we would have ever gotten this far if it wasn't for Henry."
"Then, it was probably better for all of you that you let the relationship go now while you could still be friends, don't you think?"
JJ took a deep breath. "I don't regret the end of our relationship. It's just..."
"Just what?" Hotch prompted when her voice trailed off.
"It's just, if I couldn't make it work with a guy like Will, who's kind and sweet and willing to do anything for me, how can I expect to find anyone? Who's going to put up with my crazy schedule and my adorable son and my demanding personality?"
Hotch rubbed his thumb over her knuckles. "As someone told me recently, I believe that someday, you are going to find somebody that deserves you and whoever that person is will be incredibly lucky to be loved by Jennifer Jareau."
"Aw," JJ sniffled. "If it's all right with you, I'm going to get really drunk, make you drive me to your place, crash on your couch, and take you out for breakfast when we come back here to pick my car up."
"That sounds like a terrific plan," Hotch assured her. "More tequila?"
JJ nodded. Reluctantly, she released his hand so he could go up to the bar. Her eyes tracked him the entire time. When he sat back down, he sat next to her, placing two more shots in front of her. JJ laced her fingers through his and laid her head on his shoulder.
"I'm really glad we started to hang out together outside of work," she told him.
Hotch kissed the top of her head. "Me, too. But next time, it's my turn to get really drunk and pass out on your couch. My life is way more pathetic than yours."
"What is she doing?" Hotch shouted in JJ's ear as he sat down next to JJ. They were at a large table in the back of a loud bar.
JJ cocked her head to the side. Garcia was standing in the middle of a slightly raised stage while Morgan was trying to coax her down. "I think she's trying to serenade Derek." She chuckled at his horrified look. "You were the one who told her she could organize a group outing."
"I was thinking she'd pick dinner or a movie, not trying to hook up with Morgan in the middle of a crowded bar!" Hotch exclaimed.
"Did you just say 'hook up?'" JJ repeated through peals of laughter.
Hotch leaned closer to her. "You don't think I'm down with the lingo? You don't think I know what's up?"
"Ow! Ow!" she cried, holding onto her side. "You're killing me!"
Hot ch studied her closely. "You seem to be doing a lot better."
JJ nodded, flashing him a giant grin. "I am. I think our talk a couple of weeks ago really helped. Well, that, and the amount of tequila I consumed. Did I ever apologize to you for your shoes, by the way?"
"Many, many times. In fact, you left a blank check that night on my pillow. I think that's how you ended up passed out in my bed." He wrapped his arm around her shoulder and squeezed when she looked contrite. "If the result is the smile that you have tonight, then you're welcome to pass out in my bed anytime." Hotch froze when he realized what he said. "That didn't come out right."
"No," she laughed, "but I appreciate the thought!"
Hotch subtly removed his arm when Prentiss approached the table. She shot them both a tiny smirk before speaking. "I'm going to help Morgan pour Garcia into his car, then take off myself. I'm Reid's ride so he's coming with me."
"What about Rossi?" Hotch asked.
"I think he has himself covered," Prentiss replied, pointing to the corner where Rossi was currently making out with a young brunette. "See you Monday."
Hotch and JJ watched as it took Morgan, Prentiss, and Reid all to get Garcia out of the bar. She sang loudly the entire way. Hotch turned to JJ. "We could go, too."
"Are you insane?" JJ told him, slapping his shoulder, playfully. "This is our bar night. I'm not letting it get interrupted by our crazy teammates. You're not getting rid of me that easily, Hotchner."
Hotch's face lit up, over the idea that JJ didn't want to skip their biweekly meet-ups, even though it had been taken over by the rest of the team. He bumped her shoulder. "You're one of the few people I don't want to get rid of."
JJ went red over the compliment. "Hey, I see both darts and pool tables. Which one you wanna play?"
"Well, since you handed my ass to me at darts, I think I'll try my hand at pool,"
Hotch decided, standing up. He offered his hand to JJ.
"Okay, but I should warn you. My dad was the tri-county pool hall champion five years in a row," she bragged with a wink. Her hand lit up with little shoots of fire as he kept his hand in hers on the way to the pool table.
Hotch sighed. "One of these days, I'll find something to beat you at."
"You're early," Hotch said as he met JJ at the door of the bar.
She bit her bottom lip. "So are you."
Hotch placed a hand on her back as he guided her inside. They took two seats at the end of the bar.
"Long week," he commented after the bartender had taken their order.
JJ nodded. "It's weeks like these when I remember why I didn't want to be a profiler in the first place."
Hotch grinned. "If it helps any, I really wish you were still the media liaison. I didn't realize how much I depended on you until you weren't there. It's the little stuff; like cranking through twenty files in an hour so we can get home to Jack and Henry."
"How is Jack?" JJ asked, changing the subject slightly.
"Great. He's been talking non-stop about the library since you and Henry took him there last week. He loved story time and something about secret ice cream sundaes afterward?" Hotch's eyes were shining with amusement.
JJ ducked her head as she muttered, "I knew he wouldn't be able to keep that a secret for long."
"He had a good time. How's Henry? Did he meet the girlfriend?" Hotch asked, timidly.
"He did. So did I." JJ shrugged. "She's actually really nice and someone I could be friends with if she wasn't, you know, dating the father of my child. But she seems to really like Henry and I can tell she's head over heels for Will. I actually wish them the best."
Hotch covered her hand. "You are an amazing person." Again, JJ ducked her head, heat rising to her cheeks. "So, I possibly have some news?"
"If it's the fact that Garcia made Morgan stay with her two weeks ago, I already know that news. Nothing happened except some cuddling and stroking of skin. At least, nothing's happened yet." JJ took a sip of her freshly arrived drink.
Hotch briefly closed his eyes, unable to suppress the shudder that flowed through him. "I-I don't know anything about that and I don't need to know anything about that."
JJ chuckled. "So, what's your news?"
"I am going to ask somebody out on a date," he announced proudly.
JJ felt as though she had been doused with freezing water. Her entire world shifted on her over his disclosure and she struggled to find her ground to respond him. Swallowing hard, she said, "Oh yeah? Who is she?"
"She's someone that I've known for awhile, but only recently started to realize just how deep my feelings for her go. I think they've been there for a long time, but because they came so quietly, I didn't recognize them. She funny and kind and warm, but you do not want to get on her bad side because she will smack you down with the best of them. She thinks she's cute and she uses that to her advantage, but she's actually beautifully. She'd never believe it if you told her that."
JJ bit the inside of her mouth, concentrating on his top button as his words crashed over him. "She sounds amazing."
"She is," he agreed. "She's the most amazing woman I know. She's a wonderful mother to her son, Henry," JJ gasped and her eyes flew to his, "and Jack already adores her."
"Hotch," she mumbled.
He grabbed both of her hands and pulled her slightly to him. "JJ, I'll understand if you don't feel the same way, but I have to try. Your answer won't affect our friendship or our work relationship. We'll still come here in two weeks, no matter what. Somewhere, in the middle of late night paperwork, I fell for you. I think I was just waiting for head to catch up to my heart. Would you do me the honor of going out on a date with me?"
JJ waited two heartbeats, three, before breaking out into a huge grin. "I would love to go out with you."
"I thought you said no matter what that we'd end up at the bar tonight," JJ told Hotch, trying to catch her breath.
He propped himself on his elbows and looked down at her, taking in her swollen lips, messy hair, and sweat that covered every inch of her. "It's not too late to go. I hear George was revealing a new drink tonight."
JJ dug her nails into Hotch's rear end, causing them to both twitch. "Not a chance, Hotchner. I think I can definitely say this is going to replace bar nights from now on."
"Agreed." He leaned down and kissed her languidly, feeling his body already reacting as she ran her fingers in patterns across his back. He broke the kiss to move his lips over her jaw and down her neck, taking time to nip and suckle as he went. She tasted incredibly sweet and he couldn't get enough of her.
"Hotch!" she breathed out when he found a particularly sensitive spot. She twined her fingers in his hair and pulled him away from her neck. She looked deep in his eyes. "What made you decide to ask me out?"
Hotch groaned at the loss of her skin under his mouth, but could tell she wanted an answer by the fire in her eyes. "You remember the night the whole team went out together? All night long, I had dreams of you dating Morgan or Rossi or some random stranger and once Prentiss, but that one I didn't mind so – OW!" he yelped when she smacked his butt. "I just knew I couldn't risk losing the perfect woman."
"I'm not perfect, Hotch," JJ protested, running her hands over his shoulders and chest.
"Maybe not, but I think you're perfect for me," he told her before capturing her mouth once again. Listening to her sigh and groan at his touch, he realized he had found perfect happiness in her arms.
And he was determined to never let her go.