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The Hues of Us

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Sometimes, if you asked him, Aaron Hotchner’s favourite colour was blue.

He probably wouldn’t say it in so many words. It wasn’t something quantifiable, his affection for the colour. Blue was a summer sky, the lines and loops of colour on his grandmother’s Delft pottery, the colour of a kingfisher dipping through the air above a still lake. Things he delighted in, even if not consciously.

Haley’s eyes had been blue.

After Haley, if you’d asked him, Aaron Hotchner would have told you that he didn’t have a favourite colour.

At some point, blue had stopped being the warmth of summer and had turned cold. It had become the flowers her mother had carried at her funeral. It had become mourning. It had become the pictures Jack drew of his family, with two figures on the ground and one always out of reach. It had become the colour he associated with sadness.

Later, if you asked him, Aaron Hotchner might have said his favourite colour was red.

But it took a while for him to realize that.

 


 

She’d once tried to stop biting her nails.

He walked into the round table room and found her and Reid deep in conversation; she with the expression of one who regretted asking, and Reid with all the happiness a captive audience brought him. That was unfair. Reid never saw his audience as captive, he just revelled in this closeness. Aaron sometimes forgot that he wasn’t the only lonely soul on his team.

“Onychophagia is actually quite fascinating,” Reid was exclaiming, tapping one long finger on the wood near Emily’s still hands. Reid was always twitching or jiggling, with too much energy to be contained by the one human. In contrast, Emily was stillness and poise. They suited each other, even in their juxtaposition. This bothered him, for some reason. “It’s actually considered one of the hardest habits to break, and most treatments—”

“Spence,” she cut him off, spotting Hotch and smiling with mock exhaustion. “My nails are fine, okay. Thank you for your concern.”

Reid shrugged and grinned, not at all disappointed by her dismissal of his planned speech. “You could try painting them,” he suggested, reaching for the file JJ handed him as she walked in and nodding to the rest of his team as they followed her. “Taste can be a powerful motivator for change.”

The next day, her nails were red.

He’d wondered if it had helped, but he’d never thought to ask.

 


 

Red was courage.

He wasn’t distracted, he wasn’t tired, he wasn’t slow. But sometimes, all the stars aligned for the other side and they got in a lucky blow. Hotch fell with the dull impact of the pipe reverberating through his skull, and he didn’t have time to shout because the words had fallen from his mouth along with his senses. Instead, he lay on the ground and tried to blink himself steady, the world tipping wildly around him. He was vaguely aware of the unsub raising the pipe again. He was vividly aware of the pinch of his bullet resistant vest, pulled slightly too tight, his chest restricted. He was coolly aware that he could die here.

Then there was a crack and a shout and the unsub turned, swung the pipe again, staggered. Another crack. He fell. He fell and in his place was Emily, with her hair perfect, her gun lowered, and a smear of red on her fingers.

“You painted your nails,” he told her, glancing at her hands, and she touched him again.

“We’re going to need a medic,” she said in return, which wasn’t right, he was complimenting her, wasn’t he? “Hotch is down.”

“No, I’m not,” he said, and stood, and fell.

Later, she would tap those fingers impatiently against the arm of the chair as a nurse stitched his head closed, and he would note that her nails were bare.

He never asked whose the red was, but he suspected it was his own.

 


 

It was dark and cold, rain turning the glow of the streetlights uncertain. It was the kind of night that normal people loved for the opportunity to curl up with a blanket and a book, and Hotch wished he was one of those people sometimes. It was the kind of night that they looked at and saw reduced visibility, shadowed paths, and evidence that washed away with streams of dirty water in the gutters. His footsteps were muffled as he strode down the stairs, his thoughts on home and Jack, and she was the only one there still. Staring out the window wistfully, her face almost longing, he wondered if she loved the rain.

“Off home?” he asked, stalling with one foot above the ground. She started, and turned to face him. Nodded slowly. “I’ll walk you to your car.”

Automatic. Protective. It was dark out, slick. She could look after herself, she’d looked after him in the past, but he was a gentleman through and through. She followed, chatting about some movie that JJ had made her watch. She was casual with him in a way that Reid could never be, and Morgan would never be. She tied a red scarf around her neck as they went, a deep accent against her navy sweater, and he looked away before the jolt of something now unfamiliar in his belly could resolve itself into something he knew.

“Damnit,” she hissed when they were five steps from her car, her scarf hanging loose and catching on the clasp of her bag. He held a hand out, uselessly since she hardly needed his help with this, but she’d already slid the silky length from her throat and exposed skin that was pale and smooth.

He swallowed as he took the scarf from her, nodding briskly at her muttered thanks, and there it was. An unfamiliar feeling made familiar, and her fingers were warm. He twined the scarf around his fingers and memorised the texture. The colour was rich and appealing in a way he’d never noticed before now, as though his eyes had only just opened to new possibilities.

Emily Prentiss was an enigma, but on that night, she smiled at him and he wondered for the first time if he could taste the stubbornness on her lips. He wondered if he could try. The dreams of a dark-haired woman with a red scarf that followed were entirely unexpected, but not completely unwelcome.

 


 

He hated her red dress. It wasn’t that it was unattractive—quite the opposite—, it was that it made him feel undone in a way he hadn’t since high school had given him a particular blue turtleneck of Haley’s that had left seventeen-year-old him helpless. And Emily persisted in torturing him with it, just as Haley did all those years ago.

They weren’t at work, instead chasing away the horrors of their workweek away at Rossi’s new ‘favourite’ bar, which changed weekly depending on the women working there. He was endlessly hopeful and eternally unlucky. Hotch watched him flirt with a woman half his age who was certainly interested, and wondered why it was that he always went home alone. He’d began to suspect that he was a lot like Rossi. They both sabotaged themselves.

Later, if he was asked, although no one would, he wouldn’t have been able to tell you what any of his team had worn that night. He could have described JJ’s smile or Morgan’s laugh or the new and wholly welcome confidence that Reid wore now that he felt certain of his place with them, but their clothes would elicit a shrug and a half-hearted attempt at recollection.

Except Emily.

Except the red dress that tortured him.

And she slid into the booth next to him, not quite drunk but barely sober, and her lips were damp with the single-malt she’d conned Rossi into sliding her way. The dress clung to her form in a way that revealed nothing and everything all at once, and Hotch felt the alcohol he’d drunk suddenly hit him all at once.

“Is this the lonely-hearts club?” she asked, and laughed at her own joke with eyes cast downward suddenly as though she’d been struck shy. He stared at the way her dark lashes made half-moon shadows on her cheeks and thought fuck. He tried to talk around a mouth gone dry and whiskey-sour as she peered up at him sideways through those dark lashes, and his gut twisted and sent an electric jolt of want to his crotch. Later, he’d remember nothing but her dress and her smile and the way the dim lights had made her pupils wide and dark, the illusion of desire. He’d pretend it wasn’t an illusion and try to imagine she was a stranger as he pressed against himself and rutted helplessly into his own hand, but the name he’d choke back was hers and it burned him like he was betraying her.

He hadn’t answered. She was a profiler too, and he was exposed, vulnerable. Say something, he snapped at himself, and he coughed harshly. Traced a finger around the rim of his glass; it came away damp. Wiped that finger on his pants, avoiding her discerning gaze. His hand brushed her thigh and she leaned into the touch, their shoulder brushing together, and offering him an unfortunately wonderful view.

Fuck.

Suddenly JJ was there on one side, shuffling into the booth on her knees with her blue eyes wide and laughing, and Morgan was depositing a pink faced Reid onto Emily’s side of the chair. He slumped, his mouth open in a sloppy grin, and Emily leaned away to catch him. Hotch watched at the casual way Reid slung his long arm around her shoulder, his hand resting inches from her belly, his mouth near her ear and he was drunk, hopelessly drunk, and Hotch envied him.

There was a vivid moment when Reid’s gaze slipped down drunkenly, almost lingering on Emily’s chest, and Hotch was suddenly both irritated for no reason, and oddly protective of the two of them. He downed his drink, and faced away. He thought he might be well in over his head and spoke very little the rest of the night, but no one seemed to notice.

 


 

Red attracted attention, and she wasn’t wearing any today. Which was good, because they were supposed to be unobtrusive, and somehow that had ended with them pressed into an alcove and practically sharing the same body they were standing so close together.

He was almost as glad she wasn’t Rossi as he was sorry it wasn’t anyone but her.

“Shit,” she mouthed, pressing back into the space with one hand on her gun. He shuffled back, hissing between clenched teeth as his shoulder blades pressed against the cool-damp cement of the alcove wall, barely big enough to shelter him, let along her as well. She was leaning back against him and this was wrong, they weren’t in place, but he could see Morgan across the plaza from them gesturing for them to stay there, don’t move, you’ll spook them. So, he stood with his shoulders rigid and goosebumps prickling on the back of his neck from the ice touch of the slick wall, with her body pressed back against him and every part of him determined to pay attention to entirely the wrong thing.

“Sorry, Hotch,” she whispered eventually, twisted slightly so she could see Morgan across the way. He swallowed, hard, and his heart was hammering. “This probably isn’t the highlight of our professional relationship.”

“It’s fine,” he reassured her with forced coolness, but it wasn’t really because she was warm and solid and there was a small part of his mind that was revelling in the press of her ass against his thigh, and he hated himself. “We’ve been in tighter situations.” Except they hadn’t and he couldn’t see anything anyway except for the back of her hair, tied in a ponytail and brushing against her neck, and he was left counting his breaths to avoid focusing on the scent of her perfume.

A cramp bit in his calf and he bit at his lip, stifling a sharp noise. She glanced down at his leg as though she could see it, and a smile traced her mouth. “They seem to be enjoying their lunch,” she said, glancing out of the space again. “Ah yes. I wonder if they’ll have seconds? I bet they will. Pricks.”

And he hadn’t been expecting that so he laughed, a choked shocked sound, and her eyes glittered with triumph. He knew she’d be bragging to JJ all night that she’d cracked the stoic façade he wore as easily as he wore his suits, and he didn’t even care.

She wasn’t wearing red and the past few months, all his dreams of her had involved it, but when he lifted a hand back to brace himself as he eased his leg, his other arm brushed her hip. It stuttered, he didn’t pull back as quick as he should have, and her eyes flickered as though for a moment thrown. When she glanced back at him, he knew this time he wasn’t imagining the darkness of her eyes, or the way her heart thumped through her back and into his chest, and he knew the expression was mirrored in his own gaze.

“Fuck,” she muttered, as though caught, and his stomach dropped. But then there was a shout and Morgan was running, chasing, and she was gone like the wind after him, Hotch only a beat behind.

There was still the job, but now there was the possibility of something more within it.

 


 

She left her scarf on the jet. He stared at it for what was probably an inappropriate amount of time, before scooping it gently up and tucking it into his pocket. It was a vivid splash of colour against the dark hues of his suit, and he felt oddly alive as he stepped onto the asphalt and the end caught the wind and flapped against his side. He could take it to her. Drive to her home, knock on her door, smile, apologise… step inside, have a drink to settle their nerves after the case, one drink leads to two…

The car door almost slammed on his hand and he ran his fingers through his hair, frustrated. She was his teammate, his subordinate, he had a duty of care over her. That duty of care didn’t involve her back against the wall and his hand between her thighs, undoing her with a simple twist of his fingers…

He drove home over the limit, half hard and with shaking hands on the wheel. The scarf was in his pocket like an accusation. At home, he took it out and put it with his briefcase, but he couldn’t resist pressing it to his face for a single moment and feeling his mouth slacken slightly with the delicious coil of heat it brought to him.

In the shower, he scrubbed until his skin was pink and painfully clean, and then he didn’t even bother to hide the way her name sounded as he came.

 


 

Alaska, and she drew the short straw. Reid looked delighted to have her. Hotch tried to hide his smile as she plaintively begged JJ to swap rooms with her eyes, and JJ studiously examined a scuff on the floorboards. Which was why it was a surprise when Hotch opened the door to his room and found her reclining on the twin opposite his, the room devoid of Rossi’s belongings.

“Dave decided to swap,” she said sweetly. Hotch narrowed his eyes at her and didn’t think of how close they’d be sleeping tonight or how much of a disaster this was, and certainly didn’t think of giving Rossi so much paperwork in retaliation for this stunt that he drowned under it.

“Decided or was coerced?” he asked, tucking his briefcase neatly against his bedside cupboard and trying not to stare at her bare feet peeking out from her pants, the toes wiggling as she bobbed her heel as though to a beat he couldn’t hear. “What have you got on him?”

She just smiled and he sighed.

He probably didn’t want to know anyway.

 


 

She’d beaten him to the shower and he sat on his bed, straight backed and completely unable to relax with her surrounding him, listening to the steady drumming of water on tile from the adjourning room. Occasionally the water would crash as she shifted under the stream, perhaps wringing it from her dark hair or catching it in her hands to watch it fall in a cascade. He dropped his head in his hands, just for a moment, gritting his teeth and thinking of everything but what she’d look like bare and steaked with drops of water, pink from the shower and from his touch, her careful composure coming apart below him.

“Hotch?” said a voice far too close for comfort, and he jerked upright and lay his arm across his lap, fixing his face into a careful nonchalance. Steam gusted out around her head, suggesting for someone who professed to ‘enjoy the cold’, she sure did like her showers hot. That was the first thing he noted.

The second was that her head and shoulders were sticking out from around the door, hair hanging wet and lank, the rest of her hidden from view by the heavy wood, and she was certainly not wearing anything. His mouth went dry. She smiled like she knew, her expression oddly mischievous.

“I forgot my towel,” she said, pointing with a carefully exposed hand, and he doubted that she’d ever forgotten anything in her life. But still he stood. Reached for the towel. Considered tossing it to her. He’d never gotten a HR complaint against him in his life, that was Rossi’s game, but for once he could imagine how easy it would be.

One step. Two. Close enough that he could feel the beating warmth of her skin from the shower, taste the chemical tang of the hotel issued shampoo she’d used. Out of all of them, she was the only one who used the products the hotels they stayed in supplied. She was the only one who didn’t cling to home. He passed her the towel and her hand touched his and her fingers were shaking, betraying how calm she looked.

Fuck, he thought once more, because he was painfully hard and it was obvious if she looked down, and a part of him wanted her to just as much as he would mortified if she did. “Sorry,” he said, bizarrely, and she quirked an eyebrow at him like she knew was he was thinking and closed the door. She didn’t look down.

The relief choked him almost as much as the disappointment did.

 


 

“I didn’t figure you for the pyjama type,” she said suddenly, lowering her book and eyeing his loose shirt warily, like the idea of him dressed casually unnerved her. “They’re very… relaxed.”

“What about them?” he asked uncomfortably, looking down at himself. “I can relax. I’m relaxed right now.” Even with a murderer on the loose and the case spread out around him, the bed covered in the photos of the victims and reports with pages and pages of Reid’s cramped handwriting, he was relaxed. Ish.

She snorted, an unladylike noise that surprised and delighted him, and tucked a lock of dark hair behind her ear. He watched her hand distractedly as she lay the book across her lap and sat up, legs crossed. “Hotch, you’re still working. Even when you’re ‘relaxed’, you’re working. Don’t you ever just… chill?”

He blinked. “No,” he said, almost confused. “I…” Was lost for words. Unit Chief of the BAU, and he’d been struck speechless by a simple question. The cover of the book was a swirl of blue and red, a silk sheet falling across a darkened sky. He focused on that and not the catlike grin on her face, uncomfortably aware that his own was probably flushed. “What do you suggest I do to ‘relax’?” he asked finally, and that was a mistake, because she was David Rossi’s protégée through and through, and they both delighted in shocking him.

She shrugged, nipped at her nail and said, “We could have sex.”

He carefully closed the file next to him, tapped it on the bed to neaten the edges, placed it in a pile with the others and said, “Pardon?”

She slipped off the bed with an eager rustle of the covers and padded over to him slowly on bare feet; every soft thud of her heel on the carpet echoing in the beat of his heart and sending a dull resonation of tension through his body. He was rigid, sitting whipcord stiff, waiting for the blow that would shatter this moment and not entirely sure what this moment actually was.

“I said,” she repeated quietly, her expression not playful anymore but deadly serious. “We could have sex.” Her hand touched his throat, he swallowed around the choking touch of her proximity, and he wasn’t stopping her. Bitten nails, short enough that he hurt to look at them, tracing over the hollow of his throat, playing over the jut of his collarbone. He watched, frozen, as she examined him with bedroom eyes, midnight eyes, taking him apart, and he didn’t stop her. And she didn’t stop. “Unless I’ve read your body language all wrong, I think you’re entirely open to the idea.”

Her nails caught slightly on his shirt as her hand dropped, slipping under and splaying across his bare chest as she lowered herself onto the bed, one leg at a time until she was kneeling in front of him. His pulse galloped. She slipped, listing on the bed as she tried to settle onto her legs, and he reached up automatically and steadied her with his hand on her side.

“Emily,” he rasped, and his voice was cracked like he was sickening, and maybe he was. Maybe he was hallucinating this entire moment, except her mouth was slightly parted, her eyes hooded, and he didn’t need to be a profiler to tell she was aroused without him even touching her. “We should…”

“Stop thinking before you ruin it,” she said, and leaned forward to press her mouth against his in a soft kiss, uncharacteristically tentative until it wasn’t. Her lips were demanding, her tongue even more so; he had a hand up her shirt before his brain could process that she was on him, against him, needing him, and he groaned into that needy mouth as she swallowed it down. There was warm skin under his palm; his fingertips rough and catching on it, scraping across it, finding that she wasn’t wearing a bra and delighting because she was on his lap now, wrapping her legs around him, and his back hit the headboard. The surge of furious mine that suddenly flowed in him was shocking and he didn’t have a chance to fight it; instead, he wrapped his hands around her side with a growl like he was hurting and dragged her down to grind against his tented pants. And they were lost. Fucking lost. You’re so fucking hard, he thought she might have gasped, rutting against him, and he was. Pushed so tightly against her that he could feel the beat of her pulse through their pants and the throb of both their desire as their bodies readied for what was coming. She rubbed against him like a cat, almost purring, and he wanted bare skin, needed bare skin, wanted everything.

This wasn’t going to last forever, and even if he drew it out as slow as she’d let him, he was hard and she was shaking. He brushed his thumb against her nipple, feeling it harden at his touch as she nipped down on his lip, almost too much. Her nails weren’t long enough to scratch, but hands slid around his back and tightened, fixed points of pressure that he arched into, seeing spots and almost coming right there.

“No offense, Aaron,” she panted, gripping the small of his back and pushing her hips forward, grinding against his, and he was achingly hard and almost moaning at the friction as she rocked into him. Her saying his first name was delicious enough to send a cold spark of desire down his spine, but she topped it quickly. “But I’ve been waiting six months for you to get the hint. I’m done waiting; I want your cock in me before I can even get these pants off.”

Oh my god, he thought silently as the words went straight to his dick and he jerked with shock. Out loud he made what was probably a ridiculous noise, and he was never going to live this down.

And he was never going to stop her, not now, possibly not ever.

“Yes,” he snarled, giving in, and took control with a savage need that left her gasping. Whatever control he had, he threw it aside. Pushing her down onto her back, hands roughly gentle as they tugged her pyjamas down; her wrenching his shirt over his head. Clothes tumbling to the ground around them, discarded like his professionalism and her poise, and she was quickly bare to him. The bedsprings complained under them, the headboard rattling slightly, and he briefly spared a moment to wonder who was in the room next to them, but then she arched up against him, his dick sliding between her legs and he realized just how fucking ready she was for him and stopped caring.

“Quit with the foreplay,” she snapped, her eyes focused, and he wondered how long it would take to turn them hazy and lost. He didn’t answer, just braced himself against the bed with one hand, the other on her hip and lifting her slightly so he could press in in one smooth movement; going from hard and sticky in the cooling air to enveloped in her wet warmth in the space of a heartbeat. Mine, his brain hissed again, and he felt himself hardening inside her. Swelling and filing her. He was a kinky, possessive fucker in bed, he knew, but a small part of him thought that maybe she might like that. He watched closely as her mouth slipped open into a slightly off-kilter ‘O’ of expectant surprise, and she rocked up into him, wrapping her legs around his back and pulling him in as far as he could go.

“Quick enough for you?” he said between restrained breaths, and she rolled her eyes at him. He continued, the words choking him just as much as they hungered him. “Impatient.” He slid a hand down to where he worked within her, his hips moving in fast sweeps that were taking her apart one by one, and pressed his thumb against her clit. “Christ, you’re wet. How long have you wanted this?”

“Longer than you,” she replied coolly, and her nails bit at his shoulders, scratching slightly just because they could, and he let them because the pain reminded him that this was real. “More than you.” Her breathing turned rapid, and now he could see the haze in her eyes that told him she was dancing on the edge of her climax already, clenching around him and threatening to drag him with her before he had the chance to savour her destruction.

Haley had always told him he had control issues, and maybe he did, but knowing she was becoming pliant and responsive under him was turning him on like nothing else. He wanted to see her fall apart, wanted to take her apart, and she was fighting him like Haley never had. Her expression shifted to the one she used when she interrogated a suspect; cocky and challenging and a little bold, and she dared him with her eyes to try. He didn’t blink.

The quick pull drag of his fingers against her and he was fast, almost rough, and she hissed, “Jesus! Aaron, fuck!” But her eyes slid closed, mouth falling open, and there it was, the brink of what he savoured. “Fuck you,” she tried to snarl, but it came out a moan. “Ohh, fuck you Aaron Hotchner, don’t you fucking stop.” Her voice pitched, too loud, and he felt her legs slip from his back to thump against the headboard, bracing her rigidly against him.

He knew this part, knew how to move in just the right way to give her friction, his palm and thumb rocking against her when she whined and shifted; knew how to make her reach for him and then pull back, leaving her teetering with her orgasm held back by the fractured stuttering of her hips against his. “Ask for it,” he said, smiling, and it wasn’t the sharp smile he’d wanted but instead warm and probably a little stupid, because she was flushed pink and white and she looked beautiful, like this. “Beg for it, Emily. Like you need it.”

She was beautiful, so fucking beautiful, and it hurt to realize.

One day, he’d tell her that.

Up went the eyebrows and she really was spending far too much time with Rossi. “You want me to beg?” she asked with cutting sweetness, and his stomach dropped straight down to his cock buried within her. Yes. Oh fuck, yesyesyes. She shivered as he twitched inside her. “Oh, you do have control issues, don’t you, you kinky fuck? What are you trying to do, Aaron? What do you want?”

Her.

Always her.

“Me?” she kept up, pushing and pushing and never let him go, and he pressed his face against her chest and tried to breathe through the blood rushing in his ears as he rocked on the edge, his cock twitching inside her. “Me begging, Aaron? For your cock?” He shuddered, a shudder that worked from his head right down his spine to the tip of him buried within her, and she wasn’t done. “Me to tell you how good you are to me? How, god, fuck, how…” She was stalled, stuttering, and he wondered if she could tell he was almost coming just from her voice. “…how much I n-need you, ah, need you…” Silence for a second as she fucked him mercilessly, sliding up and down his cock ruthlessly: “…how hard and hot and, oh fuck, good, you’re so good, just like that, Aaron…”

“Shut up,” he growled, the words coming from his belly or possibly lower, and his teeth clenched hard as though he could hold back the rushing in his ears by sheer force of will. Her eyes widened, surprised by his tone or his words, but he felt her tighten around him as though she could draw him in, and he wasn’t worried. “Ask. Beg. Whatever, just… please?” She smirked at his trailing appeal, and he knew he’d lost this one, despite the fact that her eyes were wide and frantic and she’d almost made herself come just by teasing him.

Never mind. Next time. If there was one.

“Okay, yes,” she breathed, and he’d pushed her just that little bit too far, she was tumbling over. “Please, make me come, Aaron, please,” but she already was and he could feel it. “Please, yes, I do need this I do, I need you, more, please, fuck, mo—” She choked on the word more and he fucked her through the rattling aftershocks, crashing after her, definitely making enough noise that he really fucking hoped none of his team was next door, her toes digging into the bed and mouth open like she couldn’t think to breathe.

And then his muscles were tightening and pulling in towards his core and he knew that he was at the point where he couldn’t say no anymore. He gripped her thigh, feeling the mess between her legs already, and tried to swallow her name back as he added to it. His knuckles were white, her cunt pulling around him, and he could feel his cock pulsing as he came apart inside her, hot and slippery and sloppy, and she moaned like she wasn’t done, like she needed this as much as he did.

And in that final moment he broke down just a little and forgot to pretend this meant nothing. “Beautiful,” he sighed, and she cried out with shock and delight and maybe a little fear. He thought she might have won, but as he came he pressed his mouth against hers and said her name as though he was in love.

 


 

At some point between her lowering her book and suggesting sex as a way to fill the time and this morning eating breakfast with his colleagues who were either way too loud or far too quiet respectively, Hotch had forgotten that he worked with profilers.

He was very quickly remembering that. He just wished he could remember if any of them shared the wall his bed leaned against.

Morgan was arguing with Garcia over the exact ingredients in the preserves they were thickly slavering on toast, and neither of them looked concerned. JJ was talking to Emily with a half-smile on her lips that suggested that out of everyone, she very likely could see that Emily had slept curled up in his arms, or she could just be happy to be alive. It was hard to tell with JJ. Emily showed nothing in her posture or her expression.

“Reid, help me man,” Morgan said finally, throwing his arms in the air. “You know everything, right?”

There was no answer. Hotch looked up from his coffee, met wide hazel eyes, and his gut cramped as those hazel eyes promptly skittered away from him.

“Huh?” Reid stammered, and his face went bright red. “Sorry, I, uh. Bathroom.”

And he bolted.

The silence that followed that was broken by a cheerful, “Fuck,” from Emily.

Rossi sipped his coffee obnoxiously in the silence. “Don’t mind him,” he said with a sly smile. “He didn’t get much sleep last night. Poor kid forgot to bring ear plugs. I keep telling him, always bring ear plugs. You never know who your neighbours will be in these places. I, on the other hand, slept like a baby.” He slowed and the smiled widened. “Didn’t hear a thing all night.”

“Lucky you,” muttered Morgan in the quiet, and something in Hotch died, just a little. Garcia covered her face. JJ bit at her lip like she was trying not to laugh.

“Fuck,” Emily repeated.

“Indeed,” said Rossi, opening the case file and burying his nose behind it.

 


 

When he unpacked his bag at home, he found the red scarf he’d returned to her months ago tumbled in with his neatly folded clothes, along with a note.

We should do that again. E.

It was written in red and he kept it with the scarf.

He was beginning to realize that she might be his favourite colour.