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A Cold Heart Turns

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"This has been a dream weekend, David," Erin said as they packed their bags into the back of his car. Alex was taking Mudgie on one last walk before the drive home, and he smiled to see the woman bend down and scratch the dog's ears before she popped back up and pulled out her mobile, answering a call. He could tell by the smile on her face that it was her husband, and Dave chuckled a little as he leaned in and kissed Erin gently as they waited for Alex to come over to them.

"Sorry, I always try to take James's calls when I can. Since he's overseas for most of the year, we have to make every moment we can steal for each other count. I sometimes wish that he would take a job with a hospital over here, but given that we've now lived for more than half our marriage apart, it would be a lot to grow accustomed to living together once more." Erin nodded a little as she reached her hand out to Alex. The woman took hold of it, squeezing a little as they sighed in tandem. "I really wish that you didn't have to leave for Boston as soon as we get you back to Quantico."

"I have to get back to my classes, and since I am teaching an introduction to linguistics class this semester, I have to be ready to teach early in the morning."

"I would have thought that you would be teaching all graduate level courses," Dave said as they climbed into the car.

"The department and I like to pass around the duty of leading a large seminar like that, so I'm only leading it every five semesters or so. And while they do rely heavily on their grad students to do most of the teaching and grading, I would rather set these students off right, and get them interested in our field of study. Linguistics is fascinating, and there are so many real life applications for it. I wish that I could work with the Bureau to develop that skill for use in all their departments, or that I could be back with the BAU. While the private sector is nice, there are times I miss studying the language an unsub uses and putting them away with it."

Erin cleared her throat as she fastened her seatbelt. "I wish that we had room for you on the team. I know that you'd be a good fit with the group of amazing people we have right now. And I know that Doctor Reid counts you amongst his mentors, since I've seen his reports where he mentions attending your lectures and even teaching with you. If you're serious about coming back to us, I'll keep you on the shortlist for when agents retire and we need to replace them."

"I would like that very much, Erin." The woman's hand snaked up into the front of the car, and Erin took hold of it, threading their fingers together as Dave began to drive home. A soft conversation flowed between Erin and Alex as he went, but he found that he didn't really mind been excluded from it, since he was able to learn more about his partner and Alex than he would have, if he had also gotten in on things. "Oh! I was going to grab a cab here from your place, Dave," she said as he pulled into the parking lot for the train station.

"I wouldn't let you waste good money when it was just as easy to bring you here and then head home. Besides, this way we can all have lunch together before you catch your train. I know that Erin would enjoy spending more time with you, and so would I."

The happy sigh that slipped from Erin's lips told him that he had made the right decision to do this. Once more, he wasn't surprised when Erin and Alex drifted off together in front of him, and he locked the car before jogging over to them, taking hold of Erin's free hand as they made their way into the station and over to the restaurant inside. They were seated right away, and he perused the menu while Erin and Alex continued to chat away.

Soon, the meal was over, and they had walked Alex to the terminal. Once more, Dave was surprised by Alex, watching the woman hug Erin tightly before pressing a fleeting kiss to her cheek and then scurrying over to her train and boarding, as if she had been too open for too long, and needed to escape before she broke down. "Did you get her contact information?" he asked before kissing Erin gently, leading her back to the car.

"Yeah, we exchanged those details this morning, while you were making us breakfast. Thank you."

"For what?"

"For reaching out to her and asking her to think about forgiving me. We had a really good chat out by the lake, and while I know that things won't be perfect right away, it really felt like her heart was less cold towards me just now. I don't know what I'd do without you and Penelope in my life. You've saved me and created something beautiful from the pieces of my shattered self. I love you. I know, I know, it is so soon to tell you that, but that's my heart, and I refuse to keep my feelings locked up inside any longer. I've lost so much time because I couldn't be honest. I hope that I don't push you away, but I want you to know how I feel."

He pressed her against the door of his car softly as he looked into her eyes, trying to let her know just how deeply he cared for her already. "I think that I am falling in love with you, too, but I've been holding back a little, because I don't want to hurt you. I just want you to find your happiness once more, and to not break your heart as you do so."

"Oh, David, I don't think that you could ever break my heart like their deaths did." Leaning forward, she curled one arm around his neck as she pulled him closer to kiss him deeply. "I freely give you my heart, darling. For all that it might be worth to you. And even if you can never fully love me, I will love you enough to make up for that."

"Erin Strauss, you are going to break my heart even more if you talk like that. I feel the first stirrings of love for you, I just need a little time to reconcile these feelings with the guilt I feel over starting a relationship with you so soon after what happened. I know what you've told me, I know what I feel. And I know that you've gotten beneath my skin and into the heart of me." He kissed her once more. "Now, let's head home."

"To your home?" she asked somewhat hopefully, and he chuckled as he nodded. "Good. Mudgie deserves to be home, not in a place that he can't run around in the yard." Opening the door, Erin sat in her seat and made herself comfortable, smiling up at him as he closed the door for her. The drive back to his house was quiet, though he did welcome the feel of her hand on his arm as she fell back asleep, her fingers tightening around the fabric of his shirt and holding firm while he drove. As he pulled into the garage, Mudgie began to whine a little, as if he knew that they were home, and he hurriedly parked the car and then slipped out of the vehicle to let his dog out into the backyard so that he could run around.

By the time he got back to the car, Erin was just waking up, and she gave him a sleepy smile as she stretched and blinked. "We've arrived."

"So I figured," she murmured before clearing her throats and holding her hand out to him. Dave clasped it tightly before tugging her to her feet and pulling her into a warm embrace. "I wish that we didn't have to worry about work, David. I still don't know what I'm going to do. I know that I should do the right thing and oversee another team, but then I wouldn't get to read your reports. Or interact with you on occasion."

"But you'll get to interact with me at home, and get all of my attention." He waggled his eyebrows at her, making her giggle, and she shook her head a little as they headed inside. "Though if you still wanted to deal with the members of Alpha, I suppose that I could always look into a lateral transfer. Perhaps switch places with someone?"

"No, darling, you all work so well together, and it would be difficult to replicate that sort of synergy. I suppose that I just have to resign myself to making the hard decision and not overseeing you any longer. As long as…"

"Yes?"

"As long as we agree to spend time together. I know, I shouldn't be falling this deeply this quickly, but my heart has decided on you."

He nodded as he embraced her once more. "I think that we can spend as much time together as you want, Topalina. My Topalina." She sighed as she nodded, letting her head rest against his chest as a tender silence filled the room. In that moment, he knew that their future had fully started together, and he was so glad that they were now a we.