[Criminal Minds] Acute Angles (Prentiss/Rossi/Hotch, NC-17) (1/4)
Pairing: Emily Prentiss/David Rossi/Aaron Hotchner (and subpairings within)
Wordcount: 5400 words (this part)
Spoilers/Warning: All seasons/episodes through 5x11: Slave of Duty, and some indistinct time afterward.
Summary: When Hotch said things have changed, he meant for all of them.
Note: HAPPY BIRTHDAY, wojelah!!! I know they are your OT3 so I wanted to write this for your birthday. Unfortunately, it got (say it with me now) a little long, so here is part 1 and the rest is en route. shetiger, mingsmommy, and smacky30 were rockstars about talking me through my Hotch issues, my timeline issues, my pronoun issues, and most of all, for helping me keep a secret. (A whole week! Look how good I was!)
Acute Angles: Part 1
Twenty-three miles away from where Aaron and Jack Hotchner are knotting their ties and preparing to say goodbye to their beloved Haley, Emily Prentiss and David Rossi are going through the motions of a similar tableau.
Dave stands by the window in two-thirds of his best suit, turning a glass of his good Scotch between his hands. The rain streaks down the glass, reflecting in the triple panes. Three, he thinks. Would that have been enough? Would that have kept Foyet out? He doubts it.
Behind him, Emily makes a frustrated noise. Dave glances at his watch and then back to her.
"I can't wear this," she says, staring at herself in the mirror. "It's too low-cut. It's inappropriate. I should have bought something new. Maybe I can find a sweater...."
"Emily," Dave says, hoping to pin her in place with his voice until he can cross the room. It works and he stands behind her, looking at both their reflections. She looks drawn, pale and tired, and the corners of her mouth are tight. She looks lovely, classically feminine in her elegantly-cut dress, swinging dark hair, and understated makeup. He shifts to the side to kiss her temple and when he glances up, the reflection is off-balance, asymmetrical. There should be another dark-haired man on Emily's right, but there's not. They'll have to find new footing for today. "We'll be late," Dave murmurs.
They won't, but Emily nods and tugs half-heartedly at the neckline of her dress. Dave steps away, reaching for his jacket. Emily tucks her hair behind her ears and leans into the mirror, touching her upper lip with her ring finger.
When Dave looks back, she's pinning her hair back in a ponytail. "C'mon," he says with a sigh, touching the small of her back. "I want us to be the first ones at the church."
That moves her and she picks up the small purse sitting on the dresser and says, "I'm ready."
Thirteen years ago, when Aaron Hotchner first walked into the BAU bunker, he was so shiny and eager and new, he hurt Dave's eyes. Gideon loved him, Ryan thought he was a riot, and Cole was convinced he was being wasted at the BAU. But Dave was the one he gravitated toward.
Hotch had been noisy about wanting to be there and Dave had turned down his transfer request once, just to make him want it more. It had worked.
Hotch was well on his way to seeing it all, even back then. He'd prosecuted murder cases and been a member of the FBI's SWAT team. He'd killed four men (no women, no children, Dave had noted, because unsubs weren't exclusively male and this might be a problem) and charged into gunfire, hellfire, and all the rest of it.
He was also completely whipped by his fiance and called her ten times a day. Dave was between wives 2 and 3 at the time and was sort of fondly amused by the whole thing. That and the suit and tie that Hotch wore every day. He was the very picture of a G-Man and Dave was glad, because it gave the rest of them a bye.
Hotch was fine for four or five months, or close to fine - he didn't show any chinks at least. Then Dave took him along for a consult, a bloody awful mess where every scene had at least one patrolman retching into the bushes. Hotch soldiered through, but after the collar, after Rossi had taken him to the hotel bar and taught him how smoothly good Scotch could go down, after they stumbled up to the room they shared, that's when he asked the question Dave knew would come eventually. He'd hoped it would go to Gideon or well, anyone but him, but it wasn't like it was a surprise. The presentation was sort of novel, though.
"Can I ask you something personal?" Hotch had asked him, trying to unbutton his shirt without removing his tie. It was fascinating, like the tie had grown to be part of him and Dave wondered what could possibly have informed that sort of behavior.
"Is it something you don't already know?" Dave asked, because they were just learning to teach profiling to the new kids, and they hadn't quite agreed how to do it yet.
Hotch frowned and considered this extremely seriously - far more seriously than the question was really worth. "No," he said. "I don't think there's a way to profile this answer."
"Go on," Dave offered, unbuttoning and shrugging off his own shirt and kicking off his shoes.
"Did you tell your ex-wife about these...things...that we see?" Hotch's voice was calm but Dave was listening for the stress in it and it was there.
"No," Dave said. "I didn't think she'd feel better knowing what kind of monsters are lurking around every corner. It's bad enough that one of us had to know."
"Then you think I shouldn't tell Haley?" Hotch asked.
"Look, kid," Dave said, kicking off his trousers. "I'm not going to tell you what to tell your girl or not to tell her. But you need to ask yourself, why are you doing this job? Are you doing it to protect other people from what's out there? And if so, how are you protecting her if you show her everything?"
Hotch's brow furrowed. "I tried to tell her one night," he said. "And I - I couldn't. Just like you said. I couldn't let those things be a part of her." He finally loosened his tie and pulled the shirt out around it.
"Sounds like you've made your decision," Dave observed, waiting for the next part.
Hotch tugged at the tie and - miracle of miracles - pulled it over his head. "Is it going to hurt our relationship?" he asked, running the strip of fabric through his hands.
Dave chuckled. "If you're asking about my ex," he said, "I did a lot of things to hurt that relationship, but not telling her what Steven Pennell did to the prostitutes he picked up was not one of them."
"Did you fuck around?" Hotch asked.
Dave was about to tell him to mind his own business when several things piled on at once. One, Hotch had a helluva pretty face. Two, that swell in the front of his pants wasn't his service weapon. Three, Hotch was asking if he fucked around.
"Sometimes it helps," Dave said, watching the smooth lines of Hotch's face, "to be with someone who's seen what you've seen. You don't have to try to tell them what's got you so fucked up." Dave knew this firsthand. In country. With his first partner. You got the stress out and the shakes out and you went home and everything was hunky dory.
"You did that," Hotch said, and it wasn't a question.
"Yeah," Dave said. "A few times. You?"
Hotch shook his head. "No," he said. "But."
"You think you might need it?" Dave was hard, too, and he wasn't hiding anything in just his boxers. Hotch hesitated and clenched his fist around the necktie and Dave read him like a book. "I think you might need it, too," he offered.
Hotch looked at him, then, and Dave grinned, reached to curl a hand around Hotch's hip, and that's when Hotch leaned forward and kissed him. Dave hadn't really gone there - a reacharound yeah, sometimes rubbing off against the other guy, but Hotch was awkward and clumsy and if he wanted to kiss, they might as well do it right.
He cuffed Hotch on the back of the neck and kissed him like he'd kiss one of the women he'd seduce at the office. Assertive, powerful, confident. Hotch's mouth wasn't soft under his, though, and he pushed back - probably trying to kiss Dave like he kissed Haley, and wasn't that a hell of a thing.
Dave chuckled, because who knew kissing a man was such a goddamn comedy routine? Hotch pulled back, probably about to be a little miffed, but then Dave cupped him through his pants. Hotch was hot and hard in his hand and Dave pushed gently with the heel of his palm, grinding circles through Hotch's clothing. "Get rid of the rest of this," he said, using his other hand to tug at Hotch's belt.
Hotch scrambled to lose his pants and shorts and even pulled his undershirt over his head. "I don't - Dave - " he managed. "Please."
Watching calm, centered, steady Aaron Hotchner be reduced to single syllable words was one hell of a turn-on for Dave. "C'mere," he urged, wrapping one arm around Hotch's shoulders and snugging himself up against Hotch's back. The skin there was heated, smooth, against Dave's bare chest and flat nipples, and the tiny hairs stood up, electrified by the way Dave was touching him. It wasn't doing the least bit of damage to Dave's ego, that was for sure.
He licked his palm and reached around, found Hotch's cock, and weighed it in his hand. Hotch was hurting for this. His dick was fully erect and the head was damp with pre-come. Dave wanted to say, You're really fucking hot for this, aren't you? but he didn't want to spook Aaron, didn't want him to change his mind. So he just started jacking him off, using the short, shallow strokes Dave himself liked. He started at the base, near Hotch's body and worked his way out to the head and back again.
Hotch pushed into Dave's hand and back against him, grinding his ass against Dave's dick. Dave had fucked a guy exactly once but he wondered how easy it would be to just hold his dick and let Hotch slide back and fuck himself on it. He wasn't about to - he was prepared but not that prepared, but it was a nice little fantasy while he rested his forehead against Hotch's shoulder and continued to wring the tension and anxiety out of Hotch.
"Dave," Hotch said suddenly. "I'm going to come. Soon. Now." His voice was thready with need, that orgasm teasing right behind the words.
"That's the point," Dave said mildly, and dropped his other hand from Hotch's shoulder to snag Hotch's undershirt from the bed. "Here," he said, pressing it into Hotch's hand, and then reached down and took Hotch's balls firmly in his palm.
Hotch came with a choked cry, his body shaking against Dave's and hot semen going into the undershirt Hotch clutched to himself and also spilling out against his stomach and fingers. Dave felt Hotch's dick twitch in his hand and he unfolded his hand carefully, easing off before Hotch got too sensitive. There was a splash of semen on his wrist and he wiped it off on the hem of his own boxers.
Aaron sat down heavily on the bed he'd claimed three nights ago and rested his hands on his knees. He looked shaken and glazed, relieved of some heavy burden but still trying to balance it. In a word, he looked wrecked.
Dave hoped he wasn't going to be one of those kids who had regrets after he got what he wanted, but he remembered how hard it was to put his brain back together after that first time, so he stripped off his own boxers and sat down on his own bed. He was really fucking hard, his idle fantasy of fucking Hotch still echoing in his mind, behind the new images of Hotch rigid and shaking, coming into his own shirt. He wasn't going to give Hotch shit about reciprocation, though, not this time.
He'd only been jacking himself for maybe a minute when Hotch stood up and crossed the room. "How you feeling?" Dave asked, still stroking his dick. He wasn't going to push Hotch, but if Hotch had come over to lend a hand, Dave wasn't about to protest, either.
Hotch went down on his knees and Dave forgot to breathe. He widened his legs, giving Hotch plenty of room to work, and leaned back on the bed, bracing on his hands. Hotch reached for him, took Dave's dick in his hand, rubbed his thumb from base to head. Dave didn't care if he used his hand or his mouth or a fucking potholder but he wanted Hotch to hurry up. He was going to get blue balls just waiting for Hotch to get down to business.
It took another minute but then Hotch was sliding his hand up and his head down and the head of Dave's cock was enveloped in hot, wet, suction. "Fuck," Dave groaned, trying not to thrust down Hotch's throat. "Have you done this before?"
Hotch shook his head, which made him cough, but felt amazing on the end of Dave's cock. He drew off and cleared his throat. "Sorry," he said. "I didn't realize - " Then he leaned forward again, trying again, repeating what had worked and trying different things in place of what hadn't. He wasn't practiced, wasn't particularly good at it - Dave had been with several women who had raised cocksucking to an art form and had let one guy in his squad who was a genius at such things practice on him - but he was earnest and attentive and hell, even a bad blowjob was still a blowjob.
Dave could have held back, drawn it out, but he didn't see any reason to. It felt great, but coming was going to feel great, too, and he wasn't sure how much Hotch had left in him. This was the endgame - when he came, they were all going to sleep. He let the tension wind up naturally, thinking idly about Hotch's dark eyes and that piece of hair that flopped over them, and his ass in jeans, which had been a one-time thing, a picnic at Ryan's house, but could happen again.
In a few minutes, he was drawing hoarse breaths and Hotch was watching him intensely, and finally, Dave reached over and tapped Hotch's shoulder and said, "Pull off, kid. I'm gonna come."
Hotch took his time getting out of the way and gave the head of Dave's dick a good suck as he pulled back. Dave grabbed his discarded boxers, curled up, stomach muscles contracting, and his whole body tensed. Then he was coming, gasping harshly and making a mess of his shorts. One thing he'd learned on this job - always have plenty of clean underwear in your go-bag. You could wear the same suit indefinitely but if you shorted yourself on underwear, you were either going to have to do laundry or go shopping.
Dave had a lot of underwear.
Hotch was sitting back on his heels, looking up at Dave with a hooded, fascinated gaze.
"You okay?" Dave asked.
Hotch nodded and started to speak and failed. He cleared his throat and started again. "That," he said, "was extremely effective."
Dave chuckled. "Get some sleep, Hotch," he said, tossing his boxers on the floor and stretching out on the bed. "We're back on the road tomorrow and checkout's at ten. John'll have my ass if we charge another night to the Bureau."
He listens to Hotch stand and collect his clothes, laying out the next day's outfit and packing his bag before climbing into bed. "Hotch," he said when the last light clicked off.
"Yes?" Hotch replied, a little wary, a little hopeful.
Dave smiled in the dark. "Let me know if you have nightmares."
Three people are already standing with Hotch in the front of the church when Dave and Emily arrive. The priest, a blonde woman who has to be related to Haley, and a man with silver hair. As they approach, Emily can see Jack sitting at his father's feet, leaning slightly against his leg.
Dave pulls Hotch into a hug immediately, clapping his shoulder. Hotch is stiff in his arms and Emily imagines he's just barely holding it together.
"Dave," he says politely. "Thank you for coming." As if Haley's funeral were optional, as if Dave wouldn't be carrying Haley's casket to her final resting place. "Emily." He starts to hold out a hand, but Emily has already reached to hug him. It's awkward and he's rigidly straight in her tentative hug, unable or unwilling to be comforted.
Hotch clears his throat and Emily draws back, trying not to feel rejected. It's not her day to feel anything other than what Hotch needs her to. "Jessica, Grant, this is Emily Prentiss and David Rossi. They're members of my team. Emily, Dave, Jessica Brooks, Grant Brooks. Haley's sister and uncle."
"I'm so sorry for your loss," Emily tells them, taking each of their hands in turn. Co-workers, then. Hotch needs them to be co-workers. She can do that. Dave follows suit and Emily steps back and bends her knees until she's nearly on the floor. "Hi, Jack," she says.
"Hi," Jack says. "Did you come to say goodbye to Mommy?"
"Yeah," Emily says, choking up a little. "I did."
"Did Uncle Dave come to say goodbye, too?" Jack asks, looking up to Dave.
"He did," Emily says. "Are you keeping an eye on your dad today?"
"He's doing a good job of it," Hotch says, looking down - and probably right down her dress, she realizes with a flush of embarrassment. Why didn't she go looking for that sweater? She stands up a little too fast and Dave sets a steadying hand on her back.
"Come on," he murmurs, guiding her away.
The casket is open - Foyet had left Haley's face untouched and the high-necked dress hid the large-caliber wounds. She looked waxy and beautiful and not quite like a real person anymore. Next to her, Dave sighs and kisses his fingertips before touching them to Haley's forehead.
They sit in the fourth row back, leaving plenty of room for family in front of them. "You all right?" Dave asks when they've settled.
"This is a ridiculous tradition," Emiy replies. "Who wants to stand up there and be polite while everyone you've ever met comes by to acknowledge that you've just lost one of the most important people in your life?"
Dave ducks his head and after a moment, Emily realizes that he's trying to hide a smile.
"Em," he says after clearing his throat, "I promise, when I kick off, you can let someone else handle the etiquette and you can stay home and read a book."
"Don't even joke about that," Emily snaps, unable to help herself.
"Shh," Dave says, slipping his hand over hers and squeezing. "It's okay. I'm not going anywhere." Emily sighs, still agitated, still on edge. "Later," Dave promises. "Everyone goes home eventually and we'll break out the Scotch."
And then he moves his hand to his own leg. Emily glances to the back of the church and sees JJ and Will. She catches JJ's eye and they exchange nods and sad smiles before JJ and Will make their way to the end of the receiving line.
They never do get that later - duty calls and in a crueler voice than usual. Joe Belser gets under Emily's skin like no unsub in recent history and she can feel Dave's eyes on her the whole plane ride home.
Six days after Benjamin Cyrus beat the snot out of her, Emily opened her front door to find David Rossi on her doorstep. He had his hands on his hips, his jacket pushed back.
"Hey," Emily greeted him warily. She was supposed to be out on medical leave - Hotch told her he didn't want to see her in the office until the next Monday. JJ hadn't sent her any messages about new cases, and she wasn't quite sure what she would have done to have pissed off Rossi enough to deserve the scowl on his face.
"Can I come in?" he asked.
"Yeah, sure," she said, moving aside. "Make yourself at home."
He stepped inside and glanced around her front hall, what there was of it, noting the kitchen and living room. "How are you feeling?" he asked, eyes flickering over her face and watching her move.
"I'm okay," Emily said cautiously. She'd had a laundry list of broken ribs and contusions, cuts and bruises carefully catalogued by the EMTs. There wasn't actually a lot to be done for any of it and two days of sleep and a few more of minimal movement and a combination of heat and ice packs had helped quite a lot.
"I gave it a week," Rossi said. "I figured you needed that long, at least."
"For what?" Emily asked, somewhat mystified.
"I made the right call," Rossi said. "We couldn't go in there while he was beating you. It would have been a bloodbath."
"Dave," Emily said, touched by his agitation. "I know that. I told you that, remember?"
"I know," Dave said. He paused for a moment, hands on hips, tongue pressed up against his top lip. Then he dropped his hands and looked straight at her, his eyes dark with regret. "I'm so sorry I didn't make them go in, Emily. I'm so sorry I didn't bring the whole damn state of Colorado down on them. Trust me, I wanted nothing better than to go beat the shit out of Cyrus myself."
"Rossi." Emily stopped and cleared her throat, not really understanding, not sure what to say. It wasn't like they weren't friends. It wasn't like she didn't know they had a great rhythm together, a give and take that felt like the natural flow of the most intimate relationship. It wasn't like she didn't know he had a big stupid soft spot for her, one he pretended he didn't and one he didn't have for anyone else on the team, save maybe Hotch. "I'm okay."
"I'm not sure I am," he replied. He reached out, his hand inches from her face, and then he touched her, drew close, and kissed her, before she realized what was going on.
"Oh," she said. "Oh."
"Please don't make me apologize for that," Dave growled and kissed her again.
She took him by the hand and led him upstairs. There were no apologies.
Dave calls on Saturday night and announces that he and Emily are bringing pastries. Jack's asleep in his own bed and Hotch has had enough so-called comfort food to last him a year, but he winds up eating a cannoli anyway, because Dave's a steamroller and Hotch has always had a weakness for the ones with the chocolate chips.
"How did it go in Nashville?" he asks when he's licked sweetened ricotta off his fingers.
"Oh, he was a real charmer," Emily answers. "Held women hostage in their own homes and made them play along with his sick - and hopelessly cliched - romantic fantasies."
Dave rests his hand on Emily's knee and Aaron recognizes the sentiment. She's coming down off a case she took personally. Ordinarily, he and Dave would take her between them, make her forget, ease her down, cushion the fall. Panic flashes in Aaron's chest. He's not sure he can do that tonight, not sure he can take on another person's well-being. Taking care of himself and Jack is hard enough. He has a hard choice to make, for himself, and for Jack, and he knows it's going to have ripples.
"We've got fingerprint and DNA evidence for four murders," Dave says. "And a witness who's going to make it. What did Strauss want with you?"
Hotch glances over and notices Emily doing the same and then flipping her gaze right back to Hotch. He'd wondered if Dave had something to do with Strauss's offer but if he knows, he's playing clueless and Emily is clearly mystified.
"She offered me retirement," he says. "With full benefits."
Emily's mouth drops open but Dave just nods. "You taking it?" he asks.
"I don't know," Aaron admits. "Jessica offered to stay with Jack when we have to go away. If she's serious...." He shrugs.
"Is she?" Emily asks.
Hotch knows she is, but he wants to cling to the uncertainty. "I think so," he temporizes. "But everything has changed. I can't just go on like I did before, putting everything I have into the job. Jack needs me now, and in ways he never did before."
Emily reaches over and takes his hand, letting them rest together on his leg. "You'll make the right decision," she says and Hotch bites back the urge to ask just what that right decision is.
Dave stretches his arm along the back of the sofa, his shoulder behind Emily's head and his hand coming to rest on Hotch's shoulder. "Whatever you decide," he says, his thumb stroking across the back of Hotch's neck, "we're backing you up."
The air in the room shifts, charging with a sexual tension that hasn't been awkward since the beginning. Hotch resists it, not just because Jack's in the house, although that's as good an excuse as any.
Emily spreads her fingers over his leg, squeezing reassuringly. She leans in and kisses him, and Aaron kisses her back automatically, but he pulls away before it goes too deep.
Kissing her makes him want to cry again, the deep ache of Haley's loss ripping through his heart. Dave misunderstands, thinks he wants to make things equal, and curls a warm hand around the back of Aaron's neck, kissing him over Emily's head. For some reason, kissing Dave doesn't break his heart the way kissing Emily does, and Aaron closes his eyes and pushes forward. It's easier, if not better, and Hotch feels another riposte of grief as Emily slips across his lap to the cushion beside him, bracketing his other side, and kisses under his chin, pressing butterfly kisses down his neck.
He feels cherished, beloved between them, and he doesn't deserve it, doesn't want to deserve it. He submits because he knows those feelings of guilt are destructive, but he can't reciprocate, can't get out of his own head. He's giving himself over to Dave, to let him and Emily take control.
"What do you need, Aaron?" Emily murmurs in his ear and it nearly breaks him. She always calls him Hotch, never Aaron, and hearing his given name fall from her lips makes him think of Haley and how different Emily is from her, and in some ways so much the same. He doesn't know what he wants and Dave backs off, pressing his mouth against Aaron's forehead and waiting for a reply. Aaron opens his mouth to answer and can't find the words. What he needs and what he knows he should do aren't compatible and his ability to make even this simple decision is compromised.
Jack's cry saves him from having to choose.
He's back together, in control, and pushing Dave back and shouldering away from Emily. "Jack," he says by way of explanation as he rushes to his son's bedroom and crouches by the big boy bed. "Hey, hey," he soothes. "Jack. Come on, buddy."
"I woke up," Jack sniffles. "And Mommy wasn't there."
"I know," Aaron said, sitting on the bed at Jack's feet. "Mommy's not here anymore, remember? It's you and me, now. Mommy's watching over us from heaven."
Jack sniffs. "I wanna sleep with you," he says.
"Okay," Hotch agrees. He'd rather have Jack there, rather lay awake and watch his son sleep than anything else. As willing as he'd been to let Dave take charge, let Emily wrap herself around him, he hadn't even been hard when he'd walked away. Run away, his brain supplies. "Hey, you know who is here?" Jack shook his head. "Uncle Dave and, uh, Aunt Emily. You want to say goodnight to them?"
Jack wraps his arms around Hotch's neck. "Okay," he says but he doesn't sound enthused. Hotch doesn't blame him. It's late and he's tired and he misses Haley. He's not sure if he's speaking for Jack or for himself.
"C'mon," Hotch says, boosting him up. Dave and Emily are sitting on the couch talking quietly when he comes out. "Hey," he calls with false cheer. "Look who's here!"
"Hey, Jack!" Dave greets him. Emily smiles nervously. She's good with kids but for some reason she's often quiet around Jack.
"I'm going to sleep in Daddy's bed," Jack announces.
"We're just here to say goodnight," Aaron says firmly. He catches the flash in Emily's eyes before she catches herself, but only just. If he wasn't looking for her to be hurt, he might have missed it entirely. Dave doesn't react.
"Well, you two have a good night," Emily says, standing and reaching for her jacket.
"Jack, there's some cookies in the kitchen," Dave tells him. "Get your dad to give you one tomorrow, okay?"
Hotch aims his narrowest glare at Dave, but Dave just grins at him and reaches out to squeeze Emily's shoulder. "We'll talk tomorrow," he says.
Hotch nods. "Thanks for the cannoli," he says, and follows them to the door. He turns the lock behind them, bolting the door and activating the alarm. "C'mon, champ," he says, walking Jack back to his room. "It's just you and me, now."
Aaron had seen local law enforcement consistently underestimate JJ, treat her like a Barbie doll with fluff for brains. He'd witnessed everyone from file clerks to David Rossi widen their eyes at Garcia's quirky style and then drop their jaws at her amazing talent. He'd watched every poor slob within her radius fumble to ask Elle on a date and then be floored when she kicked someone's ass. But before Viper, he never thought he'd see someone outright sexually harass Emily Prentiss and live to tell the tale.
She handled herself well, naturally, and there was really no justification for taking him to the ground with a knee in his kidneys, but Aaron would have liked to see it anyway. Sending her into the club after him, though - after his conversations with Garcia and Melissa Foster earlier, he hated to be that guy who sent a beautiful agent into a situation where she had to use her sexuality as a tool. JJ did it sometimes, to make sure people continued to underestimate her, and Garcia had made it a signature of her persona but those were their choices. He'd never asked that of them and he never would.
"I'm going to make sure Prentiss is okay with this," he told Dave.
Dave raised an eyebrow at him. "It's Prentiss," he said. "She'll get the job done."
Which was like saying the sky was blue, but didn't sway Hotch against talking to her.
"Yeah, I'll be fine," she told him, dismissing his concern out of hand. "Sadly, I've actually dated people worse than Viper."
Aaron tilted his head, trying to process the idea of Emily dating. Specifically dating people worse than Viper. He would have imagined - had he bothered to imagine her personal life - that she'd have better taste, or at least better judgment. That she'd date guys with manners and decorum, guys with her own level of social acumen and poise. Maybe even someone like him.
"Wow," he said, because as it turned out, even Aaron Hotchner is not unflappable, given the right set of circumstances.
She gave him a rueful smile and pulled her necklace away from the column of her neck and for a moment, Aaron thought that she actually was extremely pretty. Not that he thought of his team - except occasionally Dave when he was feeling nostalgic or lonely or for no good reason at all - in any way other than professional. But...
Emily was practically Haley's film negative. Dark where Haley was light, sardonic where Haley was sweet, ruthlessly practical where Haley was a romantic. And yet, Aaron could almost picture an alternate universe where he'd never met Haley, where he would be attracted to Emily. Taken her to dinner. Taken her to a charity ball. Taken her to bed. Maybe they even would have made it work.
It was an odd train of thought, quickly disrupted by Emily's inquiry about Jordan Todd. Hotch shunted it away and concentrated on the personnel problem at hand. But it would come up again.