Through the Streets of London

Chapter XX: We are all messed up

"For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart. It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul." ~ Judy Garland

Hotch felt Emily trembling slightly in his hands. He didn't know if it was because of the cold or she finally registered what was happening between them. It was like they were in a dream, in a parallel universe. But they weren't trapped in any unreal world, in any corner of their minds during some lonely night that allowed the imagination to travel to forbidden places. What was in their fantasy for years, for too long years, was a reality now: a kiss. And they were lost in it. The time had stopped and the only things around them and between them were each other's passion, love, touch and taste. Hotch had a burn in his chest, not from just a sparkle or a flame. It was a fire that was always there in the small touches and words that they had shared and now it threatened to break free and consume them all. He had thought - and he was sure that she had as well - that the time and the distance, imposed or actual, would have put it down. But he had heard somewhere that the wind could only extinguish a lit candle. A real fire could only be strengthened by the wind…

Emily trembled again and she was the first to break the kiss and the spell between them. He pulled back looking in her eyes, question and despair written all over his face. Her eyes were confused, confused by her feelings, the reality and the speed of the things changing and getting complicated.

"We have to sleep," she spoke quietly.

"I know," he agreed, not letting her go from his hands.

He hugged her for one more time, her face hided in the crook of his neck. She was much shorter than him without heels, in just a pair of jogging pants and a t-shirt beneath the police jacket that she had worn. If he hadn't been so anxious last night, he would have smiled when he told her to stay in the hotel and she took a small go-bag from a drawer of her office, just like when she used to do at the BAU. Some habits could never die. You could move away from some things but you could never let them go.

They were standing there hugged like that other night, breathing each other's scent. But this time it was him who was holding her more tightly.

"Hotch…" she breathed, starting saying something.

"Shh…" he whispered calmly. "You are right. We need some rest."

She was right. They were exhausted. They had come to the point to face their worst fears. They had admitted the worst things. No happy ending had ever come out of what they had just experienced, at least not instantly. But he needed a reassurance that the nightmare was over. He needed a piece of hope, too, a hope for a happy ending or at least of what it might have been.

He pressed a ghost kiss on the top of her head and finally let his hands fall from her, letting her go. Every feeling of this world was crossing Emily's face as she took a step away from him.

"I'm going home. I hope I can convince Ria to come with me. I don't want her to stay alone," she said to break the uncomfortable silence.

"Good," he nodded.

Always the same Emily, the one that always cared for the others. However, at least like that, Emily wouldn't be left alone, too. They needed time to let the facts sink in and their selves to come back, at least their selves that could deal with the situation, because their real ones were so desperate for one another that they could only lead to mistakes. Hotch knew that he, himself, would be left desperate for her. He had kept himself restrained and away from Emily for too long and now he wasn't planning on giving up. But he, also, knew that he had hurt her too much, too deep and he wanted her to be herself when she would say something.

He watched her starting moving away from him.

"Emily…" he said unsure of what to say next. I'm sorry but I love you, seemed not enough.

"I know and I don't. Sleep and we can talk in the afternoon," she said simply.

He saw her disappearing through the door. He took a deep breath, throwing a last glance towards the view, finally noticing the cold. He had come out only in his sweatshirt and the pair of jeans he had changed after his shower last night. He turned and went downstairs to his room.

Laying on the bed he let his mind drifting back to what had happened that whole day. "Sometimes there are no words. No clever quotes to neatly sum what's happened that day…" His own words from another bad time came to his mind. He had seen the worst that he had done in his life spread out in front of him, he had admitted his worst nightmare, he had hurt Emily, he had almost got killed in an explosion, he had watched another woman he loved in danger, he had preferred to die himself to save her, he had met the worst version of himself and witnessed that version taking the fall with hope and trust on him for survival, he had kissed Emily and she had kissed him back. Too much bad and too much good in just twenty four hours… Hotch wondered what the two women were talking about in Emily's home. Was Emily telling Gloria what happened on the roof or the other way around? Was Emily telling what had happened with UnSub before he got there? Was the other woman finally sharing her feelings? Was she crying? But Hotch had no one at that moment to do any of that and it was for the best. He wasn't used to share, talk or cry. "Sometimes the day just ends." So he just closed his eyes and let the day end, already at the beginning of a new one…

His phone ringing on the bedside table woke Hotch up around noon.

"Hotchner," he said his voice hoarse from the few hours of sleep.

"Oh Captain, my Captain!" Garcia's voice came from the phone.

"Garcia? Did anything happen?" he asked suddenly worried, pleading in his head that there wasn't anything else about that damn case.

"No, not all. With my super powers I would have found it, my kind Sir.", Garcia said and he could hear her smile. He was sure of that. "You just got us worried. We heard about an explosion and then about an operation to take down a man related to a series of murders…"

"We are all OK, Garcia," he simply said, swearing in his head about the speed the news traveled nowadays and still surprised with his tech girl calling to check up on him.

"No hurt, no harm?" she asked worried.

"Yeah, just minor things," he replied.

"You know, I am always worried when any of you guys go out and now that you are on the other side of the Atlantic…" Penelope explained.

"They are alright, baby girl," Morgan's soothing voice came from the phone. She wasn't alone. Maybe his whole team was there.

"The priest performing exorcisms, four years ago, was the head of all of this. Interpol is going to send you the files to close our cases formally," he gave the facts.

"Aaron, we saw the Marks' photos. One of the victims was…" he heard Rossi's voice. He was about to tell him about Gloria's involvement. But was Hotch sensing too much worry in Dave's tone for just a far and hardly known friend?

"I know. Agent Paterson is alright as well, Dave," Hotch said reassuringly. "Garcia, can you see if you can postpone my return flight for a few days?" he continued.

"Why, Hotch? Are you sure you are ok?" Morgan asked. It wasn't a surprise that it was him asking and not the others. But were the others already guessing why he wanted to stay a little longer?

"Just my ears from the explosion. I should avoid flying but from here I can't drive back," he gave an explanation. The reason wasn't his ears, it was that he wanted to have some more time with Emily, to try to work things out.

"Whatever you want, my Sir! If I need to, I'll hack into the system of the flight company!" Garcia replied enthusiastically.

"I would appreciate a little less zealous, Garcia," he said, smiling in reality. He was sure of that she could do that, too.

"Enjoy your tea, now Aaron," Rossi said with meaning.

Damn his friend and his advices in front of all his team. But Hotch didn't mind. They were a family. He had people caring for him. After all that had happened the previous day, he appreciated it deeply. And these people, including himself, cared for someone else here and he wished he could do something to make their family complete again.

"I will try."

He ended the call and lied again on the bed staring at the ceiling. He didn't know what was going to happen now. He didn't know if this day was a better day. He didn't even know if staying in London for a bit longer was a good idea. He didn't know what to expect from Emily. The only thing that Hotch deep down knew was that his action in the morning hadn't resolved the facts, Emily's beliefs and his mistakes, all in once. It couldn't even relieve the pain he had put her through.

He stood up, got dressed in his suit and decided to walk around to clear his head. After some wandering around for an hour he ended up eating some fish and chips in a small pub. He smiled to himself. His first descent meal without a case in his mind in this country was fish and chips. He never appreciated too much for the british cuisine. He ended up eating their only culinary achievement for him, not wrapped in a newspaper, but in a proper dish. A song was playing on the radio…

"Drop of blood and now you're taken / For all time / With a kiss you will awaken / And you'll be mine… / Think that for a moment you were mine / I know that you saw what we could be / But then you went and changed your mind / One two three yeah one two three… / Now you know, now you know / How I feel and I won't back down…"

Emily hadn't called him yet. He didn't want to try himself. He didn't want to press her but Hotch was thinking that he had enough. Whatever was about to come, it was better for it to come. At least he had to fight for her. His steps guided him again to the Interpol office. He went up to see how the things were going and to find Emily. She was there in her office, as he had guessed, putting away some files.

"Hotch…" she simply greeted him.

"I know the statement is for tomorrow. I just passed by…", he explained not carrying on with his phrase. He could make up a fake reason. After all those years as a Unit Chief, he knew all the bureaucratic procedures that were probably needed. But at that moment he didn't want to lie. 'Enough with the hiding', his mind was telling him, there was no point in hiding anymore.

Emily nodded, understanding what was going on in his head.

"Let me finish with these and we can go home, have some coffee," she told him.

She wanted them to talk finally. But he couldn't read her eyes and he didn't know if this was good or bad. She finished and she drove them to her place. Emily was leaving in those refurbished wharfs on the bank of Thames, on the west side of London. The lift was shaky as Garcia had described it. He had never asked about Emily, when Garcia and Morgan came back from England. He had just stood by and overheard their stories.

He took off his coat after Emily. The view from her windows was beautiful, exactly like he had learnt.

"I can't stay in a flat without view, can I?" Emily joked.

He smiled.

He looked around. Emily's flat was furnished in the same taste as her apartment back in DC was, as he remembered it from his very few visits and from the time he cleaned it up when she 'died'. The others had offered to help him but he refused. They knew that he had done the same thing when Greenaway was hurt. They didn't question it. However, he wanted to be sure to keep her belongings safe in case she came back and his action to put everything in a storage space would looked suspicious. The truth was, also, that he had wanted to stay a few hours there, surrounded by her things and her smell. He wasn't mourning her death but he was mourning her absence. And then she came back and it wasn't Doyle anymore that had made her leave. It was himself and it was about time to face that.

He went to sit in the living room as Emily got busy in the kitchen setting the coffee machine. He noticed an ashtray on the small table beside the sofa. It was empty but not cleaned. Gloria had stayed there finally.

"Garcia called to check on us," he said.

"I know. She called me, too, but I had turned it on silent. I didn't want to wake Ria. I saw the call afterwards and called her back," Emily replied.

"How is Gloria?" Hotch asked about her friend.

"She will be alright, eventually. She has buried things for too many years and she still managed to cope," Emily answered a little bit of anger in her voice. She cared for her friend deeply but she was angry with her. Hotch could feel that this frustration wasn't directed only towards her. "Sometimes I am wondering how I end up surrounded by people just like you," she continued murmuring. "How can you do it, Hotch? Can you explain it to me?"

"Do what?" he asked confused.

"Hide everything and go on like nothing is there," she faced him, staring in his eyes.

She was accusing him for hiding, hiding his torture, hiding his feelings and behaving like nothing was going on, burying things and still managing to cope.

"You do it yourself, Emily," he stated as a matter of fact.

"I DID it and I had some pretty good reasons for it," she corrected him.

"We all say the same thing," he said, not knowing where all this was going but he played along.

"No, Hotch, there you are wrong!" she said rising her voice a little.

"How am I wrong?" he said standing up and folding his hands.

"This thing only works when you are around people that don't care of how you feel. Damn they forced you not to. You? Her? You have people around you caring for you, wanting to help and you just ignore them."

"It's not ignorance…" he whispered still puzzled.

"Then what is it, Hotch?" she said rising her eyebrows. "Eh, what is it?"

'Fear it is.', his mind was shouting at him. Not only fear of what they could find out about themselves, as he had admitted in the morning, but also fear of what the others might think of them. But he wasn't still strong enough to admit the latter out loud. So he made the mistake to return to the profiler's mode.

"You compartmentalization and so on, is it because of ignorance?" he asked challenging her.

"So you want to turn the game on me, Hotch?" she cut him off, her frustration growing. "You know very well that we do a damn job where feelings are bad, a weakness. We even come from families that taught us exactly that. I had a mother that just wanted me to be perfect for her perfect family image, neglecting the fact that my whole life sucked! I don't even talk to her anymore. I came back from Doyle and my bosses wanted to be sure that I was still on the right side and they made me spy on people, for God's sake! They wanted me to witness with no emotion a top agent and a friend getting screwed because she made the mistake to fall in love with someone that could finally understand! I couldn't stand it and I left. And after that, I ended up in front of a boss with quite 'a pain in the ass and not showing emotion' reputation who didn't trust me! What did you want me to do?"

"But you did what you are accusing right now," he said, her frustration effecting him too.

He had no idea what she was trying to say. For one more time, though, he was noticing that he had the old Emily back in front of him, the one that wouldn't pull back off, the one that was decisive enough to stand up to him and make her point.

"I realized I was wrong and I changed. You taught me, Hotch, what trust means. You taught me that there are people out there that care and coworkers that don't try to screw you over a case. But you are the first to forget it."

This was a truth. The restrained Emily that had first come to his office, had bloomed into a smiling woman that tried to offer a shoulder to cry on to everyone that needed it, talking about what she felt, showing her frustration and happiness. "Emily, came back a better person, Hotch, and you played a great role in that.", Gloria's words came to his mind. He didn't know it was him that made her human again. He had thought that the others did it with their friendliness and acceptance. He always showed too little of those…

"Emily, I am not used to…" he tried to explain himself still unsure.

"Ohohoho… Don't throw me the 'sharing is not in your blood' line, please! When you are still hurting, this is a cheap excuse!"

And then he understood why she was angry. She was frustrated because he was still hurting for something that had happened years ago. He didn't ask for any help to deal with it. He buried it and still carried it around. She was angry because he was hurt. Apparently the same was for her friend, too.

He bent his head. She was right.

"In any way it's not ignorance Emily," he whispered again.

"Then what is it? Pride? All the others can be weak but you are not?" she insisted asking for explanations.

She couldn't see that it was lower than weakness, it was fear. She couldn't sense it, because to her he couldn't be frightened.

"Come on! Explain it to me. You have people that care for you. Rossi is there. Me, I was there. I loved you, Hotch, even when I wasn't allowed to. I would have done anything, A-NY-THING you asked me to, in order for you not to reach the point to admit whatever you believed and you admitted with that priest now, three years after."

In her anger she had said out loud the one only word that mattered: 'love'. But she carried on without giving him time to speak.

"But maybe you are right. Opening up is not good. I opened up. Hell, when I came back from the dead, I opened up way too much and when I let it show that I'm not OK, I'm not perfect, you learnt that I was already too damaged for you," she carried on mainly to herself.

"Emily, you were never damaged!" he exclaimed.

"Then why so easily did you pass me by? You had feelings, Hotch. Damn, you showed them to me, now, here after all that. Why did you ignore me? Why did you let me go? You had a reason for it and I was!" she rose her voice more and turned to step further from him.

He had come there to fight for her, not to back down, not to let her go for one more time. A 'non words-friendly man' had to find the words. For the first time in his life he had to express himself in words. He kneeled with a quick move in front her taking her hands in his, stopping her, making her turn towards him again.

"Emily, I never ignored you, I never ignored anyone. It's not ignorance. It's not pride. It's fear, Emily! Fear that I am not worthy enough for them. I am not worthy for you!"

Emily was in lack of words. Having the strongest man she knew on his knees in front of her, with tears in his eyes had an effect on her.

"We are not perfect. We all have demons. But you had the courage to talk about yours, to face them. I wish I had the same strenght but you are stronger than me, Emily, much stronger."

"I watched you getting by and I followed your example. You trusted me. You welcomed me and tried to make me feel home. You told me that it was ok to have bad days. Hotch, you, you made me strong," she said with tears in her eyes, in shock with what she was listening to.

"I told you. I didn't want you to become me, Emily. I love you, I always did," he said looking in her eyes, finally saying that phrase the correct way and then he bent his head. "But even in that you were stronger than me. You had the courage to reach out to me and I hurt you. I couldn't see, I couldn't believe that you were there for me, Emily. I hid behind profiles and substitutes, instead of..."

Her hands slipped from his and went to his shoulders pushing him up.

"Hotch...?"

"I loved you and I didn't dare to reach out. But you still had the courage to move away from me," he carried on.

She took some steps back. He looked at her confused about what he said wrong that time.

"Do you really think that I was ever able to move away from you? You have no idea. Really."

"Emily..." he tried to say.

She thought that he was questioning her feelings.

"You know, I was never able to. Not even now, never! Not when I knew that, despite your divorce, despite the witness protection, at some point you would have gone back to Haley. And this last time, now, I really wished it. I came to the other side of the world to do it, but I couldn't," she smiled ironically, "I just couldn't! Damn Hotch! You were a punishment!" she exclaimed, referring to his line with the UnSub hours earlier and at that moment there was another type of frustration in her voice.

She wasn't angry with him anymore, at least not only with him. She was angry with her life and with herself, as well.

He moved towards her and took her face in her hands wiping the few tears that had escaped from her eyes. He was looking at her with all the love that he hadn't allowed himself to show to her for all those years and he spoke calmly and steady.

"You never done anything wrong to deserve any of this. Do you listen to me? Nothing."

"I love you more than I can handle, Hotch..." she said, starting crying freely.

"I know, Emily. Me too. I know and I'm so sorry for being me, Emily. I'm so sorry..."

She sneaked her hands around him, holding him tightly. He hugged her back. The fire from the morning had come back and this time, Hotch knew that they couldn't keep it from breaking free. He heard her in his ear speaking, frustrated, despaired but in a tone of finally surrendering to what was there, between them.

"Why did we have to pass all that to come to this? Why, Hotch?"

"Do not seek the because - in love there is no because, no reason, no explanation, no solutions." ~ Anaïs Nin


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