Chapter IX: A walk through feelings
"This melancholy London - I sometimes imagine that the souls of the lost are compelled to walk through its streets perpetually. One feels them passing like a whiff of air." ~ William Butler Yeats
The whole day passed rather quickly and without any radical result. Emily checked with the local police authorities. Their theory was confirmed. Apart from the first targets tha were mentioned in case files, the rest of the victims seemed to have affairs or other suspicious meetings around the area they were killed. They had indeed a killer of sinners and the board now had at least thirty more possible cases in Europe, plus fourteen Americans on it. They were waiting for any DNA evidence. As for the discovery of the Planner, it didn't seem to go anywhere at all. The access to the database was only through police, FBI, Interpol or other similar agencies and there was no official request for any of the files. The Planner had sneaked in or he worked for them and that last was worrying Hotch the most. The man in custody didn't talk to him either. They assumed that if he was in a target mission, the Planner had to be able to contact him somehow, but without a phone or address or anything else there was no lead. Gloria thought of checking every CCTV around the area he was caught if she could find something. At the end of the day Emily proposed to him to go somewhere and have some food, take their mind off the case for a bit.
And here they were, walking towards an Italian restaurant that Emily had promised him that it had amazing food and view. They were walking without talking for some time, the only sound between them, above that of the streets of London, was the sound of her heels hitting on the pavement. He had missed hearing her steps but mostly he had missed that heat of her body beside him, that was becoming more intense each time she accidentally bumped to his side while trying to make their way through the busy sidewalks. Why did he let her fly to other side of the world? Why didn't he hold her? Why didn't he grab all his chances? Because he knew that he wasn't that boy and she wasn't that girl. He wasn't the man to start a relationship with his subordinate, she wasn't the woman to have an affair with her boss. If she was ever interested in him and even if they had found another way around - he knew that after Stauss' drinking problem, he could take a promotion, the obstacle that was formed some years ago, when Strauss said that neither Emily nor he could go up the ladder, was overcome - he would have still remained her superior. Both they were too proud, too career driven for messing with something like this. And for Someone's up there in the sky laughing, this issue was solved by putting the whole Atlantic Ocean between them…
"London is quite easy to navigate, isn't it?" Emily started the conversation once they turned to a quieter street.
"It's because of the river, I think," he answered.
"Funny thing, Gloria says the same. Personally, I think it's because of the buildings. Once you know where every special building is, you know the city, at least the central part."
With the mention of the other woman's name Hotch thought about their morning argument. He had wondered for some moments during the day, if Emily had felt the same as Gloria, embarrassed, defeated, broken, when that story with Doyle was finished and after, when she came back to them knowing that they knew. She hadn't shown anything and he was pretty aware that neither the other woman would have, if there hadn't been other conditions around. He knew that Emily's return in the BAU hadn't been her issue. Who was going to be angry with her for being alive? He had taken all the blame for the lie about her "death" on him. Them knowing the rest had been the issue. She fought so hard to show them that she was nothing like Lauren Reynolds or like the person who had once agreed to play her. She was having bad days because of her real almost death, Doyle's haunting for months. She had been talking to him, but she had never said anything too personal, anything more. Damn her ability to compartmentalize everything. Oh God help, if she had been anywhere near that point frustrated… Then maybe it was good for her that she left and if she was happy London, he should leave it like this. When you loved someone, you should be able to let them go, if it's for their good. What did he just think? "Love"?
"Here is the London Bridge but I guess you've seen it before," Emily spoke interrupting his thoughts and looking at him.
"Oh yeah," he murmured.
He could tell that she got concerned seeing his thoughtful eyes but she didn't say anything. They crossed the Bridge and arrived at the restaurant. They sat at a table beside the window. She was right, the view was amazing. The Bridge and the Tower were on their left, the Thames and its opposite bank spread out in front of them and around them there were old, brown-tiled buildings that used to be wharfs and they were turned into blocks of flats still keeping the cranes on the walls. They ordered their food and a bottle of wine. He poured the wine into their glasses. After a while Emily touched his hand and looked him in the eyes tenderly.
"Hotch, with all this I didn't get the chance to ask: how are you?"
Hotch smiled. She was right. They had spent two days speaking about killers and other people except themselves. He put his other hand over hers to keep it there a little longer. Normally he wouldn't have done that but his previous thoughts had an effect on him.
"I'm fine I think," he answered simply.
"How is Beth?" Emily asked and he got from her tone that she just asked out of politeness, as always with the particular subject.
"Fine, I guess. We broke up," he added, looking at their hands, none of them had moved them.
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Hotch.", she sounded genuinely sorry, he knew that she wanted the best for him, too.
"It was the job," he added quickly and he paused, "I missed you," he admitted for the very first time out loud, "But I'm not the one with the changes. How are you?" he turned the subject to her.
"OK," she replied taking her hand back, he didn't know if it was his admittance that made her do that, "I am getting used to the job and the city."
"And how is it going?"
"Pretty well," she said neutrally.
"Does London feel like home?", he pressed.
"I think it's pretty early to say something like this. Between the many hours of the job and the moving in I haven't thought about it much," she replied honestly.
After the waiter that brought their food left, she smiled and continued.
"You know, sometimes I think that there is no problem with the places and the cities. It's just me. I hated when we moved around as a kid, but as it seems it is the only thing I am used to do."
"Maybe you need a reason to settle down somewhere," he said.
"I am not so sure that any "reason" needs me though," she confessed biting her lip and taking a sip from the wine.
could she think of that? He would be honored to be "that reason" and he
needed her more than he ever admitted.
The conversation over the food was lighter. They talked about her new flat, Sergio who didn't seem to like the British accent, how she was glad that she met Gloria again, Morgan and Garcia's visit, some small trips around. She seemed comfortable in England but Hotch didn't get the feeling that everything was perfect. It was just normal, just like in DC. They laughed with some funny incidents from the BAU that he narrated. She still longed for the others, like someone longing for their family in another country. He noticed she never mentioned anything about a man. But he knew from his spying that there should be someone she wished him here and he had come…
When they finished their meal, they went out to walk a little bit. Gloria had called and said that nothing came back from the video footage. It was raining lightly and only Emily had her umbrella with her. He offered to hold it and they were walking too close to fit below it. Maybe it was this closeness that made him finally ask the one of the questions that had tortured him all those evenings in his office over a cup of tea.
"Emily, what did we do wrong when you got back?"
"Nothing Hotch... Where did this come from?" she answered confused.
"Emily you were looking for a way to escape. This job offer was that way."
"I told you back then. It wasn't you. It was me. I wanted a fresh start. I didn't want to escape from anything," she replied not very convincingly.
"You could have done a fresh start anywhere around us. With your skills you could have taken any place around, even in New York, anywhere around Washington. But you left everything behind, you obviously wanted to escape from something."
She looked to the ground. He knew that he had a point. He had thought enough about it to know that he was right.
"Why Emily? Why did you have to go so far? Why didn't you want any of us around? What did we do so wrong?"
"Hotch… I…" she struggled to answer and she walked to the banister not bothering about the rain. He followed her and stood beside her. She was escaping again and this time from the conversation.
"What did I do so wrong?", he continued in a low voice.
"Nothing… I was wrong about something, Hotch, and I had to run away before it consumed me, at least what it had left of me... But it still…" she replied avoid looking at him.
"What were you wrong about?" he was getting confused. What was she trying to tell?
Instead of an answer she hugged him. She fell into his chest and he, even stunned and still puzzled, put his free hand on her back. It was the second time in his life that he got the chance to feel her onto his body. He longed so much for this warmth, this calmness, this smoothness. He could hear her taking deep breaths, her face hidden in the crook of his neck. Running his hand up and down her back, he bent his head into her hair and he breathed her scent like it was the last air left on Earth. He could feel through his hand her heart beating intensely, that heart that he fought and could fight even harder to keep it beating. And that heart was hurting for something that he hadn't fully understood and he had to ease that pain, so he spoke softly:
"Emily, when you got back, you were confused sentimentally, maybe…"
She pulled back abruptly and he understood that opening his mouth to say this was a big mistake. She took a few steps away from him and her eyes got cold. She shook her head, biting her lip, looking towards the Thames in front of them.
"You know, Ria says something about profilers and she is right."
"What does she say?", he asked. The tendency of that name to pop up in moments like this annoyed him.
"That we are so much into the profiling stuff that we forget that apart from the profiles there are other things. People, including us, don't only have psychological traits, behaviors and so on. They have feelings, feelings that they hide or follow for their whole damn lives and sometimes they do both…"
He wasn't so sure about where all this was going.
"How would you profile me, Hotch? Let me tell you, as an ambitious, professional woman that can compartmentalize better than most people".
"Emily you are a lot more…" he tried to say.
"Let's focus on these," she cut him off and continued like she was stating matters of fact, "And you would be right. Do you know why I got into the Doyle's story? For my ambitions. I screwed myself for my ambitions. But when Strauss gave me the opportunity to go upper, I couldn't screw you. I never showed much emotion, but, when Matthew died, I came crying to your office ready to spill another embarrassing moment of my life right in front of you. I never missed a case even if I was injured, ill or whatever, but I escaped an urgent case to look for you when you didn't show up. All these don't fit in the profile, do they? And I wasn't "confused" back then!" and with this she ran away from him and disappeared, before what she had just said sunk in.
She left him there understanding that, if years ago, even moments ago, he had followed his heart and had just shut his mind down and kissed her, he would have achieved happiness. But he was Hotch, the reserved, logic freak who analyzed everything, giving her the impression that she was wrong, that what she was feeling didn't have any response back. He knew that she was his last glimpse to happiness. Life passed too quickly and they had run out of chances. He let them slip through his fingers. He did one mistake tonight and he had done another one some months ago, a bigger one and he didn't know exactly what - it couldn't be just the other woman, he had done something to Emily personally - that sent her to the other side of the globe.
She left him there still holding her own umbrella, leaving it to protect him as she always did, even if it was just from a light London rain. The bell from Tower Bridge rang. The Bridge was going to open. Hotch had heard that you should be really lucky to see it. But he had stopped believing in luck so many years ago…
"It's no use carrying an umbrella, if your shoes are leaking." ~ Irish Proverb