Elle stretched and took a mouthful of Chinese noodles and curled her legs up underneath her and sighed.

“Okay, so you’re on a blind date and the guys a dud, what do you do?”

“Get the hell outta there!”

“So articulate Elle!”

“Well, you know me Slick!” Elle laughed and took another mouthful of noodles.

“Well, I’d try and stick it out; he may turn out to be nice.”

“Ah, JJ, ever the optimist!” JJ swatted Elle and laughed, as Elle grinned and unhooked her legs from under her.

“Guys a dud huh? He cute? If so, I’d definitely stay!” Everyone laughed as Garcia bit into a spring roll, with a defiant flip off her hair. Morgan raised his eyebrow and contemplated each of the girl’s very different points of view.

“Ok Slick, same question back to you, actually, to all of you!” Elle grabbed a spring roll from the middle and took a bite, and watched as the guys contemplated their answers.

“What, the guys a dud? Why am I with a guy?”

“Ha ha, comedy not your strong suit! Funny, no Morgan, you can be with a girl.”

“Okay then, girls a dud, I’d get out of there.” Morgan sat back and took a swig of the root beer he had been nursing the past hour.

“I’d make excuses and leave.”

“Aw Hotch, my man, you don’t make excuses to a dud!” Morgan laughed, his dark eyes sparkling. Gideon and Reid smiled, as Reid took one of Gideon’s pieces.

“Check in 3,” he murmured and then twisted back to the group.

“I’d stick it out.” He stated simply and took a bite of his Chinese before turning back to his game. Gideon glanced over at the game, moved a piece, and then barely glanced up at the group for his simple answer.

“Smile politely, try to stay, if not, leave.”

“Okay, so what would you do if you got called into work on Christmas Eve?” Morgan smiled at Elle, who smirked, then plastered an innocent look on her face.

“Well, and this is wild, just throwing it out there, but um, probably, er, this!” She laughed and gestured around the layout room, most of them sitting on the floor-Morgan and herself off to one side slightly with a deck of cards, JJ and Hotch sitting in the middle with some pictures of Jack-with Gideon, Reid and Garcia sat on chairs around the room, eating a multitude of Chinese meals. Morgan laughed and leaned back against the desk. Elle smirked and stretched her legs out straight in front of her, and tossed her hair over her shoulder.

“Okay, fine, so what would you do if a girl/guy was obsessing over you, and kept calling and texting and leaving gifts at your desk, well um, kinda like JJ’s old boyfriend!” Morgan cracked up, while JJ pretended to be horror struck and clambered down onto the floor to steal a bite of Elle’s lemon chicken.

“Well, I wouldn’t be as forgiving as JJ was. I’d can him and get a TRO against him and I would have probably smacked him!” Garcia laughed at Elle’s very blunt explanation. Elle then began to filter out everyone as JJ and Garcia started a mock fight and looked around at the group with a smile. It was her job to analyse and know people, get inside their heads, yet she hardly knew the people she worked with. She was jerked from her musing when Hotch stood up and left the room.

“Hey, where’s Hotch going?”

“He said he had to go and get some air.”

“Why?” Morgan shrugged and carried on dealing the cards to JJ and Garcia.

“Maybe it was the family topic and, hey where are you going?” Elle curled her torso round the door with a smile.

“Get some air!” JJ smiled, as Morgan smirked and raised an eyebrow. Elle strode down the dark, quiet corridor to the stairs and began to climb.

Hotch stared down at the lights below and sighed. He loved to come up here and just think, get away from it all. He jumped when he felt a light touch on his shoulder.


“Hey. How did you..?”

“…know you were here? Simple, whenever I need to think, I isolate myself, come up here, or to a bathroom, same way you lock yourself in your office, or come up here!” Hotch smiled as Elle wrapped her arms around herself and stood next to Hotch, the breeze lifting up a few strands of her hair.

“You know me better than I know myself.”

“Hey, it’s my job!” Elle shrugged and turned to Hotch with a smile.

“How are you holding up? And you can be honest up here; it’s only me and the cold.” She shivered and Hotch smiled sadly.

“I feel like crap, to be honest. Haley’s left me, I see Jack whenever I can, but it never feels like enough, and I just feel confused.” He sighed and closed his eyes briefly, before turning and locking eyes with Elle’s concerned ones.

“Hey, what ever you do, it’s not gonna feel enough, you’ve just got to juggle and adapt. But Jack’s got a great Dad, and Haley’s isn’t gonna be one of those vindictive Mom’s who poison their child’s mind, so you’re pretty safe. But hey, what are you confused about?” Hotch smiled and turned away from Elle, gazing back out over Virginia.

“Just things. Things I shouldn’t be feeling, yet I do….” He trailed off and turned to Elle with a small smile.

“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’m so confused I’m not sure I’m me.”

“Yeah? What about?”

“A guy. A guy I really, really like, but can’t have. A guy who’s so amazing and kind and smart and funny, but he’s off limits.” Hotch looked down at her, and tugged off his jacket to put around her as by now she was shivering and her teeth were chattering.

“Why’s he off limits?”

“Because he’s my boss.” Elle’s eyes widened when she realised what she had just said, and then she squeezed them shut and cursed.

“Um, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean….” Her explanation was cut off abruptly by Hotch leaning down and kissing her softly. She felt his arms go around her waist and pull her closer to him, and her arms seemed to grow a mind of their own and wrapped themselves around his neck. Suddenly, Hotch pulled back a little breathlessly and bit his lip.

“Im so so sorry, I didn’t mean to, it’s just…”

“Don’t worry about it, I mean, it’s not anything….” Elle trailed off and looked at the ground shyly, before glancing back up at Hotch.

“You know what? I know this is a really crap time to be saying this, but I really like you, and I don’t think I can keep it together much longer, so, um, Merry Christmas.” With that she smiled and kissed him again, this time pulling him closer, until she was pressed up against the wall that was cutting into her back, his arms wrapped tightly around her as their kiss deepened. Finally they pulled away, yet didn’t let go off each other, as Elle smiled shyly and glanced down.

“Merry Christmas.” Hotch whispered as he pulled her tight against him with a sigh.

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