"Love will find a way through paths where wolves fear to prey."
~ Lord Byron
"You do realize this is going to suck," Emily said, tugging her shirt back on over her head.
Derek was fumbling his jeans back on, but he wouldn't bother with a shirt. He never did; their unique physiology made it easy for them to ignore cold temperatures. It was the reason they healed so quickly, too--when your metabolism ran quickly enough for broken bones to heal in a matter of days and bruises to fade in an hour, your body tended to give off heat, rather than take it in.
"What's going to suck?" he asked.
Emily sighed and stretched, then got up and pulled her boots on. "Rossi. He might have started this team, but he doesn't know all the things that have changed since he's been gone."
Behind her Hotch snorted. He was already dressed, but he always woke up ahead of the rest of them, and while he'd adapted to this, he wasn't as comfortable naked as the rest of them. That suit and tie were his armor, and it was ridiculous, in Emily's opinion, because she'd watched him stand naked in the middle of a forest and stare down Derek Morgan, who would normally have been running a pack of his own. And she'd watched an equally naked Derek Morgan back down and go off to wash blood from his fingernails.
"What?" Emily demanded. Hotch knew Dave Rossi better than any of them, of course. But he also hadn't seen Rossi in a couple of years. Not since well before the Incident and his subsequent divorce. Definitely not since Gideon had lost whatever brittle grip on sanity he'd retained through the change.
But they needed another on the team, and while Strauss had made allowances for moon cycles, she would only go so far. She thought Hotch's control was slipping. Emily could have told her it wasn't. If anything he was more in control of his team than ever before. They'd just been pushed back out into the field a little sooner than they should have been. They were still finding their footing in their changed world.
"He'll be fine," Hotch said. "He's a sly old fox, even if he isn't like us. Besides, Strauss briefed him, and he's had a while to prepare."
Emily shook her head. She trusted Hotch's judgment, but she couldn't help feeling his hand had been forced.
Across the den, Garcia yawned and stretched. She and JJ were curled up together, both naked, with a scrawny, scruffy wolf between them. Spencer had the hardest time changing, and while the rest of them relaxed enough after running to change back in their sleep, he couldn't. It took deliberate effort for him to come back, and the bond between those three, while there was nothing romantic or sexual about it, was the only thing that really helped him. Besides the dilaudid, anyway, but he'd been wrecking his human body with the drugs, even if the wolf could deal with it. Hotch had put a stop to that.
"Come on, Em, it'll be all right," Derek cajoled, a hand on her shoulder.
She just shrugged. "We'll see."
The day Rossi arrived, Emily wore a dress. She didn't know why she'd picked that, but once she'd put it on she couldn't bring herself to change, despite her sudden desire to wear a pantsuit instead. She let Reid and Morgan banter around her while they waited for him, but she couldn't help being distracted by her anxiety about Rossi. Morgan was full of shit anyway. Who could complain about people not being who they seemed when their team was the prime example of that?
She smelled Rossi the minute the glass doors opened for him to enter the BAU. Gunpowder and the steel of birdshot, a hint of spicy cologne, wildness, leather (probably from his car seats, she thought sourly), and confidence. Oh my God, the confidence rolling off him. He knew what they were, what he was walking into, and there wasn't a trace of fear in his scent.
Desire flared to life low in her belly, and she was grateful he couldn't smell it like another werewolf would. How embarrassing that she didn't trust this many at all but still wanted to drag him into the nearest supply closet.
Werewolves could sometimes be more casual about sex within the pack, they'd eventually learned, but that was after that first embarrassing night, when Hotch and Prentiss had reached for each other and it took her shirt ripping for them to realize they'd been about to go at it like two hormone-crazed teenagers. Well. They were hormone-crazed werewolves, and they hadn't been expecting it, but it had still been humiliating, when as humans they'd always been utterly professional with each other. It was a purely physical attraction, too, and neither of them were the sort of people who acted on that. They'd stammered apologies and it had taken the better part of a week for them to meet each other's eyes. It had been a relief when they learned there were reasons for what had happened, but they were both grateful that nothing more had happened, and it had led to the team establishing ground rules within their little pack.
Reid and Morgan had stopped their puppylike wrangling when Rossi strode through. Emily made a face at the other two as Rossi went into Hotch's office. They could all see the way the two men hugged, though, and there was no awkwardness, no distance, nothing that would show he was at all unhappy about being thrown, quite literally, to the wolves.
Damn if that didn't make Emily want him more.
He didn't settle in well. Emily had been right about that. He knew some of the drastic changes that had happened while he was retired, but he hadn't been prepared for the smaller changes, having a media liaison, the technology they now had in place, the way the team was family and not just coworkers.
But he'd become pack anyway, and when Emily found his office in a state of disarray, she knew he was handling something really badly. She'd taken the team to find out what, while Hotch and Reid were on their consult, and the hurt and sadness she could smell from Rossi made her hurt too. If it had been Morgan or Reid, she could have suggested a run, because afterwards they would curl up together and she could comfort them with the physical presence of her. Wolves were more tactile than humans, and despite the no casual sex rule, there was still a lot more casual non-sexual contact between them than before the change.
She couldn't do that with Rossi. She could try the human alternative--she was tempted to try the human alternative--of comfort sex, but that wasn't her style. She sort of wished it were, the way he was putting away the alcohol. He didn't have the werewolf metabolism to keep him from getting drunk, so he was probably going to be miserable in the morning.
They'd solved the case. Morgan had spent a lot of time handling those toys that had been left for the Galen kids. There was enough of a scent left on the most recent ones that he'd unerringly found the man--the kid, really, emotionally at least--who had done this, once they got to the carnival grounds. Emily wished all cases were solved so easily.
But Rossi was upset over the senselessness of the crime. He'd spent twenty years agonizing over the brutality of this, trying to find a connection to other cases, trying to figure out why there was so much personal rage in the attack...only to find out it was the sort of case the BAU didn't even handle. Not a serial, not a sexual sadist, not a stalker...just a mentally disabled man whose father hadn't known how to deal with him.
Emily wanted to help, but Rossi was giving off a stay-away scent of wariness and sadness and barely-hidden anger, so she kept to her side of the jet.
After Indianapolis, Emily didn't mind so much the way her groin tightened at Rossi's scent, or the way his voice made her want to roll over on her back and let him rub her belly. She didn't do anything about it, but she didn't mind.
It took Matthew's death to make her really get it.
Rossi was the only one who had her back, and after all they'd been through together, it hurt like hell that the human was the one who was helping her. Hotch was her pack leader, and he was supposed to take care of his wolves. Morgan was Hotch's beta, true, but he'd been there for her so many times before, his betrayal hurt worse. And Reid...just like Garcia and JJ, he was too submissive to Hotch to stand up for her. Their letting her down didn't hurt as much. They were supposed to obey their alpha, and for them it came naturally.
So when Rossi stood across that empty lot from her and wangled her secrets out of her, she was hurting about her team almost as much as Matthew. And she was that much more grateful to Rossi, who listened and supported and had never feared her for the way she could disembowel him with her teeth if he pissed her off.
Turned out he'd followed her through the snow and the cold after they saved John's life and deported Father Silvano. She'd found herself standing in front of the church, her nose dripping blood, a tremendous sadness filling her. She couldn't move, couldn't go inside, couldn't walk away, so she just stared, wiping the blood away and licking her fingers, aching for the girl she'd been and the mistakes she'd made and the things she'd lost.
She'd felt a howl tearing up through her chest, wanting to burst out. She was shaking, her muscles taut, a cold wilderness eating at her soul. She was going to lose it, right here in the middle of Georgetown. "Shit, shit," she whispered, and hunched over, trying to keep it together.
That was when something heavy settled around her shoulders. Later he would admit that he'd followed her at a distance in his car, that he'd brought the blanket he kept in the trunk all winter, that he'd thought she was just cold. He would admit that he forgot about her werewolf physiology and was entirely ignorant of how it might interact with her high emotions anyway. But that was all afterwards, when it was too late to make a difference anyway. She turned, lashing out at whatever threat had managed to sneak up on her.
She'd never had fingernails as a human. She picked at them or chewed them when she was nervous, so she wasn't used to thinking of them as weapons. Werewolves had strong nails, though. She raked three thin lines of blood across his cheek, the one that drooped a little more when he was especially tired. She watched in horror as blood welled up, stared at the bright splash of red on her fingertips.
"Oh God, Rossi!" she cried, all her self-pity and grief subsumed by a sudden terror of what she'd done. "Wipe that off you! You can't let that--"
He was too calm as he touched a finger to her lips. She fell silent automatically, though, because even if he was a human, he was still an alpha male. He chose to put himself under Hotch's authority, but he was more alpha than the rest of them, even Morgan. So she fell silent, and then realized he wasn't silencing her, but wiping her lip.
"Don't--" she blurted, realization dawning.
But he very deliberately smeared his thumb across his cheek, and she watched in incredulity as David Rossi turned himself into a werewolf.
It was easy, damnably easy, as they'd all learned during that awful case where the cornered unsub had shot himself in the head, splattering them with his blood. Doctors who treated them wore biohazard suits--but then, they didn't need much doctoring. Just the first few weeks while the federal government tried to figure out whether to study them or use them. In the end, of course, it had been a mixture of both, with their monthly battery of tests a condition of their staying with the BAU where their human talents were strongest.
"You can't--oh, God, Rossi, why?" she whispered. Dave licked the blood off his thumb and shook his head.
"There's no simple answer to that, Emily," he said, and wrapped his arm around her. "Come on. You're not even shivering, but I'm freezing."
"Pretty soon you're going to be burning up," she told him, collecting her wits. She was still appalled by what he'd done--by what she'd started and what he'd chosen--but he would need some looking after, because no one deserved to have it go the way it had for them, locked in their hotel rooms, burning up from the inside out, writhing in agony. "You'd better let me drive."
She took him home. Her thoughts kept swirling through her head, wondering why he'd done it and if he felt like such an outsider still and how he could so easily ignore all the handicaps of silver allergies and slavery to the moon and just choose this.
She wouldn't trade it now, for the most part. But there was the other thing, the thing she'd never told anyone, because it wouldn't matter to the men, and she couldn't face telling the women.
She told Rossi now, as she bathed his face with a cool washcloth and drew the covers back from his shoulders. He'd thrown up twice already and changed his sweat-soaked pajamas once, and she could tell the worst of it was yet to come, so she distracted him by talking about anything and everything she could think of. She told him the plot of Slaughterhouse-Five and explained why Star Trek: The Next Generation was better than The Original Series and why she refused to watch the so-called reboot movie. She tried to explain the allure of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Emilie Autumn to a man who preferred Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. And when she ran out of things to say, she told him her deepest regret about being a werewolf.
"They don't know if we can have children," she whispered. "Female werewolves, I mean." She was stroking his hair back from his forehead, curled up on the bed next to him. He was awake, but his eyes were fever-dulled and his scratched cheek was inflamed, and she wasn't even sure if he was listening. "They don't know if there's a way to suppress the physical change for nine months so we can carry a baby to term." She didn't know how to explain that she always thought she could make up somehow for what she'd done in Rome. She didn't know how to confess that she'd wondered if this was a punishment for that.
But with Rossi, even in his current state, she didn't have to.
To her surprise, his arm came up around her back and he pulled her closer. Just a little; he was too weak to really move her, but she understood his intent and snuggled against him. He guided her head down on his shoulder.
"We'll figure it out," he said, and for the first time, Emily wondered if he'd chosen this mostly because of her. She pressed her lips together, fighting back tears.
"Hotch is going to kill you," she said with a shaky laugh.
"He knew I wanted it," Dave rasped. "He tried to talk me out of it, but we've been through all my reasons. I think he'll understand."
"Morgan's going to hate it."
"He'll have to deal with it," Dave said. "If I can handle answering to Hotch, I think I can handle sharing pack status with Morgan."
"Hard to say if he'll be able to though," Emily said. She hoped it wouldn't make Morgan regret not taking the transfer to New York City. It had been such a surprise that FBI brass would "overlook Morgan's handicap" to offer him a field office. But Morgan had declined without a second thought, because they were pack. With Rossi a true member of the pack, she wasn't sure if it would change that.
"He'll be able to," Dave said. "He's a hell of a lot like me, when it comes down to it." She sat up to look at him. His eyes were closed, the lines of his face tense.
"You need to rest if you can," she said. "The next couple of hours are going to be really bad, but then it ought to be over."
Dave opened his eyes and found her face. "As long as you'll be here," he mumbled. "Emily Prentiss." His hand reached up to cup her cheek.
She covered it with hers. "I'll stay."
Whatever the consequences of his decision, that was for him and Hotch and Morgan to work out. The rest of the pack would cope with any arrangement those three worked out, and Emily for once was content to let the men sort it out without input from her.
"I thought this was gonna suck," she murmured, stroking her fingers against his cheek. "I thought you wouldn't understand." She chuckled softly. "I'm not so sure you understand, but acceptance is better than understanding anyway."
Dave chuckled too. His voice was rough, his entire body tense with pain, but she could smell the happiness on him. "Hotch used to call me a sly old fox," he said. "Now I'll just have to be a sly old wolf instead."