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Chapter Twenty-three

Stitches. Lots of stitches. Stitches for her arm, stitches for her head, stitches for her throat. She was knocked out for all of it, thankfully. When she finally came around, though, and they told her, Emily thought she must look something like Frankenstein. When she said this, Reid corrected her immediately, as she had known he would, and she smiled.

"Actually, Frankenstein is the Dr. You look more like Frankenstein's monster-" Too late he realised what he had said, and only then because of the glares he was recieving from JJ and Morgan, who stood either side of him at the foot of her bed. "Sorry." He mumbled, meekly, but it made Emily laugh, and then wince.

"How are you feeling?" JJ moved to her side, one hand taking hold of Emily's and the other brushing damp hair back from her forehead. Emily tried to nod and felt the pull of the stitches at her throat, closed her eyes a moment to breathe, and then met the blonde's eyes.

"I'm okay." She said, though that was a bit of a stretch. "I'm alive."

JJ smiled a watery smile down at her, and nodded. Emily could tell she wanted to speak, but there was a lump in her throat that was stopping her. Emily squeezed her hand, though her own were bandaged and sore. The guilt in JJ's eyes was obvious, and unnecessary.

"Hey," She muttered, weakly, "I'm fine."

JJ gaped at her a moment, opening and closing her mouth like a fish out of water, trying to speak. She swallowed, heavily, glanced towards Morgan and Reid, who took the hint and took their leave as subtly as they could.

"We'll, uh, we'll go get some coffee."

"Bring me one?" Emily chanced. Morgan flashed her a toothy grin, the smile she loved so much, and shook his head.

"Sorry, princess. Dr's orders."

She pretended to pout, though part of her really would have loved cup of coffee right now. She was hooked up to an IV, she could see, which explained why she didn't feel dehydrated, but that didn't help with the dryness in her mouth.

JJ, still holding her hand, perched on the edge of the bed. Her eyes were brimming now, and Emily hated to see it. She wanted teasing, hungover JJ back. But this wasn't the time for teasing or for jokes.

"I shouldn't have left you," The blonde muttered, with a voice thick with tears, "I'm so sorry, Emily. If we'd stuck together this wouldn't have happened. This is just like Hankel all over again with Reid, I never should have-"

"Stop." Emily spoke in as assertive a voice as she could manage in her weakened state. "Jayje, you stop that right now. This is not your fault. None of it. Do you hear me?"

JJ wouldn't meet her eyes, trying to blink back the tears that threatened to spill over. Emily gripped the younger agent's hand tightly and, finally, JJ turned those brilliant blue eyes on her. Right now, full of tears, they shone like crystals.

Emily repeated herself, slowly, "Do you hear me?"

It was hesitant, but JJ nodded. She used her free hand to brush away the tear and wiped her nose on the back of it. Emily scrunched up her face.

"Ew, we're in a hospital, get a tissue," They shared a warm, gentle laugh and Emily ran a thumb over the back on JJ's hand. "I'm glad you're here."

She didn't ask, though she desperately wanted to, where he was. Wherever he was, it was obviously more important than being at her bedside, and that was fine. They put the job first. They always put the job first.

"He's finishing up with the local PD," JJ filled the silence with the answer to Emily's unspoken question, reading the room as well as she ever had, "And booking us all a couple more nights at the hotel while you recover."

Emily frowned and started to protest but JJ shut her down.

"It's done, Em," She said, "They've already called in another team for the next few days. Nobody's slept for 48 hours anyway, we're dead on our feet. Even Penelope got sent home from the office."

Emily frowned. They were always getting into trouble like this. Okay, not exactly like this, but it had been known to happen. Then they got back to work and got on with it.

"What's different this time?" JJ tilted her head, looking at Emily as though she ought to already know the answer to her question. Emily's head, however, was still a little foggy and, seeing her frown, JJ took pity on her.

"I think," She started, slowly, choosing her words carefully, "I think he got scared. Hotch. I think, for the first time in a long time, he was more scared than he knew how to deal with."

"Oh." Emily didn't know what else to say. JJ's tone wasn't accusatory. It was understanding and, somehow, that was worse. It was her fault, Emily's. The whole team were taking a 'few days' and it was her fault. She sighed, and the stitches in her throat pulled, uncomfortably.

"I'm sure he'll come and visit as soon as he's finished," JJ said, misinterpreting the sigh. She smiled and Emily returned it, weakly.

The nurse came in then, and saved Emily from responding. She withdrew the IV from Emily's arm, plastered over it and then Morgan and Spence reentered the room carrying not two, but four cups of hot, steaming coffee.

"Dr's orders." The nurse said, with a kind smile, as Spencer handed one of the cups to Emily. She beamed at them. The coffee was too hot to drink yet, but even just holding it in her hands felt good when she remembered the cold. Looking down at her bandaged hands, she frowned.

"Allison? Was he-"

"In custody." Derek finished for her. She nodded. That was good.

"He needs help," She told them, "He's sick. He's really, really sad and he's really sick. And he needs help."

"We know, princess," Derek's tone was understanding, soft, and she appreciated it. "He's gonna get that help."

They filled her in on the parts of the story she had missed out on, as well as telling her all about Miss Lynd and the contribution that had finally led them to her. As they recounted the story, Emily felt as though they were telling her all about somebody else's life. How could this be her life? How had she almost died a few hours ago, and now they were sitting around drinking coffee as though it hadn't happened?

Well, it had definitely happened. There was no denying that, and none of them were trying to, but Emily couldn't explain the feeling in her chest. It wasn't pain or discomfort. It was more like grief. She just didn't know what she was grieving for.

Hotch didn't come that night. Emily didn't ask to speak to him and even when JJ brought her phone back to her, she didn't text or call. There were no texts or calls from him, not that she had expected them. She didn't want to see him, she told herself. She was indifferent. The rest of them had all been by, with the exception of Rossi, who had flown back to Quantico because he had classes that needed to be taught, even if they weren't allowed to work a case for a couple of days. Emily hated falling asleep with that smell in her nose, the smell of sterility, and sleep didn't come for a long time.

The mattress was uncomfortable, but every time she shifted, she reminded herself how grateful she was that it was a mattress and not the cold, hard floor of a sewer, or the stone floor of an abandoned warehouse. She had laid down in much worse places than this slightly lumpy bed. Every noise was a comfort. Every time somebody walked past her room, nurses talking, the rolling of a cart. It was the silence she couldn't stand. Then there was only Emily and her breathing into the darkness.

Climbing out of the uncomfortable bed, she made her way to the door that a nurse had closed earlier. She'd looked in and seen Emily's form still in bed, assumed she was asleep and closed the door. Emily opened it, and light from the corridor flooded in. The hallway was deserted and Emily stood there a moment, in her pyjamas from the ready bag JJ had brought for her, and leaned against the doorway. God, she hated that smell.

"You're awake." His voice startled her. Stepping out of her room Emily turned to look down the corridor. He was there. Sitting in a chair, still in his suit.

"How long have you been there?" She asked him, frowning. "Visiting was over hours ago."

Sitting up straight and clearing his throat, Hotch gave a small shrug. "I may have flashed the badge. Told them you were under my protective custody."

"I don't need to be under your protective custody, Hotch," Emily told him, folding her arms, self conscious of the pattern of stitches dotted across her face and neck. "We caught the unsub."

He was nodding, his mouth stretched into a tight line. "Right."

Emily stood there a moment, on the deserted hospital corridor, and looked at him. His hair was rumpled and greasy, there were dark, purple circles beneath his eyes. His eyelids were red and puffy like...like he'd been crying. His suit, usually so pressed and perfect, was as dishevelled as his hair.

"You look worse than I do." She told him, softly.

That got a smile, and when he looked back at her, he raised his eyebrows. "Clearly you haven't looked in a mirror. How come you're awake?"

"Oh," she gave a small shrug, "Reid gave me coffee."

She was glad of the smile he gave her then, and her own lips spread into one as she looked at him. There was a moment, a flicker of something, and then it fell from her face. Emily reached up to push her hair back, pulling it back from her face as though she was going to tie it up, then pulled it slowly over one shoulder.

"Uh, so are you going to sit there all night?" She asked, "You know, I have a whole room to myself."

"Inviting me to spend the night with you?" He joked, standing up and grabbing his coat from the chair beside him, "Because it went so well for us both last time."

Emily led him back into the room and climbed onto the bed, sitting cross-legged in the middle of it. "Yeah, well, unlucky for you, this time I've only got room for one."

Hotch chuckled, sinking into the visitors chair that sat beside her bed. And then, again, the silence. They both spoke at once.

"Hotch, I-"

"Emily, you should-"

Silence. Again. Em looked down at her sheets, picked at a loose thread and waited for him to speak.

"I couldn't do my job today." He said, simply. She nodded. JJ had already filled her in. "I was...abrupt and overbearing and-"

She was smirking and he paused, raising an eyebrow. "You're always abrupt and overbearing."

When he spoke again, his tone was softer, he really needed her to hear him.

"I was unprofessional."

The disappointment in his voice was so evident that Emily couldn't maintain eye contact. She dropped her eyes, lashes sending shadows down her bruised cheeks.

"I don't know what you want me to say-"

"Dammit, Emily," His hand smacked at the arm of the chair and Emily flinched at the sudden outburst. "Dammit, I don't want you to say anything, I just-I don't know where we go from here. I can't...you make me...I can't have you hurt again."

She was nodding again.

"So this," Looking up, she made a vague gesture between the two of them, "This is over. It has to be, right?"

Hotch brought a hand up to rest it over the lower part of his face, huffed out a breath and closed his eyes. Sitting in the chair, with the exhaustion of the past few days evident on his face, Emily though for the first time ever that he looked old. Not Rossi old, suave and sophisticated and silver fox-y. Old like, ancient old. Mentally old. Seen too much bad stuff, old. She'd seen that look before.

Gideon had that look, in Flagstaff, Arizona. Right before he left them all. Suddenly, for just a moment, a moment that changed everything, Emily felt like she was looking into a mirror.