She sat on the edge of an ambulance, eyes closed, head bowed forward. She'd been cleared by the EMTs, but she wasn't about to move just yet. She knew she was in trouble. She'd disobeyed orders, gone in before backup had arrived and she'd do it again in an instant. Had they waited for the backup, little Monique Winden would have been dead. A gash on the side of her head and a serious reprimand was a small price to pay for a child's life.
Emily looked up, straight into the eyes of her supervisor, and lover, SSIAC Aaron Hotchner. "Sir."
"We're heading out."
She followed him quietly back to the SUVs, neither of them saying a word. The team was there, waiting. Derek approached her side and they exchanged words, reassurances that she was fine. Then she climbed into the front seat of the SUV Hotch was driving. It didn't really come as a surprise that the rest of the team left them in the car alone. Despite the rule against profiling one's teammates, they all did it and they knew that Hotch wanted to ream her out and she'd prefer to do it without an audience.
Much to her surprise, he didn't say a word to her on the way back. They drove in silence and she watched the passing scenery, body tense, waiting for the explosion. It never came and she headed onto the elevator with everyone else.
It wasn't until almost an hour later that he showed up at the door to her hotel room. They always had separate rooms, each and every team member and she and Hotch had always been good about sticking to their own rooms. Emily often shared a joining door with JJ for safety reasons, so that helped keep their libidos at bay.
She allowed him in wordlessly, not caring that she was dressed in pyjama pants and a tank top, her hair in a ponytail, exposing the bandage of the gash. She knew she looked vulnerable, but he looked less than impressed so she wasn't exactly all that concerned about it.
"What the hell were you thinking?"
She stood up a little bit straighter, refusing to sit down despite the pain, despite the pounding behind her eyes. She'd steadfastly refused any painkillers and hadn't taken any the EMTs had given her. "About a little girl."
"I specifically told you to wait for backup and you went against those orders. Direct orders."
"I know, sir."
"Strauss is going to hear about this."
"I'd do it again in an instant," she replied honestly. "And I'll tell her the same thing."
"She's going to suspend you."
"Then so be it. Monique Winden is alive. If I get suspended because I made a split second decision, that's fine because she's alive."
"I'm suspending you."
That took her a little bit by surprise and she knew it showed.
"I'm not going to favour you because we're in a relationship, Emily."
She didn't expect that in the slightest. She would probably find it insulting if he did. "I know," she told him. "How long?"
"Three days! That's-" She snapped her mouth closed at the glare he sent her. "Yes, sir."
He sat down on the bed in front of where she was standing, arms crossed. She could tell he was no longer her boss, that something else was bothering him. They'd been in their 'relationship' as he'd called it, for almost four months. She knew some of his tells. So she waited patiently, ignoring the ache of her head, ignoring the sting of hurt and anger that being suspended brought. She'd saved a child's life and she was virtually getting punished for it. She knew it would pass, but that didn't necessarily make it easier to deal with now.
"What were you thinking?"
His voice sounded almost pained and Emily sighed. "About what happened to the other children. About how the guy had carved them up without thought or remorse. About how I wasn't going to let that happen to another child, orders be damned. We were running out of time."
He stood again, starting to pace. Agitation was obvious in every line of his body and Emily forced herself to take a deep breath, waited for him. Suddenly, he stopped and in the blink of an eye was standing a breath from her. Emily froze, standing completely still, unsure of what he was going to do. She relaxed marginally when one hand came up to brush over the bandage on her head.
Emotion was thick in his voice and it brought her own swirling fear and pain to the forefront. She'd thought she'd managed to bury them away, but she could feel the tears rising in her eyes. "I'm sorry," she said for the first time.
"Never be sorry for saving a child's life."
And she knew he was Aaron her lover, not Agent Hotchner her boss. She knew now that the Bureau, for at least a few minutes, didn't matter. Concern was obvious in his face, in the lines of his body and she could feel herself losing that tenuous hold on her control. "I just couldn't let another child die," she said, voice cracking. "I couldn't see another body, not when I knew there was something I could do to stop it. Infrared said he was going in."
"That's what the LEOs said," he agreed. Then, he pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her back, gently cradling her body against his. "Jesus."
Emily wrapped her arms around Hotch's body, feeling herself start to tremble with unshed tears. She hated being weak, hated crying but she wasn't sure she could hold it in anymore. It didn't matter that it would be the first time he saw her cry, it didn't matter that he was about to see her at one of her weakest points.
He held her quietly as she silently sobbed out the pain, the anger for all of the children they'd lost along the way. He rocked her back and forth as she cried for the trauma Monique Winden's family had endure, as she cried for what that poor little girl was about to go through. He held her until she'd cried herself out and her body was almost limp against his.
"I'm sorry," she said into his neck, into his damp collar.
Hotch pulled away slightly, cupping the back of her head in one hand and leaning his forehead against hers. "He could have killed you."
She knew that all too well. She'd gotten off lucky with just the gash across her temple. If he'd hit her any harder, she probably would be dead now. "I know."
"I can't-" he swallowed.
Emily's eyes opened and her fingertips came up to stroke his cheeks. His opened then, more expressive than she'd ever seen them. She felt her breath catch in her throat, understanding the swirling fear and concern warring in his dark eyes. "Me too. I don't know what I'd do."
He kissed her then, breaking all of their self-imposed rules of conduct while on a case, but Emily didn't much care. Sometimes you just needed to let go. And live.