Release

A/N: Part of the Pieces series which is a series of (unconnected) one-shots, written in a self-imposed challenge of chronicling every pairing in the CM universe. This one is set some time after 4x03 – Minimal Loss.

You know she had seen you staring at those crime scene photos. You had tried so hard to keep the horror from your eyes, and you're not entirely sure if she picked up on that as well. Four women, savagely raped, beaten and then suspended from the ceiling while they slowly bled to death. You imagine that their last thoughts might have been of fear, or pain. You imagine her, succumbing to that same horribly slow death. That's what had put the horror in your eyes.

When you had eventually found the unsub, you were perhaps a little tighter on the trigger than normal. You had fired the shots before anyone else even realized that he was going for a knife. You still feel that horror, though, which is why you're sitting at your kitchen counter, a glass of scotch before you.

You're not nearly drunk enough; you can't quite bring yourself to those lows. You know that whatever happens tonight, you still have to go back to work in the morning.

There's a knock on your front door. It's hesitant, as if the knocker isn't exactly sure why they're here, or even if being here is the right thing.

You stand up, walk over to the door.

You look through the peephole. The fisheye lens distorts the face slightly, but you have no doubts.

It's her.

***

You don't even hesitate when you open the door. First, though, you make sure you have a stoic look plastered on your face. Stoicism is something she has come to accept, come to respect. 'Prentiss.'

'Hotch,' she greets you. You stand back to let her in. You don't ask why she's here. You know why she's here. She saw that horror on your face.

You lead her to the counter; pour her a glass of the scotch. She eyes it warily, as if anxious about its affects on you.

'This is my first one,' you tell her, and she nods. It's apparently an acceptable answer. She cannot see any signs of previous drinking; the slurring of your words, the shaking of your hands. Because you're telling the truth. Drinking isn't your release, it's just momentary solace.

'How are you doing?' she finally asks you. She's not asking if you're okay; she knows you're not okay, not really. She knows you well enough to judge, and it isn't surprising. She is like you in so many ways. You realize that she too was probably disturbed by this case, though she would never let herself show it.

'I'll be okay,' you tell her, and it isn't strictly a lie. You will be okay eventually. She raises an eyebrow at that. She's had enough practice at avoiding those kinds of questions that she can pick up on your own ambiguity.

Part of you wants to tell her the truth. Tell her that every time you look into her eyes, you remember the sounds of her pain. That every time you look into her eyes, you remember that you couldn't do a damn thing to save her from Cyrus. That every time you see a victim, you see her. They aren't exactly the most professional thoughts.

You don't know if she feels the same way, but you do know that neither of you would willingly leave the BAU to pursue the feelings. The one time she did leave, it was to protect the group. To fulfill your desires would be something entirely different.

Of course, there's that other possibility. That deception that you're both so adept at. You're reminded of that oft used cliché; "It's not illegal if you don't get caught." And then you ponder the possibilities of something like that working out. It would never be a conventional romance; there could never be a white wedding, never be children.

You jump, startled, when she puts a hand on your thigh.

And then you know.

There can only be release.