The High Cost of Living
A/N: One-shot sequel to We the Living that has been running through my head. I guess I could technically call it part of the Pieces universe, but I want Pieces to remain as one story per ship, so to speak.
You're dreaming. You know you're dreaming, and yet you can't help but believe it is real. The pain is so raw, the blood so crimson, it feels like something out of your everyday life rather than a nightmare that keeps coming back.
She always dies.
Sometimes it's a bullet, sometimes a knife. Sometimes it's something far stealthier, far more prolonged; a wasting disease. But her dying is the one constant. Before that day, you never dreamed about her before, but now you can't stop it. Your heart skips a beat when you see her smile, and it skips another beat when you see the blood trickling down her lip.
Tonight is no different. She's smiling this time too; it's a warm smile that stimulates certain desires. Desires you'd certainly never repeat in mixed company. A shadowy figure (you never see the face) walks up behind her. He has a knife in his dark fingers. You call out her name, try to warn her.
She's still smiling when the knife penetrates her side.
You remember the pain of the quick, yet slow death. You've got just enough time to run to her, to put your hand against the wound. You've got just enough time to see the agony in her eyes. The tears that you've only really seen in these dreams.
You've seen her cry once, and she was near death then, too. You know that the nightmares have stemmed from that one day. The day you felt her blood stain your fingers. The day you realized that you were in love with Emily Prentiss.
You wake up in a cold sweat. You usually wake right after she dies, as if your mind wants you to consciously feel the pain, instead of just imagining it. You get up, bare feet padding across wooden floors.
You can never sleep afterwards, but it's almost four a.m, so you've got to be up soon anyway. You pour yourself a coffee – a strong coffee – and you lean against your kitchen bench, eyes boring into nothingness.
It has been three months.
Maybe you'll tell her today.
You've learnt to keep your feelings under wraps when Hotch pairs her with you. You've learnt not to take clandestine glances, to smile to yourself when she does something that is just so Emily. She accidentally split coffee on you this morning, giving you a nervous smile as she apologizes. She hasn't smiled like that since you first returned to the BAU. You found it endearing. You wish she'd let down those barriers more.
It's a different smile now, in the SUV. It's the smile she gave you last night, right before she died in your arms.
You're driving down a rocky road in the middle of nowhere. Supposedly, there's a witness that lives in a house out here, though you wonder why anyone would want to live in a place like this. It's quiet as you draw to a stop. The kind of atmosphere when you come to a place where no-one has lived for a long time. There's no indication that anyone has lived there for a long time. The garden is overgrown, the house in disrepair.
You go inside anyway.
You suppress a shiver as you enter. You can't help but notice the similarities between this house, and the one you were trapped in three months ago. This one is older, more derelict, but it still gives you that deep sense of foreboding.
'Problem?' she asks, reholstering her weapon. Once it was clear that no-one actually lived here, the two of you had checked for hostiles. There was a high chance it could have been a trap.
'Does this place seem familiar to you?' you ask.
Crimson blood, leaking through your fingers. That smile. You blink back the images, startled that your brain decided to bring that up at a time like this.
'I…It's nothing,' you lie. You know immediately that she has picked up on the deceit in your words. She raises an eyebrow.
'This place,' you say. 'It feels so much like…' You trail off as she nods, and at that moment, you know she feels it too.
'The moment I stepped in here, I felt terrified,' she says. She rarely expresses herself to this extent. In your memory, she has done it once in the time that you've known her. 'I have never felt terrified working a case before. Even during the thing with Cyrus, I just concentrated on getting through the experience alive.' She stops, and you can see the vulnerability on her face, as if she has just exposed herself. In a way, she has.
'I have nightmares,' you find yourself saying. You had convinced yourself that you would never tell her, but you find that now you have the opportunity, it comes so easily. 'You're dying, every time.'
She gives one of her looks; this is that "eyebrows slightly raised, mouth slightly open" look that you so love.
'How often?' she asks.
'Every night,' you say softly. 'I…I was so scared I was going to lose you.' You know the words sound much more intimate than you intended, but she does not take offence. Instead, she gives that nervous smile – oh God, that smile – and then bites her lip. The thought that she is the center of your attention seems to make her slightly uncomfortable.
She looks around the house, satisfied that it is empty.
'Come on,' she says. 'Let's get out of here.'
She seemed eager to leave that afternoon, but you won't let her get away that easily. You're knocking on her condo door, and you're anxious. You've been married three times, and yet you've never felt this kind of anxiety before. You've been in law enforcement for thirty years, and you've never felt so on edge.
She's wearing a tank top and shorts. Her eyes seem a little bleary. You woke her up.
'I'm sorry,' you say. 'I'll go.'
But now that you're here, she doesn't want you to go. She lets you in. You think she's still feeling the vulnerability of being inside that house.
She pours you a glass of wine. It's red – a Merlot – and you find yourself cataloguing that piece of information. Your eyes linger on the scar that's just visible beneath the strap of her shirt. She catches your gaze.
'It still hurts sometimes.' She's revealing things a little more easily now; you think there might have been some kind of understanding reached today.
She doesn't speak for several moments, and it is then that you realize she is crying. They're silent tears - barely enough to wet her cheeks – but they are there just the same. You take a tissue from the counter, and you wipe her face softly.
'Hey,' your free hand grasps hers. 'It's okay.'
You take the initiative, kissing her hand softly. She draws away slightly, and you let go, afraid you might have ruined everything. It isn't a look of anger on her face. It's shock, as if she has wanted this all along, but never expected it to happen. She turns her face slightly, so her lips are parallel to yours.
Within minutes, you've got her pressed up against the wall, your lips stealing the breath from her lungs. Your hand slips underneath her shirt, stroking the supple flesh beneath it. She gives a slight flinch as you lift the shirt, not from the loss of dignity, but from the fabric brushing the wound on her shoulder. The scar is still sensitive. You use this to your advantage by lowering your head, and running your tongue along it. She lets out a tiny half-moan that only reaffirms your swell. You take her nipple between your teeth, and she elicits an even louder moan.
You raise your head to kiss her again, and you find her fumbling with the zip of your pants. She slips her hand inside, feeling you, ready and waiting.
You lead her over to the couch, your movements made awkward by the hand that is rubbing against you. When you're comfortable, so to speak, she takes her other hand, and removes your belt.
She removes her hand, and you're surprised to find yourself give off a disappointed whimper. You've never whimpered in front of her before, but it doesn't matter. She doesn't seem to notice.
She guides your hand to her own pants, and you pull them off as gracefully as you can. Somehow, they still manage to tear.
She's lying beneath you, bared to the world. It's a kind of trust you've never seen her show before, and you're glad that she's sharing it with you, of all people. Of course, then, it's only fair that you reciprocate her efforts. You move to eliminate the rest of your clothing, but she shakes her head. That's not what she wants. She moves your hands lower, demonstrating her desires. You find yourself willing, eager to comply.
You push in slowly at first, reveling at the sight of her eyes rolling backwards in her head. Then you move harder, faster, and you can no longer focus on her face. The pleasure has taken hold of you, too.
When you collapse inelegantly atop her, her eyes are closed. She's smiling.
That night, you sleep peacefully.