Author's Note: I'm trying to keep all the balls juggling, so rolling back here again.

Picks up directly from the last scene . . . which you might have to go back and reread again :) But they're at the window.

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Prompt Set #31 (June 2011)

TV Show: Judging Amy

Title Challenge: The Burden of Perspective


The Decisions We Make

Emily swallowed down the lump forming in her throat. Her eyes began to burn. There were bodies . . . body parts . . . all over the street below them.

It was a scene from Hell.

But even worse than that, worse than the dead . . . a tear spilled down her cheek . . . were the others. The ones still moving. The ones still screaming.

The ones on fire.

And though she tried desperately to block out the connections that her brain was racing to make, she knew . . . this is what had happened on the plane.

This is what had happened to her parents.

Blown up, blown to pieces and then set on fire.

The images in Emily's mind began to morph with the images in the street, and suddenly her hand flew up to clamp in a vice over her mouth.

OH GOD!

Hearing a sickening gag from his side, Hotch's attention snapped away from the horrific aftermath of the attack down in the street, to an ashen Emily on his left.

She was about to throw up.

SHIT!

"Okay, okay," he quickly tightened his hold around her waist as he hurriedly moved them away from the window, "come on sweetheart."

Though Hotch's tone was generally . . . by default . . . fairly calm and controlled, in this instance he could hear that wasn't really coming through. But given the stress of the moment . . . he continued half dragging, half carrying Emily back to the bathroom . . . he wasn't feeling particularly calm and controlled.

He was feeling pretty FUCKING agitated!

Okay Aaron . . . he angrily reminded himself . . . keep it together. You can't have a frigging meltdown too!

Fortunately for Emily's stomach . . . and Hotch's self-control . . . they only had to travel across the suite. It was a large suite, but still, it was only a distance of perhaps eleven paces. So his not so soothing nonsense came to an abrupt end as Emily saw the door and bolted out of his grasp.

Hotch was two steps behind, coming through the doorway just in time to watch her gun fall from her hand and clatter to the tile. And then she began retching into the toilet.

Christ.

The word was a much a prayer as a curse. It was that kind of day. And as Hotch hurried over to pull Emily's hair back, he was simultaneously jamming his own weapon back into his holster.

Though many people were put off by the act of seeing somebody else get sick, he felt no such visceral hesitation as he reached down to help her. Given what he did for a living, the things he'd seen, such a biologically human act as throwing up, no longer affected him at all.

It was nothing.

But Emily's sobbing wasn't.

It was something. Something terrible. Those gasping, teary breaths for air as her body shook against his, was a sound like nails on a chalkboard. He knew intellectually that the crying was another . . . simple . . . biological imperative. Her body was reacting to the emotional and physical traumas she'd suffered that week. It was piling them on, coupling them up, with the terrible events that she'd just witnessed down in the street.

It was normal.

He knew these things . . . but still . . . the sound was killing him. He again was overcome by feelings of helplessness.

Of uselessness.

And again, he wanted to think of some way to make this better for her. But . . . as he was slowly coming to accept . . . again, there was nothing to be done. All he could do was just be there for her.

And that . . . he took a breath and closed his eyes . . . was that.

Fortunately . . . for both of them . . . Emily had very little food in her stomach, so there was little to be expelled. So once that apple was gone, she fell back against him. She was scrubbing her hand over her face as she tried to both stop crying, and to catch her breath. He just held her tight.

"Better?" He whispered in her ear.

Slowly . . . with a sniffle . . . she nodded. And then she squeezed his hand where it was resting on her hip.

"Yes," she gasped, "I'm sorry, I just . . . I . . . I'm so sorry."

God, what was WRONG with her? Losing it like that was COMPLETELY unacceptable!

The one thing that Emily was grateful for . . . the only thing TO be grateful for . . . was that she'd lost it up in the relative safety of the hotel room. But what if they hadn't been? What if they'd been down in the middle of that kill zone when she'd suddenly flashed on the moment of her parents' deaths? And then what if she'd had a total breakdown then? Hotch would have been too preoccupied with her well-being to take care of himself, that's what.

And without a doubt . . . she would have gotten him killed.

That realization . . . that very likely outcome . . . was enough for Emily to push him away from her. She needed the space. And of course he tried to pull her closer. But his murmurs that it was okay, that there was nothing to be sorry about, were simply bringing fresh tears to her eyes. He was too sweet to her. Too good to her. And she didn't deserve it.

Not if she couldn't find a way to start functioning in the world again.

Functioning without him.

And as Emily climbed to her feet . . . trying to keep a small distance between them . . . she could see Hotch reaching out for her again as he too stood up. After he'd been so incredible to her this week, the last thing that she wanted to do was hurt his feelings. And this was clearly not the moment to have a ridiculous discussion about "feelings" in general, so she felt a momentary panic clawing up as she again tried to move away from him.

'Please don't touch me,' Emily prayed as she turned away.

And for the first time in days . . . unbelievably . . . somebody up there seemed to be listening to her prayers. Because just as Hotch's fingers closed around her forearm, there came a pounding on the hotel room door.

And then a split second later.

"HOTCH! EMILY! OPEN UP!"

Emily's eyes widened as they snapped up to lock onto Hotch's.

"Iain?"

It sounded like him.

Hotch apparently agreed. Though he didn't answer her directly, she saw his brow darken as his hand fell away from her arm. It landed back on the butt of his pistol.

"Stay here," he commanded while rushing past her and out of the bathroom.

When he disappeared into the common area, Emily suddenly remembered that she'd dropped her own weapon a moment ago. So she spun around, her eyes scanning frantically to see where it had gone.

There . . . she took two steps and reached down . . . it had slid half under the other vanity.

After she'd snatched her pistol off the floor, Emily checked the safety again and then jammed it back into her holster.

All the while that was happening . . . those few seconds . . . she'd heard Hotch yelling for the person at the door to "hold on." And then as she turned back to the sink, he called out to her directly.

This time confirming that it was indeed Iain and Simon.

And then hearing the door open and close . . . and the men begin talking in frantic whispers . . . Emily grabbed the travel bottle of Scope off the counter. And as she quickly rinsed out her mouth she felt a pang of sympathy for the men that had come to their door.

The poor bastards. A random terrorist attack in the middle of a security assignment was probably worst case scenario for them.

It would be for her.

And knowing that the shit had most definitely hit the fan . . . and that they would need to be part of the cleanup crew . . . Emily turned on the faucet to splash cold water on her face. It was time to get it in gear. It was time to stop being Emily. Emily was too fucked up to function right now.

She needed to be Prentiss.

Prentiss didn't take shit from anyone. And she sure as hell didn't burst into tears in the middle of a crisis.

That was unacceptable. THAT would not happen again.

So after she'd taken a few breaths to find her center . . . to find Agent Prentiss . . . Emily looked up into the mirror. Her face looked too thin and her skin looked too pale . . . but there was a hardness there too. It pleased her.

It was a bit of her old self coming back up through the scar tissue.

And that's when she made herself a vow, a vow that she wouldn't lose control like that again. Not on this trip.

She couldn't.

If not for her own safety . . . her jaw clenched . . . then she had to keep it together because of the others. Under no circumstances would she have anyone . . . Hotch especially . . . getting himself hurt or killed trying to look after her.

She could look after herself.

Yes . . . she began angrily tying her hair up into a ponytail . . . she needed Hotch's emotional support right now. But that was it. And that was during their private time. But otherwise, she needed get to her shit together. She wasn't a God damn invalid.

So it was time to stop acting like one.

With that new . . . hardened . . . mindset, Emily smoothed her hair back behind her ears, straightened her shirt, and then turned towards the bathroom door.

As she stepped out into the common area, all three heads swiveled to look at her and away from the stack of weapons she could see now sitting on their coffee table.

Hotch had broken open Morgan's oversized duffel bag.

It was obvious that the three men had been assessing their options on fire power, and now it was obvious that they were assessing her mental state.

It was pissing her off.

Still though . . . she started walking across the room . . . she knew that they meant well. But she just wasn't in the mood for it.

She was in the mood to kick some ass.

"What's happening outside?"

Her voice was slightly hoarse. But it wasn't an emotional response, just the evidence of her getting sick minutes earlier.

Hotch stared at Emily for a moment before her brow went up and her expression hardened even further. He knew that look . . . it was one of his . . . so he quickly dropped his gaze away from her face.

Apparently this was not a moment where he was allowed to show any concern for her well being.

Okay. Fair enough.

So his attention . . . and his gaze . . . snapped back to the bag of supplies in front of them.

"It's bad," he started explaining as he picked up one of the blue vests from the duffel Morgan had packed for them, "you need to put this on, Simon talked to a friend of his in security. There are men in the hotel."

As Emily's eyes widened in alarm, she stepped up in front of Hotch.

"How many?" She asked as he held the Kevlar out for her to slide her arms in.

"Unknown."

His response was clipped, and when Emily turned her head to tighten the straps on her vest, Hotch's eyes followed her fingers. Then he added quietly.

"We're going to hole up in here for now."

Just saying the words left a bitter taste in his mouth. They were wrong. He didn't want to stay holed up in here. He didn't want to stay holed up anywhere. He wanted to jam a half dozen clips into his pocket, pick up one of the two assault rifles that they'd packed, and go charging off into hell.

He'd done it before.

But not today . . . he reminded himself as turned to pick up his own vest . . . not with Emily in the condition that she was in right now.

She wasn't up for it.

"What?" Emily sputtered as her head snapped up. Her expression instantly morphing from cautious agitation to full blown pissed off in ten seconds flat.

"No! Absolutely not."

Without even looking up, Hotch shook his head, "Emily . . ."

That was all he got out before she cut him off.

"NO, Hotch. That's not happening. We," she started, but then her brain processed the free will concept and she hurriedly corrected, "I am not going to stay up in this room and build a little fortress while there are people are getting slaughtered downstairs."

Was he fucking NUTS!

"Damn it Emily . . ."

Aside from the swearing, the second time there was a clear bite to Hotch's tone as he tried to cut in. It was obvious . . . he was losing his patience. Then he looked up, and their eyes locked in a contest of wills.

Whose was stronger?

On this one point . . . they were evenly matched.

Even then though . . . even in his clear anger . . . Emily could see the concern on his face. It was shifting across his stony features . . . he was trying to do what he thought was best for her. He was trying to protect her. But she was having none of it.

Not today.

Not now.

"No!" She snapped as she angrily pushed her finger into his chest, "don't you even think about saying it! People aren't going to be murdered," she shoved him aside to start digging into their bag of weapons, "because I'm in the midst of a 'personal crises'!"

Her last words were spoken with bitterness as she started shoving clips into her pockets.

"Now you three can come with me," she continued as she turned, her eyes again locking with Hotch's now furious ones, "or not. But I'm not staying here. Those people need help."

Of course she knew that if they wanted to stop her . . . they could. She was strong, but . . . her gaze coolly shifted around the three armed men glaring at her . . . they were stronger. And again . . . she looked down to check the safety on one of the Glocks . . . there were three of them.

But she wasn't going down without a fight.

Again, she'd had enough of this shit. She wasn't a victim. Okay . . . she felt a stab of pain in her chest . . . fine, she was. She was the victim of a terrible tragedy. And that was a label she was going to have to wear for the duration.

But that wasn't all she was.

She was also an F.B.I. Agent. A person with a sworn duty to uphold the law and to take care of people that couldn't take care of themselves. Just because they were no longer on American soil, that didn't change her basic core values. This is what she did. This is who she was.

And it was time to get on with it.

Hotch's fingernails dug into his palm as he watched Emily shove the revolver into the waistband of her jeans. That was joining the pistol already on her hip and the assault rifle that she was now picking up out of the bag.

She was so God damn STUBBORN! Sometimes he just wanted to toss her in a cell!

Trying to push down his outward mask to cover his emotions, Hotch's gaze shifted, snapping back and forth between the two men that Rossi had paid to the protect them. They were staring at Emily . . . and they looked pissed. And rightfully so.

He was pretty pissed himself.

And he wanted to yell at Emily, to tell her that this wasn't their business and that she was to take her guns and go hole up in the bedroom. That she wasn't leaving.

That it wasn't safe out there.

But this was a woman who hadn't had a "safe" day on the job since she'd signed up for the Behavioral Analysis Unit eighteen months earlier. She didn't lead a safe life. And though Hotch wanted to protect her . . . his stomach turned as he heard more screaming in the streets

He couldn't.

She was right. They didn't let innocents get slaughtered just because they were having personal problems. If that was the case, Hotch himself wouldn't have shown up for work once in the last two years. And it was obvious was from how Emily was carrying herself right now, she was not the emotionally fragile woman that he'd been taking care of the last few days. That woman was gone. For now anyway. And in her place . . . he felt a spot of warmth in his heart . . . was someone that he knew quite well.

SSA Prentiss.

And she was back with a vengeance.

Which was to be expected. Emily was so kind, so empathetic . . . so dedicated . . . that her protective instincts for others, had overridden her protective instincts for herself. And hence the return of the woman who slammed drunks through plaster walls, and serial killers through plate glass windows.

That woman could do anything.

And though it went against every instinct he had to protect her, to protect what was becoming his, Hotch knew that she needed to do this.

'They, needed to do this,' he corrected.

So he took a breath. And then he slowly exhaled. And with that release of carbon dioxide, he let go of his anger at Emily . . . it had no place here. What she wanted to do was right, what he wanted to do was wrong. He was being selfish.

It was a simple as that.

With that, he reached back into the bag of weapons and began sifting through the cartridges.

If they were going to charge off into hell . . . and they were . . . they'd damn well better be armed for it.

Now he just had to tell the other two that they were leaving.

"Gentlemen," Hotch's tone was even, his gaze averted, as he began sliding cartridges into his pants pockets, "I understand your position here, and I'm sorry to make your lives more difficult. But," he looked up, "Emily's right. We need to go downstairs."

His eyes dropped back down as he picked up the other rifle, "but please don't feel any obligation to come with us," his jaw twitched as he heard another explosion out the window, "this is our job. This is what we do, but this is clearly not the assignment that you were paid to carry out."

He wasn't about to make these men feel guilty . . . feel anything . . . about the choice that they needed to now make for themselves. They weren't agents, hell they weren't even soldiers . . . not anymore.

They were just mercenaries.

Admittedly kind ones. But still, for them this was just a paycheck. But for him and for Emily . . . she reached over and squeezed his hand . . . it was more than that. It was their way of life.

One that they couldn't turn their backs on now.

After a brief clench of Hotch's fingers . . . it was a thank you for supporting her, for trusting her . . . Emily shoved two more clips into her already full pockets, picked up her guns and started towards the door.

Too much time had been lost already. The noises from the floors below were starting to drift upwards.

It was gunfire.

Gunfire and screaming . . . the muscles in her shoulders tightened as she undid the deadbolt on the door . . . lots of screaming. There was no more time to waste. But she knew that Hotch would be right behind her. One thing . . . since the beginning . . . he'd always been right behind her.

He always had her back.

And the others . . . slowly she turned the door handle . . . well, that was their choice.

No judgment either way.

These weren't decisions you made for others, you just made them for yourself. What you could live with.

And what you couldn't.

So as Emily stepped into the hallway, her finger was sliding off the trigger of her M4 Carbine. It wasn't her regular weapon . . . generally only entry teams considered this a regular weapon . . . but it was one that she was well certified to use. And for today . . . her head swiveled back and forth as she checked the quiet corridor . . . this would be her best friend.

As she took a step towards the northwest staircase, she felt Hotch's hand fall to her shoulder. And then his warm breath touched her ear.

She stopped.

"If you ever pull that shit when we're at work, I'll have you suspended for insubordination. Do you understand me?"

She turned to look at him over her shoulder.

"Yes," her voice was also a whisper, "but I promise that I would never take advantage like that. You do know that," her left brow inched up, "right?"

Hopefully he did . . . otherwise this relationship would never work.

At her words . . . her question . . . she saw Hotch's expression soften. Then he reached over to squeeze her fingers.

"I do." He said with a sad smile, "I just needed to hear you say it."

And then he let go of her hand as he stepped in front of her, swinging his own semi-automatic off of his shoulder.

"All right," he slid off his safety, "now let's go get some bad guys."


A/N 2: This story is primarily an 'emotional journey' for Emily. But as there is a new element here, I wasn't about to have her curl up in the closet all weepy and catatonic while people got killed. I just saw a situation like that, her concern for others, overriding her personal traumas of the moment. You know you just get pissed off and that helps you redirect your energy to more positive efforts…like killing bad people.

We'll find out next time what's up with Iain & Simon.

And this was also a good opportunity to explore how H/Ps personal relationship, will impact their work one. This is the one world where they're thrown together as a couple without the gradual build (even in Chances they had that month in between) so there are basic things here to learn about each other. And confirming that they both understand Emily's outburst was a special case, not to be repeated, needed to be addressed.

Hope you all enjoyed the new twist here. I did :) I like writing BAMF Emily, and I have her going in three different worlds right now, but each one is a very different version. That's what I'm enjoying about them, just the subtleties of the different situations and how her behavior manifests.

Busy week coming with Christmas and all, but I have a lot of stuff on deck so updates should be fairly regular. As in every few days.