Author's Note: Post ep for Omnivore.

This is the companion piece to A Drowning Man. This version is told entirely from Emily's point of view. I decided to make it a separate story because it really does kind of stand alone. You can read one without the other. And if you haven't read the other one, come at this straight from canon.

Prompt Set #7

Show: Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Title Challenge: The Weight of the World

A Tether

Emily couldn't sleep. She was worried about Hotch. Actually she was worried about Morgan too, but he'd called her already. And he knew that she was here if he needed to talk to her again. So no, Hotch was the only reason that she was still up. Because Morgan, though he was a tough guy, he would still talk to her, tell her when he was upset. Ask her for support.

She knew that he would be okay.

Hotch was different. He was a tough guy too, the toughest actually. But unlike Morgan, he didn't tell her when he was upset. He didn't talk to her.

He didn't talk to anyone.

Rossi would try, she knew that Rossi tried. And that was probably the only thing that had kept Hotch sane over this past year when so many things had gone so very wrong.

But she'd seen him on this last case, and she knew . . . he was reaching his breaking point. And she wanted to help him, to go to him, but she was afraid that he would send her away. That he would tell her he was fine and shut the door in her face. They had come so far, but there was still that part of him that she couldn't reach.

That part of him that no one could reach.

She sighed as she rolled over again . . . attempting to sleep was pointless. She decided to get up and go make some cocoa.

It wasn't until she got to the bottom of the steps that she realized how chilly the house was. She should have grabbed her robe, but she didn't feel like going back upstairs. Instead she went over and turned the heat up a notch, hoping it would kick on quickly. Then she went to her CD's and pulled out The Joshua Tree.

Maybe Bono would make her feel better. Because she just couldn't shake this nagging feeling that she should be doing something more for Hotch.

That she wasn't trying hard enough to get through to him.

Emily entered the kitchen, picked up the tea kettle and went over to the sink to fill it.

Over the running water she heard what she could have sworn was a knock at the door. But it was after midnight so she dismissed it for a second as her imagination and went over to put the kettle on the burner. But that's when her brow furrowed as she remembered telling Morgan that he could come over if he couldn't sleep. Maybe that knock wasn't just her imagination.

Maybe it was him.

She went down and checked the peephole.

Not Morgan . . . her eyes widened in surprise as she hurriedly opened the door . . . Hotch!

And even though he was the one that had knocked . . . he looked a little surprised to see her as well. God, she was so happy to see him! But she knew that this had taken a lot for him to come to here. And she didn't want to scare him off so she just smiled and asked if he wanted to come in for cocoa, pretending like it was completely normal for him to knock on her door at midnight. Even though he hadn't been to her apartment in almost two years.

She could see he was slightly thrown by her response. He was confused that she hadn't asked him why he was there.

And her heart ached for a moment, because she knew it would never occur to him that she would already know why he was there.

Hotch was the kind of person who could fall of a ship and he would refuse to ask anyone to throw him a line. He didn't like to bother people with his problems. He'd find his own way out of the water.

But despite that, despite all of these months that she'd been worrying about him, wishing that he would talk to her, and knowing that he wouldn't, he was here now. And that meant that the part of his brain that functioned for self preservation was trying to throw out an SOS. He was drowning. He was dying. And she just needed to get a grip on him before he went under.

And as she saw him standing in front of her she wanted to hug him, to hold him. He just looked so sad. But he wasn't ready for a hug yet. She knew that. These were baby steps.

But to her relief he accepted her offer for cocoa and followed her inside. Leaving him at the door she went into the kitchen and pulled down two mugs. The water was just at a boil so she picked up the kettle before it screamed, only then realizing that she couldn't see Hotch even though she'd heard the door shut.

She poked her head around the corner to find him still just standing there. She felt another ache in her chest. He was drifting away from her. She asked if he wanted to wait in the living room, telling him it would be just a minute.

He nodded slowly but she didn't trust that he had really heard her so she waited until he started down the hall before she turned her attention back to preparing their drinks. She went back into the kitchen, filling the cups with boiling water before measuring out the chocolate powder.

As she slowly stirred the two ingredients together, she watched as the steam rose up in swirling tendrils . . . the heat hadn't come on yet and her apartment was still too cold.

When she glanced over to the living room Emily saw that Hotch had settled on the sofa. As happy as she was to see him, it was a little surreal having him here. It had been so long since his last visit. A visit he'd made for very different reasons.

She shook her head . . . but that didn't matter, what mattered was that he was here now. And all of that time that had passed since the day that he'd come for her, so many things had changed.

Their relationship, from then to now, was not recognizable.

And she knew that they were on the cusp of changing things even more. Of changing them completely. She wanted to, and she had a feeling that he did too. But nothing was ever going to happen until he learned to trust people again. Or perhaps just trust people period. Because she had always assumed, probably rather foolishly as she now thought about it, that in part Hotch was the way he was because Haley had burned him.

But Hotch's issues with trust clearly went much deeper than that. Not to mention, the things, the big things he needed to talk about, she had a feeling he wouldn't have mentioned to his wife anyway. Not his cases. She really didn't see him talking about his work at home.

So really, he probably had never had anyone to lean on. He was Atlas, with the world on his shoulders, getting crushed by the weight of it all.

She took a sip from her cup, burning her tongue.

The drink was too hot and the room was too cold. She wished she could find a happy medium. She looked over to Hotch again . . . she wished they all could.

Picking up the mugs, she brought them down to the living room. Placing them on the table as she told them they were still a little too hot to drink. And then she sat down next to him. Right next to him, deliberately invading his space.

There was a time when she never would have done that, a time when she would have sat on the other side of the couch.

But they were long past those days.

She liked sitting with him. She did it as often as she could. It made her happy. It made her feel safe. Hotch had a presence. Something that she was drawn to . . . though she didn't quite know why.

One thing that she did know was that this case was killing him. She had hoped that when they caught the UNSUB that he would start to come back to himself. But now it was even worse. There was no closure. And she knew he blamed himself for those people's deaths. He shouldn't. But Hotch had been blaming himself for far too long, for far too many things.

He needed to start letting some of those things go.

She looked down to see that her foot was brushing his thigh. She wondered if he noticed. She wanted to slide it over a little bit more, press the length of it against his leg, just to see what he would do then.

Would he slide away? Would he stand up? Would he just ignore it? Or would he do something else?

Maybe someday she would find out the answers to those questions. She bit her lip . . . but not today.

He hadn't said a word since she'd invited him, and she didn't want to push him to talk so she just sat on the couch, watching him. Waiting for him to finally see what he needed to see. Because until he reached that point, turned that corner, he was never going to let go.

He needed to let go. Because only then would she be able to help him. Only then would she be able to reach him.

Out of the corner of her eye she saw his gaze shift towards her and she watched as his eyes slowly moved up her body. Stopping suddenly just before he got to her face. And she felt a stab of grief as she saw the comprehension fill his eyes.

Time lost. Time wasted.

That was the last thing she saw before he closed his lids tightly, shuttering himself away.

But now they were there. Now they had reached the point where he would let her in. So she finally did what she had been wanting to do for almost a year. Since that day she saw him in the hospital in New York. She reached over and touched him.

Picking up his hand she traced his life lines, rubbed her thumb over the calluses and slowly massaged his fingers. She was making a connection with him, making a tether. Something to keep him tied to her so that he wouldn't go under again.

And then she saw his eyes open, and the tears started to run down his face, and she knew. He was hers now, hers to look after. And she wouldn't let him down.

She wasn't going to let him drown.

"I should have come here before." His voice was filled with despair.

She brought his hand to her lips, kissing the knuckles before she whispered.

"You're here now," she rested her head on his shoulder, "and that's all that matters."

A/N 2: I thought it was important to add Emily's concern about Morgan into this one. Emily is quite compassionate, she was the one that gave Derek the little pat on the shoulder at the end of The Big Wheel, so it was obvious, given what happened to him in Omnivore that she would have been worried about him as well.

It was kind of fun writing like this, doing mirror versions. Usually when you're going back and forth in a scene you can only cover so much internal thought reaction to other characters behavior or expressions. But here I could devote the full time to just staying in one character's head. Like BEING that one person for a little while. If I get another workable idea I might do this again sometime.

There will be one more follow up here. It'll be a post ep for a different episode.

Did you like the mirror versions? Circle Y or N. Or maybe just hit the green button :)