Author's Note: Here you go kids. I would have liked to have held this for another day for reasons that will be explained in the next chapter. And that's because the next chapter will be an addendum to this one. But you guys were very good doobys with all the immediate feedback (thanks much, there :)) and I didn't want to respond by being a total d-bag and saying 'ha! Suckers it's STILL not going up!' I'm guessing you all appreciate me not calling you 'suckers,' you're welcome! :)

No seriously, hopefully you will enjoy the following installment. And now I feel like I'm writing a damn soap opera.

This is picking up right where we left off. Again, opening with Rossi. I think this is the most screen time he's had in a story I wrote that wasn't in any way about him!


Prompt Set #12 - Spring Potpourri (April 2011)

Author: Jamie Ford

Title Challenge: Hotel On The Corner Of Bitter & Sweet


Songs for the Soul, Both Bitter and Sweet

Rossi's teeth ground together as he stopped in the doorway to look between Derek . . . still dragging the UNSUB out the door . . . and Hotch . . . still tending to Emily.

At the moment he wasn't sure which one of them was the more dangerous.

Hotch clearly had had murder in his eyes . . . there was a blackness there that Dave had never seen before . . . but Derek was the one that had left the UNSUB's face an unrecognizable mess. And he had done that so Hotch wouldn't have to do something even worse.

Wouldn't have to live, with doing something even worse.

And by Dave's estimation, Derek's actions were admirable . . . honorable even. He was a fine man.

Better even than he'd realized before.

But now Dave was starting to get worried about him . . . very worried. Because he could see that Morgan's loyalty to his chief . . . and his love for Emily . . . had already set him down a dark road that night. And Dave needed to get him off of that road before something else happened.

Something worse.

And that meant that he needed to get him away from the UNSUB.

Quickly.

So as Dave watched Morgan dragging the limp body over the threshold . . . part of him wondering if he was planning on mounting the UNSUB to the hood of the SUV . . . his brain was whirling with ideas on what to do with him.

Actually what to do with both him and Hotch. He needed to somehow keep these two men under control.

Men that were completely uncontrollable.

But then Dave realized . . . to his irritation . . . that statement was true.

They weren't controllable.

Not even a little.

They did exactly as they damn well pleased. So most likely whatever happened that night, would happen. So whatever else they did . . . Dave's gaze shifted from the now empty doorway Derek had been in a moment prior, and then back down to Hotch on the floor . . . then he'd just have to clean up after them when it was done.

That was the best that he could do.

So with that maudlin thought, Dave turned to start after Morgan again. Though at the moment the UNSUB clearly posed no threat to anyone . . . and Derek would never do anything to an unconscious man . . . the body was a dead weight to move.

And a messy weight at that.

But just as Dave took another step towards the door . . . trying to avoid the trail of blood smeared in the dust . . . something caught his eye.

Hotch.

He had leaned down to press his lips against Emily's ear . . . his hand was now resting on her stomach.

The hip he'd been touching earlier was one thing . . . yes, even with the other shit happening, Dave had noticed . . . but the stomach was something else.

Something much more personal.

And that personal movement . . . very uncharacteristic by Hotch's standards . . . was an intimate enough action to cause Dave to stand by the door for another moment. His brow was now wrinkled as he watched to see what would happen next.

And what happened next . . . raised his eyebrow even higher.

Because this man in front of him . . . this man who had moments before been on the verge or tearing another human being apart with his bare hands . . . there had been no doubt in Rossi's mind of that intent . . . was now quite tenderly running his fingers through Emily's hair.

He was brushing it back from her forehead.

And then he moved again to whisper something else in her ear. That was the same moment that his hand moved once more. It began rubbing small circles on her stomach.

Under her tank top.

And though from his distance, Dave couldn't hear any of the words that Hotch was saying . . . words weren't necessary. The subtext was screaming across the room.

The two of them were sleeping together.

Well . . . Dave's jaw snapped shut . . . shit.

That had not been expected. Not at all. Hotch's divorce was only finalized a few months earlier. And Dave had known that up until the end, he had been trying . . . actively . . . to fix his marriage to Haley. So there was just no way that Dave would have ever expected him to have moved on so soon.

But moved on he clearly had.

Because it was obvious from the amount of care that he was showing to Emily . . . the tenderness in his actions, the pain on his face . . . that this wasn't just sex, or some rebound affair. Those were things that Dave could understand. But this was different. This . . . Dave bit his lip as Hotch swiped the corner of his eye . . . was a genuine emotional bond that was being demonstrated. It might even be more than that.

It might even be love.

And that . . . Dave's eyes fell shut as he looked away . . . that was so bad.

The worst really.

Not that he personally disapproved, he didn't. In fact he had noticed since he'd arrived back in the fall . . . though hadn't thought much of it . . . that the two of them did seem to have a unique bond. And over the last few months in particular Hotch had . . . in retrospect . . . seemed much more content when Emily was around him.

And . . . Dave realized then . . . she was around him quite a bit. Constantly even.

Okay, fine. If they had found some degree of happiness together, he wished them the best.

They deserved it.

The problem was though . . . the thing that was making Rossi's stomach churn . . . was that looking at Hotch's actions in this new light . . . that of a lover seeking vengeance, and not a chief subduing an attacker . . . those three non-regulation bullets he'd fired, might as well have been nails shot into in his coffin.

His actions would never survive an inquest.

As soon as their relationship got out . . . and everything always got out in the end . . . it would become a PR nightmare. And the one thing that the Bureau . . . and Erin Strauss in particular . . . HATED, were PR nightmares. It was bad press. And bad press meant that 'forceful action' would have to be taken.

And forceful action meant top down terminations.

Hotch would be gone faster than you could say "fraternization and dereliction of duty." And that was assuming that they didn't decide to prosecute him for unlawful assault on the UNSUB. And they could easily do that.

Just for fun.

And the rest of the team . . . Dave shook his head . . . God, they wouldn't just be split up. They'd be flung to the four corners of the earth. They'd be made an example of.

Every one of them.

So the UNSUB would end up getting them coming and going.

And as Dave considered that entirely fucked up . . . though all too plausible . . . future, his worries began to turn to anger.

No . . . his jaw hardened . . . that wasn't happening.

Not on his watch.

There was still time to fix it. To stop any of that from happening. But of course . . . he took a breath . . . there was really just the one thing to be done.

And he'd have to do it alone.

So with this new plan now rapidly unfurling his mind . . . his plan to save his team . . . Dave looked back one last time at the couple on the floor. His eyes stung as he saw Hotch again whispering in Emily's ear.

Probably pleading with her to wake up.

So to help that future along . . . if Emily died the team would be destroyed either way . . . Dave closed his eyes for a second.

He needed to send a prayer to The Man Upstairs.

They didn't talk often . . . neither of them listened very well to the other . . . but he did try to at least keep the lines of communication open.

In his line of work, you didn't burn a bridge like that.

So once Dave's prayers were done . . . one for Emily to live . . . and one for his plan to work . . . he turned to continue out into the cold desert air.

There wasn't much time.

/*/*/*/*/

Hearing the floorboards creak over by the door, Hotch looked up to see that Dave had followed Derek from the building.

He and Emily were all alone.

But not for long . . . Hotch turned his attention back to his girl . . . Reid and JJ should be back soon. They probably would have returned already but for how far they had to run to get back to the SUV.

A good eighth of a mile across the small mining town.

That was because then they'd first arrived, they'd had no idea which building Emily was being kept in . . . and though he hadn't admitted it to himself . . . they weren't even 100% positive that she was even there until they'd actually found her. So with nothing to go on, they'd started their search with a door to door kick in from one end of the main strip to the other.

They'd gotten halfway down the opposite side of the street, before they'd heard Emily screaming.

That sound was going to be in his dreams.

But if not for that agonized screech . . . Hotch's stomach turned as he leaned back down to whisper in her ear again . . . well, they might have been too late.

But of course they might already be too late.

Because . . . his breath started to catch . . . she wouldn't open her eyes for him. He wasn't sure if that was the blood loss, or a head injury . . . or just simple exhaustion.

She had been tortured for hours.

But he was praying of course for exhaustion. Exhaustion he could handle. Because now that they were alone . . . and it was quiet . . . he could really focus on her injuries. And as he focused in on her battered face, the little stream of blood drying on her mouth . . . thank God it was drying, that meant something was clotting . . . and the burns on her arms and shoulders, he couldn't imagine how much worse things could be. All he knew was that this was his fault. He'd let her go off alone, and this is what had happened.

She'd been kidnapped . . . he leaned up to kiss her forehead . . . and tortured. And he had no idea how bad her internal injuries were.

If she was bleeding to death and he just couldn't see it.

Hotch's chest started to ache anew . . . he would give anything, literally anything but Jack, if she would just open her eyes.

Open her eyes and tell him that she was going to be all right.

Even if she lied to him, that would be okay. Because a lie would be enough to last him until the Navy chopper arrived. But without that comforting lie, he was on the verge of losing his mind.

Because not only would she not wake up . . . he'd been pleading with her over and over . . . but he didn't even know if the baby was still alive. As soon as the others had turned away, he'd lifted Emily's shirt and run his fingers along her rib cage and her abdomen.

Though he had ostensibly been feeling for broken bones . . . there didn't seem to be any . . . he'd also been trying to figure out if there were any injuries near the baby. Fortunately there was nothing obvious there.

No evidence of swelling or bruising anyway.

But . . . he reminded himself . . . an eight week old fetus didn't need a direct kick to be taken out. Simply the stress of what had happened to Emily, could easily be enough to kill Hotchkin.

Hotch's eyes started to tear up again just at the thought of it.

So their baby could already be dead . . . Emily could be dying . . . and all he could do was just sit there. Sit there and watch them slip away.

He was completely useless.

But knowing that feeling sorry for himself was doing absolutely nothing but lower his own rock bottom assessment of his manhood . . . something that had already taken a terrible beating that day, he couldn't even take proper care of his new family . . . Hotch took a deep breath as he blinked away the tears in his eyes. Then he sniffled as he leaned forward again.

He just had to keep talking to her.

That was it. That was all he could do. Even if he couldn't get her to wake up, maybe she could still hear him.

And maybe his voice would make her feel better.

So his palm settled back to the spot where it kept gravitating to . . . the tiny bump. A tiny bump that he was praying was still his unborn child.

And then he pressed his lips back to Emily's ear.

"Sweetheart," he whispered for the fifth time, "I'm here." His voice started to thicken, "I'm here now and I'm so sorry that I left you alone. But I'm right beside you, and you're going to be fine. We're getting you help. JJ's getting the helicopter. So I just need you to open your eyes for me. Can you do that? Emily, please," he pleaded as he gently rubbed his palm over her stomach, "please sweetheart, please open your eyes. Please do this for me. I just need to know that you're okay."

Then he stopped . . . because as with the times before . . . there was no response. She just remained still.

And he was about to lose it.

His heart . . . a heart that had already been broken to pieces once that year . . . was starting to crack into even smaller ones. Emily had only just begun to tape those pieces back together for him. But now . . . his breath started to hitch . . . his fears that he was losing her and the baby, were threatening to suffocate him.

How could God bring this woman to him . . . bring another child to him . . . and then take them both away? Was that some kind of cosmic JOKE? Was his life just a punch line for some FUCKED up deity that had nothing better to do all day! Had he not paid enough penance on his soul already? What the hell were Haley and Jack?

A DOWN PAYMENT?

Just as Hotch's rage started to rise up again . . . suddenly a sound stopped him cold.

It was a moan.

His jaw dropped . . . Emily had moaned.

And then her lashes began to flutter and his own eyes popped open in shock. His despair was morphing to an indescribable joy.

SHE WAS WAKING UP!

Thank you fucked up deity for this this ONE little break!

It wasn't a traditional prayer of thanks, but it was all that he had in him. And Hotch watched with his heart in his throat, as Emily's eyes slowly began to open . . . the left one at least.

The right one was half swollen shut.

But still . . . he cupped her jaw with his palm . . . she was awake. And she was beautiful.

And that was enough.

"Hey," his voice was hoarse as the tears in his eyes began to pool. Though this time at least they were happy tears. "You're awake."

Emily blinked . . . it was clear that she was trying to focus, trying to remember what had happened. It took a second, but then Hotch saw the flicker of recognition in her eyes.

She knew who he was.

She knew that he was there.

And as that flicker got brighter, her mouth twisted in a faint smile.

"You're here . . ." she croaked out, "missed . . . you."

Though her words were slurred and her voice weak . . . Hotch understood her just fine. And feeling yet another wave of guilt and self-loathing . . . how would he ever make this up to her . . . one of those tears slipped down his cheek.

He quickly wiped it away.

"Yes, I'm here sweetheart. And I'm so sorry that I was late." Then he gave her a watery smile as he leaned down to press a light kiss to her swollen lips.

"But I missed you too." He murmured as he pulled away. And as he sat back slightly, his other hand gently patted the little bump.

"Both of you," he whispered.

Though the outing of their relationship was not even making Hotch's list of concerns at the moment, regardless, he was relieved that nobody else was in the building. Because he would have been saying these things . . . and touching her this way . . . regardless of whether or not they had an audience.

Because at that moment, he'd happily sacrifice his career for Emily and the baby to live.

Nothing else mattered.

His priorities . . . for the first time in years . . . had been hammered firmly into place.

Seeing the fear and guilt in Hotch's watery eyes, Emily's own began to fill with tears.

She knew how he was . . . she knew that he was blaming himself . . . and she really wasn't in much of a condition to make him feel better. It's not like she could hop up off the floor and say, "no worries! All better now!"

She was a far cry from "all better now."

But the one thing that she could do though . . . she slowly lifted her arm up . . . was to prove to him that she wasn't paralyzed, and she wasn't on the verge of death. She was just a little banged up was all.

She'd be fine.

Eventually.

Because they'd made plans . . . long term ones . . . and she wasn't about to back out of them. So . . . though it took a ridiculous amount of energy, and a lot of pain . . . she lifted her arm high enough to press her palm against his cheek.

Fortunately his face was hovering just above hers.

"Don't," she ground out slowly, her breath catching on every other word, "blame . . . self. Didn't do anything," she sucked in another shallow breath, "wrong . . . I'll be . . . fine."

Then she dragged her other hand up to drop onto his . . . now they were both covering the little bump.

"Both," she slowly exhaled the last word, "fine."

She was pretty sure they were anyway. And as long as she didn't have any concrete reasons to worry about the baby . . . as much pain as she as in, there had been no direct trauma to that area . . . then she wasn't even going to entertain the possibility that something had happened to Hotchkin.

It wasn't up for discussion.

At Emily's assurances, Hotch felt a wave of relief wash over him. Then another tear slipped down his cheek.

"Are you sure," he whispered furtively, "about the baby?"

Though he hated to ask her to speak again . . . her breathing was clearly becoming more labored with the effort . . . he just needed an answer to this one question.

And then just one more.

Emily's good eye crinkled slightly.

"S'okay." she murmured with a faint nod, "No hit. No pain."

Though . . . she sucked in another shallow breath . . . it was starting to alarm her how difficult it was getting to breathe. Something wasn't right.

Something new.

Hotch repeated the words to himself . . . the baby was okay, no hit . . . no pain. Okay then . . . a tiny smile ghosted over his lips as he pressed another quick kiss to Emily's forehead . . . that was excellent news.

WONDERFUL news!

But . . . he reminded himself to temper his excitement . . . that was just one of two.

Now he needed Emily to say that she was okay too . . . his eyes started burning again . . . and he needed that more than anything.

"That's wonderful sweetheart," he whispered back, "now what about you? Are you okay?"

Please say yes Emily!

Emily stared up at Hotch for a moment, her faint smile fading as her eyes began to water furiously. She was debating or not she should lie to him about the new thing. She wanted to . . . she wanted to so badly . . . but he needed to know about her breathing. Because she had no idea how much longer she'd be able to stay awake, and if she passed out again, it would be up to Hotch to tell them what had happened.

One tear spilled over and slid onto her temple . . . and that meant that he needed to know.

Even though it was going to hurt him.

"No," Emily's face crumpled as another tear fell, "no . . . sorry," she exhaled, "I'm not k."

And she could see the veiled terror fill Hotch's eyes then, though she knew that he was outwardly trying to stay calm for her.

She was starting to love him for that.

"All right," Hotch soothed as he tried to tamp down on his rising panic, "it's okay sweetheart, don't be sorry. Now," he gently rubbed his hand across Emily's stomach, "can you tell me what hurts?"

God help that creature if he ever saw him again.

"Chest," Emily rasped as one hand fell to her chest and the fingernails of her other dug into his hand, "lungs, 'ink . . . harder . . ." the tears started running down her face, ". . . eath."

"Shh, shhh, it's okay," Hotch soothed as she started to gasp, "don't talk anymore. You save your breath. The chopper will be here soon. Captain Nichols is on board, and he'll fix it. Whatever's happening," he cleared the lump in his throat, "don't worry. You're going to be just fine."

Though he was trying to keep his the calm and controlled mask in place, inside Hotch was beginning to unravel again.

Emily's words were getting harder to understand.

Something was happening.

Something bad.

Whatever tiny bit of relief he'd felt a moment before, had fled. The pit in his stomach had frozen over once more. And then Emily suddenly started to gasp.

OH CHRIST!

His head snapped back.

"REID!" He screamed towards the door, "REID! WHERE THE FUCK ARE YOU?"

He had no idea whether or not he'd found a med kit, but there had to be something out there to help her!

Them.

Because . . . his stomach flipped as her gasps turned to ragged pants . . . if Emily wasn't getting enough oxygen now, then that meant that Hotchkin was getting even less.

Happy Family Take Two.

Delete.

Just the thought of it was sending him around the bend.

BUT HE DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO!

The lingering rage came up out of nowhere, but it served no purpose . . . none, screaming was not going to fix her . . . so he shoved it back down again.

Just then he heard the roar of the SUV . . . and a moment later Reid came pounding back into the room

JJ was on his heels ten seconds after that.

"FOUND A KIT!" He yelled as he ran up, holding the white case out in front of him. Then he jerked his thumb over his shoulder, "AND JJ GOT TWO BLANKETS FROM UNDER THE SEAT!"

Before Hotch could say anything . . . to ask what the FUCK had taken so long . . . not that that would have been helpful . . . he went into a full blown panic as Emily's gasping morphed into something much worse.

Choking.

It was a horrible, ragged sound . . . it was throwing her whole upper body into a convulsion. And though JJ and Reid were now yelling hysterically right in front of him, to Hotch they seemed far away. His own breath was now coming in tiny ragged gasps as well. Because he could finally see what was happening.

Emily was drowning in her own blood.

But he was terrified of moving her. What if moving her the first time had caused the problem that she was having now? What if he made things even worse?

But he couldn't leave her like this. He had to at least do SOMETHING for her!

But just as he shifted his grasp to lift her up . . . her fingernails suddenly gouged into his skin. His wild eyes snapped up to her face . . . he could see that her lips were moving.

But there was no sound.

Then he realized though . . . he already knew what she was saying.

'Help . . . me.'

Over and over . . . help me.

"Okay," his voice cracked as he shook off her fingers from where they were digging into his hand, "okay, hold on Emily. Let me try this," he said as he slipped his hand behind her neck and the other arm around her waist.

Now she was up on her side, with her head tipped slightly downward.

It was all that he could think that might help . . . might help and not fuck things up even worse. He didn't know if it was her lungs that were the problem, or her trachea. Though she had said that her chest hurt, that could have just been from the exertion of trying to breath, not necessarily that the lungs themselves were damaged.

And given that up until a moment ago her respirations had she'd seemed fair . . . not good, but fair . . . he was praying that it was her trachea. So his hope now was that the new position . . . on her side, head tipped . . . would at least keep the blood from pooling in her throat.

And though she was still coughing, the convulsive element had passed. It seemed like she was starting to suck in a bit more air than before.

He tipped his head down.

"Is that better?" He asked with a catch in his voice. And she gasped again . . . it came with a squeak . . . as her head moved slightly.

It seemed to be a yes.

But she was obviously still in distress . . . and he was trying to think of a Plan B . . . when suddenly she gagged . . . and then a large clot of blood came flying out of her mouth.

It stuck to the F on his vest.

It hung there.

"Aaron . . ." she gasped, "hospital."

Those were the first legible words that she'd gotten out in almost a minute. And even though her breathing was still labored, Hotch felt a tiny wave of joy wash back.

Her color was returning. It still wasn't a healthy shade of anything.

But it was better.

That clot . . . something she must have thrown . . . had to have been what was blocking her windpipe.

At least it had cleared.

"Soon," Hotch murmured, his fingers rubbing the back of her neck as he tried to give her a reassuring smile.

It probably would have been more effective if his eyes weren't watering.

"I promise Emily," he continued softly, "we're leaving very soon. We're just waiting for the helicopter. So all you have to do is just breath and stay awake."

Then he leaned down to press his lips to her ear.

"For me. Please sweetheart, I know that you're exhausted, but please just try to stay awake until they get here," he leaned back slightly to give her another faint smile, "can you do that? It shouldn't be more than ten minutes. Can you stay awake for ten more minutes?"

That's when JJ cut in . . . he'd almost forgotten she was there.

"Twelve," she said with a catch in her voice, "they said they were twelve minutes out."

And that was a few minutes ago so hopefully . . . JJ's fingers dug into her palm . . . they'd be there even sooner.

"Okay," Hotch smoothly corrected, "twelve. Twelve minutes," he shook his head at Emily, "and that's not very long at all. You can do twelve minutes, right?"

She just survived eight hours with a serial killer, twelve minutes were nothing.

Emily wrapped her fingers back around Hotch's hand . . . if he wanted her to do this, then she needed to hold onto him. So once she had him in her grasp, she took the deepest breath that she could manage . . . it wasn't much, but it was a hell of a lot better than a moment before . . . and breathed out one letter.

"K."

Though it was a bit hoarse, she was sure that the word was at least an understandable one.

Her throat was still clear.

But her chest hurt like a bitch . . . she bit down a grimace as Hotch shifted her slightly . . . everything hurt like a bitch.

And she was now beyond exhausted.

But she'd just promised Hotch that she'd stay awake for him . . . she slowly tipped her head forward against his vest . . . and she was going to try her damndest to keep that promise. It was one of many that they had made to each other. They were trying to build a life.

And that was done one promise at a time.

"Okay," Hotch breathed out a sigh of relief as he shifted his arm to tuck Emily against his chest, careful not to block her mouth or nose, "good girl. Now," he finally tore his eyes away from the woman now resting in his arms, and up to Reid standing over him.

He looked like he was going to cry . . . his gaze shifted over.

JJ already was.

"She's okay guys," Hotch whispered to them as he tugged Emily a little closer to his body, "really, she'll be fine. She's just exhausted. But she's breathing okay now. But I have to hold her steady so I need you to help me bandage her up, okay?"

Somehow . . . though he was reaching a point of emotional exhaustion himself . . . he was able to keep his voice steady for the two youngest members of his team.

But JJ and Reid were like Jack. He needed to watch out for him. And sometimes he needed to lie and say that everything was going to be just fine.

Even when he wasn't sure if it would be.

Jolted by Hotch's words, Reid immediately blinked away the tears forming . . . he didn't cry in front of his boss, not if he could help it anyway . . . as he dropped down to his knees.

"Right," his words were shaky as he opened the kit and started digging, "okay, um, I got some bandages and uh . . . uh . . ."

Reid's voice faded as he began frantically blinking again. His gaze had caught on the festering welts that had formed on Emily's shoulders.

The burn marks.

This wasn't even close to the worst attack that he'd seen in his career . . . the worst was a teenage boy that had been half skinned alive . . . but there was no comparison when it was somebody that you loved.

But he knew that he needed it in gear.

Emily needed him.

So his attention snapped back to the packet in his hands.

"Burn cream," he choked out, "I found some um, burn cream."

And as he felt JJ crouch down beside him . . . her hand falling to his back . . . Reid took a breath. He was trying not to think about how much worse things would have been if Emily had been missing as long as he had been. Though the tears started to pool as he tried to tear open the first packet of cream from the kit.

They would have found her in pieces.

When he looked back up . . . still with the mangled packet in his hands . . . Hotch was staring at him. And for a moment, Reid was mortified that he'd seen him in tears . . . he must think that he's being SO unprofessional . . . but then he realized that Hotch's eyes were wet too.

And red.

He'd been crying.

Before Reid could process that . . . that Hotch could be so, human . . . the other man had looked away. Then he pointed to Emily's back.

"That's good Spencer," Hotch murmured as he pointed to the two worst welts on her back, "that's very good. Now," he moved his finger slightly, "just a bit here and here around the edges where it's pink, but be careful to stay away from the center where it's weeping."

He didn't want the cream to cause a problem, but he knew how much pain she had to have been in.

Her skin had turned to ash in places.

"After that," he continued softly as JJ took the packet from Reid's hand and ripped it open, "get the bandages. We can deal with the other burns after we get the cuts addressed."

The bleeding was the most important thing, and under other circumstances, Hotch would have had him start there. But under these circumstances . . . with the burns being so gruesome . . . and the worst of the bleeding having now tapered off . . . the slash marks had finally started to clot . . . the reverse approach was better.

They could do nothing for the damage inside Emily's body . . . and Hotch knew that there was definitely some, that blood she'd choked on came from somewhere . . . but they could do something for the damage on the outside. So he wouldn't let her keep suffering with the burns if they had the Lidocaine right in front of them. It was just a slight numbing agent.

But any numbing was better than nothing at all.

And that's when Hotch realized that . . . though JJ had handed him back the packet before she turned to start digging in the kit again . . . Reid hadn't applied the cream yet.

His hand was just hovering over Emily's back.

So Hotch raised his head to ask him what he was doing . . . but the words stopped at the tip of his tongue.

There was a look of shear panic on the younger man's face.

He was terrified of hurting her.

Of course.

"It's okay Spencer," Hotch gently reassured him as he patted Emily's hip, "right Emily," he leaned down to whisper, "can you nod your head to tell Spencer that it's okay?"

He hated to ask her to do anything, but the only person that was going to make this better for Reid, was Emily.

And sure enough, his girl didn't let him down. He felt her head brush against his chest right before one syllable was murmured.

"S . . . kay,"

Emily didn't so much speak the words as exhale them. She was so tired . . . her eyes were half shut . . . and everything hurt, so that was the best that she could manage. But she could tell from Hotch's second pat on her hip, that it had been enough.

A second she heard Spencer murmur, "if you're sure Em," right before he lightly pressed his fingers into her shoulders.

And then there was a cooling sensation.

She immediately tensed up . . . and she felt the others freeze as well. But just before Hotch asked the question . . . should they keep going . . . she nodded again.

She wasn't sure if they could see it . . . unfortunately she didn't have the energy for anymore talking . . . but somehow Hotch understood. Emily eyes began to fill with fresh tears as she tucked her head against his vest.

Hotch always understood.

And thank God for that, because as she heard the others continue to rip open packages . . . first of cream . . . then of gauze . . . finally of tape . . . Hotch always knew when to tell him to stop, when to give her a minute.

Then . . . without her saying a word . . . he'd know when it was okay to start up again. She loved him for that.

She was starting to love him for a lot of things.

And as soon as they were alone again . . . and she could communicate beyond single syllables of course . . . she was going to tell him that. Because today had reminded her that they couldn't put off these conversations.

Their world was much too dangerous for that.

Not that they had been purposely putting off such discussions . . . they were actually very affectionate and loving . . . but it had been too soon for out and out "I Love Yous."

And maybe it still was.

That was . . . by Emily's estimation . . . the last hook to tie them together. But she didn't throw the phrase around lightly. Nor . . . she knew . . . did Hotch. But it wasn't too soon for an "I love this about you," or "that about you."

It was definitely not too soon for those.

It was probably past time for those.

And when the bandaging was done, and Reid shifted around to start dabbing cream on her remaining burns . . . the minor ones that the UNSUB had made on her arms . . . she suddenly felt Hotch tense up.

At first she felt a bolt of fear . . . though she knew that Hotch would have incapacitated the UNSUB, she didn't exactly what they'd done with him . . . but then she heard a noise. Probably the one that he'd heard a moment before

The helicopter.

They were leaving.

She'd barely processed that development . . . her brain was becoming sluggish with pain . . . when she had to bite back a moan as she felt herself being lifted off the ground.

Hotch had scooped her up as he stood.

Then she heard him whispering that he was sorry . . . he knew that he'd jostled her . . . before ordering Reid to go meet the chopper.

As Emily heard the sneakers pounding across the floorboards . . . Reid running out . . . Hotch then asked JJ to come help him shift her. A second later JJ's perfume filled her senses, and Emily smiled against Hotch's chest.

It was the closest she'd come to her. And JJ's scent . . . though so distinctly feminine . . . was in many ways like Hotch's.

It was a comfort.

It was her family.

"Jayje," she murmured faintly as she felt the small hands brush over her body.

She felt like she'd been talking to her earlier . . . though she couldn't imagine when that could have been.

"Hey Em," JJ murmured, trying to hide the lump in throat as she leaned in next to Hotch, "let me know if I hurt you, okay?"

God, please don't let me hurt her.

Hotch's expression softened as he looked down at the blonde in front of him . . . she looked terrified.

"JJ, I just need you to shift her weight up a little bit and wrap the blanket around her. I don't want to jostle her again, but it's too cold out there. But just be easy, okay?"

Though it would have obviously been preferable . . . under other circumstances . . . to let the doctor come to them, they didn't have the time for that. By the time the chopper landed somewhere on the outskirts of the town . . . the main street was over a century old and too narrowly built for helicopter blades . . . and then Captain Nichols ran down with a nurse and a stretcher, minutes would have been lost.

And then . . . Hotch stooped down slightly for JJ to slip the blanket around Emily . . . more minutes would be lost as he attempted to assess her injuries on the floor.

They could do that in the air.

So as soon as he felt Emily was warm enough and secure in his arms . . . her breathing was shallow but steady against his throat . . . he turned and started for the door.

"One minute sweetheart," he whispered, "one minute and you'll see Captain Nichols, and then we'll be on our way back to base."

In response he heard a slight murmur . . . and felt a small vibration on his skin . . . so he knew that she was still awake.

Good girl.

Now there just better be room for him on the damn chopper. If there wasn't . . . he slowed at the doorway to let JJ get in front of him . . . she was going to make sure he didn't trip over anything in the dark . . . then he was kicking somebody out.

One thing was for sure . . . they stepped out into the cool desert air . . . he wasn't sending Emily off alone.

Not again.


A/N 2: There, after all the angsting and adrenaline and messy blood bits, you got some H/P TLC. FINALLY! And you now know as much about Hotchkin's status as it's parents do :)

It was awful reading up on burn care. Seriously, if you can avoid looking at pictures of second and third degree burns, please do so. But basically though, I could see no treatment advising against some topical lidocaine being applied in this situation. There is ANOTHER type of burn cream that they do advise against using because it slows down healing time, but that's not the OTC crap.

Otherwise, when they get to the base, we'll find out what's going on with Em's insides.

And the addendum I mentioned, that will be brief, and it will follow up with Dave and Derek. But beyond that coming in relatively short order, though I am keeping this on the front burner, I'm not promising a certain posting timeframe on the next major chapter. Because whenever I do that, I jinx myself. Something happens and it doesn't go up. So, we'll just say we'll get there when we get there, and I will try to get there sooner than later :)

Otherwise, other stories are due for updates. The Hours and Cranky Bastard are closer to the front of the lineup. Others will come as ready.

PROMPTS: Forums are fixed so prompts went up in both TV and Story Title. If interested, you can get to the forums from my profile page.