Spoilers all the way through Season 4, specifically 4x17, Demonology

Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds, I am making no profit from the writing of this fic.

A/N: smacky30 always supports me, helps me, fixes my tenses and grammar; she is a blessing in my life. Also need to give a shout out to alicat713, she's an amazing woman and a wonderful cheerleader. Thanks to both of them.

She doesn't have a headache, though she's pretty sure she should considering the amount of wine they'd had. But maybe that was the advantage to drinking really expensive wine: no headache the next day. Stretching experimentally, she finds she is the very best kind of sore in all the right places…places that have not been sore for a long, long time. Smiling slightly, Emily rolls to her side, enjoying the slide of the soft cotton against her still sensitive skin. The other side of the bed is empty, but she knew it would be since the sensation of Rossi pressing a kiss to her shoulder as he disengaged from their tangle of limbs was what brought her to consciousness. She breathes in; the musky scent of sex lingers in the air and the bed smells like him, slightly spicy and very male.

Pulling the sheet up to cover her breasts, she moves a couple of pillows behind her and sits up against the headboard in anticipation of his return. She's sure he will return fairly quickly; it's his house, she's his co-worker and they just spent the night together. A talk is pretty much inevitable and from what she knows of Rossi, he doesn't believe in delaying the inevitable. Except, she thought, smiling, if it made the inevitable that much more intense. Though, of course, that particular piece of knowledge is very newly acquired and at that thought, she has to suppress the urge to shiver at the memory of his hands and mouth on her last night.

Running a finger down a burgundy stripe in the sheet, she wonders how uncomfortable this is going to be. Then she wonders where he got these sheets and if he tells her, if she could even afford a set.

A slight movement at the door has her looking up and she sees Rossi standing there wrapped in a navy bathrobe, holding a glass of water. Biting her lip against a grin at how mussed his hair is she lets her gaze slide down his body, but the sight of his bare legs reminds her of the feel of his skin against hers and she moves her eyes back to his face before she starts flushing. This has the potential to be awkward and she doesn't want it to be. Well, some awkwardness is probably unavoidable, but she doesn't want it to make things weird. No matter how he feels about last night, they still have to work together and that relationship cannot afford to get weird.

She tries to read his expression but he's wearing his most neutral face and she couldn't even begin to guess what's behind it. She doesn't think he's upset; after all, he didn't run screaming when he left the bed. Also, he kissed her and that's a good sign, isn't it? More than likely he's gauging her reaction. Okay, she can do this she decides and gives him a tentative smile.

Finally, he moves forward, extending the glass of water. "Coffee's brewing."

Gratefully she accepts the glass, a little surprised by the weight of it. Cut crystal, she realizes and has to fight to keep from making a face at herself. It's Rossi, the man who appreciates the finer things, so it makes sense. "Thanks," she murmurs and takes a sip, giving herself a minute to read the situation.

He's still looking at her with no expression which she has come to realize is his "data gathering" look and she gets the definite idea he's trying to read her before he gives her any idea where he is with this whole thing. So, she starts talking.

"These are some seriously nice sheets, Rossi." Smoothing a hand over the sheet covering her thigh, she surreptitiously watches him watch the movement of her fingers. "When I was ten, my mother was posted to Riyadh and one of my class mates was an actual princess." She takes another sip of water and his eyebrow quirks. "Seriously. Her name was Ellmeera. She was the youngest child of a prince and he wanted her to go to the English school. Anyway, she lived in an actual palace." He tilts his head in his particular Rossi-esque way of indicating he's paying attention. "We became really good friends and our parents encouraged it. Now, I understand it was politically symbolic, but," she shrugs, "I didn't care, I was ten, she was a princess. One time I got to spend the night at the palace. Her sheets?" She plucks at the fine cotton covering her breasts. "The sheets of a princess in a palace were not this nice."

The corner of his mouth quirks up and she see his chest move once in a small, silent laugh and his voice when he finally speaks is easy. "They're some ridiculous thread count. Part of the decorator's package."

He's still standing and she wants to grab his hand and pull him down onto the bed with her, but things feel a little too uncertain. She's not sure which path he's going to take between "this was a mistake" and "we're going to need more condoms."

But, if he's waiting for her, he's going to have a long wait.

"Emily," he says and she feels her body react. She seriously hopes the way he rumbles out her name is not going to cause her to get wet from now on; she'll have to tell him not to say it at work if this is going to keep happening.

Focus she tells herself firmly and looks at him as he continues to speak.

"Last night…" He looks stuck and she almost feels sorry for him, but not enough to help him out, so she just raises her eyebrows to indicate she's paying attention. Letting out a breath, he sits on the edge of the bed facing her and captures her hand. "Last night was amazing." His words are light but his tone is heavy. He presses a kiss to her palm and she fights the urge to shiver. "And I would very much like to…experience that repeatedly, but, Emily, we can't…the job…we can't have a relationship."

She's seen him look less stressed, speak less carefully to psychotics and she's not sure if she should feel flattered or insulted. "I know that, Rossi." It is an effort to keep her voice schooled into a conciliatory tone instead of one that intimates he is a dumbass.

The quirk of his eyebrow lets her know she didn't quite succeed as he continues, his tone lighter. "But, if you thought we could keep doing this, no strings, it might be a good way to alleviate stress for both of us."

"No strings?" Her lips tilt up and the sheet slips down a little.

He's got an answering half smile on his face. "No strings. Is that something you'd be interested in?"

"Oh, yeah. No strings." She nods, sagely. "But this?" She pulls on the tie to his robe. "Looks a little bit like a string."

He's smirking at her. "It does?"

"Yep. We need to get rid of it." Her hand is already busy unknotting it and the sheet has now slipped all the way down to pool at her waist.

"Well," he nods solemnly, "we can't have that. No strings." His tone is ruined by the tiny groan he gives when her hand closes around him.

She can't help the way her breath hitches when she agrees. "No strings."


No strings.

It's light, it's fun, it's good and it works.

Their work relationship doesn't change. They're both professional and friendly on the job and it's surprisingly easy. Always at his house, and it was straight to the bedroom as soon as she came through the door. Then one night after an extended time out of town, he wants her to come over but she demurs because she's starving and absolutely refuses to have another fast food dinner. He'll make her dinner he murmurs, just a little urgently, when she gives her reason. She looks at him inquisitively for a moment, then shrugs and nods.


Just because it's a no strings relationship doesn't mean it's not a relationship.

A couple of months in, he tries to give her a pair of earrings. Yes, they're rubies (he loves the way she looks in red), but they weren't horribly expensive, just a small gift really. It's what he's done with every woman he'd ever dated and of course, each of his wives: he'd bought them jewelry. All of the women in his life had seemed to appreciate it. Until Emily.

She frowns at the jeweler's box. "What's this?"

He's never had a woman ask before; most of them had the box open before it was fully out of his hand. "It's a gift."

Gingerly, as if she's afraid the box might somehow be rigged with C4, she eases the hinged lid open and looks at the sparkling earrings. Her frown deepens. "My birthday is in October and Christmas is a long way away. Why would you give me a gift?"

"Because I was thinking about you and I wanted to get you something." It wasn't quite the suave intonation he'd been hoping for; it actually sounded more like he was just shy of calling her an idiot.

"Because I'm sleeping with you?" Her eyes are narrowed at him and he has the suspicion that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.

"No, of course not." He hates how frustrated he sounds.

"So, if you were thinking about, say, Reid, would you get him a present from a jeweler?"

He isn't sure if he should be amused or worried. "God forbid."

Her eyebrow quirks. "So, it is just because we're sleeping together."

"No." He doesn't know how things got so thoroughly away from him.

"No strings, Rossi." She scowls, thrusting the box back towards him.

"Jesus, Prentiss. It isn't a big deal, it's just a gift. Because I wanted to give you something." His voice is rising and he really wishes she would just take the earrings and forget about it.

She folds her arms across her chest and he suddenly has the feeling he is really, really screwed and not in a good way. "I suppose it's a step up from a few folded bills on the dresser."

Gritting his teeth, he takes the box and closes it with an audible snap.

The make-up sex being really fantastic is the only thing he chalks up to the good from that particular episode.


Emily knows he's really asking her if she wants to come home with him when he offers to drop her someplace after Hotch and Morgan leave to take Father Silvano to the airport. As tempting as the idea of spending the night in Rossi's arms is, she can't let herself do that. She's spent the last few days leaning on him, hard, and she's too grateful to make any more demands on him. Plus, she now has to deal with the knowledge that the person she is currently having a no strings sexual relationship with now knows more about her than any other living person.

As the snow falls, clinging to her hair and her coat, she doesn't think about how cold she is. Instead, she thinks about Matthew and John and a baby that would be an adult now and what a very good friend, what a good man, David Rossi is. The blood on the picture throws her more than it should and her fingers shake a little as she wipes her nose. The truth is, the most sustaining thing she's had in the last few days was the cup of coffee Rossi bought her, so the shakes at this point are probably inevitable. No, she corrects herself, the most sustaining thing she's had has been Rossi.

When she realizes her feet are numb, she hails a taxi but doesn't get how cold she is until she settles into the back seat and the heat hits her; it makes her fingers hurt and she scolds herself for not having her gloves with her. When the taxi pulls up at her place, she has trouble making her fingers work efficiently to pay the driver and she nearly stumbles as she exits, but there's a hand on her elbow to steady her and she looks up into Rossi's face.

The smile he gives her is gentle and he lets go of her arm when it's obvious she's steady on her feet. "I was beginning to think you were never coming home." He turns back to the open door of his truck and pulls a paper bag out. "I've got take-out but it's gotten cold, so we're going to need to heat it up."

Nodding dumbly, she brings him into her home. They share a bottle of wine with dinner and she leads him up to her bedroom. He strips to his underwear and slides between her sheets and she wonders if he'll mind the lesser quality linens (she was up to 1000 thread count but they still weren't as good as his). Then she stops thinking as he pulls her close and anchors her against his body, her head resting against his chest. He kisses her hair and murmurs "Sleep, Emily. I've got you."

She nestles against him, grateful for his warmth and the beating heart under her cheek. No strings, she thinks, but then wonders why she feels so happily chained to him.


His heart was not meant to beat this fast, he thinks as he watches some thug hold a gun to her head.

It isn't even their case, for fuck's sake. They had just finished giving a profile to the locals on a serial killer targeting middle aged white males in Biloxi, Mississippi, when all hell broke loose. A prisoner in lock-up overpowered a guard and managed to get out of the holding area of the police station. Somehow in all of the frenzy the policeman he'd been using as a shield was shot and he grabbed Emily.

"George," the detective next to Rossi addresses the fucking dead man with the gun pressed to Emily's temple, "don't be stupid. You're just making things worse."

No less than fourteen guns pointed at him and the man laughs. "You've got me on eight counts of rape and two for murder; we all know it can't get no worse. At least for me." The hand not holding the gun deliberately, tauntingly, squeezes Emily's breast. "I might as well have one more for the road."

Dave's teeth are clenched and he is doing everything he can not to look at her face.

"Now," George says, very calmly and pleasantly as if he's instructing them about the proper way to peel a potato or how to wash their hands, "everybody needs to put down their guns and lay down on the floor. Then this pretty little piece and me are gonna walk out the door."

"We can't let you do that, George." Hotch's voice is just as calm, though not nearly as pleasant. His aim never waivers. "Release Agent Prentiss and this doesn't have to be the day you die."

Then the animal with the gun to Emily's skull shakes his head, "Don't much care if it is, chief. I'm a dead man either way; today's just as good as any."

That's when Dave really gets scared. If George isn't afraid to die, he's got nothing to lose and that makes him really dangerous and all the thoughts of what he could do to Emily make it hard for Rossi to breathe. He wants to tell Morgan to take a shot if he's got it, but he can't say it without tempting George to shoot Emily. And while he's not as good as Morgan, Rossi's still good, but he doesn't trust himself with something this important and dear god, nothing has ever been this important.

An obviously nervous uniform shifts to wipe his sweating forehead against his sleeve and bumps the desk next to him, knocking a stack of cds in jewel cases onto the floor with a rattling crash and George starts, turning his head toward the cacophony. It's all Emily needs as she simultaneously plants her boot heel on the top of his foot and an elbow into his solar plexus. He's on the floor with Morgan's knee in the middle of his back and six guns pointed at his head before Dave takes a breath.

That night he isn't even very careful not to be seen when he knocks on her hotel room door. They've never had anything other than professional contact on the road, but after today, he doesn't give a damn if the whole team sees him go into her room. Emily opens the door dressed in sleep pants and a red tank top. Her smile is soft when she sees him and she steps aside for him to enter, but the smile flees when she sees the large, flat jeweler's box in his hand.

He waits for her to sit on the bed, then hands her the velvet box. "This is for you."

Her eyes are narrowed. "What's this?"

He purses his mouth. "It's for you."

She loops her hair behind her ear and frowns at him. "Haven't we been over this?"

"Jesus, Prentiss, just open the damn thing."

She glares at him but opens the box to reveal several spools of thread, a section of twine, a strand of multi-colored yarn, some loops of embroidery floss and even a small length of rope.

Her brows are drawn together as she looks at the box, then up at his face, then back down at the contents of the box. "Dave? What is this?"

Bending, he presses a kiss to her mouth. "Strings."