!!Spoilers for Haunted!!


PROMPT: The Rise and Fall of Paul the Wall (Hill Street Blues)

Emily paused as she heard Hotch's door close with a click, the hall quiet enough for her to hear him click the deadbolt and slide the chain into place. With a sigh she settled herself on the top step, her elbows resting on her knees as she dropped her head to her hands. He'd been a right idiot, they all knew that. He'd made mistakes that agents shouldn't and couldn't make. He could have been shot.

She felt tears burn her eyes, the first tears she'd felt in anger since Garcia had discovered he was in the hospital. She hadn't been this angry at someone in a long, long time. Did he not see that they cared? Did he not see that he had people, that he wasn't alone? Yes, his son was gone, and that was going to be a hard burden to bear, but that didn't mean he had to isolate himself, put himself in situations where he could be injured or worse. That drove her to her feet, had her moving to knock on his door again.

"I thought you were going home."

Her hand came up without the conscious permission of her brain, slapping him. "You're an idiot."

His hand was on his cheek, surprise in his eyes. "I beg your pardon?"

"You're an idiot. You were an idiot on this case…. I wish there was a stronger word than idiot." God, she couldn't even get her sentences to make sense. She shook her head, dropping her eyes. "You made stupid decisions on this case, Hotch and you could have gotten yourself killed."

"I made decisions to save a boy's life."

"You made decisions so that he'd take yours!" Her hands came up, slapping over her mouth. The thought hadn't even formed itself in her mind and she'd managed to get it out.

Hotch's eyes widened too and Emily was sure that if it wasn't for the combination of her own shock at the words and his surprise that someone had actually said them, he'd have ripped into her. "Prentiss…"

"I-I'm sorry. I just… I'll… go."

His hand gripped her arm gently before she turned, and there was a pinched look on his face that made her think he hadn't really meant to. But hey, if his subconscious was reaching out to her, no matter how angry she was at him, she wasn't going to abandon him.

"Come in?"

Part of her didn't want to. She'd proven she didn't have control over her mouth and she really, really didn't want to say anything that would cost her the job she'd come to love so much. She didn't lose control. Ever. Yet here she was, stepping into his apartment against her better judgement because she couldn't, wouldn't abandon him.

He stood to face her in the living room, still dressed in his full suit. "We weren't talking about Darryl earlier, were we?"

"Of course we were," Emily said, almost on reflex. Then she paused. "It may have applied to you too."

"I know I'm not alone."

"Do you?" she asked. "Because if you really did, you wouldn't have made some of the decisions you made today."

"I made decisions to save a kid's life."

"You went into a house, where there was a man with a gun, without a vest, and without backup. You lost your cool on a woman who had watched a man stab five people in front of her. You were abrasive with local officers… You weren't you."


"You didn't think. You're too busy being focused on what you've lost to realize that there are people around you, people who want to help you, people who give a damn if you die."

"I can't see my own son!" he exploded.

"So you'd rather get shot and have him living without a father than to think!?" Emily screamed back. "You'd rather abandon Reid without the closest thing he's got to father since Gideon's been gone? You'd leave Garcia heartbroken and JJ without her big brother? You'd leave Dave without his best friend or Derek without one of the few people who just grounds him?"

Hotch blinked. "They're the team."

"They're your family," she spat. "You're an idiot if you think, even for a second that we don't care, that we were willing to just let you run into that situation without wanting to backhand you."

He turned, and Emily bet his eyes were scanning his apartment, covered with files. It depressed her that this had become his life. She took a deep breath to calm the raging irritation within her.

"This isn't just about you and Foyet, Hotch. This is about all of us, if only because you are one of us. You're wrong to think it doesn't hurt us to know that you're hurting. We've all been working to try and find Foyet while you've been out, we've all been working to find even a glimmer of where he could be hiding out. But all of this goes to hell if you're willing to get yourself killed," her voice had softened considerably, and she cursed the way it was choked and cracked. "This is bigger than you. And none of this means you have to hide inside yourself. You're not alone, Hotch."

A different man turned to face her, this one cracked, broken. She'd never seen this side of him, never experienced him actually breaking. He'd already put himself back together in the hospital when they'd talked about what happened. This though… this was different. She stepped closer, reaching out and taking his hand, just for that grounding contact. He surprised the hell out of her when he tugged on her hand, pulling her closer. With a deep breath, she did something she'd never think of doing. She wrapped her arms around his waist and tucked her head under his chin. She felt the first hot drops of tears on her hair, but did nothing but hold on.

Finally, he'd realized he didn't have to be strong anymore. He wasn't alone.

Two birds with one stone, baby! I'd been looking for a way to do this prompt FOREVER and then "Haunted" happened and it was freaking perfect! And it begged for a missing scene one. And it's been a while since I've written a post-ep.

Thanks for reading and I hope you'll leave a review!