More Than Myself

She heard his key in the lock as she walked out of the kitchen. Holding her breath, she waited as the door opened and only allowed herself to breathe again when she saw him, safe and whole, striding into the small foyer off the living room. She never used to do this…feel this heavy air of foreboding until she saw him slip through her apartment door. This had long since stopped being fun and meaningless. She wasn't sure whether it ever had, no matter the lies they'd told each other. Face it, Prentiss, there hasn't been a thing casual regarding your feelings for David Rossi since the day he'd walked into your life, a year ago this Halloween.

Watching him throw his keys carelessly onto the ceramic plate she kept on the entryway table, she winced as she saw the tired lines framing his eyes. Evidently, he'd had no easier a time with Derek than she'd had with Hotch this evening. Both were determined men…with their own ideas about how things on a case should go down. Luckily for her, David was much more fluid, more easily willing to adapt to a situation. At least he was now. It had taken some training…and some death threats.

"Emmy?" she heard him call as he shucked his suit jacket and draped it on her coat rack.

"In here, Dave," she replied, watching as he strode through to her living room to where she stood, enfolding her in a strong embrace. "God, I'm glad to see you," he whispered against her temple, his hot breath fanning against her hair.

Resting her head against the pillow of his chest, Emily nodded. "I know what you mean," she mumbled against his shirt.

Drawing back only enough to drop down to sit on her couch, he quickly tugged her into his lap. "I take it you didn't have any luck either in getting Aaron to open up."

"I told you it was a long shot," Emily said softly, shaking her head as his warm hand trailed down her arm.

"I had to try. I'd hoped he might open up with a woman. I've been told I might have a small communication problem."

"You, Dave? Never," Emily drawled, her lips quirking into a small smile as she glanced up at him.

"Smartass," he said, giving her waist a small pinch. "Is it my fault that I like to tackle problems head on?"

"And beat the hell out of them?" Emily asked on a chuckle.

"It's my method," Dave shrugged.

"Don't think it's gonna work in this situation," Emily murmured.

"No, I don't guess it will," Dave replied quietly, resting his chin against her head. "What are we gonna do, Emmy? I can't cover Hotch's ass forever with Morgan. Eventually he's gonna hop over my head and go for Aaron's throat."

"I'm surprised he's been this patient," Em nodded.

"Honestly, I am, too. But all of us want what's best for Hotch. But, how the hell can we help him if he keeps shutting us out?" Dave asked tiredly.

"He feels alone, Dave. He admitted that much to me in a round about way tonight," Emily confided, molding her body around the arms holding her.

"He's not. Hell, Emmy, we've all tried to talk to him. To help him," Dave griped, "But if he won't let anybody in, what does he expect?"

"I'm not sure, Dave," Emily said, soothing a hand across the back of his tense neck. "All I know is that we can't stop knocking on that door. If we do, he'll slip away from us. And, I don't think any of us could live with that."

Dropping his head back against the couch, Dave closed his eyes. Damn, how had it all come to this? He'd come back to the Bureau for the most selfish of reasons…to soothe his own ego. Now, somehow, he'd gained a family. One determined to drive him into an early grave, albeit unintentionally. "You know, when I came back to the BAU, I never expected to find any of this."

"Any of what, Dave?" Emily asked softly, lifting soft brown eyes to look at his weary face.

"Something that mattered more than myself," he replied, not opening his eyes.

"Do you regret it?" she asked uncertainly.

Dark eyes flashed open and met hers, his penetrating gaze piercing her. "Never for one second, Emmy. Never once," he told her with stark honesty.

And if his bluntly spoken words hadn't convinced her, the kiss he'd pressed to her lips would have. Coaxing her lips apart, Dave twined his tongue with hers, framing her face in his hands as he did. In that moment, there was no subterfuge, no questions. All there was at that moment was an honest need and overwhelming desire. And the knowledge that each of them had found something better than they'd had before. With each other.