Broken

Prompt: Lifehouse's "Broken"

Weaving her way through the maze of empty desks in the BAU bullpen, Emily made her way back to her chair. Flipping off her computer, her mouth tightened as she noticed the light still shining through the slit blinds of his office window. She sighed deeply and dropped her head. He was going to kill himself if he kept going like this. She understood his obsession. If she'd had to give up her child because of the whims of a madman, she honestly didn't think she'd be acting any differently. But that didn't change the fact that his ongoing dissolution and depression was painful to watch. Hotch was changing before their eyes. Making choices and taking risks that he'd have never considered under normal circumstances. But the situation they'd all found themselves facing was anything but the norm. This was outside the realm of anything she'd ever seen before. She'd venture a guess that none of their team had ever seen anything like this before.

Gazing up at the window again, she told herself she needed to detach. She needed to simply gather her things and walk onto the elevator, leaving the BAU and the problems of her Unit Chief behind. The others had left hours ago. She reminded herself for the umpteenth time that she wasn't responsible for the man walling himself off from the world behind his office door. She told herself lots of things. But as much as she'd like to compartmentalize these growing feelings for Aaron Hotchner, her heart couldn't leave him to suffer another night alone.

Pulling herself to her feet, she took a deep breath as she moved slowly toward the metal staircase. She'd tried this before, she reminded herself. She'd attempted more than once to pull him from this self-imposed shell he'd surrounded himself in and been rebuffed for her effort. There had been something in his eyes this afternoon though as she'd watched him talking with Rossi on the plane ride home and his eyes had met hers. It was the closest thing she'd ever seen to desperation in his eyes. And if eyes really were the window to the soul, her boss was being tortured in ways that defied the imagination.

Reaching doorway, Emily tapped lightly against the wood and waited for him to acknowledge her presence.

"Yes?" Hotch called through the closed door.

"Hey," Emily said softly, inwardly wincing as she noticed the dark circles prominently shadowing his eyes. How long had it been since this man had slept through the night? "I saw your light on."

"What do you want, Prentiss?" Hotch asked abruptly, not looking up from the papers scattered across his desk.

Shaking her head at his tone, Emily tried again. "I wanted to see if there was anything I could do for you."

"No," he replied coldly. "There isn't."

"Hotch," she said softly. "Talk to me," she pled. She didn't care if he yelled at her…railed at her. Anything was better than that cold, distant disembodied tone.

Hand tightening on the pen in his hand, Hotch clenched his jaw. What the hell did these people want from him? Looking up, he gazed at her genuinely concerned face and relented , albeit, slightly. "What do you expect me to say, Prentiss?"

"Whatever you want," Emily returned simply, silently hoping that maybe, just maybe, she'd broken through one of his barriers.

Turning his head to stare out his window at the city lights, Hotch shook his head. "There aren't any words, Emily."

Leaning against the wall just inside his doorway, Emily waited as she watched the tormented man stare blindly outside. Finally, watching as he bent his head, dropping his chin to his chest in defeat, she heard him whisper, "I feel like I'm barely breathing anymore. Without my son," Hotch said, stumbling over his words, "I'm just a shell. I'm broken."

Moving forward, Emily worried her lower lip with her teeth uncertainly. Tilting her head, Emily asked softly, "Aren't we all just a little bit broken, Hotch?"

Turning to meet her dark eyes, Hotch shook his head. "What do you mean?"

Dropping into the chair in front of his desk, she tilted her head, studying him. "I mean that with the job that we have…the things that we see…aren't we all just a little bit broken? I can't think of a member of this team that hasn't been affected at one point or another by a case we've had. But we piece ourselves back together and we keep going because that's the job."

"Yeah," Hotch snorted, "Until that day when the glue doesn't hold anymore."

"If you believe that, you've already lost, Hotch. And you've never stricken me as the type of man that loses without one hell of a fight." Pausing, Emily searched Hotch's face for some sign that her words were being heard, but, as usual, he maintained that impassive mask. "You have something precious worth fighting for, Hotch. And if you'll let us, we'll help you. But, you HAVE to let us in."

"I've already endangered my son. The team…they're the only family I have left aside from Jack. If Foyet ever realized how important any of you were to me…"

"Hotch," Emily interrupted, "let me put it another way. At this point, you can't afford not to allow somebody in."

"Maybe you're right," Hotch murmured. Looking at her again, he smiled slightly. "But I'll deny that I ever said that with my dying breath."

Rolling her eyes, Emily pushed out of her chair, feeling lighter than she had in weeks. "I imagine you would. I'm going home. You should, too." Reaching the door to his office, she turned slightly to look at him and said, "And for the record, I think you're bruised, not broken. There's a big difference, Hotch."

Inclining his head slightly, Hotch watched the brunette agent leave his office. Staring at the empty doorway, he whispered, "Thank you, Emily."

FINIS