An Act of Contrition

Chapter One

Emily Prentiss was an intuitive woman, able to read the faces of the people around her with an ease that often startled many of her co-workers. It was a talent she'd been forced to develop at a young age, a necessary demand if one was going to be the daughter of a successful Congressman and a Goodwill Ambassador. Over time, she learned to hone her skill subtly. But as she stood on the sidewalk outside their unsub's latest victim's house, she didn't need any of those deductive powers to know that she'd screwed up with Aaron Hotchner. Badly.

As a paramedic ushered her to the waiting ambulance, she glanced over her shoulder at her Unit Chief and lover. She noted the clenched jaw and tense posture as she gazed at his hard profile, his black hair gleaming in the lights. He was furious with her.

But, in her defense, she'd only been doing her job in the best way she knew how to do it. It was either watch the unsub's newest intended victim get stabbed or insinuate herself into the fray, despite the harshly issued order to abort sounding through the communications device in her ear. She'd had to make a split second judgment call. And it was glaringly obvious that Hotch believed she'd made the wrong one.

Absently obeying the paramedic as she reclined on the gurney inside the ambulance, she winced as they cut the black shirt from her torso, exposing the stab wound for examination. It was a nick, really. Not even worthy of a passing glance, in her learned opinion. Of course, her opinion at the moment wasn't worth much in her Unit Chief's eyes, and she'd been smart enough not to pose an argument when he'd ordered her to the ambulance to get checked out.

Grimacing as the tech cleaned the cut with alcohol, she bit her lip as they plunged the numbing shot into her stomach, the needle sliding in sharply. Casting a glance down her body at the three inch slash in her stomach, she shook her head in resignation. That was going to leave a mark. Mentally shrugging it off, she knew this one would be in good company. She had several badges of honor, mostly compliments of her time in Cyrus' compound. What was one more? It had been worth it then, and it would be worth it now. Each time, she had managed to save someone who wouldn't have gotten out otherwise. This time, the unsub was in custody and the seventeen year old girl he had every intention of killing was safe. A three inch scratch was a small price to pay, at least in her eyes.

Unfortunately, she knew she'd have some opposition to that line of thought when she got home tonight. And opposition, thy name is Aaron Hotchner.

Sighing at the thought, she finally processed that the paramedic was trying to get her attention as she popped her head up, meeting the uniformed man's eyes with a rueful glance.

"Agent Prentiss, it looks like you're going to require about six stitches and a Tetanus booster, ma'am. We'd be happy to take you to George Washington Memorial, but we could take care of it here, if you like. Do you have a preference?" the tech asked professionally.

"Let's just get it over with here, shall we?" Emily said, smiling tightly at the thoughts of a trip to the hospital. There was no way she wanted to willingly submit herself to a night in a busy ER when she could just as easily be taken care of here. Plus, this would give her the added bonus of not having to watch Aaron pace back and forth in the sterile hallways, his gaze surely to darken by the moment.

Nodding, she watched as the young man gathered the supplies he needed and set about repairing the damage the unsub had done her. Her body might have felt the tugging of the sutures, but her mind was otherwise occupied, the thoughts of the recent minutes rolling around inside with the speed of a tidal wave.

Minutes later, the young man raised his eyes to look at her. "You'll be able to make an appointment with your personal physician and have those taken out in about ten days, ma'am."

"Will do," Emily said, smiling gratefully, as she started to pull up slightly. "Am I free to go now that I'm all fixed up?"

"I'd prefer you remain still for about fifteen more minutes and make sure that medication wears off, then, I'll release you," the paramedic explained, gently pushing her arm back down.

Nodding her compliance, Emily took a deep breath as she leaned her head back against the barely-there mattress. Honestly, she reminded herself firmly, this could have been exponentially worse. They could have had a dead girl on their collective hands. They could have a preventable loss on their collective conscience. Why couldn't Hotch see that?

"Hey! You okay in there?" she heard a familiar voice call from the foot of her gurney, jerking her out of her thoughts once again.

Raising her head slightly to peer toward the door's opening, she spied Rossi standing there, half-smiling. Nodding, she replied with a shake of her head, "I'm fine. Already all stitched up. I'll be free to go in fifteen minutes."

"If I was you, kiddo, I'd hide out in here a while longer," Dave advised with a wink, cocking his head to the side.

"He's still that angry?" Emily groaned, closing her eyes as she dropped her head back to the pillow. God, she was going to pay in spades for going against his call. And while she had hoped that time would heal all wounds, apparently the last few minutes had only served to provide Aaron Hotchner with the opportunity to fuel the fire burning inside him.

"Ohhh, I'd say it's a safe bet that our esteemed Chief will be fuming for quite a while longer, Prentiss," Dave drawled, his deep voice tinged with a knowing quality. Narrowing his gaze on her, he chastised with a shake of his head, "You disobeyed a direct order, Emily."

"It was a judgment call, Rossi. You'd have done the same thing," Emily said firmly, shrugging. She wasn't going to let him or anyone else make her feel bad for doing what she knew was right, now was she?

"Yes, and I outweigh you by a good hundred pounds, too. You threw yourself at an armed man, Prentiss," Dave sighed, crossing his arms over his chest as he leaned against the edge of the ambulance.

"I gave you all the opportunity you needed to get a clean kill shot," Emily stated evenly, never taking her eyes off of the older man. She respected his opinion, but she also knew that her choice had been correct, and she couldn't allow herself to be swayed otherwise.

"Despite being told to abort the mission," Dave countered, raising an eyebrow as he eyed the woman lying on the gurney.

"We all have made judgment calls, Rossi," Emily argued, shifting against the sterile sheet as she tried to sit up slightly. "I knew I could put him off balance and that's what I did," Emily shrugged as she gained a better position.

"Okay, let's see how that flies with Hotch, shall we?" Dave grinned in her direction, then tapped the edge of the gurney before turning away and disappearing from her sight.

"I can't wait," Emily grumbled, rolling her eyes as she flopped back against the gurney, then winced at the pulling in her stomach. One thing she knew for certain, she couldn't wait for this night to end.

Unfortunately for her, however, she knew that before she could put this night behind her, she had a reckoning coming. The only question was which man would address her first, her Unit Chief or her lover. The fact that they were one in the same was inconsequential. She knew each would have plenty to say.