Frozen in time
Disclaimer : I do not own Criminal minds or any of the characters, and I certainly make no money writing these stories! Thanks for the reviews and story alerts… I very much appreciate them, as well as constructive criticism. Here's the end of the story, I hope you enjoyed it like I enjoyed writing it!
Chapter 11: Unfolding
"Who tortured Jennings?" Reid's mind had already registered all the details of the relevant operation. The clue to their case.
"My coworkers, these great detectives…" Lawrence spat out, shooting an angry glare at Derek and the agents on the ground. Since that night when he had witnessed his coworkers almost beat the suspect to a bloody pulp, Lawrence had never again believed in the rightness of their job. The other agents only represented the abusive system to him.
"Why didn't you report it?" Derek asked in a quiet voice. He knew he shouldn't antagonize the man, but he couldn't help himself. He had to understand why Lawrence Wright went for self-justice instead of the protocol.
"Like they would have listened…" For a split second, Lawrence let down his guard, gesturing with the gun instead of aiming it at Reid. The young doctor didn't move though. Lawrence's state was still unstable and he could shoot at any moment.
"I know you don't trust the system anymore…" Reid soothed, trying to turn around enough to lock with the agent's gaze. "But we want to help you."
"They're going to be here any minute." Derek added, finally daring to take a step forward. He needed to get closer to the couple, to take his chance at dragging Spencer Reid out of the hostage taker's grasp. "And you know they will shoot."
"But we can testify, we can explain to them why you did this…" Reid continued, his eyes set on his colleague. He knew exactly where they had to go, what argument they would have to pull to calm Lawrence down. Indeed, the man began to flinch, considering the profilers' argument.
"Let Agent Reid go…" continued Morgan, slowly making his way across the bullpen. "If you hurt any of us, there will be no coming back." Of course, he didn't mention Emily Prentiss, who was probably bleeding out on the upper level. This thought brought a shiver through Morgan's spine, and he unconsciously looked back to locate the brunette, in vain.
The man reacted harshly to Derek's gesture. Apparently, the latter had come too close too quickly. Feeling threatened, Lawrence stepped further back, colliding with the desk behind him. He lost his balance for a split second and lowered his weapon, at the exact same moment when the emergency exit burst open, revealing three heavily armed SWAT agents. Everything happened a less than five seconds: caught by surprise, Lawrence began raising his gun but the first SWAT agent was quicker. He aimed and shot once, with extreme precision and a strange tranquility. The first bullet hit Lawrence right in the chest, and his fingers tightened around the trigger in an involuntary reaction. With a groan, Spencer Reid hit the ground along with the unsub. It was only when silence filled the bullpen that Reid realized Lawrence had inadvertently shot him through the lower leg. Derek dove behind the desk, afraid that the so-called 'friendly fire' could continue. But as soon as the hostage taker was down, the SWAT team surrounded the bullpen with their firearms trained to the ground.
"Reid, are you okay?" The older agent crawled to his colleague, assessing the damage done to his calf.
"This is a very sick joke…" After a few shallow breaths, Reid swallowed his pain and used his elbow to get off the ground. "I just got off the crutches three months ago!"
Derek gave him an understanding look. If the young doctor was fit enough to make a joke of himself, he didn't have to worry about his state.
"Everyone alright here?" Rossi, who had appeared behind the first line of fire, strapped in his bulletproof vest, made his way among the agents who were getting up on shaky feet and stretching their aching body. He put his gun back safely into its holster and looked down at the two profilers.
"Looks like Reid will be limping once again after us…" Derek said with a half-smile, his mind already drifting to his other coworkers. The three men held their breath when Hotch's panicked voice echoed through the bullpen.
"Officer down! We need medical assistance!"
The first thing Emily felt as she woke up was the numbness in her whole body. It was running from the tip of her fingers to her toes. But behind that, she could feel the aching in her muscles. The pain meds must be draining off, she thought, trying to open her eyes. She was greeted with a bright light which immediately awoke the sleeping headache.
"Hey…" This was unmistakably JJ's voice. Feeling that she was not alone in the room, Emily gathered her last energies to blink away tears of exhaustion, and turn her head to the origin of the talking. The blonde liaison agent was leaning over her bed, offering her softest smile. The blue bags under her eyes and the messy ponytail she had brought her hair into told Emily that her friend hadn't slept in a long time.
"You look awful…" Emily frowned, trying to straighten her sore body.
"Says the pot to the kettle…" Jennifer Jareau glared at Emily. The brunette gladly accepted the glass of water she received. Her mouth was so dry that she could barely talk. When she was finished, Emily began looking around for other signs of life in the room. In one corner, spread over a visibly uncomfortable chair was Derek Morgan. He was sleeping so still that Emily suddenly asked herself how much time had passed since the incident.
"What time is it?" She had some difficulties to bear her hoarse voice.
JJ checked the time before answering: "Almost noon. You slept through the night."
"What happened to Wright?" Her trained FBI agent's mind was immediately back to business. Emily used both her hands to sit up, immediately wincing at the pain that shot through her lower abdomen.
"He died on impact. The SWAT didn't give him a chance."
"Well, he didn't give a chance to the women he executed…" Emily muttered to herself, raising her head as she saw Morgan stir in his sleep.
The women were silent for some time.
"Are the others alright?" As far as she could recall, the brunette didn't remember seeing any of her coworkers. Except Hotch, whose face had been the last thing she saw before passing out.
"Reid was shot in the leg." JJ said, watching closely Emily's face to see her reaction.
"Again? Poor thing…" The blonde chuckled. It would probably become a recurrent joke among the team for the next three months.
"I know…" JJ said, offering her a half-smile. Emily's eyes shifted back to the sleeping silhouette of Derek Morgan.
"May I ask… Why is Morgan sleeping here in the middle of the day?"
"You gave us quite a scare. Hotch wouldn't leave your side until Derek promised he would keep an eye on you."
Tears welled up in her eyes as she thought back to Hotch and the support he had given her during the incident. She now missed his presence somewhat, the brunette realized.
"He's been called in with Strauss for a meeting." The blonde agent added, as though reading her friend's mind.
"Oh. I suddenly feel better being in this hospital bed." Emily smirked to show exactly how disgusted she was at the prospect of a meeting with the Section Chief.
Morgan stirred again, harder this time, and both women were practically sure that he was going to wake up. Indeed, two minutes later, his eyelids fluttered open and he tried to accustom his eyes to the sudden brightness.
"It's about time…" JJ said sarcastically, shooting a nice smile in her team mate's direction.
"Oh, you're awake!" Derek almost fell from his chair at the realization that Emily Prentiss was conscious and staring at him. He brushed the last remnants of sleep off his face and came to stand at the end of the bed. "How are you feeling?"
"Like I've been hit by a truck…" Emily answered, wincing at the excruciating pain in her abdomen.
"Yeah, you would know…" Derek snorted before gently tapping the blanket draped over Emily.
"I hear Hotch scared you into keeping an eye on me?" She said. The overprotective attitude of Hotch towards his coworkers had not gone unnoticed in all those years spent side by side, and yet Emily couldn't help feeling something more at the thought of his kindness and concern.
"The man needed his rest. He's been pacing around since you were admitted in surgery last night." Emily returned the compassionate smile. She couldn't quite remember being brought to the hospital, let alone go through surgery.
"And honestly, I couldn't bear staying one more minute in Reid's room. The kid is driving me crazy with his statistics on gunfire incidents…" The two women laughed – or tried to, in Emily's case – at the defeated face of Derek Morgan.
"He's in the hospital?" Emily asked, her voice still sore and weak.
"Just overnight." JJ intervened. "I'm driving him home later."
Emily leaned back into the cushions. The pain medication was getting weaker and weaker, making the soreness in her body all the more perceptible. As if sensing that she was too tired to make conversation, the blonde liaison officer turned away from Emily and said: "Derek, are you up for some coffee?"
"Can I have some too?" Emily asked with a pleading voice. If the pain medication could not make her forget the gunshot wound and internal damage, then some caffeine could at least soothe her heart a little. JJ froze as she was about to walk out behind Morgan, and turned a hesitant face.
"I'm not sure your doctor would quite like that…"
The pout Emily wore did not make JJ changed her mind, and neither did the falsely angry look she shot her. As her two coworkers disappeared in the corridor, Emily settled back into her hospital bed, considering whether she should call for the nurse to give her some more medication. She didn't like them because they fogged her mind and kept her from thinking clearly. But, on the other hand, there was no one to witness her incoherence, and the throbbing in her whole body was just unbearable.
"You look like you're going to pass out. Do you want the nurse?" A familiar voice came from her side and Emily opened her eyes to discover Aaron Hotchner. The man was holding two cups of coffee, which immediately caught Emily's attention. She smiled at him with watery eyes, from the pain and the comfort to find him at her side. She hadn't seen Hotch since the incident.
"No, I'm alright."
Hotch's stern look told her that he didn't believe a word she said. But instead of pushing her, he handed her one cup of coffee and looked around to find an available chair. When his eye caught the one standing in a corner, he pulled it to the bedside and settled down calmly. His whole attitude was emotionless, but Emily knew better than to believe in these walls of stoicism. The sparkle in his eyes said everything he couldn't put into words: mostly worry, but also fear.
When she finally registered the cup of coffee she was holding, she raised it and uttered a weak smile.
"Thanks for that. You know me too good…" Hotch's eyes met hers in a silent agreement. If she ever knew all the little details Aaron Hotchner had noticed and engraved in his mind over the past years, all the off record conversations he had overheard… he knew that she was desperate for her black coffee at all times of the day and night, that her favorite author was Kurt Vonnegut and that she had a sweet tooth for chocolate and cookies. He had made a list of all the foreign languages she spoke, and knew that her favorite city to live in was Rome. He hadn't forgotten her comment about the strange boyfriends she had had in earlier years, nor the fact that she was longing to be a mother one day.
"What happened? JJ wouldn't go into details…" Emily said, sipping at the brown and hot liquid with a satisfied sigh. The pain was definitely still there, but the warmth of the cup in her hands and the presence of a dear friend made her feel better instantly.
"Lawrence Wright was our unsub. In brief, he had been traumatized by an undercover experience and went on a personal vendetta to take dirty cops out of the job."
"I heard he shot Reid…"
"Morgan said it was an accident. Wright was shot by the intervention team. It could have been much worse…" Hotch lowered his gaze so that Emily would not see him close his eyes. Pictures of Emily's blood all over the grey carpet came rushing back to his mind. He hadn't gotten rid of them since last night.
"Hotch, are you alright?" He couldn't help but smile at the question. She was the one in a hospital bed, wincing at every movement, and yet she was focused on his well-being. This was the Emily Prentiss he knew and cared for.
"Are you feeling alright? We almost thought we lost you last night…" He said, though his mind was screaming I thought I lost you. In the end, Hotch had been the one to hold her limp body in his arms, to carry her downstairs when the paramedics finally rushed through the bullpen, to ride along in the ambulance. He knew that she wasn't aware of all this and wasn't quite sure whether it wasn't for the best after all.
"Was it close?"
"You were in surgery for five hours. The doctors had a few problems finding the bullet, and you had lost a lot of blood."
"Is Strauss mad at me for ruining the carpet?" Emily said as she took another mouthful of coffee. She heard her superior chuckle at her question and raised a curious eye. God, the man must be really worn out to let out his humanity like that.
"Very mad. She will probably retain the cost on your next paycheck." He answered without losing his composure. It was Emily's time to softly laugh, although the gesture instantly made her want to pass out again. She felt like it tore her body apart. Hotch's smile faded and he looked worriedly over his friend, simultaneously reaching for the emergency button. Emily could not protest and let him take the paper cup from her gently, so that she wouldn't add a burn to her first injury.
"I think the pain medication wore off." It took Emily a moment to understand that Hotch's words were directed at the nurse. She was too tired to fight but it seemed Aaron Hotchner could truly read her mind.
"I promise I won't tell anyone any embarrassing thing you might do or say while on the drugs." The brunette opened a single eye and smiled as she saw that the man was earnestly raising his right hand in front of him, accompanying his promise with the usual gesture. His judiciary experience in court rooms was never far, it seemed.
After ten minutes, the nurse was gone again and the new IV was beginning to make its effect. With the pain becoming more bearable, Emily felt overwhelmed with a huge tiredness, which was astonishing, given that she had only awoken an hour before. Hotch had sat back into his chair and was leaning forward, resting his elbows on his knees.
"I think I want to sleep a while…" Emily's half open eyes finished to convince Hotch that she was truly exhausted and ready for another nap. He didn't move from his sitting position though.
"Do you mind if I stay here?" He asked, half-expecting that she was already too sleepy to greet him with an answer. To Hotch's surprise, Emily's eyes fluttered open for a few more seconds.
"Not at all. Does your promise extend to any strange sleeping position or things I could say during my nap?"
Hotch smiled at her, pondering whether he should make fun of her a little longer. But Emily Prentiss looked too exhausted to pick up on his jokes, so he went for the short affirmative answer, and watched as she peacefully closed her eyes. He loved the sight. He needed to see her so peaceful after having carried her bloody form in his arms, after fearing that it was the last time she was closing her eyes. The man was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn't hear JJ and Morgan coming back with their coffees. Both agents stood at the door for a moment, silently looking at each other, hesitant about what they should do. As Hotch reached out and put a gentle hand next to Emily's, on the bed, JJ tugged Derek's arm to drag him away from this private moment. Visiting a moaning Reid would be much more entertaining.