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Bend Until You Break

Chapter Three

David Rossi had been the precipitating factor in more than one woman's tears in his life. His mother…his wives…hell, even a book editor once upon a time. But none of them had ever reduced him to wanting to cry along with them.

But Emily Prentiss' sobs induced a burning to his eyes, a swelling to his throat and a sense of desperation to his gut that he'd never felt in fifty-four years. And honestly, it scared the hell out of him. Not because he was afraid to cry. Hell, he was as emotional as any Italian he'd ever met; he'd shed his fair share of tears in his life. No, it wasn't that.

It was his sheer helplessness in the face of such despair. In the face of Emily's despair.

Hell, he couldn't even touch her, petrified that he'd do more damage than good. Looking around frantically for a box of tissues, he spied one on the nightstand beside the bed. Plucking a couple from the box, he blinked rapidly, clearing his gaze before he turned back to Emily, pressing them into her trembling hand.

"Th-thanks," she choked out as a fresh wave of tears claimed her. Too weak and tired to even try and stem the torrential wave of emotion, she simply tried to ride it out, wiping at her dripping face periodically as Dave stood silently beside her, never making a sound. "I-I'm s-sorry," she hiccupped, the words catching in her suddenly swollen throat.

Gently surrounding her elbow with the palm of his hand, Dave guided his colleague backwards, softly urging her to sit down on the mattress of the bed. "It's okay, Emily. Regardless of what you might think, tears are a normal reaction."

"N-not for me," she sobbed, reaching for more tissues as she felt a fresh torrent threaten to erupt in spite of her stern instructions to herself otherwise.

"Maybe not," Dave conceded quietly, grimacing at her dark bent head, the urge to wrap her in his arms suddenly overwhelming. "But, sometimes you just need to purge yourself. There isn't any shame in that." Taking the only other seat in the room, Dave lowered himself into a wingback chair wedged between the nightstand and the wall and waited for her tears to slowly abate.

After several minutes, the tears transformed into sniffles and then into the occasional shuddery breath. At last, after, Emily wiped her face for a final time, depositing the spent tissues into the wastepaper basket underneath the nightstand. Lifting her head, she avoided Dave's gaze at first, looking everywhere but where he sat, his form still and solid in the corner. "That's exactly what I was trying to avoid doing," she murmured, half to herself, her eyes focused on the darkened window of the room.

"Crying?" Dave asked simply, his fingers worrying the worn material of the chair, his energy needing some form of outlet.

"Breaking down," she amended throatily. Lapsing into silence, she finally forced herself to ask, "You know, don't you?"

"What happened to you over the last couple of days?" Dave asked noncommittally, his face deliberately expressionless. "I read the report," he shrugged, settling back against the cushions of the chair, stretching his legs out in front.

"No, Dave," Emily whispered, unable to stop now that she had commenced. "You read between the lines, didn't you?" she asked shakily, her fingers nervously shredding another tissue she mindlessly plucked from the box.

"I did. But, as you said, no one, save you, can confirm what I think I know. And, I'm not going to ask you to do that. You will when and if you get ready. I just want you to know that we're here for you. All of us," Dave explained gently. "And I want you to know that if and when you decide that you need help..."

"No!" Emily denied sharply, shaking her head frantically as she straightened her shoulders, her protective instincts rising rapidly once again. "I don't want anyone to know, Rossi. Please! You promised me that it wouldn't leave this room. You promised!"

"And it won't," Dave said with quiet authority, his deep voice assuring her of his oath. "I said if YOU decide that you want help, Emily."

"I don't. The Bureau would see this as a black mark against me. An agent not able to defend herself against..."

"...against a man that outweighed her by at least sixty pounds. A man that had a weapon aimed at you," Dave pointed out calmly, unwilling to allow her to create a revisionist history of any sort. "It wouldn't be seen that way, Emily. But, I can understand your concerns."

"Thank you," Emily whispered, relaxing a little when she realized that Dave was serious about keeping his word. For some reason, knowing that he was on her side seemed to calm the raging demons that threatened to overtake her once again.

"We can find you help outside the Bureau if you decide you need it," Dave said, lowering his voice, meeting her shimmering dark eyes. "All you need to do is say the word. And, I'm here if you ever want to talk. I know I'm not a woman, but I do have a pretty good set of ears."

"I'll think about it," Emily offered huskily, her fingers clenching tightly around the silky edge of her robe.

She wasn't agreeing, but she hadn't told him to go to hell either. And as far as he was concerned, that was progress, he thought with a small measure of satisfaction. Seeing her blink heavily, Dave leaned forward in his seat. "I need to let you get some rest," he said softly, the urge to touch her nearly overwhelming him as she met his gaze with world weary eyes.

"Dave?" Emily asked hesitantly, putting out a hand to stop him. "Would you mind...," she trailed off, her voice uncomfortable.

"What, Emily?" Dave asked softly, stilling in his seat, waiting patiently for her next words.

"Could you stay until I fall asleep?" Emily asked uncertainly, her eyes dropping to her clenched hands, the sheer act of requesting help breaking something deep inside her.

Nodding, Dave settled back in his chair. "Of course," he replied evenly, knowing what it must have cost her pride to ask for just that small favor. "I'll stay as long as you want. Just lie down and rest."

Nodding, Emily stretched out on top of the bedspread, her back to him. While emotionally wrung out, she admitted to herself that she felt strangely safe here with him sitting quietly in the chair by her bed. And eventually, the weight of the past two days overtook her and her eyes finally fluttered closed.

He knew when she'd finally conceded to sleep, her breathing changing from quick and labored to deep and even. Heaving a relieved sigh, Dave dropped his head back against the chair tiredly as he let himself relax just enough to loosen the tightness in his shoulders.

Damn, but she was in for a long battle. With her demons…and with herself. And as much as he'd like to, he couldn't fight it for her. In truth, beyond being there for her, there wasn't much he could do at all.

Except tonight.

Tonight, he had a mission, however. He was her one-man army, sitting in silent sentry, waiting for the nightmares to begin.