Author's Note: Dear Readers: Please know that I have altered the timeline of this story for storyline purposes. We're aware that the years do not add up.
Author's Note: As you all know by now, we are in full swing on the Profiler's Choice Awards hosted on "Chit Chat on Author's Corner". And we'd like to offer an extra incentive to get those nominations rolling in. For the next five people to complete the nomination ballot in its entirety, I would be happy to write a oneshot of your pairing preference (hetero, slash or femslash, doesn't matter!). We have an abundance of incredible stories and authors to choose from this year and we have already received many wonderful nominations. Just to refresh your memory though, tonnie2001969 and myself (ilovetvalot) have removed ourselves from eligibility in the interest of avoiding all appearances of self-promotion. But, we want to make this an incredible experience for each one of you and give you a well-rounded final voting selection to choose from. So let's all put on our reading caps and pick our favorites!
Also, don't forget to sign up for our newest challenge at the forum. We're honoring Halloween with our first ever "Candy Land Challenge" and signups run through September 30th! Details are at the forum!
As always, guys, Happy Reading!
The Story Behind the Story
Prompt: Canada's Worst Driver - "A Turn for the Worst"
"I'm going to kill her," David Rossi hissed, his fingers clenching around the memo in his hand as he lifted his eyes to glare across the desk at Aaron Hotchner.
"Dave," Hotch stated, shaking his dark head warningly, well aware of the vendetta brewing around him, "don't do something you're going to regret. We knew the budget cuts were coming."
Waving the sheath of paper in front of Aaron, Dave shook his head vigorously. "She did this maliciously, man. She knew what Emily means to this team. And on the heels of releasing JJ...this was just malicious!"
"Perhaps," Hotch assented, watching as his friend's dark eyes flashed in pure hatred, "but, it is her call, Dave. We just have to live with it."
"Maybe," Dave grunted over his shoulder as he turned for the door, his footsteps gaining in speed, "but, nobody said I had to do it silently."
"Dave, wait," Hotch called out belatedly, "You don't know the whole story yet." But, watching his office door slam closed, he grimaced. This was going to get ugly. The look on Dave's departing face had told him everything he didn't want to know.
David Rossi was on a mission. And survivors would be optional.
Stomping into Strauss's office minutes later, Dave glared coldly at the young secretary behind the desk. "Where is she, Amanda?" he bit out, heading for the partially closed door of the Section Chief's inner sanctum.
"Agent Rossi," Amanda said formally, rising quickly to defend her boss against what appeared to be an incredibly irate man. "Chief Strauss isn't receive-"
Ignoring the tiny woman's reprimand, Dave strode past her without hesitating, slamming open Erin's door. Eyes flashing fire as he stared across the room at the woman singlehandedly responsible for decimating the team he'd fought hard to rebuild after Gideon's departure, Dave growled, "You never could stand a little competition, could you, you bitch? What? Tell me, how exactly did Prentiss threaten your position at the top of this shit heap?"
Glancing up as her office door bounced off the wall, Erin Strauss sighed as she smoothly tossed the Rolaids in the palm of her hand to the back of her throat. Throwing the plastic bottle into her desk drawer, she studiously ignored the flash of pain determined to take up residence behind her sternum. Damn Rossi and his impeccable timing she thought grimly, shoving the drawer closed with a flick of her wrist.
Lips tightening, she rose from behind her desk, gripping the edge as another wave of the irritating dizziness she'd experienced all day assaulted her. But showing weakness in the presence of David Rossi would only encourage him to move in for the kill. Pressing a hand to her rolling stomach, she rubbed it unconsciously as she cast her secretary, cowering in the door a sympathetic look. She'd known David for too many years to think about, and she knew her assistant, while incredibly competent, was no match for a pissed of David Rossi. "It's fine, Amanda," she murmured to the panicked looking woman, nodding once in spite of the wave of pain in her neck.
"I tried to stop him, Chief Strauss," Amanda replied quickly, shooting an uncertain look at the dark-haired man who virtually vibrated with rage.
"Get her out of here, Erin, unless you want an audience for this," Dave warned in a seething voice, his eyes narrowing as he kept them trained on the woman that had pushed his patience to the limit.
Swallowing the bile rising in her throat, Erin smiled tightly at Amanda. "It's fine, Amanda. Please close the door behind you and hold my calls."
"Yes, ma'am," Amanda replied, dipping her head in deference and quickly closing the door behind her.
Waiting until the door clicked, Strauss turned cold eyes back to David and murmured, her voice even and controlled, "You always did have a unique way of making an entrance."
"Yeah, the only thing I'm better at is clearing a room," Dave retorted, striding toward Erin's desk and flinging down her memorandum between them on the desk. Pointing at it determinedly, he ordered, "Rescind it, Erin."
Blinking rapidly as she stared down at the single sheet of paper, Erin frowned as her vision blurred, although she didn't have to see the document to know what it was. "No," she said calmly without looking up.
"No?" David asked dangerously, walking around the desk to stand beside Erin. "Are you sure that's a word you're prepared to say to me, Erin?" he asked, keeping his voice low...lethal. "I let you get away with your petty games when you went after Jennifer Jareau. I maintained my silence like a good little boy. Do you honestly think I'm going to let the insult to my team pass twice without repercussions?"
Turning, Strauss kept one hand on her desk, suddenly unsteady on her feet. God, what was wrong with her? Swallowing hard, she replied, her tone clipped, "I don't think you have any say in the matter, Agent Rossi. I didn't cut the budget. That wasn't my decision."
"But you decided where those cuts would affect the units, didn't you, Erin? And it gave you a nice little way to twist your knife a bit deeper," Dave hissed, every word dripping with venom.
"That's not what I was doing," Erin shook her head, wincing as another wave of nausea crested, bitter acid rising in her throat. What the hell was wrong with her? She'd been dealing with David Rossi and his formidable temper for years. And it wasn't as if she hadn't been expecting him after she'd released Agent Prentiss from service. If she was being honest with herself, she was surprised it had taken him more than thirty minutes to invade her office.
Watching Strauss icily beautiful face pale and a hand go to her stomach again, Dave smirked. "Finally managed to make yourself sick with the bullshit you've served up, Erin? Karma catches up with all of us, doesn't it? You've spent years terrorizing my team. Fucking years, Erin! And it ends today! Rescind the fucking termination on Agent Prentiss! If you want to release your venom on somebody, come at me. Trust me, bitch, after all these years, I'm more than ready for you."
The room spun as Erin lifted a shaky hand to her suddenly spinning head. What the hell had that bastard just said to her? Focus, Erin, she commanded herself, attempting to make sense of her confused thoughts. You can't allow this man, of all men, to perceive you as weak. "I'm sorry, but my decision stands, David. Agent Prentiss has the least amount of seniority on the team and..."
"And nothing, Erin! Don't hand me that load of bureaucratic crap, damn you!" Dave argued violently, completely overlooking her suddenly weak voice. "You did this to show me once again that you're the biggest bullying bitch on the playground! Fucking try and deny it!"
"I...I..." Erin faltered, swaying on her feet as she felt a bead of sweat travel down her neck to drip on her white silk shirt. Damn, that was going to stain, she idly thought as Rossi continued to rail against her. Why couldn't she focus...and her chest...it felt so tight.
"Answer me, goddamn you, Erin," Rossi said, demanding an explanation to a question she'd never heard. Damn it, he thought darkly, the woman was obviously determined to raise his blood pressure with her ice queen act.
And as she forced her eyes to meet his dangerously glittering orbs, Erin shook her head, comprehension dawning regarding her situation. And in those last moments before unconsciousness claimed her, she whispered words she knew he'd never understand. Especially coming from her.
"David," she gasped, her eyes wide as she began to crumble, her knees starting to weaken at an alarming rate.
"What?" Rossi barked, his one word question echoing in the room. "You finally have something interesting to say, Strauss?"
"I'm so sorry," she whispered faintly before finally surrendering to encroaching darkness as she pitched forward into his surprised arms.
Author's Note 2 - Also guys, please don't forget that if you'd like to advertise the awards on your own profile pages or stories, there's a short blurb on my (ilovetvalot) and Tonnie's (tonnie2001969) profile page for you to copy and paste if you choose!