Author's Note: Hello, readers! A couple of notes for you today.
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Watching Emily open her mouth to reply, Reid leaned unconsciously toward the box, listening intently. One thing he was sure of was that Cyrus wouldn't make an offer without expecting something from his friend in return.
Slamming a hand over Emily's mouth, Cyrus growled, "Of course, the consequence for that," he smiled evilly, jerking the fly of his jeans open, "is that your nice young friend dies. I'll be merciful," he added with a cold laugh as Emily's eyes dilated. "He'll barely feel a bullet in the back of his head."
Heart pounding, Reid felt cold steel pressing against the base of his neck and knew one of the guards was illustrating Cyrus' threat. Tell them to pull the trigger, Reid silently begged Emily as his eyes filled with tears. Don't let this happen!
"So, what's your decision, Agent Prentiss?" Cyrus hissed, ripping Emily's legs apart. "Do I kill him?"
Reid watched Emily's chin lift defiantly and he knew her answer without her ever opening her mouth. He'd seen that cold look before. And he knew his friend.
She would sacrifice herself. For him.
"Never," Emily hissed, turning her face away from Cyrus, the side of her face pressed against the mattress as one lone tear rolled down her cheek.
"NOOOOO!" he screamed hoarsely, watching through his own tears as Cyrus swung his body forward, violating his friend. "No!" he shouted, crumbling forward on the floor as he heard Emily's whimpers as Cyrus pulled her hair, biting and clawing at her while he raped her body.
"Now you have a decision," one of the guards behind him spoke, his rancid breath blowing against Reid's cheek as he bent to whisper in Reid's ear. "Cyrus wanted us to make you the same offer."
Pushing himself off the floor, Reid's eyes found the horrifying scene on the screen growing grimmer. Emily's eyes were closed now and she'd ceased struggling as Cyrus' violation continued. "Anything..." Reid whispered, barely able to whisper the words. "Anything to make this stop!" he begged, his shoulders shaking.
"Are you willing to die for your friend?" the guard asked, nudging the back of Reid's head with the gun, almost as a child would play with his food.
And as Reid stared at the screen, he watched Emily's eyes slowly open, looking directly at the camera, almost as if she were actually seeing him. And he knew what he had to do.
"Yes," Reid nodded, closing his eyes as images of his mother, his team flashed through his mind. Ready to accept his fate, Reid bent his head and exhaled slowly.
The last things he heard was the hollow click of an empty chamber, a malicious laugh and Emily's last scream of pain before the darkness came.
"They made you watch," Emily echoed, her voice distant, her body numb as the implications of his soft confession battered her.
"Yes," Reid nodded woodenly, his fingers gripping his book with enough force to bend the spine. "I tried to stop it, Emily," he said, praying she'd believe him. "They gave me the same choice they gave you."
Eyes squeezing closed as she comprehended his words, Emily fought for air.
"I told them to kill me," Reid revealed, his voice thin, hollow. "It would have been worth it to help you."
"God, Reid," Emily shuddered, unconsciously reaching for his slim hand, needing the contact.
"The gun was empty," he confided, his voice breaking, overwhelmed by emotion. "The gun was empty," he repeated, bowing his head as the first tear hit his cheek.
Eyes popping oven as she heard the catch in Reid's weak voice, Emily watched as the younger man began to dissolve in front of her. Pull it together, Prentiss, she demanded of herself. This is NOT his fault. Living it had been hell...but if she'd had to watch it happen to another person... All her sacrifices and she'd STILL failed to protect this vulnerable man across from her.
God, none of this was fair! Not to either of them.
Sliding quickly from her seat, Emily moved to Reid's side, holding his hand tightly. "Listen to me," Emily said with soft urgency, her eyes trained on his crumpled face. "None of this has EVER been your fault. You are NOT responsible, Spencer."
"How can you SAY that?" Reid whispered harshly, trying to draw his hand from hers.
Holding on tightly to the chilled hand in hers, Emily replied, "Because it's true, Spencer! Cyrus was never going to stop. I knew it...I could see it in his eyes. And they were never going to kill you. It was all about inflicting the maximum amount of psychological pain that they could on us. It was a power play, Reid."
Part of him...the clinical part...recognized what she said as truth. But the socially inept man he was could only shake his head. "I swear I tried, Em," he breathed, his eyes begging her to believe him. "I tried to stop it."
Shaking her head viciously, Emily squeezed Reid's hand. "You listen to me, Spencer Reid. I don't regret a damned thing I did. Not one second of it. And there isn't a moment that I will ever repent for," she said, praying to God she sounded as convincing as she hoped she did.
"Emily," Reid said doubtfully, his eyes widening as he stared at her.
"No! Stop. At the end of it, Reid, you and I survived and that monster is in hell where he belongs. That's the bottom line."
"But I...you..." Reid faltered, his chin dropping against his chest in shame.
"WE both did what we had to do," Emily insisted, unwilling to let her young friend...her brother in her heart…to shoulder this blame. "I made my decisions, Reid. I'm responsible for them. Not you," she whispered, willing him to look at her...to believe her. "Let go of this, Reid," Emily begged him, biting her lip as she waited for him to speak.
Finally forcing his eyes to hers, Reid swallowed tightly. "I'm so sorry," he said softly, his eyes filled with compassion and guilt, his fingers tightening around hers.
"I'm not," Emily breathed, gripping his hand in hers. "Not now. And not ever."
Nodding hesitantly, Reid murmured, "I'll keep your secret, Em."
And smiling through her tears, Emily nodded as she settled back into the leather seat beside him. "There's no one I'd trust with it more, Spencer."
And there wasn't.
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!
Again, thanks to everyone reading, reviewing, alerting and favoriting this story!