This idea came from discussing theories with a friend, before the whole Emily-Doyle arc. She thought the exchange quoted below would come back to bite Emily in the ass, and I was still thinking she'd leave via breakdown. The two thoughts together put a story in my head. Shanini86, this is for you.

I frankly, don't feel enough for the Seaver character to hate her. I do however, find her dull, unnecessary and frankly, rather useless as far as the show goes. I also find it extremely unrealistic that a cadet gets to train in a unit that requires at least 8 years of experience before they'll consider an applicant (it's on the FBI website). This being said, I did try to be fair and true to her character, but my bias may have leaked in. That being said, she is not the hero of this piece, and if you are attached to her, you probably won't like this.

This story will be posted in two parts. It travels between Seaver and Emily's heads.


"I wanted to thank you for having my back."

"I hope you have mine."

Seaver and Prentiss in '25 to Life'

January 5, 2011

Seaver fidgeted in her seat, squeezing her hands together and releasing them in a slow, rhythmic fashion. Her stomach was twisted rather artistically into a ball of knots and launched somewhere in her throat. She had never met with Section Chief Strauss, and she hadn't expected too this earlier in her career. It was common knowledge, or more likely common rumor that the woman didn't meet often with her underlings unless it was to reprimand them. But, the young cadet had gotten a summons from her secretary this morning, and she hadn't even been able to touch her breakfast, or even her coffee.

Emily had told her not to worry about it, but then her mentor was pretty much unflappable. Most of the team was pretty unflappable; she assumed that came from experience. They'd all been looking at crime scene photos, questioning suspects, and talking to distraught family members for years. She had just started. Seaver was working with living legends, and frankly, she was well aware that she was in over her head. It didn't mean she was willing to give that up though, she'd learn and she'd get better. She was getting an experience none of her friends in the Academy would ever have the opportunity for.

Her friends had a lot of questions for her when she returned to the Quantico dorms, and she didn't have many answers. Passing rumors about agents was a pastime in the Academy, and the members of the team she was working on, there were some doozies about them. A few, she had already confirmed. The team was extremely close, almost like a family. The great Aaron Hotchner rarely smiled. Derek Morgan was even better to look at up close, and he was not having a love affair with Penelope Garcia. And, David Rossi actually wasn't a prick, he just preferred to leave people with that impression, it kept them at arms-length.

"Agent Seaver? You can go in now." Strauss's secretary smiled, and nodded toward the door.

She thought she might vomit right there. Instead she smiled back. "Thank you."

A quick, soft rap on the door, and she pushed it open. She walked to the front of the desk, heart thudding in her chest so forcefully she could feel it in her fingertips. "Ma'am."

"Agent Seaver, please have a seat." The Section Chief glanced up, then back at her paper, jotting down some note, before looking back up, removing the reading glasses perched on her nose. She actually smiled. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad. "How are you finding your time with the BAU?"

"Wonderful, well very educational...ma'am."

"You're learning to handle yourself in the field more effectively?"

She inhaled. "Yes, it's very different from training, ma'am. It's very helpful experience."

Strauss nodded, mouth tightening. "And, the team? You're finding them effective teachers? Supportive?"

"Uh, yes, yes, ma'am. They've all been very kind and helpful." Seaver shifted involuntarily, palms already drenched in sweat.

"Agent Prentiss has take taken on the responsibility of mentor to you, is that right?" Her expression didn't change, but remained infuriately neutral.

"Yes, she has, and she's been really great about it. I've learned a lot from her, and the rest of the team."

Again, the older woman nodded. "Agent Rossi has had good things to say about you."

"It's been an honor to learn from him, ma'am." And, yet that acknowledgement still didn't bring much relief.

Strauss almost smirked, then sobered. "You understand, Agent Seaver, the BAU is one of the Bureau's most elite teams, that the opportunity you're getting is highly unusual."

"I'm aware of that, yes, and very grateful for it."

"Tell me, Ashley, what are your plans for after graduation from the Academy. Have you decided which field offices you're interested in working out of?"

She swallowed. "I've been thinking about it ma'am, but I haven't quite come to a decision."

Another small nod, her fingers absently playing with her pen. "How would you feel about being placed in the BAU with your current team, after your remedial training is complete?"

Her mouth fell open. That wasn't supposed to be allowed. "I-I would be ecstatic, ma'am. But, I thought new agents were allowed in NCAVC?"

"I'm the Section Chief, Ashley. I can circumvent such rules if I see cause, and I can be swayed to see cause in your case."

"I'm-I'm honored, ma'am." What the hell was going on here? She felt like she'd just won the lottery.

"Of course, you realize this arrangement would be contingent on you cooperation with a little side project?"

That didn't sound so bad. "Anything I can assist you with, I'd be happy to help."

Another almost smirk. "This must be kept under the strictest confidence, Agent Seaver. It will only be discussed between you and I, is that understood?"

She nodded eagerly.

"I'd like to be kept apprised of team goings-on, specifically on Agents Hotchner and Prentiss."

And, suddenly it was not so awesome. She frowned. "Should I be concerned about them ma'am?"

A gentle smile this time. "No, Ashley, you needn't worry, but I would like you to let me know if there's anything that causes you concern."

"May I ask why the interest in them in particular?"

"You may not," she said quickly. "But, I will tell you, Ashley, you ought to be aware for you to be placed on that BAU team, there needs to be an open position."

Her mouth fell open again, as she listened to the other shoe drop. Strauss was asking her to get dirt on Hotch and Emily? Well, she supposed it only had to be one of them. Still… She slowly managed to close her mouth, swallowing with difficulty, her mouth already dry.

"I can see you're a little uncomfortable with that. There isn't any rush, you still have several weeks left in your remedial training. You can come and see me anytime you like, alright?" There was an almost affectionate, motherly smile. Dear god, this woman was master manipulator.

Seaver just nodded. Strauss sighed. "You best get back to the BAU, or you might miss the morning's briefing."

She got up, still in shock and wandered out the door. Strauss gave her the chance of a lifetime, and then she took that chance hostage. It was hers if she got enough dirt to bury her boss or her mentor, the two people responsible for giving her the opportunity in the BAU in the first place. If Emily hadn't agreed to mentor her, Hotch never would have given her a chance. How did she make this choice?


January 10, 2011

A soft gasp drew her awake, eyes blinking into the darkness of the hotel room. Her eyes finally adjusted and she found her roommate awake, sitting up, and trying to catch her breath. Emily had had a nightmare, was her guess. They'd ended up sharing rooms at the small, nearly completely booked hotel. They took a room together, which she was pretty sure was more for her benefit than Emily's. The woman had actually looked mildly amused at the alarmed expression on her face when Morgan had asked Emily if she wanted to share. Apparently, Reid muttered loudly in his sleep.

It hadn't occurred to her that they went co-ed with rooms, she felt like that would break rules or something. Emily had nodded in her direction, offered him a look, and he seemed to know exactly what she meant just from that. They all did that, it drove her crazy sometimes. They'd just look at each other, and know what was going on, while she flopped around like a beached fish. So, they ended up together, and Morgan grudgingly shared with Reid, with a teasing warning to his colleague.

Now, her mentor opened her mouth and sucked in a long breath, and to her surprise, she saw the moonlight reflected in the tracks of moisture on her face. So, her mentor wasn't completely unflappable. Dreams scared her and brought tears to her eyes. Emily wiped off the tears, one hand remaining over her mouth, as she turned toward Seaver. She snapped her eyes shut, and pretended to still be asleep. She heard shuffling, feet hit the floor, Emily sliding shoes on, and the mechanical clucking, ticking of the door opening and quietly shutting.

She opened her eyes. Where had she gone? Seaver laid in bed for a few more minutes, before parroting the profiler's actions, and opening the door. She checked that she had her key before she quietly closed it, and tiptoed down the hall. She didn't know why she felt compelled to be sneaky, she just did.

They were in Georgia, and the only hotel in town was a enormous, beautiful old house that held a grand total of 10 rooms, four of which their teams occupied. Hotch and Rossi got their own rooms. The house also had a ornate sitting and dining rooms, reminiscent of the old South, and a wrap around verandah. She quietly made her way downstairs, and noted that while it was lit, Emily was not inside. It was a warm night, so she headed out the side door, once again being very quiet to close the door. She didn't want to disturb the other patrons of the hotel.

She moved almost silently on the porch, her soft shoes practically soundless on their own, and was nearly at the corner when she stopped dead. Voices. More than one, yes, two that she recognized. Soft voices. She gave a quick glance, and confirmed her ears were functioning correctly. Morgan was up as well, and the two profilers were sitting close together on a porch swing at the end of the verandah.

"So, what's the topic on Reid's mind tonight?" Emily asked, lips curved up slightly in amusement.

"Time travel, I think. It sounded like he was almost arguing with himself." Morgan shook his head. "Next time, the kid can bunk with him."

"That seems a little cruel."

"It's either that, or I duck tape his mouth shut," he joked. "And, what has you up in the middle of the night?"

She lifted a shoulder. "Bad dream, the usual."

"Feel like talking about it?"

"Not really."

He nodded, but watched her carefully, as her face turned toward her lap. "Would you like to tell me what's been going on with you then?"

Startled Emily looked up. "What do you mean?"

"Something has been bothering you for a while now, and I'll give you credit, Princess, you're hiding it real well, but I can still see it. Talk to me."

She stared at him a moment, before finally sighing. "I'm tired."

"I'm guessing this isn't the kind of tired a couple sleeping pills can fix?"

"No, it's not that kind of tired."

Morgan took her hand, and wiggled it. "Tell me about it."

"Do you ever just feel like you've had enough? The crime scenes, the depravity we see on a daily basis, the people sobbing over the loss of loved ones, the twisted freaks that feel no empathy and no remorse. It feels like it's never-ending, and some days I'm just so tired of seeing blood, and dead eyes, and trying to comfort strangers. It feels like we operate on this sub-level of existence, we chase the monsters and face the darkness, so everyone else can pretend it doesn't exist, or face the danger in the safety of their homes through a movie or a book. I guess sometimes I want to be like everyone else." She finished staring into the distance, into the darkness they were so at home in.

"I don't know that I've ever thought of us as different from 'normal' people," he said, putting normal in air quotes.

She gave him an 'are you kidding' look. "We have a job that people think sounds cool, but would never want to do themselves. No one has FBI serial killer hunter listed as their 'what I want to be when I grow up' when they're five, or even ten. We aren't normal, Derek. Normal people don't do what we do, or see what we see. Normal people are scared to death of what we face everyday...normal people can't pull the trigger of a gun and not flinch when the body hits the ground."

"You make us sound like monsters," he said, softly.

She considered that, and then gave a quiet, bitter snort. "Well, think of folklore and classic literature, the monster hunters always have a little monster in them. It's what gives them an edge."

His eyebrows were kissing his forehead, and he was staring at her as if he didn't recognize her. "We catch them because we've been trained to think like them, but that's it. We aren't really like them, I know you can't possibly believe that."

She sighed and shook her head. "I have no idea what I believe or don't anymore."

"Maybe you should consider a vacation, it's been a long time if I remember correctly," he said.

"It has...but I think it's more than that."

"Well, start with a vacation, a long one, and if that doesn't help, think about a transfer." His hand tightened almost imperceptibly on hers, betraying his feelings on the idea.

"I don't think that will work either...I was on a date the other night, he was a nice guy, a dentist, and he was telling me how much trouble he was having with one of his suppliers. This supplier is responsible for getting him, among other things, little mini-tubes of bubble gum flavored toothpaste, which he gives on to his young patients. He's going on and on about what a headache it's been trying to get the shipment, and how he's been disappointing kids all week...and, all I can think is, a shortage of bubble gum toothpaste, that's a hard day at work for you? A hard day at work for me is finding the mutilated body of an eight year-old, or having to shoot a guy in the stomach because I blew my cover after all of three minutes." She ran her tongue over her bottom lip and shook her head. "This gets into your head, Morgan, and then it never goes away. And, if you aren't chasing the monsters, all you can think is that you should be, because they're still out there, and how can you sleep knowing that?"

"Have you considered speaking to someone?"

She looked at him. "I am speaking to someone."

Morgan grinned. "I don't mean me, though I'm always here if you need to do that. I mean like a professional."

She scoffed. "Come on Morgan, you know me, that would not go well."

"If you mean am I aware that you're as stubborn as a bull, then yes, I'm fully aware of that," he teased. Then he grew serious. "But, maybe you should still think about it."

The look she gave him wasn't exactly kind. "Fine, I'll think about it."

He nodded, squeezing her hand again, as they drifted off into silence, both staring blindly into the night. After minutes of that, Morgan suddenly sighed. "Come on now, let's see if we can't get a little sleep before we have to get back to work."

She grinned. "You eager to see how Reid's debate ends?"


January 11, 2011

"Are you okay?"

Seaver actually jumped at the voice, she had been so lost in thought. They were on the jet, flying back to Quantico, and she'd put herself in the back, away from everyone else. Until the object of her thoughts appeared beside her, concern radiating on her face.

She put on a smile. "Yeah, just tired."

Emily studied her a moment. "I know this work can be...very challenging in a lot of ways. If you ever need to talk it out, you can come to me or any of the guys, okay?"

She nodded. Emily gave her an encouraging smile, and a shoulder squeeze, and made to head to the front of the plane. "Emily?"

She backtracked. "Yeah?"

"You love this job, right?"

"I love the team, I feel fulfilled by the job."

Seaver nodded, and the profiler headed back to whatever she'd been doing. And, Seaver returned to thinking about last night, about the conversation she'd heard between her colleagues. Her mentor's reputation for being unflappable had crumbled in less than an hour's time. She just hid what she was feeling scarily well. Emily Prentiss was decidedly not the picture of emotional health.

And, she was thinking about her meeting with Section Chief Strauss last week. Really, this is something the SC should know. Normally, she might pass it to the Unit Chief first, but the team was really, very close, Hotch included, and he would protect Emily, of that she was certain. She was the only person on the team with the emotional distance to be objective. And, Emily was one of the people the SC had specifically mentioned to her. It was possible Strauss was already aware that something bad was going on with Emily, and was looking out for her. It could be that she'd only be confirming the older woman's suspicions by telling her what she'd overheard.

Seaver shook her head, she just didn't know what to do.

When the jet landed, she grabbed her bag and headed straight back to the cadet dorms at Quantico. Her roommate, Ava was parked on her bunk, studying one of her textbooks, and the other woman's presence brought a smile to her face. Ava looked up from her text, then shut it quickly. "Hey, how was the case? And, have I told you how jealous I am of you?"

"You have, and it was...tiring. We caught the guy, but he killed another kid before we got to him." She sighed.

"That's the job, Ashley, you have to make your peace with it or quit now." Ava was half black, half Dominican, grew up in Brooklyn, and had all the rough edges that comes from surviving the inner city. She was also brilliant, with an almost maternal kindness. She treated Ashley like a babysister most of the time, which the blonde tried not to be offended by. Ava also had several younger siblings.

"Ava?" She asked. "Have you ever thought about burning out?"

"Don't tell me you're there already," she asked, incredulously.

"No. No, I'm just concerned about one of the agents I'm working with."

"You think one of that BAU team is burning out?"

Seaver thought about that for a minute, and then nodded. "I think maybe, yeah."

Ava shrugged. "If you're worried tell Hotchner, he's the Unit Chief, personnel is his problem."

"Do you think that's it though? If you start to burnout, you're done, there's no coming back?" She asked.

"You can't relight a candle that's burnt itself to a puddle of wax," she said, then shrugged. "But, how do you know the flame was snuffed from the wax, and not just a breeze?"

Seaver smirked. "Very poetic, Ava."

The other woman grinned. "Mask a non-answer in poetry, and people will look at your like you're Einstein and Shakespeare rolled into one."


January 20, 2011

Emily thrust her fists into the heavy bag, quick jabs and crosses, the feel of the thick boxing gloves slamming into the dense bag radiating up her arms. Her hair was tied back, and her face was already red and sweaty. She hadn't been at this all that long, but hitting a bag took a lot out of you, even though she kept up with her cardio. She breathed rapidly and heavily in and out, in and out as she pounded on the bag with jabs and crosses. She threw in a few hooks, and a couple of uppercuts too, just to be thorough.

The door opened and she heard voices, which suddenly stopped, and then the door opened again, the voices gone with it. She'd been told she had a pretty effective, 'dangerous look', apparently whoever came in thought so too. Of course, it was only aimed at a punching bag now, hardly any danger to that.

She wasn't sure what set her off tonight. She'd come down to the training gym as soon as they'd walked out of the jet. Reid was fine. The dumbass had taken off his vest, and for that she wanted to slap the shit out of him, but he'd walked away really without a scratch. She shouldn't have been so freaked from the whole thing, she shouldn't be so upset, but she was both. Morgan had let Reid have an earful after they were done at the station, so much that apparently Hotch didn't feel the need to follow it up with an ass-chewing of his own. Reid had looked sufficiently chastised.

She stopped hitting a minute, and bounced around on her feet, taking a minute to catch her breath before launching into another attack. Light on her feet, she circled the bag, fists assailing it in an assault that would leave any human opponent crippled and surrendering. This is what comes from working out with the likes of Derek Morgan, he liked playing teacher, and she didn't mind a free personal instructor. The man knew his fighting techniques.

The door opened again, but there were no voices this time, just quiet steps coming in her direction. She didn't turn to see who it was, didn't much care who came in. If they knew what was good for them, they wouldn't bother her. But, she could sense the person stop not far from her, and feel their eyes watching her. She ignored them another couple minutes, hoping they'd leave or say whatever they came for, but they did neither. She took another break, dancing on her toes as she turned. She sighed. "How did your exams go, Seaver?"

"Good, I think." She seemed nervous, unsure, and Emily figured the two people from earlier must have been cadets, who knew Seaver was working with the team.

Cadets generally kept their distance from the agents at Quantico, they were intimidated, she assumed. It was hard to be confident when you're still learning what other people have been putting into practice for years. Seaver herself still didn't seem entirely comfortable around the team, but Emily figured that work itself out in time. "Do you need something?" Emily asked, throwing punches at the bag again.

"No, I just uh, heard you were in here and thought I'd stop in and say hi, since I was nearby, you know."

Emily snorted a laugh. "Don't get into undercover work, Seaver, you're a terrible liar." She turned to see the girl shifting nervously. "I'm fine, if that's what you're in here about."

She nodded. "I heard Agent Reid had a close call on the case you guys had today and yesterday."

"He did, but he's fine." At least, he wasn't shot. She wasn't totally confident about the fine part though.

"That's good to hear."

There was several beats of silence in which the cadet just stood there watching her until Emily just couldn't take it anymore. She stopped and turned to face the younger woman. "Are you just going to stand there and watch me all night?"

Seaver glanced at the floor. And, Emily sighed through her heavy breaths feeling a little bad about her short fuse. "Emily?" She suddenly asked.

"What?"

"Are you crying?"

Startled, Emily pulled off a glove, and swept a hand over her face. Shit. She covered quickly, wiping at her face, sweat and all. "It's just sweat, Seaver."

The blonde nodded, but obviously didn't believe her. Feeling her temper rising, Emily batted it down. "You better get going, I'm sure you have studying to do," she said, effectively dismissing her.

Seaver simply nodded, and hurried out of the gym. Emily bent over and took several slow deep breaths, while wiping away the tears that were still falling, and probably had been the entire time she was hitting the bag.


February 18, 2011

She needed a break. Seaver tossed down the photo of the man who'd been practically gutted and left to rot and fester in an abandoned warehouse. They'd determined their unsubs were organ harvesters, preying on homeless people that no one noticed missing. The first several victims were only missing an organ or two, but the last one was missing six, according to Reid's count. His chest was sliced wide-open, and the pictures were so horrifying she almost got sick. Morgan and Emily had been at the actual crime scene, and recently returned. He went with Rossi to question a possible witness, and she went...well, Seaver wasn't quite sure she'd gone.

Reid was going over the evidence with her, actually he was marking up a map more like. Hotch was in the higher-ups among the locals, discussing their findings so far. Now was as good a time as any to hit the bathroom, and grab a cold bottle of water. She pushed away from the table, and headed to the ladies room. As soon as she pushed open the door, she heard the awful sounds of someone retching.

Seaver winced and continued inside, and knocked gently on the door to the stall which the person was in. "Uh, excuse me are you alright?"

The retching continued for another minute, then a long breath. "I'm fine, Seaver." A very unhappy Emily Prentiss responded.

She heard the profiler moving around, the toilet flushing, and then she opened the door and almost walked right into Seaver. "Excuse me," she said.

The cadet moved, and watched Emily wash out her mouth, and wash around her lips, cleaning her hands with soap, all the while occasionally glancing in the mirror. "Did you come in here looking for me?"

"What?" She asked startled. "Oh no, I came in to use the bathroom...are you sure you're okay, Emily?"

"Yes, and I'd appreciate if you could keep this between us," she said.

Like the crying in the gym, Seaver thought. "Of course," she said.

Emily nodded, and headed out of the bathroom. Since she'd returned to working with the team two weeks ago, she'd deduced that her mentor wasn't doing much better. In fact, she'd spent the last couple cases watching Emily basically not eat at some meals, just move the food around her plate. She noted the guys glancing at her and exchanging looks, and Hotch had pulled her into his office early this past Monday. It was disconcerting, but the guys and Emily pressed on with cases and work as if nothing was amiss.

Seaver knew the team was very protective of each other, and they were all individually secretive, so the behavior shouldn't surprise her, but she was a little annoyed she wasn't being told anything. Even when she tried to discuss it with Rossi, he was quick to change the subject, and the man knew a lot about a lot of subjects, it wasn't hard for him to find one. She didn't find Hotch or Morgan to be the easiest people to approach, Reid was liable to launch into a sci-fi spiel, and frankly, Garcia made her a little nervous. She was a bit too colorful.

Seaver washed her hands and sighed. This was getting ridiculous, something needed to be done.


February 19, 2011

It had taken a while to find the people responsible for the organ harvesting, but they'd managed that afternoon, and had gotten back on the jet by the evening. After much mental coaxing, she found herself waiting in the Section Chief's ante-office. It was late enough that most people had already gone home, the team included, but it didn't stop her from constantly glancing over her shoulder. She could tell herself as much as she wanted that she had Emily's best interests in heart, and part of what brought her here was concern for her mentor. But, SC Strauss hadn't been subtle about what she intended to do with whatever information Seaver brought her.

Which is why the cadet's hands were hot and clammy. But, she'd made the decision, and she was prepared to deal with whatever fall-out occurred. It was an impossible opportunity to pass up, she'd be the youngest agent on a BAU team, quite possibly ever, and Emily had given her plenty of an excuse to go through with it.

"She's ready for you now, Agent Seaver," the secretary said, returning the phone to its cradle. Seaver nodded her thanks, and made for the office door.

"Ashley, please have a seat." Strauss greeted her with a warm smile. "I trust you've had time to consider my proposition?"

"Yes ma'am, I have."

"And, I trust your presence in my office means you've come to a decision."

Seaver nodded, and swallowed the nerves fluttering in her stomach that angry butterflies. "I'm concerned about Agent Prentiss's mental state, and wonder how much longer she'll be effective in the field."

Strauss actually seemed startled by that, a deep frown settling on her face. "Are you certain of this, Ashley?"

She felt suddenly queasy. but controlled it. "Yes, ma'am."

She watched the SC's mouth curve into a pleased smile, not unlike a predator. "You better tell me what you know, Agent."


February 21, 2011

Emily made her way up to Rossi's office after most of the other agents had cleared out. Seaver was still studying, and Reid was trying to stay ahead in his consults so he might actually get to take his vacation at the end of the month. He was going to go to Vegas for a week to spend time with his mother. Morgan had left, Hotch too. Jack's school had called earlier, the boy was acting out and being disruptive, which had evidently been a concern since the anniversary of his mother's death.

She knocked on Rossi's door.

"Hey, come in." He smiled and gestured to a chair.

"So, Hotch told you he and Morgan think I'm losing it?"

Rossi was completely unbothered. "Those weren't his exact words. He told me he's been checking in with you weekly for the last couple months, and frankly, I don't blame him."

She raised an eyebrow at him.

"You are going through something, my dear, and you aren't fooling anyone, including your young charge down there."

"Did she say something to you?" God, that wasn't good.

"She has tried to discuss the matter with me, and I politely change the subject," he said. "So, would you like to tell me what's going on?"

"Morgan thinks I should see a shrink," she huffed.

"Well, from where I'm sitting that doesn't sound like a bad idea." He ignored her scowl. "Insomnia, lack of appetite, depressed mood, fatigue, irritability, what does that sound like to you? And, I'm willing to bet there's also lack of interest, focus on guilt or worthlessness-"

"Yeah, yeah, I get the idea." She crossed her arms over her chest. He could have been reading the diagnostic criteria for a major depressive episode, and hearing it out loud only made her more tense.

"We nag because we care, Emily." He studied her, and Emily looked away and tried to ignore his gaze. "I know what you're thinking-"

"Really? You're a psychic now?" It came out far nastier than she meant it too.

"I'm far too used to your attitude to be bothered by it," he said, smirking.

"You sound like my mother."

He chuckled, and she thought she was in the clear, but he sobered quickly. "You think it makes you weak, and you feel like you can't afford to be weak. But, Emily? Asking for help takes far more strength than hiding in your own misery. And, I remember a time when I didn't ask for help in slaying one of my demons; three of my colleagues showed up determined to give it anyway. I told them to go to hell, but they're all as stubborn as mules." He smiled.

Emily sighed, and offered a half-grin. "That we are."

"So how does this pow-wow generally work with Hotch?" He asked.

"Pretty much like this."

"No wonder you seemed so enthusiastic," he cracked.

"Does that mean I can go, you'll tell Hotch I was a good girl and did what I was told?" She asked hopefully. She felt like a troubled teenager with weekly appointments with the guidance counselor.

Rossi snorted. "Like he'd ever believe that." Then he leaned forward, and leveled an unflinching gaze at her. "Emily, I know when you were a kid you weren't given much support from your parents, that you were generally left to take care of yourself on your own. I also know that's a hard mentality to shake, and that trusting someone to offer you emotional support is probably far more frightening for you than facing down any of the unsubs this unit has put away in the last few decades. But, when you feel strong enough to do that, you know anyone on this team will be there for you. Even if you fall apart, no one here is going to judge."

She didn't speak, just stared back at him.

He leaned back. "You are free to go then."

Emily blinked. "That's it?"

"Is there supposed to be more to this weekly pep-talk?"

"Well, Hotch usually spends ten minutes trying to coax me into seeing a shrink." Her least favorite part of these little chats.

Rossi held up empty hands. "If you don't think you need help, nothing I or anyone else says is going to make you get it. So yes, you can go now, I'll tell Hotch your fulfilled your weekly obligation."

Emily was so accustomed to pushing back when she was being pushed that she wasn't quite sure what to do then. He'd stopped pushing, leaving her nothing to push against. Suddenly, it felt as if her whole body deflated, the fight rushing out of her like air from a balloon. With no reason to push back, she finally surrendered. Glancing at her hands, stomach clenched in a deep ache, she pressed her lips together and looked back up at him.

Her eyes shining with unshed tears, Emily nodded. "I do need help."