Author's Note: If I had to choose, I would say that I enjoyed writing this chapter the most. Not just because I'm a Hotly shipper - I had to suppress my urges to make this entire chapter ridiculously romantic - but because I finally was able to give Hotch some emotion, emotion that we very rarely see in his character on the show. It was an eye-opening experience for me, that's for sure. Basically, I based this chapter off the saying 'Every rose has its thorns' because I thought it was fitting; not only is this taking place during her 'funeral' which means each of the team members have roses that they are placing on her so-called grave, but in my heart, the saying applied to Emily on a deeper level. As if she was the rose, and the thorns were her secrets involving the whole Doyle ordeal. Slowly but surely, the chapter manifested in my mind, and well...here it is. The final chapter. One thing I have to say is that each of the five chapters before this was named by what Emily was to the team member, but I changed that now - Hotch's chapter is named after what he is to her. Thank you once again for reading, and I sincerely hope that you enjoy this last foray into the mind of a profiler: Aaron Hotchner.

Please don't hesitate to leave some feedback; it means so incredibly much.

Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds.


Carefully studying the single, beautiful bloom in his fingers and the sharp, needle-like hills on its slender stem, he reflected on the events of the past few days.

Every rose has its thorns… he mused philosophically.

He shifted his gaze to the empty coffin before him.

and Emily Prentiss is no exception.

She was a rose in every definition of the word. Strong-willed, but able to succumb to external forces, proud of her beauty, but hiding secrets – however ugly – amongst her petals. She compartmentalized perfectly, but all it took was one strong wind to ruffle her leaves, break one off, and carry it far away.

He, for one, could not – would not – bring himself to judge her. After all, he, too, had his fair share of secrets…one of which would impact the lives of his team members more than they could all imagine.

They were all lost, wandering. There was only one difference between him and the others.

He knew where they were headed. He knew the truth.

The others didn't. And when they found out…

They would be hurt, angry. Some would understand his decision, Emily's decision; Dave, maybe. Others would lash out. Others would never trust him again.

In his heart, Aaron Hotchner knew it was worth the risk.

To him, Emily Prentiss was worth any risk.

Meeting the soft, blue-eyed gaze of Jennifer Jareau across Emily's so-called grave, he nodded imperceptibly, the action for her eyes only. They had done the right thing.

…hadn't they?

How could he convince the others of that when he was having doubts himself? At JJ's grim announcement that Emily had never made it off the table, his heart had plummeted. But then, in the hallway outside the visitor's lounge, she had whispered three words that changed everything.

"She made it."

Emily was alive.

And the others couldn't know. It was something he understood; the less that knew, the safer she would be.

And in the grand scheme of things, that was all any of them would have wished for; her safety. Her return.

But he began to question himself. He began to question everything. He knew it wasn't a healthy road he was travelling, but he just couldn't help it. When would he see her again? With her wide smiles, her dreamy brown eyes…

Would he ever see her again? Would he be able to take her hand and walk her into the bullpen, and reunite their family?

Emily had been there for him after Foyet's attack, after Haley's death…she had been the light at the end of a very dark, very long, very trying tunnel. But most importantly, she had been there when he needed help.

She wouldn't dare admit it under torture, but she needed help now. And he needed to be there for her. He needed to be her light. It was his duty as her boss, her teammate, her secret-keeper…her friend.

Clyde Easter's voice rang loudly in his ears. "You see, there's no catching Ian Doyle. He'll escape from your prison as easily as he did in North Korea, and then…all hell breaks loose. If you want to stop that man – if you want to bring Emily back – you have to put a bullet between his eyes yourself. Can you do that? Can you break your oath, Agent Hotchner?"

"No."

"Can you take one then? Can you swear that your team – that you – will save her?"

He would.

Even if it cost him his job, even if it cost him his life, he would.

Because, yes, every rose has its thorns. But the thorns do not define the rose. He would teach Emily that.

Someday, he would bring her home.

He could only hope that someday was soon.

THE END.