PROMPT: Castle - Rise

Chapter 28

She deliberately chooses the seat next to Reid on the ride home, and sits a little closer than normal. It's the best she can do at the moment. Hotch sits across from her, and she wastes no time or thought on ensuring his foot is against hers. Contact. All of them need it with her right now, that tangible connection that she is still here. She is still alive. She isn't going anywhere.

She is, however, exhausted.

It's the bone deep kind of exhausted too, the one that comes on the heels of an injury and the departure of the last dregs of adrenaline. She could collapse if it wasn't for the fact that she knows they'd all panic. And the last thing she wants to do when she feels like this is spend the night in the hospital.

Pain-wise, though, she's pleasantly numb. The local's worn off long ago, but the painkillers she's on have dulled the pain receptors very well. She's wondered after everything she was on post-op if regular painkillers would help her with anything. She'd stubbornly fought through headaches and other miscellaneous body pain after weaning herself off the narcotics just to ensure her body wasn't entirely immune to the drugs. She's glad she's not feeling much.

Reid's tense beside her. Hotch is looking up from his paperwork every ten minutes. Even JJ's not-so-covertly sneaking glances. Dave can see her through the four seats. Derek's the only one who isn't looking at her constantly.

She doesn't like this.

She doesn't like this at all.

Finally, the sixth time Hotch looks up, Emily loses it a bit.

"Guys, I'm fine."

It makes Reid jump six feet in the air. JJ looks like a deer in the headlights. She's not surprised when Derek doesn't look around – he goes off into his own world to do things and that often involves sound-cancelling headphones – nor is she shocked when Dave and Hotch merely send her mild looks.

"it's just a stab wound," she says, making sure she's turned towards Reid. "Even the doctors said I was going to be fine with a couple of weeks' rest and rehab." She meets JJ's eyes. "This isn't Doyle. Doyle's dead."

When she looks to Dave, to Hotch, she notices pride there. A spark. She's said something right and when she goes over the words, she's pretty sure she gets it. She's the one that's recognized Doyle's dead. She's the one who's said it, without prompting, without repeating. She's the one who isn't look at this like a victim. She's looking at it like an agent would any other wound. She wants to laugh to herself.

She has, apparently, come a long way. Garrett's helped, she knows that, and she's grateful. The smile creeps over her face slowly, spreading as Hotch's mouth quirks, his eyes crinkle.

Emily reaches over to Reid, though keeps her eyes on the unit chief. "Doyle can't break us. He can't get to us anymore."

There's a loud slow intake of break from the genius, and Emily can see JJ's eyes soften out of the corner of her eye.

"Nothing can break us."

And maybe, just maybe, she's ready to prove it.

I lied. I wanted to make it an even 30 chapters, though in hindsight I'm not sure I told you guys that. But this is too good of a place to pass up. This isn't over, per se, and it's not like this one moment fixes everything, but it's a great place to stop considering what I want to do with it and where I want to go.

On that note, Part III of the series will be up starting December 1st. For those of you who have missed all previous illusions, it'll coincide with my annual Christmas fic. In fact, it will be my annual Christmas fic. 25 chapters, 25 days, and this time it really will focus on building the relationship with Em and Hotch now that we've kind of dealt with a lot of the other stuff. And I think, think, we'll actually see some Garrett while Emily deals with building a romantic relationship after Doyle.

Thanks so much for reading, guys. It means a lot to have the support considering how long I've been gone and how little I've dabbled in here since then. Thanks to everyone for reading, and sticking with me through the little times where I couldn't update, and for understanding that I needed to focus on other things. It'll be a pleasure if you join me for part 3.