Title:The Plunge
Rating:PG-13
Fandom:
Criminal Minds
Characters/Pairing:
Rossi, Prentiss - gen
Genre:Friendship/Angst
Summary:
Post 7x05. After Carolyn leaves, Rossi needs someone to talk to.

David Rossi was numb.

Carolyn's news – and her subsequent request – had shaken him to the core. He was not a man that was scared easily, but now, he had no qualms in admitting that fear.

For what felt like the first time in his life, he had no idea what to do. The hug they shared as she left was bittersweet. He might not have been a certified genius, but he knew exactly how bad ALS was, and exactly why Carolyn had made the request she did.

But that wasn't the only reason he was numb.

For a moment, he really had thought that she wanted to rekindle their relationship. What was it that Emily had said? We don't always get second chances in life, Rossi. I say take the plunge. See where it goes.

There was almost certainly some regret of her own she was referring to, but if nothing else, Emily Prentiss kept things close to the chest.

Nothing as big as this, though.

He cared for Carolyn so damned much, but her request was a big one. Almost anything else, he would have done without a second thought, but helping her die?

Moral, legal and religious issues aside, he wasn't sure he had the strength to flip that switch. It wasn't as though she was on life support, stuck in some coma that she'd never wake up from. Somehow, it was different.

Somehow, it was harder.

Shoving his wallet and phone in his pockets, he locked the front door shut behind him. He wasn't sure where he was going to go, but he needed to get out of the house, clear his head.

He drove around for a while, mind focused on each push of the clutch, gearshift sliding smoothly into sockets. Eventually, his hand stopped shaking.

Half an hour later, he found himself in Emily's neighborhood. Maybe that was thanks to his brain subconsciously directing him there. Maybe it was just coincidence.

Maybe not.

It wasn't the same apartment she'd lived in before Doyle. That one had been rented out to someone else during her time in Paris. A testament to the fact that you couldn't always just pick things up where they left off.

Maybe that was something he should have been telling himself.

He found the buzzer at the entrance, and pressed 4A. It took a few minutes, but eventually, he heard a groggy, 'Hello?' through the speakers.

'Emily? It's Rossi.'

'Rossi, it's almost 1am.' Crap. He hadn't even looked at the time before parking the car.

'Sorry. I uh…would I be able to come up?'

'Sure,' she answered, with a lot less hesitation than he would have expected. The door unlocked with a click, and he pushed it open.

The hallways were empty – not surprising, considering the time. A deathly silence hung in the air. He made his way up to the fourth floor quickly, trying not to let the malignant thoughts fester in his mind.

Just across from the elevator: 4A.

He knocked, and the door swung open almost immediately. Emily was wearing a tank top and sweatpants, her hair pulled back into a messy ponytail. She didn't look particularly impressed.

'I'm sorry, I just…I didn't know where else to go.' He felt pathetic for even saying that, but Emily's eyes widened, and she stepped back to let him inside. A black cat meowed, and rubbed up against his leg.

'Serge, leave him alone,' Emily scolded the cat, shooing him away. With a slight hiss, the cat ran off in the opposite direction. 'He's probably going to go play in my shoeboxes now,' she sighed. There was a slight frown. 'You had that dinner thing with Carolyn tonight, didn't you?'

Lastnight, he almost corrected, but didn't. 'Yeah,' he sighed.

Emily nodded. 'I'll get the scotch,' she said.

Another night, Dave might have laughed at how well she knew him. Tonight, he just wanted – needed – someone to talk to.

He hovered by the entrance to her kitchen, unwilling to invade her privacy any more than he already had by showing up unannounced at one in the morning. The apartment seemed a lot emptier than her last place, which was saying something. He knew that she'd had to get a lot of new stuff after her return, but the place still looked a little unlived in.

But, she had scotch.

That was something.

He followed her into the living room, tumbler in hand. After they sat, Emily poured him a healthy dosage. That, he raised an eyebrow at.

'Rossi, anything that has you coming to my door at one am looking like a lost puppy is going to need at least a double.'

'Touché,' he said with a half smirk, and tossed back the glass. It was good scotch. Expensive scotch. Rossi approved.

'I take it she wasn't uh…putting out the feelers?' Emily asked, a little hesitant as she took a sip of her own drink.

Rossi paused.

He wasn't sure how much he wanted to reveal. Whatever Carolyn had asked of him, it had been in confidence. But that didn't mean he couldn't tell her everything else.

'She's…she has ALS.'

Emily's expression sunk in realization. 'Oh, God Rossi, I'm sorry.' She didn't wrap him in a hug, like some people would have done. Instead, she let her hand rest atop his. It was tactile, without being too overwhelming. Very much an Emily move.

'It's true, what you said,' he admitted. 'There's always something about the first…I haven't been in love with Carolyn for a long time, but I think I've always loved her.'

Emily nodded, biting her lip. 'That's understandable. You split because of the job, right?'

'Right,' he nodded. 'I'm sure it's pretty much been proved over the years that working for the BAU and having a family just don't mix.'

'JJ manages okay,' Emily said, shrugging. 'Granted, she isn't as obsessed about the job as you are.' The tone of her voice made it abundantly clear that she was teasing him. Again.

Rossi stared at his glass.

He wanted to tell her.

In a way, he felt like he was obliged to tell her. After all, she'd confided in him about her darkest secret. Well…one of her darkest secrets. Assisted suicide fit into the same morally gray area.

'She asked me…' He paused, swallowing. It hurt to even think about it, let alone say it out loud. 'She asked me to help her, when the disease had gotten to a point where…' He stopped, but judging by the look on Emily's face, she could put two and two together.

'What did you tell her?' she asked, her tone curious, rather than judgmental.

He shook his head. 'Nothing. I didn't say anything…I mean, I don't want her to suffer, but…I'm sorry to put this on you, but…I don't know what to do.'

There was a long, almost awkward silence, punctuated by a purr as the cat – Sergio? – rubbed up against his leg.

'I don't think I can tell you what to do about that, Rossi. It's not exactly the same as saying you should go after her.'

'No,' he agreed. 'No it's not.' Now that the numbness was wearing off, the realization was starting to set in.

Carolyn was dying.

The woman that he'd once loved more than anything in the world, was dying. The shakes returned in full force, and he knew there was no way he'd be driving home tonight, scotch notwithstanding.

Emily poured him another glass. 'You can stay in my spare room tonight, if you want,' she told him. 'You might wake up with a cat sleeping on your chest in the morning, though.'

'I'll take that risk,' Rossi said, giving a shaky smile. He wasn't a big fan of cats – dogs were far more his style. He rubbed behind the cat's ears absent-mindedly. Tonight, he was just happy for the warmth. 'You're a Clint Eastwood fan?'

'Sometimes you just can't tear a girl away from her Spaghetti Westerns.'

'Well,' he said, giving her a smile. 'All the best things come from Italy.'

'Don't push it,' Emily warned him, but he could see that twinkle in her eyes that made it clear she was teasing him. Still, there was a stark sobriety that lingered in the wake of his revelation, and the smile he returned felt weak in comparison.

After setting their empty glasses on the sink, Emily led him upstairs to the spare bedroom. Judging by the faint smell of must in the air, he was the first person to actually use it since she'd moved in.

'If you want to have a shower, there are plenty of spare towels,' she told him. 'And I probably have some ex-boyfriend shirts hanging around as well, if you needed something to wear.'

Rossi chuckled lightly. 'Don't worry, I'll stick with my boxers and undershirt.'

The bathroom was just across the hall, and looked just as unused as the spare bedroom.

The spray of hot water did little to calm the nervous tension that wrought his body. It was a nervous tension that would be there for weeks to come, no matter the choice he made. David Rossi was no stranger to death, but this…this was too much.

When he'd toweled and dressed, he returned to the spare bedroom, where Emily had just finished fitting the sheets.

'My room is just down the hall, if you need anything,' she told him, turning to leave.

'Emily, wait.' She stopped. 'I can't thank you enough…for everything. Really, thank-you.'

Emily smiled. 'That's what family's for.' Her words struck a strange sort of chord with him, that reverberated long after all the lights had flickered off. He'd been expecting to lie awake, staring at the ceiling for hours, but sleep came surprisingly quickly.

The sun-streaked dawn shining through the window woke him. It was early enough that he considered going back to sleep, but that proved a futile choice.

The memories of the previous day were eating away at his mind, like maggots on a corpse. Not the most pleasant metaphor, but really, considering the circumstances, none were.

The only clothes he had were the ones from the previous night. If he'd really thought the situation through, he would have at least packed his go bag, but then, they weren't exactly filthy. For breakfast, it would do.

Judging by the smell wafting up the stairs, Emily was already awake. Interesting. For some reason, he'd always figured that she slept in on their days off. He filed it into his mental profile, and descended the stairs into the kitchen.

'I didn't wake you, did I?' Emily asked. Half her attention seemed to be fixed on the stovetop, the other half on the muted television. Sergio was, for some reason, sitting on top of the microwave.

'No,' he told her. 'I didn't even realize you were up, until I heard the smoke detectors going off.'

Emily gave him a look. 'Very funny. In case you forgot, my Carbonara was waybetter than everyone else's.'

'Don't get so cocky. I'm sure if the rest of the team ever lived in Italy, theirs would have been just as good.'

She laughed, and turned her attention back towards the bacon. Sergio jumped down onto the counter, meowing. 'Hey,' she scolded. 'Not until it's done.'

'Isn't that a little unhygienic?'

'Well you try telling a cat that,' she said dismissively. 'Especially one who's being super-clingy after I spent seven months pretending to be dead.' Emily scratched Sergio under the chin, and gently lowered him to the ground.

In spite of her flippant response, she wiped the counter down, and washed her hands before turning the lowering the heat a notch. 'Over easy, right?'

'Right,' he affirmed.

'Bread's in the freezer,' she told him, grabbing two eggs from the open carton by the stove. 'You can earn your keep by putting on some toast.'

'If I knew you were going to be such a slave-driver, I would have gone to Garcia's place.'

'And run the risk of seeing Kevin naked again? I doubt it.'

Hand halfway out of the freezer, Rossi stopped.

'What?' Emily shrugged. 'You think anything stays a secret in the BAU?' There was a pause. 'Well…aside from the really important things.' He wasn't entirely sure which specific event she was referring to, but he didn't ask for clarification.

Five minutes later, they were both sitting at the breakfast counter, trying to work through the silence. The last time that Rossi had had breakfast with a woman was with Carolyn, a week earlier.

He should have seen it then.

The way she averted her gaze, the waver in her voice. He had been profiling criminals for thirty years, and he couldn't even profile a woman he'd been married to for four years. If not for the reason behind her behavior, he might have been ashamed.

Rossi speared a corner of bacon on his fork.

'I can't let her go through that without doing anything,' he said eventually. 'ALS is…'

'It's not a very nice disease,' Emily said quietly, nodding. 'I…I can understand why you'd feel that way.'

'Are you saying you think I should do it?'

She gave him a look. 'What I think isn't what's important here. You care for her – that much is pretty damn clear. It's also clear that whatever decision you make, you think you're going to feel guilty for it. You didn't just come here to talk, you came here looking for permission.' Emily's tone was matter-of-fact, rather than accusatory. She shook her head slightly. 'You know what you have to do, even if it feels like it might hurt to do it.'

He nodded. 'I need to talk to Carolyn.'

Emily gave him a wavering smile. 'There you go.'

He'd only eaten a third of his breakfast, but somehow, he wasn't hungry anymore. 'I'm sorry, I…I need to...'

'It's okay,' Emily said. 'I won't be offended if you go.'

'Thanks.' He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek. 'For everything.'

'Dave.' Her voice took on a somber tone as he pulled away. 'Whatever decision you make, I have your back, okay?'

'Okay,' he said, giving her one last nod before walking out her door.

It was time to take the plunge.

A/N: Because I know that at least a few of you wanted to see it, just pretend he comes back and rails her later on, okay?