A/N: This isn't a pairing I ever planned to write, but it was prompted, so here we go. I've always found the Prentiss/Rossi friendship entertaining. This is for yaba, who prompted Rossi/Prentiss Friendship , "There's a reason why Rossi wasn't surprised to see her alive" for the holidays.

xx

Not quite surprised

xx

At first it was little more than wishful thinking.

He couldn't quite believe she was dead.

Oh, he'd believed it at the time. He's man enough to admit that. When they'd been told and the days that followed, the immediate mourning, the funeral, Rossi'd absolutely believed that Emily Prentiss was dead

And he'd grieved for her.

It just wasn't fair. It didn't seem possible that the beautiful, vibrant, funny woman he'd been getting to know was gone. Not Emily Prentiss.

He'd learned to care for the entire team, but Emily was different. She was becoming someone he'd consider a friend, and he didn't have too many of those anymore.

He'd noticed things about her almost immediately, the odd mixture of strength and vulnerability (though he knew she wouldn't like that description. All about the stiff upper lip was Prentiss; Dave suspected she had more in common with her mother than she'd like in that respect). Emily had the almost overwhelming desire to fit in, coupled with a similar desire to protect. From what Rossi'd gathered, she'd already quit her job to protect her team, or tried to at least. She'd worried about Hotch after his many injuries, she'd protected Reid in a cult compound, and when Rossi himself had disappeared on his own personal case, Emily'd led the charge to come help him. He knew she had.

She was also the first of the team he'd really reached out to after her friend Matthew's death, when her world had started to close in on her and she'd felt alone. (Turns out she'd felt alone far more often than anyone had ever suspected.)

Getting the trust of such a complicated woman, it had been a gift. He'd known it then; he knew it now.

Beneath the relatively cheerful exterior, Emily Prentiss had layers and layers of walls and barriers. Rossi hadn't wanted to pry (okay, he had;it was in his DNA). But he had also wanted to help.

After all, he understood the loneliness he saw in the back of her eyes. He'd felt it himself.

So he'd tried to be her friend. He'd tried to be someone she could talk to.

And then she was gone.

Like Reid, Dave hadn't even gotten to say one last goodbye.

And that was the thought that haunted him for weeks. He hadn't gotten to see her again, just once.

Then he realized that no one had.

No one had seen her dead. (Except for maybe Hotch or JJ, but they didn't count.)

And then a crazy idea took a hold of his brain. No one had seen her dead. There was no visual proof. All he could think of was the stupid daytime TV soaps that his second wife had watched every damn afternoon. Unfortunately, Dave had caught snippets and he'd learned a couple of things about them: One, nothing exciting ever happened until Friday, and two, if you didn't actually see a character's body onscreen (and sometimes even if you did), they were pretty much assured not to be actually dead.

And no one had seen Emily's.

So maybe she too, was alive.

If anyone could pull that off, it was her.

After all, she had the skills to fade away into another country, become someone else. They all knew that now. (He'd always known there was more to her than met the eye.)

And there'd been a damn good reason to fake her death.

Dave had no proof of his little pet theory, but he didn't care.

It just felt right. And Dave had never been one to ignore a hunch.

He could even justify it to himself. After all, what was the harm in believing she was alive? Out in the world somewhere, living a new life (or more likely, a strange sort of half-life), never to be seen from again, but still alive?

He wouldn't search for her; that would put all of them in danger, but especially her. He would just hold onto the hope.

It gave him a kind of comfort, even if he also worried about her.

And even if the idea on paper seemed completely crazy.

Except that for a crazy idea it made a strange kind of sense.

David Rossi studied behaviour; he was one of the best. And the behaviour supported his insane idea.

First of all, he'd said it before, butnoone had ever actually seen a body. Noone. Not even before the burial (and hadn't Emily wanted to be cremated anyway?).

Second of all, there was Hotch. David Rossi knew Aaron Hotchner. Hell, he'd helpedtrain Aaron Hotchner. The man was good at masking his feelings and playing the stoic commander, but he wasn't perfect. Aaron always showed emotion if you knew what to look for, especially when it came to his team in danger. And there was something off in the way Aaron was acting. He'd run the counselling sessions for the team, quite the feat in and of itself, but he didn't seem to experiencing the same things the rest of them were. He wasn't grieving a colleague, at least not in the way everyone else was. Aaron was displaying signs of guilt. Now yes, one could argue that his guilt was because he hadn't saved a member of his team when they'd been in danger, and part of it probably was, but part of it seemed directed towards the team, somehow. He'd taken a post overseas for heaven's sakes, so soon after the team had lost two members. Dave knew that part of the reason for that had been outside of Hotch's control thanks to budgetary issues, but he still found the timing convenient. Hotch gone right when he (may have) had something to hide.

But what could Hotch have to hide? It would have to be big for someone, even someone as good as Dave, to notice a difference in the younger profiler's behaviour. Something like a faked death maybe?

Thirdly, if Prentiss had survived, a faked death was an obvious choice to solve the Doyle problem. Emily had thought she (and by extension her team) were in so much danger that she'd flown from the FBI and slipped back into a life surrounded by people she quite obviously didn't trust. If she really was in that much danger then faking her death probably was the only way to keep them all safe.

Really, it just made sense.

Certain as part of Dave was, a part of him acknowledged that probably half the reason he believed his little theory so strongly was because he wanted it to be true.

And the beauty of it was that it could never be completely disproved. Even if she never came back.

Even if he never got to see her again, the idea of Emily Prentiss out in the world somewhere, alive was better than thinking she'd been taken down by the scum of the earth.

But still, it was all conjecture. He wasn't quite sure.

Then he'd met with JJ.

What had originally started as an attempt to fill part of the hole the past year had left in the team had taken on a whole other dimension with one conversation. Dave remembered their meeting well. They'd met in her office after hours. JJ had seemed pleased to see him, if more guarded than usual. (But why more guarded? Unless, like Hotch, she had something important to hide.)

The two of them had started off with small talk of course, but Dave had never been one for a lot of small talk. After about a minute he'd just cut straight to his point..

"I think you should come back to the team," he informed her bluntly.

JJ's eyes widened. "Dave…"

"Can you really tell me that this job, this world is what you want?" he asked, gesturing around her office.

She looked away.

"JJ…"

"Dave," she said wearily. "It's not that simple."

"Nothing ever is," he reminded her.

"I know."

He leaned forwards. "The team needs you Jennifer. After Emily…" he trailed off, unsure of what to say.

She sighed, and he saw a flash of pain in her eyes, the first of many. "I know it's hard, losing a team member unexpectedly…"

"We lost two," he reminded her. JJ was still in the city, still someone they could visit, but it wasn't the same.

"Yes, you did," she murmured, and for the first time since he'd introduced the subject she met his eyes. "We all lost something, even before Emily..." She trailed off again, looking away.

"So come back, Jen," he told her. "The team needs you. And I think you need them."

"Rossi…"

But he'd always been persistent bastard when he chose. "Our strange little family's splintering apart," he told her.

A fresh wave of pain hit her eyes, though she tried to fight it. "This can't just be about her," she told him.

"It's not," he assured her. "Of course it's not. It's about all of us, and trying to move forward now with something positive."

"And you think me coming back would be positive?" she asked, almost sarcastically.

"I think there's a big gaping hole in the team that everyone's trying very hard to ignore," Dave said truthfully.

"I can't replace her," JJ almost whispered.

Rossi shook his head, "I'd never dream of asking you to even try. And I think you know that. These are excuses Jenn. What are you really worried about?"

She hesitated, and he knew something else was going on. "It's complicated," JJ said finally.

Rossi leaned forward, curious, and debating whether or not to push his way in, "Explain it to me."

He watched her guard go up, and knew he'd get nothing from her. "I can't," she said firmly.

Dave sat back, deciding to back off. After all, even ifwhat he suspected was right, there was no way she'd ever confirm it, "It'd be different if you were happy here."

"What makes you think I'm not?" JJ asked quickly.

He gave her a look, which told her what he thought of that question.

She sighed. "Look, I'll think about it, alright?"

He smiled, sensing victory. "That's all I ask."

JJ smiled briefly, before pinching the top of her nose, "Okay. I'm sorry, but I've got to…"

"It's okay. I can see myself out," Rossi told her. After all, a good strategist always knew when to retreat.

"It was good to see you Dave," she said honestly.

He held her eyes. "You too Jennifer. Give my love to Will and Henry."

"Okay," she nodded.

Then Dave left, his mind running over their conversation again and again. It was only when he reached his car that it hit him. She'd avoided mentioning Emily's death. Actually, both of them had.

And somehow that clinched it in his mind.

Emily was alive. He, David Rossi, was all but sure of it.

Now he just had to pretend she was dead. For all of their sakes.

xxx

Several months later

xxx

The tentative knocking on his door was entirely expected.

Dave beckoned his visitor in immediately. "I was wondering when you'd get to me," he said with a smile, as he stood.

Emily smiled self-consciously and shut the door behind her. "I wasn't avoiding you," she said, the guilt only too obvious in her voice.

Rossi knew it would take time before it was gone completely (if it ever was), so he made sure to keep his smile friendly. "I didn't think you were," he assured her.

She smiled slightly again, the smile he'd never really expected to see again. "Good," she said.

Suddenly Rossi smirked. "Besides, I suspect Garcia has no plans to let you out of her sight for the near future."

Emily smiled back. "I got a temporary reprieve when she got an urgent data request from the beta team."

"That explains it," Rossi said dryly.

She chuckled and he couldn't help smiling at the sound.

Rossi opened a cupboard and took a pair of glasses and a bottle of scotch. The good stuff. They were celebrating after all. He held them up in question.

Emily hesitated, before shaking her head a little. "Why not?" she asked, sitting down across from his desk.

Dave grinned, and poured two generous glasses. Then he sat down himself, and watched her.

She took a sip, "It's good, but you already know that."

"Why not?" he asked, one eyebrow raised. "We're celebrating, aren't we?"

"Are we?" she whispered, probably before she could stop herself.

Dave frowned, leaning forward. "Emily?"

"I'm sorry," she said softly.

"Hey..."

"I'm so sorry," she said again.

She'd been saying it to various members of the team almost constantly since she'd come back. Dave didn't even want to think about how many times he'd heard that particular phrase come out of her mouth in the past few days. "Emily," he said, trying to interrupt.

"I just... I know what you must have gone through..." she continued.

But Dave had had enough. "Emily!" he said more forcefully.

That finally got her attention.

He met her eyes, trying to make her understand. "It's okay," he told her.

The shock he saw as her eyes widened would have been comical if it wasn't also so tragic. "It is?"

He smiled gently. "Yeah," he told her. "I get it."

She didn't reply. He could tell he'd surprised her.

"Come to think of it," Dave grinned. "Maybe I am insulted. I thought you knew I was a better profiler than that."

Emily blinked. Then it dawned on her, "You knew?"

He shrugged, "Suspected. Strongly suspected really. No proof, but that didn't matter."

Emily looked away, trying to take in the information. "You knew," she repeated.

"Yeah," Rossi repeated. "And I also know why you did what you did right before too. He threatened all of us, I assume?"

Both of them knew exactly who 'he' was. Emily nodded once in answer to the question. "He knew exactly where all of you were. Exactly. And you were all off duty."

"So you did what we should have known you would," Rossi surmised. "Well, we would have known anyway, had we known about..."

"Lauren Reynolds," Emily said bitterly. "I..."

But he shook his head. "You don't need to justify your past to me, Emily Prentiss. Actually, I absolutely don't want to hear you do it."

"But..." she whispered.

"Emily," he warned again over his scotch.

Her eyes narrowed as she examined him. He could practically see her trying to figure it out. He saw the change the moment she did. "We're okay," she said in a kind of wonder.

He nodded once. "Why wouldn't we be?"

"Why indeed," she murmured dryly.

"I only wish I'd figured it out a bit sooner," Dave admitted.

Emily's face fell. "Dave," she said, her voice tinged with guilt again.

"No," he said his tone fierce enough to make her sit up and take notice. "When I rejoined this unit I had to learn to work as a part of a team," he reminded her. "Now, I admit it took some getting used to, and there maybe have been a few… awkward moments. But I did it. I learned to change. Remember the last time I tried to run off on my own? You guys followed me. Do you remember what you said to me that day, Emily? About the case that had been haunting me?"

She gulped.

"You said that you cared about the case because I did," Rossi reminded her gently. "Things that matter to you matter to me, mater to thisteam, Emily. We'll help you if you let us. Now, I'll give you a pass this time, because I know Doyle made things more complicated than that. But that's it. You only get one freebie. Do you understand?"

"I..." she stuttered, completely speechless.

He folded his hands on the desk. "One," he reminded her. "The next time you need help, you tell us."

He watched her eyes mist over slightly just before she glanced away. "My past isn't pretty."

He shrugged. "Mine's no picnic either," he assured her. "And remember, I've got quite a few resources at my disposal, so if you're ever in trouble…"

"Thanks Dave," she said with a watery smile.

"Now finish your drink," he said gruffly. "You're letting good scotch go bad."

"We're really okay," she said again.

"Like I said," Rossi reminded her. "I had a little bit longer than the others to come to terms with the idea of you being alive."

She sighed, "Yeah."

"They haven't had that time," he cautioned her.

"I know," she assured him.

"Don't beat yourself up about," he ordered. "But if you ever need a place to hide for an hour or two, well..."

She met his eyes with a hint of a smile. "I know where you hide the good booze?"

He smiled. "Exactly."

She finished the last of scotch. "Thanks Dave."

"You're welcome Emily," he told her. "It's good to have you back."

"Yeah," she said, standing. "I should go."

"Okay," he agreed easily, knowing enough not to push.

"But thanks," she added again awkwardly.

He waved her off. "And Emily," he added, as she reached the door.

"Hm?" she asked, turning towards him.

Rossi grinned, "I have to say, I've never been so happy to be right in my entire life."

This time the smirk made it across her entire face. "And with your ego, that's saying something," she shot back before ducking out of the door.

Rossi watched her go. "Welcome home, Emily Prentiss," he whispered, toasting her before drinking his last swallow of scotch.

She was back. She was alive. Just as he'd always known.

Man, he was good.

xxx

The End