Disclaimer: CBS and their affiliates own Criminal Minds. All I own is an overactive imagination and a love for Hotch and Emily

Summary: Post ep. Unknown Subject. After returning home from the Texas case, Emily gets a visitor...

Timeline: Present Day, post ep 'Unknown Subject'

A/N: After watching this weeks episode, I had this pop into my head. I hope you all enjoy this.

Thanks for reading, do remember that reviews are loved too.

"Promise me you'll always remember: You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think." Christopher Robin to Winnie the Pooh

Emily walked into her apartment, sighing as she tossing down her go bag by the staircase.

Walking into the living room, she wandered over to the large window that usually brings her comfort but it didn't work this time. She was still having what Hotch told her would be 'a bad day'.

And she knew why. She'd been lying to her own therapist when she told her that she was moving successfully past the incident last spring with Doyle. Her near death, and staging her own demise. She never told anyone but it had weighed heavily on her, alot more then she let on.

Telling Dr. Merrill that she was in a relationship with a man 'Sergio'. That couldn't even bring a smile to her face, not even saying that she had reached out to her mother.

But, as she sat down at the window seat, even that could be called somewhat of a stretch. But she was talking to her.

She knew there was no compartmentalizing the Houston case. It hit too close to home for her.

And somewhere down the line she knew that this was going to happen at some point, though she tried to delay it for as long as possible.

She may have not have had the same trauma that the Piano Man's victims had, but in some instances they both were targeted by their tormentors.

Closing her eyes as she leaned her head against the cool glass of her window, she could still see him. Hovering over her.

It took all of her will power right at that moment not to cry out, she could still feel the table leg stabbing her in the abdomen.

Taking a deep breath, she opened her eyes, counting back down from ten to zero. She could feel the walls closing in on her as his voice rang out from her memory...

Rushing towards the door, she needed to get out before she suffocated in the emptiness of her own apartment.

Opening her doors she collided against a warm body that pulled her to them. Looking up she saw the concerned brown eyes of her friend, and boss.

"Emily?" Hotch's soothing tone spoke softly, "Are you all right?"

He could tell by the heavy breathing and slight shake in her form that she was on the verge of a panic attack. And that broke his heart more then when she admitted a few hours ago that she was having 'a bad day'.

Hotch never wanted that for her, he knew that her failure to open up about her time away and near death would eat away at her already ulcerated stomach. Its what he went through after his own trauma, so he knew how bad it was for her.

Leading the shaking brunette over to the couch, he held her close. He tried to give her all his strength as he wrapped his arms around her, trying to sooth her from the pain she was suffering.

It was unusual for them, they hadn't really been close friends before, even though she went out of her way to reach out to him when he suffered his own personal hell but for some reason it just felt right.

When he felt the tremors leave her body, and tense when she realized just how close they were, she pulled away. He saw her wipe away the already drying tears and clear her throat.

"Are you all right?" Hotch asked again.

"Yeah" she said, clearing her throat again, "Just a really bad day."

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asked, looking down at her.

Sniffling, a part of her screamed at her to say no, that if she told him just how badly this case affected her that it could make him take away her badge and gun and shove her back into more sessions with Dr. Merrill.

The more rationale part said, if she didn't talk about it, that it was going to eat her alive and then he really would take away the badge and order her back.

"Whatever you say in here, goes no farther then these four walls, Emily" Hotch told her, "I'm not here as your boss, I'm here as your friend."

Exhaling, she turned around and nodded, "Ok."

He watched her force herself not to pick at her nails, something he had been noticing alot of lately. They were actually growing, and that relieved him that she was controlling her habits. He just wished that would apply to her opening up more.

She could always lend an ear but when it came to talking about herself that was a battle that she wouldn't give up, at least not willingly.

"Regina Lampert" Emily said quietly, "She knew." taking a deep breath, "I never had to tell her, she just knew something happened to me."

"Did you talk to her about it?" he asked.

Shaking her head, "No. I told her that I understood what she was going through, and that's when she figured it out." she bit her lower lip, "She asked if I pulled the trigger, and she knew that I didn't. She said, that my monster was gone but hers was still alive."

Looking at her morose look, "And you feel guilty about that?"

Nodding she then shrugs, "A little, I mean yeah, I get it. Doyle's dead, and Hamilton's still alive. She doesn't feel like she'll ever get any justice for herself."

"But that's not all of it, is it?" he asked.

Shaking her head, "No, because that made me realize that I'm going through the same thing. I mean our situations are different but..."

"You both were target by vicious sociopaths" Hotch told her, "It's only natural that you would identify with her, Emily. You went through a trauma and that's not just going to go away on its own, and keeping it inside, not talking about it, it's not going to help you. You fought your way back to living, that's something Regina couldn't do."

"You know I think the real reason this case hit home, was because these women were attacked in a place that they had a right to feel safe" Emily said, "And the piano wire, it's not that far off from a hot poker with a four leaf clover branding" her hand clenched as she resisted the urge to touch her upper chest.

She turned to look out the large window, "I think the real reason I've been having so hard of a time sleeping was because when I closed my eyes I'd be back there in the warehouse. Sometimes I could still feel the table leg stabbing me in the abdomen, and I always hear his voice." taking a deep breath, "Sometimes I can still feel his breath on my face when he hovered over me begging me to tell him where Declan was."

Her hand, ghosts lightly on her stomach, "And then the next thing I can remember, while I'm holding that chunk of wood, trying not to drop it in pain, is Morgan's voice, begging me to stay with him."

Hotch blinked back the tears, he felt his heartbreaking listening to her version of what happened. He had read the official reports from Morgan but hearing it, that was something entirely different.

"Then I remember being in the ambulance and coding, feeling empty and darkness" she said, "And my minds racing wondering if Tom, Declan and Louise were safe. Would Doyle, find me in the hospital? And waking up only to be told you and JJ made your decisions." looking over at him, "And I'll always be grateful to the two of you for your choices, sacrifices, but I never got to make that choice."

"You know why we had to do that" Hotch said.

"I know, and I'm not judging" Emily said, "Cramer was right, this was my mess and I had to come back to help clean up what I started." shaking her head, "I guess that's why I jumped into making amends with everybody. Doyle already killed countless people to get to me and Declan. He already tried to kill me once, I wasn't going to let him rob me of living the rest of my life on my own terms."

"So that's why you were so eager to get back to work" Hotch said observantly.

"That's one of the reasons I became the sounding board for everyone else's problems" Emily told him "Because it was easier listening then dealing with my own."

"It's a good thing, letting the others know that they can trust you again" he said, "But avoiding your problems isn't going to make them go away. Learning to accept help will make you stronger in the long run, and letting us be the shoulder that you can count on will help the others too."

"I know." she told him, "I'm trying to work on that, I'm just not use to turning to people for help."

"Because you don't want them to see you as weak or a victim" he asked.

Nodding, "I'm not a victim, and I'm not a survivor," she told him firmly, "I'm just me, and that's all I've ever wanted you guys to see me as. Me."

Hotch felt immensly proud of that, "Don't you get it? That's how we've always seen you."

A small smile graced her lips, "Thank you."

He felt a wave of relief when he could see that she was actually relaxed and without a thought in his mind, he pulled her inot a hug, startling her too.

"Everything's going to be ok now, Emily." he whispered to her, "You're not alone."

"I know" she said returning the hug, it didn't feel awkward or forced, "Thank you."

The two sat in comfortable silence, each feeling a sense of belonging, knowing that their was someone out there who knew what it was like to be lost in that darkness.

One that he could and would help guide her through.

"Love is when you shed a tear and still want him, it's when he ignores you and you still love him, it's when he loves another girl but you still smile and say I'm happy for you, when all you really do is cry." Author Unknown


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