Fandom: Criminal Minds
Spoilers: Up through Season 5, with some Season 6 for some background info.
Characters/Pairing(s): David Rossi/Emily Prentiss, Derek Morgan, Aaron Hotchner, Dr. Spencer Reid, Jennifer “J.J.” Jareau
Warning: Blood, sex, violence
Word Count: 19,258
Notes: I’ve fudged the timeline slightly so Rossi joined the team before Prentiss. This was written for the au_bigbang. Much thanks to murf1307 for betaing and weaselett for art!
Disclaimer: I don't own Criminal Minds or its characters and I don't make a dime off them.
Summary: Everyone on Emily Prentiss' BAU team was a little unusual; herself being a vampire and Morgan being a werewolf were only part of it. David Rossi being her chosen blood donor was another large part of it. But despite years of keeping things on the level of friendship, a long-term case brings a few important things to light, not the least of which is that life can be too short for those who aren't prepared to pay dearly for it. And for some the price is too high.
With the new data, gathered over the past four months, the map on the board now showed some semblance of a pattern. It took Emily a while to see it, but predictably Reid was up out of his chair, swapping out one color pins for another to emphasize something he’d probably figured out from the doorway.
“Look at these patterns, here and here. They aren’t a complete match with the deaths and attacks, but there’s an eighty percent similarity.”
Prentiss looked closely at the collection of dots and lines, tracing them with her finger. Dave reached the conclusion before she could voice it.
“The registered feedings in most of these places are within a vampire’s running distance of the attacks. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities for an attack to occur here and a feeding to take place miles away on the same night. Especially since some of the victims were moved.”
“That’s very bad. Are we looking at a willing vampire victim?” Morgan asked.
“Or a different motivation,” Prentiss said, heart briefly in her throat. “I… received a communication from Marie Deveroux. She’d once heard of a situation where a vampire deliberately infused someone with their blood to save them from a mortal wound.”
“That’s illegal as hell,” Morgan said flatly.
“The drug companies know about it, but it can’t be used in the hospital system. People can die from it, or get addicted to it, or have a severe moral objection to vampire blood that they’d rather die than use it,” Rossi said slowly. Prentiss looked over at him, trying to second guess which, if any, of those three fates disturbed him the most. His poker face was still second to none, she quickly decided.
“But these attacks could be out of love on behalf of the vampire rather than a need on behalf of the ghoul?” Hotchner asked.
“It could have started that way,” Prentiss said, her voice very quiet.
“These attacks are going back a year, though. From what you told us about how vampires are monitored, how would a vampire manage to conceal this from his psychologist for that long?” Reid asked.
“Well, look how often these attacks are moving around,” Morgan pointed out.
“He wouldn’t be seeing the same psychologist for very long. It’s not hard to fool people for a short period of time, particularly if he has a very pressing reason to lie,” Rossi said. “This is life or death to him.”
“All right, Garcia, take all of the vampires we have in our pool and check to see who have children. That would be the most likely scenario,” Hotchner said. “Look for independent wealth or a job than can be done while traveling. This unsub is a man of privilege, considering his contempt for his victims.”
“Six of the vampires have kids, all of them are more than a little loaded, sir,” Garcia reported with a bit of a shrug.
“We know he’s young. Any males in their early twenties?”
Rossi spoke up. “Check their financials for purchases from vampire paraphernalia websites or stores. He’s not going to have his own fangs.”
“And see if any have light-proofed vehicles. Any traveling vampire needs one,” Prentiss added. Unease was fading before the thrill of solving this puzzle.
“Will do… and…” Garcia’s hands rapidly clicked over the keyboard, a blur of brightly colors rings and nail polish. “Got him! Gabriel Witherspoon, twenty-three, father Karl took the virus five years ago, wife left him last year, moved in with his father. Extensive purchases from NightEternal.com and… his motorcycle was written off last year in an accident, but no hospital stay is recorded.”
“Karl wouldn’t let his son die. That’s how it started,” Prentiss said with conviction.
“Where are they?” Hotchner asked.
Garcia looked up the last known feeding logs, and Prentiss could actually see the blood drain out of her face.
“Jacksonville,” she said faintly. If Gabriel was back in a city where he’d killed before, that meant he was getting cocky, and hence, more dangerous than ever.
“I’ll call the airport from the cars, let’s go,” Hotchner said. “Garcia, keep trying to narrow down his location. We can’t afford to lose him.”
Prentiss felt a sick twist in her stomach as she picked up her go bag on the way out the door. Just behind her, she could hear Morgan’s breathing picking up, like he was anticipating a hunt. Of all the team, it would be her and Morgan that would have the best chance of tangling with a ghoul. Because if Gabriel managed to get his hands on any of the rest of the team, he could rip them apart as easily as the victims.
The sun, Prentiss well knew, would be below the horizon by the time the plane touched down in Florida.
Prentiss had often heard the expression “hit the ground running.” She hadn’t quite felt she’d lived it before now. Garcia had been furiously hitting every cell phone and traffic camera she could while the team was in the air, and by the time the plane had hit the tarmac, she’d had a location on a light-proofed trailer registered to Karl Witherspoon, Gabriel’s father.
The team had barely had a chance to breathe Florida’s air before they’d piled into SUVs, lights and sirens screaming as they raced to the one place they might be able to get ahead of someone they’d been trying to find for months.
Hotchner was the first one to the trailer when they found it, parked in an inconspicuous corner of a long-term parking garage. Prentiss and Morgan moved to cover him; their strength would be needed if the elder Witherspoon was violent. Bullets wouldn’t stop a vampire, but the whole team together could put enough shots into him to give them a chance for Morgan or Prentiss to overpower him, if necessary. With a nod at the team and the attending Jacksonville officers to be certain they were ready, Hotchner flung open the door, letting everyone else play their flashlights into the interior. A heavy curtain met their gaze, and Morgan moved it aside.
In the corner, blindfolded and bound, thin and pale, was Karl. His chest moved, showing he breathed, and his cheeks were wet with tears. A series of needles and tubes hung on the wall, tourniquets dangling next to them.
“Karl Witherspoon?” Prentiss asked softly.
He sighed deeply, relief and regret plain in that soft sound.
“It’s the stake for me?” he asked with resignation.
“Yes,” she said. Emily could feel Dave’s eyes burning into her back, but didn’t turn around.
“I confess. I fed my son.”
“I’m sorry,” Prentiss said, moving closer and pulling out reinforced cuffs to bind him.
“Where’s Gabriel?” Hotchner asked. Karl’s head came up suddenly as Prentiss removed his blindfold.
“He’s here. He was just across the street-.”
Prentiss and Morgan turned, a sound of cursing and pounding feet clear to them as Gabriel heard his father’s betrayal. He’d been downwind of the trailer to keep himself from being scented.
“Shit! Hotch, he’s running,” Morgan said, turning to sprint for the SUV.
“Reid, stay with Karl,” Hotchner said, as the officers moved in to take custody. The rest of the team pelted after Morgan, piling inside and hanging on for dear life as they tracked the ghoul through the streets.
Morgan skidded to a halt at the edge of the warehouse district after a long chase through the streets. The place was a veritable warren. There was no easy way to find the ghoul in here. He was going to escape.
“Hell with this,” Prentiss said flatly, and opened the door.
“I heard that,” Morgan said, piling out.
“Agents.” Hotchner’s voice stopped them both in their tracks, and they turned reluctantly. “Bring him back alive, if possible.”
Morgan crouched to pull off his silver ankle cuff, and tossed it and his watch on the seat. He’d drunk sparingly today, against a need like this, but no cup of wolfsbane tea was going to stop a second generation lycanthrope on a full moon when he was out of contact with silver. Emily didn’t bother to wait the few minutes for Morgan’s muscles and bones to reform to their half-lupine configuration. He’d catch up to her easily once he was shifted, and time was of the essence.
She fled into the night, following faint scent and sound, chasing down two false trails before Morgan blazed past her, shaggy dark and focused as a pointer hound. Prentiss kept a running commentary to Hotchner and Rossi, giving them directions as they pressed deeper and deeper into the district. The ghoul was running high on his stolen strength, but Morgan and Prentiss had spent two decades learning how to use their abilities. The only thing Gabriel Witherspoon had going for him was desperation. And that, everyone knew, was dangerous.
Morgan doubled back after a block and then stabbed on clawed hand to the north, making a pinching motion with his fingers. Come in from the north in a pincer maneuver, Emily read, and relayed to Hotchner and Rossi. They’d bracket Gabriel and hopefully drive him into her and Morgan’s clutches. There was a curse from up ahead as Gabriel tried to flee from Morgan, heading in another direction.
Emily leapt up, intending to take the roof road to intercept him, and saw Hotchner drop off Rossi just below her.
“What the fuck are you doing?” she demanded softly through the radio, not really caring about protocol. Rossi knew better than to be out here alone.
“He’s avoiding you and Morgan both, and he’s fast as hell. You need a distraction,” Rossi said reasonably. “I trust you.”
“Prentiss, cover him,” Hotchner ordered. “I’m trying to get Jacksonville PD to surround the area.”
“You aren’t carrying explosive rounds or a flamethrower, so you stay under me,” Prentiss said firmly to Rossi, hissing once to get his attention to her physical location. She pointed ahead, to where she’d heard Gabriel last, and began to stalk the rooftops, staying right above Dave. There was a faint answering hiss in the dead-end alley ahead, and Rossi brought his gun up quickly, covering all the ambush points in quick succession.
Emily jumped to the next roof to get a better view and barely dodged as something pale rushed her. Gabriel hissed as he missed her, and swung around an exposed pipe to get more momentum as he launched himself at her again. Emily let him close and snatched for his arms. In the moment she had a grip on him, he screamed in defiance. Pale-skinned and slender, he still was far stronger than he should have been, and he strained hard against Emily’s hands. His eyes were half-animal, half-addict, a desperate craving in them that poke of endless hunger. He was hollow, furious at being thwarted, wanting nothing more than the freedom to feed.
But the worst part was the flash of intelligence, the split-second glimpse of his façade that let Emily see how he had been luring savvy but vulnerable donors to their doom so he could try to derive sustenance from them. When he had been calm, he must have seemed an ideal specimen.
Gabriel writhed in her grip, jerking her to the edge, trying to get to street level so he could run again. Morgan suddenly thudded onto the opposite roof, silvered and huge in the moonlight, a deadly growl coming from his throat. Dave was at the opposite end of the alley, his dangerous bait position no longer needed. He relayed Gabriel’s position to the Jackonville PD, and Hotchner was closing in. Soon they’d have a reinforced van to take Gabriel away. All they needed to do was to keep Gabriel under control for a few more minutes…
He twisted with frantic, blood-born strength, and was suddenly free of her grasp. As he fell, she saw the glint of metal at his waist from a revolver. He was armed. He’d come armed! Gabriel landed lightly as Prentiss would have and came up holding the gun, searching for a target. Rossi had him in his sights, his gun coming up to fire. The police were still minutes away. Rossi was the weak link, Prentiss and Morgan might hesitate if he were down. Behind Dave lay freedom. Gabriel fired.
“Dave!” The echoing retort was so loud it hurt, bouncing and channeling off the brick buildings and metal dumpsters. Emily saw the bullet hit right in the center of his vest. That he fell didn’t give her pause—few could stand a direct hit. But she smelled blood; the bullet had penetrated. Her Source was down. Dave had been hurt.
Red misted her vision as she leapt down from her perch, the alley flying by in a blur as she used every bit of her inhuman speed. The predator within her, long held at bay by civilized need, slaughterhouse blood, and calm logic screamed in the fetid dark, her fangs extended for the kill.
From a far off distance, she heard Morgan’s voice in her earpiece, which meant he’d forced himself to shift, “Rossi’s down!” Emily knew she was moving so quickly she was almost a blur, but time still slowed as Hotchner ordered, “Morgan, get Emily!”
She screamed again as Morgan jumped after her, desperate to get her hands on the ghoul who’d hurt Dave before she could be stopped. More bullets came roaring towards her, some hitting her, the pain a faint and distant thing as her body rejected the lead without a second thought.
The ghoul had just enough time to swear when Emily got her hands on him, shoving him down to the filthy alley floor, her hands on his neck, ready to choke him into submission before she drank him dry. For a few long seconds, she fed on his terror, watching his eyes bulge in pain and fear as his neck was being crushed by her hands.
Morgan suddenly grabbed her, his hands clawed in a partial transformation as he got ahold of her upper arms to haul her back, his fingers tightening painfully against her rage-born strength.
“He’s alive,” Morgan yelled, pulling her away. “Emily, he’s alive!”
“No!” she shrieked, seeing Witherspoon managing to blink under his own power, still living despite her brutal assault.
“Dave’s alive,” Morgan shouted right in her ear. She paused in her struggles, the red leaving her vision. “We have to get him to a hospital.”
Emily looked towards Dave. Now she could hear his tortured, gurgling breaths, see the dark crimson stains on his clothes, smell the heart’s blood pouring out of him.
“No!” It was denial that reverberated throughout the alley this time, and Morgan let her go. Behind her, she heard Morgan strike the ghoul hard enough to crack bone, and then the rattle of reinforced cuffs clicking around his wrists. Gabriel would be too busy trying to stay alive to threaten Hotchner.
Dave blinked at her as she reached him, his eyes swimming in pain, too weak to lift a hand or even speak.
“Dave, Dave, don’t die on me, don’t die…” she chanted, scooping him up in her arms.
From a distance she heard Morgan’s voice over the tactical radio. “Come get him Hotch, we have to help Rossi-.”
“Go, take care of him, we have Witherspoon.”
Morgan was back at her side in an instant, reaching for Dave, not even flinching from her instinctive warning hiss.
“Where?” he asked.
“Marie’s,” she said.
“You’re faster. Get what you need ready; I’m right behind you.”
She let Morgan take him, Dave’s weight negligible in his arms. Then she all but flew over the rooftops. But this time not to deliver death, but life.
The doorman at Marie’s heard her as she vaulted down from the rooftop opposite the blood bar, and could see her desperate expression as she sprinted closer. He made a subtle gesture, around back, and she detoured to the back door. She trusted he’d tell someone to get it open before she broke it down.
Marie was there when the door opened under Emily’s fingertips, her hand at her throat.
“Help me,” she snapped. “Dave’s been shot.”
Morgan was five seconds behind Emily, and Marie was back with the bags of human blood by the time he’d set Dave on the padded bench she’d found.
“Francis, IV stand, Luc, towels and water, go!” Marie commanded to two frightened-looking young men lurking in the doorway. Marie’s donors scattered to get the requested items, as Emily pulled Dave’s ruined vest away. Morgan’s clothes were covered in blood from where he’d carried him, and Dave’s face was dangerously pale.
Marie didn’t say a word as she carefully probed for a vein and started the flow of blood, hanging the bag on a stand that her half-stunned donor provided. Emily looked up briefly to see the name on the bags: David Rossi. He’d given Marie autologous donations of his own blood.
“What is that?” Morgan asked.
“It’s his own blood,” Marie said shortly. “He left it with me.” Morgan blinked at that. Vampires couldn’t use bagged blood. The only reason to have made an autologous blood donation and leave it at a blood bar was for a scenario just like this. Why the hell had he done that?
“Marie, he needs more than that.” Emily bared her wrist and pulled a thin knife from her boot. Morgan felt a surge of fear as she put the blade to her skin, and she looked up at him.
“You can put me to the test in the morning,” she whispered. Below her, Dave’s breath rattled ominously in his lungs.
“Do it,” Morgan said. Next to him, Marie’s eyes were bright with unshed tears, her pain Emily’s own.
But Emily had already opened her vein. She hadn’t been asking for his permission or approval. Keeping the blade in to force the cut to remain open, she put her pulsing wound directly into the hole in Dave’s chest, letting her blood flow into him. Dave stiffened, his breathing deepening, and Morgan could see new flesh begin to grow around the gaping hole.
“Christ,” Morgan swore. He was used to see that happening to Emily, and even to himself to a lesser extent. Seeing Dave heal that fast was frightening. Marie worked around him with silent efficiency, pulling a needle into Emily’s arm and attaching it to the line coming from Dave’s blood bag. As the wound closed, Emily pulled away slightly and took the knife out. Her wrist healed over in a flash. She clasped her hand with Dave’s as his breathing strengthened, his skin healed completely over, and color returned to his face.
It was only when Morgan saw Dave clasp Emily’s hand in return that he dared to believe it had worked. They’d used the very crime they’d been trying to stop to save a life.
“Emily?” Dave’s voice was surprisingly strong for a man who’d been on the brink of death a few minutes ago.
“You’re going to be ok,” Emily said, touching the healed wound in his chest. “You’ll be fine.”
Dave stirred, and Emily helped him sit up to get a look at himself, letting him look at the blood going into him. Unobtrusively, Marie pulled Emily’s line from her arm and the bag, leaving Dave with just his own blood.
“This is going to hurt like a bitch on withdrawal, isn’t it?” Dave asked.
“Yes.” Emily hesitated. “I’m sorry, I-.”
“Hey,” he interrupted, reaching up to touch her face. “I’d rather be alive. Thank you.”
“I’ll be here when the symptoms come…” she said.
“He must sleep,” Marie said softly. “For a little while.”
Dave was already losing the battle against fatigue, and Emily let him go softly, brushing her fingers against his temples as his eyes closed. Morgan jerked his head up with an inquiring raised eyebrow, and Marie waved at them both to go.
“Come on,” Morgan insisted, tugging on Emily’s elbow. They climbed up the ladder and out the trapdoor to the room, still dark at the midnight hour.
“You did the only thing you could do,” Morgan said, after a long silence. He sat down on the raised edge of the roof, carelessly balanced above a three-story drop. Out here, the streetlamps made his eyes shine green.
“I know.” Emily put her hands on the bricks, willing strength into her heart. “God.” It was less a curse and more a plea.
“What?” Morgan asked.
“What Dave said. God, he said he’d ‘rather be alive.’”
“Dave’s not signed up for vampirism.” A brick crumbled under her hands, and Emily watched the pieces fall through her fingers.
Morgan was at a loss for words, not sure if he should offer sympathy or reassurance.
“I don’t know what to do,” she said quietly, and shook her head. “It wouldn’t matter even if he had been; he’s beyond the age to survive an injection.” Her breath was almost like a sob, but soft. Morgan doubted a human could have heard it. He reached out to her and she finally relaxed, letting him fold her into a reassuring embrace.
“Hey,” he said. “I know you two have been keeping things quiet, but he’s your Source-.”
“Morgan, you know damn well that doesn’t mean an automatic roll in the hay-.”
“And I have a nose.”
“This is fine. You’re both doing fine.” He hugged her hard. “And hell, if I hadn’t had to go after you, I might have gone wolfman on the ghoul, so I think things worked out.”
Emily wasn’t crying, but she could feel the tightness in her chest. God. Why had she let everything get so far under her skin?
“You wouldn’t have gone wolfman,” she insisted.
“My ass,” Morgan said darkly. “We’re both predators under the skin. And so’s Rossi, Hotch, Reid, J.J., even Garcia in her way. Top of the food chain, we take down other predators. Those instincts help us. I like to believe I’m using them for good.”
Emily clasped a hand over her wrist, the one she’d ripped open to save Dave. “Ok.” She was silent for a long moment. “Ok.”
They held onto each other until the dawn sent Emily back inside.
Hotchner called Morgan just after sunrise.
“We have Witherspoon in custody, and just gone done processing him. He’s being treated, but I doubt he’ll survive the detox. He’s been dosing himself for close to a year.”
“Good,” Morgan said shortly.
“I’m glad we caught him too,” Hotchner said, officially covering them in case anyone heard. That was also the reason he hadn’t asked about Rossi.
“Rossi’s fine. It wasn’t as bad as we thought,” Morgan said.
“I’m glad to hear that.” And he was; Morgan could hear the relief in his voice. Luckily he couldn’t hear Rossi’s muffled cries of pain as his body reluctantly let go of Prentiss’ blood. She was down there now, curled around him, using her cool body to ease his fever. The only thing that mattered to Morgan (and to Hotchner too, he was no fool) was that they wanted each other there. That despite Prentiss’ fears, Rossi had asked for her as soon as he woke. He mentally shook his head. That was for them to sort out; it wasn’t any of his business.
“We’ll meet you back at Quantico tomorrow.”
“See you then.”
When the dawn sent Emily back inside, Dave started to cry out in his sleep. His heart raced and his breath burned in his lungs; the after-effects of vampire blood still with him, the blankets shredded in his grip. Dave was usually strong, but not that strong. Emily curled around him, her cool flesh easing his fever, her strength curtailing his frantic, unconscious outbursts.
Unlike Gabriel, Dave’s brush with vampiric abilities would last hours, not days. His should-have-been mortal wounds had used up most of Emily’s blood in his system. The only problem was… Only problem…
Emily clung to him, not known what she was going to see when he opened his eyes. She feared seeing the kind of desperate, longing hunger she’d seen in Gabriel. Karl hadn’t been able to stand the thought of losing his son, nor to see him in pain. What had started out as lifesaving was going to end up as gruesome death for both.
Could she do as Karl had done last night, and bravely face the consequences? Could she step into the light? Could she have the courage to do it now, before she turned Dave into a monster?
She breathed harshly into Dave’s shoulder. Gabriel had been a young man, impetuous, rash, and undisciplined. Marie had done this before, and had it worked… But at the loss of her son’s respect. She and Laurent hadn’t spoken since, but he’d survived and lived normally. Laurent had been strong. Dave was surely stronger.
Emily could hear Dave’s heart slowing as the last of her blood worked itself out of his system. She, too, was strong. Strong enough to choose this life. Weak enough to fail its necessities and grab for life beyond her own years. If her fears came true, she would have a long time to live with them. A very long time.
Dave was bruised-looking, pale, and basically looked and probably felt like he’d been dragged through hell face-down. Emily didn’t care. She maintained her position, not minding the sad excuse for a bed. Marie had come in with blood for her three times during his ordeal; Emily had sucked it down indifferently, her attention focused on Dave. When he stirred sometime around noon, she was there for him.
Dave stirred and opened his eyes. Relief was there, and confusion. He caught sight of her. Smiled right at her. Her heart swelled to burst in her chest, and she kissed him, feeling his living heat in her mouth.
“Ow,” he said. Dave brought a hand up to rub at his head, and then easily slid it over to tangle in Emily’s hair. “Hey. Thank you.”
Emily let out a breath of relief she hadn’t known she’d been holding. “You almost…” She slid her hand down to where the bullet had hit him, feeling the clean, shiny scar under her fingers.
“Still me, last time I checked,” Dave said lightly.
“I know.” Her hand roamed, wanting to feel that he was still there, still real and warm under her touch.
“Emily, I’m all right.”
“You look like hell,” she said tartly.
“The last few hours have been kind of intense, but I’ve been on worse benders.”
Emily snorted. “My ass.”
“I don’t know what was worse,” he continued as if she hadn’t interrupted. “Either my second wedding reception, my first bachelor party, or my third divorce pity party.”
“Which one involved tequila?”
“Then that one.”
Dave chuckled weakly and laid back down, his hand trailing down her ribs. When his fingers found the holes in her shirt where the ghoul had shot her, he stopped.
“Marie said you took a half-dozen bullets for me.”
Emily wondered when he’d learned that. She must have passed out at some point during the long morning.
“I was going to kill Witherspoon for touching you,” Emily said flatly.
“What stopped you?”
Dave swallowed hard.
“And you. You were still alive,” Emily added.
“Christ, Emily, I’m sorry.”
“For getting shot?”
“Dave, why did Marie have your blood?” she asked, touching the inside of her elbow, where the IV needle had been.
“Something she said to me. She called me once, after she’d read my books. She said you’d get very protective and a little crazy if I ever went down. I wanted to give us both a chance that I wouldn’t. I figured if you trusted her, I could too.”
She pulled him up with irresistible strength and held him close, drinking in his living warmth, his breath, his scent, everything that told her he was alive. “I thought I lost you.”
Dave put a hand on the back of her head, and kissed her on the cheek. She moved to meet him, restrained and wishing she didn’t have to be.
“Go ahead,” he said gently, reaching up to brush her lips with his fingers. “You need to.”
She didn’t pull away, but she knew Dave could feel her tense under his hands. “You just got shot. You must have replaced four pints of blood and I just bled into you to save your life.”
“Hey, I know what I’m doing. I feel better after you feed.”
“I’ve been your Source for four years, Emily. I’ll be fine.”
“I want you to.” The last was said with soft, urgent conviction, and Emily felt her protests evaporate. Her bite was soft, her draining infinitely slow.
Dave thought he’d never felt anything that good before.
“Emily, Dave,” Marie’s voice twined into Emily’s half-doze, forcing her awake again. “It is time.”
Emily opened her eyes slowly, smelling fresh slaughterhouse blood. A mug next to her still steamed, and she sucked it down to quench the ache in her belly.
“You’re up.” Next to her, Dave was lounging on a chair, dressed, clean, looking like nothing at all had happened in the past twelve hours.
He could see her guilty expression and stopped her before she started. “Hey, you did the only thing you could, for both of us.” He put gentle pressure on her chin, and she lifted herself up to kiss him. “I knew what I was doing when I left my blood here. If you think anyone on our team is going to say anything, then you don’t know us at all. And you’re a better profiler than that.”
“If anything had gone wrong…” Emily trailed off.
“You would have stopped me before anything did,” Dave said confidently. “I love you, nothing else matters.”
“Karl Witherspoon loved his son.”
“But he didn’t respect him enough to let him go when he should have. We’ve seen that kind of behavior before.”
Emily nodded; she could name a dozen cases where overprotective parents had contributed to their child’s downfall. This was different. She looked over at Marie, who smiled at her knowingly. She’d been right all along. Dave was all right. Dave loved her. She touched him, smiling, and leaned up to pull him into a hard a hug as he could stand.
“I’ll love you for the rest of my life,” she said into his warmth.
He gripped her dark hair as she pulled back, a kind of crazy calm suffusing her. It would be all right. She could weather this, she could love here and now and not force herself to be miserable right now just because she might be unhappy twenty or thirty years into the future.
“I’ll call Hotch. I need to let him know we’ll be coming home together,” Dave said.
She slid her hand into his, feeling the thin bracelet locked around his wrist, and smiled.