zamboni12 (zamboni12) wrote in criminalxminds,
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zamboni12
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Take all the hours of pain and replace it with something better - After "Lauren" - story

Title: Take all the hours of pain and replace it with something better
Rating: FRC/G - Angst
Pairing/Characters: Dave/Emily - Elisabeth Prentiss
Disclaimer: I don’t own anything or anyone associated to Criminal Minds; I just let the characters dance a different dance than on the show.
Summary: Emily found a hideaway but her guilt bothered her. Spoilers for 6x18, "Lauren"
Author's Note: This story only sees the light of the day because of the tireless support and cheering up by the amazing, wonderful microgirl8225 ! She´s a treasure! She did her best to make this readable. Blame me for all odd mistakes.





Take all the hours of pain and replace it with something better


Oh damn! She hated staying here so much. Emily let out a deep sigh through her nose, pacing the little room. Way down in the boonies of Italy, her inner voice ranted doggedly.

The small cottage got on her nerves; there wasn’t much space and the ceilings were so damn low. Irritated, she closed her eyes.

Usually, she loved Italy. She loved the delicious, varied food and the pure wine; the smell of lemons and several herbs all around. She loved the silvery shimmer of the olive trees in the sunlight and the warm wind on her skin.
And yes…even the man she loved was of Italian blood.

She and Dave had only been on one real date, and shared a few passionate good-night kisses, gradually getting closer. But she hadn’t called it a relationship yet. All she knew though, she was in love with him and she was sure he felt the same too.

But now she had lost the relationship before it actually had begun. She had pushed him away without any explanation, had left him without saying goodbye. Of course, she had done it with good cause, but when she thought about Dave and the others grieving about her death, her heart saddened.

She´d ran away to protect them. Because of her past, they all had been in danger. Because of her.
At that point in time she was firmly convinced she did the right thing. Ian Doyle was a dangerous man, without remorse, and he would have killed everybody who was standing in his way to his main target. Everybody.

*******************************************************************************************************

Emily looked around the little room. Under normal circumstance she would´ve said the cottage was cozy, even homey. Whitewashed walls stood in contrast to the dark brown wooden bolts on the ceiling. The terracotta tiles with matching yellow drapes bathed the house in a warm atmosphere. The furniture was typical Tuscan style, made of nutwood, elaborately decorated. The bedroom was furnished with a vintage rootwood four-poster bed. All fancy, all original, nothing exactly uncomfortable to it.

Still, the last few weeks she felt increasingly cramped in here. More and more she was fed up with the situation. She was almost herself again, physically at least. She was nearly a hundred percent, having gained weight back, although Garcia would probably have said she was skinny as a rail. Emily smiled; even her mental state was getting better.

The stigma Ian Doyle had burnt into her chest, a four leafed clover, had been removed with plastic surgery. It had almost faded completely, leaving just a small scar. Subconsciously, Emily touched the little red line just above her left breast. It felt cool and raw underneath her fingertips. She sighed.
Emily looked through the French doors into the garden, casting back her thoughts to the events almost a year ago.

After Doyle has stabbed her with the wooden splint, her life had hung by a thread. Her left kidney and a bigger part of her stomach were grievously injured and she owed her life only to the surpassing skills of the surgical team. Still owning her left kidney was a wonder itself.

For a long time she had been a convalescent patient. When she´d gotten her papers and money from JJ, Emily immediately had gone to the exclusive sanatorium near Paris, which the people of Interpol had prepared for her. For the next eight months she´d gone through rehab, two more surgeries, a plethora of tests on her physical and mental stability.

Her recovery went well and her apparent injuries healed quickly. Now only the solitude and the guilt she felt became her daily struggle.

How could she live with her guilt? How can she go on like nothing had happened?

She had hurt the people she cared for, the only people who had accepted her more than anyone. They were her family and she´d betrayed them. It was a nagging pain that drove her out of her mind.

More than once, she had been on the verge of liaising with her only direct connection to Interpol to help her contact JJ. She wanted them all to know she was alive, but more than once she´d rejected the plan, telling herself that it was safer for them to believe she was dead and live their life without her. Although, this thought was extremely painful, tearing her up inside.

A few weeks after she came to Paris she had started to write a diary. All the thoughts, doubts, fears and rage she felt she put down into this special book trying to cope with her conflicting feelings, to relieve the strain. Probably, no one would ever read it, but over time it became a more healing exercise than even psychotherapy could have done to her.

*******************************************************************************************************

Then things had changed dramatically. A few months ago, two Interpol Agents had contacted her in her little flat in Paris, where she finally started living on her own.
They had told her that Ian Doyle was dead. He had been shot during a gun fight at the JFK Airport in New York, where he was about to board a private Learjet.

“Does that mean it´s all over?” She shook her head in disbelief glancing back and forth between the two men.

“Not quite,” One of them said. “We are still searching for some of his backers. But to answer your next question, there is no direct danger for you anymore. You´re out of the witness program, Ms Prentiss.” The blonde Agent had said that as if he had talked about the dandy weather.

“You´re free to go back to work.” The other agent had told her, his mirth a bit too contrived.
After they had given her some relevant instructions, her real papers and some money, they had disappeared as sudden as they had came.

At first, Emily had felt empty inside, not able to think straight for a while. Then her stomach had convulsed and she had to thrown up a few times. All the emotional pressure, all the inner tension and fear was gone in a moment. But when realization kicked in,when she thought of her next steps, she tensed up again. She had to face the team again. Some day or the other.

At this time, her mom, the Ambassador Elisabeth Prentiss intervened, insisting on bringing her to Italy. The Ambassador had used all of her connections she had at her disposal to find Emily and get the authorization to bring her daughter closer to her present post, near Rome.

Emily remembered the conversation she had on the phone with her mom just like yesterday.

“Hi, Emily, it´s your Mom.” Elisabeth Prentiss sounded so unaffected like they had last talked the day before.

"Mom! How do you know where I am? I´m in the witness protection program; no one actually knows where I am." Her voice held so much disbelief.

"You aren´t in the program anymore. Emily, hon, don´t underestimate my connections. I knew about your discharge from the witness program. So, I started to pull some certain strings, talked to Agent Strauss and Ms. Jennifer Jareau and after some moving and insistent words I obtained the permission to get you to Italy.”

“You did what?” There was a little edge to Emily´s voice caused by the ambivalent emotions struggling inside her.

The bossiness of the Ambassador, her mom´s patronizing and dominating behavior annoyed Emily, but on the other hand she was touched by the energy and determination her mom had shown to find her and take her under her wings.

“Honey, please, don´t be stubborn. I´d like to have you close to me. You´ve been gone from everyone for more than ten months and now that I’ve found you, I want to take care of you. No one needs to know where you are.” With her last words she probably referred to the team but Emily was too worn out to ask. Furthermore, her mother was quite unequivocal about it, and obviously didn´t tolerate any protest.

After a few more back and forth words between mother and daughter, Emily eventually had given in. Her heart was heavy with desire for her family and Dave, but to contact them right now was no option. Emily wasn´t poised to meet them yet. At least she had her mom.

Nevertheless, Emily demanded on staying in the little cottage at the Lago di Bracciano her mom owned, which was close to her mom’s Villa Calabrese, near Rome.
In the current situation, it might be good to be close to her mom but not too close. From experience she knew, that the longer they were in each others company, trouble was inevitable.

"All right, Mom. If everything is prepared and it seems like you don´t leave anything to the chance, I´ll come to Italy.” Emily let out a deep breath.

That´s how she ended up down here in this cottage.

She and her mother saw each other as often as possible and to Emily´s astonishment, she enjoyed the time with her. Her mother never forced her to do anything about the team or about her work and only carefully asked her about things that happened.

Nonetheless, Emily missed the team more and more with each passing day. Her family, who all had risked their lives for her, and she hadn´t thanked them properly.

But first and foremost she missed Dave. It tugged at her heartstrings not to be with him, to tell him everything would be alright, to feel his hands in hers, to hear his warm voice. She needed him beside her so badly. The urge for a second encounter increased with every day that passed by.

***********************************************************************************

She went out in the garden to take a deep breath holding her face into the sun, savoring the warm wind on her skin and in her hair. She closed her eyes.

The chirping sound of crickets looking for their mates filled the air. From a neighboring house, she could hear the muffled sound of some farming machine. Otherwise everything was quiet in the midday sun. She let her eyes wander across the garden and around the house when she peripherally realized a faint figure coming up the dirt path. Putting her flat hand on her forehead, shielding her eyes from the sun, but still she couldn´t even say if was a man or a woman coming toward the house.

Without rushing she turned and went back into the cottage, locking the door carefully. She leaned against the wall, closing her eyes for a moment. Her heart pounded with fear.

“Oh no, not again,” she whispered to herself. Then she pushed away from the wall and with all strength she could gather, she turned into the well trained special agent she’d been before. There were things she never could forget; she acted purely on instinct.

She went over to the end table, where she kept her gun in the drawer. She had hoped she wouldn´t ever use it again, but she turned off the safety function, one bullet in the barrel. Then she closed the yellow curtains.

She positioned herself between the door and the window where she couldn´t be seen from the outside, taking a deep breath, waiting. Her upper lip was covered with sweat and her heart still throbbed, but oddly enough she felt slightly calm and collected. If this was one of Doyle’s men, she knew this was her last fight. And his. One way or another.

Minutes passed by. In her minds eye, Emily made a rough estimate how long the unknown visitor needed to reach to the house.

She listened hard for any sound beyond the door. Her head began to ache from listening so hard.

Then she heard some steps on the gravel in front of the door.

Silence.

Then a knock on the door.

“Emily?” Her knees turned to jelly.

“Emily, are you there? It´s me, Dave.”

Tears filled her eyes. “Dave,” she whispered. “Oh my God, Dave.”

Emily lowered her gun and very carefully looked through the little peephole. Dave. It was really Dave.

Throwing open the door, Emily stared at him in wonder.

“What...how...?” She shook her head to try to gather her thoughts. She closed her eyes only to open them again to make sure he was really there.

“What are you doing here? How did you find me?” The questions just sputtered from her mouth.

“Emily,” was all Dave answered. He just stood there, covered in dust, sweat stains all over his dark blue shirt. His hair was tousled and dark stubble vanished into his usually well trimmed goatee.

Oblivious to his appearance, she rushed over and hugged him as hard as she could, mumbling his name over and over, unable to think straight.

“Don´t underestimate your family,” Dave finally said, his voice hoarse and slightly shaky.

“A very talented and tirelessly working technical analyst, for example, didn´t stop looking for Ian Doyle the moment we learned of your death. The whole team never stopped looking.” He paused, his look severe.

“Oh damn.” Emily´s eyes turned red and wet. She loosened herself from him, feeling awkward and to avoid looking him in the eyes, she went back into the house. Dave followed her inside.

She started kneading her hands together, averting her gaze at the ground.

“I’m so sorry, Dave. I’m so, so sorry,” she whispered over and over again not knowing what else to say. Emily wiped at her eyes, gazing somewhere down the room so she wouldn’t have to see his reaction.

“I didn’t mean to lie to you. I wanted to protect you.” An awkward silence followed.

“Doyle is dead. We were…there for it.” Dave said bluntly. Emily blinked now, finally looking at him. She didn´t answer, just waited for him to tell her what had happened.

“We ambushed him when he tried to buy new weapons from an Irish middle man in New York. He was also trying to recruit more soldiers for his army. With the help of Clyde Easter, we were able to track his next moves. Doyle was so focused on regaining his power and finding his son, he lost his vigilance. That was his end.” Dave´s words came out hard and without any emotion. Always the profiler. “And last week we arrested three of Doyle´s men. The war is over.” His face was rigid, lips compressed.

“That’s why you’re here? To tell me that?” Emily asked when his words sank in. There was a strained tone to her voice.

Silence passed before he answered, even the crickets seemed to take a break.

“No.”

“No?” she was nonplussed.

“No.” Dave shook his head ever so slightly.

“I’m here to take you home, Emily.” His voice was soft but unshaken.

“But I can´t.” Her eyes filled with tears again. “I betrayed the team. I endangered you all. I wasn´t honest. They... you...will hate me.” Her hands covered her face; she didn’t want him to see the intense pain she felt. She so desperately had craved this moment but now, she seemed unable to stand the situation at all. Was she really not ready to see him, yet?

She started to cry in earnest, turning into a puddle of tears. “Oh god, I missed you so much,” she blurted out, her shoulders slumping forward as her whole body convulsed with sobs.

“Emily, don´t.” Dave murmured, taking her in his arms again. For a few minutes, they just stood there in the still dimmed room. Emily felt the soothing caresses of Dave stroking her hair as he made soft, calming sounds.

When she finally calmed, she lifted her head to look at him, but still staying in his embrace. Surprisingly, his eyes were filled with tears too, but he had a smile on his face.

“Don´t you hate me? Don´t they hate me?” Her face was red and wet with tears.

“We missed you too. I missed you.” Brushing her hair over her ear, he took her face in his hands. “So, so much, Emily.” His fingers touched her skin so softly, so intensely that it caused her to start sobbing again.

“Sssshhhhh. Everything will be alright.” Then he embraced her again, holding her in his arms for a long time.

“I don´t hate you,” he told her as his lips brushed against her ear. “You´ve been in such an extreme situation. Your decisions were made under stressful conditions.” He swallowed. “I´m sure I couldn´t have made such hard decisions and I hope, I´ll never have to.” Emily pulled away from him.

“Didn´t it bother you that I slept with Ian Doyle?” She was still trembling when she said it, but her eyes hardened and an edge came to her voice. She made the kind of sad smile when she felt stupid and used.

Dave returned the look putting his hands gingerly on her shoulders.
“You did what you thought you needed to do. You saved several lives and you had kind of...kind of...control over Ian Doyle, which probably was the logical way to do it.” With a deep sigh, he continued, “Emily you saved so many people.” Softly, he caressed her cheek. Then he opened his hands and made a dismissive gesture.

“That is ancient history.” The lines in his forehead deep, his lips twitching slightly.
“Everything that has always counted for me now is the present...” he hesitated as if gauging his next words. “...and sometimes the future.” His voice had gone soft while speaking the last words.

Emily looked at him as if he had spoken in Esperanto, but then she made a tired little laugh. There were still a lot of things eating away at her, there was still a lot they needed to talk about. Unshed tears to cry and a lot explanations and apologies to make. But all of this could wait. All she wanted right now was to go back home, back to her family.

Between smiling and crying, she took Dave’s hands and squeezed them.

“Dave.” She leaned against his chest. “Dave, please bring me home,” she said breathlessly, the tears starting again.

He gave her a soft, soothing kiss on her forehead, lifting up her face to him.

“I will, Emily.” His voice was sincere and emphatic. “And I´ll never ever let you go again.”
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