Between Birth and Death Part 1
Word count: 1, 004
Summary: Takes place towards the end of season 6, and it navigates how Emily recovered physically and mentally, from Doyle’s attack.
A/N: I was so nervous about posting this because it’s so different from everything I’ve ever written. I’m not sure how many parts there will be, but I do have a clear outline of where I want to take this story.
Warnings: Talks of death and dying
Ernest Hemingway once said that “dying is a very simple thing. I’ve looked at death, and really I know. If I should have died it would have been very easy for me. Quite the easiest thing I ever did.”
Some people think dying is difficult, but you knew better, you knew how easy, it was. Dying is sort of like being born in reverse, as you die, your senses start fading out, one by one. First it was your sight, the world gradually got fuzzy, blurry, to the point where you couldn’t make out the features of the man leaning over you, begging you to hold on. And then there was the searing pain in your torso, slowly fading away until it was nothing but a dull throb. By this time your mind is starting to fog, but you still have a semblance of understanding what exactly is happening. You’re dying, your body is shutting down.
For a while you tried to fight. Repeating a mantra in your head. Keep your eyes open, Emily. Keep breathing, Emily. Don’t die, Emily. But you were so tired and so cold. What’s the harm in just resting your eyes? Just for a moment, but that moment pulled you into eternal darkness.
Luckily for you, you wake up. You don’t know how long you’ve been out and you’re terrified, but you can hear, you can hear the familiar whirring and beeping of hospital machines signaling that you’re alive. You’re alive. You relish in that fact, you relish in the pain, and there is so much pain. Your body feels as though you’ve been sawed in half, your face is on fire, and it feels like you’ve pulled every muscle in your body, but you’re alive.
When you open your eyes, you almost weep from joy, because you can see the fluorescent, hospital lights, and sure your vision takes a little adjusting, but you can see light again. Of course you don’t have time to focus on the lights when you hear someone’s footsteps walking towards you. Your body automatically freeze’s, your pulse quickens, and you inhale a little softer, a little deeper. As you inhale you immediately recognize that scent, jasmine and vanilla, and you can’t help the lone tear that slowly slides down your cheek, the saltiness stinging the laceration on your face. You never expected to smell that sweet, overbearing scent again, you never expected to see her again, but here she is.
You want to scream, tell her how sorry you are, tell all of them how sorry you are, but there’s a tube lodged in your throat, so you struggle to lift your hand, reaching out to her. She grabs it, gently, running her fingers over you knuckles, before interlacing her fingers with yours. “Emily…” You can tell that she’s been crying, her voice is raw and shaky, her eyes are red, swollen with shed tears. You want to tell her that it’s okay, that you’re fine, you survived, and that everythings okay now, but by the look on her face you can tell that somethings wrong, and you’re immediately filled with dread.
You, Emily Lauren Prentiss, born October 12th, 1975, are legally dead. Even though Hotch and JJ have just explained it to you, you still can’t seem to grasp the reality of it, but it’s really quite simple, and it’s totally reasonable, but whenever you think about it, you can’t help but to go back to that place. That dark place that leaves a cold, chill in your bones, that makes you chest heave as you struggle to take in air.
Suddenly your hospital bed feels too small, and the walls are closing in on you. You don’t even notice that you’re having a panic attack, until Hotch orders JJ to find a nurse while he coaches you through a breathing exercise. In..1…2..3…4…5, out 6..7…8..9…10. By the time the nurse arrives, you’ve calmed down, but you can feel that darkness looming behind you, just waiting for the next chance to swallow you whole.
Because of your elevated heart rate, the nurse decides visiting time is over. JJ and Hotch briefly say their goodbyes, and as soon as they’re gone, you feel that darkness looming over you. They’re your only tie to the real world, the only thing that reminds you that you’re alive, that you survived, that you won. Luckily for you, the nurse has given you a sedative, and before you know it you’re drifting off into a serene sleep.
When you dream, you don’t dream of darkness. You dream of a hill and a girl. She’s young, six or maybe seven, and she’s on top of the hill. She has flowing dark hair, and a pure smile, a smile full of light. She’s dancing in the sun, you want to stay there forever, just to watch her dance, but you feel drawn to her, like she’s waiting, beckoning you to come towards her. So you walk towards her, your lips turning up into a smile, the sun warm on your face. As you walk the hill gets steeper and steeper, and when you reach the top, the little girl is gone, and so is the sun, and so is the light. You search everywhere, calling for her, but you know the darkness has swallowed her whole.
When you wake, you wake with a start, air rushing into your lungs quickly causing you to wheeze. The tube clogging your airways makes it impossible for you to catch your breath. Luckily for you, your nurse was just making her rounds. She lays you flat on your back, coaxing you into a stable breathing cycle. When you’ve calmed down, she looks at you with a smile, and it reminds of that little girl in your dreams, which reminds you of Penelope. A beacon of light in this cruel, cruel world. When you see her, if you see her again, you vow to tell her exactly what she is to you.
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The Emily Prentiss I know? She wouldn’t have taken the news of her ‘death’ very well at all.
All angst, no play.
Emily Prentiss, Aaron Hotchner, Jennifer Jareau. Others mentioned.
She felt it, the wood. Felt it shift flesh and blood and bone, felt it force its way through her abdomen, felt it splinter her spine. It ripped into her, foreign and strange and wrong.
I'm dead. I lost and I'm dead.
"Emily, tell me where he is."
She could only shake her head, could only breathe one word.
Gunshots. From far away. Retreating footsteps, Ian running and then-
"I got her. I got her. Basement on the south side, I need a medic." He was holding her then, warm. So warm. It was only then that she realised how cold it was. "I'm here. Stay with me, baby, stay with me."
Morgan, it hurts.
"Let me go."
But he wouldn't. Even as she was slipping into darkness, she could hear his voice. Declan. He knew. They knew. They would keep him safe. Good.
"I'm so proud of you."
She tried to smile, she really did.
"No, Emily, come on, stay with me."
She tried to squeeze his hand. But there was just so much pain.
Blackness. And a voice.
"Get her into the ambulance!"
He didn't sound like Hotch, though. Hotch's voice never shook like that.
"Emily? My god, Em-Let me go, Morgan! I need to see her!"
JJ. JJ? JJ!
Of course. A small, soft hand, clinging tightly to her own. Warmth. Tears on her face.
"Don't do this, Emily."
Spencer. Don't cry. Please.
"Kid, come here,"
Rossi. Take care of him.
She wanted to open her eyes, see them. But the blackness was all consuming, and the pain was choking her and her throat was hot and thick, and she couldn't breathe.
An unfamiliar voice.
"She's bleeding out."
A needle in her arm. The pain subsiding. Sleep.
Cold. Lonely. Blackness. So much quiet. Quiet so loud it hurt her ears. Nothing. For a long time, nothing. Nothing that stretched out forever, for as long as she could see, as far as she could reach. Dense and thin, all at once. All consuming and desperately empty. If she could have cried, she would. But the nothingness wouldn't let her.
Pain. Sweet, aching pain. How nice to feel something again. Too much pain. It's burning. Stop.
Somewhere, vaguely, the ticking of a clock. The awareness of time passing her by. Emily couldn't make herself care. She didn't want to wake up just yet. Eyelids and limbs heavy, a burning in her side, something holding her tightly. The softness beneath her was of little comfort. She was moving, quickly. It was loud and cold, again. Something whipped across her face, sharp and thick and wet. Hair. Bloody hair. Her own. Oh. Darkness. And, this time, the nothingness was warm and comforting. Like falling asleep.
"She's not going to like it. Or you."
JJ. Slowly, Emily knew she was waking up. Her head was full and buzzing and murky, and when she tried to open her eyes, the light hurt, but she was waking up.
"We've been through this. She doesn't have to like it." Hotch. They were here. She was alive. "She just has to be alive. And if she hates me, at least she's alive to do it."
Who were they talking about? She tried to speak, found her tongue pressed against something round and plastic and gagged, choking as she became aware of the tube in her throat. The smack of a button, an alarm. Someone grabbed her hand and squeezed. Morgan had squeezed. Squeeze my hand. Stay with me. So, she squeezed. Nails grazed her skin. JJ. She squeezed harder.
"Okay, Emily," An unfamiliar voice, but a soft one. She tried to open her eyes again, blinked against the light. A nurse, leaning over her, "Try to relax."
The tube moved, Emily gagged. Nothing came up, nothing but bile that burned, and water. Then she could breathe again. She tried to speak, but found her throat dry and scratched and sore.
"Can she drink water?" Hotch asked the nurse. Emily missed the nod, but moments later, there was a glass pressed to her cracked lips. The water was too cold and it stung, but suddenly Emily felt she had never been so thirsty in her life.
"Take it easy," The nurse said, gently, "You'll do more harm than good, that way. Take it slow." And the glass was gone. Emily wanted to curse her out, but instead, she settled for a glare.
Once the nurse was gone, she turned her attention to herself.
A cage. Or, at least, that's what it looked like. Stiff straps that would around her torso, from her throat, to her abdomen.
"It's a brace," JJ offered, though she needn't have. "You-he...your spine was broken. There were other things but..." JJ's voice trailed off. Emily was barely listening, as she stared down at her own broken body.
"But the spine was the worst of it. You've been here about a week." Hotch continued on from where the blonde had left of. He was standing at the end of her bed. His usual suit had been replaced with jeans and a t-shirt and, for the briefest moment, that seemed like the strangest part of this whole situation. Emily still wasn't listening. She was focusing, staring, at the shape of her toes beneath the thin hospital sheet. Holding her breath. Willing.
When they moved, she let her breath go in a rush of relief that shook in her sore throat. JJ's thumb moved, stroked the back of her hand. They were both quiet.
The glance that passed between them was enough and Emily closed her eyes against the anger she knew would show there. Closed her heart against the second rush of relief that had nothing to do with her mobility. She willed it away, cursed herself for it. Again, that quiet.
"There's-" She hesitated.
"Declan." Hotch filled in for her. She caught his eye and he nodded, gravely. "It's being dealt with. He's fine."
Tearing her dark eyes away from Hotch's, she sought JJ's. The blonde didn't meet her eyes, instead focusing on the point in space and time where their hands were connected, where Emily's pulse was beating against her thumb. Tears sprung to JJ's eyes, not for the first time, when she thought of what could have happened. Emily felt the warmth as tears fell onto her hand.
"Then what-" She was getting angry now, and as her breath came faster, it grew shallower. She groaned, impatient with her own weakness, and pain surged across her abdomen. Cringing away from it only made it worse and her face contorted with the agony of it. Ripping her hand out of JJ's grip, she pressed it to her side, felt thick layers of bandages there. Beneath all of that paper and tissue, she knew, there was something ugly. Ugly and angry and permanent. A scar to go with all the rest.
"There's something your not telling me."
Again, that look passed between them. She hated it. The two people in the world she was closest to, keeping a secret from her. Something like betrayal, and something even more vile, jealousy, burst in her chest.
"What aren't you telling me?" She demanded, breathing heavily through her nose now as the effort of her anger made her exhausted heart work hard in her chest.
"Em, calm down," JJ said, softly, from beside her. Small, soft hands reached for her own but Emily pulled it away, fixing the blonde with a stare. Again, JJ looked away. But, this time, she looked at Hotch.
"Ask him." There was bitterness on her tongue that Emily wasn't used to. It sounded wrong, coming from JJ's lips. The blonde agent stood up, moving to the window. Emily followed her with her eyes and, realised, for the first time, that the skyline was not one she recognised. Frowning made her head hurt, so Emily tried not to, but she turned tired, brown eyes onto her boss, nonetheless.
"Hotch?" She asked, too tired to be angry. "Can you pass me my water?"
He walked slowly around the bed, sat by her side and lifted the glass to her lips. All of his hard edges were still there, beneath a worried and exhausted surface. Up close, she could see the heavy, dark circles beneath his eyes and the way blood shot across the whites of his dark eyes. His face was drawn, his lips almost as dry and cracked as her own. She sipped her water, then set her head back and caught his eyes.
"You're not eating," She stated. He ignored the comment. It didn't matter, she knew she was right. "Just tell me, Hotch."
She could see the struggle, and couldn't imagine what could be so terrible. If not Declan, then-?
Panic flared in her chest. "Who is it?" She asked, tersely, "Spence? Morgan? Not Penelope.. I can take it, Hotch. Is it Rossi? Just tell me, please-"
"It's you, Emily." Hotch's voice caught in a way Emily had never heard before. His eyes closed, against emotions he didn't want to express. Bringing his hands up, he clutched at the bridge of his nose, frowning. Emily could see the stress in the tension of his temples, the prominent veins on his hand.
Frowning, Emily glanced from one to the other. JJ was looking at her now, fresh tear tracks on her pretty face, and for the first time, Emily saw dark circles on her face. She was bare of make-up, and looked as though she hadn't washed her hair in days, let alone showered. Hotch, however more put together he looked, seemed unable to look at her. But he didn't move. He sat there, beside her, as confusion overwhelmed her.
"Your funeral is tomorrow," JJ told her, flatly, "We're the only ones who knew. The team-they think you flat-lined on the table."
"I did." Emily replied, softly, though she couldn't explain how she knew that. She missed the curious looks from both of them as the reality of what JJ had said settled over her, like a weight, pressing her back down into that blackness. She suddenly felt very tired again. If she could have rolled and turned her back on both of them, she would have.
Instead, she closed her eyes, tears leaking out of the corners. They tried to speak to her, but she couldn't. This hurt more than anything that had come before. She was in mourning, needed time to grieve, just as they did, for whoever Emily Prentiss had been.
I didn't even get to say goodbye.
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