"He had a gun," Morgan said, standing beside her and looking both angry and confused at her reaction.
"So did I but there was a reason I hadn't shot him!"
"He was going to kill you!" Morgan said.
"He was going to turn himself in!"
"Why the hell are you defending him? I just saved your life!"
"It wasn't a justified shot, Morgan, you could lose your job!"
"Are you serious?" he yelled, as the faint sound of sirens began to fill the cold air. "It was a clean shot!"
"The gun wasn't even real, he showed it to me!" she said, her temper rising too, more out of worry for the consequences of Morgan's recklessness. Morgan looked down at the fake Beretta which was still lying on the ground beside Jacob. As they watched, the pool of blood leaking from the holes in Jacob's head crept further across the sand. Morgan gave short, disbelieving laugh and looked at Emily with more anger and distrust than she had ever seen. Instead of yelling anymore, his voice became quite quiet.
"Did he also show you the 9 millimetre revolver he was hiding?"
"The… what?" Emily said, looking back down at Jacob's body. Following Morgan's gaze, she saw another smaller gun half concealed under the truck where it had fallen from Jacob's grasp. She stooped down to pick it up clicked open the barrel. Six tarnished gold bullets stared back at her.
"That would be the 9 millimetre revolver he was pointing at the back of your head when I arrived," Morgan said, his voice barely more than a growl. "So yeah, it was a justified shot. And yeah, I just saved your damn life." An SUV and three cop cars skidded to a halt beside them just then, sirens blaring. Emily didn't know what to say. Jacob had been playing her the entire time and she had fallen for it.
"He was going to kill me," she whispered, looking from the bullets to Jacob and back again.
"Yeah," Morgan said. He turned and began to walk away from her to talk to Rossi and Reid who had just climbed out of the SUV.
"Morgan," she started.
"Forget it," he said shortly.
"Morgan, please, I didn't know!"
"But you assumed the worst! You assumed that I was the one in the wrong and not the damn murderer standing behind you."
"I thought he was going to come quietly."
"You should have trusted me."
"I did," she said, feeling desperate now. "I do. I would trust you with my life!"
"Just forget it," he said again and strode away from her. She had believed Jacob Fox, a cold-blooded murderer over her own friend. She had so arrogantly believed that she had managed to talk Jacob down, that she had made him see the error of his ways, when really he had been playing her for a fool the entire time. What else had he lied about?
"Is JJ okay?" she asked, hurrying over to Rossi and Reid.
"We don't know yet," Reid.
"Are you okay?" asked Rossi.
No, she thought. I have possibly just made the biggest error in judgement of my career, I was nearly shot in the head by an Unsub that I was tricked in to pitying, and I might have just destroyed my relationship with one of the most important people in my life.
"I'm fine," she said, glancing over to Morgan who was already a little way in the distance, barely visible in the dark, getting back in to his own SUV. "Can you get these damn things off me?" She held up her handcuffed wrists and let Rossi free her.
"Hey," Rossi said, tugging her arm to make her look at him and she reluctantly met his gaze. "He'll come around."
"I don't know if he will," she said. "I've really messed up." Rossi just pulled her in to a hug. She could feel his heart hammering in his chest and realised how worried he must have been for her. It wasn't until she felt safe that she realised how scared she was and how close to death she had been for the second time in only a few days. And although she appreciated the comfort of her friend, she couldn't help wishing it was Derek's arms around her.
Hotch stumbled out of the SUV and looked around Jacob Fox's front yard. The house appeared deserted, in fact the entire street did. He had pulled his arm from its sling in frustration as he drove and it was beginning to ache as the pain meds wore off, but that was the least of his concerns. He grabbed his gun from his waistband and began to creep across the uneven gravel.
"JJ?" He inched forward, gun raised, avoiding the broken bottles and furniture that covered the ground. He made is way round to the other side of the house, with his back to the wall, constantly looking for any signs of JJ when he came across the remnants of a wooden hatch that led down to the basement, splintered across the ground and covered in blood. Whose blood? He looked down in to the dim stairway that disappeared into darkness, wondering if JJ was down there. Injured. Or dead. His head began to pound and he could feel the blood pulsing in his wrists and his hands tingled as he struggled to contain his panic. Just then, there was a noise from the back yard, like the sound of a footstep on gravel.
He pressed himself against the wall again, inching towards the corner of the house. There was absolute silence now, so quiet that his own racing pulse was deafening. He paused for a second, listening intently for another noise. There was someone there, possibly just a few feet away from him, waiting to attack him... He whipped around the corner to find a figure standing directly in front of him, their gun raised at chest height, pointing straight at his heart.
"JJ!" he dropped his gun almost immediately and pulled her tightly in to his arms. "Are you okay?"
"Are you bleeding?" he asked.
"Just my arm," she said. "He locked me in the basement. I didn't know if anyone would be coming for me so I broke the hatch open but I caught my arm on a piece of wood."
"Did Jacob hurt you?"
"Not really. He just used me to get Emily in to his car. Do you know where she is? What’s happened to her?”
“Morgan’s gone after her, and Rossi and Reid won’t be far behind. They’ll find her,” he said. Now that his blind panic had subsided, he tried to contain the mess of emotions that were running through his mind. Relief, anger, happiness, guilt, a burning desire for revenge, but as usual, none of them showed on his face. He could feel the blood from JJ's arm soaking in to the back of his shirt, but he felt different, warmer blood on his side. When he looked down he saw that his white t-shirt was turning gradually red from the surgical incision on his abdomen. JJ looked down to see it too, and her eyes widened with worry.
“Aaron,” she started.
"I'm fine," he reassured her but he was secretly relieved to hear the high-pitched sirens of the emergency services echoing over the rooftops.
They stood in each other's arms, both as shaken by the afternoon's events as the other. By the time three squad cars and two ambulances had arrived, Hotch was feeling faint and nauseated.
"You're going to kill yourself one day," JJ said, watching the cavalry sweep the house. Hotch didn't argue. "There are four paramedics and six cops here," she said. "Why did you need to put yourself in danger?"
"There wasn't time to wait for them," he said. "I couldn't just leave you."
"I appreciate the sentiment," she said, guiding him to the front of the house, "but I don't want our daughter to grow up without a father. So if you could try to be a little less heroic that would be great." The paramedics herded Hotch in to the back of the ambulance and onto a gurney and JJ hopped in beside him.
"I needed to know you were alright," he said, as the ambulance began to drive off, sirens blaring, and a medic began to prod at him with needles full of painkillers while another tended to JJ's bleeding arm. "I don't know what I'd do without you."
"Here's hoping you never have to find out," she said.
Emily sat down beside JJ outside the relatives' room, feeling completely sick of the sight of this hospital and it's off-white walls, dim lights and harassed looking staff. The sooner they could go back to Quantico the better. This entire town had brought them nothing but misery.
"Is Hotch okay?" she asked.
"Fine," JJ said. "He's just out of surgery now. He did some more damage coming to find me so they had to remove his spleen. He's okay though."
"What about Morgan?"
"He's angry. I don't really want to talk about it."
JJ seemed like she was about to speak when a familiar figure walked past them as Morgan strode across the ward and in to Hotch's room without so much as a sideways glance at Emily.
"Okay... that was a little rude," JJ said.
"I told you he was mad."
"You need to talk to him."
"He doesn't want to talk to me."
"Who said he had a choice in the matter?"
Emily appreciated JJ's straight-forward attitude. She wasn't used to wallowing in self-pity after and argument, but Morgan elicited feelings within her that she had trained herself not to feel. Emotions weren't her strong suit, neither were apologies but JJ's no-nonsense strategy inspired her to swallow her pride and confront Morgan head on, whether he was angry or not. So she got to her feet and waited by the door for Morgan to reemerge, feeling nervous and guilty in equal measures. When he finally opened the door again, he took one look at her and turned to leave. Her anxiety immediately vanished and was replaced by complete annoyance.
"Hey, are you going to talk to me or what?"
"Not now, Emily."
"Yes now. You're going to hear me out."
"Fine." She pulled him in to a side room where he stood, arms folded, looking sullen, staring around at the shelves of medical supplies. She wanted to tell him to stop acting like a petulant child but hurling insults probably wasn't the best course of action when he was barely speaking to her at all.
"Look, I've said it before but I need you to know that I am sorry. I made a huge mistake in trusting Jacob." He didn't say anything so she continued. "I shouldn't have assumed that you had killed him for no reason but as far as I was concerned he was unarmed and crying like a little girl."
"I thought you would have trusted me," he said.
"You know I do, but I was completely caught off guard. And the way you were looking at Jacob… I didn't know what to think. You were so angry…"
"Because I thought I was going to lose you!" he said, his voice rising. "I was terrified, Emily! I didn't know what I was going to find when I caught up with you." Her feelings of guilt intensified although she didn't think that was Morgan's intention. She hadn't even really considered how scared he must have been. She knew he cared about her, but it was only now, as he let his guard down that she realised exactly how much.
"I know," she said after a moment. "I can't believe I was so stupid." Morgan looked at her for a moment and sighed.
"You're starting to sound like Hotch," he said with a resigned shake of his head. She studied his face, trying to assess his mood and after a few seconds a faint smile appeared on his lips. She took that as her cue that she was forgiven and put her arms around his neck, glad at last to have the comfort of her best friend. He squeezed her tight and kissed the side of her head.
"If anything ever happens to you - " he said.
"Nothing will happen to me."
"It would kill me."
"Nothing will happen to me," she repeated, feeling him hold her tighter as though he was afraid she was going to slip from his grasp and he would lose her forever.
"You make sure of it," he said.
For the second time, they all crammed into Hotch's small hospital room with blankets and pillows much to the annoyance of the nurses.
"I'm sorry," one nurse said. "You can't all stay here, it's immediate family only."
"We are family," Reid said and the nurse sighed.
"That isn't what I meant. You aren't really allowed to sleep in here," she pressed.
"We don't mind," said Morgan.
"Yes, but - "
"I'd prefer if they stayed," Hotch said. The nurse's shoulders dropped as she visibly gave up.
"Fine. But no more adventures," she said, looking directly at Hotch. "Your last trip cost you your spleen. Next time you won't be so lucky."
Hotch stifled an almost childish smile as she left, feeling like he was back in school, driving his teacher to distraction with the help of his friends. Hotch was about to say how glad he was that the case was finally over, but he held his tongue, not wanting to tempt fate. He wouldn't be surprised if a third or fourth Unsub popped up just to torture them a little more. Things could always get worse, but in the meantime they ordered pizza and spent the day comparing and admiring each other's battle wounds, playing cards and discussing their best and worst cases.
Morgan took great pleasure in watching Prentiss struggle with her pizza, unable to open her mouth wide enough to fit a whole slice in because of the dozen stitches running parallel to her cheekbone. For the first time in a long time, looking around at his colleagues, his friends, and the woman he loved, Hotch was happy, and if another sociopathic relative of the Fox's wanted to try and kill them, then so be it, but until then he was going to enjoy every minute.
Just after eleven o'clock that night, Deputy Commander Watts came to visit them. He was as warm and polite as ever but a little part of the enthusiastic officer they had met only a few days ago was gone and the Sheriff's death seemed to weigh heavily on his young shoulders.
"You guys think you'll come back to Green Valley sometime?" he asked.
"Nope," Morgan said. "No offence but I don't even think I want to come back to Arizona. Ever."
"I don't blame you," he said. They exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes, tied up the last few loose ends of the case and then he said goodbye. "I forgot to mention," he said, just before he left, "Holmes is the new Sheriff, for now.”
“I thought he quit,” said Hotch, shuffling up the bed and trying to get in to a more comfortable position.
“Sheriff Falconer didn’t accept his resignation, turns out he actually put his name forward for Chief Deputy instead, which technically makes Holmes the closest thing we’ve got to a Sheriff at the moment. So he’s filling in as Interim Sheriff for now, and he’ll be running for the position when the elections start. I’m sure it didn’t look like it to you, but Holmes and Falconer were good friends. Sheriff Falconer never would have let him abandon his career.”
“How’s he taking it?” Hotch asked. “The Sheriff’s death I mean.”
“Not great,” Watts said. “The last thing Holmes ever said to him was that he was to blame for all those murders. I don’t know if he’ll ever forgive himself for that.”
“And you?” asked Emily.
“I’ll be okay,” he said, putting on a convincing smile. “I’ve worked beside Sheriff Falconer for almost two decades, until he went off to Tucson. He’s the reason I’m Deputy Commander now. He’s the reason I was partnered with Holmes. I owe him a lot, it just… feels strange that I’ll never be able to repay him now.” No one spoke, they all knew what Watts was feeling, they had all felt it with painful clarity at some point in their careers, and they all knew that there was nothing they could say. “Hey, speak of the devil,” Watts said, a bright smile crossing his face as the new Interim Sheriff entered the room.
“I just wanted to thank you,” he said, addressing the BAU members, his voice as flat as usual, but his face betraying his gratitude. “I’ve been less than professional these past few days and I don’t imagine I made your job any easier.”
“If anyone could have talked Robert Fox down it was you,” Hotch said. “I’m just sorry it ended the way it did.”
“So am I,” he said. “Anyway, if you ever need anything, you know where we are. We owe you a lot.” They both turned to the door.
“Oh I almost forgot,” Watts added, as he stopped on the threshold for a second time, “I’ll be putting myself up for Chief Deputy. I don’t think I’ll get it, but it’s worth a try.”
“Good luck," Rossi said. “You’ll do great.”
"Sheriff Holmes and Deputy Watson," Prentiss said. "It has a nice ring to it."
"It's Watts," said Holmes with a small smile. Prentiss laughed as the two officers left the room, Holmes’s hand resting on his partner's back as he let him walk ahead of him through the narrow doorway.
"So," Rossi said, picking up the last slice of pepperoni, "in the space of a week, we've taken out two Unsubs, almost died, faked Hotch's death and only lost two moderately important body parts in the process. Strauss will be so proud."
"Speaking of Strauss," Hotch said, "I spoke to her earlier. She wants to see us all when we get back to Quantico." No one seemed surprised but Garcia frowned and started fidgeting with her bracelets.
"Including me?" she asked.
"No. She wants you back at work at 8am on Monday."
"I thought I was suspended!" she said, her voice rising to a surprised squeak.
"Not anymore. The department is under a huge amount of scrutiny after this week's events and the fact that you pissed off Strauss is the least of her worries now. And besides, I have taken full responsibility for everything that went wrong on this case." Everyone simultaneously voiced their unhappiness at this.
"You shouldn't have to do that," Reid said.
"What happened with Jacob Fox was my mistake," Emily said. "Strauss should know that."
“We were all part of this case, Hotch,” Morgan said. "I'll take responsibility for my share of mistakes."
"So will I," Rossi said.
"No," Hotch said. "It's so much easier if I say everything was my fault. It minimises paperwork, and it'll make this whole mess go away much faster without any of you having to be pulled in to court."
They continued to argue with him for another few minutes before they all realised that there was nothing they could say to change his mind.
"And anyway, I could use some time off, maybe a suspension is exactly what I need," he said lightly but everyone continued to frown at him.
"Hey, what's this?" Emily asked suddenly, picking up a little piece of paper on the table by Hotch's bed.
"Remember the manager from the Green Valley Inn? She gave me her phone number," Hotch said.
"Nice," Morgan said.
"You going to call her?" Emily asked, shooting JJ a mischievous grin.
"You know what," Hotch said, with mock deliberation, "I think I'll pass. Why don't you call her, Morgan?"
Morgan laughed. "Nah, man. I think I'm good," he said and Hotch saw him glance at Emily who was smiling warmly back at him.
"Um, no, I mean, statistically speaking, if she was interested in Hotch I probably wouldn't be her type, really," he said, before adding, "I'm sure she'd be interested in Rossi though."
"Looks like she's all yours, Dave," Hotch said, handing Rossi the number.
"Great," he said, only half-seriously but nevertheless slipping the piece of paper in to his shirt pocket. "Here comes wife number four.”