Emily Prentiss was sitting in the dark on the damp ground, exhausted and scared. Her hands and forearms were scraped and stinging from her futile attack against the rocks that enclosed her. Hotch's yell was still ringing in her ears. "Everybody get out! Get out now!" Where was he now? If he had been standing close to the explosives, he was probably dead. The thought of that made her feel sick and at the same time she felt totally empty. She wasn't sure how long she had been trapped, but night must have been falling because the temperature in the tunnel was dropping. It was so utterly black that she might as well be sitting with her eyes closed but the adrenaline still pumping through her veins kept her eyes wide open and staring, waiting to see something that would indicate a way out, but there was nothing. Not one solitary speck of light or a hopeful glow coming from above her. There was absolutely nothing.
"My ass is cold," she said.
"Yeah well my face is sore," replied Morgan.
"I really didn't mean to hit you so hard," she said.
"Safe to say I'll never tell you to calm down again," he said. "It doesn't end well for my face." Prentiss smiled but winced as the burning pain on the side of her face intensified. She knew her cheek was badly cut but she was too scared to bring her hands up to check just incase it was worse than she thought and one side of her face was hanging off. “I’m glad to see those combat classes are paying off,” he added.
“Well you’re a good teacher.”
“If I’d know that my own lessons were going to be used against me, I might not have taught you so well.” Prentiss made a little noise of amusement, too tense and frightened to fake a proper laugh.
"My ass is still cold,” she said.
"Come over here then," he said. "Sit on my knee."
"Prentiss, we went skinny dipping last night and you think it's weird to sit on my lap?" he asked. Although she couldn't see his face, she could picture his exact expression. One eyebrow raised and a dubious, crooked smile on his lips. "I suppose that makes sense given your relationship with your father."
"Morgan, don't you dare profile me. I will profile you right back and I can guarantee you won't like what I have to say." Now she could imagine him raising his hands in front of himself in a gesture of surrender.
"Okay, okay, if I'm not allowed to profile you, can we play a game or something?"
"Like what?" she asked.
"Truth or dare."
"We're buried alive," she said. "How many dares can we do?"
"Fine, let's just play truth then."
"Okay, you go first. Ask me anything," Prentiss said.
"What's your magic number?"
"Hey, you said I could ask you anything. Anyway, we're probably going to die down here, so you might as well tell me. How many people have you slept with?" She could tell from his voice that he was only half serious about them dying, but she still didn't like hearing that very real possibility spoken out loud.
"Fine," she said eventually. "Eleven."
"What's wrong with eleven?"
"Nothing," he said. "I just expected a lot more. I thought you were going to say thirty, maybe forty." She felt around with her foot until she found Morgans leg and kicked it hard.
"Well what about you?" she asked. "I'm sure you're pushing triple digits."
"Twenty four… ish."
"Not bad," she said. "Although I gotta say it's ruined your player reputation for me, I think I was expecting more too." They lapsed in to silence. Their humour was only a thin veil separating them from total panic, and they could both feel the gravity of their situation weighing down on them, threatening to tear their fragile coping mechanisms. There was a distant rumble of falling rocks from somewhere deeper in the caves and the walls shuddered. Prentiss felt a rush of panic as the rumbling got louder, expecting their part of the tunnel to collapse at any moment. But a few seconds later the cave fell silent again and Morgan spoke.
"What about Rossi?" he said, his voice convincingly steady. Prentiss laughed nervously, not realising she had been holding her breath.
"How many people has he slept with?" she asked.
"Well he's in his early sixties, right? So I'm going to say forty-five."
"Forty-five women?" Morgan asked. "Remember he's been married most of his life."
"Well you don't get a reputation like his for nothing!"
"Fair enough," Morgan said, and then he seemed to have and idea. "I have a dare for you."
"Go on," Prentiss said, a little warily.
"If we ever get out of here, I dare you to ask Rossi what his magic number is."
"I never back out of a dare."
"Shake on it." She reached out blindly, trying to find Morgan's hand. Eventually she found him and they shook hands but she didn't let go. Instead she used the hand to pull herself over to him. She lay beside him and rested the uninjured side of her face on his warm shoulder.
"I'm scared Morgan."
"Yeah, me too," he said, putting his arm around her and pulling her closer. "Me too."
The pain in Hotch's chest was becoming almost unbearable. It took all of his remaining energy not to groan in pain as his lungs repeatedly pressed on his ribs. He felt hot and restless and a cold sweat broke out on his face. He began to regret removing his tight bulletproof vest, wondering if it would have provided his splintered bones with some kind of support. That was what doctors used to do, wasn't it? Bind broken ribs? He wanted to reach for his vest but he found that he couldn’t move his arms, and the voices of his team grew distant and muffled as though he were underwater. He felt so tired, he wanted to sleep, to drift off somewhere without pain and guilt but he remained resolutely awake even as unconsciousness pulled at him. If he drifted off he might not wake up again… As it became harder and harder to keep his eyes open, the realisation hit him that he was dying.
"We have to get out of here," Rossi said after a long silence, taking the flashlight from Hotch's loose grip and beginning to check the perimeter of the cramped cave, looking for movable rocks or a gap that they could squeeze through. JJ sat against the wall opposite Hotch. A drop of water fell from the ceiling and ran down her neck and she shuddered, wiping the cold drip away with her hand. It must be raining, she thought. She returned her gaze to Hotch. Even in the dim yellow light of their single flashlight she could see that he was pale. His forehead was glistening with sweat and he had his head bowed and eyes shut. But every time JJ asked him if he was okay, he would reply with a curt 'fine', barely looking up.
"Hey, Rossi, look over here," Reid said. Rossi joined him on the far side of their cold stone room. "I think we could move some of this rubble out of the way and actually get through."
"What can you see?" Rossi asked. Reid had his face and the flashlight pressed against the wall, peering through a tiny gap. With Reid pointing the light through the wall, it was almost completely dark again in the cave.
"There's definitely another open space and I'm pretty sure the trapdoor is in that direction." Reid started to pull on the rocks. "Hey, I can see light! I think it’s the moon.”
"Shouldn't we wait for the rescue team?" JJ said, wary of tampering with the fragile structure of the tunnel.
"I'm not sure there's time for that," Rossi said. JJ looked up at the crumbling, sagging ceiling and realised Rossi had a point.
"Okay. Just please be careful," she said. Reid resumed his dismantling of the wall, testing each rock carefully before he pulled it out. JJ felt a terrible lurch in her stomach every time Reid shifted part of the wall, convinced that any movement could bury them.
"This is like the most tense game of Jenga ever," Rossi whispered. JJ and Reid both shot him the same incredulous look. "Just trying to lighten the mood." Finally there was a gap big enough for a person to slip through. Reid tucked his hair behind his ears and stuck his head through the hole.
"What do you think you're doing, kid?" Rossi asked.
"I'm trying to find us a way out."
"And what if the whole thing collapses when you are through there? We don't even know how safe it is."
"What else are we supposed to do?"
"Let me go first," Rossi said.
"If the place is going to collapse, it's going to collapse, it doesn't matter who is through there," Reid said.
"It does matter, I'm not putting you in any more danger than necessary."
"But Rossi -"
"This isn't negotiable, kiddo," he said, tearing off the velcro of his bulletproof vest and dropping it on to the ground. "I'm twice your age and nearly retired. If anyone is going through it's me. If it's safe and I can find a way out, then you can come through."
"Be careful, Dave," Hotch said. He barely recognised his own breathless, unsteady voice, but he was watching Rossi fixedly. "And don't take any risks, if you can't find a way out, just come back."
"Don't worry about me," he said with a quick smile and disappeared through the hole. They could hear his footsteps as he shuffled around in the rubble.
"What can you see?" Reid asked after a moment.
"Just more rocks," he said. His voice was a little further away when he continued speaking. "If I can just shift some of these I think I can make it to where the trapdoor should be."
The hole they had made in the wall was the first thing to collapse. Moments later there was an almighty rumble as the rocks on Rossi's side of the gap started to crumble, followed by huge chunks of the ceiling and there was a strangled yell from through the rubble. The entire cave continued to shake as the room where Rossi had been standing filled with rocks and debris.
"Rossi!" Reid scrambled back from the wall. JJ ran towards Reid, pulling him further back from the falling pieces of ceiling.
"Dave!" Instead of retreating from the danger, Hotch stumbled towards the wall of rocks and pulled and pushed and hammered against the boulders. "Dave!" he yelled again. There was no reply. He continued to fight breathlessly against the pile of rubble now separating him from his friend. As the deafening rumble quietened Hotch put his hand against the cold stone, gasping. Then his hand slipped and he fell hard against the wall.
"Hotch, are you okay?" Reid asked. JJ saw him slump against the wall staring at his bloody, trembling hands and broken fingernails.
"Hotch, can you hear me?" He fell to his knees before JJ could reach him and then the rest of his body hit the floor.
"Hotch! Talk to me! Aaron!" He didn't move. “Aaron!"