DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: 3x20 Lo-Fi

Bright Lights
By gilligankane


You open your eyes and you want to shut them instantly. The room is all bright lights and it stings. The smell of ammonia and death hits you and overwhelms you and you want to throw up, but you can't move. You want to scream, but some part of you knows that even if you tried, no sound would erupt from your raw throat.

So this is what being dead feels like.

But you're not dead, because as your eyes adjust to the lights that seem to be shining down into them, you start to hear the faint beating of the monitors next to you and you can feel your heart beat in time with it: beep, beep, beep, beep in a steady rhythm that almost lulls you back to sleep.

So this is what being half-dead feels like.

You swallow roughly and try and force your brain to force your hands to clench the white sheets wrapped tightly around you. But the communication between your brain and your muscles must be derailed somewhere because your hands just won't do it. It makes you feel helpless, but you won't stop trying because you've never been a quitter and you're certainly not going to start just because you can't feel your legs and this beeping is driving you crazy and you've only been awake for two minutes – at most.

You can feel someone enter the room and luckily, you're head is able to swivel in all the normal directions, so you look to the right and it's just who you thought it would be and she's crying, tears of joy you hope, and she looks like she wants to tackle you and hug you forever, but to her credit, she stands in the doorway cautiously.

"Hi sweetie," she whispers and you wish you could make your hands move, because you'd beckon her into the room, but she seems to understand and comes in anyway.

"How are you feeling?" If you could scoff, you would, because it's a stupid question to ask. You're obviously not fine, because you're chained to this bed and you can't talk or even breathe on your own.

She doesn't expect an answer and launches into what you really want to know which is how you got where you got. Garcia always has a hard time with this kind of stuff, but you know that, so you listen patiently and try to stop yourself from crying, because you remember everything she's telling you.

You remember Will telling Hotch and Reid and Emily that the two of you were going to get married, and you remember chasing him to the hotel to try and convince him and you remember going outside, with him behind you, as you got ready to get back in your SUV.

You remember seeing her SUV pull up behind yours and you remember stalling, waiting until she got out and explained why she drove halfway across the city when she was supposed to be checking on Detective Cooper.

You remember snickering at the idea that you both left to check on your respective Detectives.

You remember she looked like she was crying and then you remember nothing.

Your eyes dart frantically to Garcia and she lays a hand, warm and heavy, on your blistered arm, as if she's trying to transfer all her calm into you.

You start to remember other things: the night in Georgia, the elevator ride in New Orleans, the ambulance in Milwaukee, the plane ride home from Denver.

You start to remember mornings in her apartment, watching the snow cover the city and you remember watching her change a flat tire on some dusty road, laughing at the way she got so frustrated at the vehicle. You start to remember fights lasting all night and going home mad only to have her beat you there and you remember wasting weekends wrapped up in the bliss of what you had.

You start to remember your bubble of happiness bursting and your life splitting into a million different directions and you remember how she looked at you with tears in her eyes and shut the door behind her, shutting herself from you forever.

You remember being pressed up against her –if only for one more moment, and then you remember nothing.

So Garcia fills in the holes: tells you about the terrorist cell and the bomb threat and the real reason she showed up and tells you how the blast threw you backwards against the pavement and how you won't be able to talk for a few days and it'll take a little longer for the rest of you to heal.

What Garcia doesn't tell you is what happened to her and where she ended up and why she isn't by your side like she promised she would always be (because you remember lying in her arms and hearing her whisper those words in your ear with her heavy, warm voice).

What Garcia does tell you is that she's not the same anymore, that she isn't the Emily everyone knows and that it'll take a few days, months, years (Garcia mumbles and you can't hear it over the ringing in your ears that you can't shake) for her to be Emily. What Garcia tells you is to not get your hopes up because it's not really Emily and you could so without stress for a while.

But your eyes light up at the very thought of the brunette – of your brunette – because you remember making the decision to leave Will and chose her and you're going to make sure she knows that you're never giving up on what you have ever again.

She enters the room hesitantly, and that should raise an alarm, but you're too excited to see her and her eyes and her face and her hair and her neckline that you disregard everything else and focus on the fact that she's coming closer. You might not be able to talk, but you're content staring at her for now.

You remember how bad it cut you when she turned away from you in front of your hotel, when she saw Will follow you out. You remember knowing at that moment that you finally knew what you wanted.

You remember yelling out "I love you" but you don't remember if she turned around because all you can remember now is how hot it felt suddenly and how loud everything got.

She steps closer to your bed, but keeps her distance and she glances off to the left. You can feel your body readying itself: you're going to tell her you love her if it's the last thing you ever say.

"Hi," she whispers as soft as Garcia, but you know it's because she can't speak any louder. Her fingers move quickly, fiddling with the edge of her clean shirt and you swear it looks just like the green shirt hanging in your closet.

"I…uh…" and you can see how nervous she is about this, because she's glancing back at the open door again as if she's planning a way out. "Agent Hotchner…Aaron, told me to come say hi. So…hey."

And it occurs to you that this is all wrong because no one ever calls him Aaron, and even though she's from a political family, she's not that formal.

She laughs a little and her shoulders – that were hunched up and looked completely uncomfortable – relax and you're not sure you like where this is going, but you're helpless and all you can do is lie on the bed and close your eyes and hope for all of this to go away.

"Listen, I…I'm sorry about this. It's completely awkward, but they told me that I should do this, because it would help, or so they say. But I don't really know them, so I'm not sure of trusting them is particularly the right thing to do, you know what I mean."

But you don't know what she means.

"The thing is, I don't know half those guys out there and honestly, the chick with the glasses kind of freaks me out, but they said that you and I got along really well, so it'd only be right for me to come in and say hi and ask how you're doing."

The ringing in your ears gets louder and you can't believe what you're hearing. You don't want to believe what you're hearing.

"So, you probably know me, but let me get this out of the way." You watch her take a steadying breath, and you wish you could do the same, because you know what she has to say is going to be bluntly honest – because that's the Prentiss style.

"Hi. My name is Special Supervisory Agent Emily Prentiss with the FBI and I recently suffered serious head trauma and I am currently in recovery, so please bear with me through this difficult time," she recites in one breathe, as if she's reading off some card you can't see.

She touches your hand gently, but you can't feel it, because your entire body has gone numb. "It's nice to meet you Special Supervisory Agent Jennifer Jareau. I don't remember us being friends, but I'm sure when you and I will be really good friends when I finally do remember." She turns to walk out of the room but stops at the door and touches her forehead briefly and your hope shoots up into your throat.

"By the way," she says even softer than before. "Your fiancé is waiting outside. I'm going to send him in."

And just like that, Emily Prentiss is gone from your life.

So this is what being dead feels like.

The End

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