Fandom: Criminal Minds
Word Count: 1,229
Characters/Pairings: Rossi, Hotch, Prentiss, JJ, Morgan, Reid, Garcia, references to Dave/Caroline
Spoilers: From Childhood's Hour
Disclaimer: I don't own Criminal Minds and never will. No copyright infringement intended.
Summary: Dave struggles to deal with Caroline's death, and accept the part he played in it.
Dave Rossi returned to work only five days after Caroline’s death and two days after her burial, something that surprised his co-workers. They hadn’t expected him back so soon.
“Are you sure you’re ready to work again, Dave?” Aaron eyed his friend warily. He had been worried about his friend since the news of Caroline’s illness broke.
“Yes.” And that was that. Dave needed something to take his mind off of Caroline, or he’d drown in grief.
Aaron wasn’t so sure, but he reluctantly let it go. He would keep an eye on Dave for the next few weeks. He knew what the other man was going through, especially since he had lost Haley – albeit in different circumstances – a few years earlier.
Emily wasn’t going to hold anything back, so she decided to just confront her co-worker. “I know you’re not alright. You just lost the love of your life, and it’s too soon for you to be working again. I’ll be here when you’re ready to talk, Dave.”
“Thank you, but I’m fine.” Work was supposed to take his mind off his wife’s death, but it seemed like it kept smacking him in the face. Dave and Caroline had remarried a few weeks after she told him about the ALS, because despite everything, they still loved each other. He hadn’t told anyone that he had helped her die because he wasn’t even sure how to bring it up. And the guilt was weighing heavily on his mind.
“I doubt it, but seriously, come talk to me anytime. Or talk to someone else because it really doesn’t matter.” Emily wasn’t going to give up on being there for him. She was stubborn, and everyone knew it, especially Dave.
Dave sighed. “Fine. Do we have a case? I’m ready to go.” A case would be nice right now. He hadn’t worked in five weeks – Caroline had started to go downhill rather quickly, so he had called off work to take care of her. His co-workers and friends had stopped by to visit with them and had all attended the funeral.
“I think he’s in denial,” Reid whispered to Morgan. He then started talking about the five stages of grief, but was cut off by Garcia, who was going to present the BAU team a new case. But first, she had to hug Dave.
“I am so, so sorry. I know how upset you must be, but don’t worry because I’m here for you. Do you want us to drop you off some food? Or do you already have a lot?” Penelope was aware she was rambling, but she wasn’t sure what to do. The BAU dealt with death every day, but it wasn’t often that it struck this close to home.
He struggled not to roll his eyes. Dave appreciated his friends’ efforts to help him with his grief, but they were practically suffocating him. They didn’t know what he had done to ease his wife’s suffering, and he wasn’t sure how much longer he would be able to keep that a secret. He had to tell someone about the assisted suicide, but he didn’t know when that would be. “For the last time, I am fine. Now let’s go back to work. Let’s hear about this case.”
Within two hours, the BAU was on their way to Maine to find a serial killer in the jet, and JJ decided to approach Dave. “I know you’re probably annoyed with us by now, but I’m coming over here anyway. Just know that we’re here for you when you’re ready to talk. I don’t bother you anymore.” She smiled at him and then went over to talk to Emily.
“I’m not going to bother you at all about Caroline, just so you know. Are we going to have another dinner night soon?” Morgan smiled at him. He knew that a dinner night would maybe get things back to normal.
Dave appreciated the effort his friends were putting out, but he was already sick of it. Had Aaron felt this way after Haley’s death? He’d have to ask later. “Dinner nights will resume as soon as we get back home!” He could pull it off, right? Even though everything in the house kept reminding him of Caroline, since they had done a lot there in the short time they had together.
“Yes! I like food nights!” Reid looked a little embarrassed at his enthusiasm over dinner nights happening again, but he didn’t care. He really liked Dave’s cooking.
“We all do, Kid.” Morgan hoped this was going to help. Maybe Dave wasn’t up to visitors yet, but it was too late now. Once Rossi had his mind made up, there was no changing it.
Aaron took Dave aside after they were briefed by local law enforcement for a brief conversation. “You helped me after Haley and I want to return the favor. We don’t even have to talk – We can just have beers. Just know that I know what you’re going through, even though Haley and Caroline died of different causes.” He clapped him on the shoulder and then went back to trying to find the serial killer with his co-workers.
Emily had finally had enough by the time the case was closed and the serial killer had been caught. Dave had been stand-offish with everyone and it was driving her crazy. JJ had told her that confronting him would only push Dave away, but she didn’t care. Dave needed someone, and she was the first person he had gone to when he thought Caroline wanted to reconcile. “Alright, this is it. Sit down, David Rossi, and tell me what’s on your mind.”
“Emily, I appreciate the effort, but I’m fine.”
“Bullshit. Start talking.”
Dave wasn’t sure how to start this conversation, which was odd for him. How did he tell someone his wife wanted him to help kill her to ease her suffering? He sighed and decided to just go for it. “When Caroline first told me she was sick, she asked me to help her die so she didn’t suffer. I agreed to it.”
“Oh, Dave. I am so sorry.” Emily didn’t even care that assisted suicide was illegal – Dave was her friend, and Caroline wasn’t in pain anymore. That was all that mattered.
“I know. I wanted to say no, but I couldn’t. It was Caroline. And we agreed to always be there for each other. How could I turn her down?”
Emily bit her lip to keep from crying, but sniffled. “You’re feeling guilty, right?”
He nodded. “Pretty much.”
“Well, don’t. She asked you to do this, right? It’s what Caroline wanted, and you helped her. You two were very happy, even when the ALS started to get worse. She died in your arms, Dave. Don’t feel guilty about this, please. I know it hurts, but you will move on eventually. I’m always here when you want to talk. Remember? I told you that before.” She gave him an awkward smile and then hugged Dave. He returned it.
The guilt had lessened a little, as had the burden. Dave was glad to have finally talked to someone about this since everything was tearing him up inside.
However, Caroline’s death – and the role he played in it – would haunt Dave Rossi for the rest of his life.