Author: Sara Nublas
Character: Emily Prentiss main, all team involved
Summary: This is the sequel of my previous fiction 'Asteriscus hierochunticus', hence it takes place after the episode 6x18, the summary follows: after Emily is back to the BAU she realizes her return might not be as easy as everybody wished. The story is organized as a sequence of snapshots, each describing Emily's relationship with her friends one by one alternated to her reflections.
Warning: SPOILER to Lauren 6x18, it's not necessary to read 'Asteriscus hierochunticus' to understand it, it just makes more sense...
Disclaimer: I don't own the characters of the show Criminal Minds, I'm just borrowing them. No infringement intended
A/N: you can find the previous chapter on my profile.
2.Emily walked through the bullpen keeping her breath and appreciating that Hotch had summoned her that early in the morning. Being able to dodge the welcome back committee by the team in full formation was a big relief. Not that she didn’t want to see them or se wasn’t happy to have her family back, but after months of solitude and isolation, the simplest social interaction could easily get pretty intense and even though everybody had been incredibly accommodating so far, she couldn’t help reading the pity on their faces.
Passing by her previous desk she noticed it was now someone else’s working place and felt a twinge in her chest; staplers, scissors and pens were accurately lined on the right upper corner of the table and on the opposite side few plastic containers were filled with paper clips and drawing pins of even color.
A drawer partially opened exposed folders ordered by color code, she couldn’t help wondering which classification criteria had been used, typology of offender, geographical location of the case, alphabetical order.. Her profiling was interrupted by Hotch clearing his throat and staring at her with an arched eyebrow from the entrance of his office.
As soon as she closed the door behind herself, he motioned her to sit down on the sofa “Do I have to remind you the rules about profiling colleagues?” he started calmly with a feeble grin of amusement.
Emily smiled apologetically “First, technically I’m not part of this team anymore, and second nobody respects that rule, you know it well. Usually we’re just cautious enough not to be caught, but we do profile each other, continuously. Am I wrong?”
Hotch hinted a nod and turned serious, the weight of the unspoken words and the long kept secrets between them instantly poured and filled the room with a mix of feelings difficult to organize and disentangle. From the dismay for how things went awry, to the sorrow for the burden that both of them – in different forms – had to carry, to the regret for not having seen and not having said before; all their private demons were suddenly unleashed to haunt them.
Finally Hotch broke the silence “I guess that if we started looking back at the past months we could find infinite reasons to beat ourselves and to blame each other. Honestly I believe you already went through hell over these months and you don’t need a further process, I also know your proclivity to martyrdom and I’m convinced you found plenty of ways to punish yourself more than I could ever do. I know it’s not easy to disappear and I know how excruciating it is to be parted by your family against your will and leaving everything behind” he took a pause then, his voice slightly cracking “I would like to provide a nobler justification to my choice, but truth is that given the situation, faking your death and send you away was the only safe option for you, for the team and our families; as chief in charge I had to protect my team and in this case the only way to do it was by leaving behind one of us and lying to the others. I’m sorry.”
Emily faked a feeble smile, knowing that probably none of them would ever let out how they really felt about the situation and also understanding how painful had to be for Hotch to experience so up close the obvious parallel between her and Haley, “Hotch, when I left to face Doyle I wasn’t even planning to survive. I just wanted to be sure that no one in the team or near it would be harmed and as far as I am concerned it worked, not in the way I expected, but now Doyle is dead and everybody is safe. Those months were hard for me as for you and the team and I know there’s no way of going back or wipe the past and start all over, but I accept everything that will happen and the awareness that everybody’s safe will pay off even for the bitter turn this situation might take”
Hotch scrutinized her, it was hard to accept that for five years he had worked side by side with a woman who deceived them all without contradicting herself ever, and accepting her back implied the logic assumption that they would trust her and not question her sincerity. Sooner said than done.
“We had to replace you with another profiler during your absence” he said briefly.
“I know and I understand” she swallowed, she didn’t like it at all, but she understood it and couldn’t blame Hotch for his decision.
“You will join the team on probation. You are not allowed to join us in the field yet. Just paperwork, consultations, profiles, reports and office job; you will help Garcia while we are on cases and take part to the meetings, I want to see how the team deal with you and you with them and if you can work together again. Agent Lloyd will go on working actively in the team until I make a decision, which will be supported also by psychological and physical evaluations that you WILL undertake regularly. Eventually I will decide whom of you two will stay. Clear?”
“Clear” she breathed out.
“Also to avoid tensions and overcrowding you will be in JJ’s former office, on your own. I can imagine that at the beginning your return will be a bit of a bombshell and I don’t want you or the rest of the bureau to be distracted by this” he carried on stern.
“Thank you” and for this she was sincerely grateful, already dreading the daunting first days among puzzled looks, hand-shaking and big-hug-time.
“It’s all for now” Hotch dismissed her and watched her walking through the bullpen and toward her office, well aware that it was far from over and the process of coming back would have been long and difficult.
Everybody looks at me like if this was the end of a nightmare, the happily ever after we were all waiting for. I crossed all the lines, lied to my friends, I died, then nine months after I mysteriously reappeared to kill the man who destroyed my life and my reputation, and now everybody clap their hands in a standing ovation. It’s actually grotesque and genuinely irritating to realize how carefully everybody is avoiding the crucial question, the one they are dying to ask but don’t have the guts to: what have you done during these nine months?
I guess some monsters are better to be kept in the closet, there’s no good in dragging them out of darkness. Not even Hotch has the force to ask that to me, we hide behind the excuse of clearance and classified information but I see how he struggles to look me in the eyes. The same is for the others, they jump around in happiness, they worry that I feel welcome back and at home but nobody really wants to know where I’ve been, what I’ve done, who I’ve been. It’d hurt them too much to know in detail what I had to sacrifice to have them all safe, and I’m okay with that; I’m not too anxious to expose my private life again to them and I really agree with Hotch that this was the best decision to take, I couldn’t live with the idea that some innocent fell for my battle.
But there’s a part of me that screams and shouts, that it’s tired to wear this façade, that is exhausted by this masquerade. Emily Prentiss is dead, something else came back, something corrupted, hopeless, rabid and scared, something I allow to come out only at night when I crouch in my bed, sleepless and terrified until I find oblivion through the sobs. Nobody seems willing to acknowledge this change, they see I’m sure, but they don’t want to accept it. So again I find myself floating in the crowd like a shadow, unseen, unnoticed and pretending to be okay with that.
All of a sudden I start realizing how Haley must have felt, she was sent away to start from scratches with a son and no more contact with the outside world; her job, her friends, her family were all gone. Everyday surviving, waiting for bad news or good news but also dreading them because they were the reminder of the life she abandoned and couldn’t have back, not being able to do anything but to wait for her fate. In this perspective I ask myself whether it’s harder to be the rabbit hiding in its hole or the greyhound chasing the prey, and honestly I can’t figure out the answer.