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: previous chapters on my profile.
5. It’s late at the BAU and the bullpen is becoming emptier and emptier, Rossi leaves his office to go and refill his coffee when he decides to take a detour and check on Emily. He understands Hotch’s decision to give her an office on her own, at least at the moment, but at the same time he feels this is not helping to make her feel still part of the team; her replacement is sitting at her desk with her friends and she’s in a corner all alone.
Her door is slightly ajar and she’s intent in examining a thick file, she rubs a hand on her forehead in exhaustion and brings the mug to her lips just to realize it’s empty; in that same moment she notices Rossi staring at her from the door, he has his usual tired smile, the one only those who have seen enough in their life can afford, that smile that means ‘whether you like it or not I’m checking on you and don’t try to hide because you know I can read you as an open book’.
“You know you cannot live on caffeine, don’t you” he comments with a grin.
“Said the man with a mug on his way to the coffee machine…” she responds with equal irony.
“It’s not my fault if the bureau etiquette doesn’t allow whiskey in working hours” he smiles back “Want to keep me company?”
“Sure” Emily walks past him and down the bullpen to see that almost everybody has already gone. Her office is quiet but secluded and sometimes she misses not being able to keep an eye on the traffic of people coming and going.
“What were you working on that made you so exhausted?” he purposely avoids the question on how is she holding on, figuring she must be nauseated of hearing that and giving every time an answer that is probably far from the truth.
“Ah, it’s nothing. Just every time I fill in reports and consultations or I skim cases that are worthy of our attention to others which are not, I realize how tough JJ’s job was and how gracefully she managed to make it look like simple bureaucracy”
Rossi nods in silence pouring the black fuming bliss in their mugs.
Emily tortures her forefinger with a debated expression, the voices her real concern “There is this woman. She disappeared in Utah” she blows on the cup attempting a sip of her drink and slightly twitches at the burning feeling on her lips “Everything indicates she got lost while hiking, no signs of abduction, no suicidal notes, no suspects. I frankly think it was a tragic accident and as bad as it sounds what can be done is to carry on the search and hope to find the body so that the family can be at peace…”
“I agree with your evaluation” he supports her “but this is not what’s bothering you..” he patiently waits for her to carry on, cup in his hand.
Emily poses her coffee on the counter and adjusts the rim of her shirt, shifting uncomfortably until she’s able to level her gaze to his “They will go on searching for her. Then other cases will come up and gradually the number of agents employed in the search will be reduced. Eventually the only ones still looking for her will be her friend and family, but after a while they’ll give up. They will move on and chose to remember her when she was still alive and happy, and not a lifeless body rotting in some remote crevasse into the mountains”
Rossi starts to understand where she’s heading but still doesn’t say a word.
“There’s no business for us to be there, but I can’t help thinking that if that woman is still alive, the only thing that keeps her going is the thought of her family looking for her” she admits almost embarrassed.
“Emily, you know that there’s no way to survive in those mountains for such a long period, don’t you? That woman IS dead, and we cannot do anything that the local rangers cannot do, if not better than us” he offers.
“I know. It’s just that I was that woman. I know how it feels like when all is lost and hopeless, when you become just a vague memory and people move on without you.”
“Emily, believe me you were everything but a vague memory. You were missed all the time, while working on a case, on the way back home, in our everyday life. When Lloyd was assigned to your previous desk for two days Morgan couldn’t even say hi to him. I don’t know how could he stop himself from chocking the guy” Rossi objects feeling a wave of pain, rage, compassion for all she’s been through.
Emily arches an eyebrow “Wow, you guys really don’t like him…”
“This is because we can’t get over you, an other argument against your fool theory of being a vague memory” he smiles encouragingly.
Emily smiles in surrender and gratitude, then perplexity clouds her again “I’ve always been good at compartmentalizing, even in the most difficult situations, but now it feels like this experience carved me” she pauses for a moment, noticing not without sarcasm the peculiarity of her own wording choices “whenever I look into a case I emotionally connect with the victims or even with the unsubs and frankly I’m starting to question my ability to continue doing this job” she stares puzzled at Rossi when he burst out in a laugh.
“Is that funny?” she asks confused.
“No” he shakes his head coming close and taking a sip of coffee “No, it’s not funny. It’s familiar. For many years after retiring I went on thinking that no matter what, I was a hell of a profiler. This was what I could do best and nobody could teach me anything. Then when I rejoined the BAU I fell on my face realizing that I had to work hard in order to fit in this group, but I managed. I took a step away from my ego and learnt to approach my job and the team work in a new perspective, and today I can say that this made me a much better profiler, but most of all a more decent man”
“Ok, I see your point but I don’t get how this relates to me and my ability to profile again” Emily objects perplexed.
“You had to face tough decisions, alone, scared and away from your comfort zone, Emily. You lived in a gray area with no friends or reference points. It’s not a walk in the park; it’s something that requires a certain degree of nerves and bravery. What you’ve experienced didn’t incapacitate you to do your job, on the contrary it empowered you. What you are feeling now is empathy and it proves that you’re a human being, a remarkable one. You should be worried if you didn’t feel this compassion for who’s going through your same nightmare. What you have to learn now is to integrate this empathy with your profiling ability; it’ll take time but you have all the team at your side, ready and eager to help. All you have to do is ask” he raises his mug in a cheering gesture and walks back to his office.
Emily follows him with her gaze and slowly goes back to her work, for the first time in those long months she can feel the weight of solitude slowly relieving from her shoulders.
A/N: I think I have to clarify something that I forgot to say in the beginning. There won't be a chapter exploring the interaction between Emily and Ashley. I'm not doing this out of hatred for Seaver, I truly don't have particular feelings for her, just I can't get her straight in my head yet and thus I cannot write her in a believable way. It'll take me sometime to get there. Sorry, hope you can enjoy the rest of the story nonetheless :)