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.
A/N: This chapter came out longer than I wanted... but for that I blame my naughty muse. If you see glimpses of shipping in it, you're are perfectly right.
I apologize for my inveteracy :)
6.His hand blocks the doors of the elevator halfway and he slides in with a serious yet uneasy expression; after their conversation at the hospital, between Derek and Emily it’s been a series of push and pull trying to understand how to interact but often ending up in awkward silences or dry snaps.
Finally he breaks the silence “You know Emily, I’m trying hard here but you’re not making this easy at all for me”
“What?” she stutters taken aback.
Derek Morgan is territorial and protective, even to the point of being aggressive when it comes to his team; he has to be sure that everybody is all right and to do this he needs to know in which state of mind we all are. It’s not a by-product of some ‘filled with testosterone pack leader’ mentality, but a genuine consequence of his care for his friends. Derek Morgan needs to have the situation under control and make sure that if there are some cracks he will do everything in his power to fix them.
I know he spends his days thinking of what it would have been if he arrived sixty seconds before as much as I spend mines wondering what if he had arrived sixty seconds later; then everything would be over and maybe things would be a lot easier for all of us”
There’s a point beyond which you get lost, you forget the comfort of friendly words, the warmth of an embrace and the next thing you know is that despite you spend your days longing for those things, if you were presented with them, you probably couldn’t handle them…
I stare at him dull as he can’t keep his fluster anymore and snaps telling me that he understands I’ve been through a trauma, that I feel like nobody else can understand me, but I’m wrong. He was there while I was bleeding out on the floor that day, he was there when my coffin was laid into the ground, he was there to watch the team breaking in the wake of the tragedy; his face is a mask of grudge when he adds that he was there when I lied to his face, telling I was ok and then I vanished.
I understand the rage, the frustration, the hurt of betrayal, the fear, the sentiment of loss.
I understand his struggle to accept my obstinacy and his effort to trust me without knowing exactly what’s happening in my head.
I understand and yet I observe his scene as if I was a fish in a bowl, from a remote place where I don’t know exactly if I’m a spectator or an actor in this play.
I would really like to provide some answers, or at least some reactions to his words, instead I mutter an inconsistent apology and I run away as soon as the doors of the elevator open.
I watch all these people driving around the city, running, going somewhere, chasing something. I’d like to stop them and tell there’s nothing to run to; that tomorrow is such a far, scary, uncertain place that they shouldn’t be so eager to get there. They should worry about the present, about the ones who crowd their everyday existence, make sure they know how important they are, because you never know…tomorrow.
I watch all these people running and I think that I don’t want to run anymore, I just want to lie still; do whatever you want, walk over me, gather me, hold me and tell me that everything’s going be all right or ignore me; I don’t care. Just don’t make me run again. Please.
Derek is right, out of line, but right. And scared. I’ve never seen him losing control, but I think it’s good for him; if I know him well he probably spent those months trying to help out the other members of the team coping with their own grief and holding his own feelings to himself, digging his head in overtime work or tearing down houses.
I can handle him, I have to; I want things to work again between us, he’s one of my dearest friends and I care a lot about him, but I have to be careful. Once you open up to him, he can see right through you, and I’m not ready for this. Not yet. You have to be patient Derek, you have to stop digging or you’ll end up in a very dark place that you really don’t want to visit.
Derek knocks at the door once, twice.
So he tries the bell just to find a hole where the button is supposed to be.
He wandered through the city for a while cursing against himself for losing his temper before calming down. He’s a profiler -damn it- all his job, all his life are built on the ability to keep his emotions under control and approach people in the most suitable way, but today with Emily the panic and the frustration took over and he lost it. He doesn’t recall many times in which he huffed out his frustration so badly, and Emily is a friend who has been through a lot and doesn’t deserve his rage outbursts.
Finally he tries the handle of the door, which promptly turns under his hands letting him in with no resistance; if the unlocked door sends a wave of panic right to his guts, the sight of the desolate apartment is not more reassuring. Instinctively he reaches for his gun and moves silently through the ample open space; the big windows on the three main walls extend almost up to the high ceiling, giving a feeling of spaciousness but also emptiness that adds up to the basic frugality of the furniture; to define the overall style of the apartment as minimalist would be an overstatement. The freshly painted walls are free form pictures or paintings or whatever items announcing the presence of someone living there; on the right side of the entrance a winding stair leads to a mezzanine where he can see the access to the bathroom. On the right side of the open space there’s a coffee table with a sofa and a couple of chairs, then on the same side at the far corner there’s the kitchen, divided by the rest of the space just by a counter. On the left side of the apartment there’s a mattress thrown on the floor, at its side a clock, a bedside lamp and a worn picture of the team that seems to have been through a lot, just like its owner. On the bed a book, as tattered as the picture, he recognizes it and suddenly has a flashback of an old conversation, Vonnegut’s words surfacing to his lips “You are who you pretend to be, so be careful who you pretend to be”; the awareness that these words apply to Emily much more than he could have ever expected from that early conversation wipes the smile away from his mouth, bitterness and sorrow for his blindness and her pain now cast a shadow on that memory.
A fresh breeze moving the pages of the book turns his attention to the big window on the main wall, which leads to a terrace; Morgan take the few steps and finds her sitting on the parapet, a mug in her hands, staring at the city lights extending behind, he freezes for a second assessing the best way to approach her “I’m not planning to jump, don’t worry” she turns to him with a bitter smile.
“Emily I’m sorry, I…” he starts apologizing.
“Stop. Stop for god’s sake” she cut him with a tired tone “Stop apologizing, stop being sympathetic, stop looking at me with pity, stop trying to understand”
“You know that you’re pretty much asking the people who love you to step away from you?” he tries to defend.
“No. I’m asking you, Derek” which unsettles him “Every time I look at you I see your urge to know, to understand, to have control of the situation” she leaves the parapet, to much Derek’s relief, and walks toward him.
“I push because you withdraw continuously, and I don’t want to lose you again” he explains.
“And I withdraw because you push too much. Honestly I don’t know how to answer your questions” she quarrels stealing a glance “I don’t know how I’m doing, I don’t know what I want, I barely know who I am. I don’t know where I belong anymore..” she stops before her voice can break.
“You’re home, safe among friends. You belong here, with us. It might seem strange because you’ve been away in a scary place for a long time, but things are going to get better.” Derek is desperate to make her understand she’s not alone and realizes he’s out of words, something he doesn’t experience often. Was she Penelope he would wrap her in an embrace, with Reid a hand on his shoulder would be enough to make him feel his friendship, but with Emily he doesn’t know what to do; their relationship has always been eyes, words, trust, but no physicality, maybe a thud on the shoulder but nothing more, as if there was a special invisible barrier they dread to cross.
Eventually he reaches for her hand and squeezes it lightly the same way he did months ago on a bare floor in Boston, he pauses for a moment holding her hand searching for poignant words, “Prentiss, let’s get inside. You’re freezing” is everything he manages to comes up with.
“Okay, so I can give you a tour of the house..” she responds starting to relax.
“Ah ah, yes. Your luxurious abode…We have to sit and talk a bit about the staple you decided to live in..” he promptly criticizes and Emily rolls her eyes knowing it’s a question of time before he states he’s going to renovate the whole place.
“It’s frugal and minimal, I like it” she insists.
“It’s depressing and unsafe”
“Oh c’mon Derek, stop being so dramatic”
“The lock of my closet is safer than the one at the entrance door of this apartment. The bell doesn’t work and you have a bundle of exposed wires in its place. You are surrounded by windows, none of them is double paned which means no insulation, in winter you will be freezing. The outlets don’t have GFI and I don’t even want to think of what I might find once I inspect the bathroom…” he looks at her with a scolding glare.
“Once you inspect? What are you now, an architect?” she mocks back.
“No, just a concerned friend who wants you to live in a safe and healthy place. Ah, and the floors need to be treated, the wood stains easily and there’s already some damage down there in the corner”
“Yes I know. The previous owner was some kind of troubled artist who shot himself in the head, they were able to remove the blood from the walls but not from the floor” she explains evenly while pouring a cup of coffee for Derek.
“Come again?” he freezes in bewilderment.
“What? Every house has a story…” she shrugs.
“Woman, you worry me… seriously” he sits down on the sofa in surrender.
Emily burst out laughing and he feels a shiver tingling his spine in hearing again her giggle, her face lights up in amusement as she winks at him playfully with that expression that always left him dumbfounded over the years “Ok,” she settles with a grin “ you behave and I’ll let you play a little with this house. But don’t get too excited, I said a little”
“As you wish ma’am” he plays along.
They sit in silence for a while, sipping their coffee and indulging in memories and thoughts it’s too soon and too scary to share, until it’s time for Derek to bid his goodbye. While heading to the door, he notices the black protrusion from underneath the pillow on the mattress “Do you sleep with a gun under your pillow?” he asks trying to deceive the alarm in his voice.
“Question of habit” she offers, but seeing that doesn’t wipe his concern away, she goes on “The few times I can actually catch sleep I have really vivid nightmares. Knowing that I can reach for my gun when I wake up helps a little”
“I’m not surprised you’re having nightmares. Wanna talk about that?”
“Not yet” she answers what she knows he wants to hear, even though both of them know she will never face that subject spontaneously.
“Anything I can do to help?” he offers again in that soft tone she has missed so much.
“Unless you want to sleep with me and when I wake up screaming in cold sweat you calm me down telling me it’s nothing…” she proposes, and stops half way noticing his sear expression “I was joking Derek” she clarifies.
She leans against the door letting a breath come out when he finally leaves. How long will it been before he manages to see her deep enough and realize the sea of troubles he’s putting himself into? How long will it be before she can’t keep him away anymore?
Few hours after going away he came back, I actually couldn’t believe my ears when he told me he would have slept on the couch until my nightmares were over. If he sticks to this purpose he’d better get used to the idea of moving in permanently, because these monsters got so deeply under my skin, that now are the most faithful companions of my troubled nights.
So now I am crouched in a corner of my bed, awake, staring at the clock’s hands that decided to slow down their race, making fool of me. No drama, it’s not gonna be the first nor the last night spent waiting; I had far more uncomfortable and scary experiences on these lines and I can take it.
Tomorrow I will tell him that I had the first good sleep after months, he will insist sleeping over another couple of nights until he will be convinced I’m getting better and will stop coming over, he will feel helpful finally and will loose the grip on me a bit.
I hate that I have to lie to him, but considering his stubborn determination I don’t have a choice, just because I’m on the edge of breaking down, it doesn’t mean I have to drag him down the pit with me.
I get some water and then head for the terrace, the chilly air tingles my naked legs and arms, I lean on the parapet and stare at this city that once I was so comfortable in calling home; the skyline, the lights, the smells, the voices of the night life, familiar though distant memories.
I wonder what’s going to happen tomorrow, I wonder how am I going to get my head on top of this mess.
Is what’s left of me enough to be me again? Is it gonna be enough for my family?
When I start shaking with shivers, my bare feet freezing on the cold tiles, I decide it’s time to go back. I turn and here he is, staring at me; on his face there’s no rage, or pity, just need. Need to be here for me, need to find me again, need to understand. He doesn’t say a word, he doesn’t need to; he figured that out, and we both know I can fool him no more.
I watch this man standing in front of me, his body is a bundle of nerves, fieriness and repressed emotions; how long he’s been keeping his feelings under guard I don’t know, but you can see he constantly makes a huge effort to keep his demeanor. Wasn’t the professional profiler he is, Derek would be a big troublemaker, a bad guy, someone Lauren would easily fall for.
I watch him and I see this caged lion, struggling to keep his instincts, to follow the protocol, to measure his reactions and carefully choose his words. I look at him and I feel his urge to lose control, I feel the tension and it thrills me because I’ve been on the loose for a while and experienced how it feels like to be unleashed, not bound to rules and norms; it’s scary but intoxicating.
I watch this man and I think he’s really a good man, but it’s dangerous for the two of us to stay so close, because we’re cut out of the same cloth, two reckless souls who learnt the art of discipline, of behaving themselves according to the situation. We’ve always worked well together, but now something has changed and I feel like we’re playing with fire.
I’m dying to lose control, again, another time.
He senses that, his eyes widen a bit and he takes a step away because he knows what’s in my mind and he reckons that deep inside this is what he wants too, and he’s damn scared of that. He’s scared of the consequences, he’s scared of his own curiosity, he’s scared of my fearless attitude, and he likes it also.
What are you going to do Derek, control yourself again, or venture in the dark, just this one time?
And what am I going to do? Show you one of my dark faces or make the right decision for both of us?
“I think you should go now” she almost whispers.
He stares at her in confusion, still trying to unravel this turmoil inside him, these thoughts he didn’t even imagine himself capable of.
He takes a step toward her “And I think it’s time to stop with these games, Emily. You need some rest and you need to face whatever it is that makes you so scared. Now go back to bed and try to get some rest. I won’t leave you alone.”
She silently complies and heads back inside while he stays out there a bit longer; he closes his eyes and takes deep breaths to regain control. Then he goes back and sits on the couch, watching over the woman that so many times had his back and swearing that whatever is haunting her he won’t let it destroy her.