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.
7.It’s been two weeks after my return at the BAU and I still feel like a stranger. I walk through the bullpen registering the glares on me, some of them are pleasant, they whisper welcome back, they smile in encouragement, some others sting with diffidence and envy… What’s here to envy I frankly ignore.
I almost run on the way to my office and I shut the door.
Breathe, you’re safe.
The towers of files staring at me from the desk are almost reassuring, they give structure to my day, relieving me from thinking and figuring out how to get through this new pace of life, making this rhythmic regular existence seem nearly manageable.
When Garcia pops in without knocking Emily jumps on her seat and immediately after starts giggling; the technical analyst looks at her friend bewildered. Then announces the reason of her intrusion -There’s a case in San Diego, Hotch wants us all in the briefing room. You come? - Garcia keeps herself from asking how she’s doing, still afraid to be too intrusive.
-I’m fine Garcia- Emily reassures her reading the concern on her face -I was so concentrated in reading that I forgot everything else- she smiles, and this time it seems less difficult than the other days.
On the way to the conference room everything looks so familiar and thrilling at the same time, Emily was right five years ago when she insisted on having a shot in the unit; she belongs with this unit, as much as a dolphin belongs with the ocean.
Rossi is walking toward the conference room right after Hotch, the two men still sharing a look of complicity, which makes her hope that Hotch won’t lose the trust of the team for having covered her back, and partially assuages her guilt.
Seaver is joining them with fast strands, she still has the eager attitude of the newcomer who doesn’t want to miss a word or a lesson and is anxious to prove herself, but an increased confidence is clear in her demeanor, one day soon she’ll realize she’s competent enough to trust her own judgment.
Reid gathers a pile of files from his desk and raises his gaze to meet Emily’s, a wide smile brightens his pensive expression as he realizes she’s joining the briefing. Emily can’t help thinking there’s something beautiful about the way fragility and bravery are deeply entwined in Reid’s personality, and even though she will always be protective toward him she’s not sure he needs her anymore. Just this thought makes her feel overwhelmingly proud and unworthy of his friendship.
Right behind Reid a man, who at first sight she mistakes for an accountant, follows him promptly, a glimpse of his tie and later, while he trots up the stairs, of his matching socks reveals finally the face of Lloyd, her dull and meticulous alter ego. He’s clutching his leather handbag as if the future of the planet depended on its content, his gaze planted on the ground as he walks.
Garcia lightly poses a hand on Emily’s back as encouragement before entering the room.
There’s nothing to worry about Emily.
Breathe, you’re home.
Once in, Penelope exchanges some mocking lines with Morgan, who then casually shifts his gaze on Emily, grazing his mug with the tip of his fingers. He doesn’t mention anything about the nights he spent on her couch and how her complaints slowly faded in grateful compliance, and she’s incredibly grateful for his discretion.
Her feeling that the two of them are dangerously walking on a thin line is still lingering on her, but it doesn’t stop her from letting him in every night and it dissolves as dew in the sunlight when she opens her eyes in the morning, welcomed by the aroma of coffee and his husky voice greeting a brief good morning before leaving.
Breathe, one pace at a time.
As soon as they all sit at the table Hotch starts briefing the case. It feels like if she has never left.
Each one provides comments and insight on the case, Emily suggests the unsub might be a woman receiving nods in agreement, she realizes just a second after that the suggestion came from her and she feels as pleased as the rest of the team for being back in, for feeling again part of something.
When Hotches pronounces the much missed ‘wheels up in thirty’ warning which declares the briefing over, he stops by her and with an even and unruffled tone he states “Prentiss you’re coming with us”, she mumbles a “yes, thank you” in reply and registers the vibe of excitement from the rest of the team. Garcia can’t help a celebrating jump and a squealing rosary of congratulations, Rossi casually congratulates patting on her shoulder while he leaves the room, right after him Reid smiles radiant, barely containing his excitement.
Emily reciprocates everybody’s happiness until she’s alone in the room and the panic kicks in again.
Breathe, you can take it.
“Breathe” a soft voice whispers to her ear joining her silent prayer, she turns to find Derek leaning on the table beside her, “Hotch is testing you, it’s good” he tries to reassure.
She nods “I know. But what happens if I don’t function anymore with the team? If you cannot trust me. If…”
“Emily” he cuts her off “what you have to focus on is that there is an unsub to profile. Everything will follow, you’re a natural and you don’t forget how to profile or how to be part of your family that easy” he sooths her in a calm tone.
“But…” frightened eyes look at him still not convinced.
“We’re a team. You’re not alone and nobody is willing to let you go that easy” he proceeds to quiet her with his chant “You’ve been forewarned” he adds with a grin.
“Morgan” she has never really thanked him for the nights he spent on her couch watching over her sleep, and this is not the best moment “…Can we have a moment sometimes, to talk?”
“Anytime” he smiles before leaving the room.
On the jet I fix myself a coffee, just because caffeine is exactly what I need to sooth my anxiety right now. Once back to my seat I find an awkward Lloyd staring at me from the seat across the isle with a shy smile. It’s an awkward situation to work together knowing that only one of us will stay eventually, “So you’re the famous Agent Prentiss…finally we meet” he breaks the ice “I heard a lot about you and I didn’t understand your departure was temporary” stone eyes darting from the rest of the team at the rather awkward phrasing “How is it to be part of the BAU again?”
I look around feeling the warmth of family, the love and the support of the people I hurt so much and still love me. I feel terrified at the idea of failing them again, of being rejected, of not being good enough. Then my answer comes out almost in a raspy moan, my eyes darting around checking for everybody’s reaction “It feels like I’m back home, among friends”
“You are” Rossi reassures me, echoed by Reid.
Hotch addresses me a knowing look and at my side Derek squeezes my hand while a quick smile crosses our lips.
For the first time in months I relax and I feel the run is over.
Finally I’m home, finally I can start healing.