Two Days After the Picnic

Nora Murphy was running late to her office, and that wasn't good because she was seeing two patients that day. Two patients that were considered highly sensitive, according to Cheryl, who'd all but gotten on knees and begged her to help them get better. Now she was going to be late to see them, and both were already hostile to the idea of therapy, especially therapy together. She checked her watch for the umpteenth time, and stared at the numbers clicking up on the elevator. Come on, come on, can't this ancient piece of shit go any faster?

Evidently, the evil machine could read her mind, because it suddenly stopped, and shuddered, before beginning to ascend again. Finally it let her out on her floor, and she began sprinting toward her office, trying to hold a pen in her mouth, while simultaneously shoving a folder into her brief case, and retrieving her yellow notepad. Finally, she got to her office, and practically skidded inside, praying she got there before the couple either killed each other, or died after being strangled by the tension.

They had done neither. They were leaning back on her couch, Matt's arm casually slung around Emily's shoulders, his other hand entwined with one of hers. They were smiling, seemed to be engaging in a comfortable conversation, apparently paying no attention to the clock. In fact they seemed to be so involved in their discussion, or perhaps just in each other, that they didn't seem to notice her behind them, in the doorway. They looked so relaxed, so at ease with each other, in the office, for a minute Nora wondered if the pair didn't have identical twins. She decided to make her presence known.

"Alright, who are you two? I'm supposed to be seeing two patients, but you clearly aren't them."

They turned to face her, surprised at the sudden interruption, but nevertheless still smiling at her. Okay, now that was really weird; this couldn't be the same two people she'd been seeing.

"We weren't sure you were going to make it," Matt answered.

"I'm actually surprised you waited," she confessed.

She received to casual shrugs.

"Alright, so why don't you tell me about your last few days?" Obviously something big had happened with them, and she needed to know what.

"Uh, we to a museum yesterday," Matt offered, not sure if that was what she was looking to hear.

"Oh? What museum?"

"The art museum. It was good, relaxing actually, just looking at the paintings and sculpture."

"Yes, it really was. You remember that painting of all the sailboats, just kind of sitting there on the water?" Emily asked enthusiastically.

"That one was nice, if you stare at it long enough, you can almost trick your mind into thinking the boats are really moving. What about that one with the cat? The kid was holding it?"

Emily laughed, "yeah, the poor thing looked like it was going to fall through her arms any minute. It looked miserable."

"Good, it sounds like you both had a good time." Nora was at a complete loss, people didn't just turn 180s like that. "Anything else?"

"Well, the picnic. Cheryl's idea."

"Oh right, she mentioned that, how was it?" She seemed to get a grip for a moment, maybe that picnic idea of Cheryl's really did help them?

"Good people, good food, good times," Matt rattled off, like a restaurant commercial.

"It was nice to see everybody gathered and having a good time."

"And, then there were the fireworks, that was interesting."

"Oh?" Nora was suddenly alarmed, that couldn't have been good. "What happened?"

"They just started going off, scared the piss out of all of us."

"Yeah, we all hit the ground. It just sounded some much like the bomb, only much quieter," Emily agreed.

"And were you both able to handle it okay?"

"It was very unnerving, but we were fine afterward, maybe a little shaken up."

"Yeah, no flashbacks," Matt announced proudly.

"Really? How did you manage that?" She almost didn't believe him, a sound like that should have triggered flashbacks in half the people had been at that bomb scene, whether they were prone to them or not.

Matt shrugged, becoming shy at these questions. "I just focused on her."

"Okay…you?" She asked Emily, returning to her state of confusion.

"What? Oh yeah, we kind of just, I don't know, relied on each other to get us through it."

"Really? Good, I'm proud of both of you." She was pleasantly surprised by the explanation.

The two then didn't seem to know what to say to her, so they just kind of sat there, waiting for her to ask another question.

"So then, how about we discuss some of the problems you've been having with each other?" She suggested, hoping she could determine if they really were doing better, or just two of the best fakers she'd ever seen.

"We kind of already discussed them," Matt spoke defensively, as if he was afraid she'd be mad they solved their issues without her.

"Really?" Nora look at them in complete incredulity. Was it possible that they just did it that easily?

"Yeah, I had a nightmare," Emily explained. "He made me talk about it, and I made him talk about his problems."

"And then?"

"Well, uh, Emily kind of refused to let me push her away." Matt struggled to get the words out, feeling uncomfortably unmasculine discussing his feelings.

Both women wore amused expressions at his struggle, and Emily rolled her eyes before clarifying. "We realized we still love each other, and didn't want to lose that."

"Yeah, that about it," Matt agreed, happy that she got touchy feely so he didn't have to.

"Okay…so when I asked you two about your last few days, how come this wasn't at the top of the list?" She couldn't help but think how much confusion they would have saved her mentioning this off the bat.

"We're cops, we don't discuss our feelings," Matt shrugged with a self-deprecating grin.

"Right, almost forgot about that. So, alright moving on, Emily how have your nightmares been?"

"Uh, better, Matt was alive in the last two."

"Do you mind talking about them in front of him?"

"Uh, no, I actually already told him about them." Emily had been telling Matt about her dreams since they talked, and in exchange Matt told her when he had a flashback, or was feeling particularly jumpy.

"Really?" Nora Murphy had never expressed as much disbelief during her career as a therapist as she was that day.

"Yeah. Um, during the first one I woke up in the theatre and smoke was everywhere, and was begging everyone again to tell me where he was, and they said he was at the hospital being taken care of, but that he was alive. In the second one, I actually rode with him to the hospital, holding his hand, and he was conscious."

"That's very good. They will probably get better as time goes on, until your subconscious can finally accept that he's alright, then the dreams will stop altogether," she explained. "And Matt, how are your flashbacks when fireworks aren't going off?"

"I still get them, but not as often, and it feels like they're not as bad." He shifted uncomfortably; he was okay with the shrink so long as they didn't have to talk about their feelings, but she was making them do just that.

"You're discussing them with Emily then?"

"Yes, that's our deal." Clearly Matt would rather not talk about them.

"And that is why you're both doing so well. You aren't keeping these fears inside anymore, your aren't letting them each you alive. You're sharing them with someone, and thereby steadily lessening your burden. I'm very proud of you both, you're doing so well."

The two looked at each other and then asked questions at the same time.

"Can we go then?" Matt asked, ready to bolt.

"Does this mean we can go back in the field?" Emily's anxious voice wanted to know.

Nora was taken aback by the simultaneous demands, and physically moved back. Then she looked at them, and rolled her eyes. At least this wasn't a surprise.

"No, you can't go back in the field yet, either of you. But you are free to go, in just a minute. Next week, Emily, you'll be on Monday, Matt, you're Tuesday."

Both instantly looked less enthusiastic, and Matt gave a barely audible grumble.

Nora just shook her head in exasperation, and began waving them out, "Alright, you can go. Oh, and enjoy your first day back, Matt."

"It's paperwork, who enjoys paperwork?" Matt commented sarcastically, earning him a light smack and stern look from Emily.

"Right, thank you, I will," he amended.

After the couple left, Nora made a quick phone call.


"You know what I said the other day, that shouldn't be expecting Matt and Emily back?"

"Hi Nora, and you think I could actually forget that?"

"I would like to correct that statement. You shouldn't expect them back very soon."

Cheryl smiled, relieved on the other end.

Two and a Half Months Later

After a month and a half away, Matt and Emily had returned to the field eagerly, but nervously. Cheryl had spent the last month working them back in gently. A jumper here, suicidal cop with his gun there, murder suspect that barricaded himself in last Tuesday, and they'd done well. It wasn't easy to allow somebody to work their way back into a job like crisis negotiation slowly, there was always lives at risk, or there was no crisis. But, Matt and Emily had been more than up to the challenge, and today Cheryl had put them on their first case back, with hostages, innocents.

"Shelly! Shelly please don't hang up!" Emily plead with their HT, a nineteen year-old woman who'd been raped and felt her whole life was taken from her by her rapist.

"It isn't fair, I can't deal with this! I can't move on unless he's dead! He's always going to be there!" Shelly wailed back at Emily, becoming more unhinged by the second. She'd taken her rapist hostage, which ordinarily wouldn't have troubled any of them much, but the despicable man had had his wife and two small children with him at the time.

"I know it's not fair, and he had no right to do what he did to you. He should be locked away forever, but Shelly, his family didn't do anything wrong."

"I don't care about them, you can have them!"

"You're going to release Mrs. Blake, and the two kids?"

"Yes! Yes! Lady take your kids and get the hell out of here!" Shelly yelled, pointing toward the door with her loaded gun. Mrs. Blake didn't waste anytime, but grabbed both kids by the hand, and appeared on the other side of the door moments later. Frank and Duff swept in to get her and the kids.

"Alright Shelly, that's very good. But, now it's time to talk about Walker." Walker Blake the white collar, loving husband, father of two, rapist.

"I told you Emily! I have to kill him! It's the only way!" Emily looked at Matt for ideas.

He went to write a 'C', 'O', and two 'M's, and then she stopped him, and mouthed, "I know," and shrugged her shoulders to say she just didn't know what kind of common ground they had.

Matt didn't miss a beat, but erased his few letters, and scribbled two new words quickly: Tobin Jensen.

Emily nodded, and removed the hand from her mouth piece.

"I know it feels that way Shelly. I know you feel like he's still there watching you all the time, and you feel chills when you walk on the streets. It's terrifying to imagine you see his face everywhere, hear his voice repeating what he's said to you, but killing him won't make that feeling go away."

"How do you know that!?"

"Because, do you remember that little boy that got kidnapped last year? The kidnapper was targeting a federal agent?" Emily hoped the girl watched the news, so she didn't have to rehash everything.

"Yeah, it was all over the news, I remember the sex tape." There was universal cringing among the people inside the command post.

"Yeah, well that was me. And, I swear everything I did for months afterward, it felt like he was watching me. I kept expecting to see his face."

"Yeah, well it's different with me, that's guy is dead, Walker isn't!"

"Exactly. It doesn't matter if you kill him, putting him in a grave won't take away that feeling."

"Then how the hell do I get rid of it!"

"Let him go, let the DA put him in a jail cell, keep going to your counseling sessions, and eventually it will get better. It's going to be hard, but it will get better Shelly, I promise."

"I can't! Oh! I don't know what to do!" She whimpered over the line, beginning to cry.

"She's emotionally distraught, Cheryl. She isn't going to come out, it's better we take her down now while she's vulnerable," Frank explained.

"Give her some more time," Matt insisted.

"I don't think it's going to help."

Emily jumped in, covering her mouthpiece. "She's a rape victim Cheryl, we can't attack her, or she's never going to be able to get past this. She won't be able to trust anyone."

Cheryl stared at the three people, who'd jumped in front of her, trying to determine the best course of action. She'd been watching Matt and Emily the whole way through the negotiation, and was impressed with them. They hadn't flinched once, hadn't even broken a sweat. She was about to answer, when the HT let off and anguished wail, and Emily jumped back into negotiation, uncovering her mouthpiece.

"Listen to me, Shelly. You told me today what happened to you, and all of these cops, that tells me you're a strong girl. Not many people can admit being raped to their families or closet friends, but you told me, you spoke up. Well, I need you to keep being strong, okay? I need you to tell yourself you're going to work through this, that you're going to stop looking over your shoulder one day. I need you to tell yourself that you can walk out of there, and hand over that gun, that Walker is a piece of shit, and not worth it. Can you do that?" Matt and Emily watched the house, hearts racing, waiting for the girl to answer. Cheryl's eyes traveled alternately between the house and her negotiators.

"I don't know. I think so," Shelly suddenly whimpered, breaking the tense silence.

"Okay, good." The tension seemed to fade from everyone's bodies. "We'll take this slow alright? Go and walk out the door right now, and drop your gun on the porch."

They heard the phone click, and then a young woman appeared at the front door to the house. She took a few steps, then tossed the gun to the other end of the porch, and held her hands up in surrender. HRT moved in to cuff her, and minutes later two HRT agents came out with the last hostage, who was unharmed.

This one is finally done! I hope everyone had as much fun reading this, as I did writing it. Thanks so much for those who did read, and very, very much to those who have reviewed and will. I'd really like to know what people thought of the story at the end, so please review!