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Storms make oaks take deeper root.
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I would thank everyone who has reviewed this story personally, but I am far too lazy to go through all the reviews and list everyone, so I'll just say it like this. Thanks very much for reading, thanks even more if you reviewed, favorited or alerted this story. Such positive feedback is great incentive to write, and the overwhelming volume of it influenced me to put my other fics on hold while I fast tracked this one (sorry people who are reading the other fics). But for last chapter, thanks to PanicButton, cmwinner, wiis, dncnmndy, kristen1097, sassyboots4, ssbailey, Kitale, SilviaBr, xXSSAPrentissXx, Beith, bananasrokk, Prinzessin, allie, IrigD, tearbos, kdzl, Windy City Dreamer, bella_gray, icicle_rose and patch_tank. Note that some liberties have been taken with medical stuff here, as I am a Psych/Crim student, not a Med student. Most biology I have to deal with is in regards to THE BRAIN!
Torture, pain, and so on and so forth. You know the drill.
Morgan struggles to sit up as he hears people rushing about him. A paramedic working on his leg holds him back, tells him to sit still before he does more damage. Morgan ignores the paramedic. He hears the shouts, and he fears he knows what is going on. Beside him, JJ is staring off into the distance, though Morgan cannot make out what she is staring at.
'What's going on, JJ?' He grits his teeth through the pain, and his eyes refocus. Is that Hotch running past? It is. Reid is just behind him, moving much slower, but with no less determination.
'Please, I need...' He stands up, ignoring the protests of the paramedic. 'I need to see.' He hobbles in the direction of the action, moving a little faster once JJ gives him a shoulder to lean on. She knows she can't talk him out of going over there.
His path is marked by the droplets of his blood in the snow. He is losing blood fast. But he cannot stop now. He needs to know that this is over. That Emily and Reid are both alive. He knows he will still feel the guilt, but it's not as much as the guilt he will feel if she is dead.
He tries to push through the crowd of people, but they disappear as if smoke. His visual perception is playing tricks with him. He slips from JJ's grasp, and collapses to the ground less than twenty feet from where Hotch, Rossi and Reid stand in a semi-circle. He notices that Reid looks worse for wear – he had seen those few seconds of video footage, but he had not seen what the unsub had put him through. Whatever it is, it does not seem to be immediately affecting the young profiler. He pushes himself up, trying – and failing – to stand. JJ pulls him up, and puts his arm around hers once more. They join the fray, the tense atmosphere not slipping past them unnoticed.
She looks dead, lying there, an image that the two paramedics beside her are attempting to rectify. He isn't looking at them, though, he's looking at her face, watching for any signs of life.
'What...what's the survival rate?' He's surprised to learn that he cannot speak without slurring his words.
'The victim of cold water near drowning can be resuscitated after up to an hour underwater,' Reid says. He's frowning. 'The mammalian diving reflex causes the body to shut down certain functions, allowing longer survival underwater. The person will look dead upon removal from the water.' He's talking about it as if it's not his friend, not Emily laying there. As if it is just a trivial piece of statistic. His next words are a little less detached. 'Of course, other injuries to the victim will decrease the chances of survival.'
He knows that the drugs in his veins are loosening his lips a little. He is saying things he normally wouldn't say. Things he would have kept shut away.
'Heart's beating,' says one of the paramedics. The team is not sure whether the statement of fact is for their benefit, or for the benefit of the other paramedic.
They cut away the wet clothing, replacing it with blankets. Hotch gives a slight intake of breath as he sees the blood stained bandages being removed, sees what lies beneath them. Reid's mouth is slightly open, as if he is about to explain to the team the process of warming the body in the case of immersion hypothermia, but he is transfixed. Not on the scene before him, but on the feeling of the Fentanyl starting to take hold. He knows that the affects of Fentanyl are similar to Heroin. He also knows that Fentanyl is more addictive than Heroin.
The pain is starting to slip away.
'We need to warm the core of the body,' the paramedic says, and the team realizes that he is, in fact, talking to them. 'If we warm the arms and legs, then the cold blood will go straight to the heart, sending the body into after-drop.'
'So...' starts Morgan. The world is dropping away, feeling fuzzy. 'She's alive?'
He feels like laughing, and yet, at the same time, he feels like crying. He does not have the time to do either, as he finds himself sinking into a blissful unconsciousness.
They are finally reunited, though only half of the team have the capacity to realize it. Both Morgan and Emily are unconscious, and they can all see the look in Reid's eyes. See the rolled-up sleeves, the prick marks in the crook of his elbow that are already starting to bruise.
Hotch, Rossi and JJ find themselves torn between staying with their injured colleagues, and searching the house. Hotch makes the executive decision; the house will still be there when they get back. If they were to search it now, they would be distracted by the impending possibility that one of the three might not make it out alive. Their friends need them now.
'He tortured them,' Hotch says as the first stretcher is loaded into the ambulance. It might be an obvious conclusion, but he still feels the need to express it.
Rossi nods. He knows. He knows that despite the fact that they have been rescued, it will be a long road to recovery. The physical healing will take some time, and the psychological healing will take even longer.
JJ's on the phone to a frantic Garcia. The media liaison has had years of practice at maintaining a balance between exposition and reassurance. It is of great use here, where she must tell Garcia both that, yes, they have been found, but that none of them are in particularly healthy state.
They turn as a body bag is carried out of the house. The black plastic is illuminated by torches and headlights.
It starts with death, and it ends with death.
Snow falls gently around them.
When Morgan wakes, it is dark outside. He blinks slowly several times as he ascertains his surroundings.
White. White walls, white sheets, white faces of the people that stand around him. Hotch, JJ, Rossi and Garcia. The technical analyst rushes to his side instantaneously. He gets the impression that they have only been standing there a few seconds. He notices Reid, then, curled in a chair near the door, his arms wrapped around himself. His eyes are open, and he is staring blankly at the window.
He tries to open his mouth, to say something. He doesn't know what to say.
'Emily?' he asks eventually. He's scanning their faces, trying to profile their reactions. There are no sudden outbursts of tears, no carefully averted gazes, no biting of the lips. Before they say anything, he knows that it is not bad news. It isn't good news either, but that is to be expected.
'They say she should be fine.' Hotch turns his head to look at the other bed in the room – the one that Morgan is only noticing just now. A nurse is adjusting the heart-rate monitor, and Morgan realizes why they had all been standing when he woke up. She's only just been brought in here.
Hotch explains how she had been treated for the hypothermia and the broken arm. The wounds to her back will require skin grafts. There is as slightly pained expression on his face as he says it. It's guilt, Morgan realizes. Guilt that he had let this happen to her, guilt that he had let this happen to any of them. Morgan knows. He feels the same guilt.
He nods. His eyes drift over to Reid, whose foot is tapping against the chair. Now that he's looking closer, he notices the more subtle body language. The way his fingers grip tightly against his arm, the way he refuses to look down.
Morgan feels those pangs again.
'You need to be a little more careful, hot stuff.' Garcia puts a hand over his, careful not to disturb his aching fingers. 'Your wounds got all infected.' She's trying to poke fun at him, to lighten the mood a little bit. It works partially. He gives her a small smile.
'Anything for you, beautiful.' But he doesn't look her in the eyes. He can't look any of them in the eyes. He does not want to see the blame reflecting back at him. He thinks his wounds – both physical and psychological – will heal without too much trouble, which is more than he can say for either Emily or Reid. The guilt is his curse.
Rather than running the risk of catching their reproachful glances, he looks towards the window. The dark sky beckons him. Any stars are cloaked by the clouds, the world awash with falling snowflakes. He thinks that it must be night once more.
He does not turn his head when he asks the question: 'What time is it?' He does not see Hotch look down at his watch.
He does hear the answer, though: 'Midnight.'
A/N: Well, there you go. Everyone made it through alive. I briefly considered killing someone, but I thought better of it. Those of you who have read some of my other fics know that I have no qualms whatsoever about killing off characters. I merely thought that this would be a better stylistic choice. Speaking of my other fics, it's time for some shameless pimping. If you've finished this, then consider reading one of the other ones listed at my profile page. There's some romance, if you're into that, but there's also non-romance if you're into that. You may have to wait awhile for the sequel (tentatively titled "Dawn") but that is because I want to make some progress on my other fics before I start any new multi-chapter ones. It's been a fun, wild ride. Thanks again to everyone that reviewed. Make sure you tell me what you thought about the story overall, as well as this chapter. Love it? Hate it? Wanted to see Hotch take a chainsaw to the unsub? Tell me. One note about the unsub, though, before I go: I purposely did not develop him much, because I needed the fic to be about the friendship (and the victims), not the killer himself. I hope that explains some of my motivations. If there are any questions, leave in a review, or just send me a PM or an email.