* * *
Change is the process by which the future invades our lives.
* * *
Here we are, finally. I've been incredibly slack, but we got there in the end. A big thanks to all those who stayed with me since the first chapter of Midnight. I hope you enjoyed yourselves, though enjoyment might be a bit of a macabre term for that. A massive thanks to Windy City Dreamer, who was hanging around to kick my ass into gear, even if I didn't always listen. I think I'd probably still be stuck in some kind of limbo without your help. A secondary thanks to Prinzessin, runriggers and cyn23, who reviewed last chapter. It means a hell of a lot to me that even after such a long hiatus, you still took the time. I hope this conclusion was worth the wait. Now that this is finished, though, I'm willing to take recommendations for which other fics should take priority, for those who are interested. I've started work on another story with Morgan/Reid/Prentiss focus, but it hasn't been posted yet, so watch out for that sometime in the near future. I'll wrap this up before the note gets longer than the story itself, but for now – live long and prosper. Peace out.
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Emily looks out the window, and the edge of the horizon is a pale orange. The rest of the sky is a purplish-grey, the capital's buildings almost blending into the pre-dawn haze. It's been a long time – so long – since she's been able to simply sit down and watch the day go by. It's a seamless transition to the fiery shade of sunrise, and finally, the soft blue that indicates the morning has broken. By then, the coffee in her hands has become cold and bitter. It's not great task to make another cup, but the craving for caffeine has passed. She doesn't want to intrude on the calmness that's invaded her life this morning – the kind of calmness she hasn't felt for a long while now.
In lieu of anything else, she tips the coffee down the sink, washing and drying the empty mug. Normally she'd still be sleeping, or getting ready for work, or on the really heavy days, negotiating the traffic of everyone else that's decided to get on the road before the sun has risen. Mostly it's people like her, getting to work early, but she figures there are a lot of people coming home from work as well. A lot of people who'd pulled an all nighter, working on the latest political crisis or any other number of mundane activities that are, in all honesty, far from the most important things on her mind.
She's thinking about the past, the present, the future. About the job, about the side effects of the job, about the consequences. About the almost invisible scar on her forehead from a two-by-four, about the long faded bruises from a cult leader's beating, about the wounds that will never really heal – both physical and otherwise. About Morgan. About Reid. About how tomorrow she's have to wake up, and live through the same things that she's spent the last few months dealing with. The fear, the doubt, the regret.
But then, things are moving forward. She's in a place today that she hadn't been a week ago. A place of understanding. Some things are a little clearer, while others remain fuzzy, as if she's had one too many glasses of wine. She needs it all to be clear. She needs to see the world for what it is, without that fear, that doubt, that regret.
It's a brand new day.
Even though it's summer, she dresses in a long-sleeved shirt, because it's one thing admitting weakness to those closest to her, but it's quite another admitting it to the rest of the world.
It takes her a while to make the appropriate phone calls; if it's because she's afraid, she's not sure. It's not a personality trait she's wont to expressing.
Realistically speaking, she could have asked them to come to her place – she doubts they would have declined, knowing that it's something that needs to be done. Actually getting up, and driving, though, is a proactive decision.
It's something she needs to do.
* * *
Morgan starts to make a half-hearted attempt at cleaning, but it doesn't take long for him to realize that there's really nothing to clean. The house is in the same state that he'd left it in, except perhaps, with an extra layer of dog fur on the sofa. He gives it a quick run-over with a lint-roller. It's not the most thorough job, but then, they're coming around to talk, not to inspect his furniture. The rest of the cleaning job amounts getting rid of the empty beer bottles. It's adequate. He's not the cleanest of individuals, and the house reflects that. It has a lived-in feel, which is almost ironic, seeing as how he probably spends more time on the job.
'What do you think, buddy?' he asks of Clooney, who's stretched out on his mat. The lab gives him a woeful look that doesn't even begin to answer the question. 'We can't play now,' he tells the dog. 'We're about to have company. But I bet Reid'll love it if you lick his face again.' He cracks a smile at the memory of it, or rather, at the memory of Reid scrubbing ferociously at the saliva with a soapy face washer.
It's half an hour later when there's a slightly hesitant knock on the door. It's Emily, who almost seems to take a deep breath before stepping over the threshold.
'Reid'll be a little bit late,' she says, off hand, as though it doesn't really matter, but Morgan knows that it does. She lets Clooney sniff her hand with enthusiasm, and Morgan sees a smile creeping onto her lips. It's nice to see her smile; they've all been encroaching on Hotch's domain of the robotic expression for a long while. It's not hard to see why the Unit Chief does it. Happy times have been few and far between.
'Do you want a drink?' he asks her, as she sets her bag by the door, and slips off her shoes. It doesn't matter how many times he tells her she doesn't need to – she still always takes her shoes off at the door. Something left over from a childhood of foreign embassies, he thinks. 'Water? Soda?' He gestures for her to follow him into the kitchen, which she does with some hesitation.
'Soda's fine, I guess.' Her eyes don't quite meet his. He knows that without Reid here as well, she feels that little bit more uncomfortable.
He hands her a can of Pepsi from the fridge, and for a moment, they stand there in silence. It's a silence that's punctuated only by a knocking on the door. She relaxes considerably at the sound; Reid's not as late as he said he was going to be, apparently.
He shuffles in, hands in pockets, messenger bag slung casually over his shoulder. He looks the same as he always does, a darkness hiding behind that innocent façade.
'Hi,' he says awkwardly, hands not leaving his pockets. Morgan offers him a can of Pepsi – (the last can. He needs to go shopping) – but unsurprisingly, the younger man declines.
'I was…' he says, and then frowns. He tries again. 'I had a meeting. Beltway Clean Cops.' There's a short silence, and Reid's hands shift. His sleeves are rolled down, Morgan notices. Just like Emily, he's hiding the scars.
'Oh,' Morgan says eventually. 'How did it go?'
'It…It went well,' he says decidedly. 'Sometimes it feels good to talk about it. With other people.'
'We've all had our psych sessions, kid,' Morgan argues, not particularly liking the direction Reid seems to be going with this.
'Individual sessions,' Reid reminds him. 'Group therapy is a remarkably different process, in which the setting is explicitly utilized as a mechanism of change by developing, exploring and examining interpersonal relationships within the group.'
'We've got to start somewhere,' Emily says quietly, and Morgan realizes that it's the first thing she's actually said since Reid had gotten here. There's a determined look on her face – one that's been missing for just as long as the smile, and yet its presence feels so much stronger.
'Fine,' he says eventually, and the response is a subdued one. It's not going to be an easy task, but they've taken the first steps. The dawn of a new day.