The Other Side of the Story
A/N: This may seem offensive to some people, but I was trying to write it from Matthew's perspective rather than trying to showcase my own beliefs, so please take that into account before you bitch at me for blasphemy. That said, not being a Catholic, and not wanting to take the Catholic 101 course before writing this fic, some facts may be a little bit off, but I guess you should just run with it. I was supposed to update Dawn tonight, but I needed to get this one out of my head. Also, this contains some mature themes (non graphic sex, drug usage, slight swearing) so be forewarned.
You've seen her exactly two times since Rome. Once, ten years ago in D.C, and once seven years before that in Paris. You're at the end of your rope, but then you think you've been at the end of your rope for a long time.
You're fifteen years old, and you're being introduced to Emily Prentiss for the first time. Her mother has just joined the Embassy staff, and she's enrolled in the local international school, the same school you've spent the last two years at. You feel almost drawn to her.
She's smiling nervously, brushing her hair back behind her ears. She's wearing blue jeans and a red and white striped t-shirt. She doesn't talk to anyone at first; you get the feeling she's assessing the situation, trying to determine the best way in which to act.
'Hi,' you say warmly. 'I'm Matthew.' You hold out a hand for her to shake, and she looks at it as though it's some kind of weapon. After a second, though, she shakes it.
She sits next to you in class that day, and it only takes you ten minutes to realize that she's one of the smartest people in the room. She answers almost every question regarding the symbolism behind the book you're supposed to be studying with ease. It's a topic you've been trying to get your head around for weeks.
'There's a place I think you'd like,' you tell her. 'Mercato delle Stampe. They've got loads of old books.'
At that point, you think she realizes that you're genuinely trying to be friends with her, rather than just being nice for the sake of it. She loosens a little, smiles at you more easily, laughs at the jokes you make.
She tells you that this is the third posting of her mother's in the space of a year; she spent two months in Kuwait, and a further three in Ukraine. You get the idea that she's used to the constant uprooting. You find yourself praying that she spends a decent amount of time in Rome; already you find the smile, the nervous ticks endearing. You think Emily Prentiss is a person you could grow to love. In a way, you think you love her already.
You're at the airport, and you're trying to call Emily. Patrick Cavanaugh and Thomas Valentine are already at the gate. You think that on your own, you draw enough attention, but together, a group of men with broken minds, broken spirits and broken faith, together, you think it would be even worse.
You're shaking as you dial the numbers. You can't get a fix here; you're already spiralling – you don't want to get yourself arrested as well. You think she'd find out, she'd come and visit, and you would see the disappointment in her face. The disappointment that you could not fight the darkness.
'I need to speak to Agent Prentiss.' Your voice is high, a little warbly. You get the impression that the person on the other end of the line thinks that you're a strung out cokehead. This is the third time you've called, and it's the third time you've gotten the same answer.
'Agent Prentiss is in California working a case. Can I take a message for her?'
You twitch slightly. You don't want them to know who you are, why you're calling.
'I...no, it's okay.'
You wanted to tell her where you were going, what you were doing, as though it was some kind of farewell for you. No matter what happens in Galicia, you don't think you'll be coming back the same way you're leaving.
What else would you have said? I love you? I miss you? I wish things could have been different? It's not your fault?
You don't know. You just wish you had that chance to say goodbye.
She comes to church with you that Sunday. She's slightly uncomfortable, as if she's only there because you're there. You don't know what her beliefs are, and you think it is probably rude to ask this early on in your friendship. The number of places she's lived in her life, you think that going with the flow is probably the norm for her. It doesn't matter to you. You think that God's love is indiscriminate.
You think your parents would disapprove. They're watching the two of you critically, you notice, from across the pew. Her parents aren't here – her mother apparently has a very important meeting that cannot be postponed. She does not spend a lot of time with her parents, she tells you later. They're never around; she's learnt to make do with her own company.
You give her a smile, as if trying to tell her that she has your company too, that she is at least loved by one person. She smiles back, and nudges you slightly, giggling. Father Guimino gives the two of you a harsh look, at which she falls silent.
She gives you a quick hug as you leave with your parents. She knows that they are wary of her, and she does not want to exacerbate matters.
'I'll see you tomorrow,' she promises.
You smile – only the thought of seeing her again can make you smile like that.
You're in a Parisian nightclub, snorting cocaine off a glass table when you see her. You almost don't recognize her at first – she's wearing black. You never saw her wear black in Rome – she favoured reds and light browns. She's wearing dark makeup, dark lipstick, and she's hanging out with a group people who you're fairly sure are tripping hard. But she doesn't have that look in her eye, and you're grateful.
'Emily!' You hesitate before calling her name – you're torn between wanting to see her and not wanting her to see you. Your mouth is open before you can stop it.
She turns, shocked. You're the last person she expected to see here. She pulls away from the group without even blinking. She hugs you tightly, and you get the feeling that she doesn't want to let go. For a moment, you don't want to let go either.
You're both twenty-one now, and she's grown in ways that you never imagined. Physically, yes, but mentally, she seems different too – confident, headstrong, almost. That façade drops away when the two of you are alone, and suddenly she's that scared little girl that you loved so much.
You brush a strand of hair from her face, looking into those dark eyes. They seem so much darker. You suppose it's a side effect of what happened in Rome. She went through most of the pain, and yet you were the one that spiralled into a dark place – you think that she was the stronger one. She tried so hard to help you, but fate intervened.
She's beautiful. It's a realization you have when you're fucking her in a dimly lit hotel room. The way she writhes beneath your touch, the soft skin of her breast. It makes your heart swell. She insisted that you use a condom; she's had far too much experience with what happens if one isn't used. You comply. You don't want to disappoint her.
But then, you know it's too late for that. Right now, your entire existence is a disappointment – a sad little life held together with spit and drugs. A far cry from what it used to be. You wish you could have been stronger.
'Matthew...' she says. The two of you are lying there, staring at the ceiling. You're itching to do something kinkier – to snort a line off her breast, maybe – but you know you would only send her packing.
'Mmm?' You're trying to keep your responses short, as if you will just let go of everything if you open your mouth.
'I...I want to help you.' She's speaking nervously, and you think back to happier times. Then you remember the last six years of your life. The filth, the addiction that has become definitive of who you are. You know you're beyond help. And you know that you love her, and that you don't want to ruin her life too.
It's why you leave, why you walk out the door while she's asleep, and you never come back. You love her too much to expose her to that kind of pain.
You're not around when it happens. Some of the other students had organized a party, one that you knew you would never be allowed to go to. Emily goes, though – her parents are far too busy to care what she does with her life.
You don't ever get the full story, but you find her the next morning, crying softly.
You put an arm around her, and she leans into your embrace. 'What's wrong?' you ask.
After a while, she calms down enough to tell you what she had done the previous night. You're silent for a moment. On the one hand, you have your beliefs, and on the other hand, you have your best friend crying salty tears into your shirt.
'Did you...did you use protection?'
She gives a great sob as she shakes her head. 'I...I don't even know why I did it,' she says, words interspersed with tears.
'It's okay,' you tell her. 'I'm here for you.'
Father Del Toro is standing in front of you. You're at the end of your journey.
He seems surprised at the fact that three men broke into his quarters to – of all things – talk.
You're pacing, biting at your fingernails. You came here to get closure on your life, on your faith. After this, nothing matters.
'I need to know!' You're yelling suddenly, reaching forward and grabbing him by the fabric of his cassock. Tommy and Patrick try and pull you off him. You let go, and Father Del Toro falls backward, clutching at his chest.
You drop to your knees. 'I need to know why God's love isn't enough.'
You hold back her hair as she vomits. She's crying as well. She knows what this means for her. This is the consequence of the mistakes that she made.
She washes her face with cold water from the basin. Though the tears have stopped now, her face is still red. She's looking at you, waiting for you to pass judgment.
'We'll get through this,' you tell her, trying to smile. You aren't sure you know what to do. If it were you, you would be praying, be looking for guidance, for God's love. You think with her, a more direct approach would be preferable.
'Did you want to talk to Father Guimino about it?' You ask. She's been to church with you every Sunday for the six months she's been here. By now, you don't think she goes simply for your sake.
You hope you can help her through this.
This time, she sees you instead of you seeing her. You're not sure how she recognized you. You know your face is a little more hollow that when she last saw you, your eyes a little deader.
While you've devolved, she has flourished. Her cheeks have a pink tinge from the winter chill. It contrasts nicely against her otherwise monochromatic look.
'I...' You don't know what to say. You're high as a kite, which probably doesn't help.
She hugs you, though you get the impression that it's out of guilt, out of obligation more than anything else. That's what your drug-addled mind is telling you. Then, you see that smile on her face. The nervous smile that hasn't changed one bit in the twenty years that you've known her. You know that she still feels the pain, the anguish, the guilt. You feel guilty too – guilty that you're making her hurt so much inside. It would be better if you left again, made it so that she wouldn't have to worry about you.
'I'm sorry,' is what you say. "I love you," is what you wanted to say. But you're running. You can hear her running after you. You saw the gun and badge on her hip; if it were anyone else, you would be running out of fear of being hurt. Now you're running from the fear of hurting her.
You lose her, finally. To keep running away is the hardest thing you've ever done. You want to cherish her, to love her, to be there for her.
But you can't.
You're fuming silently. How dare he? She's scared. She's scared and she doesn't know what to do. Father Guimino had gone right ahead and told her that she would burn in the fires of hell if she didn't absolve her sins. Then, he had gone on to tell her just what would happen if she chose to terminate the consequence of that sin. The two of you had stood there, shocked.
You know about sin. You've read through every Bible passage a hundred times. You know what constitutes a mortal sin, and yet you can't quite comprehend the fact that something can be so blasphemous that not even God will love you.
You had thought yourself wise, well read. You realize then that you know nothing about the world. When you look into Father Guimino's eyes now, all you see is the religious convictions of a bitter old man. You don't get the sense of God's love that you used to.
You know that you love her no matter what she does. You hold her close to you. She's shaking. You're going to help her through this, no matter what it takes.
You see your father, see the priest that's with him, and immediately, you know that something is going on. You barely have a chance to protest before they tie you to the bed, before your father holds you down.
Your last thoughts before the pain are of that guilt. The guilt that you couldn't be strong enough to pull yourself out of the darkness. The guilt that you couldn't be strong enough to be there for Emily. The guilt that you never got the chance to tell her how much you love her. You think she's out there right now, alone. You just want to hold her once more, and tell her that everything is going to be okay.
You're walking the streets at night. You've just bought dinner for the two of you. She's asleep at the hotel now, but she'll be hungry later.
There were no complications from the procedure, but you know that your wallet is a lot lighter. You hadn't wanted to leave her alone, but you forced yourself to pull away. You're angry, and you don't want to take it out on her.
You stop. You stare at the sky. It's an endless field of darkness. You need to know why. You need to know why people make stupid rules based on a book written thousands of years ago. You don't think it should be about perceived sins.
'What are you looking for?' a voice asks you from the darkness. You jump slightly. At first you think you're about to get mugged or beaten up, but you relax only slightly when you realize that the person who spoke is simply leaning against a fence, staring at the sky, just like you.
'God's love,' you reply bitterly. You look down at the ground.
'There are a lot of ways to find God's love,' he says. You're confused at first, but then he hands you a small bag. 'Consider it a gift,' he says. 'From one broken Catholic to another.'
You look at the bag, and consider throwing it away at first. Instead, though, you put it in your pocket.
Maybe a change of perspective wouldn't be so bad.
You feel the pain in your heart, as sure as the pain to the rest of you. It isn't just about the symbolic pain, the pain you feel for the loss of someone you never really got a chance to love. It's the pain you feel as you're going into cardiac arrest.
You've figured out by now that they're trying to expunge the "demon" from your soul. You think that in the end, death is probably the best way to do that. You're broken. You could not find what you were looking for.
Nothing seems to matter anymore.
She's staring at you with tears in her eyes. For four months, she's tried to help you through your troubles, your doubts. And now she can't anymore.
Your hands are in your pockets, one of them holding on to a small bag. It's not the same bag – it's a brand new bag.
She's looking at the ground, as if looking into your eyes is far too painful. 'My mother got, uh...transferred. We're moving back to Kuwait. I guess they liked her work, or something.' She has that bitterness in her voice, and you step forward to wipe away the tear that's falling down her cheek.
You feel the urge now, but instead you hug her tightly. It was hard enough getting through this even with her help.
'Thank-you so much,' she whispers into your ear. You can feel her breath against your neck, and you know you'll miss it more than any drug. 'I will never forget how much you helped me.'
And just like that, she's gone.
And in a way, so are you.