A/N: SPOILERS FOR "TO HELL…AND BACK." BE WARNED.
I wasn't really happy with this one, but I'm posting it anyway. Go figure.
Something to Hold Onto
No-one was in a good mood when they finally made it back to Quantico.
Strictly speaking, they should have considered this one a win: the victim survived. But no-one – no-one – felt like they'd won.
Morgan was on edge – more so than he had ever been after a difficult case. He felt an overwhelming urge to go to the nearest bar, and drink until he couldn't remember his own name. He was fairly sure that he wasn't the only one with this yearning. To his surprise, there were fewer takers than he had anticipated. Garcia and JJ both expressed their desire to go home to their significant others and spend the next three days sleeping. Reid sidestepped around the issue, finally revealing his plan to read the entirety of Proust's In Search of Lost Time. For pleasure. Morgan shook his head and moved on to Hotch and Rossi.
'Don't think I want to break the bank ordering shots of 100-proof whiskey when I've got a perfectly good bottle at home,' Rossi said darkly. Morgan had seen through the façade immediately. Rossi wanted to drink alone.
Hotch had reflected the invitation with a simple, 'No,' which Morgan knew better than to argue with. For him, it was enough that Hotch was apparently going home; an occurrence rarely seen by the rest of the team.
Emily was his final stop.
'Last resort, huh?' she asked, smirking.
'No, I was just saving the best for last,' he replied, with a charming smile that they both knew was forced.
'Sure,' she said, eventually. 'As long as we get a cab. You know me and alcohol...' She let the sentence hang in the air.
In spite of himself, he grinned, remembering Vegas. 'Yeah,' he said. 'I know.'
They were both buzzed. Drunk enough to have dulled some of the pain, but not quite drunk enough to the point where they lost inhibition. Of course, the night wasn't over yet.
'What's changed?' she asked abruptly, downing the rest of her drink in one gulp.
He frowned. If there was a train of thought he was supposed to be following, he wasn't aware of it. 'What do you mean?' he inquired, barely hearing himself over the din of the bar.
'Kicking down doors, or smashing down walls, both make you feel like you're changing something for the better,' she paraphrased. 'Have things really changed so much in a year?'
Morgan stared down at his drink. When had he started feeling this way? The cases that year had been hard, yes, but it wasn't as though cases in the past had been a cakewalk. Had he turned into a cynic?
'I don't know,' he said eventually. 'Things have just seemed…darker lately. Not that they were ever puppies and sunshine, you know what I'm saying?'
'Yeah.' She scoffed slightly. 'We should stage an intervention. Start wearing only bright colors.'
'That doesn't even make sense.'
Emily gave a slight shrug. It didn't need to make sense, as long as it made them feel better. She flagged down the bartender, ordering them both another round of the same.
'Better start hoping like hell we don't get called in,' muttered Morgan, taking a sip of the beer that had been placed in front of him.
'Screw intervention; that's strike-worthy.' Shaking her head, she added. 'I think it'll be a few days before any of us are ready for another case, workaholism aside.'
'That's not a real word,' he accused, causing Emily to raise an eyebrow.
'You seriously want to discuss grammar at a time like this?' she asked.
He snorted. 'See…this is what I'm saying. We go to a bar, have a few drinks, and still the only thing we can talk about is work. It's taken over our lives. What else is left?'
'Copious amounts of alcohol,' she replied.
'Yeah,' he said, shrugging. 'I suppose that'll have to do.' He wasn't quite sure he believed his words. Then, as if to drive the point home, his phone rang. He rolled his eyes.
'What is it, Rossi?' he answered, struggling to hear over the sound of rumbling voices. 'What? Hotch is…'
Emily watched her colleague carefully. Whatever Rossi had said, it seemed to have instantly sobered Morgan. Not even the amount of alcohol in her system could have prepared her for the look of shock – the look of utter dejection on Morgan's face.
'What is it?'
He stared at the phone. 'We need to go…Foyet he…Hotch…' He could not even bear to finish the sentence.
Sometimes, there was nothing left to hold onto.