Title: Mens Rea
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Characters/Pairing: Prentiss, team - gen
Summary: Retaliation (5x11) Post ep. Emily has something she needs to do before she leaves Lockport.
Peace visits not the guilty mind.
* * *
She strips for the first time since leaving the hospital, and what she sees is even worse than she'd imagined. There's a strip of mottled purple skin that runs from her shoulder to her hip, and half a dozen more incidental bruises. Dark stitches close up the wound on her arm, and the one on her head that's just below the hairline. Those are just the wounds she can see. There are the muscle aches of course, because getting slammed by a truck and rolling down an embankment is no walk in the park, but even further beyond that is the sadness, the guilt.
It's been half an hour since they'd rescued Joe Mueller's family, a little over twelve since she'd been released from hospital (against medical advice, but that's not so unusual in their line of work). Hotch had sent her back to the hotel to get some rest before they fly back to Quantico. She's not so sure she's ready to go back yet.
She still can't get Detective Bunting's look out of her eyes – that look of pleading as Dale Shrader had choked him to death. She'd been mostly out of it at that point, which means that her mind is embellishing, making up things that she doesn't remember happening. She has a feeling that those are the things that are going to be featured in whatever nightmares she has tonight.
She steps into the bathtub of scalding water, wincing as it hits her still sensitive skin. She makes sure to keep her right arm above the water, so that the stitches don't get wet. She closes her eyes, and it's less than a minute before the tears start to fall.
You're really going let me blow his brains out? What's wrong Agent, you still upset that I killed your buddy? Did he have kids like this one?
Bunting does – did – have kids. Had kids, a couple of grandkids, a wife. They'd spent four days working together before the accident, which makes his death feel that much more painful. If she'd been on the ball a few seconds earlier, then he might still be alive. It haunts her to think it, but if Shrader had been sitting on the other side of the car, then she might be the one that's dead, instead of Bunting. Part of her thinks it'd probably be a decent trade. Her death wouldn't deprive children of their parent, wouldn't deprive a woman of her spouse.
She dries herself off as the tub empties, and while the muscle aches have subsided a little, the internal pain is as strong as ever. It hurts to wear a bra, but there's no way she's going without.
Fully dressed, she goes the two doors down to Hotch's hotel room, and knocks on the door. When he opens it, he seems a little concerned at first, but when it becomes evident that she's not there to tell him that Reid had accidentally slipped and broken his neck, or that Morgan had been hit by a bus on his way to buy donuts, he relaxes a bit.
'Is everything alright, Prentiss?' he asks – there's still concern in his voice, but it's subdued. He uses it whenever someone on the team gets hurt. She thinks she hears that voice far too often.
'My head aches a little bit, but otherwise I'm fine,' she tells him, and they both know it's something of an over-exaggeration. He doesn't call her on it – she's pretty sure that would be a case of the pot calling the kettle black. 'I was just…' She hesitates. Lying about physical pain is much easier than lying about emotional pain. 'I want to stay for Detective Bunting's funeral,' she says finally, and he doesn't seem all that surprised.
'Of course,' he says, and she finds herself rushing to make an addendum.
'I can drive back,' she assures him. 'I know you need to get home to Jack.'
His lips are pursed slightly, as though he can't really bring himself to deny it. He has his own guilt. His own burdens.
He doesn't argue.
Still, she really isn't surprised when she sees the rest of the team off, and finds David Rossi standing at her side.
'Hotch spoke to you?' she asks.
'I figured you could use the company,' he replies, which isn't really the answer she'd been looking for, but it's good enough. 'Plus, I don't think any of us want to deal with the fallout if your concussion is worse than you said it was, which really wouldn't surprise me.' The words have a serious undercurrent to them, and she gives a slight shrug.
'I'm alive,' she says, a little bitter. 'That's better than some people can say.' Her hand brushes her neck, and she imagines the Shrader's cuffs pulling tight against it, blocking off all air from her lungs. She hears herself making the same helpless noises that Bunting had made.
'Hey.' He puts a hand on her shoulder, pulling her from the waking nightmare. 'Quit beating yourself up.'
She shakes her head. His words aren't going to assuage the guilt, but she doesn't say anything more. A ripple of pain pulls through her body, and without thinking, she puts a hand to her head, her brow furrowing.
'Have you taken any painkillers?' he asks, and for a moment, thinking is a bit of a struggle. Then she remembers the unfilled script that's in the pockets of the pants she'd been wearing upon her release from the hospital. She'd figured that any drugs in her system would screw up her functioning.
He raises an eyebrow, but doesn't reprimand. That's not his style. Instead, he suggests an early dinner so she can get plenty of sleep in. The funeral's not until the day after tomorrow, but they like to regulate their sleep patterns when they can – it gives some semblance of a normal life.
They pick up Chinese food from a local restaurant, and she takes her jacket off and pretends not to notice as he eyes the wounds on her arm. She appreciates the concern, but she doesn't like the attention, and sometimes it's just easier to ignore it altogether. To his credit though, he doesn't say anything, and just makes sure that she drinks plenty of water.
Before bed, she takes two Tylenol that she'd pilfered from Rossi. She's only got Advil in her bag, and she's had enough concussions to know that ibuprofen and concussion don't really mix. It's kind of pathetic, knowing that she can chronicle her tenure in the BAU by the concussions she'd had. First Milwaukee, then Colorado, and now New York. She hopes next time it'll be a little less scarring.
The nightmares wake her a few times in the night – Bunting's dead eyes haunting her – pleading her to save him. Joe Muller standing by the corpses of his dead family, blaming her for their deaths. Dale Shrader laughing maniacally. He seems like some kind of comic-book villain – melodramatic, irredeemably evil. He wraps his hands around her throat and throttles her, and she dies knowing that she couldn't save anyone.
All in all, not particularly pleasant.
She sleeps until noon though, and the rest of the day is spent drafting her report, which really doesn't help the thoughts that are running through her mind. The funeral rolls around quickly, and yet at the same time, not quickly enough.
She watches the faces of the mourners. Since childhood, it's a habit she's never really been able to break. She watches, for signs more than anything else. Today, she sees the grieving family of the man that had been murdered in front of her. She sees the colleagues that still hold resentment against the team, both for Bunting's death, and for their incomplete profile of Shrader. She ignores the glances they give. Her head bows towards the ground.
Though she'd only known Bunting four days, she thinks he's the kind of man that could have become a good friend. He'd been easy-going, not filled with hubris like a lot of other cops she meets. She listens to the words of his friends, of his family, and ultimately feels out of place, because while she'd liked him, she didn't really know him at all. Didn't know about his childhood, about the extent of the love he held for his children. All those little things that make a man.
She'd thought that coming here would help her feel some kind of closure.
Instead she feels so much worse.
She doesn't realize that she's crying until Rossi hands her a tissue. It's a culmination of everything from the last week – of the initial case, of the accident, of killing Shrader. It's all spilling out, and she's not sure she can stop it. The outburst earns her a few dirty looks, as though her grief is less important. She's not entirely sure they're wrong. She compartmentalizes it, even though just doing that has been getting harder. She wonders if she's breaking.
In any case, she's tear free when she approaches Bunting's widow, the only sign of her tears being red cheeks and the slightest smudge of mascara that she hadn't quite managed to wipe off.
Mrs. Bunting shakes their hands, and Emily tries to choke out the words, "I'm sorry for your loss," but her voice cracks after, 'I'm sorry…' which she thinks is kind of fitting. She's sorry that Detective Bunting is dead. Sorry that she couldn't save him. Sorry that they hadn't profiled Shrader properly in time.
Mrs. Bunting gives her a weak smile. 'It's okay,' she says. It's a split second before Emily realizes that she's about to be hugged.
She only wishes she had this much strength.
They drive back to Quantico, or, more accurately, Rossi drives, and Emily sits in the passenger's seat, her head resting against the seat. She jerks slightly every time she sees the headlights of a car.
They stop in at the office, and Emily prints off her report and hands it to Hotch. It's a little thicker than usually, thanks to the crash, and her shooting of Shrader. He raises an eyebrow and tells her to take the rest of the week off.
She's not really in the mood to argue.
She walks across the mezzanine level and then down the stairs to the bullpen, waving a goodbye to Rossi as she passes his office. Morgan and Reid are in the bullpen, and Morgan's sitting back at his old desk, and she figures that she must have missed a few things.
'Hey,' she greets them, stopping by her desk to change out the files in her bag. If she's taking the rest of the week, she may as well get some work done.
'How's the head?' Morgan asks, grinning slightly.
'It was doing okay until I saw you,' she retorts, and he mocks hurt.
'Seriously,' he says, his voice carrying a little less levity. 'How're you doing?'
She pauses to consider the matter. 'I'll be okay,' she says, before bidding them both farewell.