Title: Why We Fight
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Characters/Pairing: Morgan, Prentiss – gen
Summary: In amongst all the darkness, it's hard to find a reason. Set sometime post "Solitary Man."
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We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.
* * *
An unearthly silence hung over Emily Prentiss' condominium; the kind of silence that overtook a place when its owner only spent one day out of every seven actually living in said place. She dumped her bag at the foot of the stairs; actually going up the stairs felt like too much effort at that point, not just because she was physically tired, but due to mental and emotional exhaustion as well.
It hadn't been an easy case.
None of the cases were easy, really, but for a while now, it felt as though every single case was a loss, no matter how many people they managed to save. There was always someone else out there, waiting to be caught.
Just thinking about it made her want to drink herself into forgetfulness, sometimes. Not that she did so with regularity – alcoholism and the job were not a good mix.
It was barely 11am, and she found herself sinking onto the sofa – if she went to bed, then she'd sleep for the next twelve hours, and that would screw up her body clock even more than it already was screwed up. The sofa was just uncomfortable enough that she could nap without falling into REM.
In theory, anyway.
It was almost five when she awoke; the world was sinking into twilight, and the condo felt even emptier than it did when she'd first come in.
The reason for her waking became apparent once her mind had cleared; a loud thumping noise that she took a few seconds to recognize as someone knocking at her door. She wasn't entirely sure who would be knocking on her door, though – she rarely spoke to her neighbors, and any friends she had in the area would still be at work.
She looked through the peephole, completely unprepared for the person standing on the other side.
Usually, any social activity between the team was organized in the bullpen, or in the elevator – any place within the FBI building, really. Having one of them show up at her doorstep was beyond weird. The last time it had happened, it had been Hotch, and even then it had been for professional reasons.
Emily opened the door, raised eyebrow already set in place.
'I just came to see how you were doing,' he said, apparently taking her expression in stride.
'You make house calls now?' she replied, sounding far bitchier than she'd intended. Maybe the job really was getting to her.
'I go wherever I'm needed,' he grinned, and she felt herself relax slightly – Derek Morgan had enough life experience to not be insulted by her words.
'Funny,' she countered, 'I didn't realize your name was Luke Cage.' He evidently didn't get the reference, but was too cool to admit it, so Emily found herself changing the subject. 'So what makes you think I need checking up on?'
'Just this little thing called profiling. You might have heard of it…'
She rolled her eyes – he was putting on the charm, full blast. She wondered if he even realized whether he was doing it, sometimes, or whether it had become so engrained that it was just another facet of his personality.
'It was a tough case,' she conceded. 'We get a lot of tough cases. I can deal with it.'
'I have a better idea,' he said, still grinning. 'Come with me.'
There were a few seconds of awkward silence. Emily just stared at him. 'Seriously?'
'Come on,' he said. 'It's either come with me, or stay at home moping all night. I'm pretty sure we'll have more fun doing things my way.'
'Where do you plan on taking me?' she asked, suspicious. She trusted Derek Morgan with her life, but that didn't mean she was about to let him take her somewhere without knowing where she was going. She'd been through enough teenage drama to ensure that she'd never make that mistake again.
'It's a surprise.'
Emily gave a short laugh. 'You're enjoying this, aren't you?'
'Just a bit,' he admitted, adding. 'If I tell you, then it won't be a surprise. Nothing dangerous. No unsubs. No mind games. You should probably get changed, though. Boots, cargos. Something that can get dirty.'
That piqued her curiosity. When he'd suggested going out, she'd assumed drinking, or dancing, or one of those other Morganesque activities.
'Give me ten minutes,' she relented, because she did trust Morgan. In spite of the masks he wore, he wasn't one to hide his opinions. She admired that honesty sometimes. Other times it was just plain annoying. It was that part of him that let her know that even if she steadfastly refused his offer tonight, it would be waiting to pounce on her again, somewhere down the track.
Thirteen minutes later, Emily was back downstairs, grabbing her purse.
'You didn't need to wash your hair for me,' Morgan said, eying her damp hair.
'I hadn't showered since Tampa,' she told him.
'You're probably going to need another one anyway, after I'm finished with you.'
Emily cleared her throat. 'Sounds like quite an evening you have planned,' she deadpanned.
'PG evening, princess. Sorry to get your hopes up.' She shook her head at the sobriquet, but otherwise said nothing as he led her to his car. Not the bike, at least – that was something. There was a cooler bag in the backseat, as well as a few other things that she didn't quite have the chance to categorize before he told her, 'No peeking.'
'It's just this little thing called profiling,' she told him drily. 'You might have heard of it.'
He grinned at that, flipping the radio to a jazz station, which only surprised her a little bit.
He drove out of the city, which intrigued her. The trip wasn't exactly silent – they had more in common than just Vonnegut – but it wasn't until an hour later, when he pulled up outside the house with scaffolding outside that she realized just what he was doing.
And really, she should have seen it earlier, because they'd talked about this before, if not in the actual context of housing development. Her head really must have been out of the game.
'So, what?' she asked him. 'You're gonna give me a sledgehammer and let me go to town?'
'Something like that,' he shrugged. 'Only, you don't get to pick the wall – it won't really be a good investment if you knock the whole house down.'
'Do you really do it for the money?'
He didn't really answer that one, but then, Emily was pretty sure she already knew the answer.
He tossed her a pair of safety goggles and a dust mask, and she put them on, hoping like hell she didn't look as ridiculous as he did in them.
'This whole living area will look bigger once we knock down the wall,' he told her, his words muffled by the mask. 'Great for parties.'
'I took care of the baseboards and the moldings this morning,' he said, and she realized that he must come straight from the airstrip to the house. 'There's no wiring in this wall, so we don't need to worry about any of the complicated stuff.'
He was simplifying matters, Emily knew – she had no doubt that he had the skill-set to work on the house's electrical needs. You didn't own four properties without learning a few things.
Personally, Emily had never really picked up anything on home maintenance until she'd moved out, and done a hell of a lot of growing up in a very short period of time. No matter how rebellious a teenager she might have been, there was a big difference between being an Ambassador's daughter and fending for oneself in the real world. Considering the fact that, up until a few years ago she'd always rented, home renovations had never been much of an issue.
As the first blow of the sledgehammer hit the drywall, she figured that Morgan had a point. It felt good. Messy, but good.
Once the drywall was out, Morgan put a call through for pizza. 'Should be here by the time we finish the studs,' he breathed – apparently not even Derek Morgan was immune to exhaustion.
When the pizza arrived, there was still a bit to go, but they unanimously decided to stop anyway. Pizza trumped DIY. Pizza and beer, Emily realized, as Morgan got the cooler out of the backseat.
'You sure know how to show a girl a good time,' Emily told him in full seriousness – the night was turning out far better than any date she'd been on in the last five years. It seemed almost pathetic.
'It gets better,' he told her, leading the way upstairs to the top floor of the house. 'Roof access,' he announced.
It wasn't until they'd stepped outside that she realized the appeal of roof access. The house was surrounded by trees, but the roof gave an unimpeded view of the sky. Being this far out from the city, the light of the stars was unsurpassed. Thousands of tiny white balls of gas dotted the night sky.
'It's beautiful,' Emily breathed, momentarily overwhelmed.
'I figured if you can match a constellation to an unsub's stab wound patterns, then you probably liked astronomy. Plus, there's the whole "nerd" thing.'
'You say that like it's a bad thing.' Emily grabbed one of the beers, and took the slice of pepperoni pizza that Morgan passed over to her. 'It's not a hobby that you can really indulge very well when you're always on the move. Makes you think, though…' she trailed off, the silence punctuated by the sound of Morgan twisting open his beer.
'The whole "is it really worth it" thing. I mean…there's this whole other universe out there, and we're just these tiny insignificant creatures. Sometimes it feels like we're just walking around in the dark. I guess that's why we have to take the little victories, huh?'
Morgan gave a grunt of agreement. 'I can't tell you the number of times I've lost faith in the world – in humanity – only to have something happen that just makes everything seem okay for a little while. Maybe we put a killer behind bars, maybe we save somebody's life…but failing that…'
'There's always the drywall.'
'Yeah,' Morgan echoed. 'There's always the drywall.'