Title: These Endless Days
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Universe: Creatures of the Night (Part Three)
Characters/Pairing: JJ/Hotch; Morgan/Prentiss
Summary: Emily returns to her mother, while the team prepare to face off against the vampire Matriarch. The balance of power hangs on a knife's edge, and nothing is as it seems.
Author's Note: At the end.
Emily turns in her sleep.
It's been two months since the first nightmare. Two months since they'd returned from Argadnel. Two months since she'd turned away from the only good thing in her life.
Her hand rests on the empty spot on the other side of the bed. The fact that she feels so lonely is ridiculous, considering that he's only spent the night a grand total of once, and even then, they'd been interrupted by the news of Reid's disappearance.
She had turned away because she thought she was protecting him. Protecting him from what, she isn't exactly sure. There are a lot of dangerous things in the world, and Derek Morgan could probably hold his own with some of them, at least. The rest, she doubts even she could fight off.
It's not about physical strength, though – it's about perceptions. If they perceive him to be a threat, he'll get hurt, and they'll only perceive him as a threat if he's by her side. Who "they" are is another question altogether. Over the years, Emily has built up her share of enemies. Some die out, some move on. Some stick to her like a parasite. Some are a part of her very existence. Her nightmare.
It's always the same dream.
The life she could have had, but the life she could never have had. The life she did have, for just one fleeting moment.
'You know what you have to do,' her mother's voice says, or maybe it's her voice. Her mind. This is what her mind wants of her.
You can't go home again.
'Just one thrust, and it's all over. You'll be free, Emily. All you have to do is…'
And that's where the problem lies. That place isn't home. It has never been home. It's a place where a woman lives – a woman who she doesn't particularly like very much that keeps trying to get in her way, and just so happens to share her blood.
The stake burns her hand. She should have worn gloves. Tonight, she doesn't hesitate. Tonight, the stake goes in cleanly, and her mother explodes in spray of hot, fiery ash. Some of it hits Emily's skin, but she doesn't feel it.
Always the same, but always a little different.
Emily wakes up in a cold sweat, the same as every night so far this week. She figures that she should have gotten over it by now, that she should be used to it, that she should just roll over and keep on sleeping.
Her eyes are bloodshot, the skin underneath darkened. The vampire physiology should stop that, but it doesn't, and as a result, she looks more like a zombie than anything else. While her work may have suffered a little, thanks to the chronic exhaustion, there's no chance that anyone will actually mistake her for a zombie, if only because the creatures have less sentience than a teaspoon.
It's a little past five a.m, which means that going back to sleep is pretty pointless anyway. She showers, and dresses, and stops by a blood bank on the way to work.
Just another day.
At the Behavioral Analysis Unit, things are tense.
They have been for a while now.
The scar on JJ's chest twinges. Reid's a little more forthcoming to her than he is to Morgan, or Hotch, or Rossi, but even then, there's a coldness that hadn't been there before everything changed. The team is fractured, in more ways than one.
She sits at her desk, revising the paperwork from their latest case. A shifter has a psychotic break, and mauls half a dozen people to death. The team doesn't quite make it in time, and Rossi fires three silver bullets.
Just another day.
Hotch stands at her door, a concerned look on his face. 'Are we still on for tonight?' he asks, and JJ's almost amused; he's nervous. Sick leave and case work mean that it's taken until now for them to plan their date.
'Sure,' she tells him, 'Though it has to be a double, because you asked me out twice.'
He frowns. 'I did?'
'Sure – first after Strauss went down, and then again when we were in hospital.' Not the same hospital, granted, but psychic powers are good for some things, after all.
His frown persists. 'I'm sorry – I didn't mean to be so… importunate.'
JJ shrugs. 'I said yes both times, so it doesn't really make a difference.'
'Right…of course. What time's your appointment with Doctor Schreiber?'
JJ winced. She'd almost forgotten about the appointment – more to the point, she'd been trying to forget about it. Since Argadnel, her visions had been getting steadily worse, to the point where a day didn't go by without one. She'd almost fainted in the shower this morning, only to witness a werewolf buying his morning coffee. Telepathy didn't exactly distinguish between the important and the irrelevant.
'Four,' she told him. 'I was planning on just going home afterwards.'
'I'll pick you up at seven, then?'
JJ nodded. 'That sounds good.'
It's something to look forward to.
The bullpen is already bustling when Morgan dumps his bag under the desk at 8am. The team usually works daytime hours, but the high proportion of vampires in this city mean that there are usually people around at all times of day.
Thanks to an early morning workout, he's dripping with sweat, even after the rigorous scrub down. There's just something in his physiology that makes him sweat a lot; the same part of his physiology that's responsible for turning him into a wolf once a month. He doesn't particularly like it, but there's nothing he can really do about it, either.
Reid's at his desk, pretending to be engrossed in a file. Morgan gets the hint, and decides not to push that matter. Today, Reid isn't interested in talking.
Emily's not at her desk, but her bag is, and there are papers spread across it, so he knows that she's already here. He tries not to look too engrossed in the search as he scans the floor, with both his eyes and his nose. She's in the kitchenette, pouring herself a coffee. Sometimes it's difficult to distinguish individual scents when there are so many people in the room, but he's intimately acquainted with Emily's – a guarantee that he'll never forget it.
Even though the day has only just started, she looks exhausted, as though she'd been up all night tossing and turning.
Under the pretense of getting his own coffee, he wanders over there.
Since the break-up, she's been both professional and cordial, not to mention a pretty good agent. Apparently you learn some things when you've been around for a few hundred years.
'Are you alright?' he asks, eventually, as he stirs the milk into his coffee. 'You look a little…withdrawn.'
'I'm fine,' she replies, a little too quickly for Morgan's liking. 'I just haven't been sleeping well.'
'Nightmares?' he asks. 'It's not unusual – the casework is hard on everyone.'
She gives him a look. 'Thank you for your concern, Derek, but I have been dealing with this kind of stuff for a long time. These cases are horrible, but they're nothing new.'
'So what's the problem?' he persists.
'There's an annoying werewolf that keeps asking me whether or not I'm okay,' she says sharply, grabbing her coffee and turning back towards the bullpen.
Okay, there is definitely something going on there, Morgan tells himself.
And he is determined to find out what.
Author's Note: I wasn't planning on posting this so soon (famous last words), but after a talk with a couple of people, I decided that it would be better to at least post the first chapter now, while The Clockwork Boy is still fresh in your minds. Never fear, though, because I do have active plans in finishing at least four stories, so they should come, if a little bit slowly. Peace.