Title: Crash and Burn
Rating: PG-13
Criminal Minds
Derek Morgan, Emily Prentiss - gen
Genre: Hurt/Comfort/Friendship
Emily isn't taking their latest case particularly well. Post Compromising Positions – 6x04.
Author's Note: I wasn't really happy with this, but here it is anyway.

'I fucked up.'

Morgan stopped.

He was just about to leave the bullpen, his bag slung over his shoulder. Emily hadn't spoken two words to him – to any of them – since they'd left Ohio. He'd been planning on giving her the night to come to terms with the events of the case, but apparently, that wasn't meant to be.

He turned around.

Emily was looking at him, as though she expected some kind of reprimanding.

'I fucked up,' she repeated. 'In the bar. We profiled that he picked husbands for his wife to sleep with, but…my mind blanked, and…he said boyfriend, and I just ran with it, and…he made me.'

Morgan didn't say anything. Because it was a short notice operation, they'd relied on eyes and nothing else. He'd seen the conversation between Emily and James Thomas, but he hadn't heard it.

'He'd probably still be alive, if I hadn't made that mistake,' she added, her gaze drifting off to the side. 'That look in his eyes when I pulled the trigger…At first, I thought that maybe I'd just imagined it, and really, he was the one that shot me.'

Morgan put his go-bag down beside his desk, and pulled his chair over so it faced Emily. He'd known that it was bad, but this bad? She always seemed to come out of these things okay, but this time Morgan wasn't so sure that she had.

'Talk to me, Emily,' he said, keeping himself close to her, but not too close. She'd been inches away from James Thomas when she shot him; even through the haze of panic, Morgan had seen that much. He'd seen that look of suppressed horror in her eyes as she watched him die.

'I didn't want to shoot him,' she admitted, now staring at her shoes. 'I didn't have a choice.'

'I know,' he assured her. 'Emily, listen to me. He killed over a dozen people. If you hadn't shot him, he would have killed you too.' When she looked up, her eyes were shining with tears, and Morgan found himself faltering.

'Come on,' he told her. 'I'll give you a ride home.'

'What about my car?' She sniffled, wiping away a tear, and he couldn't help but give her a small, if unhelpful, grin. He'd rarely seen her cry before – the one time that came to memory was after Haley's death, and they'd all been a little shaken up then. This was new. This was unchartered territory.

'It'll still be here in the morning.'

'Hotch wants me to have a psych eval,' she told him, the words seeming almost non-sequitur. 'And there'll be a review. Apparently you can't just shoot a guy in the stomach at close range without filling in a dozen forms in triplicate.'

He recognized that tone of voice. She was about to go into detachment mode. Deflecting all attempts of enquiry with humor. Morgan couldn't be fooled that easily, and Emily knew it.

'Emily, nobody's expecting you to just bounce right back into things.'

'You did. Hotch did.'

'I don't think we're really the best role models to be looking at, Princess.'

She rolled her eyes at the moniker, but there was genuine mirth in her expression, which meant that his words weren't going entirely unheard.

'Next time,' she told him. 'Next time, you can flirt with the slimy dirtbag to help close the case.'

Still, she took him up on his offer of a ride; an offer which, by BAU tradition, meant walking her to her door, and asking her if she wanted him to stay.

Emily hesitated.

Morgan was almost surprised when she stepped back to let him inside. Less so, when she pulled the near full bottle of vodka from the freezer. He wasn't opposed to drinking post-case, and it was always better to drink in pairs or groups. It seemed to stave off the feelings of alcoholism.

'It's getting harder,' she admitted eventually; it was a revelation that he hadn't been expecting, but now that she'd voiced it, it wasn't so surprising. After all, she wasn't the only one struggling. JJ's departure had affected them all far more than they were willing to admit. It hadn't even been a whole month yet.

It was rare to see a BAU agent retire because of age. Usually, the most common exit was a burn out – the same way that Gideon and Elle had left. They just couldn't handle the job anymore.

'It's like…' Emily frowned, trying to think of the right words to say. 'It's like we're hanging on the edge of a cliff face, and one strong gust of wind is enough to knock us off, right down to the bottom. Today…today was just a really windy day. And maybe sometimes I get the feeling that it might be easier just to let go.' She shook her head. 'This feels like a merry-go-round.'

Morgan raised an eyebrow at the simile, not quite sure as to what she's trying to say.

'Every few months, one of us starts to have doubts. It just keeps going round and round. Maybe the ride is almost over. Maybe it's only just started. Maybe we're all going to crash and burn one day.' She shrugged, tossing back another shot of vodka. 'Hell, I don't know.'

Morgan stared at his empty glass, but made no move to refill it. If he was going to be a pillar of strength, then he needed a clear head for it. 'Don't be afraid to ask for help, Emily,' he said. 'We're all here for you.'

'Says Derek Morgan.' If he didn't know her, he might have mistaken her tone of voice for bitterness, but it was so much more than that. It was that weariness that they all seemed to be feeling lately. Maybe they all just needed a really long vacation.

Emily bit back a yawn, and Morgan figured that it was probably his cue to leave. For a moment, he almost thought that Emily was going to ask him to stay, but she didn't.

She'll be seeing his face in her nightmares tonight.

There was only so much that he could do; the rest was on her.


Crash and burn.