The next time they fly as a team, it is months later. All of them are nervous, but manage to take a little comfort in knowing that they are on the jet, not a floatplane. That they are headed to somewhere innocuous like Idaho, instead of Alaska. Garcia stays behind. The consensus is that Garcia is lucky.
Rossi tries to lighten the mood by quoting ridiculous online updates, and it works. A little. The truth is that anyone looking at them from the outside wouldn't be able to see what they know to be true.
That, despite their best efforts, Emily's burn was badly infected, so much so that doctors thought she might lose the leg. Thankfully, it hadn't come to that. She had endured painful burn treatments and rehab and had to come to terms, psychologically, with the potential loss of a limb. She had attacked it like everything else, doing intense research from the hospital, even calling Garcia and asking her to research things like the best prosthetic for field work and phantom pain. Thank God, she still had her leg. It looked like hell, but it was hers. Now, she sits, asking questions about this unsub, these victims, as if nothing is amiss. As if, nothing ever happened. But the truth is in her eyes when they hit turbulence. In the way they flash and in the way she grips the armrest.
No one on the outside would know that Spencer's new haircut - the one Hotch made fun of as soon as they saw each other again - was borne out of necessity not vanity. He needs bangs to cover the scar on his forehead. It's distracting otherwise. For now, though. Spencer shares details of this case with fervor. It has been a long time since they have worked a case and he has been waiting for this. He doesn't have to admit this because everyone knows it's true, but he misses it when they are not together.
Rossi is still sore, though he won't admit it to anyone. If they try to ask about it, he changes the subject. But the truth of the matter is that ice and heat have been his best friends. The truth is he is scared to be on a plane, as he suspects most of them are. Through he slept through the crash that could have killed them; anxiety is still there, an ever-present reminder of all that he could lose.
Hotch keeps his focus steady and his routine stringent. He is home with Jack. It is what he wanted. What he asked Haley for when no one was around. Somehow, he got that gift, while she never got the chance: time. He is determined not to short-change his son. He barely thinks about the pencil that stabbed him anymore, but when they are flying and one rolls precariously to the edge of the table in front of them, he finds himself catching it. He finds himself putting it securely in his bag and zipping it closed.
JJ, somehow, still gasps if she moves wrong - as if she is pulling stitches that don't really exist. She is worried about this case, and she picks them with extra care now, trying to weigh factors like a statistician. She knows she shouldn't, but she can't help asking new questions now. Like, what's the risk to us? How long is the flight? What are the conditions? She knows there is no way to predict these things but she still drives herself crazy trying. Somehow, she came away from the crash site without infection, when the truth is, a wound like that could have easily killed her. She is glad for her ingenuity. For her single-mindedness. For her determination to get them all found. The flags, the helicopter pilot said, were what did it. They spotted the orange one, and then the rest. As proud as she is of being strong, when the plane shudders, all bets are off. When the pilot comes on the intercom to announce anything at all, she reaches out reflexively to squeeze Emily's hand. And the amazing part is? Emily lets her.
Derek doesn't know how he occupied himself these last months. Life without work was like life without a purpose. So he poured himself into his teammates, calling them, visiting them, making sure they were all okay. Long before anyone else, Derek was back in the office. The scar on his arm isn't something he hides. He is proud of it. He even goes out of his way to show it off, and the ladies swoon. But he doesn't do this often. He never does it when the other team members are around.
Garcia, with all her forethought and knowledge is probably the single reason they are all still here, and they know it. With her bag of supplies, it gave them a fighting chance that they would not have otherwise had. She came away physically unscathed, but psychologically, it's a little murky. Anxiety is a constant companion, even worse than before, because now, she has it on good authority that planes do crash, bad things do happen, and it drives her crazy knowing that she is not there on most of these trips. Though she knows that Hotch has invested in a survival kit, which he keeps near him on every flight. He told her that before they left. Probably, to ease her mind, but it hasn't. Back at the BAU, in her office, she is worried sick about her babies.
When the plane touches down, Derek gets on his phone and calls Garcia.
"Hey, back." She sounds nervous. Tense.
"We made it. Safe and sound," he reassures walking through the airport. He tosses the phone to Rossi who looks confused but says hello. The process is repeated time and time again. Emily is last.
She hoists her bag higher on her shoulder and tries not to limp, swatting away Derek's hand when he tries to take her baggage.
"Hey. Yeah, we're fine-"
"Hey, Garcia! Love you!" JJ calls
"Love you, too. Come home safe." Garcia insists.
"We will," Emily assures, confident, even now. "I promise."