So, a few things to cover.
This is the sequel to 'Distorted'. You'll get more out of this one if you read the original first, but this is it's own case-fic, so you might be able to get by without reading it. That being said, this chapter won't give away much from 'Distorted', so if you want to read it, read it before the second chapter.
The title is taken from the lyrics to REM's "Try Not to Breathe", they own it, I don't.
Next thing, I'm back to writing, but I won't be posting with the same frequency I was before. I'm still in some pain, and now I have less time. I'm hoping to get a chapter up a week, but no promises on this one. Because of this, I won't start posting the post-Lauren, Prentiss returns case-fic I planned until after this story is done, or at least close to done.
Last thing, the Grief Series, the post-Lauren short story series I was working on is no longer timely, so I've pretty much given up on that. If you're interested however, let me know, if there's enough interest, I'll start work on it again. I have half of the stories started anyway.
All that said, thank you for reading, and as always, reviews are greatly appreciated!
"As we do at such times I turned on my automatic pilot and went through the motions of normalcy on the outside, so that I could concentrate all my powers on surviving the near-mortal wound inside."
- Sonia Johnson
Morgan rolled over in his sleep and bumped into something, forcing his head to wake just enough to remember what and why. But, that something was much furrier than his companion from earlier in the night. Morgan sighed loudly. "Clooney, you know the rules, foot of the bed only."
The dog only groaned in his sleep. Morgan rolled his eyes, and pushed himself up. Not Prentiss, just Clooney. He nudged the dog awake. Clooney turned his head with a whine. "Foot of the bed only." Morgan pointed.
Reluctantly, Clooney moved to end of the king-sized bed, shooting Morgan pathetic puppy eyes as he moved there.
"Oh, don't you give me that, I spoil you plenty." Sighing again, he climbed out of bed, and headed downstairs. He heard soft thuds behind him as Clooney jumped from the bed, and clicking nails on the wood floor as he followed. "Not breakfast time yet, boy."
Rubbing sleep out of his eyes, he made his way into the living room, and found her exactly where he expected. The light from the window illuminated her slightly, pouring pale blue over her face, while the rest of her body was covered in the navy throw from the back of the couch.
No, that throw was not his decision. Men did not buy things like throw blankets; that was a definite chick thing. But, having two sisters and a mother meant his apartment had a slight feminine touch, because of course, all three had to have a hand in decorating. Especially, when he didn't care one way or another. And, he would admit under nothing less than a firing squad that he'd actually curled up in the throw blanket more than once.
He sat down beside her. The mug in her hand was still half full, but there was no sign of steam. She'd been up for a while, and yet, it was only about five-thirty. This wasn't unusual though, not for the last six weeks at least. Just like it wasn't unusual for her to be in his bed, or him to be at her apartment in her bed. She liked to have him close enough to touch-though preferably not actually touching, unless she initiated it.
The first time it happened, it had actually been an accident. She'd had a nightmare, and he'd gone into the spare bedroom she was using to comfort her. He'd fallen asleep. The next night she'd also had a nightmare, but this time, she'd asked him to stay. They'd gotten comfortable with that arrangement in the week she'd stayed with him. When she'd gone back to her apartment, there was a lot of late night phone calls, and then every few days she'd knock on his door in the evening, go-bag over her shoulder, looking like she hadn't slept in days. And, days when she had therapy were always bad, so he headed straight to her apartment after work.
Morgan gently removed the cup from her hands-which was cold-and held one of her hands in his. Emily was engaged in a rather intense staring contest with the empty space in front of her. "Do you want to talk about?"
She shrugged. "Story never changes."
She never wanted to talk about it, and he didn't want to push. "You know I'm here if you want to right? And, you can wake me up after you have a nightmare?"
She finally turned, and offered a small, rare smile. "I know...thank you."
She sighed and intertwined their fingers. "I have the shrink tomorrow."
"Is she helping?" She'd be seeing the therapist the last four weeks, though with extreme reluctance.
"She's trying...I'm being difficult though."
He raised his eyebrows. "Oh? How's that?"
"She wants me to talk about it, but I don't want to. She says I have to face it to get over it, and I don't want to face it. I just want to bury it," she said.
"If you're not ready to talk about it, you're not ready."
Emily nodded, silent for a few seconds. "I feel like I'm being weak."
"Because you don't want to talk about it?" He asked.
"Because I can't talk about it, Morgan."
"You haven't mentioned the gun you're wearing." Dr. Thigotee nodded to the Glock 19 strapped to her hip for the first time in six weeks, well seven technically.
"The Bureau psychologist cleared me for fieldwork yesterday afternoon." Emily shifted nervously in her seat. Four weeks here, and she still felt like she had ants in her pants. She hated shrinks, and she hated the idea of anybody trying to get into her head.
The irony of that hadn't escaped her.
"How do you feel about that?" Thigotee, Ann, was about Emily's age, attractive and stereotypically bespectacled. She also seemed to have infinite patience, which Emily felt was an almost intolerable quality. For a shrink though, a good one.
"Happy, nervous, comfortable..."
"Nervous and comfortable?"
"I'm comfortable, because this is what I do, and it feels like everything's starting to go back to normal. I'm nervous, because I know it will be different now; I know that I'll probably empathize too much, and might have flashbacks, and it will be hard at first."
Thigotee nodded. "I appreciate your realistic view, Emily. Tell me why you feel happy."
She inhaled. "Uh, I guess because I'll be with the team again, partof the team again."
"Haven't you been since you returned to work four weeks ago?"
"Not really. I was there, but I didn't go with them on cases, so no, not really."
Another sage shrink nod. "And, being part of your team again is important to you?"
"Yes, it is."
"Tell me about that."
"Uh, they're...well I..." Emily sighed. "This is hard to explain. Growing up my parents were hardly ever in the same room together, and we traveled so much that the idea of family or friends was really more like a fantasy. The team is the first group I ever really belonged to, and being with them, being part of them, it's not quite that 'everything's right with the world' feeling, but it isn't far off."
Thigotee inhaled. "Let me ask you something, Emily. Do you feel you're ready to go back into the field?" Emily went to open her mouth, but the doctor held up a hand. "Don't just say yes, I want you to really think about this. I know I don't have to remind you that your job isn't typical, and that if it were, this would be easier. Unlike most other survivors of sexual assault, you deal with rapists and killers every day. And, I know you've been doing consultations for the last four weeks, but this is different, and I know you know that. This is crime scenes, distraught family members, possibly even live victims, and going face to face with suspects. Are you really ready to go back into that world, Emily?"
As requested, Emily was silent for a while, processing the good doctor's words. Then she inhaled. "I know all that, and I know there will never be a point where I can just jump back into it like what happened didn't happen...but it's what I do, what I want to continue to do, and yes, I'm ready to get back into it."
"Then why say 'what happened' instead of saying what actually did happen?"
Emily struggled to keep the annoyance off her face. "Because, saying 'what happened' is shorter than saying I was held hostage for a week, witnessed four murders, including that of a two year-old boy, and was beaten and raped repeatedly."
"Hey, you got cleared for the field yesterday, right?" JJ asked, barely slowing down, attempting to grab the door to the BAU around the stack of folders in her arms.
Emily grabbed it for her. "Yeah, we have a case?"
The energy coming off the media liaison was enough to tell her what was going on, and she wondered if she was late to the party or arriving just in time.
"Yeah..." JJ stopped suddenly, and Emily nearly ran into her when she turned. The look in her blue eyes said it was going to be a hard case. "Em, it's a serial rapist."
Her mouth opened in surprise, and then she just sighed. "Bound to happen sooner or later."
JJ stared at her a minute longer, and then nodded, giving her hand a squeeze, before heading up to Hotch's office. Emily went to her desk, seriously wondering if she'd done something in a past life to have earned the emotional hell she was still suffering through. She could sit out for this one, start field duty on the next case to come in, but if she couldn't handle their cases, she really was useless.
She already kept Morgan sleep-deprived a few days a week (at least), and felt like she was still scared all the time. Hell, at her house, she slept with her gun under her pillow, and if she had a nightmare, she was a wreck for the rest of the night. Her sense of security was destroyed, and her confidence wasn't faring much better. She could fake being confident, but in reality, there wasn't much left to her. It made her wonder how much more of a mess she'd be if she wasn't in therapy.
"Morning Emily," Reid greeted, from his desk.
"Good Morning, we've got a case, I just ran into JJ."
He frowned at the empty coffee cup on his desk. "I better get a refill before we start." Then he grabbed his over-sized coffee mug, and headed into the break room.
Emily sat down, and sighed at the sight of more mail on her desk. Letters and cards from random strangers who'd followed the news broadcasts, and felt compelled to offer her words of comfort or praise. And, the sickos who sent creepy letters about how much they wanted to protect her. Those she plucked out and handed to Garcia to run background on and start a file, just in case. Today looked like two cards and three letters, which she tossed on top of a legal pad.
She was getting up again when Morgan came in with two cups of coffee in his hands. He set one down in front of her. "Hey, you're a little later than usual today. Everything go okay?"
She reached into her bag and pulled out an orange prescription bottle, and wiggled it at him. "Thigotee insisted I get it filled that way I'd have it whenever we get a case, which by the way, is now. JJ is in with Hotch."
Morgan frowned. "What is it?"
"Xanax. Apparently it has fewer side effects that the other benzos."
"She suddenly decided you need tranquillizers?"
Emily sighed. "She's afraid a case might trigger an anxiety attack or something, wants me to have them just in case. Don't tell Hotch though, I don't need him worry over me."
"I'm sure he already does."
"Fine, I don't need him to worry any more over me."
He nodded, and grabbed a pad of paper off his desk, as Emily did the same, and he let her lead the way to the conference room.
She had come back to work after two weeks out, after the bruising had mostly faded, and she'd begged Hotch to okay it. The first week was part-time, but since then she'd been there regular hours. The team had been out of town twice, and both times she'd found herself finding excuses to hang-out with Garcia. She'd just passed the Bureau PTSD screening late yesterday afternoon, not that that was particularly hard.
And, the bandages came off her wrists two weeks ago. She'd already made a point to wear long sleeves, but the last two weeks she was extra careful. Her wrists were not pretty. The layer of skin had grown back-sort of. The doctor explained what it was, not really skin, but something else that she didn't pay much attention to. There was an inch and a half thick strip on both of wrists of hard, bumpy, red whatever. Sometimes, it still ached, but the doctor said that could last a while. He said to take tylenol.
"Hey, JJ told me we have a new case." Garcia met them at the conference room door, all smiles and sunshine as per usual.
Emily knew it had taken all the redhead's self control not to mother her over the last month. She appreciated her friend's restraint. Even banged up and psychologically dysfunctional, she still couldn't handle coddling.
She offered Garcia a smile. "Yeah, Reid went to get more coffee, and everyone else should be in here any minute."
"Reid's already had two cups this morning," Morgan commented.
"Boy wonder's got to keep himself running, handsome," Garica said. The youngest profiler chose that moment to enter, sitting beside Garcia, sipping his coffee and oblivious that they'd just been talking about him.
They didn't have to wait long for JJ, Hotch and Rossi to join them. The media liaison swept in, distributed folders, and grabbed the remote to start the case presentation in one smooth move.
"Ryeburg, Vermont has a serial rapist. Four victims so far, all between the ages of 23-30, but no distinct physical type beyond thin and pretty. They are professionals in white collar jobs, but not necessarily the high-powered career types. Two secretaries, a paralegal, and a intern at a health clinic." JJ patiently flicked through the photos of the victims, deep resignation in her voice.
"He waits until late at night, breaks into their homes, chloroforms them, strips them, and ties them to the bed. The only injuries sustained were those received from the rape. Once he's done, he pockets the condom he used, uses the chloroform again, and then leaves, but not before brutally slaughtering and display their pet or pets." She clicked onto two new photos.
"Oh! Oh my god!" Garcia yelped, ducking her face toward Reid, one hand held covering her eyes. "Why! Why would you do that to sweet, cute fuzzy creatures!"
Not knowing what else to do, Reid gently patted her shoulders, looking a bit awkward with his task.
The photos were of a dog and a cat, the dog had been ripped open and nailed to the inside of a door, and the other, a cat spread eagle on a table, a long cut down it's belly, and it's head stuck on top.
JJ clicked back to the FBI logo. "Pictures are gone, Garica."
She straightened back up. "Sorry."
The media liaison then nodded toward Hotch. "Ryeburg is a quite little town with a small, sparsely used Sheriff and a handful of deputies. They aren't equipped to deal with this type of offender, and I don't know what we can expect from their case files."
"Will we have access to the victims?" Rossi asked Hotch and JJ.
She answered. "Three of the four. The second victim tried to kill herself, she's an inpatient at Meadowlark Psychiatric Hospital. The sheriff said we could attempt to speak with her, but not to expect much."