This is sort of the sequel to Holding On, but it can be read as a stand-alone. I had it mostly written a week ago, so it doesn't follow what's going on with the show. Though frankly, I don't buy that Morgan isn't pissed at any of them. It doesn't fit him, especially considering the premiere. But I guess we'll see in the next few weeks, hopefully they'll address that.
FF question, has anyone else noticed that when you add the dividing lines, it bloats the word count?
Anyway, thank you for reading, and please review!
She'd been back for a month, and things between them were still incredibly tense. That was mostly on him, he knew, but he just didn't know what to do about it. He'd forgiven her almost everything, and part of him just wanted to embrace her and tell her how happy he was that she was alive. Because he was happy. But, there was one thing that he just couldn't let go.
It sat on his chest like a large stone, making it hard for him to breathe, and choking him whenever he looked at her. The thought had plagued him for months when she'd been dead, haunting him in his dreams and making him question his sanity more than once. While he'd finally been able to rid the memories of her and her death from his sexual fantasies, the nightmares had become even worse the last month. He'd wake up, his heart pounding so hard he felt like it might just beat it's way out of his chest, his lungs burning with the furious pace he'd forced them to work at, and his sheets and clothes damp with sweat.
Then he'd walk into the BAU, and see her alive and well at her desk.
Never had a woman reduced him to being such a complete nutjob. And he wasn't even sleeping with her.
Only Emily Prentiss could accomplish that.
So Morgan hid in his office as much as possible. Even after they had talked a week ago, and seemingly worked things out. Some things they'd worked out. He was still struggling with many others, and covering that to keep the peace on the team. To keep things at least seeming normal, happy, like that eight months of hell hadn't actually happened. Derek had gotten good at pretending, and at avoidance.
He even carefully timed when he went to get coffee, making sure she had a full cup before he ventured down, just so he wouldn't run into her in the break room. And during briefings, Garcia almost always parked herself on one side of Emily, and JJ or Rossi usually took the other. The tech had regained much of the zing that had disappeared first when JJ had been transferred, and even more after Emily had died. He was grateful to Emily for bringing that back. And Reid wasn't as quiet as he'd been the months she was dead, he was babbling again at full speed (even if very little was directed toward Emily). He was grateful for that too.
That might be why he was at work an hour early, a large brownie at his desk, the words, 'Happy Birthday' rather poorly scrawled on top in blue. There was a giant pile of napkins in his trash, a mangled icing tube somewhere among them. Those stupid things were not created for large, strong man-hands, he'd decided. He'd made a huge mess of his desk.
Of course, if the coffee shop had been willing to do it themselves, it might not look like a preschooler wrote on top of the brownie. Apparently, they didn't keep writing icing in stock. So Morgan had driven to a grocery store to get a tube himself. He'd originally picked red, because she liked red; if only he'd been able to stop seeing both their hands covered in different sort of red.
He picked up the plate he'd pilfered from the break room to set the brownie on, and walked down toward Emily's desk, setting it right in the center of the blotter. Then he noticed a figured rushing into the conference room, a figure dressed very colorfully with a shopping bag in one hand.
What was Garcia doing here this early?
He trudged up the steps, and knocked gently on the door before pushing it open, only to find a wide-eyed Garcia settle with relief at seeing him. But then his eyes widened at the small bundle of balloons next to her. Helium-filled, highly colorful, metallic 'Happy Birthday' balloons.
"Oh my god," he said.
"Get in and close the door, I can use your help."
"Babygirl, what are you doing?"
"Setting up a little mini-party, are you going to help?" She was digging in a bag, pulling out what looked like a couple rolls of streamers.
And there was a large sheet cake on the table. His brownie suddenly seemed very small and inadequate.
Morgan cleared his throat and said as gently as he possibly could. "Uh Penelope, you know she's going to hate this, right?"
The blond swung around and looked at him. "I know she hates fuss and attention, but this year she's just going to suck it up and let us show the love."
He nodded slowly. "Okay, what do you need me to do?"
"Hang the streamers for me?" She held out the two rolls from the bag, one blue, one yellow.
"Yes, ma'am." No matter what he felt, he was not about to argue with Penelope Garcia.
An hour later, the room was completely decked out in birthday cheer. Streamers criss-crossed the room, balloons were tied to the side table that she'd set the plates, forks and napkins up on. Garcia had also set out a bottle of sparkling cider and seven plastic Champaign flutes. The cake and a knife to cut it had migrated to the table as well. And when he'd pointed out that it was a little big for seven people, Garcia had that figured out too.
The mini-party was just for the family. After they finished, she planned on inviting the rest of the BAU to come up and get cake. This was not going to be a quiet celebration. Emily would hate it, he already knew that, but he also knew why Garcia was doing it. Part of it was for the six of them, to celebrate that she was actually alive. The other part was for Emily, to remind her that she was loved and maybe make her think twice the next time she decided to play martyr.
He left the conference room and walked to the railing, and saw her arrive. She set down her bag and smiled at the brownie, then looked up at Reid and said something he couldn't hear. Reid frowned in confusion and his lips moved, causing Emily in glance back at the brownie in thought. After a minute, she said something else, which had Reid glancing at his empty coffee cup and nodding. Together, they walked off, presumably to the break room.
Morgan made his way back to his office, and settled at his desk. Today was going to be hard. With a sigh, he straightened himself, and opened a consult file, but the words on the page seemed to disappear, leaving him staring at his own blood-soaked hands.
She was dying and he couldn't save her. He was screaming for help, hands dropping hers to try and staunch the flow of blood. It didn't seem so much at first, but it was oozing out around the piece of wood launched in her belly. Her breathing grew weaker and Morgan screamed again, turning in time to see Hotch and Rossi racing in, both going pale at the sight.
Everything else from that day up until the hospital was still a bit of a blur. No, everything outside of Prentiss was a blur. His entire focus had been on her. He'd taken her hands again, and let Hotch try and put pressure around the wound. Morgan knew every sound her body made as it fought to stay alive, every whimper, every gasp, every sick wheeze from her chest. He knew the exact moment her heartbeat began to weaken, when her breathing grew labored, and when she'd stopped battling unconsciousness.
Morgan had sat with her in the ambulance, holding one hand as the paramedics worked on her, and he begged her to stay alive.
A knock ripped him from the painful memory, and back to the present to see Hotch at his door. "The briefing is early today, head to the conference room."
He nodded, and glanced at his watch once Hotch left. 9:45. He'd been sitting there for the better part of an hour, lost in his head. Shaking it away, Morgan headed to the conference room, keeping his eyes away from her desk.
He arrived just before Rossi, who stopped and said, "Whoa," before continuing into the room.
"Garcia's work?" He asked.
Morgan nodded. "Who else?"
Rossi smiled. "She is one of a kind, that woman."
He offered a half-grin. "Yeah, she is that."
Reid and Hotch came in next, the former smiling at the decorations, the latter completely unfazed by them. Morgan kind of figured that with no new case, Hotch had surrendered to Garcia's desire rather than argue about professionalism or something. It really wasn't worth it to argue with her.
Prentiss and JJ came in talking at first, and when the former looked up, her mouth opened and eyes widened. "Oh my god."
Garcia jumped up and threw her arms around the stunned woman. "Happy Birthday sweetie!"
"Th-thanks," she stuttered, eyes still wide as she accepted the tech's characteristically exuberant embrace.
Garcia suddenly pulled back, whipped around, and yanked something free from a plastic bag. She then took the sparkling birthday tiara and crowned her reluctant friend. In Garcia's defense it was rather understated, at least by Garcia's standards. Silver with lots of rhinestones and it said Happy Birthday. No gems. No feathers. No pink fur.
Emily's eyes drifted upward, as if she'd actually be able to see the crown, and offered Penelope an awkward smile.
The tech smiled. "Now, onto the festivities. Reid, would you flick that switch on the stereo there, and would one of you gentleman handle the cider? Jayje, entertain the birthday girl for a second, I need to do something."
Rossi went for the bottle of cider, and Hotch prepared to help with the flutes, neither stopping to even think about the fact that their tech was giving them orders. It was actually kind of amusing. Reid somehow located the aforementioned switch, and music bubbled into the room. He listened for a minute.
"The pina colada song, really babygirl?" Morgan grinned.
"It's happy, and we could use a whole lot more happy in this place."
Morgan nodded and watched her pick up a funny-looking blue candle and stick it right in the center of the cake. Out of her bag of goodies she pulled a kitchen lighter and set the candle burning, and to his surprise, the flame was blue.
"Em, come on over here and make a wish!"
"Oh tell me you didn't," Emily warned.
"Relax, it's one candle."
"Garcia, the smoke detectors," Hotch said.
"It's smokeless. Don't worry, I wouldn't get us all into that much trouble." She smiled, and motioned everyone to get close, yanking Emily toward the table.
It was a quarter sheet cake, with chocolate frosting, and he would bet chocolate inside. The top had curls of dark chocolate, and 'Happy Birthday Emily' written in red frosting.
Emily looked as uncomfortable as he'd ever seen her, staring at the cake, taking a deep breath and blowing out the lone candle. Garcia clapped, motioning the rest of them to join, and handed Emily the knife. "You make the first cut, kitten."
Once again obeying the tech, Emily made a cut, and seemed relieved when Garcia shooed her away, and instructed her to sit. Once cider and cake (really big slices) were distributed and they were sitting at the conference table for what might have been the first time without pictures of dead people on the screen, Garcia stood up again, and clacked her plastic fork against her plastic flute. Emily went instantly rigid.
"I just want to say a quick little something, and then we can just relax for a bit," Garcia started. But Morgan wasn't watching her, he was keeping his eyes on Emily.
The tech inhaled, her voice suddenly less buoyant than it had been a minute ago. "So, this last year was pretty uh, well it was pretty damn awful. For nine months, we didn't have JJ, because the DOD wienies stole her away, like her leaving us wouldn't be completely soul-shattering. And, I thought that was bad. Then he who shall not be named broke out of a North Korean prison—like that's easy—and stole Emily away for seven months. And that," Garcia paused, voice wavering, and wiped at her cheeks.
Emily was staring at the table, lips pressed in a tight line.
The tech sniffled and cleared her throat. "That was just really hard, and really painful, and if we never have to feel that again, we'll all be very lucky. And now, to even be able to celebrate your birthday with you, it's really, kind of surreal…" Her voice cracked, and the tears were actively coming now, and Prentiss was glassy-eyed as she leaned over and hugged her.
"I'm so sorry for everything, Pen."
Garcia pulled back. "Oh honey, I know you are, but today is not the day to be dwelling on that." She looked back at the room, and held up her cider. "I think I speak for all of us when I say being here today with you is an unexpected, though certainly appreciated treat. We love you, and we're so happy to be celebrating with you today."
There were mummers of agreement around the table, and they all gestured with their champaign flutes in a toast, and took a sip. Then Penelope spoke again.
"And so help me, if any of you even think about checking out in the near or not so near future, you will see that I can do more with a kitchen knife than cut a cake."
Morgan let out a frustrated sigh as he closed the file and tossed it in his outbox. Most of the time paperwork went fairly smoothly, a mindless though necessary task, but other times, it was absolute torture. He had neglected that file far too long and as a result, his memory was really fuzzy. He'd been flipping through photos, reports and his own notes trying to piece together what he remembered. He'd spent nearly the whole damn day documenting the case in FBI-mandated minutia.
He opened the next file, praying it went quicker, only to hear a soft knock and the sound of his door opening. Prentiss stood there with the brownie in her hands. She looked nervous, which was atypical of her to say the least.
"Hey," he said.
"Hey, I uh…well, I found this on my desk this morning, and after the massive piece of cake Garcia made me eat, I'm afraid eating this whole thing might put me into a sugar coma. Share it with me?"
Morgan eyed her. Part of him wanted to kick her out the door, and avoid dealing with all their shit for a while longer. That part of him was still so angry with her. Instead, he gestured her to one of the chairs in front of his desk.
She offered him a nervous smile, and sat down, placing the brownie on the center of the desk, and using a plastic knife to slice through it. She dragged the knife right through the wording, effectively destroying the message. Not unlike their friendship.
Emily nudged a piece toward him, but left both on the plate, and used her fingers to break a corner off her half, and toss it none-too-delicately in her mouth. That was Prentiss. That was the woman he'd spent almost five years side-by-side, facing the worst of the worst, and joking each other out of miserable moods.
"Hmmm, it's really good," she said, still trying to chew and swallow the piece.
He could stop the corners of his lips from turning up slightly. "You always did have a thing for chocolate."
She nodded, finally managing to swallow the dense dessert. She didn't go for another piece, but simply sat, and watched him.
He sighed. "I am happy you're not dead, Prentiss."
Again she nodded. "Thanks."
His office grew suddenly very silent. And not comfortably silent, like they were accustomed to after so many years of working closely together. This was awkward, no one knows what to say or do, so they do and say nothing, silence.
"Derek, I…" she suddenly stopped speaking, biting her lip instead. "Six, seven months ago, you were annoyingly persistent about asking me what was wrong. I need you to know that had it been any other problem, I would have confided in you. I do trust you."
He shifted leaning forward over his desk, voice and eyes growing hard. "I get that every lie you told, all the cloak and dagger shit, it was all to protect us. I understand what this team means to you, because it means the same to me. I'd have gone through hell to protect every one too."
She shook her head, jaw tense. "Not quite, Derek. You have family that loves you. This team is all I've got." She breathed. "And, what I did, I'd do it again."
Morgan snorted. "That doesn't surprise me."
"I'm sorry it all went down the way it did, and I'm so, so sorry you thought I was dead for six months, I never wanted you to have to go through that. I never wanted…I never wanted to hurt you…or the others. But, I don't regret doing it. What I did, it kept him from going after you and the team, and that, that's worth every ounce of agony he put me through and then some. And, it's still worth it, even if you and Reid hate me forever."
He saw her swallow and knew how much it hurt her to say that. "Reid doesn't hate you. He's hurt, he's confused and making sense of things, but he doesn't hate you."
She nodded, and he saw her eyes glistening with tears. "Maybe…" Emily sniffled. "And you?"
Morgan hung his head. "I don't hate you, not for that."
"You hate me for something else?" He looked up to see her face scrunched up in utter confusion.
A long, tired breath escaped from his lips. "Do you know what's been stuck in my head for the last several months, like the broken record from hell?"
She shook her head.
"That warehouse. I'm on my knees, holding your bloody hands, begging you to stay and alive, and trying not to stare at that damn stick coming out of your belly. It isn't your labored breathing, the blood pooling on the floor, or even your eyes sliding shut that haunts me. Three little words, Emily. I asked you to hold on, and you said three words. Do you remember what they were?"
Her face was in a frown, she started to shake her head, but then abruptly stopped. Her face shifted and her mouth fell open. "Let me go."
"Yeah…yeah, that's what's been haunting me for months."
Prentiss looked at her lap, but didn't say anything.
The fury that had been breeding in his head and his heart reared up that. "Damn it, Emily, you wanted to die!"
Her head shot up, wet eyes wide, and mouth half open. Then she completed his nightmare and nodded in the affirmative.
Morgan let his eyes shut, every muscle in his body tensing down to the tiny ones in his face, and he drove his fist into the wooden desktop. She jumped.
"Did you tell the others about that?" She asked.
"No. I lied in my report, wrote down that you said nothing. They didn't need to know that, especially Garcia and Reid, they were struggling enough."
"Thanks," she said.
"Don't thank me. It wasn't for you." She turned her gaze to her lap again, and Morgan tightened his fist and loosed it, trying to control the rage coursing through his body. "You didn't just want to die, Emily. You asked meto give you go-ahead to do it, or you asked me not to try and save you. Frankly, I don't know which is worse."
"It was the latter." She still hadn't looked up. "I never would have asked you to tell me it was okay to die." She finally met his eyes.
"Well thank you for that."
Prentiss took a deep breath and it shook all the way down her throat. "I didn't want to put all that on you, I just…" She looked away, sniffled, wiped off her cheeks and cleared her throat before facing him again. He voice was so soft, he barely heard her. "I spent weeks terrified that Doyle would come after one or all of you. I didn't sleep, I could barely eat, I was so on edge I nearly shot my cat twice. And, then he killed my JTF team one by one, most of us anyway, and my options suddenly came down to two. Either I killed Doyle, or he killed me. I was aiming for the former, but honestly, by the time I made it to Boston, I was resigned to either. And then he got away, and I…I knew that meant I had to die."
"Just like that. That easy."
She sighed. "I've spent my whole life fighting one thing or another, and then five long weeks agonizing over Doyle…I guess I just got tired. Tired, and broken, and I…I just didn't want to fight anymore."
Deep breath in and out, and try to think past her words. "And now?"
She was silent for several seconds before finally saying, "Now I just want to come back home."
"You are home."
A sniffle, her jaw tensed, and voice cracked. "It hasn't really felt that way, not yet."
"We need time."
After several beats of silence, she stood up, and turned toward the door. Morgan fought with himself, but eventually managed to speak just as she put on the knob. "Emily, wait."
The brunette turned around, eyes still glassy with unshed tears. "Yeah?"
Instead of speaking, Morgan moved from behind his desk, stepped toward her, and wrapped her in his arms. Not hesitant and overly delicate like her hug upon seeing him weeks ago, but fierce and almost claustrophobically tight. She was tense and surprised at first, but reciprocated after only a few seconds, fingers digging into his back almost painfully, her grip was just as furious as his.
"You are home," he said. "Give it all little time, it'll be home again. I promise."
She nodded against him, but didn't speak.
The door burst open then. "Oh, uh sorry. Oh god, I so interrupted something…" Garcia babbled.
They broke apart. Morgan cleared his throat, while Emily collected herself. "It's alright, what's up, babygirl?"
"Well, those of us without little ones to get home to were thinking of taking the birthday girl out for a drink. You up for it, kitten? Handsome?"
Emily looked at her, but seemed hesitant. Morgan sought her eyes, and held them as he spoke. "I think that sounds like a good idea."
She looked momentarily surprised, broke eye contact, and faced Garcia, plastering on a smile. "Yeah, that's sounds fun."
The tech just about bubbled over. "Good. Let me round up the troops, meet you in the bullpen."
She disappeared then, and his resurrected friend turned to him. "I…thank you for the brownie, Derek."
He nodded, and allowed a subdued smile to grace his lips. "Happy Birthday, princess."