A/N: This was originally written before the S7 premiere aired, so it's somewhat AU now. It's post S6 finale fic, about Emily's return to the team. It was written for femgenficathon over on LJ, which celebrates female characters and not just as love interests. The quote below was the prompt I was givn. Thanks to the lovely yana for betaing, even though she is having a busy month. I hope everyone enjoys this. It`s been a while since I've wrtten CM stuff. I'd forgotten how much fun it could be.
Revenge and Reality
No matter which side won a battle, ourselves or our enemies, the loser always got even in the end. Getting even was what kept our men fighting; and this wanting to get even was what made so much mourning, too. - Pretty Shield (1858-1944), medicine woman of the Crow tribe and author.
This is what came of caring far more about fitting yourself into any size hole than about trying to figure out what type of peg you were in the first place.
This is what came of just once, wanting things to be simple, normal.
This is what came of a life dedicated to making the appearance of a thing tantamount.
This is what came of telling yourself that if you could just finally be what people wanted you to be, that you might eventually be happy.
Worst of all, this is what came of trying to ignore all that came before.
What, or more specifically who, was hidden in your past had a habit of always catching up with you.
Emily Prentiss had a past.
A horrible, dark, secretive past.
And she was ashamed of it. She'd tried to hide it as best she could. Tamped it down, buried it, locked it in a maximum security vault in the back corner of her mind.
Half of it was so confidential it wasn't even in her personnel file. Easy to pretend it never existed.
She'd been in so deep, and only a handful of people ever knew.
(Unfortunately, she was one of them.)
And in the end the concealment had nearly been her undoing.
Oh how she hated lying. Ironic, given that sometimes it felt like it was all she did. She hated it now more than ever. Lies, politics, deceit.
After Doyle she'd just needed to get out. Out of intelligence, out of the Agency, and most of all out of undercover work.
She'd always been good at pretending, but that time, with Doyle, she'd pretended too much.
Some of it had become a kind of truth.
One she'd only been able to carry around without collapsing because almost no one else knew it was there. No one else knew how much he'd loved her.
Or rather, loved not-her. Loved Lauren Reynolds.
(No one else knew how much Lauren Reynolds had wanted to love him.)
Lauren Reynolds was dead.
Lauren Reynolds was dead.
But then, until last week, so was Emily Prentiss.
Morgan told her once that she didn't (and maybe couldn't) trust anyone.
In her old line of work trusting people wasn't a luxury she could afford.
Not that she'd been good at trust before joining the Agency, but being undercover complicated things even more.
When she was in the CIA, she could trust Tsia, Jeremy, Stephen, Sean, and sometimes Clive. But she'd been alone whenever anything happened that mattered. Always on her own with him. And then she'd had to trust herself.
Emily had always known that she could only really trust herself.
Lauren Reynolds could only trust Ian Doyle, according to him at least. So Lauren trusted him, and him alone, just as he'd wanted (Emily'd always been taught to try to be what others wanted).
Lauren trusted Doyle. Emily trusted no one.
Later on, Agent Prentiss had trusted her team with herself. But Lauren hadn't. Lauren would never trust anyone with her nights with Ian Doyle. The remnants of the old CIA agent hadn't trusted anyone either. You have a handler, who you trusted, but only because you had to. And you kept an eye out. Anyone could be lying. Anyone could turn. Anyone could be bought (Jeremy had proven that). Other aliases floated around too, not to strongly, but still with their own baggage. The people in Emily's head sometimes felt like they were separate; they had their own compartments, their own boxes. And they wanted to keep their own secrets. They demanded to keep their own secrets.
It was the only way she could get through her day.
Now most of the boxes she'd tried so hard to bury had been blown apart, their contents exposed.
She couldn't pretend they didn't exist anymore. Couldn't pretend that Lauren wasn't part of her anymore.
She couldn't pretend anything.
Her team had seen what she'd desperately wanted to hide. They'd seen her. They'd seen Lauren. They would know. And they would hate her for it. They would never understand. How could anyone? Half the time she didn't.
At the very least, they would resent her.
Because in the end she had betrayed them.
She'd betrayed Doyle.
And boy had he felt betrayed. He'd had years to think of a way to get even.
He'd found her. He'd threatened her team (her team), told her they were dead if she told them anything. Not that she'd wanted to.
And he'd counted on that.
Doyle wanted her to lie, to keep the secret.
Probably so that her team would always remember her as the one who'd let them down.
Emily had been living with the consequences of her decision ever since (if you could call having to change your name and address about every six weeks living).
Now that was done. Doyle was dead. She'd taken the shot herself. She could return to the U.S. She could go back to an old name. One that only sometimes felt like hers.
She could go back to face her team and face her punishment.
Now it was their turn to get even with her.
If she could have anything in the world, she'd somehow make it five years ago.
She'd just started at the BAU then.
She'd still had a chance to be happy.
Emily remembered being able to deal with Hotch's mistrust then. He'd just hated politics as much as she had. At least then she'd known his doubts weren't really her fault.
Not that time.
Emily'd let herself get so comfortable at the BAU that she'd almost forgotten that that life was all a fake, that she was a fake. She let herself pretend that this could be who she was. Maybe she really was a career FBI Agent. Maybe her past life really could be forgotten.
You'd have thought undercover work would have taught her a lesson about getting lost in a world of make-believe.
Those worlds tended to get snatched away. And even if you survived, they still came back to claim what was rightfully theirs.
Lauren's world had come back to claim Emily's. Maybe her past would always want revenge on her present.
Maybe everybody's did.
Her past just had sharper teeth than most people's.
Her past had changed her. After the Doyle operation she couldn't do any of it anymore. No more lies, no more damn pretending. She just wanted a job where she could be one person, maybe try and be herself, have a team and structure like the vast majority of people working in law enforcement.
When the spot opened up at the BAU, she'd jumped on it.
She'd always been good at profiling behaviour, at reading cues. You had to be in her line of work (in her old line of work).
Only thing was, she wasn't just good at reading behaviour. She was also good at modifying her own.
She'd tried not to. She really had. She'd even taken a deep breath and tried to tell them about herself, well her current self at least. In hindsight, she probably overcompensated to an insane degree (a memory of babbling to Morgan about a dating disaster still made her cringe). She'd tried so hard to make them like her (she remembered being shocked any time she succeeded in those early days).
She tried so hard to be what people wanted.
But she wasn't.
An ex intelligence agent who very nearly got everyone around her killed. Who sent old teammates to be executed. Who guarded her secrets. Dangerous.
That wasn't what anyone wanted.
She wasn't what anyone wanted.
She never had been.
Her mother had wanted the perfect political daughter. Poised, confident, polite. Emily had tried, she actually had. For a while at least. But it hadn't taken. She'd rebelled hard in high school. And her relationship with her mother had never gotten back on track.
In high school, well, she'd ended up pregnant at fifteen because she'd been ready to do just about anything to get a boy to accept her. That'd turned out real well.
In college she'd launched herself into her studies. She'd joined what felt like a hundred clubs, and she'd had what felt like a hundred acquaintances (all of whom got a slightly different version of Emily, she realized now), but very few close friends. She'd never been able to open up, relax enough to make them.
In the early days of the BAU she'd been tainted by politics and mistrust (and with her background, who could blame either Hotch or Strauss for making the assumptions they did). It'd been almost a year before Hotch had looked at her with anything warmer than mild suspicion in his eye.
She'd never fit in.
Oh, she played a good game. Play it confident enough and everyone assumes you have a large circle of fabulous friends. Emily'd certainly looked the part.
It was all a sham, a ruse. She was good at ruses.
The CIA had seen that almost immediately.
She'd been recruited straight out of college.
Originally she'd been flattered, even if she knew family connections had been part of it.
Part of her had loved the training. She'd excelled early on. The right people recognized her uncanny ability to play the chameleon and they exploited it. They said she was serving her country, but Emily called a spade a spade. Doyle locked up was a good thing, and she'd never regret helping achieve that, but she hadn't had a clue what she was getting into when she'd signed onto the mission. She'd just wanted to impress.
So when they asked her to give herself to a monster (out of duty), she complied.
After that she'd lost her stomach for the politics and the sacrifices and the pain. Someone else could deal with it. She'd needed to get out.
Clive never forgave her for that. Running when things got tough.
But damn it all, Clive wasn't the one who'd had to share a bed with a terrorist.
Clive wasn't the one who'd developed a sick kind of affection, maybe even love for the man.
Clive wasn't the one who'd lost half of what he knew about himself.
And Clive wasn't the one who'd had to repeat his name into a mirror a hundred times a night for months afterwards, just to remind himself who he was.
Clive could go to hell.
How could she tell her team any of that?
"Morning guys. How's the latest case going? Oh by the way, I was on an undercover operation where I sold my soul to the CIA. I slept with a man I despised for his secrets. Anyone else want coffee?"
It was easy for them to judge her, to stand on their moral high ground and look down on her and say she should have told them.
How did you tell someone that?
How did you face their judgement? Or worse their disappointment?
They could never understand.
Even if she hadn't been bound by confidentially clauses, Emily wasn't sure how she could have done it.
And she'd panicked. God had she panicked.
He'd threatened them.
She'd needed to keep them safe.
At the time it had been just that simple.
So even though they would probably always judge her, she admitted that she probably wouldn't change anything she'd done.
You are not alone. You are not alone. You are not alone.
She's played Garcia's message back a million times in her head.
But she was alone. She'd always been alone.
They might have stood by her once, but he took them away. He took everything away. Just as he'd promised he would.
Could they ever understand? Could she ask that of them?
Maybe a clean break was better.
Why was she going back? What would it achieve? Who would it help?
They were better off without her.
She'd already caused them enough grief.
She had to go back though. If she didn't it would mean that Doyle had taken Emily Prentiss from her. She couldn't let him take her name. Not her real name, whatever it meant.
It meant something.
It had to.
Even if it was just the name she repeated as she stood, yet again, in front of a mirror.
And she loved the BAU. It was the only place she'd ever felt good, like there were people who gave a damn about her, really gave a damn.
They were her friends.
If she really loved them, maybe she should leave them with their memories of her, not force them to recognize her failure, relive the pain. They must be starting to heal now.
But, she'd already taken their right to choose away from them once by withholding information. She didn't have the right to make that decision again.
Besides, like all wronged parties, they deserve the chance to dole out her punishment.
She'd take it willingly when they did. (She wondered what form it would take.)
It really was the least she could do.
Besides she was desperate to see them.
So desperate that she was willing to sit in their company while they hated her, just so she could see them again.
Maybe they would...
But no, better not to even think it.
Better not to hope.
Reid would almost definitely hate her. (Why shouldn't he?) Reid, who was still somehow innocent, and good, and hopeful, and brilliant, and just Reid. Reid who'd been like the little brother she'd never had. Reid would never forgive. Reid had been abandoned before. Emily's knew her fake death would hit a particularly sore spot. Especially since Reid had just confided the secret that was preying on him and she hadn't reciprocated.
Garcia would be hurt and unsure. Garcia was one of the best friends Emily had ever had in her entire life. Garcia made Emily smile. Garcia only saw the beautiful in the world. And then Emily had caused Garcia untold emotional damage. Garcia felt so much, cared so much. She saw the good in Emily, and that was saying something. Emily doubted that Garcia would see good any more when she looked at her.
Hotch was one of the best supervisors Emily had ever had, rocky start and all. He was one of the few genuinely honourable men she's ever known. Hotch had always thought she was too political, too much of a risk, and probably untrustworthy. She'd managed to gain his trust for a while, but that was probably gone now. She knew that she'd never get it back.
Morgan, who was loyal and strong and who made people feel good about themselves, a quality Emily had always admired. Morgan had been so frustrated with her when she'd refused to tell him the truth. She was sure he'd been angry afterwards, especially since he'd blame himself for not being able to save her. She'd made him think he'd failed her, when he hadn't. She'd failed him. Her partner, betrayed, guilty, in pain.
J.J. might come around. There was more to Jenifer Jareau than most people knew. J.J. had hidden depths and even more hidden abilities. But J.J. had also been forced to lie to those she cared about because of Emily's secrets. J.J. must resent her now for that.
Emily wasn't sure what Rossi would think. Rossi was the wildcard. The man who thought far more than he said, and when he did say something, it was probably not something you wanted to hear (though you might need to). Rossi might decide he was too old to bother trying to repair their friendship, and that Emily could fend for herself. He'd been used to working alone from the old days anyway. He might be disinterested now, might decide she had too many issues and that it was too complicated to get involved in again.
Things would never be as they were.
She'd lost her family.
She didn't mind the loneliness, the ache. She'd had plenty of time to get used to that over the years.
She could take it. She could take it.
She could take it.
She hoped so at least, because she'd have to.
Reid couldn't be anyone but himself, she loved him for that.
She could be everyone but herself.
That was what it felt like at least.
Doyle had been wrong. Her life wasn't the most precious thing to her. They were.
And she'd saved them. She had.
She just hadn't saved herself.
What was she going to do?
She would see them soon.
She knew they'd been briefed.
She'd been through hell and back. But somehow she had a feeling the worst was yet to come.
She couldn't run anymore.
Everything was catching up to her, and it was coming with a price.
Emily stood waiting in one of the many nondescript waiting rooms in the Hoover building. She was in one of the smaller conference rooms down the hall from the BAU. If she'd wanted to she could be at her old workstation in about thirty seconds. But no one thought that was a good idea.
Emily clenched her hands into fists to stop herself from biting her nails. They'd be here any minute now. She resisted the sudden urge to bolt rather than face their anger.
But she didn't. She was done running. And she wanted to see them.
Emily turned to stare out the window to distract herself. She'd come up with a bit of a speech the night before, an attempt at an explanation. She couldn't remember a word now, though she tried desperately.
She knew she should have written it down.
Her heart gave a painful lurch when she heard the door open behind her. She turned slowly and tried to summon up some kind of a smile.
The next thing she knew she was being bombarded by a flurry of pinks and yellows and greens as Garcia launched herself across the room and held on tightly when she reached her old friend. Tears ran down the tech analyst's face as she very definitely explained how angry she was at her 'Enigmatic Emily of Espionage'.
Emily wrapped her arms around her former teammate in a daze, not quite understanding what was going on, snippets of Garcia's fury registering in her brain.
"...thought you were dead... How could you not tell us... We would have helped you... trust... team... protect... alone... Stupid, self-sacrificing... I could kill you right now! ...putting an electronic tracer on your phone and your bank account and... I'm so angry right now I can barely speak. I hate profilers. I can't believe you did that to us! Do you have any idea what we went through these last few months?"
And then as suddenly as she'd been grabbed, Emily was released with an angry shake, only to feel something click around her wrist.
She looked down to see a pair of purple fuzzy handcuffs linking her left arm to Garcia's right.
Emily met the computer tech's eyes in confusion.
"I'm not letting you out of my sight again," Garcia explained firmly. "And before you say anything, think about this pet, you may have all that fancy spy training, but I can wipe out your bank accounts in under a minute."
That was when Emily remembered something: Penelope Garcia didn't do revenge. The woman in front of her was definitely angry, hurt and emotional, but she wasn't bitter or looking for retribution.
The hope Emily had been trying to bury sparked to life in her chest and she gave a shaky laugh.
Maybe Garcia would be strong enough to end the cycle of insisting on getting even, demanding retribution and reparations.
Maybe Garcia really was above the mere mortals who surrounded her.
Garcia reminded Emily of why she'd chosen the BAU as her family to begin with, what she'd wanted her life to be.
It was almost funny when you thought about it.
Doyle's ultimate revenge had been thwarted by a multicoloured ball of friendship who hadn't held a gun in her life.
And that's when Emily did something she hadn't done for months: she cried.
She threw her free arm around her friend, "Pen..."
Garcia's eyes widened in shock then she softened. "What did the world do to you, Oh Emily, my Emily?"
Emily shook her head. She couldn't, didn't know how to explain right now... Maybe it didn't matter.
She looked up when she heard a discrete cough in the doorway.
Rossi ambled in with forced casualness, "Well, what have we here?"
Emily wiped her eyes quickly with her free hand. "Hi Dave. I..."
He walked towards her, shaking his head. "Not now," he ordered.
Emily's heart sank until he continued.
"Later," he assured her, placing his hands on her shoulders and a chaste kiss to her forehead. "I don't care about any of it right now."
Emily gave a shaky nod; it was all that she could manage.
"I know you were protecting your family," he told her, trying to catch her eyes. "But you don't ever do anything like that again; do you hear me Emily Prentiss?"
"Yeah," Emily whispered.
"Good. And don't get me wrong," Rossi continued. "I definitely will care later, but right now I'm just happy to see you."
"Okay," she whispered. She looked up to meet his eyes. "Thanks Dave."
His eyes narrowed at the expression in hers. "What did you think we'd do to you, Emily?" he asked softly.
She didn't answer. Emily. She was Emily again. Still Emily to them.
"You think this is the worst I've seen?" Rossi asked. "I've been around the block a few times. Hell, I've probably done worse myself."
Emily chuckled before she could stop herself.
"I told you, you need to trust us," Morgan said from the doorway where he'd obviously been watching the entire conversation.
Emily took a tentative step towards him, "Morgan."
"You've got a lot of explaining to do, Prentiss," he said slowly.
Emily steeled herself for the worst. Here it was, the anger she'd been expecting. "I know," she admitted, her heart thudding. "I just... the stuff I did before... I didn't want... I didn't know how..."
"I told you that you could trust me with anything," Morgan reminded her.
Emily opened her mouth to object.
Morgan beat her to it. "I know it was classified, Prentiss," he said. "I know you were in a tough spot. But I still think there had to be a better way. At least after the BAU was read into parts of the operation. Of course, you were already gone by then."
Emily tried to take another step towards him only to realize she couldn't without physically dragging Garcia along with her.
Morgan raised his eyebrows.
"Handcuffed to Garcia," she muttered by way of explanation.
"Good," Morgan said succinctly, as if there was nothing abnormal about that situation. Garcia nodded enthusiastically while Rossi smirked.
"You really didn't think we'd let you out of our sight so quickly this time, Princess?" Morgan asked when Emily didn't say anything.
Emily stared at him. "I..."
"I told you Emily, and I hope you haven't forgotten, you're my friend. Part of me is so angry with you right now I can barely think straight. But part of me wants to tie you down and feed you a half a dozen cheeseburgers, because damn girl..."
Emily gave a shaky laugh. "I haven't forgotten. Thanks for finding me, that day."
"Of course we found you!" Garcia interjected indignantly, smacking Emily in the arm.
Emily glanced away.
"Things aren't all of a sudden going to be easy," Morgan cautioned. "In fact, it's going to be horribly awkward. I'm pretty sure I don't trust you, Prentiss. And I have no idea what about you is true and what isn't. I know you're not the woman I thought you were. But I guess I figure I know enough."
"If you want to talk about it..." Emily offered tentatively.
"Not today," Morgan said sharply. "I'm not dealing with that today. But if my Baby Girl would cooperate, I'd like to give you a hug."
Emily met him halfway across the room, Garcia in tow. She let herself settle into his arms, closing her eyes briefly. "You really need to trust us, Em," Morgan whispered.
"I know," Emily admitted. "Would you believe me if I said that I do?"
"I figured," Emily sighed. She opened her eyes only to be confronted by two pairs staring at her over Morgan's shoulder.
She sent them a weak smile. J.J. stepped into the room first. "Good to see you again, Em."
Emily stepped away from Morgan. "J.J., how can I ever thank you?"
"Don't even say it," J.J. said her with a slight shake of her head.
"Seriously, don't mention it," J.J. told her. "It ever occur to you that we'd work as hard to keep you safe as you did to protect us?"
Of course it had, Emily thought. That's why she'd had to go off on her own. She couldn't have any of them rushing in and getting hurt. "Thanks."
Emily turned to the man still skulking in the doorway. "Hi Reid."
"Hi Emily," Reid replied quietly.
"How are you?" Emily asked .
He shrugged. "I'm not sure."
"Right," she said, seeing the expected wariness in his eyes. "I'm so sorry..."
"Don't," Reid ordered, eyes suddenly angry. "We were your family."
"And Doyle threatened you," Emily replied calmly.
"I don't know if that's good enough," Reid snapped. "I can't believe you left. You didn't even say goodbye. At least Gideon left a letter."
"Reid..." Morgan interrupted.
"No," Emily shook her head. "It's fine. I am sorry Reid. I really am."
"Yeah," he whispered. "I am glad you're not dead."
"I'm not like you, Reid," Emily said softly. "I've been more than one person in my life. I know how to be loads."
"And which one did we know?" Reid asked.
"I'd like to think the real one," Emily admitted. "I hope the real one."
"Okay?" she asked.
"Maybe," Reid agreed.
Emily tried to remember parts of her practiced explanation. "I didn't know how to tell you," she admitted to all of them. "That my background wasn't what you thought. Most of it was just a cover..."
To her surprise, Rossi laughed. "Did you really think we didn't know that the whole 'ten years in the Midwest' was a lie?" he asked curiously.
Morgan smirked. "Your security clearance is higher than mine, Princess," he reminded her. "We're not idiots. Even if we had been, your ability to find a spy's hidden safe in about thirty seconds would have been a bit of a tip off that something wasn't right."
"Not to mention you were always too good in the field to have come from a desk job," JJ added with a hint of a smile.
"And you speak what? Six languages?" Garcia asked. "Seven?"
"Six," Emily replied, not sure what to say.
"Of course, we didn't exactly guess the truth either," J.J. said dryly.
"Yeah," Emily agreed. Then something occurred to her. "Wait, you're back at the BAU?"
"Looks like I got to come back just a few months before you did," J.J. said with a tentative smile.
"Your desk is still free, Emily," Rossi told her.
Emily met his eyes in confusion.
"But I'm not back," Emily reminded him, not noticing everyone else's faces fall.
"Not before you sign your transfer papers at least," Hotch informed her walking into the room. "Sorry I took so long. I got stuck on the phone."
"Hi Hotch," Emily said.
"Prentiss," he said returning the greeting. "So what do you say? We're short an experienced profiler."
Emily felt her eyes well up again when he handed her the file.
How was it that easy? She should have months of paperwork, and evaluations, and...
Her eyes flicked through their faces, guarded, some a little angry, but all hopeful.
They were happy to see her. Glad that she wasn't dead.
Her team didn't do vengeance. Her team forgave, or would eventually.
Maybe that was what really separated them from the people they caught.
Her team loved her, just as she loved them. They were unsure of her right now, unsure, hurt and angry. And they would be for a while.
But they still loved her.
One stray, hopeful tear leaked out of the corner of Emily's eye.
Hotch handed her his handkerchief.
And his pen.
"Strauss has already approved it," he informed her gravely.
Emily stared at the papers in his hand. "Are you sure?"
"Would I be handing those to you if I wasn't?" he countered. "And don't even try and pretend this isn't what you want."
"Thank you," she whispered.
"You belong on this team, Prentiss," he reminded her.
Emily stared at the pen he was still holding out to her.
This time they already knew her dark secrets and they were still willing to stand beside her. This time they knew the truth. This time she wouldn't have to pretend.
Emily took a deep breath and signed her reinstatement papers.
Maybe this time things would be real.