Title: Still Fighting
Rating: PG
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Characters/Pairing:
Morgan, Prentiss - gen
Genre: Friendship/Angst
Summary:
It was going to take a lot more than Sundays at the shooting range to work through their problems.

Emily dressed casually for Sunday, unsure exactly what Morgan wanted to put her through. Sweatpants and a loose t-shirt, with a sports bra underneath. The gym bag slung over her shoulder had a towel, water bottle and boxing gloves, as well as her gun, wallet and phone.

Morgan was already there, which surprised her just a little. He had his earmuffs on, and was focused on the target in front of him, the trigger squeezes a lot more merciless than Emily had seen in a long time.

She knew better than to interrupt him while he had a gun in his hand, so she stood back, waiting for him to finish his clip.

Safety on, chamber empty, gun down. Without taking off the muffs, he brought the target forward, letting Emily see it for the first time.

Tight grouping, center mass, none of the shots more than an inch away from another. A textbook perfect round.

'How long have you been standing there?' he asked, without turning around.

'Not long.'

There was a moment of awkward silence. Morgan pulled off his ear muffs and protective glasses. It was generally frowned upon, but at this time on a Sunday morning, there was no-one else around, and it was a pain in the ass to try and talk with them on. Emily followed suit, forefinger rubbing at her thumb. It hadn't been this weird since the day she'd first returned, and she wondered if she'd done something to piss him off again.

'Hey.' She stepped forward, putting a hand to his shoulder. 'Is everything okay?'

'Yeah,' he said, turning to face her. His eyes were filled with a kind of darkness that she hadn't seen in a long time. 'Sorry. I wanted to work that out before you got here.'

Another pause.

'Reid wasn't the only one who came down here a lot while you were gone,' he said. 'Every time I pulled that trigger, I imagined I was shooting Doyle.'

Emily was not overly surprised by the revelation, but she couldn't quite think of how to respond to it. 'I'm sorry you had to go through that,' she said eventually, but it still seemed inadequate somehow.

'Hey,' he said. 'Don't worry about it.' The tone of voice made it absolutely clear that he was worrying about it, but Emily didn't call him on it. 'That's why I want to do this.'

'Okay then,' Emily grinned. She set her gym bag down on the floor, and pulled out her gun. Technically speaking, to say that it was "her gun" was something of a misnomer. Her Glock 19 had been reissued to another agent after her death, and her backup weapon, she wasn't sure about. It had been a few weeks since her return, but she was still sorting through the remnants of her life.

Some stuff her mother had, some stuff had been sold, and some was in storage. The only furniture she had in her new apartment so far was a bed, table, and a couple of chairs.

'So what,' Emily asked. 'You just want to check my aim?'

'Aim, form, trigger discipline. Just the basics.'

She burned through two clips, both targets looking pretty good, considering how long it had been since she'd been away. Not that she hadn't practiced while she was in Europe, but there was a big difference.

'You're hesitating,' Morgan told her. She gave him a look.

'That's not hesitation.' She disengaged the clip. 'I just need practice. You need to see me shoot anything else? Rocket launcher? MP-5? I could start throwing knives, if you want.'

'Have you ever even fired a rocket launcher?' he asked, his voice caught midway between amusement, disbelief, and, if Emily's profiling skills were up to scratch, fear that she actually might have.

'No,' she admitted. 'But if you really want to, I could probably get one for you.'

It was Morgan's turn to stare. 'Seriously?'

'Of course, most of my old weapons contacts would probably kill me on sight.'

His face dropped, and Emily felt like a complete idiot. Too soon, Prentiss.

'Sorry,' she said immediately. There were way too many apologies to be giving lately. 'I really didn't think that one through.'

'Maybe save the jokes for a little while longer.'

It wasn't really a joke – most of the people she'd associated with as Lauren Reynolds would probably torture her to death without hesitation if they ever saw her again – but she didn't tell him that. As much as she wanted to tell him everything, too much at once would result in information overload.

'What now?' Emily asked, putting her gun back into her bag. 'You gonna teach me how to tackle?'

'Hey, that's not something that can be taught,' he said with a grin. 'The art of the tackle takes years of training and perfection. It's not just a sport, it's a state of mind.'

'So like the Matrix. You can't be told what it is, you have to experience it for yourself.'

He grinned, and shook his head. 'Somehow, the nerd jokes are always so much more unexpected when you make them.'

They moved on to the gym, which was just as empty as the shooting range.

'Ten hours seems like a lot for takedown and arrest practice,' Emily commented, as they started stretching.

'Well, seven months is a long time, too,' he said. It resulted in an awkward silence that continued into their treadmill warm-up.

'I figured we could spar a little before moving onto some holds,' he suggested.

Emily nodded. 'I could definitely use the practice.' Seeing as last time she got into a fight, she ended up with a wooden stake shoved into her gut. 'I really need to stop getting beaten up so much.'

'Twice in six years,' he said. 'You're doing about as well as the rest of us. First time you couldn't have done anything about, and the second time…Well, I figure you probably weren't exactly in a state to fight back.'

'Right. I guess the fact that he shot me twice in the vest, and branded me before kicking the crap out of me probably had something to do with it.' The sudden look of horror in Morgan's eyes shot a jolt of realization down Emily's torso.

Crap.

Oh, crap.

He didn't know.

'He branded you?' Morgan asked, incredulous. It wasn't just horror in his eyes now. It was righteous fury.

'Morgan—'

'Show me,' he demanded, which was exactly what she'd been afraid of.

'I can't,' she told him. 'I saw a plastic surgeon. It's gone now. Anyway – it's not exactly in a place that I generally show my colleagues.' She felt her face flush, and she averted her gaze.

'What was it?'

'Four leaf clover,' she muttered. 'I really don't want to talk about that. Can we get on with the sparring?'

He nodded, but the look on his face that made it abundantly clear that he would not be forgetting the revelation anytime soon.

Emily had extensive experience in self-defense as part of her training – both CIA and FBI – but Morgan had a black belt in judo, and actually taught self-defense classes, not to mention the fact that he was a lot stronger than her, and had probably been in a lot more fights.

In a fair fight, he would probably win.

In an unfair fight…well, Emily had a few tricks up her sleeve. Espionage wasn't just about information gathering, and pretending to be someone else. It was about using the circumstances best to your advantage.

So while Morgan was busy being angsty, Emily kicked his legs out from underneath him. He landed with a loud oof. 'Oh, it's like that, is it?'

'All's fair in love and war.'

'Princess, you are going down.'

Before she could even react, he had grabbed her ankle and pulled her down, hard. They grappled for a few seconds before Emily kneed upwards, careful not to hit his groin. There was a difference between fighting dirty and being a bitch. Still, it provided enough of a distraction for her to roll him onto his stomach and pin his arm behind his back.

'You have the right to remain silent,' she breathed. 'Anything you say or do can and will be held against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you. Do you understand these rights as they have been read to you?'

'You should have cuffed me,' he retorted, pulling out of the hold and flipping them both.

He had her pinned down, arms either side of her body. 'Gee, Derek,' Emily grinned. 'You gotta take a girl to dinner first.' There was a hollow look in his eyes, and she had no idea why. Then, his eyes moved downwards to where her shirt had ridden up.

It had been almost eight months, but scar was still an ugly, dark thing. An ever-present reminder of the lies she'd told, and the hell she'd lived through.

'Morgan…' She jumped back to his surname almost unconsciously, as though it would instill some kind of distance between them.

'Do you…' He swallowed, moving off of her to sit back on his haunches. 'Do you remember it?' Emily pulled herself upwards to face him.

'Not really,' she admitted, after a few moments of deliberation. 'I remember the fight, and then it just goes dark. Next thing I know, I wake up in an empty hospital room.' There was a lot more self-pity in her voice than she had intended, but Morgan seemed distracted by something.

'Nobody else saw you,' he said, finally. 'I came in with the S.W.A.T. team, and you were just…lying there. I was so sure that I'd lost you, and then…you squeezed my hand, and I thought that maybe…just maybe, you'd make it through.' He shook his head. 'And then Hotch went and did his thing, and I…' The look in his eyes now was more than one of just sadness. It was the look of a man who had lost everything. A man who was broken.

Without even thinking, she pulled him into a tight hug.

Their first hug, upon her return, had been awkward more than anything else. Then, he'd been in shock. Now, he hugged her back, more tightly than she had ever been hugged before.

'Don't ever do that to me again, you hear?'

'I hear you,' Emily confirmed. 'But I don't think we're going to get much more "takedown and arrest" training done today.' Physically, they hadn't done all that much at all, but emotionally…

'It's almost noon,' Morgan noted, checking his watch. 'You wanna grab lunch?'

'That'd be great,' Emily said, truthfully. It would take more than training to fix the problems that might arise from her return – simply hanging out was just as important as making sure she could keep an unsub in a hold.

'You pick,' he told her, as they packed up their gear.

'You're right to follow me?'

'Sure,' he nodded.

'Good. I know just the place.'

Morgan followed Emily in his Mustang, pulling into a parking space seconds after her. It was a little out of the way, but Emily's driving had been unhesitant, which meant she knew where she was going.

'I haven't been here in forever,' Emily commented, as they entered the small burger joint. The server – a young, dark-haired man – gave a look of surprised recognition as they slid into a booth. 'Not since before Doyle.'

It was less than thirty seconds before the server made his way over. According to the nametag pinned to his chest, his name was Alec. He gave Emily an uncertain grin. 'I read you were dead.'

'I was,' she said with a shrug. 'I got better.' There was a pause. 'It's a long story, and most of it's classified,' Emily said, her tone apologetic.

He nodded, apparently unperturbed. 'You want the usual?'

'Please,' Emily nodded. 'Derek?'

Morgan ordered a steak burger and a coke, passing the menu over to Alec when he was done.

'You must tip well,' he said. 'But you really gotta wonder about a town that doesn't even bat an eyelid at the idea of someone coming back from the dead,' Morgan commented, half amused, half incredulous.

'Yeah, well. If New York's the city that giant monsters keep attacking, then D.C. is the place where all government conspiracies start.'

'Well I didn't think this one would hit so close to home.' There was an awkward silence. Any openness between them that had developed over the course of the day had dropped away in an instant

'Listen, Emily…' he continued. 'I understand why you think had to do what you did. You were trying to protect us. I get that. What I don't get…'

Emily's eyes widened – in fear, maybe. Morgan wasn't sure.

'We worked together for five years,' he said. 'Why couldn't you tell us that you worked for the CIA?'

'The thing about the CIA,' she said, drily, 'Is that they like to keep their covert operations "covert."'

'Oh, come on, Emily. I've done undercover work before. I know how it goes. Was it because you didn't trust us, or because you didn't think it was important?'

There was a long pause. Emily stared down at her hands as she picked her nails. 'I didn't tell you, because it's not a part of my life that I'm particularly proud of,' she told him eventually. 'I don't need to tell you that stuff like that is kind of a morally grey area. Sometimes you have to do things you don't want to.'

'Like sleeping with Doyle,' he concluded.

'Like faking Declan's death,' she countered. 'Like letting people get hurt. Like making impossible decisions. It's all of this "for the greater good" bullshit that I couldn't take anymore. Doyle…'

There was another long pause. Emily bit her lip, and Morgan felt like a complete asshole when he saw the tears in her eyes.

'I didn't tell you because I hated myself for it. And if it was so easy for me to hate myself, then how easy would it be for a team that didn't trust anyone?'

He took her hand in his, and squeezed. It felt all too familiar to that night in the warehouse – the night that she couldn't even remember.

'I don't hate you,' he said softly. 'None of us hate you. It's just…Things are gonna take time.'

She gave him a shaky smile. 'Yeah, I know.'

The silence that followed was a more comfortable one. The kind of silence that had accompanied their friendship before Doyle. Though, now that Morgan thought about it, "before Doyle" was a misnomer – Ian Doyle had been in Emily's life a lot longer than any member of the team, save maybe Hotch.

Their food came, and Emily gave a short laugh. Morgan had missed that laugh, even if he would never admit it to her.

One of the kitchen staff had taken it upon themselves to draw a ketchup smiley face on the bun of her hamburger. Not to mention the fact that she had twice as many fries as he did.

'I'll tell you one thing about faking your death and running away to Paris,' Emily said genially, clearly trying to make light of an otherwise somber topic. 'You cannot get burgers this good.'

Morgan had to admit, it was a damn good burger. 'Only thing better than good food is good company,' he said with a wink. Emily rolled her eyes, but it was in good humor. 'You wanna split dessert?'

'Chocolate cake or no dice,' she said matter-of-factly.

'Fine by me,' Morgan grinned, and they put the order through. 'I'll accept that maybe the burgers are better here, but I'm willing to bet that European chocolate is superior.'

'No contest,' Emily agreed. 'Switzerland, France, Belgium…best chocolate in the world.' She paused. 'I lived in Belgium for a while. Almost rotted my teeth.'

Morgan flashed back to the CIA dossier than JJ had uncovered. 'When you were working with JTF-12?'

A nod. 'It was…even before Doyle, I was looking for an out. After all the political bullshit I grew up with, I didn't want to be living a life of deception, and it took me way too long to realize that. But I don't regret it.'

'No?' Morgan raised an eyebrow, surprised.

'Every single thing I've done in my life led me here. To the only people in my life that I could really say I care about. Maybe I might have done some things a little differently, but not the big stuff. No matter the cost, I wouldn't want to give this up.' She laughed. 'Wow. That sounds really cheesy.'

'Nothing cheesy about friendship,' he commented. He straightened at the sight of Alec returning with their dessert.

Emily gave a mirthful smile. 'Never separate a man from his cake.'

He grinned. It was good cake. Not as good as the burger, but cake was cake.

They split the bill when it came, and Morgan was unsurprised to note that Emily did leave a pretty big tip, but he didn't comment on the matter.

He was almost disappointed when he noticed that the day had come to a natural conclusion. Emily was probably his favorite training partners out of the team – they were pretty well-matched, and like the unsubs, she wasn't afraid to fight dirty. Maybe that was something to do with the whole "CIA" thing.

'Same time next weekend?' he asked. 'We can move onto tackling submarines.'

Emily laughed. 'Sure.' She stopped when she reached her car door. 'I had a really good time today. Thanks for…being you.'

Morgan grinned. 'You know you love it, girl.'

'Though if that's your way of putting me through the ringer, I'd hate to see what a relaxed session looks like.'

'You know you'd love it,' he grinned. 'See you tomorrow.'

'Sure. Neckrub and coffee, right?' She gave a dramatic sigh. 'This better be worth my while.' She paused. 'If you ever just want to hang out sometime, call me.'

With that, she got into her car, and gave him a short wave goodbye.

It would take a long time to work through the issues that had come between them, but it was a start. For Morgan, that was good enough.

At least, for now.