This is the epilogue to "Distorted" and "Until These Shivers Subside", which are chaptered case-fics. You could probably understand this even without reading those, but this story may lose something if you haven't read them. Apologies for grammatical errors/typos, I'm kind of exhausted (actually feel asleep editing this), so I may not have caught them all.

To my faithful readers of this series, I'm sorry that I couldn't give you all another chaptered fic, but I'm fired from trying to keep track of everything I'm working on and ready to say goodbye to this series.

This is set 5 1/2 months after "Distorted" and 4 after UTSS.

If you're going through hell, keep going." - Winston Churchill

The room was cramped. He was standing in between Reid and Emily, both his arms brushing theirs, and some agents from Counterterrorism were barely inches front of them. Morgan shifted and disturbed both his teammates, one of whom was already very on edge. He shot her an apologetic look, and stood straighter. His left hand was firmly grasping his right, so he wouldn't accidentally slide his hand into hers.

Emily didn't want to be here.

Hotch hadn't given her an option. The brass hadn't given him an option. They had promised that there would be no press present. They couldn't fit press. The whole event was standing room only.

All seven of them had squeezed into the room, barely on time after finishing a case over at MPD. They stood patiently at the back listening as the Director himself called out names. It wasn't often they saw the Director of the Bureau; Morgan was almost certain this was the first time he was laying eyes on the man. Unlike Emily, he was happy to be there, proud as hell too. The whole team was proud.

"Supervisory Special Agent Emily Prentiss."

Emily tensed at the sound of her name, her spine going rigid and straight, as if someone had shoved a metal rod down it. He finally allowed his hand to brush hers, and he felt the slightest return contact before she marched up to the podium.

The Director accepted the plaque the woman on his left handed him, and the turned to face Emily. Her face revealed nothing of her emotions.

"SSA Prentiss, you've earned this Medal of Valor through your selfless acts last summer. Two young children, Kyle and Carrie Bennett, have you to thank for their lives. You protected these children at great personal risk, and despite what you suffered put their lives before your own. On behalf of the Bureau, I give you this and our thanks. We're proud to call you one of our own."

Emily accepted the plaque, and shook the hand he offered. She walked off toward the side, tensing further when the room began to applaud, and quickly found her way back to their group. She stood beside him again, and he could practically feel her agitation. She wanted to get out of there, and she wanted to get out now.

Unable to help her escape, he let his right hand brush hers again. As he went to move it away, her fingers clamped over his, but only for seconds, before she released his hand. He whispered to her. "Soon as this is over, we'll get out of here."

Emily nodded, but didn't say anything.

Thirty minutes later, the Director had run through all the names, and a schpeal on how proud he was and how thankful the Bureau was, and dismissed them for refreshments in the lobby outside. People moved slowly toward and through the doors, and Morgan was careful to stay beside Emily.

The team reassembled in a space in the lobby, standing in an awkward circle. Rossi turned to Emily, seeming to study her briefly, then shifted his focus to the group. "I've eaten as many of these ordered in sandwiches and fruit salad as I can take, how about we get out of here. I know a little hole-in-the-wall off the Mall."

They all nodded, eager to get out of the throng, and Morgan quickly mouthed a "thank you" at the older man. They began moving then, and not a moment too soon, as a few of their colleagues were headed straight for Emily.

"Hey Prentiss," one of them called. He sped up, his friends beside him, and Emily reluctantly stopped. Morgan waved the others to continue, they'd catch up afterward.

"Andrews, been a while," she said.

He nodded. "I was sorry to hear what happened…" He shifted his feet. "Anyone deserves one of those things, it's you."

She faked a smile. "Thank you." When he didn't leave, she cleared her throat. "It's nice to see you, really, but I've really got to get out of here, I feel like I'm suffocating."

To Morgan's surprise Andrews smiled. "You never were one for these stuffy ceremonies. Take care of yourself."

Emily nodded, and they quickly turned and headed out, only stopping to grab their coats.

"Alright, hold that thing and smile for me, Em," Garcia directed as she held her cell phone up.

Emily didn't move.

The tech sighed. "Please, just one and then we can forget the whole thing."

Knowing it was a losing fight, Emily picked up the plaque, and held it in front of her chest. As soon as the flash went off, she tucked it back against the wall of the booth.

"It was just an hour of your life, Prentiss. It wasn't that bad." Hotch looked at her over his cup of coffee.

"I don't want the attention." Her shrink said she should embrace it, be proud that her sacrifice was being recognized. She couldn't be, not when she knew what was coming.

JJ reached across the table and squeezed her hand. "Well, now that it's over, you should be free of that."

She shook her head. "I haven't had a reporter call me in three weeks. After that press release comes out with my name on it, it's going to start all over again. For all of you as well."

Rossi smiled. "Well, I plan on telling anyone who calls me that I'm very proud of you, and you deserve the recognition."

"I always have press calling me, at least this time it's about something good," JJ said.

Hotch looked pointedly at her. "We'll deal with whatever comes our way. There's nothing you can do to change it, so don't worry over it." He looked at the rest of them. "Keep responses short and discuss only the medal."

They all nodded, not one of them really needing the instruction, but taking it anyway. Morgan turned to her then. "Why don't you shut your phone off for the next few weeks? We can get you a burner to use until this passes."

"That actually sounds like a pretty good idea," Rossi said.

She nodded. "Yeah, let's do that."

"Well, now that that's all settled, can the air to be a little festive? Ignoring the reason for celebrating, it's Friday, we just finished a case, the weather people were wrong about the whole wintery mix thing, and we're not at the office. Smile people," Garcia said.

The waitress came then to take orders, and Hotch got up right afterward to hit the bathroom. Once he was out of sight, Morgan took the opportunity to kiss her cheek, and squeeze her hand under the table.

Emily squeezed his hand back, and ignored the pleased smiles Garcia and JJ exchanged.

"Anyone have weekend plans?" Morgan then asked.

Reid piped up, surprisingly. "I have a date tomorrow night."

"What?" Morgan gaped.

The younger man shifted in his seat, fiddling with his silverware as they all started at him. "I date," he said. "Occasionally."

"My place or yours?" Morgan glanced quickly at his passenger, before fixing his eyes back on the road.


He smiled. "Clooney will be happy to see you. I think he gets bored with just me."

"He just likes having an extra person around to lavish attention on him." She smiled at him.

Morgan searched out her hand, and wove his fingers through hers. "How are you really, Em?"

"Trying not to relive it, or think about it. It's hard." Her eyes were focused through the windshield and she didn't move them as she spoke.

"Maybe you should call Dr. Thigotee when we get home?"

"I thought about that…"


She did look at him then. "Sometimes, I just don't feel like talking."

Morgan took that for what it was, and changed the subject. "You pick a ringer for that thing yet?"

"Yep, it's called 'Tropical'." She played it so he could hear the soft island beats pulse through the phone. "I can pretend I'm in Hawaii."

"You know, we could also take a vacation if you want to get away."

"Both of us? I think Hotch may frown on that."

Morgan shrugged. "He knows we're together, even if he hasn't said as much. It wouldn't surprise him. In fact, the team hasn't had a whole week off and not on call in ages. We're due one."

"That's true. Maybe we should talk to Hotch on Monday. I think Garcia's been trying to get some time to go to France with Kevin, she'd appreciate it."

"That's right, she was asking you about where to go besides Paris."

Emily nodded. "Have you ever been?"

"Me? No. I've actually never been to Europe."

"Then we'll go to Europe."

He frowned. "Didn't you just say you wanted to go to Hawaii?"

"I didn't, actually. And, I can sip a cocktail and sunbathe in Gruissan Plage as easily as any island."

"I guess that's some sort of resort town?"

"It's a beach, not as glamorous as some of the others, but a bit quieter. At least, last time I went there." Emily turned to him. "What do you think?"

"I think I like the idea of you sunbathing." He wiggled his eyebrows at her, and she smiled.

That hadn't actually had sex yet, even after four months of being together. There were days when it felt a bit frustrating, and times when he wanted to be with her so badly, he thought he might explode, but he'd promised to go at her pace. It wasn't her fault that her pace was incredibly slow. He was pretty sure that she was just as frustrated as him.

Every time they had to abort because she was uncomfortable, nervous or scared, she'd roll over and not meet his eyes for the rest of the night. He'd tell her over and over again that he wasn't upset or disappointed, and that it wasn't her fault, but none of it seemed to help much. He'd spoken to her often of his own difficulties with sex after Buford, if anything helped it was that. He'd talked about that more and been more open about it with her in the last four months than he had with anyone in the last 25 years.

"Good," she said. "We'll go to Italy too. There's a lot I want you to see."

"In only a week?"

Emily frowned. "Okay, next year we'll go to Italy."

Morgan looked at her. "Will you be sunbathing again?"

"Maybe." She smiled.

Emily pet Clooney as they walked into the house, scratching the pitbull-mix behind his ears, just how he liked it. His tail wagged, and he panted in delight, a satisfied groan emanating from his mouth. She kept him occupied while Morgan got his food ready, and then left the old dog to his supper. She took Derek by the hand, and pulled him toward the bedroom.

By now, they were both well-acquainted and very comfortable navigating each other's homes. Her sheets had even started to smell like him, which she actually rather liked. She just wished their transition from friends to couple would have gone smoother and without the drama. She wished she didn't freeze every time his hands drifted underneath the top of her panties.

Emily pulled him close and began to kiss him. Like with every kiss they'd shared over the last four months, Morgan was eager, but gentle when he reciprocated. She turned them around, and ran her tongue over his bottom lip, relishing his taste when he opened his mouth. Emily began to walk forward, backing him up toward the bed. A hand on either side of his face, Emily pulled away and just looked at him for several seconds before speaking, her voice a whisper. "I want to make love to you."

He swallowed, and rested his forehead against hers. "Are you ready for that?"

She nodded without even having to think about it. "You know what I was thinking when they called my name today?"

"What's that?"

"Here it is, my condolence prize for being raped and beaten." Her voice cracked, and she sniffled.

"Emily, that's not what it—"

She cut him off. "I know." Emily let one hand drop to his chest, her fingers worrying his shirt. "I realized today when we were at lunch, that it wasn't about what Chris did. It wasn't about him at all. It's about what I did." She paused and looked away, breathing slowly in and out to keep her emotions from pouring out. "Even after everything he did to me, I didn't break. He couldn't destroy me then, and he won't now."

Derek stared at her, his mouth opened slightly, but he didn't speak. He seemed unsure of how to respond.

"Make love to me. Make me forget him." She stroked his face with a hand, letting her thumb run along his jaw, and then pressed her lips lightly to his. "I trust you," she whispered.

Derek kissed her back, more insistently than earlier. She began to slide the buttons out of his shirt, gradually exposing more and more of his skin as her fingers moved. Her breath briefly caught when he began to do the same for her, but this part they were used to, had done many times before this one. Being nude still made her nervous, made her feel exposed. But this was Morgan, he wouldn't hurt her, and he wouldn't let anyone else harm her either. Of that, she was certain.

For the first time, she didn't tense when her bra came off, nor when his lips began to travel down her neck, over her collarbone, and toward her breasts. She gasped in pleasure when his tongue rolled over her nipple, and her body instinctively arched toward him. Her breath quickened to a pant as his tongue and lips teased her breasts, and he turned them around, and encouraged her to lay down on the bed.

Morgan removed his pants, and followed her onto the bed, straddling her body, but careful to keep his weight off of her. Emily let her hands wander over his smooth skin, tracing muscles she already knew intimately. He had a beautiful body, one she never tired of exploring, but today she was more interested in mingling bodies than exploring. She cut both their ministrations off by again capturing his lips with her own.

Rather than wait for him to feel confident enough to do it, she undid the button and zipper on her own pants, and began to shimmy out of them. Derek gently tugged them down to help her get them off. They'd gotten this far only a few times before this, and he was beginning to look nervous. Emily could already feel her own excitement shifting toward anxiety. She inhaled deeply, and swallowed slowly. Emily met his eyes again, and kissed him thoroughly.

She could feel his body responding to her, and had to stop to catch her breath, keep herself from panicking. Derek ran a finger over the skin above the top of her panties, so light he barely brushed her. Her body tensed, protective instincts taking over as they always seemed to now. He moved his hand away.

"No, it's okay," she said.

Derek hesitated though, a battle waging in his eyes. He wanted to be with her, but he wanted to protect her just as much. Firm in her resolve to jump this hurtle tonight, Emily took his hand, her palm brushing his knuckles as she held it. She guided both their hands toward her panties, sliding them under the fabric. Her breath was coming in fast gasps now, part excitement and part fear. She positioned his fingers over her clit, and looking into his eyes, began massaging the area.

Her new instinct of the last almost six months told her to get his hand out of there and run, but she buried that frightened voice. It wasn't real, not with Derek.

He picked up her rhythm, and began to touch her own his own. Emily arched into his touch, letting her instincts as a woman guide her. She moved her hand away from her own body, and toward his, sliding it into his boxers. Morgan's eyelids fluttered at her touch, and he groaned as she caressed him.

When neither of them could take it anymore, she tugged his boxers down, and Morgan eagerly kicked them off. He hooked a finger on either side of her panties, and then met her eyes in question. Emily swallowed deeply and nodded, pushing her hips up, so he could get them off. Then he came to a dead stop.

"Promise me if you need me to stop, you'll tell me to stop." His brown eyes burned into her, as he asked for a reassurance of his own.

"I will." She nodded.

He kissed her, and lowered his body so he brushed her opening. Her body suddenly seized, memories flooding her mind. For a minute, she despaired, convinced that the bastard would never leave her head. Not even for long enough to let another man love her. Maybe it was the anger at that thought that did it, distracted her or empowered her, she would never be sure, but it pulled her back to the present. There were no handcuffs here, no fingers roughly pushing her thighs apart.

"Emily?" Morgan asked. His brown eyes were soft with concern and love.

Emily kissed him. "I'm okay."

She took his hand anyway, and intertwined their fingers, using her lifeline of the past five and a half months. He stared at her a minute longer, and then nodded. He took everything very slow, sliding into her as gently as he could.

Emily gasped as her body stretched to accommodate him, but she wasn't afraid. She continued to hold his hand as he began to thrust, and she moved her body with his rhythm. The excitement took hold again, and her body responded as it was meant to, the tension building inside her.

It didn't hurt, or make her feel sick.

It felt wonderful. As their pace increased and her orgasm built, her hand tightened around his, and her body felt a little freer. When she couldn't take a second more, the orgasm rolled over her and she screamed with it. Morgan followed close behind her, crying out and exploding inside her. For the first time since they'd been together, he let his weight rest on her. Emily didn't tense up, and she didn't feel trapped. She ran a hand lazily over his back, and breathed slowly as she came down.

Derek pushed himself up. "Are you okay?"

Emily leaned up and brushed her lips over his. "I'm fine."

She had to finally let go of his hand when he rolled off of her, but not for long, as he tugged her close to his side. They lay there quietly for only minutes before Emily suddenly had to move. She climbed out of bed and searched for her underwear, sliding them on quickly. She felt Derek's eyes on her, but ignored them as she went to his dresser and pulled out a t-shirt. Then she slipped back into bed, curling up against his body again.



"Are you really okay?"

She nodded against his chest. "I just…I still don't like being naked."

Morgan kissed her head. "It's okay…so long as that's all it is?"

Emily looked at him. "That's it, really. No regrets."

He released a relieved breath, and laced their fingers together. "I'm…I'm proud of you, Emily. I'm proud to be your partner, and your friend," he paused, and brought her hand to his lips. "And, your lover. The Medal of Valor is no small thing, and you've earned it more than once since I met you five years ago. You are the strongest person I have ever known."

She snuggled closer to him. "Funny, I was thinking the same thing about you. These last five months you gave me so much of that strength, and I will never be able to thank you enough for that."

Derek kissed her then, long and sweet, and full of affection. She relaxed further against him, letting her spent body pull her to sleep. For the first time in months, she didn't think about the nightmares that awaited her.