Epilogue

Morgan's Journal: Final Entry

Sometimes, in order to be strong, you've gotta be weak. At least that's what it feels like sometimes. When you get hit so damn hard that you can barely stand, there's no way to make it through on your own. Trying just breaks you down more and leaves you with more scars that will never heal. You gotta lean on somebody, no matter how hard that is. They can help you get through it without shattering. Being willing to lean on someone else is tough, yet sometimes it's the only way to recover.

But it's more than that. You go to someone to get some help, but it's also so they can lean back on you. That stuff's not just one way. Part of the reason is because being willing to let someone else help you really shows them they're important to you. People don't show their weak sides to just anyone. Friends are there to pick you back up when you've been thrown into the dirt and stomped on a few times. Being willing to let them do that is proof that they really are your friend. I guess that's what Hotch was trying to get at with trust. I can't just let them lean on me. When I need to, I've got to lean back. It's what I did with Olivia.

While I can't say how things would have turned out without her, I know it wouldn't be as good as now. Sure, I probably would have passed my evaluation anyway, but the cobwebs of this would have been on me still. At times, I know those concerns about failing in a case would have come up again. And again. She gave me the perspective needed; perspective I will use whenever a perp gets the best of me. I'm not egotistical or stupid enough to think it won't happen again. As long as I do this job, it could. Thanks to her, I won't question my abilities to the point that I consider leaving next time. I just hope that what I was able to do for her equals out to what she gave me. She deserves it.

Emily's Journal: Final Entry

I feel alive. That shouldn't be surprising considering that's what I am, but this is different. Ever since the incident with Doyle, even after I returned to the BAU, I was just living. Sure I worked cases, lived my life, interacted with people, but the energy and enjoyment wasn't there. Instead there was always this suffocating feeling weighing on me. I felt like I needed to hold myself slightly apart from the rest of them so they wouldn't be able to see the truth. In reality, I was still hurting. Doyle would forever be a part of me, and I wasn't sure how to deal with that, how to get back to my life and make it feel normal again. If that was even possible. I just continued to wade through this uncertainty, like I was waiting for the shoe to drop again. That's not the case anymore, and it's refreshing.

During cases we work as a team, an unbreakable unit. We share information and support each other. I hadn't thought the same was possible outside of casework, and I certainly never got close enough to find out. This time I did. More than any other case, more than any other moment, we worked together to make it through. I never let the others walk alone if they needed me, and I never had to take a step alone either. We're a team, working or not. Just because Doyle changed me doesn't mean the team saw me any differently. I was still Emily Prentiss. I was still one of them; I just had more experience. Seeing them go through the same difficulties and still stand by each other showed me that they would stand by me too, and they did. They've given me my strength back. The drive that fueled me before Doyle's return has filled me again. Maybe I actually have to thank this unsub. Without him, without those nightmares tearing all of us down, I don't know if I would have ever reached this point alone. So, in a way, I'm glad it happened. Because of everything that happened, I've found my place again. This is where I belong, and I feel good. I feel really good.

Rossi's Journal: Final Entry

The BAU has always been something special, even when it was first created. I didn't realize then how special it could become. When I returned from retirement, I caught a glimpse of how much I had underestimated the potential for greatness that this unit possessed. Over the course of the years after my reinstatement, my observations of the team not only corresponded with my initial beliefs about the BAU, they far surpassed them. This team truly amazes me.

There is a limit to the weight that a single person can carry on their shoulders. For some that limit is exponentially higher than another's, but it exists none the less. Together this team has overcome individual limits. The strain many of them have been under should have broken them without question. Instead, they withstood. But it wasn't alone. What should have incapacitated and destroyed was instead manageable as a unit. Together they could hold on and become stronger than they could ever be alone, even if you combined individual limits. I am proud to know that I am a part of that. Together this team can accomplish feats that are impossible to succeed at alone whether those feats are related to cases or more personal situations. Given what this team has shown me recently, I don't believe anything, be it person or event, can undermine this team's integrity, capability, or solidity. I have little doubt that they will continue to astound me.

JJ's Journal: Final Entry

Initially I didn't think anything good could come out of our kidnapping. How could it when I was barely functioning, barely even breathing? I was wrong. It's been a long journey filled with tears, pain, and hurt, but I've made it through. In the process of it all, I've grown too. At first I thought I failed my son, but I know now that isn't true. I've done everything I could to protect him and provide him with the love I want him to have. I'm a mother first and an agent second, but my time as an agent makes me a better mother. Even this experience, as awful as it was and as much as I questioned myself afterward, has made me a better mom. My bond with Henry has strengthened during my time off, and we've become so much closer. My sweet little boy had to see that mommy could hurt too. Instead of scaring him, it gave Henry a way to show me how much he loved me. I wouldn't trade any of those moments for the world. What's more, that wasn't the only thing I gained.

I've always known Will was an amazingly caring man. After all, he left New Orleans to live with me in Quantico, VA and put up with me not being willing to get married for years. Plus, he understands some of the after effects of working the job I do since he is in law enforcement too. Even with all of that, he's been more understanding through this than I could have ever hoped for. I know, without a doubt, that I couldn't have done this without him. He's given me hope since the very beginning and never let go of my hand even when I stumbled. It was Will's devotion and the team's strength and worry that got me through. Forget putting any of what I experienced to good use, after facing so much pain and feeling the sting of vicious failure, being able to move forward and truly put all of it behind me didn't seem possible. Now I know. Failure, no matter how large or painful, can always be overpowered and outnumbered by success as long as you're willing to stand back up and keep trying. There is always hope.

Hotch's Journal: Final Entry

Many things in life change who you are, be they people, experiences, or simply the passage of time. Change is unavoidable. The only real option you have is how you will let it affect you and whether the change will result in good or bad. Traumatic experiences are no exception. You will never be the same after. None of us have been since our rescue, yet I am incredibly proud of them. My team inspires me. They make me better, stronger, because of how much they have accomplished after facing what they did.

Prentiss has returned more confident and stronger than before. I see no more doubt in her eyes. Not only that, she's begun to open some of the locks she's kept around herself. She has learned to accept the help of another and has reached the point that she can share what she considers to be moments of weakness.

JJ saw a parent's worst nightmare and faced the reality that her nightmare held truth. Instead of running from it, JJ returned once again. She has grown since the day she was in tears over the anthrax scare and the implications on Henry. After what we experienced, she could have chosen to leave the BAU or the FBI completely and no one would have thought less of her, but she didn't. Instead she pushed through the suffering and has benefited from it.

Out of all of us, Dave is the least changed, though that doesn't surprise me. Aside from a few specific moments, he is always the epitome of collected, but most importantly, he is capable of reading the truth in someone even when he isn't at his best. As infuriating as he can be when he reveals those truths, I need to hear them. He's a rock for me when my own strength starts to waver.

Even Reid, who didn't face this with us, has grown and changed from it. Typically Reid takes the role of the agent needing assistance. He has stepped up through all of this though and taken it upon himself to support all of us. Reid is already an exemplary agent, but the strides he's made after our kidnapping should alleviate any question of his abilities. He's not just our young genius; he's an important part of keeping this team as strong as it is.

As for Morgan, the growth I see in him is incredible. Meeting Detective Benson was likely the best thing to happen to him. While his confidence hasn't increased, it has strengthened. From now on it will be harder to shake it. What's more, he's allowed himself to lean on another. Whether that will continue after is yet to be seen, but at least he has taken a step forward.

We have all taken those steps forward and become better than we were before, myself included. Haley's death drove me to become a better father. The abduction drove me to become a better leader for my team. Both require me to accept that there are times I will need help and times when I can't solve all of the problems. I will admit, I am still working on accepting this, but I have at least acknowledged it. That's the first step, and this journey is far from over.

Olivia's Journal: Final Entry

There are very few victims who want to get up in front of a bunch of people and share their rape in court. It's not an experience one looks forward to since it is hardly pleasant. I've had to talk many victims into testifying. Over the years I've met a lot of women who regret not going to trial, but win or lose, I've never met one who regretted going. Perhaps it's the same with recovery. It's just as painful, if not as humiliating and degrading as well. Despite all of that, I do not regret making this journey. I can't say that I have recovered or that all of his is over because it's not. I'm not sure it ever truly will be. However, I'm no longer a victim. My life is in my hands again. I have control. It may not be completely over, but I'm through the worst of it.

Morgan and Fin saw me at my worst and they stood by me. Now I'm ready to carry my own weight again and be the one providing the support. Even so, should there come a time when the burden becomes too much, I know they will both be there to hold me up until I get my feet under me again. The rest of the unit probably would too. When it happens, I think I might let them. At least for a while. I don't need to prove myself to them, just to me.

Unfortunately the taint of my heritage will always be with me, but now I can start destroying his words in my head and proving them false. I will become what I want to become no matter what may stand in my way.

My name is Olivia Benson. My mother was an alcoholic; my father was a rapist. They may be a part of me, but they aren't who I am, and I will continue to remind myself of that. I am a detective with the Manhattan Special Victims Unit. I'm a good partner, a good detective, a good supporter and voice for the victims, and I am a survivor.


Author's Note: There you go, that's the end! I hope that you enjoyed it. As for anything coming soon, I can't promise you'll get anything for a while. And when I mean a while I mean a really long while. I may have 2-3 potential ideas to write, but I'm not sure if I'm actually going to. We will see.