Last chapter here. Kinda shorter than the others, but I thought it'd be better to cut it there. If any of you read some of my stuff before, they know I love opened-what-could-possibly-happen-next endings :3
When in Custody
Night was falling slowly and when the clock hit eleven, Prentiss decided to call it a night. Morgan had unfortunately overcome his reserve concerning her former relationship with Coulson and after spilling it to the whole team, had given her no rest teasing her about it. She had to make up some stupid albeit believable anecdotes to back it up before the team decided to let it go.
It wasn't especially cold outside, but she still pulled the layers of her coat closer. Good thing the hotel wasn't that far away. She had shared the car with Morgan and Reid on their way to the bar, and the hotel was barely over twenty minutes by foot but she still wished...She was halfway through, when Prentiss finally felt his presence. So, she grunted in relief, stopped in her tracts and turned around, arms crossed and smirked.
"You do know I chose to walk instead of waiting for your call and meeting you in a dark alley, so how long were you going to wait before showing up, Phil?"
Coulson stepped out of the shadows of a nearby building and smiled:
"I see you didn't lose everything from your time at SHIELD." Prentiss shrugged.
"Not sure I'd survive the training anymore, but sensing people approaching? I'm doing okay most of the time." She nodded towards the roofs. "I assume Barton and his partner took off?"
"It's not quite safe for them to wander around, especially since your team is still nearby, but yeah, they had no trouble slipping out of town. I'm here to take the communicators back. When are you leaving?"
"Tomorrow around eight am. Hotch -I mean, our Unit Chief- thought it'd be better if we got a full night's rest before going home." She said as she pulled the small earpieces out of her pocket and handed them to him. "I guess that means we'll have a new case the moment we get back."
"Okay. Just for a head's up, you might get a visitor tonight. Hill wanted to thank you personally before you left." Prentiss raised an eyebrow.
"Really? I thought she'd be too busy planning a slow and painful death for Barton and...whatever her name is."
"Agent Romanoff, the Black Widow. Believe me, I don't want to be in their shoes; Maria is way scarier than Fury sometimes." Both smirked. "But yeah, you did her -us- a huge favor, and she'd like to thank you for that." Pause. "I think she also wants to catch up a bit. You two were good friends back then."
"We were" Prentiss agreed. "I'm just glad she still trusts me enough to call me." her fingers played with her necklace nervously. "Phil..."
"I know that tone Emily." the agent cut softly. "And sincerely, it's fine. Everything happened nine years ago."
"I'm still sorry."
"I know. I held on my word, you know. Never told anyone why you decided to leave. Not even Hill...I'm sorry for the way Barton treated you in the interrogation room."
"Really, Phil, I just barged out of your lives without looking back! I'm not surprised Barton's angry, heck you should be loathing me instead of chatting with me amiably."
"I did hate you for a while. Almost quit too. Maria managed to knock some sense into me though." He paused, took a deep breath, and added slowly: "Looking back, I should be apologizing. I could have handled the situation better. I just didn't understand what you were going through; I guess I was just angry you didn't tell me."
A small smile grew over Prentiss' lips.
"So we are going to keep apologizing to each other?"
"We could call it even."
"Suits me, even if I still don't deserve it." Coulson rolled his eyes.
"Nine years, Emily" he reminded her. "And that's not what you were saying earlier." The woman cleared her throat and smiled, a little embarrassed.
"Yeah well, I figured Morgan would be watching out for me so I needed to lash out a bit." Her eye twinkled. "But it worked, didn't it? They forgot everything about Barton and Romanoff and I got questioned all evening about our relationship; why you were a jerk and if you needed to be taught a lesson.."
The man winced.
"Awesome. Now I have the BAU on my back. What did you tell them?"
"That, at the time, you were a total guy and I was stupid enough to ignore it. But that you had the potential of growing nicer, so infecting your computer with viruses or breaking your car on my account was unnecessary."
"You have lovely friends." he replied blankly. Prentiss smirked.
"Speaking of friends...are Barton and his partner doing the deed?" Coulson gawked at her. She rolled her eyes and added: "C'mon, I helped them out, I can gather a bit of gossip even if I have no-one to share it with."
"They are not. Plus they're spies and master assassins; if they were sleeping together and didn't want me to know it, I wouldn't."
"Phil, you have been his handler about ten years. You can tell these kind of things."
"Which is why I am saying they aren't in a relationship."
"But you do realize they will cross that line eventually." Coulson rolled his eyes. "Seriously Phil, remind me how many years they've been partners?"
"Now I doubt an assassin with the codename 'Black Widow' would put up with a guy she didn't like; and when was the last time Barton looked at a woman the way he looks at Black Widow? Heck, Barton and I had UST issues when we first met, almost slept together and he never looked at me that way." Coulson blinked.
"I didn't know about that..." he started warily. Prentiss shrugged.
"We were drunk after a bad case we had partnered on and made out a bit before realizing how much it would suck the next morning. That was before you and I started dating, so I figured it wasn't necessary to mention it." She glanced at him. "Don't tell him I told you. He knew you'd be hurt if...well he figured out your feelings for me before I did and didn't want you to see him as competition of some sorts. My point is, they are close." He raised an eyebrow.
"And how does that concerns you exactly?"
"Gossip." she blurted with a smirk. "And also, work dynamic changes when you are involved with someone, you know that first-hand." Coulson nodded, feeling she had something more than just gossip-seeking intentions behind her words. "Just make sure they know what they're doing."
"You're suggesting I should take action and separate them if they are..."
"No. I'm saying make sure they know where they stand. No lies, no secrets and no holding back. They're a good pair, it would be...unfortunate if personal mixed with professional." She stared at him straight in the eye. "Don't let them repeat the mistake we made."
"No need to tell me." he paused. "Those two had gone through worse than you and I...the context is different."
"Believe me, no matter your past, relationships always turn around the same way. I've been in this job long enough to realize it." she said with a little smile. "I just want you guys to be happy." Pause. "And spare you a massive headache if they end up sour."
"I have a feeling you're more like looking out for Barton. And you're telling me you never felt anything for him? Strong, reliable, a little crazy...totally your type." Coulson teased.
"I might have had a little crush on him back then." she admitted with a shrug, then added with a flashing smirk: "But I did end up dating you, didn't I?"
Hotch blinked and lifted his head. Rossi was approaching him, a brand new glass of beer in hand. Hotch sighed and stared back at his own drink.
"Something's been bothering you?" The unit Chief was about to deny it, but the Italian-American man added: "You've been wondering about something the whole evening. You barely touched your glass." When his friend didn't answer, Rossi took the closest chair and went on: "C'mon Aaron, it's past eleven, everyone's off to bed and we are taking off at 8am. Just tell me."
"Don't you think something was off?" Hotch wondered, staring at his friend intensely. "Everything happening after we arrested that couple, after Prentiss started talking to Mr Baker. He tested her before talking; while he completely ignored you. Why was it different with Emily?"
"You mean, you had the feeling he would only interact with her?"
"They spoke in foreign languages." Hotch went on, ignoring his friend. "Miss Rogers warmed up to her immediately even though she had taken Reid hostage seconds before." He stared at Rossi and muttered: "Didn't you have that feeling? That something odd was going on right under our noses?"
Rossi held his gaze a full minute before sighing.
"You think Emily and the suspects knew each other? That they were having a hidden conversation?"
"She busted in the room when Rogers almost choked Reid. She told Rogers: 'if you do twist his neck' before Rogers even finished her sentence, like she knew what would happen. She was reckless and..."
"And she saved Reid and led the interview without another hitch." Hotch didn't reply. "Aaron, the killer was accidentally killed by an Interpol agent in self-defense. That couple had nothing to do with the murders."
"If they had nothing to hide, they should have come clean from the start. Listen," Hotch said more firmly. "They have been switching between Greek, Russian and God knows what and we didn't have a translator nearby to support what Prentiss was saying."
"Wow, wait a minute, you think Emily lied to us?" Hotch's lips formed a thin line.
"It wouldn't be the first time." he stated slowly. Rossi shook his head, knowing he was remembering Doyle.
"It was different, Hotch. She lied and fled to protect us from a dangerous criminal." The man stared at Rossi intensely, and he caught his stream of thought. "So you think those guys were dangerous enough for her to hide their real identities to us?"
Hotch sighed deeply and stared tiredly at his glass.
"Maybe I'm overanalyzing it." he muttered. "Our guy is dead, that couple was peculiar but...it doesn't mean they are criminals, right?"
"Aren't you more worried about your date with Prentiss?" Hotch didn't bother asking how the older man knew; they hadn't been exactly discreet back in the bullpen. "Or the fact she use to date Interpol Agent Coulson?" Hotch's hand clenched his glass and his eyes hardened.
"Liar." Rossi called out casually. "But it's obvious, she really likes you; you don't have to worry."
"If you say so." the other man muttered, but the edges of his eyes softened. "You're right; I should go back to the hotel, we're leaving early tomorrow." he stood up, put his tab on the table and left waving a small goodbye.
Rossi's smile fell when Hotch walked out of the bar, and it was his turn to stare at his glass pensively. He didn't want to admit it out loud to his friend, but he too thought Prentiss' behavior hadn't been natural. Like, she was trying too hard...He had thought his old mind was playing tricks; she hadn't acted out of the ordinary tonight; had laughed, had grimaced, had teased and pouted. But for some reason, he thought she had also looked...relieved. And now that Hotch shared his suspicions...
Maybe it was nothing, but he needed to be sure. Leaving a generous tip behind him, Rossi stepped out of the bar and headed to police headquarters. He would make a copy of the record of the interviews and send it to a linguist friend of his. If Emily had a hidden conversation using another language with the guy, he would know. But when he arrived at the station...
"I'm sorry sir, those tapes are not available." Rossi blinked in surprise.
"Not available? Why?"
The cop shifted uncomfortably on his feet.
"I'm sorry, there was a small fire in the evidence room earlier tonight. Some rookie went there to smoke a cig and...well, the ashes weren't burned out. He was fired right away, of course" the man added quickly. "But the records were...well, luckily only the ones of the past few days were destroyed. All the physical evidence was left untouched, but the tapes and paperwork..."
"I get it" Rossi interrupted, frowning. "Thank you."
As he left the police station, thoughts started spinning in his head. He didn't believe in coincidences. This couldn't be one. A few hours after their suspects were released, every trace of them was erased. So you think those guys were dangerous enough for her to hide their real identities to us? Maybe Hotch and he were right after all...
Okay folks, this was the end. I might do a sequel where the whole team would be brought on the Helicarrier and find out about Prentiss's time at SHIELD, but hey, not in the immediate plans (got uni stuff to work on first *glance at the pile of homework. Sigh. why did I return to uni again?*). Anyway, thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed this little story :D