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Emily has known the terror that comes with suddenly finding she cannot trust her own body, but it has been a long time. She was younger when she’d had to get the abortion, and it hadn’t wrought the same level of destruction upon her body. She isn’t used to this, to months of having to be so so careful in her movements, of making sure she’s strong enough just to take care of herself for the day.

Her mom is not a nurturer. When Emily fell sick as a kid it was always the nanny who checked in on her, sometimes the staff as she grew older. Later, there were years when she had friends who would drop by, but she has always been used to being sick in solitude and getting better.

Being part of a team has evidently softened her quite a bit. She spends the better part of six months pressing her limits until she ends up back in the hospital—French this time, and it’s hard to remember to speak in a second language while delirious—for another month and a half. After that, she begins getting to know what her restrictions are as long as she’s on her own.


Slowly, the mornings when she is so stiff getting out of bed is an issue, and the evenings when she’s feverish by six, if not earlier, pass, and she starts feeling like she might know herself again, just a bit. Her body is the one thing that has always come with her on any trip, always been the one thing she knew would follow her. She’s not used to having to wait for it.

She spends a lot of time online, looking at things she will never buy and teaching herself card games that seem complicated for the pure sake of complication. She keeps music or tv or anything on so she won’t be left in silence. The silence is too noisy, too full of her team’s voices. She keeps hearing Morgan telling her to hang in there, and some days she needs that, but most days it just fills her with guilt.

As if it’s not bad enough her body has proven itself a traitor, her mind isn’t proving much more loyal.


She’s almost comfortable in her skin again, almost used to not hearing the others’ voices, when she gets a message from JJ. All it says is, “You’re needed.”

She doesn’t understand at first. This arrangement was never meant to be temporary. For a second, the idea of going back, having to face up to the decision to keep herself—keep everyone—safe even if it meant lying to the others fills her with a panic. She reads the words again.

She types back, “Be there immediately.”


Emily has always liked having other people around, having touchstones in her life, safe places to be when she could. She has never, though, depended on others to give her life any kind of definition.

When she walks into the conference room, when the team lays its eyes on her and there are a million reactions, so fleeting and sudden not even she can read them, she who is trained, experienced at doing just that; for the first time in her life she realizes there are parts of her that depend on context. She has been missing parts of herself more essential than muscle or bone or blood. No wonder it took so long to start even beginning to feel better.

Morgan’s gaze is conflicted and Reid looks as though someone has struck him. Penelope’s expression is more wary than she clearly wants it to be, and Rossi just looks relieved, calmed. Hotch and JJ both seem tired, but pleased. Later, when she has done what they have brought her back to do, later when there is time to be Emily Prentiss, rather than just Agent Prentiss, she will have to deal with each of those reactions, figure out her own, start to fit all the pieces into place.

For the moment, there’s a job to do, and her body and mind are once more trustworthy enough to bring along.

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Skin by egelantier, photo by microbophile