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SPOILERS: 3x01 'In Birth and Death'

What’s Left Behind, Remains
By Fewthistle


Sigmund Freud wrote: "No one who, like me, conjures up the most evil of those half-tamed demons that inhabit the human breast, and seeks to wrestle with them, can expect to come through the struggle unscathed."

It had taken some time working at the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit, but Emily Prentiss now knew what Freud had meant. Staring out the window of her apartment at the golden glimmer of lights, at the solemn rise of the Capital dome against the washed out blue of the city twilight, she wrapped her arms around herself, a shiver snaking down her spine and settling in her bones that had nothing to do with the silent whir of the air-conditioner.

Her reflection in the glass door to the balcony showed a woman she would have barely recognized a year ago. The bandage across her forehead was a spectral glow against the darkness of her hair, which fell somewhat limply to half-cover her face. The saline wash that the paramedics had used, along with the thick anti-bacterial cream, had seeped into it, weighing it down.

She really should take a shower, wash off the remnants of sweat and wood chips and banal evil that clung to her skin, and try to get some sleep, but the effort to climb the stairs and undress seemed more than she was capable of right now.

Still, Emily couldn't help but wonder how much of each perpetrator they had tracked she carried with her . Did more than hair, or skin cells, or dust, or sweat, or even blood remain a part of her? How much of them lingered with her?

She doubted that Locard had been talking about the metaphysical, but as she watched the red lights of cars disappearing down Constitution Ave., she couldn't shake the idea that minute fragments of malevolence, microscopic cells of twisted, misshapen minds stained her own soul like the spatters of blood on her shirt.

A few weeks ago, she had sat in the jet on the way back from Idaho, trying to wrap her mind around not what kind of person found nothing inherently wrong with kidnapping innocent strangers, transporting them to the woods, and hunting them down like deer, but what kind of person understood that kind of behavior.

What kind of people could hunt the monsters, delve into their psyches, understand their aberrant urges, and not become somehow less human for that understanding? Nietzsche had warned the hunters, had warned them of the abyss, of the danger of becoming that which they sought to destroy. He was right.

The sudden buzzing of her doorbell startled her. Emily wasn't used to a great deal of company, and this was the second time in as many days that she had had an unexpected guest.

Peering through the security hole in the door, Emily could see J.J., blonde hair tousled from the wind and her unconscious habit of running her fingers through the long tresses. Her face was turned slightly away from the door, as if she desperately didn't want to expect it to open. Emily wasn't certain if she wanted that expectation either.

Turning the deadbolt, Emily pulled the door open, her breath caught for a moment, like a sweater snagged on an errant nail, at the gentle, hesitant concern in J.J.'s blue eyes. It was clear that the other agent was exhausted, yet here she was, standing on Emily's doorstep, an understanding smile just gracing her lips.

"Hey. I hope I'm not disturbing you. I know you must be wiped out and you probably have the headache from hell," J.J. said softly, her eyes sweeping over Emily's bandaged forehead. "I just didn't really get a chance to check on you once we got back, and I thought that I'd see if there's anything that you need."

Emily simply smiled, opening the door wider and stepping back, all too aware of the warmth of J.J.'s body as she slipped by her and moved into the apartment.

"You could have just called, you know, instead of driving all the way over here," Emily replied finally, perching on the edge of the couch. "I know that you're as exhausted as I am. More so, probably, since you were there a day before I showed up."

"I know I could have called, but it seemed a little impersonal. Besides, if I have learned anything in the BAU, it's not to trust words. People lie, even if the lie is only to make someone else not worry. I figured if I was going to see if you're really all right, I needed to see in person," J.J. explained gently, her head tilted to the side a little as her gaze took in the room, the hardwood floors, the simple, yet expensive furnishings, the view of the city from the glassed doors. "So, are you okay?"

Emily felt the insincere reassurance stick in her throat as she met J.J.'s tired blue eyes. Perhaps now wasn't the time for polite responses.

Emily chuckled self-deprecatingly.

"My head hurts, but I'll live. All the Prentisses are remarkably hard-headed people. As for the rest of me…," her voice trailed off, her mind registering the movement as J.J. took a few steps closer to her. "Do you ever wonder how much of them we carry with us? I mean, coming into contact with that level of, well, of evil, has to leave something behind, doesn't it?"

J.J.'s only reply was to raise an elegant hand to Emily's face, soft fingertips brushing back the hair from over the bandage, tucking it behind Emily's ear, before slipping in a whispering caress over her cheek.

"Whenever two human beings come into contact, something from one is exchanged to the other", J.J. quoted quietly, her hand coming to rest on Emily's shoulder. "We can't help but take something away with us. But I think that it's up to us how much of it we keep, what we choose to allow to stay with us.

"We can become like Gideon, so tainted by what he has witnessed that he has lost his ability to see any beauty in the world that isn't capable of being destroyed. Or we can be like Garcia, who decides every day to find something incorruptible."

Caught in the crystalline blue of J.J.'s eyes, Emily counted her breaths as the seconds ticked by. Finally, a sigh escaping her like the last ghost of a nightmare fleeing before the rays of dawn, Emily leaned forward and ever so gently pressed her lips to J.J's.

Hesitant, fleeting, soft, the pressure increased as J.J. moved closer, warm, strong arms slipping around Emily, an infinitely superior replacement to the inadeqate warmth of her own just minutes ago.

Pulling back a little to meet Emily's eyes, J.J. smiled.

"So, was that incorruptible?" She asked, feeling the slip of Emily's fingers along the edge of her jeans, as her hands encircled J.J's waist.

"Yes. That was incorruptible. You are incorruptible. But don't tell Garcia. She can find her own immutable object," Emily replied, the lips claiming J.J.'s not quite smothering the blonde's chuckle.

The End

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