[Open Season 2x21]
"Sometimes, the best way to help someone is just to be near them."
― Veronica Roth, Divergent
"Where did Prentiss go?" Derek asked as he walked up and looked to the older profiler across the table from him.
"I don't know," Gideon responded as he looked up over his glasses at Agent Morgan. "She said she'd be right back but that was over ten minutes ago."
"I'll go find her," Morgan responded rather quickly, and walked off to find his partner. He and Prentiss were still new to each other, but had been bonding rather quickly lately – particularly after their discovered love of Vonnegut books had lead them to spend more than a few late nights eating dinner, sharing the history of their lives, discussing books, and watching movies.
Gideon looked after Derek with a subtle smile, recognizing the enthusiasm with which Derek had gone to find Emily - recognizing, as the experienced profiler that he was - that it was something much more than that.
Derek looked everywhere for his partner. He asked around the police station, checked outside, and even asked other officers. But no one seemed to know where Prentiss was. He walked past the bathroom and saw the door barely cracked but the light still on, enough to see that his partner was standing at the sink. Morgan stopped for a moment and heard the sink water running, frustrated moans and small sniffs coming from inside. He felt immediate relief because he recognized the source of those sniffs. So he knocked and called out her name. "Prentiss? You okay?"
"Morgan?" Emily replied in a startled tone. "Ummm yes… I'm fine. Really… Uhhh, I'll be there soon."
But Derek knew she was far from fine. "Prentiss…" he began. "What's wrong?" But she didn't answer and soon he became worried. He knocked swiftly and slowly pushed open the door. The sight before him both startled him and made his heart break just a little. He had never seen Emily Prentiss break down – he had barely even seen her affected by anything they encountered on their job. But she was certainly affected now.
She was standing at the sink looking into the mirror, a wet cloth in hand she was using to scrub her usually pale face but had now turned almost red. Her eyes were also red and filled with tears.
"Hey…" he whispered, walking towards her and reaching out to touch her shoulder. "What is it?" he asked with concern.
"It won't come off…" she said weakly, embarrassed anyone had to see her like this.
"What?" he asked, completely confused.
"The blood," she whispered. "Their blood that fell on me from the trees." He knew she was trying her best to keep it together but it was a struggle. "It won't come off."
Then he remembered the bodies hanging from the trees – they had only found them after the blood had found its way onto her. "Emily, it's gone." He soothed. "I promise, I can't see it anymore."
"But I can feel it," she countered. "These UnSubs are hunting these people like animals and anyone who is out there is a target. We didn't get there in time – It's because of us those people are dead! This puts new meaning on having blood on your hands, doesn't it?" she joked bitterly.
"Emily, listen to me." Derek said, looking her in the eyes. "This is not your fault. We couldn't have known the UnSubs would take that path and those campers would just happen to be on it. I know it's terrible. Every time I see an unnecessary life killed in the midst of these cases, it hurts. But that's why we do what we do. So that it doesn't keep happening. That's what makes me want to catch these guys even more."
Emily looked into his eyes; ashamed she had let herself fall apart like this. She had always been taught to compartmentalize – hide her feelings – especially in the field. But this case was so barbaric, so affecting, and so personal to Emily after the incident at the crime scene in the woods.
"We're going to catch these guys," Derek reassured her. She knew he was right and that's when she finally learned to give some of her trust to him. She reached up and offered the smallest of smiles: both to agree and to thank him. "Thank you," she said.
"Always," Derek began, not yet realizing how that word would come to practically define their unique relationship in the future. "What are partners for, right?" he smiled at her and she returned the gesture.
Derek reached up to wipe her face with his thumb – to wipe both the tears and the blood she felt still lingered. The feel of his touch took her aback, she knew it was a friendly gesture, but she found herself longing for more – but not yet fully understanding why.
She pulled herself together and they made their way back to Gideon, who looked up, still smiling at the two agents but getting right back to work.
And Derek was right: they did catch the men who were committing those horrible crimes. Even though Emily again faced doubts and fears after the case when they were traveling home on the plane, she knew she could open up to her partner, but now her close friend about them.
So he invited her to his place for what was now becoming a tradition of dinner and a movie, and Emily couldn't wait to get there.