"Friday Night Fix-It Night," Reid eagerly reminded her, leaning over Emily's plastic cubicle with a huge grin on his face.
She tilted her head upward to stare at the harsh fluorescent lights on the ceiling, briefly closing her black mascara-coated eyes as she groaned, "Reid, I really wish you'd stop calling it that."
"Hey, it was your idea," he responded innocently, shrugging his thin shoulders.
"It was most certainly not my idea to call it 'Friday Night Fix-It Night,'" she defended herself, making sarcastic air quotes around the phrase with her fingers.
Reid stepped back from the cubicle and gave her a long wounded look. "Emily?" he said softly over his shoulder as he turned to walk away, "You were the one who pretended to be dead for six months. So I think I've earned the right to call it whatever I want."
Emily cringed. Ouch.
He was right, of course. That was why she'd suggested "Friday Night Fix-It Night" in the first place. Although she knew she needed to work on repairing her relationships with every member of the BAU team, Emily didn't feel the same urgent need to regain their trust and forgiveness, not like she did with Reid.
Then again, she wasn't in love with any of the other members of her team.
Emily couldn't pinpoint the precise moment that her feelings for Reid began or when and how they'd grown so strong, but she did remember the day they became too overwhelming to suppress any longer: the day she'd left her FBI-issued gun and badge on her desk and taken one long, last look at him, trying to memorize every detail of his tousled honey-brown hair, his soft heart-shaped mouth, his sunken hazel eyes, before finally forcing her gaze away and allowing her shaky finger to press the "down" button on the elevator. When the doors closed and her mental image of him was replaced by the polished steel reflection of her tormented and tearful near-black eyes, it took all of the resolve within her not to return back to the office, run into his arms, and hold him close to her, inhaling the light cologne on his neck mixed with that distinctly-Reid scent she secretly loved to breathe deeply into her nostrils whenever he stood nearby. Or to steal one first and last kiss from the pouty lips that transfixed and distracted her whenever he spoke. Or to tell him ... to tell him "I love you and nothing - do you understand me? - nothing will ever change that."
Instead, Emily did the only thing she knew how to do. She ran away and spent half a year in Paris, each excruciatingly lonely day filled with endless longing and heartache. Choosing to be relocated to the City of Love without a lover was one way to punish herself for the consequences of her actions.
There were other ways, of course.
Anonymous sex, for example. Men brutally fucking her in dark corners of discothèques, bruising and scraping her back against the wall as she wrapped her legs around them and they pounded into her again and again and again. It was violent and it was rough and it hurt and it made her forget, if only for those few short minutes, that there were men who could be gentle or tender or kind during sex. That Spencer would have been gentle and tender and kind during sex.
Or strolling into one of the underground lesbian sex clubs, where confidently voluptuous French women would immediately begin vying to meet her smoldering black-lined eyes the moment she walked through the door. But it was the quiet ones, the ones who sat uncomfortably alone on couches beside women kissing deeply and passionately next to them, the ones who seemed almost frightened when she glided over to them, their anxiety visibly giving way to stunned shock when she murmured brazenly in their ears, "J'ai envie de toi" ... yes, those were the ones she sought out, the ones whose hands she grabbed to lead into the bathroom where, on her knees, she elicited the same sighs and moans she could hear emanating from the other stalls. It never took more than fifteen minutes before Emily's mouth sucking deeply on her chosen partner's clit while encircling it rapidly with her tongue inspired shouts and screams that drowned out all of the other sounds in the room, right up to the very last satisfied shudder. And then she was gone, practically running out of the club to catch a taxi, knowing in advance that she wouldn't be followed. Forgetting for the moment that she didn't have to feel used after sex. That Spencer never would have permitted her to feel used after sex.
And then there were the drugs.
It started when she walked into the ladies room in an art museum, of all places, and unexpectedly witnessed a blonde ponytail draped over a cosmetic mirror on the sink, a finger over one nostril and a hand holding a small straw to the other, sucking up lines of white powder.
Emily stammered an apology and began to fumble with the door when the woman held out the straw, the questioning offer implicit in her gesture. She instinctively shook her head no - after all, cocaine was the drug that had destroyed her childhood friend Matthew's life - and then, pausing, thought: well, why not? My own life has already been destroyed, after all.
After twenty minutes in the bathroom snorting lines and engaging in cocaine-fueled chatter, Emily and the blonde woman - Mandy - had become fast friends. She, too, was an American transplant, having opted to spend her late father's inheritance on "experiencing the world" instead of attending medical school as planned. Emily - "Leigh," as she called herself - disclosed that she'd left the States to escape an abusive ex-husband.
When Mandy revealed that her father had been murdered the previous year while she slept in the next bedroom after he'd taken her to dinner to celebrate her MCAT scores and that she still, to this day, didn't know who killed him or understand why he was killed when she was allowed to live, the profiler in Emily had to swallow all of the questions she would have asked if she'd been working the case at the BAU and, wiping her nose, reached out to offer Mandy an uncharacteristic hug instead. Uncharacteristic for the carefully controlled and emotionally-removed Emily, at least; maybe not so uncharacteristic for the impulsive and reckless coked-up Leigh.
Day turned into night as Emily followed Mandy (and her seemingly endless supply of cocaine) to a house party where she - where "Leigh" - met a fascinating mixture of well-connected Parisian drug suppliers, bored rich year-abroad students from a multitude of backgrounds and countries, and American transplants like herself and Mandy, each of whom seemd to have their own horror stories to explain their reasons for relocating to France from the States.
By the time the morning light had filtered into the blinds, Emily's entire head was throbbing in tune with her jackhammering heartbeat, her nose entirely numb save for the faucet-like dripping that no amount of sniffling could seem to resolve, and her oily skin, her chapped lips - hell, even her teeth - felt grimy. She'd stopped wanting to do more coke hours earlier and now, taking in all of the red-rimmed eyes and grinding teeth surrounding her, she finally stood up and announced that she had to go back home.
Mandy wrote down her number on the back of an envelope containing two blue-and-red capsules. "Temazepam," she explained. "You'll need it when you get home." Emily doubted it. She'd just done drugs for the first time since she was a teenager and felt so wrecked by the experience that she was pretty damn sure she was going to "just say no" after this.
As she was leaving, one of the clearly high-end dealers who hadn't touched the drug all night pressed a business card into her hand. "J'espère que nous aurons bientôt l'occasion de nous revoir," he murmured in her ear as he receded into the background.
"Ohmygod!" exclaimed Mandy. "Did he just tell you he's looking forward to meeting you again?"
"Uh, yeah," Emily responded, confused. They'd only exchanged a few words all night and the look he'd given her ... it wasn't a look that implied sex or romance or even friendship, but business.
Mandy shrieked, still obviously speeding from the coke, and hugged Emily, jumping up and down. "That's Picasso. Well, his real name's not Picasso. We just call him Picasso because he can do, like, anything. He can get anything you want. Like, seriously?" she broke the hug and her blue-rimmed black pupils stared very seriously into Emily's "I do mean anything. Coke, speed, E, acid, pills, heroin, anything. He's given his card out to a few people here and there but he's totally selective about his clientele. I've been dying to get on his contact list for ages now! How did you do it?"
"I - I don't know," Emily responded, mystified.
"Well, we are really gonna par-tay now!" Mandy squealed with delight. "Ohmygod! It's been so long since I've done E ... we should totally roll! It'll be awesome! His shit isn't cut with anything, it's just pure MDMA and ... god, I wanna do it right now!" she chirped.
Emily patted her on the shoulder. "Let me recover from this first and then we'll talk about Ecstasy, OK?"
"Most def," Mandy agreed, leaning in for another impulsive hug. "You're so friendly and huggable and sweet! I'm just glad some guy didn't sweep you off your feet and propose to you before you had a chance to have some real fun in this city!" Emily nodded, heading for the door, before blowing back a kiss as she imagined "Leigh" would do.
Friendly? Huggable? Sweet? Emily scoffed at them all for buying into her act, but how much of an act was it, really? Was it the cocaine or the calculated development of a new persona or some aspect of herself she'd forcibly suppressed that made it so easy to become this enigmatic figure her former BAU colleagues would have found entirely unrecognizable? And if they could see her now - riding the Métro in yesterday's sweaty clothing with black dilated eyes and a chemical river running from her nostrils down to her upper lip - what, exactly, would they think of her?
What would Spencer think of her?
When Emily returned back to her apartment, she discovered that Mandy was right: she tossed and turned, her body soaking the sheets with sweat, her heart pounding and her mind spinning. She swallowed the two Temazepam capsules without water and fell into a black, dreamless sleep for the next 18 hours.
And that was how Emily had spent the rest of her time in Paris trying to forget Spencer Reid: with the worst of sex and the best of drugs. She tried nearly everything but heroin, firmly shaking her head no when Mandy begged her to ask Picasso to get some. Not after what she'd seen Spencer go through in his battle with pharmaceutical heroin. No way.
So when the day came that Picasso handed her "the usual" eight-ball of cocaine along with a separate baggie containing a stack of blue pills "on the house" and Mandy gasped, "Holy shit! He got Dilaudid!" Emily was probably more shocked than either of them when the words fell out of her red lipsticked mouth: "I want a needle for these."
Picasso had just smirked underneath his black mustache and instructed her to come back tomorrow with the pills so he could find clean syringes, offering to dissolve them himself and then show her how to inject them.
Emily hadn't slept that night. Not because of the coke - her tolerance had increased so dramatically that she no longer needed sedatives to fall asleep afterward - but because she couldn't stop staring at those small round blue tablets, thinking, so this was what held so much power over you, Spencer? This is what it took for you to forget what had happened to you?
She wasn't sure herself if she wanted to do it to make herself forget ... or if she wanted to do it so she could, in her own way, feel closer to him.
And then, around 4 a.m., she got the phone call. The one on the FBI-issued cell phone she'd long stopped hoping would ever ring.
At Hotch's voice - at hearing her real name spoken by Hotch's voice - her legs began to shake so violently she immediately dropped to her knees on the rug covering her living room floor. "Y-yes?" she half-gasped. "Hotch?"
"We got him, Emily. We got Ian Doyle. He's dead. It's safe for you to come back now." He paused, adding carefully, "that is, if you want to."
"But how - who -" she sputtered, her hand flying to her face in disbelief.
"Reid fired the fatal shot. He's under investigation for use of excessive force but - especially if you do decide to return to us - it looks like he'll be cleared. Given the, um," Hotch coughed uncomfortably, "particularly unusual circumstances surrounding this case."
The tears that flowed freely from Emily's dark eyes and the gulping sobs caught in her throat rendered her nearly incapable of speech. "How soon?" she managed to choke out. "How soon can I come back?"
"There's a plane waiting for you at Charles de Gaulle as soon as you're ready to leave."
Emily departed that night with only a small bag containing the clothing she'd originally brought with her to France. She left behind the backless Gucci dresses and the "fuck-me" Versace pumps, the remaining grams of cocaine, the tablets of Dilaudid and Temazepam, and a post-it note for Mandy with the simple words, "Time to move on. Feel free to take anything you want. XOXO, Leigh."
On the plane ride back to DC, Emily could literally feel the drugs leaving her system. She could feel Leigh leaving her system. It took only minutes back in her minimalist apartment - where, oddly, all of the lights had been on, almost as though it had been awaiting her return - before the previous six months began to feel like a sordid novel she'd read once, the kind that showed up on those bargain best-seller lists with their one-dimensional characters and poorly-contrived plots.
She was still afraid to touch anything in her apartment, afraid to move anything, almost like it didn't really belong to her, as she waited for a call from Hotch that hadn't yet arrived. But after three days of wearing pajamas from her overhead bag and sitting on the couch eating Chinese while watching A&E marathons of some ridiculous show about criminal profiling, she couldn't stand it anymore and made the call herself.
"I was waiting to hear from you," Hotch intoned, the undercurrent of concern evident in his voice despite his customary austere and business-like manner. "How are you readjusting?"
"Well, if you consider sitting in my pajamas, ordering take-out, and watching some absurd TV show about what we supposedly do for a living to be 'readjusting,' then I'm readjusting just fine," Emily remarked sarcastically. Quickly, before he could respond, she softened her voice and asked, almost pleading, "When can I come back, Hotch?"
"Your timing is impeccable as always," he answered dryly. "We just finished the paperwork on Doyle today and, unless we're called in unexpectedly, I gave the team the weekend off. How does Monday sound to you?"
"Monday's great! Monday's perfect!" she gushed eagerly before straightening her shoulders and adding, in a deferential tone, "I mean, if you believe Monday would be appropriate, sir."
"I'll see you then. You should know, Agent Prentiss, that I have not disclosed the truth about your death to the others. I've decided to leave that up to you. There's some difficult work ahead of you. I hope you'll prove capable of handling it," he warned.
Emily's response was genuine underneath the formalities. "I'm looking forward to it, sir."
"It's good to have you back." Click.
Ordinarily, Emily would have rolled her dark eyes dramatically at how abruptly Hotch had ended the conversation after his atypical display of sentimentality, but her pink lips just widened into a smile as she envisioned herself walking into the BAU and seeing (Spencer) JJ, (Spencer) Morgan, (Spencer) Rossi, (Spencer) Garcia ... Oh, who the fuck was she kidding? The thought of Spencer's face lighting up and the safe, comforting hug he would give her ... It made Monday seem like a lifetime away.
After she had put away the leftover Chinese and turned off the television, Emily headed for her bedroom, yawning. It was only 9 p.m. but she was exhausted. God, I could really go for a couple of lines right now, she thought, before shaking her head, her black ponytail swinging back and forth. No, you could not, she reminded herself sternly. Leigh could. And you are not Leigh anymore.
Just as she was about to pull back the off-white comforter, she heard something. Keys. Keys jingling in the her door. Instinctively, Emily began to reach for her gun - before remembering that she didn't have a gun anymore. In fact, she realized, she didn't have any weapon readily available other than her kitchen cooking knives - and if she risked running to grab one of those, she also risked coming face-to-face with the intruder before she was able to properly arm herself.
When she heard the front door swing open, Emily slowly and quietly opened one of her white-paneled closet doors, eased herself into the small space and, crouching, slid it closed without making a sound. It wasn't an ideal hiding place, the awkward kneeling already straining her thigh and leg muscles, but with the paneled slabs facing downward to filter in the light from her bedside lamp, she knew that the element of surprise would be an advantage for her if the intruder opened one of the closet doors.
Emily slowed her rapid breathing, straining her eyes as she attempted to see the face of the shadowy figure just ... standing there in her living room. A minute passed. Two minutes. Three. Four minutes.
And then, just when she'd started to wonder whether or not she should jump out of the closet and engage in a surprise attack against the intruder, she heard his voice.
It was Spencer's voice.
Fortunately, he was so caught up in his own world that he didn't even register the audible gasp from inside the closet.
"Emily, I - I might not be coming back here again. Everyone keeps telling me I need to let you rest in peace but I - I knew you wouldn't ... couldn't ... rest in peace while Ian Doyle was still alive." There was a pause and then a succession of deep sobs. "I killed him, Emily. I killed him in cold blood. He'd dropped his weapon and I ... I just kept thinking about this feeling I've had ever since you died, this feeling that you're still out there somewhere, like you're c-caught between this world and the next world and I - I had to kill him if it meant you could finally rest in peace."
Between sobs, Spencer's words bubbled out of him as Emily listened from the closet, tears running down her own pale cheeks. "But I still feel you here, Emily. And then I started thinking that maybe I ... Maybe I'm the one keeping you here. Maybe it's my fault you can't rest in peace. I just ... I just love you - I just loved you - so much and I never got to say that to you when you were ... when you were alive." When he paused, Emily found herself unable to control her breath anymore and inhaled a deep and ragged sob that resonated throughout the apartment.
"Who - who's there?" Spencer called out anxiously, his footsteps traveling from the living room and into the bedroom. "I'm an FBI agent and -"
Before he could finish his sentence, he swung open the closet door, prompting Emily to raise both of her hands in defense as she stared at the gun pointed directly in her face.
Spencer blinked in surprise before dropping his gun and waving his hands maniacally around his head. "Oh god I'm crazy. I knew it would happen one day; I knew it, I knew it, I'm crazy ..."
"Spencer," Emily said gently, standing and placing a hand on his shoulder. He jumped at her touch. "I'm real, Spencer. You're not crazy. It's me. It's Emily. I'm not dead. I had to pretend to be dead until it was safe for me to come back. But I'm back, Spencer. I'm back because of you. Because of what you did."
Panic flickered in Reid's brown eyes as he stammered, "Oh, god. You know I kill- killed Ian Doyle. I - I could lose my job. I could be charged with murder." His expression changed suddenly and anger filled his face. "This is your fault!" he shouted, backing away from her like she was a poisonous snake. "I never would have done that if I knew - if I had known ..."
"I won't tell anyone," Emily reassured him, moving toward him until his back was against the wall and he had nowhere else to go.
"How do I know that?" he cried out, his eyes rapidly darting back and forth as he considered the possible ramifications of his actions. "How can I ever trust you again?"
Emily paused and then reached for his hand. The warmth of his palm against her skin was electrifying and she swallowed hard, suppressing her physical reaction to his touch. "Because I'm going to do everything I can to fix this. And I'm going to tell you about the things I did when I was in Paris for the past six months, things that could get me kicked out of the FBI. I'm going to trust you with that. I'm going to trust you with me. The real me. And I'm going to keep hoping that one day you'll trust me with you, too."
Emily led him to the edge of the bed and patted the area next to her, inviting him to sit down. His gaze hadn't left her since she had started to speak, almost as though he was afraid that if he looked away she would disappear again. So it was under this unflinching stare that Emily disclosed her shameful experiences in Paris, from the anonymous sexual encounters to the cocaine use and experimentation with other drugs to the persona she'd created and how she'd duped genuinely sweet and caring people like her friend Mandy by pretending to be someone else.
When she was finished, Spencer still hadn't spoken.
"Do you trust me now?" Emily asked somewhat desperately, her near-black eyes penetrating his light brown ones. "Did that fix it at all?"
"No," he responded, his Adam's Apple bobbing up and down. "But I want to trust you. I'm just so - I'm so mad at you, Emily ... but I'm so glad you're alive that I don't know what I really feel. It's going to take a long time to fix what you did ..."
"I'm fine with that," Emily interrupted, her low voice filled with compassion. "I understand that. So how about this? Every Friday, we'll get together and have dinner or watch movies and talk about all the things we never thought we could talk about before. I'll answer any of your questions, tell you any of my secrets, and hope you'll feel safe enough to do the same. How does that sound?"
Reid thought for a moment before nodding. "Friday Night Fix-It Night," he mused. "I like that idea."
"Well, we don't have to call it that ..."
Before she could finish her sentence, Reid grabbed her unexpectedly and held her in a fierce, tight hug, his body pressed against hers, his head on her shoulder and oh god she knew he just wanted comfort but the scent of him in her nostrils and her lips so close to his neck and her breasts against his strong chest made her throb with desire for him and she bit her lip, knowing that she deserved this torture, this exquisite closeness driving her utterly mad with longing ...
When Spencer broke the hug, Emily's arms reluctantly lingered around his back for a moment before he leaned forward to give her a brief kiss on the cheek. "I'll see you at work, then? And I'll see you next week out of work?"
Emily nodded, her face flushing pink at the residual feeling of his soft lips on her skin. When he stood up and walked out the door, locking it behind him, she waited ten seconds to make sure he wasn't going to return before she frantically pulled down her pajama pants and her underwear, roughly fingering her clit as she envisioned Spencer's face buried between her thighs. She came within seconds and moaned out his name as she shuddered violently, over and over again. It was the first orgasm she'd permitted herself in six months.
It was, for her, the official beginning of Friday Night Fix-It Night.