The snow falls gently, melting before it reaches the ground. The scene is almost picturesque, but only for those that don’t know better. Three dead children, their murderer caught, but even that won’t bring them back to life. That won’t correct the injustice of their death.
She sits on the swing, arm curled around the cold metal chain. There are no children out now – the snow is growing in intensity for one thing, but it’s also nearing midnight, dark, save for the soft glow of streetlights.
She shouldn’t be here.
Like some kind of great, cosmic joke.
Voltaire said that “God is a comedian playing to an audience too afraid to laugh.” If this is the punchline, then Emily Prentiss thinks that God isn’t a comedian – he’s a freaking sociopath.
* * *
‘…and the police officer asks him, “Do you know how fast you were going?” and Heisenberg replies, “No, but I know exactly where I am.”’ Reid tells the joke enthusiastically, looking around for a response. His face falls when there is none. ‘I guess none of you ever did Physics.’
Emily rolls her eyes, and lets her head drop back against the seat. She looks tired – much more tired than Morgan’s ever seen her. Irregular sleep is something that they get used to, even if they do look like zombies most of the time.
Morgan lets his foot slip across to nudge hers. Emily looks up, frowning. ‘You alright?’ he asks, a question which causes her brow to furrow in confusion.
He shrugs. ‘You look tired.’
She shrugs too, a perfect mirror. ‘Long case.’
He nods, echoing her words. ‘Long case.’
* * *
It starts off as a little bit of blood. Early, yes, but the stress of the job makes her pretty irregular, so she doesn’t really think anything of it. Really, though, that’s not the main reason. The pain reason is that she’d resigned herself to the fact that she’d die on the job, not of some illness, or because of old age.
It’s an attitude that’s hard to shake.
The job, you can do something about. Run a little faster, tackle a little harder.
Fighting nature is something different altogether.
Sometimes you just can’t win.
That great, cosmic joke.
Pretty fucking unfunny, if you ask her.
* * *
The snow outside is getting heavier. Tomorrow morning, at the air strip, it might be a pretty big problem, but right now Derek Morgan is only interested in one thing. He knocks on the door for a second time, shoulders tense.
They’d wrapped everything up just after seven, and while most of the team had gone out for dinner, Emily had declined.
‘I’m not feeling well,’ she’d told him with a smile. A smile he’d seen right through. It’s almost midnight now, and he’s not going to sleep until he knows why.
His hand reaches the knob, and he’s surprised to find that the door is unlocked. Definitely not good. They always – always – keep the doors locked at night, motel, apartment or otherwise. A culture of paranoia.
The room is dark, and, more problematically, empty. He lets his eyes adjust, taking in the undisturbed bed, and the gun on the nightstand.
Wherever she is, she’s unarmed.
Unarmed and freezing her ass off, he amends, noting that coat that’s lying on the top of her go bag.
There’s something wrong with this picture. Something very, very wrong. In all the time Morgan has known Emily Prentiss, she has never done something like this. He’s seen her open up a few times, show the vulnerability behind that mask, but he’s never seen her break down entirely.
He’s never seen her walk off in the night. Not like this.
* * *
The walls of the room are bland and white, and for a few moments, she thinks that it’s no wonder people come to places like this to die, considering she’s already dying of boredom. The only sign of color are the floral arrangement that Garcia had brought in yesterday – irises and lilies, mostly – and the painting on the wall. Part of her thinks she might have been happier dying at home, but her mother had insisted on hospice care.
And yet she can’t even be bothered to visit, a bitter voice says, but Emily doesn’t blame her mother. This place is pretty damn depressing.
There’s a pile of books on the nightstand, and she contemplates reading one of them, even though she’s tired, and her body feels like it’s tied up in knots. That’s a constant state of existence right now. Not long, and it will all go away.
She’s not entirely sure how she feels about that. Scared, maybe. Emily has accepted death, but she’s still a little apprehensive about what’s on the other side.
‘How’re you doing?’ a voice comes from the door, and she looks up to see Morgan there, looking worn out. The team had been in Arizona yesterday, and she wonders what time he’d flown in. It doesn’t look like he’s even been home yet.
‘I was considering re-reading Slaughterhouse-Five for the fifteen-hundredth time,’ she tells him. It’s not the only book there, of course. There are a fair few that Reid and Garcia had brought along. When Rossi comes, he usually just talks. JJ will usually bring Henry. Hotch…Hotch just sits there, sometimes. It’s hard to tell what he’s thinking.
‘The nurse is bringing a wheelchair,’ he tells her. ‘You want to take a walk?’
‘Oh, hell yes.’ It’s a veritable torture lying in bed all day, even if it’s too painful to stand. Her body is just slowly wasting away.
Funny how things work out.
* * *
The cold has bitten through to her core when she hears the footsteps crunching in the snow behind her. She doesn’t even need to turn around – there’s really only one person stubborn enough, one person relentless enough to come looking for her in weather like this.
‘This is where we found the third body,’ Morgan says. She closes her eyes, and remembers the blood-stained snow.
‘It’s not supposed to happen like this,’ she says, not quite sure whether she’s talking about the case, or about something else altogether. He hands her the woolen coat that she’d left behind in the hotel room. Her limbs are starting to numb now, so she slips it on, relishing the warmth.
‘What’s not supposed to happen?’ he asks. He sets himself down on the other swing, and for a moment she doesn’t answer, letting herself move back and forth, a slow-moving pendulum.
‘You ever read Batman?’ she asks, and he makes a small sound of surprise.
‘Not since I was a kid.’
She gives a soft laugh, even though she’s not quite sure what’s funny. ‘There’re these two guys in a mental asylum, and one night they decide that they’re going to escape,’ she starts, ignoring the blatant non-sequitur. ‘So they somehow manage to get up onto the roof, and the first guy jumps across to the next building over, but the other one can’t. He’s afraid of falling. The first guy says, “Okay, I’m going to shine my flashlight over there, and you can just walk over the beam.’ She pauses for a moment, partially for effect, and partially because the cold is making it a little hard to breathe. ‘Then the second guy says, “You think I’m crazy? You’ll turn it off when I’m halfway across!”’
He gives a short laugh, but she doesn’t, because really, she’s worse than Reid when it comes to telling jokes. Her style is humor is more deadpan snark than narrative. ‘I’m afraid of falling,’ she whispers, and suddenly he’s not laughing anymore.
‘We should go back to the motel,’ he says, his tone somber, and she doesn’t disagree.
She’s pretty sure she’s falling already anyway.
* * *
It’s late enough that it doesn’t matter what she does. That’s the problem. That’s always the problem.
By the time they’re invited in, the corpses are starting to pile, and all they can do is try and stop anyone else from dying.
She can’t even do that.
And that’s what makes telling them so much harder.
Part of her wants to just disappear – to leave them behind, and make them hate her so that they won’t be so sad when the day comes and they find out what really happened.
She doesn’t have the strength for that.
Doesn’t have the strength to leave behind the only support net she has left. Even if they don’t know it.
She comes in late some days, and her clothes are already starting to feel like they’re so much looser. If she were a victim, she’s pretty sure they’d have noticed it right away, but sometimes it feels as though they miss what’s right in front of them.
Some days she just feels like screaming, “Work it out already!” if only because it means that she won’t need to be the one to tell them.
* * *
The rows of granite headstones seem endless, but Derek Morgan had been here too many times to get lost.
There are fresh flowers there already; he’s fairly sure that Garcia comes by every few days, just to replace them. He lays his own contribution down, a single red rose. Passing on the words he can’t quite bring himself to say.
‘Hey,’ he says, sitting down cross-legged on the strip of grass beside the grave. He’s not quite sure if she can hear him – faith is one of those things he still struggles with, especially in the wake of Emily’s ordeal. In any case, it makes him feel better to think that she might be listening. ‘Reid told me a joke about how many Klingons it takes to screw in a lightbulb today. It wasn’t very funny, but his delivery’s getting better. The new guy’s still getting settled in, but he doesn’t seem to like it when I call him “Princess” so that’s a strike right there.’
‘It’s not the same without you, Emily,’ he says, but really, that’s been a given all along.
* * *
‘Do you believe in retribution?’ she asks him one day – three days after the night in the snow. She looks pale, withdrawn. They’re the only ones in the tiny kitchenette – he stirs milk into his coffee, but she doesn’t seem to have any reason to be there, apart from him.
Morgan considers the point for a second. ‘Sometimes, I guess. A lot of unsubs we’ve killed had it coming.’ He has a memory flash inside his mind: Foyet, Haley. Sometimes they deserve more than death.
The answer isn’t quite the one she’d been looking for apparently, because she bites her lip and tries again. ‘What about divine retribution?’
‘I’m dying,’ she blurts out, and it takes him half a second to realize that she’s not talking about death in some kind of metaphorical sense, like “I’m dying for a burger.” He stares at her, eyes open wide. He’d expected that something was wrong, but he hadn’t expected this. The silence between them is so tense that it’s almost as though something's about to snap.
‘Cancer,’ she elaborates, before adding, with a short, ‘I guess I shouldn’t have kept rescheduling those pap smears.’ He wants to grab her by the shoulders and tell her that it’s not funny, but he’s pretty sure she already knows that.
Instead, he does something ten times worse, and says, ‘I’m sorry,’ which are probably the least helpful words he could have chosen. There are so many questions he wants to ask, like “what are you doing to fight this?” and “how long have you known?” but it’s not really the time or the place.
He’s distracted for most of the rest of the day, and only gets through a third of the paperwork that he might normally, but when she pulls him aside and asks if he wants to go get a drink, he doesn’t argue.
* * *
He gets himself a beer, and Emily asks the bartender for water, which elicits a raised eyebrow. They find a booth in the back – tucked away. Private. They sit in silence, neither of them really drinking. Emily won’t look at him, her eyes fixed on the small pile of cardboard coasters.
‘How long have you known?’ he asks eventually, and Emily gives a shrug, even if the answer is pretty definitive.
‘Six weeks, give or take,’ she tells him. ‘But it’s progressed to the point where most forms of treatment won’t do much good.’
‘You’re not the kind of person to just give up,’ he says, and it’s an attempt to convince himself as much as it is an attempt to convince her.
‘You think I haven’t been trying to find a way, Morgan?’ she replies, the anger in her voice rising. ‘Christ, that’s all I’ve been doing since I found out. This far along my only options are chemo or radiation therapy, and even then the doctors are doubtful that it’ll do much good. Right now it’s just a waiting game.’
The words are like a knife to his chest, fate twisting the blade just to cause him that much more pain.
‘Who else knows?’ the words are choked out, at which point he realizes there are tears falling down his cheeks.
She shakes her head. ‘You’re the first person I’ve told. I didn’t…with everything that was going on, it wasn’t really important.’
‘Not important?’ he asks, exasperated. ‘Emily…I…’ He can’t quite manage the words to explain just how important it is. How important she is. He shakes his head. ‘I wish you’d told me,’ he says, finally. She’d been alone through all of this, and all he can think is that he could have been there for her.
‘Yeah, well…’ She shrugs, her fingers making patterns in the wet circle left by her glass.
He takes a long sip of his beer, and then he remembers what she’d said, back at the BAU. ‘What did you mean?’ he asks. ‘About divine retribution?’
Her eyes widen, a deer caught in the headlights, and Morgan immediately knows that he’s struck a nerve.
‘When I was a teenager,’ she starts, before stopping abruptly. ‘You know what? Never mind. It’s not important.’
Not important, just like the fact that she’s dying hadn’t been important. He doesn’t press the issue though.
* * *
She follows her doctor through to his office, and she doesn’t even need to wait for him to talk to know that whatever it is, it’s very, very bad news. The downside of being a profiler.
It’s so freaking hard to just ignore the world.
He uses words like “metastasized” and “stage four” but all she really hears is “you’re going to die,” even if he never actually says that.
It’s all in the body language.
He’s probably given this news a hundred times before, but he always uses the same techniques. For a moment, she almost feels sorry for him, but the moment passes.
She clears the sob from her throat – she’s not going to let the tears out. Not yet – and asks, ‘What are my options?’
And there’s that body language thing again. At least this time, his words match his demeanor. At such an advanced stage, the options are limited.
That stupid cosmic joke.
You spend your life trying to help the universe, and what does the universe give back?
A one-way trip down the River Styx.
* * *
When Morgan sees Emily the next day, he realizes just how thin she’s looking. He kicks himself for not noticing this before. She’s been carrying this burden alone for six weeks, and that’s probably not helping so much with the pain.
‘I need to tell the team,’ she says, shakily, taking a long sip from her water bottle. There’s sadness in her eyes, but something else as well – fear. ‘Today,’ she adds, in case there had been any confusion on the matter.
His own expression is grim, but he’s managed to stem the flow of tears. That’s something that he’d learned to do so long ago now, after his father’s death.
‘Did you want to speak to Hotch about it first?’ he suggests, to which Emily shakes her head.
‘I don’t think I have the strength to say it more than once.’
He wants to argue that point – to tell her that she’s one of the strongest people he knows – but at the same time, she has a point. To tell them all at once would get it done in one fell swoop.
If Garcia’s suspicious that he drags her out of the Bat Cave to the briefing room, she doesn’t say anything.
It’s a paperwork day again, but they still have the 10am briefing, regardless. It kind of makes him shudder to think that they’re going to need to spend the rest of the day at work after this revelation.
He sits back, observing their expressions. They all know something’s going on, even if they’re not sure what yet. Then she says those words: those three horrible, heart-wrenching words, and each team member reacts in their own way. Garcia gives a half-choked sob of disbelief, and Reid’s eyes are open wide, and JJ just looks upset. Both Rossi and Hotch have fairly muted reactions, which is completely unsurprising.
‘I’m sorry,’ Emily says softly, tears in her eyes. Before anyone can stop her, she’s taken off.
‘You knew, didn’t you?’ Garcia asks him in an accusatory tone, and he turns his head before the sight of her mascara stained cheeks gets him crying too.
‘She told me last night,’ he says, softly. He stands then, not really wanting to be bombarded with questions he doesn’t know the answer to.
He finds her in the ladies bathroom, washing her face in the sink. She doesn’t make a comment about his presence, instead saying, ‘I feel like I’m going to be sick.’
He frowns. ‘Have you been eating properly?’
She wrinkles her brow, considering the question. ‘My doctor said to maintain a “low-fat, high-fiber” diet. For all the good that’s going to do. It’s hard sometimes, when we’re on the go.’
She’s washed the tears from face, but her eyes are still red, and she looks so hopelessly lost that he just wants to step forward and hug her. She doesn’t pull away, instead wrapping her arms around him tightly. ‘I’m scared, Derek.’
‘I’ll be there for you,’ he assures her. ‘We’ll all be there.’
He can’t be with her forever, though. That’s the problem.
* * *
Emily is completely unsurprised when she finds herself being ushered into Hotch’s office, a solemn look on the Unit Chief’s face.
‘When did you find out?’ are the first words that he asks, which she finds kind of funny, considering it had been one of Morgan’s first questions as well.
‘Six weeks ago,’ she tells him, and she hears the soft intake of breath. ‘It was…it was right before Foyet came back. I didn’t want to…’ She bites her lip, unsure of just how to explain that she hadn’t wanted to overshadow Haley’s death. ‘There was too much going on.’
He absorbs those words, before saying, ‘Once you have dates for your treatment, we can co-ordinate your leave schedule.’ She almost laughs. That’s Hotch. Always about the job. Only it’s not, and they both know it.
‘Aaron, I…’ She stops, realizing that she’s just called him by his first name. Even when he’d been working her mother’s security detail, she didn’t think she’d ever called him that. ‘It’s terminal, Hotch. There won’t be any treatment.’
There’s a long silence, punctuated by, ‘Then perhaps you should consider resigning so that you can spend your time doing something other than hunting serial killers.’ His face is a little less stoic than usual, as though there’s something trying to break through his concrete mask. She’s almost flattered.
‘Hotch, please don’t do this. I’ve made my decisions, and I’m not leaving anyone. I’ve seen the world, the only things left are the things I can't do. I want to spend time with my family.’ She’s not just talking about her blood family. She’s talking about the people that she spends damn near every day with, hunting serial killers or no. ‘This is where I want to be.’ The thought is kind of macabre, realizing that this job is the most important thing in her life, but she’s known that for a long time.
Now, she’s accepted it. Just like she’s accepted her mortality.
Hotch nods. ‘If there’s anything – anything – I can do...please...I’m here.’
She gives him a wan smile. ‘Thank-you. That means a lot.’ And it does. Knowing that she won’t be alone for the end of it all is kinda comforting.
But not too comforting.
* * *
She’s onto the third box of kitchen stuff when the doorbell rings. She’s half grateful for the excuse to stop, because going through your possessions can be a pretty disheartening process.
Morgan’s at the door, which is unsurprising, but Garcia and Reid are there too, which is a little bit surprising. Of the team, those are the two that have been avoiding her, if unintentionally. They’ve lost too many people already.
‘Hey.’ She steps back to let them inside, and Garcia looks around her apartment with something approaching curiosity.
‘Emily, why is all your stuff in boxes?’
She tries to find a delicate way of answering the question, but there really, really isn’t one.
‘Because I don’t want people having to go through my apartment after I die.’ She has the briefest mental image of Rossi going through her underwear drawer, but the humor doesn’t last long, because apparently the words she’d chosen had been absolutely wrong, because Garcia has burst into tears.
Morgan looks torn, and Reid just looks uncomfortable, so Emily takes it upon herself to wrap the technical analyst in a tight hug. ‘I’m sorry, Garcia...I just...’
Garcia pulls back and gives Emily a look. ‘Don’t you dare apologize for being sick. Your frankness is just a little overwhelming.’
‘Huh.’ Emily looks around. ‘I guess it’s a bad time to ask if you wanted to go through my books to see if there was anything you were interested in.’
No words need to be spoken for Emily to realize that the answer is a resounding “No.”
‘Most of this will probably just go to charity,’ she says. ‘I seriously don’t remember how I ended up with so much crap. I’m pretty sure most of it came from friends of my parents.’ She frowns, grabbing at an item that’s lying on her kitchen counter. ‘I’m not even sure what this is supposed to do.’ Reid starts to open his mouth, no doubt to explain what the item is, where it comes from, and the history of its invention, but Morgan manages to intervene.
‘We wanted to see if you were interested in just...hanging out.’
‘That sounds good,’ Emily nods, realizing that it really, really does sound good. She hasn’t started to go through the DVDs yet, and there’s an overabundance of food in the kitchen for once, thanks to her doctor’s dietary recommendations.
They make popcorn, and sit through Reid’s running commentary of the Star Wars trilogy, and it somehow becomes both the happiest and the saddest moment of her life. Happy because she has, in the team, some of the best friends she’s ever known, and sad, because she’s leaving it all behind.
* * *
‘My mother offered to pay for full hospice care...’ Emily reveals to him one day, when they’re on their way back from Tacoma. There’d been a mentally troubled man killing women that reminded him of his mother, and Emily’s been looking pretty sick all week, grimacing in pain when she thinks that no-one’s watching. ‘When the time comes.’ He gets the hidden message in those words – she thinks that the time will be sooner rather than later, and it’s quite possibly the most terrifying thing in the world. But not quite as terrifying as the fact that she’s planning on dying in some strange place, away from her home.
‘That’s ridiculous,’ Morgan counters, surprised that she’d accept such an offer. He doesn’t even need to think about the next words that come out of his mouth. ‘I’ll take a few months off to look after you.’
Emily’s eyes widen in surprise and the refusal is both immediate and angry. ‘No. I don’t want you to do that, Derek.’
‘So you’d rather you were looked after by complete strangers in the last few months of your life? Come on, Emily.’ He lets his voice soften, suddenly hyperaware of the rest of the team at the other end of the jet. Part of him wants them to hear so that they can come over and tell Emily how stubborn she’s being.
‘I don’t want you to see me like that.’ She frowns, and then re-evaluates her phrasing. ‘I don’t want you to remember me like that.’ She gives a bitter laugh. ‘And trust me – when you have to feed me, and help me to the toilet, and give me a sponge bath, that’s what you’re going to remember.’ He’s never seen her eyes look as sad as they do with those words. ‘You’ve been…the best friend I could have possibly asked for. But I can’t let you do this.’
He nods. She absolutely has a point. That doesn’t make it any easier to accept.
‘Besides,’ Emily shrugs. ‘The place we have picked out has some really nice gardens – I don’t think my apartment is really suited to fresh air.’ Her words are casual, almost nonchalant, as though she’s talking about what she’s going to have for dinner, not the place where she’s going to die.
She’s accepted her fate.
Maybe he should do the same.
* * *
He gets the phone call from JJ at four o’clock on a Sunday afternoon, and he gets the phone call from one of the nurses at the hospice an hour later. He’s driving erratically as he makes his own phone call, but he’s not driving towards Quantico.
‘Hotch – I got a call from Emily’s nurse. She’s…’ He struggles for the right word. “Dying” doesn’t sound right, because really, she’s been dying for a long time now. ‘They don’t think she’ll last the night.’
There’s a long silence on the other end of the line, because the case they’d managed to snare isn’t a particularly pretty one.
‘Go,’ Hotch tells him. ‘We’ve got this.’ His voice sounds a little broken, because the chances of the rest of them getting there to say goodbye are slim, at best.
She’d been fine yesterday – as fine as someone dying of cancer could be. She’d laughed at his jokes and stayed alert through the episode of Doctor Who that Garcia had given to him to take. To know that tonight she’s on her deathbed is just…
He doesn’t have a word to describe how messed up that is. How messed up it is that she’s going to die without the team, without her family.
If there is a God, Derek Morgan wants nothing more than to punch him in the face.
He runs through the halls, hoping against all hope that he isn’t too late. He half expects to see a nurse there, closing her eyes for the last time. There’s no nurse. There’s just Elizabeth Prentiss, standing by her daughter’s bed, lips a thin line. The light is soft, and a deadly silence permeates the air.
‘Emily,’ he breathes.
She turns to face him, not even able to lift her head from the pillow. He tries not to take in the tiredness that’s overtaken her body, because it’s too damn painful.
‘Derek.’ She’s smiling, and there are tears shining in her eyes. She knows what’s coming.
‘The team got a case – they couldn’t…I’m sorry.’ He takes hold of her hand, tight, but not too tight. He’s afraid that she might just slip away if he lets go.
Elizabeth gives him a terse nod before stepping out of the room.
‘When it happens, you should give her a hug,’ Emily says. ‘She needs a hug.’
‘I’ll do that,’ he assures her. There’s silence for a moment.
‘You should be with the team.’
‘That’s bullshit, and you know it.’
She laughs, the sound soft, weak. Nothing like the laugh he remembers. That deep, clear sound that lit fires in his heart.
‘Do you ever think…maybe if someone else had come looking for me that night, it’d be them here instead of you?’
He doesn’t answer, even though it’s a question that’s been swimming around in his mind for a long time now.
‘I think someone turned off the flashlight, Derek.’ The tears are flowing heavily now, and there’s something deep down that tells him it’s not going to be long.
He calls Elizabeth back into the room, and is only half surprised to see that her eyes are wet.
‘Tell me a joke,’ Emily whispers, the words half starting to blur together. The words aren’t quite the ones that he’d expected, but he obliges anyway, wracking his memory for something useful.
‘I once knew a man with a wooden leg named Smith,’ he starts, and then frowns, realizing that he’d messed it up.
Emily laughs anyway. ‘What’s the name of his other leg?’ she wheezes, before adding, ‘So Garcia finally got you to watch Mary Poppins, huh?’
He smiles. ‘A little too musical for my tastes, I think-’ He stops abruptly. Emily’s eyes are closed. Part of him already knows that they’re never going to open again. He leans forward and kisses her on the forehead. ‘Goodbye, Emily.’
He hugs Elizabeth, as per Emily’s request, and the older woman hesitates at first, but after half a second, she hugs back.
‘She didn’t want her extreme unction,’ the Ambassador says, and it almost sounds non-sequitur, but it’s not. ‘I just hope…she isn’t in pain anymore.’
Morgan’s not quite sure how to respond to that.
Instead, he goes back to his car, and locks the doors and cries until he has no more tears left.
* * *
The morning of the funeral dawns, and it’s a little grey outside, but it’s not raining. Morgan’s good suit is hanging over the back of a chair in the kitchen, unironed. He pours out some dry food for Clooney, and lets the dog inside while he sets up the ironing board. The last time he’d worn this suit had been to Haley’s funeral – not so long ago, really. He’s had his fair share of funerals – that’s the job – but today’s seems so much more…personal.
He sits on the edge of the sofa, tie hanging over his shoulders. They’ve got the day off work – they have the whole week off, thanks to some string-pulling from Dave – and he’s not due to pick up Garcia and Kevin until 11. Instead, he finds his wallet and pulls out the crumpled photo that’s been sitting behind his driver’s license for the past few months. It’s from last year’s Christmas party and he can’t remember it being taken, because he’d gotten pretty drunk that night.
He and Emily are both smiling in the photo, his arm around her shoulder. Her eyes are bright, and he can almost hear her laugh ringing in his ears.
He tucks the photo in his jacket pocket, and he does the tie in a half Windsor knot and he picks up Kevin and Garcia on the way to the church. It’s full, but not overly so; he’s given speeches in front of audiences five times this size, but today is different. Today, he’s fractured. His mind and his body are threatening to fall apart at the seams, threatening to force him to his knees with the strength of his grief.
The priest gives the eulogy, and the words are just that – words. They do nothing to convey the beauty, the bravery, the love. No words can describe that.
Tears fall freely from his eyes as he looks down at the poem that he had picked out, but it too seems empty. Flat.
He thinks back to that night in the snow; the night he had realized something was terribly, terribly wrong.
‘There’re these two guys in a mental asylum, and one night they decide that they’re going to escape,’ he says, ignoring the looks of confusion from many of those in front of him. ‘So they somehow get up onto the roof of the building, and the first guy takes a running leap and jumps across to the next building over, but the other one can’t do it. He can’t jump. He’s afraid of falling. So the first guy says, “Okay, I’m going to shine my light across to you, and you can just walk over the beam. Then the second guy says, “You think I’m crazy? You’ll turn it off when I’m halfway across!”’ He gives a long pause – in the audience, Reid show some recognition, but everyone else seems just as confused as Morgan himself is.
‘Emily was…afraid of falling,’ he says. ‘But she held on. She was strong – one of the strongest people I’ve ever met, and I…’ He’s been holding back for as long as possible, but he can’t any longer. He lets the sob break free, but stops himself in time to avoid bursting into tears in front of a dozen or so foreign dignitaries. ‘I don’t know what I’ll do without her.’
He returns to his seat, and Rossi claps him on the shoulder, but nobody says anything.
Later, when they carry the coffin to the fresh hole that’s been dug in the ground, the sun is out, but pretty soon it’ll probably go back behind the clouds. He’ll go home and maybe lay down for a little bit, closing his eyes and trying to remember Emily’s laugh.