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13.04 Strengthening App

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The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection. -- Thomas Paine 

"Hey, you alright?" 

Michael Nassar looked away from the window of the jet to see Emily Prentiss looking down at him. He gave a gesture for her to have a seat and replied, "Just thinking." 

"Uh oh. We're in trouble," Emily teased as she took the seat across from him. "Cause every time you think we end up getting more paperwork." 

"I would think you'd appreciate the dotting the t's and crossing the i's, Ems," Michael replied as he adjusted his position. "DHS certainly appreciated my mapping out the crime scenes." He made a slight sound and glanced out the window. 

Emily watched him and asked, "Seriously, you okay?" 

Michael turned to look at Emily and gave a slight shake, "Not really." He paused to see if she would speak. When she waited, he continued as he leaned forward, "Just... reminded of a few bad experiences with contractors. Including Peakstone." 

"I'm glad you were with me," Emily admitted, "And I didn’t mean to put you on the spot making you come with me." She put on an apologetic face. 

"I knew what I was getting into when you asked me to stay on," Michael replied with a slight smile. He lowered his voice as he added, "And you did ask me to be security of a sorts." 

"That was only for the situation with Reid..." Emily stopped when she looked at Michael to find him grinning at her. She made a slight face and had they been kids she would have punched him in the shoulder. She could now and she understood why his sister almost wanted to strangle him when they first met in Austin. "You really like pushing it." 

"Kept me alive in Afghan and... my team trusted that about me." 

"Do you still..." 

"Yes," Michael replied softly. He sighed a little and continued, "That's the thing about being the team leader. Maintain command but still make yourself accessible to them. Show them that you have their back and they will do the same. And they were until the end. Even Phillips." 

"How is he?" 

"Last I heard he was... doing okay." Michael looked upwards and frowned slightly. He sighed again and looked out the window. 

Emily watched him silently. She figured that he would be affected by this latest case. He didn’t really want to go to Peakstone with her but he did without complaining. When they arrived, she had Michael run through the scene, mapping everything and had him walk her through it with Alvez. He agreed with Reid when it was suggested that the unsub used a drone.  

"I had worked with Peakstone a couple of times and Luke is right," Michael said as he stared absently out the window. He then turned and looked at Emily, "They are a different breed and... one of the reasons I refused to work with them after the last time." 

"The DHS Peakstone contact seemed to know you." 

"Of course." Michael turned to face Emily and leaned forward. "Don't get me wrong, Ems. With the military resources stretched as thin as they were, we were forced to rely on contractors. The sad thing about it is that because they are privatized, they are not held to the same regulations as regular army. And that leaves for a lot of arrogance to breed." He gave a wry smile that was similar to Reid's. "It's why I was... reminding him of that." 

Emily nodded at that. When they went to see the contact at Peakstone, the man gave an almost sardonic smile at Michael. It was like he was happy to see him. The conversation was polite but she could feel the tension in the room and it had nothing to do with the fact that the company was refusing to give the name of their unsub. Michael refused to be baited by Peakstone but he did manage to leave a parting shot that ended up coming true. 

"You know, I joined the army because I didn’t find satisfaction in what I was doing, the traditional sort of jobs associated with a proven genius." 

Emily looked to find Michael looking at her. She replied, "Yeah. Garcia told me you had been practicing law for six months and then up and quit." 

"I was disillusioned," Michael replied with a slight smile. "I loved the law. I like order in general. The way how everything has its own place and function and when it is not doing what it's supposed to do, I try to fix it. With the way how things were even with the most honorable of attorneys... didn't quite fit." 

"So, you joined the military and... did what you did. Still do." 

"In a modified sense," Michael replied with a slight smile. "My CO likes the idea of having a trained operator in the art of criminal profiling." He gave a slight look at Emily and added, "I don't know what you said to him and DIA to get them to allow me to be stationed as a liaison with the BAU but... it has been a blessing." 

Emily smiled at that. She didn't know how much he knew of the circumstances that led to his employ with the BAU but she was glad to have his presence there and when JJ had been assigned to Afghanistan, he had been there to look after her. He was a good man. "Well I'm glad you're with us too, Mike. I know Reid is happy you're here." 

"Spence has been able to handle himself without me. Taught him that much at Caltech," Michael replied with a slight smile. He looked over to see his best friend sitting and reading. He looked back at Emily, "I'm really glad the brass reinstated him. This... is his life apart from his family. He was meant to do this." 

"And you aren't?" 

"I'm just passing through." 

Emily shook her head at that. "No. You're important too. It is like seeing a complete person with you and Reid working together. But you're both unique when apart. To be honest, I never thought I would meet a genius who likes to play football and play piano while serving." 

"Reality surpasses..." 

"Expectations." 

They both shared a laugh at that. Emily looked at Michael and studied him. "I'm glad you're here, Mike. And you did a good job on the case. You read the situation before we did and acted and was there to prevent Peakstone from killing a loose end." 

"I knew how they operated in terms of missions, Ems," Michael replied, "And... the sad thing is that... I could see where Jake was coming from." He looked at Emily with a slight expression as he continued, "I mean I knew what to expect when I signed up and was shipped out. I was trained for the possibility of shooting someone and killing them. When faced with the reality of it... I can see how the kid felt. 

"They shouldn't have misled the operators. The sad thing is I've met a few enlisted that treated the war over there like a videogame. When we stop thinking of people as people and instead think of them as pixels on a screen... we lose what makes us human." 

Emily looked at Michael as he looked at her in a thoughtful manner. He obviously had time to think about this and he made no bones about being Christian. She had seen him answer the question of how he could be a soldier and a Christian. He was that confident in his faith and it carried out in how he interacted with the team. She remembered the dinner he invited the team to after their first case back together. She asked, "Do you want to go back?" 

"Sometimes I want to be back with the team I was reassigned to but... looking at it now..." Michael thought about it a little. "They were doing fine without me and they don't need me. I may miss it a little but I'm here and if it is where I'm supposed to be, I trust that God guides me." He smiled a little and added, "I actually want to stay on the team. I like the arrangement." 

"No kidding. You get to see Rory more. Be with Sarai." 

"No doubt." Michael chuckled as he leaned back in his seat. "Rory told me she likes Emmie because she made it so her baba is home." 

Emily smiled and wanted to laugh a little. She knew that Michael's daughter Aurora had picked out her way of referring to the team. She was Emmie. The others made her want to laugh. "She is something," she replied. 

"She and Sarai..." Michael tapped the place over his heart. "At least we are doing something to make the world a bit safer in this job. Right?" 

Emily nodded after a moment. There were times that they all had their doubts but in the end, they were doing good. What they learned, they applied it to the next case to catch the unsub. "I think you should keep that in mind. It's a good reason to stay." 

Emily stood up and gave a pat on his shoulder before heading back to her seat to deal with some paperwork. Michael watched her leave before getting up to stretch. He sidled up the aisle and sat across from his best friend. He grinned when Reid didn't even notice that he was there. Instead, he took the time to look at the eat of the team. 

He had seen a lot of things in Afghan. The good, the bad, and the ugly. That didn’t exactly change when he came back. It was the same things but just different. It was like what he had told Reid about relating in experiences. The details and circumstances were different but the feelings were the same. Going to the Silicon Valley and meeting with the Peakstone representative again... it struck a nerve. 

There were a lot of things that he had seen and done that his friends and family would never know about. They couldn’t because of the nature of his missions. The country wouldn’t know because they didn’t want to know or thought that they wouldn't do a thing like that. The phrase ignorance was bliss rang true. It was why he could understand why the unsub reacted the way he did. Luke and Simmons understood in terms of service and what it meant to work black ops and such. It had him wonder if he would have turned out like the unsub. Looking at Reid, Michael smiled as he thought about how thankful he was to have what he had. Settling back, he was prepared to go to sleep, pulling out his noise cancelling headphones. 

"Though sleep is called our best friend, it is a friend who often keeps us waiting." 

Michael opened his eyes and narrowed them at Reid who was looking at him with a grin on his face. He replied, "Sleep is that golden chain ties health and our bodies together. Beat that with another from Jules Verne." 

"Did you just quote Thomas Dekker?" 

It turned into a playful back and forth between the two friends. Emily watched from her seat and couldn't help but smile. They had been through some tough times but with Michael there, in addition to Simmons, it was like the attitudes of the team shifted. They were always there to do the job but it was like it changed for the better. The team seemed stronger for it. 

Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference. -- Winston Churchill