Occupational Therapy by Arsenic
Summary: Written for 14v 2009. Theme: Domestic Violence.
Categories: Criminal Minds Characters: Emily Prentiss
Genres: None
Warnings: None
Series: 14 Valentines
Chapters: 1 Completed: Yes Word count: 1321 Read: 6660 Published: 21/07/09 Updated: 21/07/09
Chapter 1 by Arsenic
Thank you to belladonnalin and emmytie for all their help with this.

Emily saw four different therapists before she admitted a thing to any of them. It wasn't that she was compelled into seeing them--she knew damn well she needed it. It wasn't that she didn't want to talk--she knew things were never going to change otherwise. It was more that she didn't know what to say, and clearly those therapists hadn't known what to ask, because it was the question--granted, repeated several times--"Why do you do what you do? Professionally," that had tripped her most revealing bout of honesty, the one that had made her rethink a lot of her own assumptions.

The day, though, that she said, "Because at least when I see violence, it's out in the open," was the day she understood herself--and the people she profiled--so much more deeply than she ever had before.


Emily wasn't abused, not mentally, not physically, not in any way that the APA would define as a abuse. She didn't doubt that her mother loved her, really, truly loved her, or that her father had done his best to show her that she was important, given that he had the emotional range of Emily's pinky finger--and that was on a good day.

If Emily had learned one thing, though, in all her years of schooling and training and paper pushing and field work, it was that violence and abuse were two radically different things, even if they often overlapped. And there had been enough repressed violence in her mother's emotions toward her--and Emily's emotions right back--that with just a little bit of a push, or perhaps just a small amount of honesty, the two of them could have fueled a war longer and more violent than the Hundred Years War.

So even if seeing the pictures of women lying, ripped open and desecrated, men on their backs, dark red and unhealthy white, wasn't her favorite part of the job, it was at least honest and that. . .that was something she needed more than she could possibly ever tell any therapist.


Ambassador Prentiss's problem hadn't been that she hadn't heard that women could have it all, but that nobody had informed her that they didn't have to have it all. Emily had met scores of women who should never have been mothers, and yet none of them had ever managed to outdo her own. She was willing to acknowledge that this might have been due to her eighteen years with her own, but all the same, even if extremes were relative, they were still extremes.

Emily suspected her mom would actually have been one of those mothers who drowns her child in a moment of insanity brought about by frustration if Emily had been born in the fifties, and her mother had had nothing to do other than raise Emily and maybe vacuum once a day. Luckily, both of them had been saved by the fact that she had ambassadorial duties that called to her far more than familial ones.

Emily's father had had the ability to leave and had exercised it. Emily. . . All Emily had had was the ability to learn to fight her mother's fire--perfectly crafted, well-hidden insults--with her own fire--being nothing, nothing like what her mother expected or wanted.

In fairness to her mother, though, Emily had grown into adulthood with all the blind spots that the scars of childhood and teenage years generally helped to accumulate. If her mother was somewhat to blame for Emily being able to appreciate the honesty of a knife or a gun over the too-sharp side of a tongue, the too quick, blunted edge of a gaze, Emily was to blame for never really stopping to figure out if things had changed, not until probably well after they had.

Emily wasn't stupid, she knew her mother had tried--far more, honestly, once Emily was gone from her sight, than before. But Emily wasn't a perfectionist; she knew that relationships were complicated and stupid and generally heartbreaking, even at their best. And her mother had done her best to get Emily where she wanted to be, make sure she stayed there. It didn't always sit well, knowing that her mother's name had gotten her the places she had worked so hard to go on her own, but when she finally started wanting to know that her mother loved her--or, rather, was finally willing to acknowledge feelings she'd poured into cement twenty years earlier--it was a nice, concrete sign of her affections, her pride.

All the same, Emily couldn't fault herself for knowing, in the end, that she would have preferred a damn hug.


When Morgan was tired of holding JJ's baby, Reid took him, the proud young godfather. And when Reid's arms were ready to give up, Emily took him. JJ and her were sitting across from each other, JJ looking at her with mild curiosity. Of course, mild curiosity on JJ meant she was going to find out what was going on sooner or later, so a person had might as well just spill and get it over with. Emily caressed her thumb over the baby's forehead. "Remember, after that case, when you said you thought--"

"You'd make a good mother." JJ nodded, finishing the question as a statement. "You would."

Emily closed her eyes, her grip on the baby secure. "My mom wasn't. And while all is not nurture, there is unquestionably--"

"We also learn from others mistakes. As much as we do ours," JJ said, taking Emily's chin to get her to open her eyes, meet JJ's gaze.

"That guy killed his family," Emily said. "He took a sawed off shotgun and shot them in their sleep because he felt. . .demasculated, emburdened, guiltened, whatever. And if we cared, if we dug deep enough, we would know what caused it, what moment in his childhood or adolescence brought him to that point."

JJ nodded. "That's what we do."

"I don't want to be that person to a child. Even if it's not. . . I don't think I'd kill my child. I just mean in other ways. The things we consider smaller, but they're not really, you know? They make children into teenagers into adults and then there's this fully formed person who's capable of doing harm or good or most likely both. We hope both, I suppose, because that's human. But human isn't always what comes out of the process, you know?" Also, Emily thought, how are you not scared out of your fucking mind?, but that seemed like an inappropriate question to ask, all things considered.

"There are no sureties," JJ said, looking down at her baby. "There are no. . .promises. But there's." She tilted her head. "There's the person you are. The things you know. The lessons you've learned from the people we stop, from your mother, from Hotch and probably me, soon enough. It's not like anybody gets better training than that."

Emily laughed after a second. "No, probably not."


Emily called her mother when she got home. She wasn't even sure where she was at the moment, in the States, not in the States. Her mom picked up with surprising quickness. "Emily?"

"Hi mom."

"Something wrong?"

Emily opened her mouth, but then shook her head, even knowing she couldn't be seen. "No, not-- No. I wake you?"

"It's five here, but I was up prepping. You're sure everything's all right?"

Emily rubbed a hand over her face. "Just wanted. . . Just wanted to see how you were doing."

"I thought about calling, last week, but I wasn't sure of your schedule."

"You should-- I leave my phone on. You can call."

"I would hate to wake you."

Emily smiled at the sincerity behind the statement. "Sleep'll still be there after we talk."

After a second, her mother laughed. "I suppose that's true."
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