Fandom: Criminal Minds
Spoilers: Up through Season 5, with some Season 6 for some background info.
Characters/Pairing(s): David Rossi/Emily Prentiss, Derek Morgan, Aaron Hotchner, Dr. Spencer Reid, Jennifer “J.J.” Jareau
Warning: Blood, sex, violence
Word Count: 19,258
Notes: I’ve fudged the timeline slightly so Rossi joined the team before Prentiss. This was written for the au_bigbang. Much thanks to murf1307 for betaing and weaselett for art!
Disclaimer: I don't own Criminal Minds or its characters and I don't make a dime off them.
Summary: Everyone on Emily Prentiss' BAU team was a little unusual; herself being a vampire and Morgan being a werewolf were only part of it. David Rossi being her chosen blood donor was another large part of it. But despite years of keeping things on the level of friendship, a long-term case brings a few important things to light, not the least of which is that life can be too short for those who aren't prepared to pay dearly for it. And for some the price is too high.
Emily cinched down the last straps of her hood and goggles, adjusting them slightly for comfort before sliding them into their own sleeves. Every daywalker suit was close-fitted, not quite skintight, but with nothing flapping to catch and tear the tough, opaque, flame-retardant fabric. Like most vampires, Emily supplemented her featureless hood with a brimmed hat, and had a long overcoat tightly buttoned over her body for a vague semblance of normalcy. It was impossible to hide the fact that one was wearing a daywalker suit, so most didn’t bother to try very hard. And that was the current bone of contention at this police station. They wanted her to try. The officers stared at her as if they’d never seen a vampire before, and refused to meet her eyes. They sidled around her when she sat down, and never spoke to her alone. The rest of the team ignored their behavior. Shaming their fellow law enforcement brothers had been an effective tool in the past.
It did irritate Emily that the Atlanta PD was apparently afraid of her, but didn’t even flinch at Morgan. Even though it was the week of a full moon. Even with him drinking cup after cup of the distinctively earthy-smelling wolfsbane tea. Either they were being deliberately obtuse, or were more comfortable with werewolves, even considering the nature of this case. She sighed; she’d been irritated before at the double standard, and undoubtedly would be again. Lycanthropes were poor victims; vampires were rich cowards.
“Ready,” Emily said quietly, tugging her hat down as she strode from the room with the rest of her team. Outside the conference room, with its heavy sunshades placed for Emily’s benefit, blazing Georgia sunshine filled the station. She could feel its heat distantly through her suit, but it didn’t truly touch her. Her black suit should have left her a sweaty, sodden mess by normal rights, but vampires could comfortably exist in a wide range of temperatures. If she had been able to walk openly, not a drop of sweat would have marred her skin.
People resented that; vampiric “perfection.” It didn’t matter how often it was explained that the virus resented any change to its host body and kept it as it had been when it was introduced. “We’re not perfect, we’re static,” was the refrain too often ignored so resentment could be nurtured.
The stares from the half-hostile officers were almost as painful as sunshine would be to her uncovered flesh. That thought brought an unseen savage smile to her face. There had been a case almost three months ago where the precinct had been woefully, almost deliberately ignorant of vampires. So much so that when Hotchner had called the officers in to deliver a profile, one of them had flung open a door to the sun-dark room without first making sure the shades had been shut behind him. Emily had gotten a face full of sunlight and had been forced to dive for cover underneath a desk before she started to char.
The resulting vicious lecture from every member of the team had salved her pain even faster than her body could fix itself.
Hotchner gathered the team together in front of the evidence board, standing preternaturally still until the officers silenced themselves. As soon as he had their undivided attention, he began the profile.
“The brutality of the attacks and the length of time the victims are held before being found tells us this unsub is not just sadistic, but controlling. This is about power—he feels as if he has not been successful and these attacks are his way of compensating.”
“Is it a werewolf?” someone asked.
Morgan took it upon himself to answer. “It’s possible, but there are other scenarios.”
“There are people who are capable of doing terrible things without being anything other than human. Certain people are capable of anything.”
“But the bodies--,” one officer protested. Prentiss could understand their skepticism. Young women from the area had been disappearing for up to a week at a time, only to turn up in the woods, their bodies savaged. The signature was similar to werewolf crimes; that was why Hotchner’s unit had become involved in the first place.
“The evidence is difficult to separate due to the condition of the bodies, but it’s possible the unsub could have dogs,” Morgan continued calmly.
The officers grumbled, irritated at such a mundane explanation. A supernatural cause would have made them feel better, less guilty, since of course there was no way they could have stopped it. Prentiss could understand their reasoning, even if she couldn’t agree with it.
“It’s also possible the unsub is a werewolf wanna-be. He could be cultivating a werewolf persona, even to the point of having false fangs and claws to live out an irrational fantasy.”
Some of the officers were nodding slightly, getting past that stage of fear that tended to blind them.
“But it could be a real werewolf?” someone persisted.
“That’s one scenario we’re looking at, yes. Look, I know you requested our team for a reason, but it’s important to keep our minds open. We could waste time trying to chase a werewolf when the real perpetrator could be someone very different. We’re just trying to make sure Brittany comes home safely.”
“Now, we’re looking for a white male in his late thirties, recently let go from a low-responsibility job…” Rossi and Reid took over the specifics of the profile as Morgan fell back slightly.
Prentiss moved close enough to whisper to him. “We are dealing with a werewolf though, aren’t we?”
“No doubt in my mind. I smelled him at the abduction site.”
“Nice impromptu speech.”
Prentiss grinned behind the anonymity of her mask as Morgan kept a straight face. The fact was that the profile didn’t change that much if the unsub were a real werewolf, a wanna-be, or a guy with ill-tempered dogs, not in terms of where he would be living. And neighbors would be more willing to talk if the canvassing officers didn’t try to imply there had been a werewolf living under their noses. People were more willing to accept they had been fooled in a small way; but imply that they’d missed a local werewolf and people might stop talking.
As Hotchner moved into the next part of the profile, Rossi flicked his eyes over to Prentiss, meeting her gaze despite the barrier of the goggles. He raised one eyebrow slightly, a faint smile on his face. He knew what they were talking about; they’d done this before. Every time they helped inadvertently teach local officers on what was possible, it gave the police force as a whole that many more discerning eyes and ears.
The only real difference between an imposter and the real thing would be how the team went in to get the unsub when they found him. That was when the Atlanta PD wouldn’t care what Prentiss or Morgan was, just that they could stop a real monster in his tracks before he hurt anyone else.
Dedicated canvassing of the last known abduction site hadn’t yielded anyone local to that neighborhood. But Garcia had found a point of similarity between that neighborhood and the others, a common landscaping service. That gave the unsub the van he needed for his abductions. Running the employee records and crunching the rest of the profile through the computers had given them a single name: Edward Renard.
They had a tactical team in place an hour afterwards, surrounding Renard’s home as the sun went down.
The team came to an abrupt halt outside the house as Morgan hissed a warning over their radios.
As one, the BAU agents ejected their magazines or bullets and stowed them, instead bringing out ammunition marked with white. The officer next to Hotchner looked at him sideways; he hadn’t heard Morgan’s warning.
“Do your people have silver bullets?” Hotchner asked in explanation. “There’s a confirmed werewolf inside.”
The man shook his head, color draining from his face. “Only the snipers do, officially. The department couldn’t justify the expense for the rest of us. I think only a couple officers bought some for themselves.”
“Pull back. Without silver your only chance is multiple hits, and we have a victim in there.”
The man complied, stepping back as the FBI agents stepped forward. Two other officers, both sporting white magazines, stuck with them.
“Morgan, Prentiss, anything else?”
Next to Rossi, Prentiss pulled out her earbud and listened closely to the house. Her sense of smell was not as keen as Morgan’s, but her ears were nearly as sensitive.
“Movement. Low, west side,” she reported.
“Confirmed, definite scent mixture too. He’s in there with Brittany,” Morgan said.
The team moved in smoothly, Prentiss and Morgan taking out the front and back doors, Hotchner, Rossi, and Reid sweeping in after them, the officers securing the perimeter, then following after the agents. Prentiss and Morgan were careful to stay on point, using their bodies as shields in case of an ambush. They checked each room carefully, living room, kitchen, office…
“Hotch, he’s been denning,” Reid reported, seeing the bedroom a tangled snarl of blankets curved into the shape of a human-sized wolf’s body.
That was a very bad sign, everyone knew. Reverting to animal nature was a sign of deteriorating stability.
“Basement,” Morgan said quietly.
Prentiss could smell the sharp scent of fear rolling up the stairs as she opened the door, along with the werewolf smell, mixed with blood, sex, and dirt.
Morgan was growling deep in his throat as everyone carefully moved down the stairs, guns tracking for movement. Renard was in the far corner, crouching over Brittany, oblivious to their presence, too deep into his own world and the girl’s terror to pay them any attention.
“Edward Renard!” Prentiss called. The werewolf’s head came up, the bones subtly different in a partial transformation, his teeth fang-like and bloody from biting Brittany’s flesh.
“Back away from the girl!” Hotchner had come in from the other side, Rossi at his shoulder. Prentiss moved to cover Rossi, the movement so automatic she didn’t even have to think about it. Renard snarled, and everyone tightened their aim.
“We’re loaded with silver. Don’t even try,” Rossi warned flatly.
Brittany whimpered below Renard, and he growled loudly.
“Back away now!” Morgan demanded, a bass rumble in his voice that warned the wolf was close to the surface. In the dim light of the basement both werewolves’ eyes flashed green. Renard seemed to shrink in on himself, Morgan’s alpha presence cowering him, but he was still too close to Brittany.
“Move,” Hotchner repeated.
Renard crouched lower, and Emily hissed in warning at Brittany’s pained moan. He started and looked up, seeming to see and scent Emily, finally. She flashed her fangs at him, and he flinched backwards, stepping away from Brittany.
Brittany made a sound like a sob in her throat, and Renard suddenly growled at everyone with bloody teeth, his legs tending to spring. He only moved a step before Rossi and Hotchner each put a bullet into his chest.
The sound in the confined space floored both alter-humans, leaving them almost prostrate on the floor, clutching their ears from the pain and disorientation. When Emily could look up, she automatically searched for Rossi, finding him with Hotchner. Both were checking Renard from a distance, wisely neither of them getting too close. Morgan staggered to his feet to pull Brittany away from Renard, a resigned and sad expression on his face when the extent of her wounds was discovered.
Emily pushed herself upright, knowing Morgan’s pain. Several of the bite wounds were at least a day old, maybe more. None of them were in a vital place, which mean Renard had known what he was doing. He had been trying to infect Brittany, which was what he had been attempting to do to all the other women he’d killed. She might have to deal with lycanthropy for the rest of her life.
“She’ll live,” Rossi said, hanging up his phone. “Brittany should be out of the hospital in a week or so.”
“Is Morgan staying?” Prentiss asked.
“Until morning. They’re giving her a course of silver nitrate now. They should know by tomorrow if she’s infected or not.”
“We can stay that long,” Hotchner said. A dozen different cases would be waiting for them no matter what time they returned, and Morgan always felt responsible in cases like this. Hotchner tried to give his agents the leeway they needed to deal with their jobs.
The agents filtered out of the conference room, heading back to the hotel. It was creeping up on midnight, and while they had all pulled all-nighters before, they tried not to make it a habit.
Except for Emily, but that was understandable. Rossi lingered as the others left, helping her organize the files as one of the officers slipped into the conference room.
“You and Agent Morgan faced down Renard.”
Prentiss looked up from her work, and saw Officer Peters, one of the two officers who’d followed them into Renard’s house. She’d caught him looking at her with a bit of astonishment during the raid, and far less fear than many of the other officers.
“Our whole team did,” Prentiss corrected, nodding at Rossi, then at the door.
“Yeah, but Renard wasn’t exactly respecting silver. But he respected you, and um… what you can do.” Peters shifted a bit from foot to foot, and behind him, Prentiss and Rossi could see other officers surreptitiously monitoring what was going on.
“A denning werewolf will respond to threats differently. He might have tried to challenge Agent Morgan, but a vampire isn’t in his usual playbook. I knew I could at least startle him, just by being what I am.” Emily had heard these before; someone trying to romanticize a vampire’s abilities, making them seem larger than life. She could help dispel a few myths right here, right now, and save the next vampire to come through here a lot of hassle. “It’s really not like TV or the movies,” she explained.
Rossi kept his head down and tried to hide a smile. He knew what this was leading up to. This would be enough entertainment to make his night, if Officer Peters kept asking the expected questions.
“Mostly,” the deputy said, waving at Prentiss’ daywalker suit, now folded over a chair.
She shrugged. “The virus we have is based off something found in a tomb. Some real person had it over a thousand years ago. The old legends had some small basis in reality.”
“Valley of Monsters,” he muttered. Prentiss nodded, glad to see at least one officer who’d done some homework.
Sixty-odd years ago, one archeological dig had yielded both vampirism and lycanthropy in the preserved corpses of some long-ago rulers. Even now people swarmed to Transylvania in hopes of discovering some new disease that would account for some mythological creature. What did they hope to find? Emily asked herself cynically. Elves? Faeries? Gorgons? One was an unlikely as the other. The hype surrounding the possible next big discovery kept it fresh in the public’s mind.
That was the point, though. Studying the diseases of the past could yield important information as to trends in the spread of disease and possible changes in certain viruses or bacteria over the years. That had been the original reason for excavating the tombs in what had become known as the Valley of Monsters. Drug companies attached to the laboratories that worked on the original samples recovered from the preserved corpses had seen the incredible potential in the viruses still in their tissues.
It was thought that a diluted form of lycanthropy, with its association with rapid growth and change, could become a growth hormone or healing agent. Even, some had thought clandestinely, a performance enhancer. Unfortunately the virus had been more potent than anyone had realized, and had caused more damage than anyone could have anticipated. The first generation of lycanthropes had been very close to the monsters of old horror stories. Subsequent tinkering with the virus, toning down its effects through various generations of laboratory mutation, had muted the effects almost to the point of their original intent, but it had given law enforcement a whole new kind of criminal to look out for.
What was worse was the fact that lycanthropy could be transmitted. Either through a deep bite, or sexual contact, the virus could be spread without having to pay for it. That was why the drug companies had been so careful with vampirism. They had made certain it could not be transmitted, that its effects would be as they had intended, and had pushed to hedge vampires in with laws that would both protect the public and preserve their tattered reputations. Because vampirism wasn’t anything so simple as a growth hormone, it was a powerful healing agent for the desperate, with long-term consequences.
So people like Emily, who feared an early death, had to sign up for vampirism. They had to be tested, physically and psychologically, to see if they could handle the transition. And they had to have money. The virus itself was a shockingly expensive life insurance policy. And after the tailor-made injection (neatly, from a syringe into the dying customer, administered by a nurse), the newly-made vampire had to be able to support his or her new lifestyle. Blood from slaughterhouses, payments to human donors, daywalker suits, and light-proofing a dwelling could all add up. Vampires, as created by the virus, actually couldn’t feed exclusively on humans. It was too rich, the equivalent of drinking too much alcohol. But they had to have some nearly every day, or suffered from malnutrition.
There were even the equivalent of vampiric grants or scholarships, for those who feared death but possibly could not have afforded the lifestyle. But for those who had family histories of fatal illness, or were in potentially hazardous lines of work, it was worth any price.
Even the prejudice and prying questions.
“So, are any of the vampire shows or movies right?” Peters asked.
Rossi turned away to hide an outright grin. Here was where things really started to get good. Prentiss wouldn’t look at him, or she’d start laughing. It was a nice switch from the near-hostility of earlier.
“Some of them have some things right. Really, we’re not as cinematic as they are though.”
The officer got a bit of a challenging smile on his face at that.
“You’re more like Underworld, with the virus and all, right?”
“US or UK versions?”
“Uh…” the officer blinked.
“No,” Emily said before he could answer, trying to keep a straight face.
“Vampire the Masquerade?”
“That show was a travesty, and no.”
“Dear God, no.”
“Anything I forgot?”
“Probably several, and… no.”
“Not even a hint?”
“Isn’t that your line?”
Emily smiled at Peters as she swept the last files into her bag. “No.”
Rossi managed to keep a straight face as the officer turned to him for some help. “Sorry, no help from me.”
Officer Peters seemed to know he was beaten. He held out his hand to her, then Rossi, shaking firmly. “I’m glad your team could help us. I don’t think we could have caught Renard otherwise.”
“Thank you for letting us come,” she said, and rolled up her daywalker suit. Rossi took pity on the man, and recommended a book on vampires to satisfy his curiosity. That Rossi himself had written said book really didn’t matter; it was one of the best books one could get on the subject. Prentiss went out the side door of the precinct, Rossi right behind her, and took a deep breath of the night air.
“If you want dinner, I’m good for another hour,” Dave said, still cheerful despite the lateness.
Emily smiled. “You’re good for more than that. Let’s go.”
Three years ago
Prentiss sat in silence, letting her potential boss absorb what she’d shown him, what she’d said. If this were a normal situation, she might have felt confident that her record, skills, and determination would have proved that she truly wanted this job, that she hadn’t picked it on a whim, or used her powerful family ties to push herself to the front of the line. That impression of power could be dealt with, and she could see Hotchner trying to set aside his prejudices about her family on her behalf.
But Emily Prentiss had one other thing on her résumé that was harder to get past, something that could cause a disruption in their investigations. Something that could cause problems for the team even if they never knew she was an ambassador’s daughter, or her past with Interpol.
“How long have you been a vampire?” Hotchner asked neutrally.
“Twenty-two years. I was given the virus after a car crash when I was thirty-six.”
“Do you have a Source?”
“I did, but he’s moving at the end of the month. I understand our hours would be irregular, and I can find temporary donors.”
“I appreciate your willingness to accommodate, but we do sometimes go into areas where there is no strong vampire presence. Blood may be difficult to find, and donors even more so. Would it be a problem if you fed from one of the team?”
Emily was startled by Hotchner’s acceptance, of not just her, but of her nature. “Sir- you-.”
“I’d like to see you in the field, but all of your skills look good and your recommendations are outstanding. However, we have to be certain you have a Source before you go anywhere.”
“I understand,” Emily said, dropping her eyes slightly as Hotchner led the way. That was a vampire’s humiliation, to be so utterly dependent on other people. She was like an infant that couldn’t leave its mother, but worse. Emily couldn’t be alone for more than a day, couldn’t take a vacation or go on a retreat. She was paying a very high price for her extended life. And Hotchner was being very reasonable.
A few doors down was the briefing room, full of agents bent over folders and papers scattered on the table..
“Everyone, this is SSA Emily Prentiss.”
Emily nodded as she was introduced to everyone in turn: the thin, genius Dr. Reid, the experienced Rossi, the pretty, businesslike J.J., the slightly eccentric, brightly-colored Garcia, and-. Prentiss actually smiled as Derek Morgan was introduced. Hotchner’s mild reaction to her vampirism suddenly made sense. She had known there were some werewolves in the FBI, but not that there was one in the BAU. She’s thought she’d caught a hint of werewolf scent when she had come into the department, but the cup of distinctive-smelling wolfsbane tea in Morgan’s hand clinched his identity.
“Welcome to the Freak Unit,” Morgan said, grinning as he shook her hand.
“I’m so flattered, you have no idea,” she said, returning his smile. Emily tested his grip subtly, and he gave back as good as she gave. He had to be a third generation werewolf at least. Hotchner apparently felt the risks were worth his skills. Like her. Emily felt something inside of her relax.
“Pleased to meet you.” Rossi was next in line to greet her, the others following after him. None were anything other than human, but each was unusual in their own way. From what Emily had heard about Reid, he was anything but normal. And Rossi was an agency legend, not only being one of the founders of team profiling but of the first practical vampire database. Add the explosively colorful Garcia and her legendary computer skills, J.J.’s unflappable calm in the face of the worst cases, as well as the aforementioned werewolf and now Emily, and Hotchner’s team had undoubtedly earned their nickname.
“She’ll be needing a Source,” Hotchner said, after introductions were done. The agents looked at each other, and Emily sensed a good bit of unspoken communication between them.
“I think everyone is willing. We could take turns so it’s not too much of a drain on any one person,” J.J. said finally.
“That’s actually a myth. Unlike traditional blood donation for hospitals, which draws a pint of blood, vampiric feeding only drains a half a cup to a cup of blood on average. Not to mention certain compounds in vampire saliva encourages a human body to produce red blood cells, so even long-time donors have never suffered from anemia, despite the frequency of draining,” Reid said immediately.
Prentiss had opened her mouth to explain when Reid had stepped in, and shut it again. “What he said.”
“Oh,” J.J. said, looking a bit bemused, but also not terribly surprised. Reid must pull out those kinds of factoids a lot. “I see.”
“It would be better if I had just one Source,” Emily added. Some people were prejudiced against both vampires and Sources; it was best to keep that contained, if possible. They did understand. And Emily was still surprised by their collective offer. Certainly she could go to a blood bar and find someone willing, but Emily would rather not have to grab the nearest willing vein. She’d done it in the past, but it was less than satisfying for her.
It was awkward, having to pick on first impression, and Emily didn’t want to rush. Though Morgan was healthy, strong, and fit, werewolf blood could be unpleasant; it frequently made vampires ill. Reid, skinny, pale, with bruised-looking circles under his eyes from probable sleeplessness, would be a poor choice. She didn’t consider Hotchner for more than a second, and rejecting him was pure politics, rather than health. Feeding off her boss would be a terrible decision. Garcia seemed so innocent, though she had to have mental toughness to do this job, that Prentiss didn’t want to stress her. Also, practically, she rarely went into the field.
J.J. was definitely possible, but since she’d being doing the most interacting with the press, it would be inadvisable. Vampire fang wounds clotted in seconds and were healed in hours, but it was inevitable that someone would notice at exactly the wrong time. And once Prentiss looked at Rossi more closely, she was certain he was the one she wanted as a Source. It had less to do with health than it did with attitude.
Though the rest of the team was certainly willing to help her, there was a tense nervousness in some of them. Intellectually they wanted to help her. Emotionally, it disturbed them a little. But Rossi had a relaxation about him that meant he truly was all right with this. Prentiss thought he might have even donated before. Thank God for experience. Rossi was her own age too, even if she looked far younger, so they’d have a little in common. Not to mention (though Prentiss would never say this out loud), she liked the way he smelled. Her senses were more powerful as a vampire, and though Morgan’s sense of smell would rival a bloodhound, far outstripping hers, such things mattered to her. Rossi used good soap, fine aftershave, and had expensive clothes and shoes. Fine leather and silk and wool were far easier on her nose than the cheaper polyester in more mass market garments.
“Dave, if that would be all right,” she said. Everyone else’s minute relaxation told her she’d made the right choice.
“Sure. Do you need some now?” he asked, entirely unperturbed.
“I’d appreciate it.” She’d had her slaughterhouse blood this morning, regular as clockwork, but the craving to feed had been gaining on her since yesterday.
“My office is down the hall,” he said, gesturing out the door.
Emily turned back to Hotchner. “This won’t take long, sir.”
“We’ll be ready to start when you get back,” he said, just as calmly as if she were going to get coffee, and not drain vital fluids from one of his co-workers. At that moment, Aaron Hotchner earned her undying loyalty.
Emily walked down the hall into Dave’s impeccably decorated office, still not seeing any hint of hesitation or second-guessing in his gait or the set of his shoulders. He pulled a couple of chairs next to each other, shut the door, and sat himself down, offering up his wrist.
“You’ve done this before,” she said quietly.
“A few times,” he confirmed, and fished out his donor card from his wallet.
“Thank you,” she said, taking it and perusing it quickly.
“Do the paperwork later, you’re pale,” he said, offering his wrist again. Emily didn’t argue, and lifted his arm to her mouth.
Her fangs unerringly sought the vein, deftly avoiding tendons and nerves as the flow started. Unlike popular legend and media, Emily did not, strictly speaking, drink blood. Her hollow fangs sucked up the blood, though stray drops were laved up by her tongue. A vampire’s feeding was not a gory, sticky mess— they abhorred waste –but rather neat and close and intimate. It was another reason she hadn’t chosen Hotchner; she couldn’t afford to be that close to her boss. And he was married. This job was enough strain on a marriage without his wife knowing a female employee was feeding on him every day.
Emily could feel herself warming as Dave’s blood filled her, the sensuous scent of leather and cologne filling her nose, along with the rich scent and taste of blood. It satisfied a deep-lying craving no animal blood ever could, even if that kept her filled most of the time. A little reluctantly she pulled away, licking at the small wounds to ensure they would heal cleanly, as was proper procedure. By the time she let go and pressed a gauze pad to the bite, they were already coagulating.
Dave looked a little flustered, which was perfectly normal, but recovered quickly. She’d taken almost a half pint, and even though she’d like to feed daily, Dave would replace his blood fast. That was the benefit of being a vampire donor. That and the money. Emily would pay Dave every month for this privilege. That was the law.
“Thank you,” Emily said again.
“Anytime. Come on, we need to get back to the briefing.”