Author Note:

This is probably going to be a slow burn. There'll be angst, drama, and a whole lotta romance. I hope you enjoy it, and if you do please review!

Obviously these characters (other than Abigail) belong to Criminal Minds and aren't mine.

"Agent Hotchner?"

Hotch heard a woman's voice follow a knock at his office door and looked up from his paperwork.

"Yes, can I help you?"

"I'm Agent Abigail Rhodes."

Hotch recognized the agent as being part of the Child Interviewing Team and remembered attended teaching sessions she'd helped to facilitate. He had a relatively clear memory of having a discussion with her following one of those teaching sessions, and being teased by Rossi who'd claimed she'd been flirting with him.

She spoke as though he should be expecting her, but he had no idea why she was in his office. He became aware that he was staring at her as he tried to deduce why she might be there.

"You have no idea who I am, do you?"

She looked slightly embarrassed but smiled, taking a step into his office and handing him a manila file containing her relevant paperwork.

"I'm sorry, I do, I've attended your teaching sessions. I just didn't know that I should be expecting you…"

He began, taking the folder from her.

"I'm part of the Victim Assistance and Child Interviewing Program, I've been assigned to work with your team by Strauss. She's trialling having agents from my department based within other teams…"

Abigail was starting to wonder if she'd misunderstood her assignment. She trailed off into silence waiting for Hotch's expression to change from one of bewilderment to recognition.

Hotch was starting to recollect a conversation with Strauss about having an agent trained in child interviewing and victim assistance immediately accessible to the BAU.

"Right. Sorry, paperwork tends to…"

"Make you feel brain dead?"

Hotch continued to look through Agent Rhodes' file.


"If this is a bad time I can keep myself busy and be available at a more convenient time."

"No, no. Please, sit."

Hotch continued to read through the paperwork - her credentials, department history, and new position outline.

"You'll be accompanying us as and when we need you is that correct?"

"Yes, at your discretion. I'll be based with your team and available to you consistently. If or when you don't need me I'll be working from within Quantico."

There was a moment of silence as Hotch continued to read. Abigail noticed that aside from the his expression didn't seem to change. His voice bordered on monotonous, which should have been a bad thing, but instead it came across as steady and strong. She obviously knew of Agent Hotchner, and recalled talking with him briefly following teaching sessions. He was well respected in the BAU but did have a reputation for being slightly intimidating, and Abigail was starting to understand why.

"It may take a little time to get used to, but I'm sure you'll be valuable to the team."

Abigail was relieved. His apparent obliviousness and guarded demeanor had had her concerned that her stint with the BAU would come to an end before it had even began.

"I'm briefing the team on our next case now, if you follow me I'll introduce you and you can sit in."

Hotcher walked with a quick stride, Abigail nearly breaking into a jog trying to keep up as she followed him into the conference room. The rest of the BAU was already sitting around the table when and they all turned to look at her as she followed Hotch into the room.

"Everyone, this is Agent Abigail Rhodes."

"Oh right, the pilot project. You're from Victim Assistance and Child Interviewing, right? I'm Dave Rossi, nice to meet you." Rossi stood up to shake the young agent's hand.

Hotch looked confused and a little indignant as Reid, Prentiss, Morgan, JJ, Garcia and Reid introduced themselves to Abigail.

"You knew about this?"

Rossi laughed at his friend.

"Yeah, Strauss mentioned it to me about about a month ago."

"Me too." Morgan added.

"Me three!" Garcia chimed in.

"You're getting better and better at tuning Strauss out, huh Boss?" Prentiss asked.

Hotch rubbed his forehead, looking exasperated and unimpressed as laughter rippled through the team.

"OK, ok. Now that we've established that I'm either going deaf or losing my mind can we get on with the briefing please?"

He distributed folders to the team and started to talk.

"Felicity Cannon, a 22 year University of Michigan Student, was found bound, beaten, and raped in an derelict parking structure on Saturday morning. This is the second similar death in a month. Jessica Harlow was found in an abandoned office building in July, in similar circumstances. They arrested someone in that case though: a homeless man who'd been known to sleep in the building, he's currently awaiting trial. The similarity of the cases has the police wondering if the cases might be connected."

"The local law enforcement admitted that they might have made a mistake and actually asked for help?" Morgan snarked.

"I know, there's a first time for everything. Abigail, you'll join us. It's obviously not a child-focused case but you need to understand what we do here. Victim assistance personnel are also almost always helpful. Wheels up in thirty minutes everyone."

Abigail sat on the plane, opposite Morgan, Rossi and Reid, looking over the file given to her by Agent Hotchner.

"So Abigail, tell us about yourself," Agent Rossi requested.

Abigail hated that question and immediately felt self-conscious. She never knew what someone actually wanted to know. Work history? Qualifications? Personal details? She hated being the center of attention and felt almost all of the eyes on the plane on her.

"What do you want to know?"

"Where are you from? When did you join the FBI?" Morgan asked, warmly.

"Well, I'm from California originally, I worked in the field office there for a little while after I graduated from the Academy, but moved to Virginia pretty quickly. I've worked at Quantico for the majority of my career, which has been about… three years now."

"Reid, another premature entrant into the BAU to keep you company."

Reid looked a little embarrassed and Abigail gave him a questioning look.

"Usually agents are required to have been with the FBI for longer before becoming part of the BAU. I was given special dispensation because…"

Reid faltered and cleared his throat and Morgan jumped in to save him.

"Because he's a genius and profiling prodigy."

Abigail laughed nervously, hoping that people weren't going to measure against that standard.

"Well, I can't claim to be either, so I guess I just got lucky."

"I wouldn't say that." Rossi said.

He said it as though it had significance but Abigail couldn't imagine what he meant.

Hotch had been listening in on the conversation, curious himself about Abigail, and noticed the nervous edge in her voice. He was also confused by Dave's comment.

"How about we don't bombard her with questions on her very first day," Hotch said, not looking up from his paperwork.

"Does anyone have any questions or thoughts on the case?" Hotch continued.

Prentiss gave a brief profile of who they were likely to be looking for. Profiling had always interested Abigail and she'd regularly attended teaching sessions. Hearing an obviously experienced agent give a profile so effortlessly was intimidating, though. Abigail understood, in a clinical sense, the terms being used (sexual sadism, narcissism, anger excitation) but hearing them strung together into a clear profile was a little difficult to comprehend. She must have looked hopeless because Rossi looked at her sympathetically.

"Don't worry honey, you'll get used to it."

Abigail smiled appreciatively but wasn't so sure.