County Hospital

For the second time in their relationship, Spencer Reid found himself walking into a hospital, unsure of what condition he would find Ann-Elise in when he saw her. He was happy to have Hotchner with him – a calming agent in a chaotic situation. Reid felt like he was in a waking-nightmare. Nothing had seemed real since Hotchner told him, and the rest of the team, what had happened while in the plane back to Quantico.

The two men exited the elevator and began walking towards the nurse's station. Before Hotchner could speak to a nurse, Reid pointed out Captain Patrick Miller, sitting in a chair just down the hall.

"Captain Miller." The exhausted man looked up.

"Agent Hotchner, Spencer, thank you for coming."

"How is she?" Subconsciously Captain Miller backed up towards the hospital room door.

"She's . . . you can't see her right now." He looked down, shaking his head. Reid and Hotchner exchanged looks, both fearing the worst. "She didn't remember what happened, when she woke up after surgery. She asked for Karen, and you, Spencer. I didn't want to tell her." He sighed and looked up at the two F.B.I. agents. "This morning a local cop came in to interview her. He told her, before I could stop him. He told her what Karen had done." Hotchner took a step towards the distraught father.

"How did she react?" Captain Miller shook his head and took a shaky breath.

"Badly. I've never seen her like that before. She lashed out at the officer, at me." Reid noticed, for the first time, a bruise on the man's left cheekbone. "She ripped out the I.V., tried to get out of the bed, pulling the stitches in her shoulder. They've sedated her. The nurse is still taking care of her." Hotchner took Patrick's arm and gently pulled him a few steps away from the door.

"Patrick, you've been here all night. Have you eaten anything today?" Patrick shook his head. "Let the nurse take care of her right now. Come with me; let's get you something to eat." The distraught father didn't argue and the two men started to walk towards the elevator. Hotchner stopped and looked back when he realized his young agent wasn't following. "Reid?"

"I'll wait here." Hotchner nodded.

Reid waited until the elevator doors closed. He carefully pushed open the door and peeked into the room. He saw the nurse putting a bandage where the original I.V. had been. She looked up and smiled.

"It's alright, I'm done." She started to walk towards the door, stopping in front of Reid. "Just so you know, I doubt she'll even know you're here. But that wouldn't stop me from talking to her"

The nurse left the room and Reid walked closer to the bed. He looked down, relieved. She didn't look too bad – compared to how she looked last time – only one I.V., a bandage on her left temple and her left arm in a blue hospital-issued sling. Her eyes were half-opened, staring unfocused towards the corner of the room.

"Ann." He leaned in closer, speaking in a whisper. "Ann-Elise." She didn't move. "Ann, you're not alone." Ann-Elise blinked her eyes twice and then looked towards Reid. He gave her a smile. She seemed to look through him for a few seconds then her eyes focused on his face. "Hi." She seemed to recognize him just before she closed her eyes. "I'll be here when you wake up."

Reid settled himself into a chair next to the bed. Looking around the room, he spotted a file folder on a chair – it was a police report. Reid walked over to the folder, opened it and started reading.

Reid was still reading the folder when Hotchner returned. He lightly rapped on the door before entering.

"Reid, how is she?"

"Fine, I guess. She's been sleeping. . . Hotch, she told me that Karen wasn't doing well – mentally. I should have done more. . . . ."

"Reid . . ."

"If you are going to say not to blame myself, don't. I know. It still doesn't make it any easier to deal with it all."

"Look, I convinced Patrick to go home and get some rest. I told him one of us would stay here. . . ."

"I'll stay, no problem. You should go home to your family."

Epilogue

Greyshell Middle School

Agent Hotchner stood in the doorway of Ann-Elise Miller's classroom, waiting for the final few students to exit. Over the rumble of students changing classes behind him, he could just hear the parting words of Ms. Miller to the two last students in her room.

"Guys, you know I appreciate your sense of humor – but not while I'm trying to teach." Her serious expression lasted only a few seconds before she nodded her head towards the door and smiled. "Get going. I don't want you to be late and I am not writing either of you a pass." The students mumbled "sorry and thanks" and left. Ann-Elise watched them walk to the door where she saw a familiar figure.

"You handled that well."

"Agent Hotchner, how are you?" She met him near the door, shaking his hand. "So, what brings you back to middle school?"

"Actually, I came to see how you are doing.You're still wearing the sling."

"I know. I don't wear it at home. It is mostly to remind me not to do too much and it keeps the kids from running into me in the halls. I'm almost done with the physical therapy. Everything is healing just fine." She motioned for him to take a seat at the nearest table.

"I don't want to take up to much of your time."

"I'm only back teaching part time. The long-term sub comes in for my afternoon classes. It was the best option. Please, sit down"

"Thank you. What was the other option?"

"I come back in the fall."

"I didn't get the opportunity to really say thank you for helping us. You made a very big difference in the case and I should have talked to you sooner. . ."

"You are welcome and there is no need for you to apologize, please."

"Reid said that you are staying at your father's home right now."

"I'm not ready to go back to the house yet . . . I think I just need some time. The commute from my dad's place is horrible but it has been nice to spend so much time with him." Ann-Elise looked at her watch. "Speaking of, I'm meeting my dad for a late lunch today." She stood up and gathered together a few things, putting them in her bag.

"Since you are on your way out, may I walk you to your car? We can finish talking on the way."

"That would be very gentlemen-like of you, Agent Hotchner. I accept the escort." They both smiled. Ann-Elise retrieved her purse from her office and they started to walk towards the door. She stopped at the door, looking back at her room before turning off the lights. "I am glad that I was able to help the F.B.I. but I think I am where I should be – right here in the classroom."

She turned off the lights and they both walked down the hall.

Well, the story is done. Thank you to everyone who has read the story and a special thank you to those who have left reviews. I truly appreciate the feedback!