The Persistence of Memory

A/N: This, friends, is the reason that none of my other stories have been updated in forever. It's a plot bunny that grabbed me by the throat, and wouldn't let go. Some Demonology spoilers in this one, plus some adult themes (non-explicit sex, swearing). I really couldn't be bothered to split it into chapters, so you get the whole thing at once. Romeo and Juliet belongs to Shakespeare. The Persistence of Memory and the Disintegration of the Persistence of Memory belong to Salvador Dali. Metamorphosis and the Trial belong to Franz Kafka. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle belongs to Haruki Murakami. Big thanks to Windy City Dreamer, who pretty much betaed this for me.

You're watching her from across the room. She hasn't seen you yet.

She's changed a lot since the last time you saw her, and you're not sure you like this strange new woman. She's wearing a strapless black dress that barely covers the essentials, fishnet stockings that accentuate perfect legs, stiletto heels that give her four more inches. She's fawning over some rich sleaze that keeps buying her drinks.

She used to despise people like this. Despise the obnoxious, pretentious mentality of the prosperous and the powerful people. The people that she had spent her entire life around.

You toss back your drink, your eyes unmoving. You've been staring at her for ten minutes at least. It's another fifteen before she notices. Her eyes lock with yours.

You look into them, and you wonder for a moment if you were wrong. You look into her eyes, and you see who she really is – who she used to be. After just a moment's contact, she breaks away, not even acknowledging your presence.

You're stunned, almost. You know it had ended somewhat awkwardly, but you had thought there was still something between you, even after all this time. It hurts you to find out that she doesn't even care. It hurts you even more to think that she doesn't remember.

You stand up all too quickly, almost knocking over the stool. You slide a twenty across the bar, not waiting for change. The service was good enough to deserve a tip maybe half that size, but you don't want to wait around.

You feel eyes burning into your back as you walk quickly out of there. You think they're probably laughing at you. Laughing at the man whose high-school sweetheart didn't even seem to recognize his face.

You'll make her remember. You'll make her remember if it's the last thing you do.

***

Emily sees him sitting there at the bar, and her heart skips a beat. She hasn't seen him in almost twenty years, but he doesn't seem to have changed. He's still that shy, tall, gangly teenager that she thought she loved. She finds it ironic that her past is coming back to haunt her for the second time in as many months.

She almost wants to go over there, to sit next to him, but then she remembers what he did so long ago. She doesn't know if she ever forgave him. Hell, she doesn't even know if she's supposed to forgive him. After all this time, she's still confused.

After just a split second of eye contact, she breaks away. She wants to stare longer, to look into those eyes and see if there's even anything in there, but she can't.

She turns her attention back to the man that is currently attempting to suck the skin from her neck. She feels as though her skin should be prickling. This is the man that they suspect has killed six women. The man who is shrouded in so much mystery that they had to send her undercover just to find out if he is the unsub or not. She feels like she should be retching inside, but she isn't. She's shut herself away. Detached. She makes a contented noise, when she's feeling anything but.

She thinks that if she hadn't been on sick leave in the days before the case (thanks to a bad case of the flu), then she wouldn't be here, that they would be forced to venture along some other avenue.

'Would you like to take this upstairs?' He pulls himself away from her neck just long enough to ask. In reply, she gives a long, protracted sound, as if, yes, she wants to, but she's having far too much of a good time to put it into words.

She knows Garcia has hacked into the bar's security footage. He's already seen every other member of the team, so none of them could have practically had her back from inside the bar without arousing his suspicion. It's a risky mission; she could hear the doubt in Hotch's voice when he asked her.

There are bugs in the hotel room. She could not practically afford to wear one on her person; usually a wire would be taped across her stomach, the mike itself resting between her breasts. The dress is so tight, she thinks a wire would have been seen, and in any case, she's not entirely sure her bra isn't going to be ripped off in a fit of fake passion tonight.

The plan is to apprehend the unsub upon confirmation that he is, in fact, the unsub. If he isn't, then she's hoping that someone on the team will have the good sense to provide her with an escape. She doesn't want to give this sleazebag the pleasure of an orgasm.

She slips off her shoes as they step into the hotel room. She's walking backwards, held in his almost possessive embrace. She can feel his lips upon hers; they're oily, as though he's just eaten a plate full of fried food. She thinks it fits his personality well. She can't wait to go home and take a shower.

His hands rise up her back, feeling for the zip of the dress. He pushes the black, silk thing down to her waist. She's ready to send the team word at a moment's notice. She feels strange, knowing that they are in the adjoining room, listening to her sounds of faux pleasure.

'I'm going to tie you to the bed,' he tells her, not even waiting for an affirmative response. This is the part at which there was most argument amongst the team. Morgan, at least, had vocalized his opinion that if he tied her down, then she would have less chance of being able to defend herself if things went wrong. She countered that he would get suspicious; maybe even get cold feet if she refused. Hotch had – reluctantly, she noticed – agreed with her.

She does not resist as her wrists are tied to the top of the bed, her ankles to the bottom. This is his M.O. They can't come in yet, though. For all they know, this is just this guy's fetish.

He kisses his way up her torso, paying careful attention to a chest that is almost still in anticipation. His lips reach her neck, and they are joined almost immediately by his hands.

'What are you doing?' She's speaking loud enough for the bug in the wall socket to pick up her voice. After that, though, speaking becomes a little more difficult. Involuntarily, she arches against the wrist restraints, trying to pull away.

'Selfish whore.' There's an anger on his face that he wasn't showing before, but she doesn't notice. She's too busy trying not to let herself lose consciousness. 'You'll act as though you love me, but in the end you're just a greedy bitch.'

She's seen a lot of death by strangulation. But, she admits, she's never been strangled before. It's a strange feeling. The world seems to slip away, leaving only the air hunger, the tightness of the larynx, and the looming feeling that she is about to die.

It's only seconds later when he's being pulled off of her. Through the haze of semi-consciousness, she sees Hotch's concerned face. He's saying something, but she can't quite make out the words. She coughs.

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Rossi cutting through the ropes that tie her to the bed. She tries to sit up, and regrets it almost immediately. She's sucking down oxygen as though it's going out of fashion. Someone pushes a glass of water into her hand, and she tries to drink as much as possible without choking on it.

The world comes rushing back.

Morgan's got a foot on the unsub's back; though he is cuffed, he is still attempting to drag himself up, to escape. Hotch is putting a blanket around her shoulders. It's not cold, but she seems to be shivering anyway.

'I'm fine,' she tries to say, but it only comes out as a strained rasp. She drinks some more water and tries again. 'Seriously, guys. I'm fine.'

With their help, she stands, shaking only slightly.

'Paramedics are on their way up,' JJ informs them, hanging up her phone. She joins the cluster around the bed, wanting to be close, but not too close. Hotch hands Emily a t-shirt and a pair of sweatpants from her ready bag. He knows that the blanket is almost more humiliating to her than being half-naked. The blanket shows vulnerability.

He doesn't think she's vulnerable. In fact, he is impressed by her courage. By his count, this is the third time she has willingly put her life on the line for the job, for the team.

'Thanks,' she tells him, slipping the dress down her legs. It doesn't really cross her mind that she's standing around in just her underwear, with the team and half a dozen other law enforcement officials within line-of-sight.

'That was good work, Prentiss,' Hotch tells her quietly. She gives a short laugh; she finds his choice of words interesting.

'You make an amazingly convincing vapid socialite,' comments Morgan, grinning only now that she has laughed.

'Please,' she says. 'I've been doing this since before Reid was born.'

It all comes down to compartmentalization.

The paramedic gives her a clean bill of health. There may be some bruising, but it's nothing that is cause for long-term concern.

'Take a few days anyway,' says Hotch. She rolls her eyes – she only just got back from sick leave. She does not argue, though.

In the excitement of things, she has forgotten all about her one second encounter with the man from her past.

***

This one looks just like her. Raven-black hair, unfathomably dark eyes. It was so easy to lose yourself in her eyes, and you know you did at least a dozen times. This one, though...this one's eyes are dark, but they don't have that same depth, that same intrigue. You're sure if maybe you got to know her, she'd be a very charming person, but that's not what you're interested in right now. You have this urge. Seeing her has brought up feelings that you thought you had repressed, desires you thought had been lost to time.

These new dark eyes stare up at you. They drift lazily, clearly affected by the drugs in her system. You're not a strong man. You know you wouldn't have been able to restrain her if she had struggled. It's slowly wearing off, but already you know that it's too late for this woman.

The knife is in your hands. You don't waver, don't flinch. The knife is in your hand. It's a nice knife. It's supposed to be for ornamental purposes only, but you couldn't help but sharpen the blade, make sure that you can use it for what you want to do.

You feel the blood on your hands. You pull the knife out of her chest, and it comes away sticky with her life-force. You feel that same satisfaction that you did twenty years ago.

You write in a steady hand. It's a message. A message for her. You think that if she finds out people are dying, dying the same way they died before, you think that she'll find you. She'll try and save you from yourself, the way she did the last time. You don't care, you just want her to be near you.

Because in the end, you're doing it for her.

***

It's twenty years in the past, and a boy named Andrew Webb is staring out the window. The words the teacher is saying drift idly by; he registers their presence, but does not care to listen to them. He has looked at the picture a hundred times, analyzed its brush strokes, deconstructed its meaning.

'...figure in the center is representative of Dali himself, who often used this image as an abstract form of self-portrait.'

For Emily Prentiss, it is, ironically, both her last year of high school, and the only year she has actually spent at a school in the country of her parent's origin. Though she herself had technically been born on American soil, that was due to legal definitions rather than geographical.

She taps her pen against the desk in a chaotic rhythm. Looking around, she gets the impression that she is the only person who is actually paying attention. By the looks of them, most people in this class wouldn't understand the concept of surrealism if you bashed them over the head with a melting clock.

'Dali explained that the image was "painted with the most imperialist fury of precision to systematize confusion and to thus to help discredit completely the world of reality." He has further been credited with the development of the paranoia-criticism technique which sees the images of the painting not as actual objects, but as an extension of the self...'

Andrew sees the girl sitting in front of him raise her hand. He hasn't seen her around before. She's definitely new. She's got a distinctly gothic look, from what he can tell. Black hair, black sweater, silver jewellery.

The teacher seems startled by the fact that someone is actually asking a question; he is so accustomed to giving preset lectures to students that are taking Art simply because they thought it would be easy.

'You have a question?'

'Oh,' she says. 'I just...I wanted to know if we'd be covering Disintegration...it's not important.'

'One of your essay topics this semester will be a compare and contrast between the two,' he tells her, and she nods, satisfied with the answer. The people in the room who are even vaguely listening give a groan at the mere mention of the word "essay."

When the class finishes, Andrew watches her leave. If he were more confident, he might go over to talk to her, to introduce himself, and offer to show her around. But he doesn't, and by the looks of it, she's more comfortable in her own company anyway.

Right now, he'll content himself with just watching.

***

Dead eyes stare upwards.

The body is positioned carefully, arms crossing to touch the opposite shoulder. Blood stains the shirt she wears.

'Can I go forward when my heart is here?
Turn back, dull earth, and find thy centre out.'

It's written in black ink, the perfection of the handwriting a sharp contrast to the brutality of the circumstances. In a way, though, it's all very neat, very ordered. Below the quote are two more words: "Remember Me." The small scrap of paper is secured between two rigid fingers.

For the Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia, a body is never the most cheerful thing to greet them in the morning. This one especially seems particularly melancholy. Though they've been taught not to assume anything, they get the impression that this is not the only body they'll see. It feels open ended, as if there is a killer out there that has a message to send.

One of them thinks that he might have seen this before. In another time, another place, yes, but it definitely feels familiar to him. It's the reason why they call the FBI straight away. The reason why they don't wait for another body to show up.

They get the feeling that this could get much, much worse.

***

She's lying on her couch, watching her X-Files DVDs for the first time since she bought them. They had been purchased on a nostalgic whim; only seconds after handing over her credit card had she realized that with her schedule, it would probably take her the better part of two years to actually watch her way through the series.

It's four o'clock in the afternoon, and her eyes are starting to droop; it's all well and good that she had told herself that she was going to watch these during her sick leave, but now she's up to the tenth episode already today, she's getting a little tired of it.

What she wants – what she needs – is to be out there with the team, hunting down serial killers. She needs to have the fire of adrenaline running through her veins. She needs to know that she is doing something ­– anything­ – to help the people that no-one else can help.

She's not really watching the TV screen. Not really watching this fictional representation of something she deals with every day. There are no aliens in the real world, of course, but in the end that's just a metaphor. The man who rapes and kills children is as much a monster as a vampire or a werewolf is. Even more so, she thinks, because he is undeniably real.

She's thinking instead about the people she couldn't save. She's thinking about the victims that died because they didn't get there in time, and (a little further back along the timeline) she's thinking of the Matthew Bentons and the Andrew Webbs. She had remembered that short encounter in the bar after returning home the previous night. It's eating away inside of her. It's the reason why she can't focus.

She can't tell the team. Can't tell them what she did (or more accurately, what she didn't do) twenty years ago. It's enough that Rossi knows about what happened in Rome. The rest of the team she has not yet told; she thinks that the mere fact that Rossi knows blurs of the boundaries between personal and professional. If she lets this chance encounter spread, then she's only setting herself up for a complete breakdown.

Part of her wants to track him down, to see him again. She knows he is in D.C; last night is evidence of that. She had seen the heartbreak in his eyes when she did not react to his presence. In a way, she knows she betrayed him; not just last night, but every night since she left him.

Her neck is mottled with dark bruises, still tender when she touches them. Sometimes it's a little bit hard to breathe. Still, she thinks, it's better than the flu. Even that had been her own fault, walking the streets in below freezing temperatures, ice and snow seemingly permeating every facet of her existence. It had been worth it in the end, though; she had some semblance of closure for at least one of the skeletons in her closet.

There are still plenty more to go.

***

She sees him sitting there, underneath a tree. He's reading a book – The Trial – and he doesn't notice the footsteps of the two boys walking towards him. They're not there to discuss the sheer inefficiency of bureaucracy, that's for sure.

One of them snatches the book from out of his hands. He looks at them. He doesn't seem dismayed, but then, she gets the feeling that this is probably a regular occurrence. Intrigued, she steps closer, just in time to hear his voice.

'Please give that back.' He's speaking matter-of-factly, as though he is detached from the entire situation. She takes a moment to assess him physically; though he's sitting down, she can tell that he is tall. He has a mess of floppy brown hair, and wire-rimmed glasses. She can see his breathing start to quicken. He tries to reach for the book, though from the look in his eyes, he knows it is a lost cause.

Emily finds herself angered. He hadn't been doing anything to them. Where the hell did they get off on being such monumental jackasses? She finds herself moving closer.

They're laughing, as if this is all just a great big joke to them. Anger flares through her. She knows what it's like to be an outsider in a world full of tightly formed cliques. She knows what it's like to be rejected. She knows what it's like when someone finally steps in and makes you feel like you're worthwhile.

Her fist is impacting into a face before she can stop it, bone splintering beneath the force of it. The afflicted party steps back, stunned. Blood drips freely from his nose, and he grunts in pain. He tosses the book to the ground and leaves immediately. He does not want to suffer the indignity of being beaten up by a girl. His friend quickly follows. Only then does Emily examine her fingers; a closed-fist punch hurts like hell, but it's far more deterring than a slap.

Satisfied that her fingers are not broken, she picks up the book and holds it out to the boy. He's staring down, not wanting to make eye contact.

'I preferred Metamorphosis,' she says. 'Much less grounded in reality.'

At that comment, he looks up slightly, and takes the proffered paperback. 'Thanks,' he replies, and it's almost a whisper – as if he is afraid speaking any louder than that will bare his soul for her to see. It's enough that she had to see them harassing him. He feels that she should leave, to spare him any further embarrassment. He cannot live up to her standards.

'I'm Emily,' she says, almost hesitantly. It's almost as though the bravado she had just displayed was a façade.

'I...Andrew.'

She sits down next to him, her back against the tree trunk.

It's strange. He feels a little bit safer, a little bit more loved.

He doesn't want that feeling to go away.

***

JJ hangs up the phone with the D.C. Detective. She assures him that she will look over the files that he is faxing, but already she has her doubts. One body does not a BAU case make. She's already narrowed the field looking for the next case to take; it's down to a rapist in Utah and a murderer in Maine. Still, though, she keeps her promises.

She flips through the pages of the file briefly; white female, age thirty-six. Stabbed, positioned. Shakespeare quote left at the scene; Romeo and Juliet, to be more specific.

A handwritten note was scrawled at the end of the page, citing the Detective's vague memories of a similar case twenty years ago. He cannot find anything in the police databases, and has thus passed the responsibility onto them.

She deposits the file in her in-tray; she will look at it when she can, but right now she has a multitude of other things to do, the first of which is "get coffee." Mentally, she adds the search for a "vaguely similar case" to the bottom of her to-do list. She knows Garcia is busy enough as it is, without something else thrown on top of it.

It still hurts her sometimes to know that by not prioritizing the case, she could be endangering more people. But then, that's a risk with all the cases. Every time she picks one case above another, she has to live with the possibility that someone could die.

She does not realize how personal this case will get.

***

You haven't heard from her. It's been over sixteen hours since you saw the fresh blood spurting from the woman's chest. Over sixteen hours since you found yourself going into relapse, doing something you haven't done in twenty years. You know you stopped because of her, and you know you started again because of her.

You're prowling. You don't like to call it that, but really, it is what you're doing. You're looking for the right one – has to have the right eyes, the right hair. It won't work otherwise. You'll kill, yes, but you won't get that sense of satisfaction.

Her, maybe? No. Eyes aren't dark enough – they're more of a hazel than that deep impenetrable brown. Her? No. Too tanned. Her pale skin is just as defining as her eyes or her hair. You loved her skin as much as you loved – love – everything else about her.

Her face is clear in your mind. It jumps between past and present; you see her as she is now, as she was twenty years ago. Though you think she has changed, this new face has the same awkward, endearing smile. The same expression of love that brought you out into the world.

You were never the most sociable of people. You much preferred sitting alone, reading, or maybe drawing. She changed that in you. You think those few precious months were the best of your life. You had thought she felt the same way; you know it had broken her heart to find out what you were doing. It was why you stopped.

But to think she doesn't remember you? That shatters you to the very core of your being. It breaks you apart more than any physical pain ever could.

You close your eyes, and you hear the sound of her voice. Realistically, you know that it has probably changed since you last heard it. You wonder what else has changed. It pained you to think that she might be some rich socialite, now. You want her to still be the Emily you knew.

The Emily you loved.

***

It's dark when she wakes up. She takes a few seconds to assess her surroundings, and realizes that she must have fallen asleep on the couch. The disc has finished playing, menu clips set to an unending loop of the title theme.

A check of her watch tells her that it is a little after midnight. She's not quite sure what time she fell asleep; it was at least six or seven hours ago. Though she has not eaten dinner, she isn't hungry. She feels almost nauseous.

She thinks that she will return to work tomorrow. Today, she mentally corrects herself. She cannot stand the atmosphere of her apartment. Though it is technically her place of residence, she knows without a doubt that she doesn't really live here. It's where she comes when she isn't on the jet, or at her desk, or in a run-down motel, or in the passenger seat of an SUV. If she were to lose that, she would find herself stuck in some kind of strange netherworld where nothing is quite right.

Even with the decision made, she still has at least six hours to kill. So she irons her blouse, repacks her ready bag, cleans her gun. It takes her at least an hour to realize that every chore, everything she is doing is in some way related to work. She knows that the sheets need washing and that the fridge needs a serious clean-out, but somehow these other tasks take priority.

She's looking for a book – one that she can read on the flight back that isn't particularly heavy (though she's come to recognize that most of the books she owns are heavy). She sees the photo album sitting near the top of the bookcase. It's a timeline of her life and, flipping through it, she suddenly realizes that any remotely happy time in her life has ended in tragedy.

She thinks of her tenure at the Behavioral Analysis Unit. Though it's not the most humorous of careers, she knows it makes her happy. There have been a few minor bumps along the road, and, in fact, the only time she has had significant troubles was just three weeks ago when she learned that Matthew Benton had died.

She slams the photo album back onto the shelf, refusing to admit to herself that her eyes are watering. She grabs a book from the shelf at random (The Wind-up Bird Chronicle) and throws it in the direction of her messenger bag.

It's 3am when she realizes that she has nothing else to do, so she grabs her messenger bag, ready bag, badge, gun, keys, everything but the kitchen sink and heads in to Quantico.

***

They're sitting on her bed, reading through Romeo and Juliet. They both admit that it isn't their favorite Shakespeare play, but it is the one they have been assigned.

'It really emphasizes the sheer fucking hopelessness of love, doesn't it?' comments Emily. She's staring down at the book, her dark curtain of hair almost impeding her vision. He's staring at her.

Andrew tilts his nose slightly. 'I still prefer Macbeth.' He doesn't take his eyes off her. He admits, he has grown a little more confident since he has met her, but not confident enough to hesitate considerably before brushing her hair out of her eyes. His hand lingers momentarily. He moves to pull it away, muttering, 'I'm sorry.'

'No...' She's nervous as she says it. 'There's nothing to be sorry about.'

They've been stuck in limbo for weeks, each of them too embarrassed to make the first move. Even now, they are caught in a Mexican standoff.

Her hair slips down again. This time, when he pushes it back, he's looking into her eyes. Those deep, dark, mysterious eyes.

'You're beautiful,' he whispers. His hand is still on her cheek when he leans in to kiss her. She kisses back, unsure at first. They both are. Her confidence grows quickly once she realizes that he isn't running away, or taking it too quickly. She lets go of the book, and it slides to the floor.

She lets him slide his hands underneath her shirt, and she feels the tingles down her spine. He stops.

'I...I've never...uh...'

She hushes him. 'It's okay. Just do what comes naturally.' She has not yet told him of her own experience, the one that ended in disaster. That is from another place, another time.

She feels the cold air against her skin as he lifts her t-shirt above her head. She finds it endearing when he is nervous, but there's something so incredibly attractive about him when he takes charge, which isn't often. She's willing to lie back for the moment, and see where he takes it. Not wanting to be completely inert, though, she takes to slowly unbuttoning his blue Oxford shirt.

It's methodical. He is aware of the fundamental procedure, but lacks the experience to improvise. His hands find the button to her jeans, and hastily unfastens them. He almost falls on top of her in his attempt to take them off. Then, with her help, he removes his own pants.

'You're beautiful,' he repeats. From this vantage point, he can see from her head to her waist, and it's enough for him to know that he isn't worthy of this kind of love. His hands slip underneath her, trying to find the clasp of her bra. Finally, after several seconds of struggle, it loosens. She slips her arms out, allowing him to discard it.

He continues to kiss her - her neck, her mouth, her breasts – while she leans over to the nightstand. She pulls the drawer open, rummaging for the unopened box of condoms she knows is in there. She isn't going to make the same mistake twice.

She pulls down his boxers, and takes a deep breath. She's practiced this a dozen times; she does not want a repeat of Rome.

Moments later, he has taken her panties off – that final barrier – and pushed in awkwardly. She gives a slight gasp, half pain, half pleasure.

Romeo and Juliet lies forgotten on the floor beside them.

***

Aaron Hotchner sits at his desk, files beneath his fingertips. He had told himself that he would go home at midnight. Then midnight came, and he told himself he would go home at 1am. It's almost four now, and he's showing no signs of leaving.

His eyes lifted from the report that had all but consumed his energy. He had been drawn away by a single light turning on in the bullpen.

He's not surprised to see Emily back after only one day, but he is surprised to find her here so early. It's not even light out yet. She stares up in the direction of his office, and for a moment, he thinks she can actually see him. Even if she can't, she probably knows that he is there.

She does, apparently, because after a moment's hesitation, she makes her way up there. She stands at the door, waiting for him to reprimand her for not following orders. To her surprise, he doesn't.

'How's the neck?' he asks.

Her mouth is open slightly, as if still waiting for the rain of bricks. When it does not come, she speaks. 'It's fine, sir.' She has unconsciously reverted to calling him "sir," something she has not done in some time.

'I don't need your report until Tuesday. Take your time with it.'

She frowns slightly. 'I don't need special consideration, Hotch. '

He nods; he had been expecting that kind of response. 'I know. But just remember that it's there if you need it.'

'I…thank-you.' She's grateful for his support; though he had not been able to explicitly show it after Matthew's death, she knows that he is one of the main reasons she still has a job. They were all there for her, in their own way. They all do what they can to be there for each other, like family, as JJ had once said.

She vaguely wonders how this family would react to betrayal. She knows her own blood family, her so very political family, is almost defined by betrayal. Politics is all about backstabbing. This though…she knows that this relationship she has with the team goes beyond politics, beyond work, beyond mere friendship. It's about loyalty, commitment. Love. Not an intimate kind of love – she knows that none of them think of each other that way. It's the love you have for the person who is there for you when the going gets tough.

It is the reason why she doesn't leave his office. The reason why she stands there, looking vaguely in his direction, wondering just how she is supposed to tell him.

'Is there something wrong?' He furrows his brow in concern; the only time he has seen her acting this way was after the death of Matthew. Now, though, she does not seem so much despondent as she does stunned.

'It doesn't matter,' she says finally. 'It's not case related.'

He raises an eyebrow. 'Your psychological state impacts upon your work,' he tells her. It's part rationalization; he does care about his team's well-being beyond their capacity to do the job. He just finds it difficult to express sometimes.

'…Do you remember – like six months ago – in Atlanta, when I told you I'd dated worse people than Viper?'

Hotch nods, finding himself somewhat intrigued. Emily Prentiss does not seem to be the kind of person that frets endlessly over her love life. He knows that there must be something else to the story.

'I saw one of them the other night, in the hotel bar, and it…I guess it brought up memories. Bad memories. Having to stay at home didn't really help.' She does not mention the confusion she is feeling. Does not mention that while feeling horror, she also felt loss, as though she had let go of something special all that time ago. As though, in spite of the hardship, she still loved him.

'Did you want to talk about it?' he asks, knowing that she would probably open up to JJ or Rossi, and maybe even Morgan, but not to him. Never to him.

'No, it's fine.' She gives him something that is halfway between a grimace and a smile and walks off slowly.

***

'Yea, noise? – then I'll be brief.
O happy dagger!
This is thy sheath; there rest and let me die.
'

This body is eerily similar to the last. Same hair, eyes, complexion. The same positioning of the body, the same stab wounds. This is, without a doubt, a serial killer.

The Detective frowns. The FBI has not yet gotten back to him – Jennifer Jareau, as she had introduced herself, had assured him that she would look at the file, but that she could make no promises.

This, he knows, will give her incentive to look with just a little bit more urgency. While serial killings are not his specialty, he knows that two bodies in two days is not a good sign.

Beneath the quote, there is the same message – to whom it is written, though, the Detective does not know. "Remember Me." It is written with greater intensity, the pen almost having torn through the paper.

The Detective pulls out his phone, and makes the call.

***

Emily Prentiss is seventeen years old, and is having a rare conversation with her mother. Ambassador Elizabeth Prentiss is in the United States for the next two weeks, before she leaves again for Ukraine.

Their conversation is not a happy one.

'Your father tells me you got into a fight.'

Emily rolls her eyes. She had known this was coming; the fight was over a week ago, but Elizabeth Prentiss is not exactly on the ball when it comes to taking notice of events in her daughter's life.

'Yes.' She's learned that short, non-specific answers are best. Of course, in the heat of the moment, things don't always go as planned.

'Suspended for how long?'

'Four days.' She does not mention the fact that she is already back at school, that it took her mother this long to even broach the topic.

Elizabeth sits in the straight-backed chair next to her daughter. She sits tall, as though they are at some international summit rather than in a kitchen (albeit a rather spacious kitchen).

'Behavior like that isn't going to get you into Yale, Emily.' She uses her diplomatic tone, the voice she's used with foreign dignitaries, with heads of state, with royalty.

"You're the one that wants me to go to Yale, mother," is what Emily wants to say. Instead, she focuses on defending her own actions. 'She tried to right-hook me because she didn't like the fact that I was wearing the same shoes as her.'

'So you gave her a concussion?'

Emily shrugs. She swallows the last of her orange juice, finishes the rest of her toast. 'I need to go, mother. I have an Art essay due this morning.' She turns from her mother, swinging her bag onto her left shoulder.

Andrew is waiting for her at the gate. She senses her mother watching them from the kitchen window, and kisses him out of spite more than anything. She keeps her eyes locked on the house.

'That bad, huh?' he asks, as they walk down the quiet street. It's a rich neighborhood; most of the houses are set a good distance from the road. They like to disengage themselves from the rest of the world.

'Oh, she'll be back with her expensive champagne and her important meetings soon enough,' Emily laughs mirthlessly. 'So forget about that. Are you ready with your big analytical essay?'

It's something of a joke to them; they'd finished the assigned task several weeks ago, and had taken enjoyment in watching the other students stressing out.

'Oh, I think I might have forgotten something about the evolution towards new sciences, or whatever, but I think it should be fine.'

They share a laugh. Stopping at the crosswalk, she turns to face him, putting a hand to his cheek. She frowns slightly, noticing the slight stain beneath his ear.

'Is that blood?'

He hesitates. 'Shaving cut.' He says it with a smile, and any suspicions she might have melt away at the sight of it. Their lips touch briefly.

'Don't ever change,' she whispers.

***

She's sitting at the conference table, waiting for the rest of them to come in. At around six a.m, she had suddenly become aware of the fatigue she was feeling, the tiredness that had consumed her from head to toe. It's the reason why there is now a large travel mug filled with artificially sweetened coffee in front of her.

Rossi is the first to enter. Immediately, he sees the look on her face. The mixture of tiredness, of confusion, of general anxiety.

'Everything alright?' he asks. She sees the look in his eyes. The look of genuine concern. He had been there for her in a big way not long ago, and she wonders if she can stand to let him in again. She does not want to burden him with her multitude of problems. She had made a lot of mistakes as a teenager, and they all seem to be coming back to bite her.

'Yeah.' She gives a weak – and completely unconvincing – smile. He nods, knowing that she will talk about it (whatever it is) when she's ready.

Morgan makes the same observations that Rossi does, but instead of saying anything, he shares a meaningful look with the senior profiler. They are both well aware that something is going on – something beyond the events of three weeks ago.

'So you managed to wash all the sleaze off?' asks Morgan, humor in his voice.

She smiles in spite of herself. 'It took a while – and a lot of soap – but I think I got it all.'

Emily almost rolls her eyes when Reid and Garcia – the next to enter the room – both give her lengthy looks. Evidently either Hotch or JJ had called for the technical analyst's presence – she usually liaised with them via video connection.

Finally, as if wanting to make a deliberately dramatic entrance, Hotch and JJ round them off. Hotch takes the remaining seat at the table, while JJ goes directly to the computer. She puts the images on screen, and Emily feels the world crashing to a halt.

She sees them lying there, the same way they did twenty years ago. She sees the knife wound to the chest, the carefully positioned arms. There's one thing that's different; these two both have dark hair, dark eyes, pale skin. Just like her. Bile rises in her throat.

He couldn't have. Surely he couldn't have. She lets out a small sound, causing both Rossi and Morgan to turn towards her. She keeps her face carefully blank. She needs to be sure.

'Melinda Jacobs, age 36. Kristine Patterson, 39. Both found dead, both found with these between their fingertips.' She presses a button, and two new photos show up.

Emily knows that handwriting. She knows the quotes. She knows the message this man is trying to send, and she knows who he is trying to send it to.

"Remember me."

They're all staring at her now, staring at the look of abject horror on her face.

'Could I please be excused?' She needs to empty her stomach. She can't help but feel that those women are dead because of her. Hotch nods, and she leaves the room as if she is being chased by wild dogs.

Both Rossi and Morgan have that look in their eyes, the look that tells Hotch that someone should go and sort things out with Emily. Hotch nods at Rossi silently, and it's the only encouragement he needs.

'What's that all about?' Reid wonders. He understands that something is definitely going on, and yet knows that he is far from the best person to offer emotional support. He is more the person that goes to other people for guidance rather than giving them guidance himself. He wonders what about these crime scene photos is so bad that Emily – a person that has given him strength many times – was forced to run from the room.

No-one answers his question.

Hotch gives JJ the go-ahead to continue. 'The lead Detective on the case recalls a vaguely similar occurrence twenty years ago, but he couldn't find anything in his databases.' She turns her head towards Garcia. Before she even asks the question, Garcia has started typing.

'Shakespeare, stabbed, mid-thirties….nada.'

'Remove the age parameters,' offers Morgan. If it is the same unsub as it was twenty years ago, then the age of his preferred victim type could have aged with him.

'Oh. Bingo. 1989, Seattle. Two teenage girls murdered. Both students at James A. Garfield High School.' She frowns, as if something about the circumstances seems familiar to her. Reid shares the expression.

'What is it?' Hotch does not miss the conspiratorial glance. Garcia defers to Reid, letting the young genius speak.

'That's where Emily did her last year of high school,' he reveals. 'In 1989.'

Hotch narrows his eyes. 'Was Emily involved somehow?'

Garcia taps a few more keys, and when she stops typing, she stares at the screen for a long while.

'What is it?' asks Hotch. He does not like the look on Garcia's face. Does not like to think of the fact that there may be something in Emily's past that she has not yet told them about.

'Emily was a suspect.'

***

The sound of stomach contents hitting toilet bowl echoes in the empty bathroom. She's all alone, until she hears footsteps. They're footsteps she has come to recognize.

'This is the ladies room,' she mutters, as he pulls back her hair. She lowers her head again, vaguely wondering if there had really been that much food in her stomach.

'I'm sure they'll let the rule slide, just this once,' Rossi says.

She draws away from the toilet, attempting to wipe the sides of her mouth clean. 'Thanks.'

'How good of a friend would I be if I let you go through this alone?' he asks.

She smiles as she washes her face. 'You don't even know what "this" is.'

'It's doesn't matter. A friend's in trouble, you help them, no matter what the problem is.' That statement has some impact on her. She stares blankly into the mirror, breathing heavily.

'Can't save him. Can't save any of them,' she says. 'You try and help someone…it always seems to go to hell anyway.'

Rossi nods. He knows that this is not about Matthew Benton. This is something else. 'Who was he?' She catches his gaze in the mirror, as if only just noticing that he is there.

'An ex,' she says bluntly. 'We, uh…we dated for a while in senior year.' She averts her eyes, as if she does not want to see his reaction to what is coming next. 'Three months before graduation, I got into a fight. A week later, the girl turns up dead, stabbed in the chest, bodies positioned. Romeo and Juliet quote stuck between her fingers. Police thought I had good enough motive, so they took me in for questioning.'

She stops, realizing that there is a tear starting to form at the corner of her eye. She brushes it away, and continues.

'After Rome, I wasn't exactly the most…sociable of people. I was angry. Tried to isolate myself. Found friendship in one person everyone seemed to hate.'

She stops again, biting her lip, as if she can't bring herself to say what comes next. Just as with the last time, Rossi pre-empts her.

'And he turned into a serial killer.'

She nods. 'At first I thought it was stress. Graduation coming up, college admissions. A lot of people were freaking out. But he wasn't the kind to get stressed out over something like that. He had blood on his face – the day after the first one. I didn't think anything of it…Four people now, Rossi. Four people are dead because of me.'

She wraps her arms around herself tightly. 'I still feel guilty. I come in here every day and I try so hard to absolve the sins, so that maybe, if we catch enough unsubs, if we save enough victims, I can let go of the guilt. But I don't think that will ever happen.'

'That's the thing about guilt. If you're the kind of person that feels guilty in the first place, then you're not going to let go of the guilt, even if you redeem yourself.'

'So what do we do?' She turns to face him, and he notices the intensity in her eyes.

'Well that's easy,' he says. 'We catch him.'

She dries the tears from her eyes before they return to the conference room, but her face is still red. She does not want all of them to see her like this; for her, it is bad enough that it happened at all.

She is conscious of all eyes on her as she returns to her seat at the conference table. Her eyes are downcast, and it is a conscious effort for her to keep her voice steady. She fidgets slightly with a pen on the table, and Morgan puts a hand on top of hers. The small gesture gives her some strength. She takes a deep breath.

'Ask what you need to ask.'

***

He had pulled her out of class, asked to speak with her in private. Told her that they if she confessed right here, they would not have to go through a lengthy interrogation process.

She stares at him, shocked. 'You think I killed her? That is beyond ridiculous.'

The Detective stares back, his eyes unwavering. 'You got into a fight with her last week. That's motive.'

'Have you even asked anyone what this chick was like? She was a fucking psychopath. She thought every little thing was some kind of personal slight against her.' She can't help but feel angry – do they really think that she killed this person? All she had done was defend herself. God, she hated people sometimes.

'You hated her.'

'Of course I hated her. Half the school hated her. But hate isn't strong enough motive to stab her in the fucking chest.'

'Last night, between 7pm and 9pm. Where were you?'

Emily almost breathes a sigh of relief. 'At home. With my mother.'

'She'll verify that?'

She snorts. Elizabeth Prentiss would not only verify the claim, but probably become furious at the fact that her daughter was even considered a suspect; that was a mark that would never quite wipe clean.

'Here's my card. If you see anything suspicious…'

She rolls her eyes, but takes the card anyway. He nods and lets her return to class, which, in any case, is just finishing. She smiles upon seeing Andrew's face, which is laced with concern.

'Hey,' she greets him.

'What did he want?'

'He wanted to know if I killed her.' Her tone is sarcastic, as though the topic is something of a vague irritation to her.

'Well?' a voice demands. 'Did you?'

She turns to the voice, greeting a face that is red with tears. Her name is Amy, Emily recalls. She's not a bad person – not as bad as some of the other people in the school, at least. She opens her mouth to say something, but before she can, Amy slams her against the wall. She's not surprised. It's a natural outlet of grief. Andrew attempts to pull her off, but fails.

'Did you kill her?' She's asking desperately, voice high pitched. People in the hallway have stopped to watch. To their surprise, Emily does nothing. But then, they don't know her very well.

'No,' says Emily softly. 'I may not have liked her very much but she didn't deserve to die.' Something in her voice makes Amy believe her. She lets go.

'I…I'm sorry,' she says.

Emily nods. She wants to say something, something like "me too," but it just doesn't feel right.

And that is the last time she sees Amy alive.

***

You're angry. Upset. You think that surely, she would have noticed by now. Surely she would have seen what you are doing. All you want to do is see her, see her and show her how much you love her. Surely you deserve that much?

The woman beside you is unconscious, the drugs still assaulting her system. You think maybe she'll wake up in half an hour, and then you'll say you're sorry – because you are sorry, in a way – and then you'll plunge the knife into her chest. This will be the fifth time. But these, these are all just rehearsals. You want the grand finale.

You'll go back. You'll go back to the bar where you saw her. You know that if she truly wants to see you, then that is where she will be. Even if she isn't there, you'll find her. You'll track her down.

You are Romeo, and you're trying to find your Juliet.

***

She tells them. Tells them the how the death of two girls twenty years ago was all her fault. She tells them how, upon realizing what he had done, she had called the Detective. She tells them how Andrew Webb had been questioned and released. She tells them how she had seen him in the hotel bar, not two days ago.

'A trigger,' says Morgan. He's removed his hand from hers, but it still remains close, as if he is trying to remind her that he is still there, no matter what.

'Garcia, can you get us an address?' Hotch asks quietly. His gaze is locked on Emily. She has been consistently unhappy the past few days, but he thinks – he hopes – that it is just the stress of two (three, even) difficult cases in a row. He hopes that this is just a bizarre coincidence, that there aren't skeletons lurking around every corner.

'Got it,' says Garcia. She rattles off the address as Rossi and Morgan stand, ready to go. Emily stays seated, as if anticipating Hotch's order.

'I can't let you come on the raid, Prentiss.'

She nods. 'I know.'

They leave, checking weapons and strapping on vests. She feels almost detached from the whole situation, as if it's someone else they're going to arrest, or going to kill. If she were a little more in tune with the world, she might be thinking about how the team trusts her so implicitly that they would not even wait for further evidence.

'Are you okay?' asks Garcia. She sometimes finds it difficult to maintain a strong connection with the profilers – phone contact is all they seem to have. Still, Emily is like a sister to her, and she does not like to see family being hurt.

'I…yeah, I think so,' she says. She does not want to look Garcia in the eye. She knows she will see shame, see pity, even if it is not there. 'I'm going to go get some fresh air,' she says.

Garcia raises an eyebrow. It's pretty cold outside. But then, she knows that Emily obviously wants some alone time. Before she can say anything, though, Emily has already left.

***

'Emily! Emily, please wait.' He's chasing after her. He hadn't expected her to react so badly. Wasn't she supposed to be flattered? Be pleased? He had killed someone – two someones – for her, after all.

She stops, turns towards him, and his heart drops at the look on her face. She's crying. He has never seen her cry before. He pulls a handkerchief from his pocket, and moves to wipe away the tears. She flinches slightly, as if afraid that he is going to hurt her.

'It's okay,' he whispers. Upon having wiped away the tears, his hand rests at her cheek.

'I love you, Emily,' he says. 'I would never hurt you.' He holds her, shocked, in his arms. She's confused. She's not supposed to feel safe, feel warm in the arms of a serial killer, and yet she does. She realizes the situation fully, then. He killed two girls, and here she is, hugging him.

'No.' She pulls away from him, stepping back until she is out of his immediate reach. She looks into his eyes, and sees those same eyes that she fell in love with. She cannot imagine that those are the eyes of a killer. They're the eyes of a soft, gentle, intelligent person.

Her own eyes do not even attempt to mask what she's feeling; horror, shock, anger, sadness. She doesn't know which of those feelings is supposed to be dominant. Which is more important?

'Andrew…why did you do this? Why did you kill them?'

He's surprised, hurt even, at the look on her face. He did this for her. He loves her, worships her. He would never want to hurt her like this.

'I did it for you, Emily.'

She stares at him, tears unfettered.

It always ends in tragedy.

***

You see her, sitting at the bar, tossing back shots. You wonder if she is trying to build up the courage for this encounter. She had hoped you would be here, just as you had hoped the same for her.

You sit down beside her, tell the bartender to get you what she is having.

'Hello, Andrew.' She doesn't sound scared. She came here knowing that you would be waiting, of course. She knows.

'Emily.' You want to hug her. To hold her, and to have her hold you. You want to see her smile.

'They're at your house, Andrew. It's over.'

You frown slightly. 'Who are "they"? Did you go to the police? The FBI?'

She laughs derisively, and for a moment you're reminded of that rebellious teenager who, deep down, had a heart of gold. 'I am the FBI, Andrew.'

You think it makes sense in a strange way. It doesn't matter to you though. Either way, it ends tonight.

'Did you come to arrest me?'

'Eventually, yes.' She has a slight slur to her voice, and you wonder how many she has had. At the rate she's knocking them back, you're sure it's quite a few. 'I guess I wanted to talk first. I need…closure.'

'Upstairs,' you suggest. She isn't armed, you can see, and at first you're not sure if she's going to go for it. But then she nods, and stands, only wobbling slightly. You pay the bartender with a hundred. It's not as if you'll need the money ever again.

You're silent in the elevator. You don't know what to say. You haven't seen her in so long, and somehow "I love you," or "I've missed you," doesn't really seem enough. It doesn't convey that emptiness you've had inside you for so long. You had tried to forget, thinking that maybe if you pushed her out of your mind, then you wouldn't kill, then you might have been considered worthy in her eyes.

You let her into the room with the keycard, and then follow her into that darkness.

The door swings shut behind you.

***

The only thing in the house of importance is a body. Just like the rest.

With gloved fingers, Reid examines the quote.

'A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun for sorrow will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon'd and some punish'd:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.'

'Did you know that before Romeo and Juliet, romance was considered an unworthy topic for tragedy? According to Harold Bloom, Shakespeare "invented the formula that the sexual becomes the erotic when crossed by the shadow of death."'

Reid's words are heard by all, but none are willing to respond. They're staring down at the body, all thinking the same thing.

'You do realize what he's getting at, right?' Morgan isn't speaking to anyone in particular. 'Juliet died stabbing herself in the chest after seeing Romeo's body. He's mimicking that. Building up to something.'

JJ raises an eyebrow. She had not picked Morgan for having read Shakespeare. Then, she processes Morgan's last words. 'Wait, building up to something?'

'He'll start with victims that look like the target of his obsession,' supplies Rossi. 'But in the end he needs to confront his Juliet.'

None of them need to say it, but Hotch does anyway. 'Emily.'

He pulls out his phone, speed-dialing Emily's cell. There is no answer. He tries Garcia.

'Garcia, is Emily there with you?'

'She went out for some "fresh ai-" Oh God.' Realization seems to hit the technical analyst mid sentence. 'Her phone's on. Tracking the GPS now.' It takes several seconds. Several agonizing seconds, before she can give them a location. It's a location that's familiar to all of them. The hotel where they had all spent one long night two days ago.

'She's with him!' Morgan doesn't need to say it, but he says it anyway, as if trying to reinforce just how bad the situation is.

None of them need reminding.

***

'You didn't have to kill them,' she tells him. She's sitting across from him on the bed, staring into eyes that have long held sickness in them. She's talking as much about the murders this week as the murders twenty years ago.

'I did it for you, Emily.' He's repeating those same words, and it isn't any easier to hear them this time around. 'It was the only way I could show you how much I cared.'

'I already knew that you cared, Andrew. I already loved you for who you were. You didn't have to prove anything.' There are tears in her eyes. Tears for the person she knows she lost so long ago. If she were to think about it logically, she would probably come to the conclusion that he was lost, that he was sick, before she even met him, but logic is far from the most important thing on her mind right now.

'Do you still love me?' he asks her. 'Do you still care?' There is a forlorn hope in his eyes, as if he already knows the answer. Hesitantly, she shifts just a little bit closer to him.

'I will always care.' She does not pull back when he leans forward to kiss her. She needs this, even if it is just so she can tell herself that she doesn't love him anymore. She kisses him back.

Her eyes widen in surprise when she feels the sharp, stinging pain in her abdomen. She looks down, sees the knife in his hand, sees the blood that is quickly staining her shirt. She touches it, as if unable to comprehend the fact that she is slowly bleeding to death. She pulls away slightly. She had not expected the blood to be so warm, so sticky.

With a bloodied hand, he brushes her hair from her face. He looks into her eyes. Those deep, dark, unfathomable eyes. He kisses her again.

'You might not die,' he tells her. 'But you'll never forget.'

He takes the bottle from the nightstand. The liquid inside it is colorless. Emily is still alive enough to hear what he is saying. 'Shakespeare was never really that explicit about what poison killed Romeo. It was up to the director's discretion – what kind of death he wanted Romeo to have. I think I like the idea of a quiet death.'

She tries to move forward, to knock the bottle from his hand, but the agonizing pain in her belly overcomes her. All she can do is watch him die.

And then, she whispers to the lifeless room, 'I never forgot.'

***

They're running into the hotel lobby. Garcia had run Andrew Webb's credit records, found he had booked a hotel room. Hotch is mentally scolding himself. He should have known this. Should have known that Andrew Webb would look for Emily in the one place he had already seen her. That Emily would sacrifice her own life to make sure no-one else died.

The elevator seems to take an eternity. They all try not to stare at each other, to hide the anguish that they're all feeling. Silence consumes them.

Rossi kicks the door in with a little bit more force than he normally would. He rushes in, weapon immediately gravitating to the hotel bed. The first thing he sees is the blood.

He does not even bother to see if Andrew Webb's lifeless body is actually lifeless. Within seconds, his hands are at Emily's side, trying to compress the wound, trying to hold in the blood that has already escaped. Surprisingly, she's conscious.

'How long?' Morgan takes the hand that she's holding out, squeezes it.

'Uh…ten minutes, maybe.' Her voice is strained, and it's not surprising. In fact, they're surprised she's still conscious, let alone lucid.

JJ calls the ambulance. Hotch and Reid watch on almost helplessly, having confirmed that Andrew is actually dead.

'I'm sorry,' she says. 'I'm so sorry.' She's crying, Hotch realizes. He has never seen her give such an uninhibited display of emotion. She isn't even trying to hold it in. He should feel angry that she came to the hotel alone, but instead he is terrified that he might be losing an agent, losing a friend.

'It's okay,' Rossi says. 'Stay with me.'

Morgan squeezes her hand a little bit tighter.

'Even…after all this.' She's struggling with her words. Trying to stay conscious, trying to release her demons. 'Is it wrong that I still felt something for him?'

None of the team say anything, and she takes it to be a confirmation of her fears, that yes, it is wrong.

She chokes back a sob. 'You can't save them. You can't save any of them. Can't save me.'

Before anyone gets a chance to speak, the paramedics are in the room. Rossi pulls himself away, unconsciously wiping her blood onto his jacket. After giving it one last squeeze, Morgan reluctantly lets go of her hand.

All they can do is watch as the paramedics work on saving her life.

Sometimes, all they can ever do is watch.

***

They let her out of hospital after two weeks. They had recommended that she stay with someone, or that someone stay with her, but she isn't ready to bring that burden down on anyone. Not after she betrayed them like that.

She had discharged herself quietly, knowing full well that any member of the team would have taken her home, stayed with her. She doesn't know if she can trust herself around people any more. She has come to the conclusion that it isn't them, it's her. She is the one that poisons people's minds, that turns them into drug addicts, into serial killers. She is the one who should be locked away.

That's just something that they're going to have to deal with.

She's lying on her couch, staring at the ugly red scar that spans two inches across her stomach. One painful, permanent reminder of the tragedy she seems to inflict on everyone else.

What is she going to do now? Would it have been better that she had died in that hotel room? Or even died earlier, before she had a chance to destroy so many lives? She doesn't know. She has been lying on this couch for two days, just thinking. Letting her mind wander.

There's a knock on the door. She grimaces. Getting up is still painful. Before she has a chance to, though, she hears a voice.

'Don't get up, we've got a key.'

That's Garcia's voice. But who's "we?" She's got a good feeling she knows who, and for a moment, she thinks that jumping out the window would be a less painful option. She pulls herself halfway up, propping herself against the armrest. She can just see the door.

It swings open, and they file into her apartment like clowns from a Mini. Garcia's leading the fray, of course. She's followed by JJ. Then, looking slightly uncomfortable, Hotch and Reid. Finally, there's Rossi and Morgan. They stand there, not moving.

'You really didn't have to come,' she says bluntly.

'You mean we brought all this food for nothing?' Garcia fakes astonishment.

Morgan walks over towards her, leans against the side of the couch. 'Face it girl,' he says. 'We're here to help whether you like it or not.'