Bless the Child

'I heard about Matthew,' are Ambassador Elizabeth Prentiss' first words to her daughter when she opens her condo door. Her second words are. 'I'm sorry.'

Emily grunts slightly, opening the door a little wider so that her mother can come inside. She'd be a little more welcoming of her mother's presence if the event for which she was giving her condolences hadn't happened over three months ago.

'Where've you been?' asks Emily. She used to keep a calendar, marking off which days her mother was in which country, but she stopped doing that when she realized she and her mother had grown apart a long time ago.

'Kuwait,' Elizabeth answers without inflection. Emily can tell that her mother is just itching to rearrange the apartment, because the sofa looks a little incongruous, or the coffee table isn't the right type of wood.

Emily lights a cigarette, ignoring the way her mother scrunches her nostrils. Smoking is a filthy habit, she had been told as a child. It's the reason – one of the reasons – she decided to take that first puff on the cancer stick in the first place.

'How long have you been smoking?' the Ambassador demands, her expression only dropping slightly when Emily replies:

'Twenty-two years.'

'Is there anything else you'd like to tell me?' she asks coolly, and Emily's heart skips a beat.

There's so much she wants to tell her mother. So much she needs to tell her mother. But she can't. There always has – and always will be – a barrier between them.

But what is she supposed to say? "Yes, mother. I need to tell you that I got pregnant at 15, and Matthew helped me get a back alley abortion. That's the reason he started using, by the way. His parents were right – I was a bad influence." They're the words she's been repeating to herself, some kind of macabre mantra, for three months. How many lives did she ruin that day she caved to peer pressure? Matthew's for sure. Her unborn child's. Her own? She's still undecided about that one.

She does know that it has affected the way she grew up. She thinks that maybe she would be another person altogether, if things had gone a little differently back then. If she'd had the child. If she hadn't done the deed in the first place. If her mother had been a little less distant.

She takes two wine glasses from the cupboard perpendicular to the stove. The team had just gotten back from a particularly grueling case that morning, and Hotch had demanded that they all take at least three days. Emily had been planning on moping around the condo, watching DVDs, or maybe rereading Ulysses for the thousandth time.

'I was going to just microwave some leftover pizza,' says Emily. 'But if you'd like, I could make pasta, or something.'

Elizabeth balks slightly at the thought of leftover pizza. 'It's okay. I've eaten.' It's a lie, and they both know it. It's not just the three years in the Behavioral Analysis Unit that's trained Emily – it's the thirty-five years before that as the Ambassador's daughter. Politics is all about being able to lie, and being able to pick a lie, and though she's loath to admit it, Emily would make a half decent politician. Not an excellent politician though – she cares too much.

Stemmed glass held in an expert grip, Elizabeth seats herself precariously at the kitchen table. There are four chairs, only one of which is used with any regularity; it's the seat diagonally across from the Ambassador. The seat which Emily slides into, her grip on the wine glass a little less elegant. These days she's more inclined to be holding a Glock. Drinking is reserved for the off hours, of which there have been less and less of lately. She, at least, is willing to indulge in Hotch's workaholic tendencies. It's not like she has anything else to go home to. Her life has been reduced to the sporadic waits between one case and the next.

'How did he die?' Elizabeth asks, in her best imitation of gentleness. She understands the concept, but it has been so long since she's considered herself possibly of such emotion, that it needs a bit of tweaking.

'Heart attack,' Emily replies bluntly. The words she doesn't say: "While someone tried to exorcise a demon from him." The words her subconscious mind adds quietly: "The demon I created." She taps the cigarette ash into the ashtray on the table.

'I'm sorry,' Elizabeth repeats, but it doesn't do anything to dull the pain.

Emily had gone to the funeral. She couldn't help but feel that every single person there was blaming her. She knows it is a feeling that was partially correct; no matter what part they played in their son's death, Andrea and Thomas Benton place the majority of the blame onto her. And with good reason.

'Yeah,' says Emily after a while. 'Yeah, me too.' She's sorry for a lot of things. Sorry that Matthew's life turned out like this – ended like this. Sorry that she's barely had a chance to see him in two decades. Sorry that she may have given up the only chance she had at motherhood.

'He was a good kid,' lament Elizabeth. She had only met Matthew a few times before the Life Changing Event, but he had made a good impression. Kind-hearted, a loving soul. Everything that Elizabeth could never be for her daughter. 'Then...something happened.'

Emily straightens, and it does not go unnoticed. She knows exactly what happened. For a single second, the mask she has kept in place for so long falls away, and Elizabeth sees the scared little girl that needed her mother so long ago.

'You know, maybe I will have some of that pizza,' says Elizabeth.

She gets the feeling she'll be staying a little longer than she had planned.

A/N: I hadn't planned on writing this one, but it was requested, so here it is, MiniShrink.