I really wanted to write a solely Criminal Minds fic with HP in it, so here it is. It's not going to be too long-- I only have 10 chapters planned, but the chapters are of reasonable length. It is centred on Hotch and Emily, but it involves the entire team. I hope you enjoy and please drop me a line if you're reading this. I accept anonymous reviews, so even if yo're not logged in or you don't have an account, I would love to hear from you.
Disclaimer: I do not own any characters, locations or plots from Criminal Minds. I have the utmost respect for the writers, directors and producers, and do not intend to infringe any copyright laws. I am not making a profit from this story and am writing it for my enjoyment and the enjoyment of others.
"We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children." ~Native American Proverb
Her pulse was racing, her breathing shallow, her reflexes jumpy, and somewhere in the middle of all that, twenty-four year old UHD grad student Anabelle Newton was trying hard to focus more on the term paper on "The Development of Wind Energy" she had due the following Wednesday than the task at hand. Her job was simple. She had to wait. Wait for her comrades to return and signal them if she noticed anything out of the ordinary.
But it was an ordinary summer night with ordinary moonlight and the ordinary chirping of crickets. There was nothing strange or bizarre about the landscape before her as she stood watch over the eastern block of the large compound, though, in actual fact, she was lying down, not standing. Anabelle could have compared herself to a lioness stealthily laying in wait as the gazelle chewed his morning mixture of grass and foliage, but she saw herself more as a Marine sniper in a Ghillie suit- minus the rifle of course.
She stole another look at her watch again. Nine-fourteen. Only three minutes after she last looked at her Bambi watch. There was an interesting story behind that watch. It had been given to her brother as child and she hadn't seen it in as many years, but last fall, when her brother's body returned from Afghanistan following an explosion at a checkpoint in Herat, the Marine Staff Sergeant from his unit informed her that he wore that watch every single day. The Marine had been a close friend of her brother's, and, at one time, a very, very close friend of hers, and the simple gesture of returning her brother's most prized possession to her was enough to re-ignite that spark she once considered lost… the day after the funeral. And if only it had worked out, she told herself. Alas, it had not. He returned to his post a week later, but she had still worn the watch every day since.
The sound of racing footsteps pulled Anabelle's attention back to the present. She sunk deeper into the bush that was providing her with the smallest bit of shelter and camouflage. The pace quickened slightly and she could discern the speedy whispers of two people. She need not have worried, however, because those were the voices of her two partners. They knew where she was and walked around her before crouching within a metre's proximity of her position.
"We're good to go," the more muscular of the two men informed her briskly.
"Did you let her know?" Anabelle asked. She had not yet peeled her eyes away from the scene in front of her, waiting and watching.
"Just roused her on the radio now," replied the leaner man.
Anabelle was feeling anxious. "Shouldn't be long now."
And it wasn't. Less than two minutes later, a fireball erupted into the sky. The explosion was deafening and its residual impact of blaring fire alarms and smaller blasts in the aftermath was carrying a booming aura through the air. The three of them were on the move now. They had limited time to make a getaway and they had spent too long watching the smoke rise to blanket the night's already starless sky.
The soft sounds of rainforest ambience and radiating scents of a mixture of bath oils were supposed to prove soothing for FBI Supervisory Special Agent Emily Prentiss, but even the tranquillity of her Do-It-Yourself Nature Spa could not relieve the tension and anxiety of the past few days on the job. Their last case had been trying, but for her most of all.
She had nearly lost her life. The case had turned terrible when a murdered couple's toddler had been kidnapped. The UNSUB had never taken, or harmed, children before and there was no telling what would happen to the three and a half year old boy. Emily cracked the case as she was driving back to the precinct with Reid. And she had gone into the house, without waiting for back-up or instructions and against her better judgment, and found herself caught out as the UNSUB threatened to take the life of the child. She tried to talk him down. She even holstered her weapon. That appeared to calm the jumpy nerves of the psychotic serial murderer. She managed to convince him to let the child go. It was actually going well.
But then the mistake came. Not her mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. The SWAT team arrived and one of its members tried to bust down the door to grab the boy. It could have been heroic and it did save the boy's life, but it almost cost Emily hers. The guy got jumpy. He was afraid for his life now and felt trapped in a corner. And Emily knew that once that happened, morality and rationality had no place in his mind anymore. Fear would take over and there would be no reasoning. He would kill her.
She had almost prepared herself for it to happen. She closed her eyes. She heard a gunshot, and, strangely, felt no pain. After a moment, she dared to open them. Dark brown eyes were tunnelling down upon hers. She could hear his voice, but the words weren't registering. She was alive—that was all she could think of. And she was in the debt of the concerned party in front of her. Her boss. Aaron Hotchner.
Thinking of the way that he looked at her, stared at her, just moments after saving her from an untimely death sent goosebumps across her skin. She was lying there, exposed as the water and bubbles lapped over her soft skin, and all she could really recall from the shooting was the way he looked at her afterwards. She cracked a smile, unintentionally, as she remembered the difficulty she had had in writing her after-action report earlier that evening. It was hard to remain objective and factual when the only thing you could remember was the look your boss had in his eyes.
Emily wasn't even sure of why he had affected her so much. She didn't, however, even want to guess why or 'profile' herself. There was an unwritten covenant on intra-team profiling and she had told herself, time and time again, and especially when it came to her thoughts about Aaron Hotchner, that the agreement would definitely apply to her and herself. After all, both facets, the mind and the heart of Emily Prentiss, were a part of that team.
She snuck a look at her phone. It was almost two-thirty in the morning. She knew that she would regret this in the morning, but she was too wired still to sleep. She had hoped, in an irrational way, that relaxing jungle noises, candles and bath additives would work, but she knew that if it never worked on any other occasion, then it wouldn't work tonight. She wasn't quite sure what she needed exactly. Reassurance, perhaps? She didn't dare think about who would do that for her. Maybe a distraction? But she wasn't really the person for a one-night delight just to forget the pain of what had happened to her during the day.
Another case would definitely be a good distraction and a good reason for her to compartmentalise the raw emotion she was tenderly trying to detach from her reality. Although, she knew, another case would not help her sleep in the slightest. It would have the exact opposite effect. But she wasn't looking to sleep. She was looking to forget.
And tonight was her lucky night, it would seem. Her phone was buzzing on the small spa-side table that looked more like an elaborate shelf straight out of an Ikea catalogue. She dried her hands with a freshly laundered white towel and answered the phone.
"We have a case." She knew the gruff, to-the-point tone. But she'd never admit to anyone that she'd been thinking about the owner of that tone only a few minutes earlier while she lay, naked, in a bubble bath.
"I'll be right in," Emily replied quickly. She hid her enthusiasm well. She wasn't going to sleep anyway.
"Do you want a lift? I know it's early."
Emily was about to ask what the time had to do with her ability to drive to work, but her frontal lobe advised against it. She could've benefited from the company anyway. "Sure."
"I'll be there in twenty."
"Great, thanks." And she hung up, ignoring the development of butterflies in her stomach. She shrugged it off as excitement for the case ahead. She dried off quickly and straightened her hair. The Wet-to-Dry GHD was definitely worth its price on nights, or mornings, like this. She switched out the dirty laundry from her go bag and threw on a clean blouse and pair of grey pants. The door bell rang just as she holstered on her weapon. She answered it quickly.
She had to admit, she like his new haircut. It was short and spiky but it suited him and actually made him look younger. He was wearing a black suit, as usual, with a blue shirt and tie, but it was this attire that she liked him in. And yet she found herself pushing away thoughts of how he would look without the jacket and tie as she invited him inside.
He offered to grab her go-bag, but she declined. Chivalry may not be dead, but Emily Prentiss was definitely the type of woman that carries her own bag. Hotch should have known that, her inner self mused.
His SUV was parked in front of her building. The street was silent as they made their way to it. Wordlessly, Hotch unlocked the doors and walked around to the driver's side. Emily was grateful that he didn't offer to open her door. That would have really thrown her off the edge.
"What's the case?" Emily asked as soon as the car started moving.
Hotch flipped on the radio in reply and Emily listened intently to the breaking news. It was going to be a full-on case, that much she knew, but Hotch made no comment on it. Instead, he asked her a question she did not expect. "How are you feeling after today?"
"Yesterday," Emily corrected with a smile, avoiding the question.
"Yesterday," he repeated. "I apologise. I haven't been to bed, yet."
"Neither have I."
"Couldn't sleep?" Hotch asked, his voice uncharacteristically softer.
She deflected. "Could you?"
"I suppose not," he replied. "It was a difficult case." And he added an afterthought, "For all of us." But his tone gave it away. Emily could tell that he was trying to relieve some of the tension between them by putting the hardships of the case on the whole team and then, by proxy, them. It was a classic way of dealing with an uncomfortable situation, but she needed to remind herself not to profile him.
She was grateful when they arrived at Quantico. JJ and Reid were already waiting for them in conference room. Rossi arrived not five minutes after Emily and Hotch, and Morgan came last with Garcia, about ten minutes after.
JJ cut straight to the chase as soon as they took their seats. She passed out the files, speaking at the same time. "Houston needs our help." She switched the plasma on to the news which was currently displaying aerial shots of the blaze that fire fighters were still trying to control. "At approximately a quarter past nine this evening, local time, a bomb was detonated at an Emerson Petroleum oil storage facility outside Houston. Because of the facility's prestige structural integrity and risk management lay-out, the blast was only localised to a small area which includes some office space. Two supervisors and three other employees were killed in the explosion."
"Has anyone claimed responsibility for it yet?" Emily asked as she flicked through the preliminary crime scene report with photos.
"Houston's FBI field office hasn't picked up anything," JJ replied gravely.
"It sounds like a belief or action group of some kind," Reid added.
Morgan piggy-backed off the young genius' interpretation of the night's events in his own conclusion. "Terrorism."
"We're probably looking at eco-terrorism," Rossi put in. "An earth defence group or something of the like. We are talking about Houston here."
"Home to five of the six major oil companies in the US," Reid stated mathematically.
"And with an explosion as small as this, it's likely that this is just the beginning," Hotch concluded. He shut his file with a resounding oomph and got up from his seat. "Wheels up in twenty."