Okay. Admin stuff.


And yes, the volume 1 thing is a necessity. See, Sienna is being a dear and between the two of us we're going to pick a prompt a day from now until December 25 (no word yet whether it'll be a fandom wide challenge or just for me and my annual extravaganza here), but this has been floating around in my head and since it's December 1st, today (and I'm handing in a paper today and tomorrow) I had to post SOMETHING.

BUT! And this is a huge but, this is not going to be the usual fluffy happy Christmas fic. It's going to be a lot darker, a long more angst ridden, and I'm sure you'll see why by the time you finish this chapter. But have faith! Have I ever written an unhappy ending?


December 1

Emily Prentiss usually loved the first day of December. To her, it was the beginning of the holiday season, the first day she was allowed to decorate her apartment for Christmas. She was usually bouncing off the walls and often took at least half the day off to 'Christmasify' her apartment.

But not this year.

This year, she was dressed all in black, standing stoic and strong in a cemetary. Six days before, George Foyet had killed Haley Hotchner. So instead of decorating her house, she was at Haley's funeral, there in support of her friend and once-Unit Chief. She stood slightly behind Aaron Hotchner, close enough that in half a step, her side would be pressed against his. Little Jack stood in front of her, the rest of the team gathered around.

But none of that, Emily knew, would really help. Foyet had truly broken Hotch, and even in death seemed to be able to torture him. She didn't, couldn't, listen to what was being said. Her only focus was on the little boy and the broken man she had supported so much in the past few months. She felt the tears flood the corners of her eyes as they began lowering Haley's casket into the ground and found herself stepping forward to press her shoulder against Hotch's back, offering him as much of her support and strength as he'd take. Her other hand brushed against Jack's soft hair as she noticed Hotch's extremely tense posture.

She stepped closer to them as Jack leaned into his father's leg, clinging to his pants. She knew Hotch was having a hard enough time handling the fact that this was Haley. She was never coming back. And that, Emily knew, Hotch seriously believed was his fault. No one would be able to ever convince him otherwise. So she focused on Jack, pulling him back against her slightly because he would never be as strong as his father.

If she was honest, she was surprised when Jack turned to her then, leaning on her because she was there offering the support that Hotch couldn't. It wasn't that he didn't want to, and she was sure they all knew that, it was just a lot to handle for the moment. Hotch barely had enough strength for himself, let alone lending any to his still-confused son.

Once Haley's casket had been lowered into the ground, everyone started to disperse and JJ stepped forward to take Jack. He was reluctant, and unsurprisingly so. He'd been clinging to Hotch since he'd been reunited with his father. So Emily crouched down to Jack's level, smiling gently.

"Daddy just needs a minute, sweetie," she explained quietly. "He'll be with you in two minutes, okay?"

Jack still seemed reluctant, but took JJ's hand as she began to ask him whether or not he wanted a snack. She stayed with Hotch though steps back to allow him a few moments with his wife. She watched, with a knife plunging through her heart, as he knelt down beside her grave, his shoulders shaking. She looked away, though stayed close, allowing him his time.

Eventually, he stood and Emily stepped forward then, slipping her hand into his. It was an innocent gesture of support and she hoped that it helped him just a little bit. He glanced down at her momentarily, and there was enough information, emotion and even thankfulness in his gaze. Then he turned back, his shoulders heaving as he sucked in a deep breath.

"I'm taking a leave of absence."

The words didn't surprise her in the slightest. Instead, she squeezed his hand gently. "We'll be here," she reassured him. "Whenever you're ready, whatever your decision… we'll be here."

So, do me a favour, shoot me a review as to whether or not you'd like to see this play out over the next 25 days. Reminder though, I'm swamped until the 8th AND this is pretty deep and dark subject matter, so there's a good chance you'll be getting a handful of 2-a-day posts if I can't find the time or if I haven't written an adequate chapter to post daily.