A/N: Ah, the final chapter. Don't you worry your pretty little heads. I already have another plot cooked up for another epic fic, I just need to get inspired enough to start it. Thank you everyone for your support, reviews, and suggestions! laurkenobi, Hotch_Fan, CMFAN2009, harrietamidala1691, bluesky, GreenIz, Liv, and even you, unviewer. I hope the finale doesn't disappoint!

Disclaimer: I do not own Criminal Minds, but Neal belongs to me!

Rating: M for Extreme Language and Graphic Violence



Richmond, VA

Another week passed and Neal still couldn't remain conscious. The doctors weren't too concerned, his brain activity was normal, he just wasn't fighting. Hotch, on the other hand, was making great progress both physically and mentally. The team noticed his behavior had improved since the envelope had appeared on his bedside table. No one dared to even touch it, worried it might send the Unit Chief spiraling downwards again.

Hotch had managed to convince the doctors to allow him to walk around the hospital and ditch the wheel chair. The fact that he no longer had to rely on something to transport himself was healing in itself. The bandage over his orbital bone diminished in size and was now a simple band-aid. His bones were healing and so were the physical scars from the torture. Aaron had finally convinced Jessica to go home with Jack and let things return normal. He needed them to move on so that he could.

"Hey, Hotch, the team is heading back to the hotel, but I'm stayin' here in case Neal wakes. You want some coffee?" Emily poked her head into Hotch's room as he made himself comfy on the bed. "No, thank you, though." Prentiss nodded before heading down the hallway. Hotch pulled the envelope into his hands and flipped it over repetitively, closing his eyes in thought.


Doctor Benson entered the quiet room holding the unconscious Detective. None of the armed guards remained in the room, the doctors having told them that even if he woke he wouldn't immediately be in a state to fight. Benson needed to administer some antibiotics for the injuries he had sustained, so he removed one of the hand cuffs so he could move the man's arm. That was the last mistake he ever had. Neal, who had been faking unconsciousness for almost two weeks, grabbed the key from the doctor before pulling him into a chokehold. The doctor struggled fruitlessly as his life was choked from his body. Once he stopped moving, Neal let him slide to the ground gently. Thankfully, the lights in his room were off and the blinds were shut, so no one bore witness to what had occurred. He moved quickly to unlock the other set of hand cuffs before shakily getting to his feet. After a few minutes he made it over to the small table which held the scalpel he wanted. Now all he had to do was wait for the FBI agent who was chosen to stand guard to come back. "It's not over."


Emily sipped the putrid coffee as she headed back towards Neal's room. She would be staying the entire night, so the caffeine was a necessity. Prentiss leaned against the edge of the door frame of the killer's room as a sense of relief overcame her. Neal was caught and unable to harm anyone else, and Hotch was healing. They had gotten the profile right and it had led them straight to their UnSub.

Her thoughts were interrupted as she felt a strong hand wrap into her hair and pull her back, yanking a shout from her before she was in the room. Before she could even reach for it, Neal had stripped her of her gun, keeping his hand in her hair as he pocketed the gun and pressed the scalpel to her throat. "Call for Hotch." Neal's voice was taunting as he put his mouth next to Emily's ear. "Go to hell, Neal." He pushed the scalpel into her flesh, causing her to flinch. "I said, call for Hotch." He licked the blood slowly trickling down her throat as she began to call for her Unit Chief. "Hotch! Hotch, can you come by Neal's room?"


Aaron slowly got out of his bed, placing his hand on his weapon skeptically. Something about Emily's voice was off. He saw the spilled coffee just outside Neal's dark room and drew his weapon. This was definitely wrong. "Prentiss?" He moved down the hallway slowly, gun trained on the open doorway. Stepping out from the shadows was Emily, a scalpel still held to her throat. Hotch became rigid with fury as he saw who was behind her. "Let her go, Neal."

Warren smirked as he pushed the scalpel deeper into her throat. "You don't trust the women like the men, do you Hotch? Shame. She's pretty tough." Emily gritted her teeth as he jerked her head back again for emphasis. Aaron's eyes narrowed as he kept his gun trained on Warren. "What do you want?" Neal laughed sickly before backing down the hallway to his left. "A one minute head start or she dies." Hotch shook his head in annoyance. "Why would I give you a one minute head start?" Neal looked at Emily with a glimmer in his eye. "Because it'll take you at least a minute to stop the blood flow."

Hotch realized what Neal meant a second too late. He flashed the scalpel across Emily's snow white flesh as Hotch lunged forward, catching the falling brunette before she hit the ground. Aaron put his hand over the open wound in her throat as best he could as he was forced to watch Neal escape. "MEDIC! SOMEONE HELP!" Hotch was frantic as he looked at Emily's paling face. He couldn't stop the blood flow.

In a blur of motion, three nurses surrounded Hotch and took Emily from him and began to work on stabilizing her. Before they could even order him back in his room, the Unit Chief had taken off after the escaped assailant. It was just Neal and Hotchner.



Richmond, VA

Reid rolled over in his bed lazily as he patted for his cell phone. "Ugh… shut up…" He pulled his phone to his face to read the number. He recognized the number as of that of the hospital's front desk. "Reid." His voice was groggy and tired, a tell-tale sign that they had woken him.

-- "Dr. Reid? This is Nurse Marisol at the Rappahannock General Hospital. We're calling because Agent Prentiss has been… injured. I'm afraid I can't tell you anything more."

Spencer closed his phone in horror. "Morgan… MORGAN!" The black agent woke with a start at Reid's shout, grabbing for his gun instinctively. "Damnit, Reid! What!?" He looked at the expression at the younger agent's face, realizing it was serious. "It's Emily…" That was all he had to say. The team was heading back to the hospital. Immediately.



Richmond, VA

"NEAL! I know you're up here!" Hotch moved around the garden carefully as he searched for the escapee. He knew he couldn't shoot Warren. No matter what, it would be out of malice, not justice. He had caused so much pain to so many people. He couldn't let that go. "NEAL!"

Laughter echoed around him, disorienting the agent slightly. "Hotch, Hotch, Hotch… why did you come up here without back up?" Neal stepped out in the open, gun in one hand, scalpel in the other. "Oh, that's right, she's a bit busy." Hotch tightened his grip on his gun. "Drop the weapon, Neal." The Detective shrugged, glancing at the gun in his hand. "I don't think so. I mean you're not going to shoot me either way, so where's my incentive?" Aaron looked at him with hatred in his eyes. "So then where do we go from here? Am I taking you down in cuffs or a body bag?"

Warren smirked and looked at Hotch curiously. "Then come over here and arrest me." He tossed his gun over the side of the shrubbery and stood with his arms spread. Hotch moved forward for the scalpel, but was still too slow in his slightly weakened state as Neal slashed him above his brow. "I'll be seein' ya, Hotch." Neal ran through the shrubs and hedges, leaving the bloodied Hotch in confusion.

The team came up behind Hotch, Morgan helping him to his feet. "Hotch, what happened?" Aaron wiped the blood from his forehead wearily. "He got away. I let him get away. He cut Emily…" Rossi blocked Hotch's line of sight, forcing the Unit Chief to focus on the graying agent. "Prentiss is fine. The cut wasn't deep enough to cause serious damage." He placed a hand on Hotch's stiff shoulder, locking his eyes in a serious gaze. "We'll get Neal, Hotch." Aaron nodded in hesitant agreement, looking past Rossi to the setting sun in the distance. "I know. We always do."


"Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocrities. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence." -Albert Einstein


A/N: Head over to my LJ and go to the story archive for a preview of my next fic! LJ link is in my profile.

The Photographer | 2