Title: The Last Night That She Lived
Rating: PG-13
Criminal Minds
Prentiss - gen
Genre: Angst
Emily Prentiss has never learned how to ask for help.

At an early age, Emily Prentiss had learnt not to make a sound: "Neither seen nor heard" her mother had told her. While the words hadn't been intended in a malicious sense ('No, Emily, the Russian Ambassador does not want to see your new doll') they've caused irreparable damage. She doesn't cry when she's sad – at least not while there are other people around – and when she has a nightmare, she doesn't scream. Instead she writhes like a worm cut in two, hands clutching at the sheets, breathing heavy and fast.

The corpses are twisted, and burnt, and mutilated, and while she remembers the faces of some of the victims that they've failed to save, those aren't always the faces she sees. She sees Garcia's face, Reid's face, JJ's face. She sees their bodies broken, wept over. She sees the horror in their eyes, or maybe that's just her imagination. Her mind fills in the details that the nightmare has left out. God knows she's good with the details.

It's three a.m when Emily's torn from sleep – she's getting pretty good at knowing the time without even looking at the clock, just based on the atmosphere, and the light level, and the half dozen other occurrences of waking up at this time in the last few weeks alone.

A dead silence hangs in the air.

Emily Prentiss has been living by herself for at least twenty years, but she doesn't think she will ever get used to the sheer loneliness that such a position affords. There is, of course, the idea of a pet, but she's fairly sure any animal she brings into this place will end up as some kind of Schrodinger's Cat – both alive and dead until she opens the door after three weeks in Tampa hunting down a serial rapist.

Most days, when Morgan's discussing his plans at some beachside resort, and Reid is geeking out over some article on solipsism, or JJ's talking about Henry's latest whatever, Emily zones out, burying herself in paperwork to avoid the inevitable question about what her own plans involve. In the end, all sin to win really is, is drinking, gambling and anonymous sex. Maybe that's more pathetic than having no plans at all.

She pads downstairs in sweatpants and tank - conventional pajamas are just another complication to deal with if there's an early call-in – guided mostly by muscle memory. She's walked this path in the dark far too many times.

In her refrigerator, there are half a dozen Tupperware containers filled with leftovers. Some of them are from last night, but the rest are from a few weeks ago, and she should really think about throwing them out. She stares at the fridge's contents for almost a minute, ultimately deciding that she isn't particularly hungry. There's chilled wine – red and white – but it's not a wine night either, apparently.

She'd never been much of a whiskey drinker in her earlier years; teenagerdom had been rife with wine coolers and vodka mixers – practically tequila when you're fourteen years old. Her father had been the first to encourage a taste for whiskey, and David Rossi had been the second.

It bites the back of her throat on the way down, fingers making patterns in the perspiration of the tumbler. It takes her mind off the emotional pain, the psychological pain, if only for just a second.

And then all she sees is the bottom of the glass.