Title: I Dreamed A Dream
Rating: PG
Criminal Minds
Prentiss-centric - gen
Genre: Drama/Angst
Emily Prentiss is nothing if not a product of her own upbringing. In the BAU world, crises of faith aren't uncommon. The problem is, she's been having hers long before the BAU ever came around. Post 5x10.


Emily Prentiss looked out her window and saw the stars; little pinpoints of light in a field of darkness. Thanks to her proximity to the city, they weren't as bright, or as plentiful as she'd seen them, but they were something of a comforting sight. According to Reid, the Northern Hemisphere was much better suited to deep-space observation, as there were fewer stars from the Milky Way blocking the view. She'd known Reid long enough that she didn't even bother asking how he knew some of these things. It was just enough that he knows.

There were some things, though, that went beyond facts, bleeding into faith, and that was something that not even Spencer Reid could help Emily with. Sometimes, she wanted to believe; wanted to believe that there was some kind of greater purpose out there, that all the horrible, twisted evil in the world was happening for a reason. Sometimes she didn't want to believe, because what kind of benevolent God would let a sociopath rape and murder half a dozen seven year old girls.

Once upon a time, Emily Prentiss had dreamed of happiness. She had dreamed her life would be different from the hell that she was living. Not quite Fantine's tragedy, but she had her own problems. As a child, she had lived in half a dozen different embassies, in half a dozen different countries; all different, and yet all painfully the same. She'd never had the messy finger paintings, or crudely drawn stick figures stuck to the refrigerator. Never had Santa Claus, or the Easter Bunny, or any of those other childhood tales. Christmas and Easter had been reserved for extravagant yet sophisticated parties. She still remembered standing in the corner of rooms, spine deadly straight, hands clasped in front of her. Mother would be upset if her dress was creased, and at that age, she'd gone out of her way to avoid her mother's temper. Later, she'd tried the opposite tactic; deliberately doing more and more rebellious things to gain her mother's attention, but that was a whole story in itself.

It was late, and Emily's showerhead was dripping – maybe it had been dripping since before she even left for Nashville, before Haley's funeral, but she couldn't quite remember. Her fist was clenched, had been since the plane ride home, but no-one had said anything. Both Morgan and Rossi had watched as she almost murdered an unsub in cold blood, but no-one had said anything. Things were a little rough everyone, but the truth was, even if she would never admit it to anyone, things had been a little rough for a long time.

Longer than she could even remember.

When she was eleven, and just starting to feel arrogant and rebellious and precocious, Emily had dreamed of a different life. She would dream that she had grown up in a house with a loving mother and father, and maybe a brother or sister to play with, and a puppy that made her giggle when it licked her face too much – she understood the concept of a happy family, even if she'd never quite experienced it herself. She read about them in books – sometimes they felt like her only escape – and sometimes she saw those tiny nuclear units bustling along in shopping centers with ice-cream, and facepaint, and hurry up, Emily, we haven't got all day. When she was old enough to realize that her childhood would always be like this, her dreams turned to the future.

One day she'd have her own family, with a white picket fence, and maybe a swimming pool, and a foldout sofa that her mother sleeps on when she comes to visit. That the part that finally clued her into the fact that it was nothing more than fantasy. It wasn't that she had a particularly estranged relationship with her mother. It was more the fact that her mother had never really been a mother.

Emily dumped her go-bag on her bed, and briefly considered just going to bed straight away, but didn't. Her body was exhausted, but her mind was far too wired to consider sleep.

It could have been her.

Affluent brunettes in high-powered professions. Her salary wasn't that great, but even though she wasn't under her mother's watchful eye anymore, for the most part, she still lived that life of expensive clothes and stylish décor. Aside from that, she really that high on the FBI pecking order either, but BAU agent was pretty damn prestigious compared to some careers. Joe Beltser had struck a nerve.

She was pretty sure she'd damn near broken the stitching on the punching bag at the hotel gym, and Beltser would have some pretty nasty bruises from her sweeping kick, but that wasn't enough to alleviate the tension that had been building up for…hell, had been building up her whole damned life.

There were half a dozen bottles of wine in the rack – good bottles, not cheap stuff – but it wasn't really a wine night. Tonight was a night for whiskey and regrets. The alcohol bit the back of her throat the same way it did when she was fourteen, and drinking vodka for the first time with John Cooley and Matthew Benton. It didn't have the same, wildly exciting feel that it did then, though, and she probably wouldn't feel as horribly hungover in the morning. She knew how to hold her liquor now. Knew a lot of things she hadn't known then. Then, the glass had been a little bit fuller, even if she hadn't seen it. Then, she had the whole world ahead of her.

Somehow, she'd ended up here.

Somehow, she'd ended up alone, and half miserable. She understood the concept of a happy life, even if she still hadn't really experienced it. She'd read about it in books with happy endings – still sometimes her only escape – and she saw it in the witnesses they spoke to, with their smiling photos on the wall. She'd seen it in Hotch and Haley, for a little while, but then that had shattered like glass, though if she listed to the rumor mill, it had been on the downward slope since the day Aaron Hotchner had joined the BAU.

Stranger things.

She lay down on the sofa, staring at the black screen of the TV. There were a few DVDs that would probably put her in a better mood, but she wasn't interested in cheering herself up. For some reason, wallowing in self-pity made it all seem justified. From her vantage point, she could see a small sliver of the sky. Stars and constellations that she could have given names to, if she had the inclination. Burning balls of gas millions of miles away. Another world. Another life, maybe. She wasn't sure she could believe in that either.

Her mind relaxed a little, her eyelids heavy, and soon she saw a whole new kind of darkness.

But at least, tonight, she would dream.