AN: A small oneshot before school starts again. There are some tiny spoilers scattered throughout the fic, but I think they should be common knowledge by now. :D

Disclaimer: Don't own. Don't sue.

You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.

- Henry David Thoreau

The first day you step into the BAU you feel like a total intruder.

You've caught them staring at you and you know what they're thinking. You're not a profiler for nothing, after all—it's written all over their faces. That's Emily Prentiss. Her mom is an ambassador. Probably pulled a lot of strings to get her here.

At least it's not, That's Emily Prentiss. She's on the team only because Erin Strauss sent her to spy on Agent Hotchner.

You wanted this position so badly you've sold your soul to the devil.

You have no idea if your new colleagues will forgive you.

You hope one day you'll fit in.

It's been a week and if you're sure about one thing, it's that Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia is definitely not what you've been expecting.

You imagined her as Hispanic, somewhat humorless, serious like most graduates you know from Stanford or Caltech or MIT.

"Hello, my raven-haired lovely," she says when you walk in, spinning around in her chair to face you. She's wearing the most colorful outfit you've ever seen anyone, anywhere, wear and chewing on the tip of a fuzzy pink pen. Definitely not what you've been expecting.

Not that that's necessarily a bad thing.

"I'm—I'm sorry, but how do you know me?"

You've never actually met in person, and on cases she always seems to have someone else as a mouthpiece.

"Emily Prentiss," she says with a grin on her glossed lips. "Age thir—oh, wait, I won't say—daughter of Ambassador Elizabeth Prentiss, Yale grad, class of 1993, worked for the Bureau for nine years in the Midwest, went through a total Cure stage in high school?"

"Yeah—I—wow, that's amazing…and slightly scary at the same time. Except I never went through a Cure stage."

She just shakes her head and chuckles. "Oh, you most definitely did. Don't you just love the eighties? Anyway," she says, as if she's suddenly remembered something, "what do you guys need from my virtual plethora of information this time, my dear?"

You tell her, but it's more like just a repetition of Agent Hotchner's words, because your mind is still stuck on the you guys.

You always refer to them as "the team and I." Separate entities. You didn't think you've earned the right to join the two yet.

But Garcia smiles, so maybe you have.

It's been two weeks and you can't help but think you still don't belong.

You talk a little too fast, laugh a little too loud, try a little too hard. It's like high school all over again, and you fall all over yourself to impress the teacher.

Morgan's the strongest, Reid's the smartest, Gideon is a founding father of the BAU. So when you have the opportunity to showcase your language skills, you jump at it.

You're on the plane back after days in Guantanamo, listening to your iPod, crisis averted. You shudder to think what could (would) have happened.

Gideon catches your eye and gives you a small half-smile.

"It's best not to dwell," he says quietly, so as not to disturb the sleeping Dr. Reid. You can't believe he's sharing his words of wisdom with you.

"I guess not," you respond.

"It doesn't get easier," he says, like he's giving you advice. Like he's expecting you not to quit. Like he's implying you're good enough to stay on the team.

He doesn't say congratulations, doesn't say good job, doesn't say he's glad you were able to translate.

But you've never been happier to be the daughter of an ambassador.

It's been three weeks and in spite of everything you're slightly intimidated by a man—boy, really—nine years your junior.

It's embarrassing, even if said boy is a certified genius with an IQ of 187 and an eidetic memory. You don't know why, exactly, because he's hardly threatening.

You're almost timid as you approach him on the jet. He's in the corner, reading a musty-looking tome at a frighteningly fast pace.

"Hey."

He looks up at the sound of your voice. You think maybe you shouldn't have disrupted him, but there's no turning back now.

"Do you play poker?" you ask.

Dr. Reid smiles and closes his book. "I was born and raised in Las Vegas."

You settle down across from him and start to deal. He cleans house the first few rounds, but you wouldn't imagine anything less. You find out he's actually quite talkative once you get him going, and he regales you with a brief history of the game as well as more statistics you even knew existed.

"All in," he says, snapping you back to reality, as he pushes the rest of the peanuts into the ever-growing pile on the table. You do the same with your pretzels.

You're not bad at poker. It's just that he's better. That may have been a stupid move on your part.

"Full house." He lays his cards down to reveal three tens and a pair of fours.

"Full house of jacks," you announce, and you're astonished you've actually (barely) managed to beat the young Dr. Reid.

His brow scrunches up in confusion. He starts rifling through the deck, mumbling about how he never loses. Perhaps you should have let him win.

Morgan must see your apprehensive expression, because he grins and calls out, "Don't worry, Prentiss, he only does that to people he likes."

Your body is flooded with more relief than you care to admit.

It's been four weeks and you know Derek Morgan is a guy you can trust.

He teases Reid and flirts with Garcia and he's like the older brother you never had.

You're getting ready to talk to an unsub, alone. You've predicted he will be jumpy and paranoid and will probably kill his hostage if the team busts in, guns cocked. And since you, by some miracle of nature, resemble his mother in her youth, you are sent in with a bulletproof vest.

They've fitted you with a wire and concealed your firearm, but you aren't able to quell the butterflies in your stomach. It should go without saying that you're indisputably, undeniably nervous.

You're about to knock on the door.

"We've got your back, Prentiss," Morgan's comforting voice says through your earwig, and, just like that, the butterflies seem to calm down.

You don't think you'd rather have anyone else on your side.

It's been five weeks and you dread seeing Jennifer Jareau's name on your caller ID.

She's always nice, and you're always polite, and sometimes she compliments you on your blouse and sometimes you get her a latte on your Starbucks run, but you haven't reached the stage where you socialize outside of work. Every time she calls it's to notify you about a new case, a new unsub, a new victim.

So it's an understatement to say you're taken aback when you pick up the phone and she says, "Hey, Emily."

You suddenly realize how seldom you've been called by your first name.

"You want to go out?" she asks breezily, as if this is a regular occurrence. "With me and Garcia."

It says something about your social life (or lack thereof) when you're sitting at home watching TiVo'd reruns of Law & Order: SVU on a Saturday night.

"Sure," you tell her. Your abandoned bowl of Ben and Jerry's is melting as you speak, but already you're rifling through your closet and pulling out an outfit. "Where are we going?"

"Garcia knows this great little bar near your place," she says. "We'll swing by in fifteen minutes, 'kay?"

"Great! See you then."

You've already hung up before you remember you haven't told her your address. They must have thought to look it up beforehand, and a grin spreads across your face.

You don't know what that means yet, but you consider it an improvement.

It's been six weeks and you're winning them over, little by little.

But Aaron Hotchner still regards you like you're fresh out of the Academy, sometimes with that doubtful gaze, sometimes with that infuriating, tiny smirk. You can't shake the feeling that he's just anticipating your failure.

In the high school that is Quantico, Morgan is the jock, Reid is the geek, JJ is the homecoming queen, but he's the teacher—he's the one you need to impress. You've seen him smile maybe twice. You'll need to work hard to gain his approval.

One day after a particularly gruesome case, you're getting coffee in the break room when Hotch walks by, deep in conversation with another agent. You can't help but overhear what he's saying.

"Emily Prentiss? Maybe her mother got her here or maybe she didn't, but all I care about is that she's a damn good agent."

It's only then that you finally feel you belong.

In a year you will have exonerated Derek Morgan, rescued Dr. Reid, and lost Agent Gideon.

In two years you will have met SSA David Rossi, caught Garcia's shooter, and resigned to save Aaron Hotchner.

In three years you will have mourned a friend, stood up for Agent Todd, and held Jennifer Jareau's newborn son.

And you will wonder how you could ever live without them.

Time discovers truth.

- Seneca