"Haley, you need to take Jack and get out of here. Now!" Aaron Hotchner commanded in hushed voice to his ex-wife. This is not supposed to happen. After two days on the job in Alexandria, VA, the team had uncovered the abduction site of the three murdered woman to be a small park on the outskirts of the town. He was taking women randomly from the same largely populated park, blitzing them from behind and dragging them off into the dense forest before bludgeoning them to death.
If the unsub stuck to his schedule, he would be picking another victim from the park in any minute. But if they wanted to catch this guy and go undetected, they couldn't just waltz in with FBI issued Kevlar vest flashing badges and glocks. Everyone was dressed as normal, everyday civilians, with Rossi discretely looking over the top of the paper he was pretending to read on a bench, Reid doing the same with a book on the opposite side of the park. Morgan and Prentiss were in runner's clothes, Morgan running along the path in the woods and Prentiss running in the open area of the park looking out for any suspicious activity while blending in with the other joggers. Hotch was leaning against a tree off to the side, keeping an eye out for anyone who looked out of place. JJ was still back at the station, trying to keep the story and the location of the team as far away from the press as she possibly could.
Everyone had a small, almost invisible earpiece to keep in contact with each other. They also had top notch watches with tiny speakers for communication, all programmed by Garcia.
Everything was going according to plan until Hotch spotted three women and a four year old boy sitting in the grass on the outskirts of the park. Emily looked at Hotch from the path she was on, seeing how his eyes were trained on four individuals sitting on a blanket with a picnic basket. Her breath caught in her chest when she realized that she recognized the little boy running around in circles laughing from pictures in her boss and best friend's office. Hotch's tiny son, Jack Hotchner, and what appeared to be his mother, aunt and grandmother, were in the same park as a serial killer.
"Screw protocol Hotch – get them out of here," Emily breathed into the watch, knowing that he was internally fighting a battle between protecting his son and following bureau rules. Hotch nodded without taking his gaze off his son and walked off without a word.
She and Jack were supposed to go to her parents next weekend. As long as Haley, Jessica, and Rachel were here in the park, they were possible victims of this unidentified serial killer. It's not like Hotch still loved Haley, or if he did it wasn't like he used to. He still cared about her of course; how could he not if they spent over twenty years of their life together and had a son. He had a reputation for being a hard-ass, not for being cold-hearted. He wanted her to be safe and would protect her, especially in situations that would leave his son without a mother. If nothing else, he was doing this for his son. The team, especially Emily, knew that.
"Daddy!" Jack's cry for his father alerted Haley, her sister, and her mother of Hotch coming towards them.
"Aaron?" she said confused. "What are you doing here? You're supposed to be on a case, right?" Haley questioned.
"I am," he said solemnly, letting those words sink in for a few seconds before the women began to understand. Jessica and Rachel covered their mouths in horror while Haley pulled Jack into her arms.
"Haley, I need you to take Jack and get out of here. Now!" he said urgently. As the women gathered their things in a hurry, Hotch brought his watch up to his mouth, asking for an update.
"Prentiss?" Radio silence. "Prentiss?" he said again, looking around the park for the dark haired beauty. "Emily!" Worry and the beginnings of panic started to form on Hotch's face. Haley, Jessica, Rachel, and even Jack were looking at him with worry. "Does anyone have a visual on Emily?" Hotch keyed into his watch. Rossi immediately set his newspaper aside and quickly got off the bench, searching for the missing agent. "Hotch?" Reid said in a shaky tone.
"What do you got Reid?" When Reid didn't respond, he looked to the bench the genius had been occupying. Reid was standing on the path Emily had been jogging on, holding up two items for Hotch to see. Emily's earpiece and watch.
Haley watched Hotch sharply suck in deep breath and started to realize what was going on. Whoever they were looking for had taken Agent Prentiss
"Find her. Now," he growled into the watch, his voice like ice. "You guys need to leave. Now," he said turning to the women of his former life.
"Haley – NOW!" he said swiftly turning away and reaching for his gun. Before his hand got there, it, and his entire body froze when the unmistakable sound of a gunshot went through the park, scattering families, causing children to cry and parents to panic and run to their cars. Turning towards the sound across the park, Hotch finished the task of pulling his gun from the holster and pointing in towards the man pointing his own at anyone nearby.
"Where are the rest of you? Where are the other agents? SHOW ME WHERE YOU ARE!"
"Morgan, take along the back path and come up behind him. Six foot two white male, brown hear, green blazer. Quickly! Reid, take to the woods and find Emily. She can't be too far away. Rossi go left. I'm taking dead center. Everybody move now!" Hotch said into his watch before moving away from his son and towards the killer.
"Go," he simply stated to the women behind him. This time, they didn't hesitate to get as far away as they could from the park. Making it to the car, Haley let buckled Jack into his car seat, but stayed outside the car where she could see and hear what was going on.
"I just want to make sure everyone is okay. I only met Agent Prentiss once, but she was a good person," Haley explained to her sister and mother. Nodding, Rachel and Jessica started reading to Jack to distract him from the scene in front of him.
"Mommy? Did someone get hurted?" Jack asked innocently, looking up from the book his grandma had given him. He was too smart sometimes.
"I really hope not honey. I really hope not," she replied.
The unmistakable sound of a gun jolted Emily awake. She was face down in a small creek, confused, and had an extremely painful headache. Pushing herself up onto her elbows, she coughed up the water that had worked its way into her lungs. Where was she? Where was everyone else? The last thing she remembered was watching Hotch look at his ex, her family, and his son in the park and telling him to get them out. Everything after that was a mystery. Finally able to stand up on shaking legs, she stepped out of the creek and tried to take in her surroundings. The headache was now overpowering and the trees that were surrounding her were quickly moving back and forth. Reaching up behind her head, Emily felt a warm wetness and wasn't the water. Pulling her hand back, she saw it was saturated in blood. What happened?
The screams she heard in the distance brought her back to reality, and she struggled towards the chaos, reaching for the gun tucked into her waistband that wasn't there. This day was just getting better and better. The more she moved, the dizzier she became, and she had to reach out to hold onto tree trunks to stay upright. Soon the lights all around her were too bright and she lost footing for a final time, falling into unconsciousness.
Hotch raised his gun and took small steps towards the unsub. Reid had already made it back into the woods, and Hotch doubted Morgan was far behind.
"FBI! Drop your weapon now!" Hotch commanded in his no-nonsense scary tone.
"Hotch – the gun he's carrying, it's an FBI standard issued glock. He has Emily's gun," Rossi said into the earpiece in a slightly shaking voice. It took all of Hotch's self control not to break down. This really didn't look good for Emily. He was praying to hear Reid's voice over the speakers saying that he found her and that she was okay. He needed her to be okay. Who was going to leave a hot cup of coffee and a blueberry muffin whenever he got back from a meeting with Strauss, had to cut his already limited time with his son short, or just was having a bad day? Who was going to silently throw back a few strong drinks in the hotel bar without a word with him after a bad case? Who was going to convince him to celebrate with the team after a good one? Who would come up to his office late at night with take-out when she knew he wasn't planning on going home, then sit down across from him and pick up some of the extra files he had and work on those? Who would be there for him to talk to without pushing him, but letting him open up on his own? Who was going to make him…happy? He needed Emily Prentiss.
Pushing those thoughts aside, he willed himself to concentrate. Nothing good would come out of dwelling on it right now. "Drop your weapon!" he repeated, his voice hard and strong.
"NO! I'm not going back there! You can't make me go back there! I'll kill you! I'll kill you all like I killed her!" he screamed, raising his gun straight at Hotch. Simultaneously, both Rossi and Hotch fired their guns at the unsub. Rossi's hit the man's temple, Hotch's his heart. He wished he could truly say that he fired because the man pointed the gun at him, but he knew he did it out of vengeance. He shot him in the heart in exchange for him tearing away what was left of his. Looking over at Rossi, Hotch knew he did it for similar reasons. Emily is – was like a daughter to him.
Just then Morgan came running out of the woods. "Looks like I missed a piece of the action! What happened here?" he asked. He repeated his question a second later after not getting a response from either of the men. Morgan was starting to get worried. Hotch was in barely contained agony. That was obvious. His face fell when he realized that it probably had to do with Emily. They all had noticed the two growing closer, but let them think they didn't. Everyone picked up on the too long stares Hotch would give Emily when she first walked into the bull pin, or how Emily didn't even have to ask Hotch what kind of coffee or take-out food Hotch wanted – she just knew.
"What happened," he repeated again, holding his breath.
Rossi's next words tragically hung in the air. "He already killed her," he barely whispered into the silence.
"Guys! I see footprints! I think I'm getting close!" they heard Reid exclaim over the speakers. The look on each man's face was filled with pain. Reid had no idea. No one knew how to tell him. Listening to Reid talk about how close he was to saving her – saving a dead woman – was the most agonizing thing in the world. It was all it took for Hotch to break.
"She's dead Reid! She's dead! He already killed her! We were too late and now Emily is gon-" he broke off with a deep sob escaping through his chest, having to grab the tree next to him for support.
Deep in the forest, Reid stood frozen in place. No. It couldn't be true. Emily Prentiss was NOT dead. Reid started to run at a speed that probably rivaled Morgan's along the trail of footprints he had discovered to a small creek. Not twenty yards away lay the lifeless body of his co-worker, friend, surrogate sister and mother. No.
Rossi wanted to hit Hotch over the head for telling Reid like that, but he understood. Hotch, like Emily, had always kept his emotions bottled up inside, and he had just met his breaking point. No one expected him to be the in-control agent he was every day. At this moment, he didn't resemble a man who just lost his co-worker, or even man who lost his friend. He resembled a man who had just lost his best friend, the love of his life. And he knew Reid would know that.
Reid walked on shaky legs to where Emily was lying. He tried not to look at the bloody mess on the back of her head, but on her face. Brushing a strand of hair from her cheek (he knew she liked to always appear perfect) he let a tear slip down her face when he felt that she was still warm. They were just a little too late. It was his fault for not noticing she had gone missing sooner. His fault for not finding her sooner. Emily was dead and it was his fault.
In a violent rage, Morgan threw his closed fist at the closest tree, scraping the tops of his knuckles but feeling no pain. It was his responsibility to clear the back woods, to make sure the unsub had not snuck another victim back there while they scanned the park. He failed. He failed the team, Hotch, himself, and ultimately he failed Emily.
It was so soft, he was absolutely sure that he had imagined it. But then the next groan was a bit louder and that little bit of hope that had died the moment he saw her lying on the ground came back. Careful not to move her head to make the injuries worse, he put his slim fingers on the pulse point of her neck, praying to the God of every religion he had read about but never practiced until that moment that he would feel something. And he did.
"SHE'S ALIVE! GET AN AMBULANCE BACK HERE NOW! SHE HAS A PULSE! EMILY'S ALIVE!" he yelled into the watch. Hotch, Rossi, and Morgan immediately jumped into action, Rossi pulling out his phone to call 911, Morgan grabbed his to get Reid's GPS cooridinates from Garcia, and Hotch, sprinted at Olympic speed to the bush where Reid had disappeared into. Upon seeing pieces of paper impaled on tree branches every few feet, Hotch made a mental note to get a Reid an extra-special Christmas gift and a signed hardcover copy of whatever book he had used.
Sweat was starting to form on Hotch's forehead by the time he made it to where Reid was kneeling next to Emily. Reid shifted to allow Hotch room to gently lift her limp body up and turn her onto her back, resting her head on his leg while Reid still kept pressure on the wound with his scarf.
"Hey, Em. Come on, you've gotta hold on a little longer Emily. I'm right here," he said, taking her hand with one of his, the other hand lightly caressing her face. Reid felt like an intruder on their intimate moment, and turned his head to look away. He had never seen his boss act in such a caring, soft way, and was starting to wonder if Emily had before. He knew they were close, but how close? He was pretty sure he already knew the answer. Allowing his eyes to wander back to them, he saw Hotch raise Emily's limp hand to his lips and give it a soft but lingering kiss before stoking her cheek with his thumb.
They loved each other.