This is partially because it's Paget's last season. She's slated to leave after her 10-13 episodes (or at least that was the last rumour I heard).

It's also AU. Right off the bat. You'll see. It'll smack you in the face.



"I'm leaving."

Two words. Simple. Straight forward. To the point.

And they dumped his world on it's head.

Emily Prentiss was leaving the BAU, and Aaron Hotchner wasn't quite sure what to do about it.

"You're what?"

A ghost of a smile flitted across her face, both because his shock was such a rarity and because that kind of response was so informal that the Unit Chief of the BAU would never use it. Yet here she was, standing in front of his desk, saying words she'd been thinking for months and his jaw was pretty much on the floor.

"I'm leaving, Hotch."

He found himself clearing his throat. "Leaving."



Because that was the crux of the matter. Emily, he knew, had worked damn hard to get into the BAU. She'd told him it was the only place she wanted to be. Heck, she'd let him drag her back into the fray when she'd already tendered her resignation. The BAU was just as much a part of her life and blood as it was his.

So why on earth was she leaving it all behind?

For Emily, the answer had more twists and turns than she could explain to him. For one thing, it was time. She loved the BAU, loved the challenge, loved the pressure, but the things they saw… She needed a reprieve and she knew not even a long vacation of her banked sick days was going to help. She needed to get out, to do something else. She needed a chance to remember the good things about the world and even though she was leaving her surrogate family, they weren't enough to keep her going.

"It's time," she replied, echoing her own thoughts. She offered him a smile. "I got the chance to do my dream job. How many people can say that?"

Hotch found himself swallowing thickly. After Haley left, and his life essentially started falling apart around his ears, Emily had been the one to hold him up, to push him further, to remind him he had a son and a job and people who cared, even if he didn't think so. She'd been there for him after the explosion in New York, standing beside him at Kate's funeral close enough for their arms to touch while she gripped JJ's hand on her other side. And then Foyet…

"So that's it?"

"That's it." Her voice was soft, lilting and her eyes actually sparkled.

Hotch folded his hands carefully. "What are you going to do?"

Emily pursed her lips. "Teach," she said finally. "They offered me an Academy position when I mentioned wanting to transfer. I have a friend in HR who pointed me in the right direction. My language skills and my history with the BAU speak for themselves."

He knew that. Emily had an exemplary record, and she was an agent he was very proud to say he'd had the chance to work with. But there was a big part of him that still felt a little… betrayed. "You didn't tell me."

They were friends, first and foremost. He told her things he'd told no one else, things he'd never really felt comfortable even telling Haley. She was an emergency contact for his son, a woman whom he trusted with the only thing left in his life. They talked and she'd never once mentioned a new job.

"I know," she replied, but there was no apology in her voice. "Could you have let me make the decision on my own?" She chuckled. "We both know you'd be able to seduce me back into the fold. The change is a good thing. No one pressured me, no one made me decide to leave. I've seen enough, Hotch. Enough death, enough blood, enough brutality… I need a change, but I love the Bureau. The Academy job is perfect."

And she would be perfect doing it, of that he had no doubt. But that didn't mean that the idea of not having her in his unit didn't bother him. There was a distinctly vulnerable part of him, the part that Emily and Jack saw, that wanted to ask her about him. How could she up and leave without a word, without a warning? He looked down at his folded hands. How could she leave him?

"And think of it this way," she'd continued, unaware of his internal turmoil. "I'm still only a few buildings over and when you guys are gone, Jessica doesn't have to watch Jack for weeks at a time. He can stay at home, even."

It wouldn't be the first time Emily watched over Jack for him and even he had to admit he kind of liked that idea. Emily, who'd lost her father at the tender age of ten, had been one of Jack's most solid rocks through the days after Haley's death. He was too young to fully comprehend what was going on, but Emily had been there for him when it didn't make sense to tell him it was going to be okay, that everything was going to turn out just fine.

His eyes came back up to meet hers, a million arguments on why she should stay flitting through her mind. But her eyes told so much. There was confidence there, a quiet contentment that told him more than words could that the decision has been truly and completely hers. There weren't as many shadows creeping behind those chocolate depths and he had to admit even some of the stress wrinkles they were all prone to were fading. But more than that, there was something else in her eyes and in her face, something deep and warm.

"You're sure?"

"I wouldn't be telling you if I wasn't sure." She leaned over his desk to rest a hand on his. "I want to do this. I need to do this."

He nodded. "Does the team know?"

"No," Emily answered shaking her head. "I needed to tell you first." He deserved that much.

He flipped his palm over and vaguely registered the surprise in her eyes as he squeezed her hand. "They're going to flip."

"They'll survive," she argued. "You always do. Just don't ride the new kid too hard, okay? You guys have this tendency of making the newbie prove themselves, even when they're damn good at what they do."

That got a quirk of the lips, the closest thing he'd give to a smile in the office.

"It's not the end of the world, Hotch," she told him, squeezing his hand. "This is a good thing."

And though he didn't know it at the time, Emily would prove to be very, very right.

I owe this to sienna, my dear friend and resident CM cheerleader who has been poking me for weeks about getting back into Criminal Minds. This is dedicated to you and all of the ideas you've thrown my way in the hopes that one sticks!

I have no idea about updates. Don't hold your breath for them though, okay? I don't want to be responsible for deaths because I can't get stuff up in time or as fast as I'd like. There will be more though, if that makes anyone feel better about the whole thing. It's just a matter of when, and the 'when' is going to be slow…

I'd appreciate your thoughts on this chapter though!