Author's Note: I want to thank our loyal readers that are sticking with us. I know my postings are sporadic these days and I apologize for it. I've received a couple of negative anonymous reviews over that very issue. Real life, especially mine, is complicated. Going from a loving two parent household to a single parent with a husband fighting in a dangerous war is difficult. I'm not asking for sympathy, just please be patient. I promise, I'm writing as fast as I can, but I want to bring you guys something of quality instead of garbage I wrote on the fly.
Also, we have two new open discussion threads. One is called, "Cyclones, Snowmageddon, and Egyptian Uprisings, OH MY!" Feel free to leave your best wishes for our friends in Australia and throughout the US suffering from the ravaging affects of Mother Nature.
And finally, as some of you may or may not know, there are some changes coming for our favorite show and we have opened a "Show Spoilers" thread for readers and authors to discuss their take on episodes and upcoming plotlines.
As ever, I don't own Criminal Minds.
*This is the conclusion in a trilogy. This story follows "The Story Behind the Story" and "Mischief Under the Mistletoe". I hope it doesn't disappoint!
Author's Note 2: This story is for tayababy. I hope it lives up to your expectations.
Owner of a Forever and Always Lonely Heart
Rain fell in torrents outside the plate glass window, slashing against the sill and filling the small office with a growing sense of grayness. Raising an eyebrow toward the rain droplets dribbling down the cold window pane, he had to admit it was fitting. The whole world was now filled with gray...and a sense of unreality.
Without her, his color was gone.
Thirty-six hours ago, she'd been here among them. She'd been sitting at her desk, snacking on her strawberry Twizzlers and Diet Coke. She'd still been doing ordinary, mundane things like filling out an endless stream of reports and teasing her two deskmates.
She'd still been doing less ordinary things - like sharing his bed - even though it broke every rule in the FBI handbook. With that lopsided grin of hers, she'd said that he had been worth the risk.
And if she'd only confided in him, he'd have proven that he'd have been willing to break any rule for him as well. But she hadn't.
In typical Prentiss style, she'd attempted to handle her own problems alone, choosing to face the Interpol criminal, the Iceman, on her own. No back-up. No additional firepower. Nothing.
And that son of a bitch had taken her life.
For the second time in his own existence, he was suffused with feelings of helplessness...of absolute vulnerability. He was naked to the pain. There was no immunity to it. No evading it. And it came in waves, often threatening to cripple him.
He wanted to be as angry as Dave and violently curse Emily's inability to trust in anyone other than herself. He'd give anything to feel betrayed as Reid and Morgan, her best friends, did. Hell, he'd settle for being able to cry bitter tears as Penelope Garcia had done since news had arrived regarding Emily's demise. Damn it, he even envied Seaver's incredulity at the whole situation. Or perhaps if he could channel JJ's inner turmoil...wondering if she'd missed something in one of her conversations to Emily that could have saved her friend's life. Maybe that could break the ice shards around his heart.
But instead, what he felt was numb. Chilled to his core and completely numb. He couldn't work up the energy for anger, the emotion ripping too much from his already drained reserves that had yet to be replenished. The tears of sadness had all already been cried when he'd buried Haley. In its place was just this bone deep weariness. That, and the knowledge that no matter how much he loved a woman, he couldn't protect her...not from the evils in the world…not from the danger that came from just being in his presence...and not from herself.
His eyes strayed to the open window of his office, his colleagues still sitting at their desks, each suffering in their own way - sans Emily, of course. Every few moments a different pair of eyes would travel toward her desk as if expecting her to magically reappear.
But, he, above anyone, knew that was never going to happen. Identifying her body...walking into that frigid morgue as an attendant had slowly pulled the sheet away from her body…would be forever etched in his memory. A single kill shot to the center of her forehead...such a little wound against her flesh...had ended her life.
An execution shot.
She'd never stood a chance against this mysterious monster.
Interpol had been stingy with their information, per the usual. But, between Strauss and Dave and their many connections and JJ's new lines of communication open to her at the Department of Defense, he knew they'd have the information needed to pursue the monster that had stolen Emily's life soon.
They'd have justice. She'd have justice.
He'd have justice. Already he felt himself becoming consumed by the bloodlust he hadn't experienced since killing George Foyet. Soon, he knew all that would matter was the hunt...and then...the kill.
Because, whether he'd ever told her or not, he had loved her.
It had been his best kept secret. From her to his closest friends. But that information, while undisclosed to anyone, fueled him, powered his internal struggle. It gave him strength.
He couldn't bring her back to them. He couldn't take her place.
But he could give her justice. And that would become his battle cry. His reason for eating, sleeping...breathing.
And until the ghost known as the Iceman was brought into the light and held accountable for his crime, none of them would rest.
Least of all him.
Drawing in a deep breath as he pulled open the center drawer of his desk, he drew out a picture from the recesses. Touching it lightly, he imagined the soft feel of her flushed skin beneath his fingertips. He could hear her soft sighs of pleasure still whispering against his ear. And if he concentrated really hard, he could still feel her lithe arms wrapped around him, her heartbeat pulsing against his.
"Oh, Emily," he whispered shakily, his finger trailing against the photograph taken just weeks earlier when she, Jack and he had shared a rare outing to the public park by his apartment. She'd framed the picture and given it to him the day before she'd...before she'd...been taken.
She'd known he'd never be able to freely display it and she'd understood. But he'd never appreciated a gift more. Especially now. How many times had he pulled this simple memory out? How many times had he allowed himself to draw strength from her smile? How many times had he let himself fall back into the past for just a bare moment in order to find the power to face the future?
"I love you," he whispered to her smiling face, his heart aching with loneliness. "I'll find him. And we'll make him pay."
And if it was the last thing he did, he would keep that promise. He meant it from the bottom of his now empty, aching heart.
Dedicated to my husband and all our heroes fighting overseas!