Spoilers: Oh, let's say everything through the current season. Except this past week's episode. Forget you saw that.
Author's Notes: I actually started, then abandoned this story last summer. I picked it back up at the beginning of the year and finished it last week. Think of her place in In Name & Blood.

I am grateful to smittywing for cheerleading and talking me over some hard parts, listening to me vent and telling me what was missing. Many, many thanks to smacky30 for the beta. And the cheerleading. And the general awesomeness. This wouldn't be here without her.


He's coming up from the wine cellar in the basement when he hears his cell phone ringing in the kitchen. Later, he'll replay the moment repeatedly in his mind's eye, see himself as though he's watching a movie, and he'll note he's on the fourth step from the top. iFour steps,/i he'll think and wonder on an endless loop. If he'd been on the landing, or even, maybe, the second step from the top, if it would have made a difference? If things would have turned out differently?

But right here, right now, he's on the fourth step from the top when he hears the ring. "Crap," he huffs, bolting for the kitchen and the counter where he'd laid his phone when he got home. He grabs for it just as the last ring fades and the display informs him he has one missed call. He puts down the bottle of wine he brought up and flips the phone open. Seeing it was a call from Emily, he dials her back immediately, but it goes straight to voicemail. Making a frustrated noise, he snaps the phone closed again, only to be alerted to a message.

"Hey..." He can't help the smile that touches his lips at the sound of her voice. "Hi...it's me...um, Emily." He loves how awkward she is, though it hurts him a little to think that after all this time she's not sure enough to know he'd know her voice. "I just wanted...something's come up, and I'm going to be a little later than I thought." Her voice lowers. "I hope I won't be long. I'll see you when I get there." There's a slight pause, then, "Bye."

"Damnit," he growls, tossing the phone back on the counter.

They'd made it in from twelve days of chasing a particularly nasty sexual sadist in Chicago early that afternoon. They'd all made a show of working on paperwork, but it was clear no one's heart was in it after such a grueling case in the Midwest. Hotch had told everyone to hit the door at five sharp with wishes for a good weekend, and Emily promised to meet Dave at his house after a quick trip home. For the last twelve days Dave has been looking forward to wrapping his arms around her, letting her hair stream through his fingers, pressing his face against her neck, and he's impatient with any further delay.

He pouts at the phone for awhile, then opens the wine and pours himself a healthy glass. Then he putters around the kitchen, chopping vegetables and pulling out ingredients, ready to make omelets once Emily arrives. It doesn't take long, so he pours himself a second glass of wine and contemplates what to do to pass the time. He's not in the mood for television, so he grabs the galley of his latest book, sits down in his chair in the great room and begins reading.

He wakes with a start, his heart is racing, and the house is too quiet. It's 2:14 am, he's still in his chair and he's alone. The kitchen is just as he left it, mushrooms, cheese, green peppers and onions all sitting in the counter in prep bowls, omelet pan at the ready, wine bottle corked with a second never touched glass beside it.

He feels like the only one in the house, but he makes himself check, taking the stairs two at a time up to the bedroom. The upstairs is dark, the master bedroom empty, king size bed neatly made just as it had been when he'd dropped his bag several hours ago. Racing back down the stairs he tells himself he fell asleep and missed her call telling him she was too tired to drive or whatever came up held her up too long to come over, but he knows he would have heard the phone.

His cell phone shows no missed calls, her Prius isn't in its place in his garage, nor is it in the driveway he notes as he calls her. Two rings and it rolls to voicemail.

"Emily. It's Dave. Call me. I'm worried."

He snaps the phone closed, grabs his keys and heads for his car.

Dave nearly wilts with relief when he sees her car in its usual spot in front of her brownstone; at least he can mark auto accident off the list of terrors and tragedies currently rolling through his mind like the credits at the end of a summer blockbuster. He's also fairly happy to see lights on in several of her windows. Probably fell asleep, just like I did, he thinks. He almost has himself convinced, except he knows she wouldn't sleep through her phone ringing any more than he would.

The knob is locked, but that's the default position whether she's home or away. The door pushes open as he turns the key in the knob, and he frowns. The deadbolt isn't locked, and that's not normal. Emily isn't fanatical, but she is careful, and the deadbolt is locked every time she leaves, at night when they're getting ready for bed and any time she's home alone.

There's no noise as he eases the door open, and he curses himself for leaving home so quickly and not getting his gun. "Em?" He calls cautiously. "Emily?" He eases himself into the hall and listens carefully. There's no answering call, no sound of movement, only the same quiet, the same stillness he'd felt at his house. Still, he doesn't know what's going on, and until he does, he's going to be careful. He can't help the racing of his heart or the acid roiling in his stomach, but being an FBI agent is so much a part of who he is that the switch from lover to agent is automatic.

It's not a big place, and the downstairs is easy to clear, though he notes her purse and keys on the breakfast bar with her phone beside them. In less than a minute Dave's pressed against the wall of the stairwell, calling out again, "Emily?" even though he's fairly sure he won't be receiving an answer.

The door at the top of the stairs is open, and the room beyond dark. The upstairs is basically one large bedroom with an adjoining bathroom, and Emily only closes the door when she's sleeping. When he's at the top of the stairs, he reaches through the door and flips on the overhead fixture, trying not to blink at the sudden, harsh burst of light. The bedroom is empty, as is the closet and the bathroom beyond. Her go-bag is unzipped, sitting on the brocade bench at the foot of her bed, several pieces of dirty laundry rolled up beside it. Her gun-safe is locked, so he pulls the key from the nightstand in the same drawer she'd kept the condoms when they'd first started sleeping together ("All of my safety devices in this drawer," she'd joked). Now, she's on the pill and the drawer holds a satin blindfold and a soft feathery thing she'd used to drive him insane once when she'd gotten him to agree to the blindfold and keeping his hands to himself. He picks up the key to the gun-safe and pauses when he sees his own handwriting on a piece of paper beneath. He picks it up, heart clenching a little when he recognizes it as the note he'd left the morning after their first night together. Emily he'd written, Don't panic. I've gone on a coffee run. You got your Masters specifically to be able to operate that futuristic coffee maker, didn't you? I've stolen your keys so you can't go anywhere (and to let myself back in). So, don't go anywhere. We'll talk. Or not. Dave. He'd returned with coffee and cinnamon rolls, and they'd stayed in bed all day. And though they'd done very little talking that day, they'd been together since.

Despite the circumstances, Dave feels a rush of fondness over the memory. Tenderly, he replaces the note and unlocks the gun-safe to find her service weapon inside. He scrubs a hand down his face. "Where are you?" He hears the frustration and worry in his voice and makes himself take a calming breath. Neither anger nor panic is going to help in this situation.

It's out of character for Emily, and he can't, at this moment, think of a reasonable or rational explanation. More than that, he knows something is wrong, but that won't be enough to convince anyone.

Stepping back, he makes himself take a look around, makes himself look with the eyes of an FBI agent. The only sign Emily had even been upstairs since she got home was the partially unpacked go-bag. He pictures her standing at the bench, pulling out the bag's contents, hair falling across her face. Why would she stop in the middle of unpacking? She said on the voicemail something had come up; she could have continued sorting through a phone call. A visitor then. If the doorbell rang, she'd head downstairs, turning the light off in the bedroom as she went. Dave does the same.

Walking to the front door, he stands, thinking. None of the locks show any sign of tampering or stress. "You let them in." Memories assail him; of being here with Emily, especially in the beginning, when they'd just been friends, from when they'd been more, but not enough that he had a key yet. He watches these scenes as if from a distance, letting time and his professional filter force the details to the surface.

He sees her standing in the hall, sees her close the door after he's walked in, sees her turn the deadbolt.

He remembers crowding her up against the door the first few times they'd slept together or, well, almost any time when he hadn't been able to touch her for a while, but in his memory the deadbolt always turns. In a hundred recollections, she moves down the hall to the main part of her place. Kitchen, breakfast bar, living room. He walks into the kitchen, eyes sweeping the counter-tops, looking with cop eyes, with profiler eyes, looking for some clue, something different. It's not until he reaches the far corner of the island that he hears the first crunch of glass under his shoe.

Freezing, he looks down, carefully lifting his foot.

It's a glass; one of Emily's drinking glasses, shattered in a puddle of water.

He reaches for his phone as he squats to study the shards. It would probably take anyone else in the world until the second or third ring to answer at three a.m., but after the first ring he hears, crisp and aware, "Hotchner."

"Aaron, it's Dave. Something—" His throat is suddenly thick, and he's aware his heart is beating way too fast. He swallows heavily. "Something's happened to Emily."

Hotch, thank God, doesn't ask questions on the phone, other than "Where are you?" He tells Dave not to touch anything and says he'll be there in forty-five minutes.

It's actually closer to thirty, and Dave's pretty damn grateful, because it's hard to stay in agent mode when there's so little to go on. His first urge, of course, is to tear the place apart looking for something, anything, that might give him a clue to where she is. But he knows, given the state he's in, that he's not seeing anything objectively, and he could miss something. So, after one last look around, he makes himself wait outside her door.

When Hotch gets there, in jeans and a pullover, he says, "Walk me through it."

Dave doesn't bother with a history; Hotch can figure it out, if he didn't already know. "She was supposed to come over, but she called and said something had come up and she'd be late. I fell asleep and when I woke up it was after two, and she wasn't there." He takes a shaky breath. He'd known from the first moment he woke something was wrong, and he wishes he'd been over-reacting. "She didn't answer her phone, so I came over. Her car's here, her phone and purse are here, but she's not." He runs a hand through his hair, thinking what else might be relevant. "Her gun is in the gun-safe and there's a broken glass on the kitchen floor."

"Did you ask any questions about what had come up?" Hotch's face is in its usual stoic expression, except his eyebrows seem more tightly drawn; the vertical lines that bracket the bridge of his nose seem deeper.

Dave shakes his head at himself; it's the kind of detail a witness would leave out. He pulls out his phone and dials his voicemail. "I didn't talk to her. I missed the call, but she left a message."

Silently, Hotch holds out his hand, and Dave gives him the phone. He watches as Hotch listens, and though his facial expression doesn't change, Dave can feel his worry.

When he hands Dave's phone back he nods toward Emily's door. "Show me." He doesn't comment when Dave uses his key, just follows him in and looks around.

Dave is unprepared for the sudden roll of anxiety through his stomach, the pinch of fear in the center of his chest as he watches Hotch look at the glass on the floor and push the buttons of her cellphone with a pen. "One missed call."

"Me. I called her when I woke up and realized she wasn't home." The use of the word is unconscious, and he only realizes he's used it when Hotch blinks. He wonders how Hotch would feel knowing it's accurate. She spends eight out of ten nights at his house when they're not on the road. And when she's not there, he's here.

When Hotch presses the button to View missed call and sees Rossi, he nods. "Any ideas?"

Wondering if his fear is evident in his expression, Dave shakes his head. "None."

"We'll have to report it." Hotch pinches his lower lip thoughtfully. "We can report through the police and hope for some professional courtesy as far as how quickly they'll open a file on it; it really depends on which detective we draw. If we go through the Bureau it'll be a priority, but they won't let our unit work the case." He levels a look at Dave. "Plus, there may be some professional consequences regarding any personal relationship you and Prentiss may or may not have."

"I don't give a fuck about consequences, professional or otherwise." Dave can hear the frayed edge of panic touching his words and makes himself stop and take a breath. "I just want to find her."

Nodding, Hotch lightly touches his shoulder. "I understand that, Dave. But would Emily feel the same way?"

Incredulous, Dave looks at him. "What?"

Hotch gestures around the room. "Say an old friend stopped by, and Emily cut herself on a glass getting the friend some water." Dave starts to protest, but Hotch holds up a hand. "The friend takes Emily to the emergency room for stitches. The ER is backed up, and it takes hours. Then Emily can't take what they gave her for pain on an empty stomach, so they go to a 24 hour place for a burger. How is Emily going to feel when she comes home to find another unit going over her place with a fine tooth comb? Not to mention that Kevin Lynch has broken down her finances for the last five years along with drawing up a list of all known associates for the past ten, and Erin Strauss will be transferring her to Organized Crime on Monday because the two of you chose to ignore the Bureau's fraternization policy."

It's only the thought of possibly be obscuring evidence that keeps Dave from punching the closest wall. "Fuck." He braces his arms against the granite countertop.

"Dave," Hotch says, a warning in his tone.

"My prints are all over the place, Aaron. Another set isn't going to make a difference. They're on the front door; they're on the shower wall. You'll find my toothbrush in the bathroom and my DNA on the sheets. A quarter of my clothes are here." He makes a fist and smacks it against the counter hard enough to send a jolt up through his elbow into his shoulder. "The thing that's not here is Emily, and I need to find her." He pushes away from the counter, frustration and anxiety balling in the center of his chest. "It's all wrong. There's something wrong."

His face softening slightly, Hotch looks down at her purse and phone. "You're right, it does feel off. But-"

Throwing up his hands, Dave growls. "I know! I know! There could still be a logical explanation." He closes his eyes in frustration. "But I can't just stand here and do nothing." He opens his eyes and meets Hotch's gaze. "She's in trouble, Aaron. I know it."

Hotch looks at his watch. "It's almost four; we can probably push this on our own until nine, maybe ten. I'll call Morgan and Reid, you call Garcia. Let's see what we can find before we have to report it."

It's not an answer. It's nowhere near a solution. But it's a step, it's action, it's something, and Dave feels a small easing of the apprehension sitting like a brick in the middle of his chest. "Thank you, Aaron."

His phone already pressed to his ear, Hotch gives a grim nod. "Let's find her."

Two hours later. and it's almost like a typical roundtable, except Emily's not there to throw out her ideas and the table is her coffee table in her living room. Morgan and Reid had shown up within forty minutes of Hotch making the call. and they'd started from the beginning; walking through her home, examining the locks, studying the shattered glass, looking for signs of forced entry, looking for traces of blood.

On screen, Garcia, never known for her poker face, is wearing the same expression of worry Dave had seen her wearing shortly before Haley Hotchner's death. The comparison is not at all comforting, though Dave knows no matter how Garcia feels it's not going to stop her from doing the best she can. In the case of the rest of the team, dispassion seems to help them do their jobs better, but in Garcia's case he thinks passion might drive her harder. Still, passionate or dispassionate, this team is the one he trusts the most to find Emily.

"None of the hospitals have Emily registered, and no one matching her description has shown up as a Jane Doe, either." Garcia's hair is down and she's wearing a Stanford sweatshirt, but those are her only concessions to being pulled out of bed in the wee hours of a Saturday morning. She's fully made-up: lipstick, eyeliner and eye shadow perfectly applied as usual.

Hotch doesn't want to ask and neither does Reid. Dave won't ask, won't even think about asking. So it's Morgan who, voice subdued, poses the question Penelope hasn't thought of, and the rest of them don't want to contemplate. "Have you tried the morgue?"

The sound of her gasp through the laptop's speakers cuts through Dave, and he refuses to meet anyone's eyes. "No, God, no, I haven't checked the morgue." Garcia's tone is horrified. She takes a deep breath and begins speaking, her voice gaining strength and speed with every word. "And I'm not going to because Emily is not dead. Emily is...is...she's somewhere, and we have to find her. We are going to find her. But she is not dead. Do you understand me? Not. Dead."

Morgan looks pained, but he nods. However, Dave knows as soon as they end this call he will, with Hotch's unspoken blessing, slip outside, away from Dave, away from Reid, and call the morgue.

In the meantime, Hotch attempts to get Garcia back on task. "Of course she's not, Garcia." His voice is softer than they're used to, the same one Dave has heard him use with victim's family members, and there's a lesser part of Dave that sort of wants to punch him. Emily, he wants to say, is not a victim. But he knows Hotch is just offering comfort and trying to remind Garcia they need her help. "It's one of the first places the police will check; just to check it off the list."

Garcia takes a shaky breath then continues as if neither Hotch nor Morgan had spoken. "There's been no credit card activity since you left Chicago." They hear clicking, and even though the keyboard is out of sight, it's obvious Garcia is typing full speed. "I'm currently running a search on any cases Emily worked where the suspect is not in prison. I should have a complete list in a few minutes."

Reid jumps in. "We can probably eliminate quite a few of those if Emily didn't have significant contact with the suspect."

"Way ahead of you, Boy Wonder." Garcia briefly slides out of the frame, and then back in, holding up a sheaf of papers. "The list is currently being compiled by her participation based on the size of her report."

"Very good, Garcia." Hotch nods. "Reid, you and Morgan go back to the BAU and start looking at the files. Look at ones where Prentiss was a primary or had some contact with the unsub or even had a connection with one of the victims." He turns back to the screen. "Have you had any luck locating Ambassador Prentiss?"

"She's actually in the states," Garcia says, obviously glad to be able to give any sort of good news. "She's in New York and she's scheduled to speak at the United Nations on Monday."

"Can you get me a number for her, Garcia?" The worry lines on Hotch's face have not lessened, but they all seem to be less anxious with something to do.

"Sending it to your phone now," Garcia nods, typing.

"All right." His phone beeps with the incoming message. "Keep digging on the case files. Morgan and Reid will be there shortly, and I won't be far behind."

"Got it," she nods and her image blacks out.

"It doesn't make any sense," Morgan growls. "Emily isn't going to open her door and let someone she knows is a serial killer or a rapist into her home."

"There's no emotional distress in her voice on the voice mail," Reid says thoughtfully. "If it was someone she was afraid of she'd have sounded...she wouldn't have sounded so normal. Of course, if it was someone from a case, they wouldn't have let her use the phone."

"Who would she let in?" Hotch is looking at Dave.

"JJ. Garcia. Her mother." He names people he knows have been here since they've been seeing each other. "She has a few friends outside of work...but she usually meets them out for dinner or drinks."

"What if someone came to the door and said they needed her help? A kid or a single woman? Someone that appeared vulnerable?" Morgan runs a hand over his head, and Dave has an odd thought about five o'clock shadow. "Emily would want to help."

Reid shakes his head. "If someone were in immediate danger, she would help, but she wouldn't take time out to make a phone call. If they weren't in immediate danger, if she didn't know them, she wouldn't let them in."

Hotch looks at Dave, his usual gravitas present, but there's something else, too: wariness, caution.

"Whatever it is spit it out, Aaron." He doesn't mean to sound quite so impatient, but every minute that ticks by without Emily walking through her front door and asking what the Hell is going on it's becoming more and more obvious that the some other explanation theory is falling by the wayside. Someone has taken her. Knowing the kind of people they deal with, knowing the kind of things those people are capable of, knowing one of them may have Emily, makes him sick.

"You'll be a suspect." The statement is as bald as Morgan.

Dave keeps his face from reflecting the flash of anger that flares in his stomach. He simply nods. "I know."

Morgan looks at him, assessing his demeanor, cataloging his expression as he asks. "Could she be seeing someone else?"

Dave almost wants to laugh. "No."

"You seem awfully certain." Dave recognizes Morgan's tone; he's trying to wind him up, to get him to snap, to get him to reveal some hidden emotion, some secret.

Wearily, Dave rubs his eyes then looks at Morgan. "I get that it must piss you off that two of your colleagues have been having a relationship under your nose when you are one of the Bureau's top profilers. I get that your ego is wounded that you didn't see it and maybe your feelings are hurt that we didn't trust you-" He looks at Hotch and Reid, who won't meet his eyes. "-Any of you enough to let you know we were seeing each other. But it wasn't about trust, or even really about privacy. It was about keeping work and home as separate as we possibly could, for as long as we possibly could."

"Rossi-" Morgan starts, but Dave holds up a hand. He can't lose his temper, he needs to remember he needs them; he needs to remember they care about Emily too.

"We're profilers, too. We know what you're looking for, we know what to hide. So, yeah, I get your pride is stinging." Dave takes a deep breath. "But don't forget for one minute, just because you didn't know this doesn't mean you don't know us. For all the times we've declared we don't profile each other, it's all we do. We know which cases are going to hit each of us the hardest, and we know why."

He leans back and looks Morgan straight in the eye, not holding anything back, not hiding anything. "Emily would not cheat. You know that." He tries to make his voice firm without making it aggressive. "We are in a serious, committed relationship." There's a small voice inside his head that questions the use of the word "committed". They are exclusive, certainly, but they haven't talked about commitment. He's not a fool; he's aware of Emily's age and her desire to have a family. He's pretty sure neither of them started this with an eye towards the future, but as time went on it became more than sex, more than stress relief. It became a relationship. Selfishly, he's been enjoying that without addressing the harder questions. "I would never hurt her. And you know that, too."

Morgan looks an odd combination of frustrated and chastised, but he nods as he stands. "Yeah, I do."

He and Reid leave for Quantico, leaving Hotch and Dave sitting in Emily's living room, a thick silence settling between them.

If Hotch wants to play poker he's welcome to, but Dave has more important things to do. "We've been together about a year and a half." Unthinking, he runs the edge of his boot against the leg of Emily's coffee table. He doesn't say how they'd gotten even closer in the days after George Foyet attacked Hotch, how the nights spent working together to keep up with Hotch's paperwork and brainstorming how to get Foyet had turned in to sharing dinner and that had eventually turned in to sharing a bed and that, in turn, turned in to sharing a life.

"I've occasionally had suspicions," Hotch confirms. Dave quirks an eyebrow at him, but he just shakes his head. "It was easier not to deal with it. If either of you ever looked like it was impacting your performance I would have asked some questions."

"Where is she, Aaron?" Even he can hear the anguish in his voice.

"I don't know, Dave. I don't know." Leaning forward, Hotch rests his elbows on his knees hands clasped loosely between his legs. "I think we need to contact her mother and see if she's heard from Emily."

Dave almost wants to object, to say that Emily would call him before she'd call her mother, but since he is completely in the dark, and far from dispassionate, he knows he needs to let Hotch call the shots. While Hotch can't be completely objective, he's far closer than Dave is. For what may be the thousandth time since he'd awakened alone in his chair, Dave offers a prayer, this one a promise to the Almighty that if he gets Emily back safe, he will be far more compassionate and understanding to victims' families.

He nods at Hotch. "Yeah, you should call her."

Looking doubtful for just a moment, Hotch contemplates the phone in his hand. "Would you...do you think the Ambassador would rather hear from you?"

Scrubbing his hand down his face, Dave shakes his head. "We haven't met."

Eyebrows raised slightly, Hotch looks at him as if to say, Eighteen months and you haven't met her mother?

"Between the Ambassador's posting and my book tours, we haven't been in town at the same time." It sounds lame, even to him. The truth is neither he nor Emily have pushed meeting each others' families. In his case, he's absolutely sure the Ambassador will find him objectionable, and he's been loathe to introduce iyour mother can't stand me/i conflict into the relationship. Emily, for her part, hasn't made any noises about him meeting her parents or wanting to meet his family. He frowns and wonders why. The same niggling voice asks him why, if they weren't planning on a more permanent arrangement, she would introduce him to her mother? Why would she meet his family?

Hotch checks the time and Dave does the same; it's just after six, too early for a phone call to be anything but alarming, but it is necessary. Dave watches him dial and wills Emily to somehow be in her mother's company.

"Ambassador Prentiss? This is Aaron Hotchner. I apologize for the hour." There's a pause and Hotch's mouth tightens a little more. "Actually, I was hoping you could shed some light on that for me."

It's a torturous ten minutes listening to the one sided conversation. It's obvious the Ambassador hasn't heard from Emily, and it's equally evident she wants to know what the Hell is going on.

By the time Hotch ends the call, Dave is aware of two things: he will very shortly be meeting Emily's mother and it's time to call in help. "Do you want to call Strauss or do you want me to?"

There's the smallest flicker of surprise across Hotch's features before he answers, "I'll do it."

At this point, Dave really doesn't care about his career. When Emily is back safe and sound, he'll gladly resign or re-retire so she doesn't have to leave the BAU, but he's also aware Hotch is going to be held accountable as well. Hopefully, just a slap on the wrist, but if it's worse, well, Dave will figure that out if it happens. He's aware they could minimize political ramifications for everyone if they just stopped seeing each other, but that's not an option, not as far as he's concerned. He's pretty sure Emily will feel the same way, but he really doesn't have time to think about that right now.

Right now, all that matters is Emily and getting her back.

"Chief Strauss? Aaron Hotchner. Yes, ma'am, I apologize, but we have a situation."

"How can you be sure she isn't seeing someone else?" Tom Donoghue is a good agent and a good guy, but he's out of his depth right now, Dave thinks. He can't seem to decide if he's interviewing or interrogating Dave, and they are getting absolutely nowhere. Only the fact that Dave is sure Hotch is on the other side of the glass is allowing him to retain any semblance of patience.

It is the nicest of the interview rooms, and he's got both a cup of coffee and a bottle of water in front of him, so it's not a real grilling. But it's also not in one of the conference rooms or somebody's office, either.

"Look, Tom." Dave rubs the heels of his hands against his eyes and says a prayer for Emily and that he retain what grip on common sense he has left. "I understand any time someone goes missing their significant other is the number one suspect." He moves his hands down to the table and interlaces his fingers. "I also know if I don't cooperate with every possible question you can come up with, it will look suspicious. Now," Dave looks up, makes sure he has eye contact and Agent Donoghue's full attention. "I don't give a rat's ass if you think I'm a suspect or that I'm behaving suspiciously. But I know that if you have any suspicions about me regarding why Emily Prentiss is missing, it will direct manpower and resources away from other avenues and I don't want that, because I need for her to be found, sooner rather than later."

He lifts his hands slowly. "I am reaching in to my pocket, okay?" His voice is so slow and cautious that he knows it's bordering on sarcastic, but he doesn't want any misunderstandings. Tom Donoghue nods and Dave reaches into his pocket, pulls out his keys and holds them up, one at a time. "This is my house key; I don't think I set the alarm when I left but if I did the code is 1012. This is the key to the truck. It's in the garage at home. This is the key to the Jag; it's in my usual space in the parking garage. Have a forensics team go over everything with a fine tooth comb. You will find evidence of Emily, but you won't find any evidence of foul play. Go ahead and get it done so you can rule me out as a suspect."

Mouth slightly agape, Donoghue is looking at the ring of keys as Dave continues. "And go on and ask whatever questions you need to, but maybe ask yourself a few. Like, if I'm the one that took Emily. or did her some harm, why would I report her missing less than ten hours after she was seen by no less than three dozen Federal agents? Why wouldn't I take the weekend to cover my tracks when the soonest someone, other than me, is going to miss Emily is Monday."

Donoghue clears his throat. "Look, Agent Rossi, I-"

Dave holds up his hand again and shakes his head. "Tom, I get it. I know you're doing your job. But please, God, please, tell me you're the only one wasting time on me." Scrubbing a hand down his face, he sighs. "Please tell me there are a dozen other agents out there looking for her while they're making you do this dog and pony show."

The door opens then and Assistant Director Paulson enters the room. "You can go, Agent Donoghue."

John Paulson seats himself across from Dave, maintaining eye contact for the few minutes it takes Tom Donoghue to gather his things and leave. At the click of the door, Paulson speaks. "This is bad business, Dave. We've got an agent who is also the daughter of a United States Ambassador missing."

Knowing full well the show of privacy is just that, a show, Dave wonders how many people are on the other side of the glass at this point. "John, I know how bad this is, more than any of you." He doesn't know what pain or fear is in his face that makes the A.D. look away, but he knows what he's feeling: pained, frightened, out of control.

"Is there anything you can think of that might help us locate Emily Prentiss?"

Wanting to scream something obscene about how he would have already fucking told them if he did, Dave just shakes his head. "I've told you everything I can think of."

Paulson nods. "At this point, we're thinking it's either something from an old case or possibly someone trying to get to the Ambassador."

Dave feels the knot in the middle of his chest tighten. He hadn't even considered political intrigue.

Taking a deep breath, he blinks away a sudden wave of nausea.

The A.D. doesn't seem to notice as he continues. "I've got the State Department all over my ass, the Ambassador just arrived, the NSA is on their way over, and I just had my ass handed to me by the Secretary of State." Finally, seeming to notice the lack of response from Dave, Paulson looks over, and his expression turns regretful. "And I'm guessing you really don't give a flying fuck where my ass is or who handed it to me last."

Slowly, Dave shakes his head and reaches for the water bottle in front of him. "Not really, no." He takes a long pull from the water bottle

"For what it's worth, I'm sorry." Paulson leans back in his chair.

Dave shrugs and begins worrying the loosened corner of the water bottle's label. "I just want to find her." He swallows heavily. "I want to know she's safe."

"I understand." Paulson's tone is sympathetic. "I think that's what everyone wants."

It's hard not to contemplate quantifying want, useless to even consider it. But Dave knows no matter who wants Emily found safely, he wants it more, with the possible exception of her mother, and he's not so sure his need to know Emily is alive and safe isn't greater even than hers.

Does Emily know? he asks himself. Is there any way Emily could even fathom the depth of his feeling for her?

The A.D. clears his throat. "The Ambassador would like to see you."

Taking in a shaky breath, Dave nods. "Yeah." He stands, tolerates the comforting hand on his shoulder with something like equanimity then heads upstairs.

His assumption is the Ambassador will be ensconced in Hotch's office or monitoring everything from the round table in the conference room. Instead, when he pushes through the glass doors of the unit, he sees a dark head at Emily's desk, and his heart stops, then stutters into thunder before he realizes Elizabeth Prentiss is sitting in Emily's chair, palms splayed across the desk's surface. "I never understood why she wanted to join the FBI at all, much less join the BAU." She hasn't looked up, though she is obviously aware of his approach.

The bullpen is mostly deserted. At least the desk part of the job is nine to five, even if the rest of it is twenty-four seven. Reid and Morgan are, no doubt, either in the conference room or in Garcia's lair. The team officially assigned to Emily's case is from Missing Persons, two floors down. The energy of the room feels different; slower, darker, sadder. It's different even from the feel of the empty early morning when there is a feeling of anticipation and expectation. Now there is the feeling as if what was to happen is over, opportunities overlooked, chances missed.

"I've never asked her," he answers quietly.

"We'll have to do that, then." Elizabeth turns Emily's desk chair so she's facing him. She looks the way he's always seen her, on the news or in photographs: elegant, composed, poised. But he thinks it wouldn't take a profiler to see the tension riding across her shoulders, or the way worry has tightened her mouth. "When she gets back the two of you must come to dinner, and she will have to tell us both why she chose the FBI."

Despite his own tension and worry, Dave feels the pinched muscles between his brows relax a little. "I'll look forward to it." He sees Emily do the same thing so often, pretend things are fine when the world is falling apart, try to find something good, something to look forward to when everything around her has gone to Hell.

The Ambassador stands, extending her hand. "Elizabeth Prentiss."

"David Rossi."

He has the odd urge to kiss her hand instead of shake it, but of course he doesn't. Her grip is firm and sure, her gaze is frankly assessing.

"Are you merely sleeping with my daughter or does it go deeper than that?"

Obviously the Ambassador doesn't deal with everything with diplomacy. He's heard Emily talk about her mother's professional style being iron fist in a velvet glove, and that's obviously what he's getting, sans velvet, sans glove and this fist goes straight to his solar plexus.

If she'd asked the question any other day, he might have bristled or bitten back, but today his pride doesn't matter anymore than the Ambassador's lack of diplomacy. So, he answers the question as baldly as she'd asked it. "She is the most important thing in my life."

Elizabeth Prentiss studies his face intently for a moment, as though she's cataloging everything from the lines on his forehead to the fear he knows is in his eyes. What she sees must be enough, because she nods and puts her hand on his arm. "Mine, as well."

TBC..