He never got to say goodbye.

That's all he can think about, all he can ever picture in his mind. The last time he'd seen her was during the first major Doyle briefing, surrounded by unfamiliar law enforcement officials and random FBI acquaintances. He'd shot her a look during the proceedings, concerned about her sudden emotional withdrawal from the team, but when he'd turned back towards where he knew she had been standing, all he saw was a gap in the crowd and the door quietly swinging back into place.

The night after the hospital, as he lies in bed, consumed by grief and doubt, all he can remember is her in the bullpen, startling him out of his reverie. He tells her he's concerned, and that he's noticed her fingernails are getting dangerously short; she, meanwhile, surprises him by inquiring after his health, and not just as a distraction either. All he can think about now is the warmth in her eyes, the concern buried within them, as he tells her about his headaches and how he's worried that the rest of the team will treat him differently when they find out. How trivial that seems now, how insignificant. As he had continued to jabber on about the throbbing of his temples and the pain behind his eyes, all the while she had been caught in a – the – battle for her life.

What did that say about him as a profiler that he hadn't really, truly noticed what was going on?

Morgan told him, after the hospital but before the funeral, that she had been strong, that she had squeezed his hand tight and kept on fighting. In the ambulance, on the way to County General, Morgan told him that he'd whispered words of encouragement in her ear the whole way there, urging her to just stay awake, to just keep breathing, to just stay with him, in the here and the now. Her hand had clutched onto his and had never let go, not even when they arrived at the emergency room and had to eventually pry Morgan's fingers away. Even with his hand gone, her fingers stayed in place, clutching at the air like it was her last and only lifeline.

The morning after, he'd woken up and for the briefest of moments everything had been right with the world. The late winter morning sun was visible through his bedroom window, the light warming up his bedroom and casting a comforting glow throughout the premises. He sighed, happy. But then a shadow passed over his mind and over his heart, and he suddenly remembered everything that had happened in an instant, as if a flip had been switched off in his brain and all of a sudden the world had painfully begun to crash down around him again, once more. I never got a chance to say goodbye, he thinks to himself, and the pain that that thought causes him is enough to send him crashing into the bathroom, keeping his stomach's contents under control long enough to make it to the toilet bowl.

The day of the funeral came suddenly and without warning. He'd called JJ in the middle of the night, informing her that he had nothing appropriate to wear and that he obviously would not be able to attend. When she'd arrived twenty minutes later, she found him curled up on the couch, crying softly to himself. She'd thought about coaxing him back to his own room, but when she looked down at him in such a state she knew she couldn't do it, so she'd simply sat down next to him, pulled his head into her lap, and stroked his hair until he fell asleep in her arms.

The next day, he finds himself surrounded mostly by strangers, diplomats and politicians and bureaucrats, all friends of Emily's mother. He judges them, albeit guiltily, because they didn't really know Emily at all, did they? No one really did, he supposed. She was just one of those people who come into your life and leave it just as quickly, there one minute and gone the next. When they file up to take a hold of the coffin, he fights to keep his legs from shaking, trying hard to mask his anxiety and his pain. As he and the other pall bearers make their way slowly down to the crowd and the priest gathered before them, he can't help but think about the fact that the dead body of one of his best friends is mere inches from him, yet he is not able to see her face. He won't ever be allowed to see her face again, to see her laugh, to see her growl in frustration or frown in consternation. All he has now is his memory, his painfully precise and eternal memory, keeping her alive in his mind forever.

As he places his rose on the coffin, all he can think about is how he never got to say goodbye. He never got to hold her hand one last time, never got to whisper in her ear to tell her how much she means to me, how much he needs her in his life, and how proud he is to call her his friend. He never got to tell her that he loved her and still loves her, that she was a part of his family, and that she will be with him forever.

I never got a chance to say goodbye...

She never got a chance to say goodbye.

She knows she couldn't have, that the whole operation would have been for naught had she been able to hug each of them individually and tell them that it was all going to be okay, she was safe and so were they. To stay alive, she had to disappear, had to run across the ocean and become someone. Just like Lauren Reynolds had died, so had Emily Prentiss and that was something that she could not change.

And yet...

She wishes she could have told them individually how much she loved them, how much they meant to her, how much she thought about them every day and how much she willed the universe to keep them safe. She wishes she could tell Rossi and Morgan that she takes their strength with her, that it guides her through the most difficult days and keeps her alive. She wishes she could tell Garcia that she keeps her empathy and her compassion close, and that it inspires her to enjoy every day, no matter what. Most of all, she wishes she could tell Spencer that she misses their banter, their games of chess and poker, and that she keeps his kindness and his innocence close to her heart, preventing her from becoming jaded with the state of her world.

She trusts JJ and Hotch with her life, and she knows they made the right decision to keep the others in the dark. But she still wishes she had gotten the chance to say goodbye...