There was one last time when they were happy. Except they weren't.
They weren't because they were working their asses off at getting two psychopaths to talk. Then, they were happy because their victim was found alive. It had been a miracle, after surviving three days in shark-infested waters.
They were working together for a common goal. They were determined to get this positive result, and they got it. And then, the bottom had fallen out of their world. JJ had left. Now, Prentiss is gone, with even less warning.
Maybe they weren't happy. But they were together.
That was something.
JJ takes a steadying breath. She walks out of the room slowly, because they need time to get Emily the hell out of here. JJ takes long side-journeys. She travels up the elevator to the oncology unit. The pediatric wing. The ICU. She flashes her credentials at each new place and they let her through, while JJ absorbs the sadness. The fear. The anguish.
She remembers Emily's face, pale and tight. Hears Emily's words:
"I know you can't tell them I love them…but just…if there's a way to make them understand that…"
"I'll see you in a few days," she promises, and squeezes Emily's hand.
Finally, she steps off the elevator again. Goes to the room where her team is waiting. Tears are streaming down her cheeks. They are real. A product of seeing little children without hair, mothers without hope…a product, too, of seeing a friend and knowing she will leave. Knowing JJ will always be afraid for her.
She has always known that her job had a basis in lying but she never imagined she would have to do this.
She opens her mouth. She tells them what she has to.
When Spencer tries to push past her, JJ stops him. She embraces him. She holds onto him and tries to impart to him Emily's wish. She squeezes her eyes shut and wills him to know it:
Emily loves you.
Ashley can't breathe. This can't be real. The FBI is supposed to save lives. They are supposed to help people. She is not naïve enough to believe that this always happens. You could not grow up the way she did and afford to live with such illusions. It's just that this is so close to home. It's just that she honestly thought they would catch Doyle.
This truth sits inside her. Cuts her from the inside, like shattered glass. She can't breathe. She cannot see clearly. All around her are colors, not people. Swirls of indefinable forms. Blurs that have no substance. She stares straight down at the blackness of her pants.
It isn't true. Is it?
She glances around for confirmation. Rossi is beside her, though all she sees is a mess of muted tones. She hears a strange sound. He sniffs. His voice breaks.
And just like that she knows.
And just like that, the world is black and white.
"She never made it off the table."
The news breaks his heart, even though he knows it is not the truth. JJ is so good at her job that she should get an Emmy in addition to all the benefits of her promotion, but a place, still, in the BAU with all of them.
He wonders where she goes to deliver such news. Such a lie. Where does she go to access the kind of pain on her face? The tears. The raw anguish. He watches her carefully. Measures her. In order for a lie to be effective, it has to be believed. There can be no doubt. So, Hotch grieves the tangible loss of Prentiss as a part of their team, and then meets JJ on the other side of a set of doors.
"Well?" he says.
"She made it on the plane."
He nods shortly.
Emily is safe, but away from them. Chased out of her own country by a lunatic, while Ian Doyle remains uncaught.
It's unjust. But it's the job.
Rossi is not sure how they will move on, but he knows they will. When you see as much as he has for as long as he has been alive, these things are simply facts. If nothing else, they will move on because they have to. Because killers don't take sick days or days dedicated to family emergencies or grief.
Killers will not stop so Rossi knows they can't either. When one unsub is caught there will be another, and another, followed by another… And yes, while there will always be people available to take their places when that day comes, Rossi feels certain, that day is not today.
So, he looks at what's in front of him. Tries to memorize each detail. Tries to focus on the job at hand.
Time to catch an unsub.
Morgan needs this to stop. This feeling. This anger. This betrayal. This hurt. When he least expects it, the feelings are there, bubbling to the surface. The fact of the matter is, he can't afford to be distracted by feelings right now. Besides, he doesn't like how emotions make him feel anyway. What's the point? Feeling the feeling won't make a situation better. Feeling all those things he's been feeling won't bring Prentiss back.
Still, he wishes. Still, he beats himself up. She could have trusted him. Of all people, she could have trusted him. Seriously. And now it's too late. She's just gone, and there's not a damn thing he can do about it.
So, he does what he can. He couldn't save Prentiss, but maybe, just maybe, he can feel a little better if he put more sons-of-bitches like Doyle away.
He looks at the picture of their latest unsub and Morgan pours all his anger toward this one cause. He hates the face staring back at him.
The latest bad guy or his own face reflected in the screen, it doesn't matter.
It's all the same to him.
Garcia can't stop staring at the picture on the wall. Morgan tells her not to, but she can't help it. Kevin tells her - a little bit sorry - that it is creepy. Staring will not bring her back. And Garcia knows this. Damn it, she does.
But that doesn't stop the yawning chasm of aching and sorrow in her chest. Things are bad enough around here. Things are bad enough without them losing people on their team...to decisions outside their control…to circumstances outside their knowledge. It hurts and she cannot just get over it.
She sits with JJ on a Tuesday morning.
Somehow, JJ understands the way no one else does. She sits quietly and listens as Garcia pours her heart out. JJ does not rush to fill the silence. She does not push for details Garcia is not ready to give, or healing she is not ready to embrace. It's too soon. She's too sad.
And she can't stop staring at that damn picture.
Everything is in shades of blue. Blue because he's sad. Blue because he misses her. Blue because he doesn't understand what happened. Why Emily did what she did. It does not make sense. Now she is just gone. Now there is just an Emily-shaped void that no one except her can possibly fill. Work feels empty. Home, emptier.
Spencer cannot concentrate. He cannot function to do the things he knows he needs to do. He can't even eat Garcia's cupcakes without thinking inexplicably of Emily, as she chastised not so long ago, "Again, with the dairy?"
That was back when they lost JJ. That loss hurts too, but not like this.
He goes to the cemetery. He doesn't bring flowers because they feel awkward in his arms and the smell gets to him. A fact floats through his head.
Emily wanted to be cremated. She didn't want this.
And yet, somehow, all the pieces don't quite fit together as they should. Somehow, he is sure this isn't right. A piece is out of place. It's obvious, but he still can't find it.
Instead, sinks to his knees. Instead, he leaves behind a piece of himself, so she will know he is not whole. He is not the same. He will not forget.
He drapes the blue scarf like a banner on the headstone. Then he turns, and walks away.
When the day breaks in Paris, she thinks of them. When night falls, she wonders what they are doing. They are her first thought. Her final thought. They are always with her.
She remembers with an intense clarity the feeling of that wooden stake piercing her side. She remembers the operation. Waking up. Seeing JJ briefly - too briefly - and being whisked off to catch a flight to somewhere. She had no idea where she was going, but figures France is as good as anywhere.
At least it's pretty here. At least she is alive.
But it is not enough. Because as she watches the sunrise, she remembers the oddest things… Garcia's last voice mail message. How JJ stared at her an extra second before she spoke, and again before she said good luck, like Emily's face was a map she needed to memorize. How Reid confided in her. How Derek begged her not to leave him… How will they go on without her?
Then, she shakes her head, clearing it of regret. Of shame. Of ego. They will go on without her. They will because it's more than what they do. It's who they are.
The tears feel strange on her face. The name Pascale still feels foreign in her mouth, but as she watches the sun come up, she imagines her friends - no, her family - watching that same sun rise over Quantico, Virginia.
And she smiles.