Title: The Oath
Fandom: Criminal Minds
Characters/Pairing: Emily Prentiss, Aaron Hotchner, others – gen/canon pairings (Garcia/Kevin, Prentiss/Doyle)
Summary: Aaron Hotchner made an oath to bring Emily Prentiss home alive. Fulfilling that oath just got a little bit harder.
Warnings: Spoilers to Lauren (6x18).
Author's Note: I'll admit, I've played a little fast and loose with some of the stuff they gave us in the episode, partially because it works better for the story, and partially because what they gave us is a little inconsistent. Take with a grain of salt.
Author's Note II: An unbelievable amount of thanks to yellowsmurf6 and microgirl8225, without whom this story would be just a blip on the horizon.
Eight years previously
Emily Prentiss set her coffee cup down at the circular table, and slumped into her chair. 'Big night last night?' Tsia asked, evidently amused at the situation.
'I hate you,' Emily mumbled into her folded arms. Yes, it had been a big night, but the fact that she had been working meant that it wasn't even a fun big night. At Clyde's behest, she had spent the night chatting up an arms dealer trying to get some intel for some case that he and Sean were looking into.
Unfortunately, the guy had kept buying her drinks – not enough to get her drunk, but enough that she was feeling like crap this morning.
'What did you manage to find out?' Clyde's voice asked, tapping Emily's shoulder. She looked up to find that he had left a bottle of water and a tiny foil packet of alka-seltzer in front of her.
'Thanks.' Emily took a long sip from the bottle before tearing open the packet. 'According to the guy I spoke to, the only person who knows anything about the real identity of "Valhalla" is another ex-IRA weapons dealer – Ian Doyle.' It was the same information she'd relayed to Clyde and Sean earlier that morning, but the British SIS agent still frowned.
'You've heard of Doyle?' Jeremy asked their team leader.
'He's a dangerous man,' Clyde told them bluntly. 'Smuggling weapons to terrorists.'
'Are we sure he's not Valhalla?' Emily queried.
'It has been suggested,' Clyde admitted. 'But I would prefer confirmation on his distributors before we bring him in anyway; if we play our cards right, we could cripple more than one supplier.'
'So what else do we know about Doyle?'
There was a clicking sound, and Doyle's face flashed on the projector screen. 'Ian Doyle, Irish-Catholic – parents were killed when he was a child; the records don't exactly spell it out, but it's evident that the deaths were IRA related.'
'What do we know about his time in the IRA?' Tsia asked.
'Frustratingly little,' Clyde said. 'Which makes believing that he's Valhalla much easier.'
'Something tells we're going to be investigating Doyle a little further before jumping to conclusions,' Emily sighed.
'You assume correctly, Agent Prentiss,' Clyde smirked. He didn't elaborate on the point straight away, instead moving to the next slide of the PowerPoint, which was filled entirely with photos of a young woman with dark blond hair.
'Is that his wife?'
'No. This is Lucy Cavanaugh – born in Boston, but immigrated to Northern Ireland with her father when she was ten. We believe that she and Doyle were romantically linked during his time with the IRA.'
'Is she IRA, too?'
'She was,' Clyde corrected. 'Right up until she was killed in an explosion four years ago.'
'You think our way in is to seduce him?' Emily asked, rubbing her eyes.
'You used to be Catholic, didn't you?' Clyde answered. Emily blinked twice, before she realized the temerity of what he was asking.
'"Used to be" being the operative phrase there.'
'But you know enough about it, to be able to fool Doyle.'
'So might anyone who spent a few hours studying it.'
Clyde gave her a look. Emily wasn't so sure why she was so resistant to the idea. She'd done undercover seductions before, but nothing as deep as this. Truth told, there was nothing in her life that would be overly affected by walking away from it for six months, except maybe the fact that someone would have to collect her mail for her.
'You can't fake Catholic guilt,' Clyde said. 'And we all know that experience is far more beneficial than a crash course.'
'Alright,' Emily conceded. It wasn't as though it was a lifetime thing. A few months.
She could do this.
What's the worst that could happen?
Hotch was down the hallway from the Visitor's Lounge, attempting to negotiate with the coffee vending machine when JJ approached him. The machine had given him white, instead of black, and no amount of thumping was going to change that fact.
JJ took a breath, and Hotch immediately turned his attention away from the machine. 'How is she?'
JJ looked around furtively, before answering. 'Emily's out of surgery – she should be fine.'
Hotch sighed, but JJ's expression was not one of relief. It was one of…guilt.
'Doyle's still out there,' JJ reminded him.
'We can make sure he doesn't come after her, but that means…'
Hotch nodded. He knew what it meant. Emily Prentiss was going to die on that operating table.
'Is Emily lucid yet?'
'Not yet,' JJ shook her head. 'I need to run it by her, before we make anything official, but given the circumstances, I don't imagine she'll have any objection.'
Given the circumstances.
Ian Doyle would come after everyone that Emily Prentiss loved, just to get her to tell him where his son was. He would kidnap, and he would torture, and he would kill, without reservation. That meant not just the team, but their families, too. It meant Jack, and Henry, and Kevin, and Will. It meant Reid's mother, and it meant Morgan's sisters.
It was for the best – that was what he tried to tell himself.
Never mind that he was all but abandoning one of his team. Never mind that Emily Prentiss would be alone, while her friends mourned her.
It was for the best.
'She never made it off the table.'
Aaron Hotchner watched his team break down.
He could have stopped it with two words. Two magical words that would have ended their pain: 'Emily's alive.'
But he didn't.
And somehow, that made his own pain worse. Knowing that they were suffering needlessly. Knowing that for the next three weeks, minimum, there would be tears and hugs and nightmares and if David Rossi had anything to say about it, a lot of drinking.
There was no replacing Emily Prentiss – that much, Hotch already knew. That much, the rest of the team knew. What the rest of the team didn't know, was that Emily Prentiss wasn't dead. What the rest of the team didn't know was that she was in a secured hospital room, barely a hundred feet from where they were standing.
You took an oath to protect the laws of your country, and I took one to protect the secrets of mine.
Hotch had thought himself somehow different from the British SIS agent that had worked with Emily so long ago, but now he was the one that was keeping secrets.
To keep them safe, he told himself.
That was the price they paid.
Emily Prentiss woke in haze of morphine and memories that she'd tried so hard to forget.
Doyle. What happened to Doyle?
She remembered the fight and everything that led up to it. She remembered the brand to her chest, the gun to her head, and the jagged table leg to the stomach. She remembered watching Ian Doyle get away yet again as she lay there, bleeding to death.
And even after all of that, she'd made it through alive.
The room was eerily quiet, to the point where Emily was half sure that the hospital must have been evacuated, and the staff simply must have forgotten about her. The steady beep of the heart-rate monitor was the only sound.
She'd been here before, both in the hospital bed, and in the chair, waiting for a team member to wake up. More often than not, the room would always have at least one concerned FBI agent waiting, the rest kicked out by irate nursing staff, or in search of sustenance to keep them going another twelve hours.
There was no-one sitting by Emily's bedside. It was like a kick to the ribs, but at the same time, she knew she deserved it. She had lied to them, betrayed them, to protect them from Doyle. To protect Declan.
Though there seemed to be an ungodly amount of painkillers pumping through her veins, she felt an ache at her stomach, and the tightness of the bandage wrapped around it. The clover brand at her breast was similarly bandaged, and Emily put a hand to it. Doyle didn't need to give her a permanent mark – the memories that had been etched in her mind were still vivid, even after seven years.
The door opened, and Emily started, reaching for some kind of weapon. She relaxed slightly, when she realized it was JJ.
It had been a long time since Emily had seen JJ – between the FBI, and the DOD, girls' nights weren't much of an option anymore.
'Hey,' Emily groaned, trying to sit up.
'Hey,' JJ said warmly, but there was a sadness in her eyes. Emily's heart skipped a beat – had Doyle killed one of the team? Was JJ crying because Morgan had taken a bullet in the raid, or because another sniper had taken out Rossi?
'What's going on?'
JJ frowned. 'You don't remember?'
'Remember what?' Emily heard the warble of her own voice. What was she supposed to remember?
'You've been in and out of consciousness the last few days,' JJ explained. 'Doyle escaped, so we were forced to…take certain measures. He thinks you're dead.'
'Oh,' was all Emily could say. And then it hit her. If Doyle thought she was dead, then that meant everyone else thought she was dead, too. 'Who else knows?'
'Hotch knows,' JJ confirmed. 'As far as the rest of the team is aware, you bled out on the operating table.'
Emily didn't say anything for several moments. She stared at the ground, trying to will away the tears that were forming in her eyes. She never got a chance to say goodbye.
She never got a chance to say I'm sorry.
'He's on the top of the most wanted list,' JJ explained. 'For, among other things, the murder of an FBI agent.' She stared Emily in the eye, with a look of cold steel that reminded Emily just how good the other woman was at her job. 'We'll find him before he gets to Declan.'
Emily gave a bitter smile. 'I'm going to have to leave the country, aren't I?'
JJ nodded. 'There's too much of a risk, staying here. You've been in the paper a few times, and your death even made the news.'
'Did you tape it?' Emily asked, with a morbid curiosity. JJ stared at her.
'No, but I'm sure it's on YouTube, somewhere.'
'When's the funeral?'
'Tomorrow,' JJ told her. 'And no, you can't show up wearing a clever disguise. Risk aside, you're flying out tonight.'
'Paris, until we can get your covers established. After that, you'll be met by a handler.'
'Something tells me that I'm not going to be allowed on the "track down and kill Ian Doyle" Taskforce.'
JJ grimaced. 'The CIA doesn't want to take that risk. You're being considered a "freelance agent." It's not a paid vacation, so no sunbathing with fruity drinks that have umbrellas in them.'
'I doubt I'd be doing that with this scar anyway,' Emily admitted. JJ gave her a wan smile.
'You'll find what you can about Doyle's whereabouts, but in the end, the most important thing is to stay low. If it looks like your cover might be blown, move on.'
Emily laughed. 'It seems easy to forget that just a few months ago you were a communications liaison for the FBI.'
'Just a few months ago you were the woman that had worked for the FBI in a desk job for ten years,' JJ countered. Emily conceded the point. 'I have to go,' JJ added apologetically. 'Someone will come by this afternoon to take you to the airport. We can't risk you flying commercial, so you'll be taking a private jet.'
Emily frowned. 'Seems like faking my own death is going to eat up a lot of taxpayer dollars.'
'Well if all goes according to plan, it won't be for any more than a few months.'
Emily did not share JJ's optimism; Emily knew Ian Doyle. A profile gave a basic description, but it wasn't in any way a replacement for spending time with him, for working with him. He was ruthless, and he was cunning, yet he loved those close to him. Clyde had called him a psychopath, but that was very much an overgeneralization.
A profile was just words.
'I need to get back to work,' JJ said apologetically. 'A nurse will be in to check on you later, but we don't want to put off your relocation for too long.'
'I guess I won't see you for a while then, huh?'
JJ gave a grim smile, and all of a sudden wrapped Emily in a loose hug. 'Stay safe.'
'I will,' Emily assured her. 'Keep an eye on the team – make sure Hotch isn't carrying this burden by himself.'
'I will,' JJ echoed.
'And make sure you give Henry lots of hugs for me.' JJ agreed, and then pulled away. She couldn't stay any longer, Emily knew. The fact that she was visiting the hospital at all was probably already suspicious enough. So JJ left, and Emily found herself staring at the walls, knowing she might never see the other woman again.
Hotch came by a little after lunchtime, face as stoic as always. 'You should have told us,' he said evenly. There wasn't anger in his voice, but there was some disappointment – whether he was disappointed that she was leaving, or because she had lied to them, it was hard to tell.
'I know,' Emily whispered, and she struggled to stop the tears at her eyes from turning into the harsh sobbing she felt in her chest. 'Take care of them. Make sure they don't mourn too much. And don't let any of them blame themselves – this was my own doing.'
Hotch raised an eyebrow. 'A little pot calling the kettle black, don't you think?' There was a twitch of a smile at his lips, and Emily gave a short laugh.
'If I hadn't been such a stubborn ass about it, Doyle might not have escaped.'
'Compared to the rest of us, I think you only rate fourth on the scale of "stubborn asses,"' Hotch said. It felt kind of strange, to see him joking with her, but then, she knew he was just trying to assuage the pain of the situation. JJ had said a few months, but realistically, it could be years before Emily was able to return, and Hotch had to keep up a façade of grief for the whole time.
'I'm going to miss you,' Emily admitted. 'I'm going to miss all of you.' She might have felt a little better about the idea of going into hiding if the rest of the team knew, if they were waving those flashlights, even from however many thousand miles away. But they didn't.
Emily Prentiss would be alone in the dark.
Eight years previously.
Emily Prentiss had been Lauren Reynolds for one week, three days, and six hours, give or take. Ian Doyle was not a man that revealed his emotions without reason, but Emily could tell that he was definitely attracted to her.
Or attracted to Lauren, rather. Not that there was a difference in Emily's mind – for all intents and purposes, she was Lauren Reynolds for the indefinite future. Lauren was a lot like Emily in some ways, yet so different in other ways.
For one thing, Emily Prentiss was not an international arms dealer.
The agency had given her a thorough course on every single kind of weapon that she could possibly think of, some of which she'd already known, but a lot of which she hadn't. Thanks to the undercover work she did, Emily was a surface level expert on a wide variety of subjects; the history of European art, thanks to a short stint trying to track down a fence that had gotten himself involved with the wrong people. How to defuse a pipe bomb, courtesy of a nasty encounter in the back of truck in Kazakhstan that she was not keen on repeating. The list went on.
Somehow, none of that mattered.
Ian Doyle didn't care as much about what weapons she could procure, or what she could tell him about the history of the Thompson submachine gun. He cared that she was an attractive woman, an enigma that needed unraveling.
That, of course, was what JTF-12 had been relying on. A source from within Doyle's inner circle had provided them with intelligence on the matter. Emily didn't know who the source was, and the source didn't know that JTF-12 was sending someone undercover. It was a lot safer that way.
Still, Emily let herself question the motives of each and every one of his compatriots. Was it Liam, the seemingly loyal right hand man? Was it Jean, the gardener at his Tuscan villa? Emily knew Liam well enough to know that he would never betray Ian, and Jean didn't exactly get invited into secret meetings. No, it had to be someone on the inside, or who spent enough time around the people on the inside to pick up intelligence.
His Irish residence was impressive – being an arms dealer was apparently a rather lucrative venture.
A small shock of curly blond hair peered around the doorway. Emily gave a half smile, though deep in her heart, she felt sadness. If the intelligence JTF gathered was accurate, then this was Declan Jones, son of Doyle's housekeeper, and way, way too young to be caught up in something like this.
'Hey there,' Emily said with a smile. 'What're you doing?'
The boy held out a pair of action figures – Batman and Robin. 'Playing superheroes?' He nodded. 'How can you play Batman properly without a Joker?'
'I have a Joker!' he said, his voice embodying the same innocence she saw in his delicate features. With that, he ran from the room, only to return a few minutes later. The toys were obviously well-loved, but without any other children in the house, Emily wondered if he really had anyone to play with. He went to school, of course, but it didn't seem likely that Doyle would allow random five-year-old children to come over to the house for a play-date.
Together, they concocted a rather convoluted scenario in which Robin was abducted by the Joker (again) and Batman was forced to navigate an imaginary warehouse filled with acid vats and booby traps in order to rescue him.
'Can we play hide and seek?' he asked, and for one split second, Emily let her guard down. And that was how Doyle found her crouched by the refrigerator almost ten minutes later. At first, she thought he was going to freak – after all, hiding by refrigerators wasn't exactly behavior expected of an arms dealer like Lauren Reynolds.
'What are you doing?' he asked; his tone was curious, rather than angry.
'I found you!' Declan cried out, running towards Emily. She caught him in a hug, which surprised both of them. She looked up, and found that Doyle was smiling.
'You didn't find me. You found the tickle monster!'
Declan let out a high-pitched squeal as Emily started to tickle him, running behind Doyle for protection. He put a hand on the boy's shoulder, and Emily immediately slipped into information gathering mode. Based on their behavior, Doyle was far closer to Declan than one would expect an arms dealer to be to his housekeeper's son.
Was there a heart of gold behind that ruthless mask? He had shown hints of his more caring side to her – he spoke to her differently than he did to the rest of his associates, and it definitely was not simply because she was one of his suppliers. He laughed more readily, he flirted (quite well, for a man that was supposed to be a violent psychopath). He touched her hair, and her face, and for the first few weeks, Emily had to actively stop herself from feeling sick.
Now, though…It had been so long since her last romantic relationship that she couldn't help but feel warmth, instead of revulsion, as he put a hand on her shoulder. At Doyle's instruction, Declan ran off to play in his room.
Once upon a time, Emily had felt herself seize up whenever she was left alone with Doyle. She hoped, somehow, that he interpreted it as standoffishness, rather than a fear of intimacy.
'He likes you,' Doyle murmured, leaning down to brush his lips against her neck. 'I don't blame him.'
'You're a beautiful woman, Lauren. Would you deny me that?'
'No,' Emily breathed, biting back a moan as he kissed her, passionately. The fingers of one hand twisted through her hair, the other caressed her cheek. He didn't taste bitter, like she had expected. She could close her eyes, and pretend that she was on a date, with an accountant, or a lawyer, or with someone with a horrendously boring – but safe – profession, but even that lie was too much.
Doyle had woken some kind of fire inside of her. Knowing what she knew, she couldn't love him (at least that's what she told herself) but she could lust, and really, that was the important part.
She felt his hand move down towards her breast, and pressed close, she could feel his hardness pressing against her thigh. 'I want you,' he breathed.
'I know,' Emily murmured. 'Want you too,' she told him.
It wasn't a lie.
She let Doyle direct her towards his bedroom; a simple, impersonal room that could just as easily have been a hotel room as it could have been the master bedroom of an arms dealer's abode. The bed had plain white sheets, with a beige comforter, and a single painting hanging at one end. There were no photographs, no tchotchke; nothing that said anything about who Ian Doyle was.
Still, that was a consideration for another time. A time when she wasn't about to make love to a man who, by all rights, should have repulsed her. He stopped at the sight of her bare stomach, or rather, at the sight of the tattoo that extended from just below her breast, to her hipbone; a phoenix, wings spread in flight. Emily had taken it upon herself to get the marking not long after she had been accepted into Yale, both as a symbol of the new life she was about to begin, and the old life she had left behind. In retrospect, maybe it was a little cheesy, but Doyle seemed to like it.
He pressed his lips to the phoenix's tail. 'Any other surprises I should know about?' he asked, before kissing a trail up her stomach to the white lace edge of her bra.
'If I told you, they wouldn't be surprises anymore.' While her rebellious childhood had involved copious amounts of hair dye and substances of dubious legality, it had not extended to any outrageous piercings. There was another tattoo, though – an Ouroboros on the back of her right shoulder. Doyle grinned at that, pressing a final kiss between the valley of her breasts, as he let his hand move around to unhook her bra.
It seemed strange, to think that a man like Ian Doyle could have such a gentle touch. If she hadn't know who he was – what he had done – she never would have guessed it from the way he made love to her. And it was making love – for him, it wasn't just sex. Emily imagined that he did not invest in such intimate relationships lightly. For him, it would have to be a very special woman.
She wasn't sure how that made her feel.
Afterwards, he wrapped an arm around her in a gesture that was simultaneously loving and possessive, and in that moment, Emily knew that if anyone ever took Lauren Reynolds away from him, he would be pissed.
Emily's body ached as she settled herself into her seat. Apart from the pilots, the jet was otherwise empty; according to the nameless CIA agent that had taken her from the hospital to the airstrip, she was being met by an agent who would supply her with transport and a the papers needed to get through customs.
It was terrifyingly easy to get through security unhindered, if you knew the right people. That was the kind of thing that people like Doyle relied on.
The still healing scar at her stomach throbbed with pain – the painkillers were starting to wear off. The hospital had provided her with a prescription, but lucidity was not something that Emily wanted to sacrifice while Doyle was still on the loose.
Pain – well, pain was an old friend of hers.
There was a small kitchenette at one end of the plane, but even that was overstating it – there was a bar fridge, a coffee maker, and a small assortment of snacks. Enough to keep her satiated for the flight to Paris.
Emily didn't particularly feel like eating, but she'd balked at the hospital food earlier in the day, and if she didn't at least try to keep something down, then staying alert would be difficult.
In the bar fridge, Emily found some cans of soda, as well as half a dozen pre-packaged sandwiches. She took a can of Diet Coke, and a sandwich that, according to the label, was turkey with cranberry. Gas station sandwiches weren't quite a gourmet selection, but it was a step up from hospital food.
Not entirely terrible, for a last supper.
As soon as the plane touched down in Paris, Emily Prentiss would be well and truly dead. A few hours after that, she'd be buried as well, and almost every single person that she ever loved would be in mourning.
Hotch knew the truth, and JJ knew the truth, but the rest of the team was in the dark. Her mother…Emily wasn't exactly sure what they'd told her mother. The Ambassador probably had the right clearance level, but realistically, the fewer people that knew Emily was still alive, the better.
If Doyle ever found out, it would be beyond catastrophic.
Emily pulled the backpack open, wondering what kinds of things some anonymous government agent thought she'd need. In the front pocket, there was a travel wallet with a French passport, a credit card and a thick wad of Euros. The back pocket was mostly clothes – jeans, underwear, t-shirts – as well as three paperback books.
Emily gave a short laugh.
JJ was definitely complicit in this one: The Lord of the Rings, Breakfast of Champions and The Godwulf Manuscript, all in French. A note slipped in behind the cover of one of them confirmed it. Emily recognized JJ's neat handwriting.
Emily – do you know how hard it is to find foreign language translations of Tolkien in D.C.? :). Remember that you in all of our hearts – Garcia sends way more love than you could possibly imagine, even if she doesn't realize it. Morgan and Rossi are both trying to stay strong, but they're hurting a lot. Reid…well, I think we all tend to support Reid a little more than we need to. I don't really know the new girl well enough to make a judgment, but Hotch says that she's still a little shell-shocked. I'll let Hotch speak for himself, because I'm sure you'll be seeing him between me writing this letter, and you reading it. I probably shouldn't be saying this for security reasons, but screw it – I will be seeing you soon. Stay strong, and know that you have a lot of people behind you.
All my love,
A fallen tear smudged the black ink, and Emily quickly moved the letter out of the way before it could be further ruined by her onset of grief.
It was the first time she had let herself cry since she'd woken up that morning. She'd been trying to stay strong, in some sort of attempt to convince Hotch and JJ that she was okay with this, that she wasn't going to have a problem with leaving everything she'd ever known and loved behind.
Now that Emily was alone, she knew she had to admit the truth, if only to herself. Heavy sobs wracked her whole body, and there was no-one around to put a hand to her shoulder, and tell her that everything would be okay. The movement exacerbated her stomach wound, and pain shot through her torso.
Emily bit her lip, and willed herself to calm down.
That's it. Compartmentalize. Lock it all away. You should be a fucking expert at this by now.
The first few weeks with Doyle had been the hardest; she'd done romantic stuff before in her undercover work, but the infiltration was usually short-term, and over before anything serious got a chance to happen. Doyle was different.
Doyle was supposed to fall in love with her. Like most arms dealers, he kept things close to his chest, revealing his thoughts, his feelings only to those he trusted implicitly. Emily could still remember the first touch of his hand against her skin, the first touch of his lips against hers.
Doyle was supposed to fall in love with her. She was never supposed to love him back.
Today, she would put a bullet in his head without hesitation. Emily would kill him – in cold blood, if necessary – to return to her family. She would kill him to save Declan.
She couldn't do either of those things, if she was overcome with grief, or doubt, or anger. She had to be the cold, distant person that she once was. She had to be ruthless, like Doyle.
There was a big difference between what she had to do, and what she could do. Emily didn't think she could be that person. Not anymore. Doyle wasn't the only person who had changed, only Emily's growth wasn't the result of seven years in a North Korean prison. It was the result of love, and trust, and friendship.
She couldn't let that go.
Not while there was even the slightest chance that things could go back to the way they once were. No matter how slight.
Eight years previously
'You know, you've never asked me about my past either,' Emily commented, from her position halfway down the sofa. Her head was in Doyle's lap, his hands brushing across her skull absent-mindedly as he stared at the fireplace.
Emily tried not to fidget with the chain around her neck. It figured, the only man who ever wanted to spent the rest of his life with her was the one who didn't even really know her at all.
'You're so closed off,' he countered. 'I was afraid…if I asked, I might scare you away.' There was a long pause. 'Tell me.'
'There isn't much to tell,' Emily admitted. She had a backstory planned out, which incorporated facets of her own childhood. Emily Prentiss could just have easily turned out the way Lauren Reynolds did. 'My mother was an emotionally distant alcoholic who was more interested in working than she was in raising a family. My father…' She paused, for effect. Her own father, of course, had been a good enough man that had been ill-suited to a life of politics.
She could feel Ian tighten beneath her. 'Not like that,' she quickly amended. 'He just…got angry a lot, and since my mother was never home…'
'Is he still alive?' Ian queried, in the kind of voice that anyone else would have determined innocent, but Emily could hear the darkness.
'No. They're both dead,' she told him, feeling his body slump in what could have just as easily been relief as disappointment. Another long silence. 'It's not that I'm not the marrying kind,' she told him. 'I just…every time I think about marriage, I think about them, and…I don't want to turn out like that.'
'We won't,' Ian assured Emily, fingers moving to stroke her cheek. 'I would never – ever – raise a hand to you – you know that.'
'I know,' Emily nodded, only she didn't. The profile that had been put together so far painted Ian Doyle as a man who was ruthlessly violent against his enemies.
If he ever found out that Emily was lying to him, then the CIA would be lucky to get her body back in a single piece.
It was mid-afternoon, local time, when the plane landed in Paris, and Emily hadn't had any sleep. The fact that it was by choice did not alleviate her frustration in the slightest.
She was met on the tarmac by a suited and sunglassed man whom she took to be a DCRI agent. Maybe he'd even known Tsia, but Emily didn't ask. Still, after everything that had happened, she was wary of his allegiance, and kept an eye out for anything out of the ordinary as the man escorted her through customs.
Emily was vaguely concerned that Doyle might have found some way to piggyback the security footage of every major airport in the world in order to track her down, but she figured that was just paranoia. In any case, even if he was watching, Emily was as capable of disappearing into a crowd as she was at infiltrating the organization of a known arms dealer.
Outside, the spring air was cool. Another city, Emily might have taken the time to appreciate, but by this point in her life, Paris had become a little old hat. Still, La Ville-Lumière was well-loved for a reason, and Emily had half a mind to do some shopping. Realistically speaking, she would need to anyway – the most important part of establishing a cover was becoming a completely different person
(at least, to everyone else's eyes).
'It's safer if I don't know where you're staying,' the DCRI agent said, and Emily silently agreed. Doyle was in no way opposed to torturing information out of government agents. So she thanked him profusely, taking the card he handed her, with the instructions to call the number printed on in three days' time. Not too soon, but not too far away, either – it was enough time to get situated, but not too long that she would start getting antsy.
In theory, anyway.
Though her body cried out for sleep, Emily spent the first couple of hours wandering the streets – if there was anyone following her, she wanted to make their job as difficult as possible. Along the way, she changed out of the clothes she'd worn on the plane, and managed to procure a fairly realistic looking wig. Only when the sun had started to set did she find a hotel – middle of the range – and attempt to book a room.
Her accent, she hoped, was barely noticeable. While Emily had learned French at a young age, it was not so young that it fell within the critical period. Any native speaker who was paying any amount of attention could tell that French was not her first language. Still, she was pretty good at faking it; anyone she encountered would not remember having conversed with an American tourist who spoke perfect French.
Both the credit card and passport were processed without issue, and a plain white keycard was handed over. Emily gave her thanks, and made her way upstairs to her room. There was a single queen-sized bed, and a small table with chair, and not a whole lot else. Not the most interesting place to spend the next three days, but Emily had had worse.
What concerned her more was the horrible pit of anxiety in her stomach – what if Doyle had sent someone to follow her? What if he had followed her himself?
She lifted off her shirt, wincing at the pull of the stitches, and stared at the plain white bandage that covered the lower half of her tattoo.
The phoenix burns to ash, only to be born anew. She heard the words in Reid's voice, which wasn't exactly a realistic thought – Reid would have given a half hour treatise on the mythology of the creature, too.
The wound throbbed with pain, and even though she had settled, Emily decided against painkillers; the door had a lock and chain, but they weren't exactly hard to get past. Not for someone like Doyle. As a further measure, she tucked the chair underneath the door handle. At best, it would give her a few moments to find a weapon, or at the very least get her wits about her.
Clad in just a t-shirt and her underpants, Emily set jeans, shoes and socks beside the bed, just in case she needed to make a quick escape. It might have been easier to sleep in her clothes, but – even if it was just for tonight – Emily wanted to get some sleep.
Not the tossing and turning or the sitting on trains trying to keep her eyes open that had dominated the past few weeks. She wanted to close her eyes when it was dark, and let them open when the sun rose. She wanted to not get woken at 4am by a text message, or come in past midnight after a case.
More than anything else, though, she wanted for Ian Doyle to be gone from her life.
But maybe that was just a pipe dream.
Morgan tightened the knot on his tie, as though that would somehow force the thing to actually sit straight. As a rule, he didn't usually wear ties. They made him feel overly formal, and restricted, and it was definitely a lot harder to run after an unsub with a long, flapping bit of material getting in the way of things.
More than that, though, he remembered the first time he had worn a tie to a funeral – two and a half decades ago, now, but the memory would be fresh in his mind for the rest of his life. Standing by a closed casket, in a suit with arms that were a little too short, and legs that needed to be let out at the hem. He stared at his father's final tomb, for what felt like an eternity, trying to comprehend.
He still couldn't comprehend.
What the hell kind of cosmic justice dictated that his father should die, while a murderer lived. What the hell kind of cosmic justice let Ian Doyle live, and Emily Prentiss die? Derek Morgan could not reconcile those facts with a benevolent God.
A knock on the door jerked him back to the real world. Garcia had a key to the apartment, but she still always knocked, if only so she could hug him every time he opened the door. Today's hug was so tight, so long, that Morgan was almost positive he was going to pass out and miss the funeral.
Garcia's eyes were already streaked with tears, and he felt a pang in his chest. 'Hey, girl. What're you crying for?' he asked, gently. 'We'll get through this.'
Garcia shook her head. 'Every time I feel like I'm getting used to the idea of a world without Emily, I'll think of something she said, or did, and I'll start feeling depressed all over again.'
'That's normal,' he assured her. 'You just have to…you just have to stay strong,' he finished, weakly. No matter how much experience he had at dealing with death, it was so hard to conceptualize it, to put it into a tangible form. There was probably a whole damn library filled with books on how to deal with grief, and Morgan had not read a single one of them.
'It feels like my parents, all over again,' Garcia admitted. 'I got…lost, looking for a way to cope with their deaths, and even though I'm a different person now, I can't help but feel like the same thing is happening.'
'It won't,' Morgan assured her. 'No matter what, every single one of us is going to be there for each other. That's how we'll get through this, okay?'
'Okay,' Garcia sniffled, before giving him a soft thump on the shoulder. 'Come on, slow poke. Reid's waiting for us.'
After Garcia, Reid was probably taking Emily's death the hardest. They pulled up outside the younger agent's apartment building, to find him sitting on a bench by the adjacent bus-stop, wearing a suit and sunglasses. He tapped his foot against the concrete sidewalk, as if he hadn't even noticed their arrival.
Morgan tapped the horn lightly, and Reid started. He pulled his sunglasses off, eyes squinting against the light. Morgan gave a slight frown. It wasn't even that bright today.
'You alright, kid?' Morgan asked, frowning.
'Yeah,' Reid answered, which was a blatant lie. Morgan let it go.
After all, he wasn't exactly okay either.
The funeral was a solemn affair.
They had all lost people before, but somehow, it didn't quite seem the same. The team had been more than just colleagues – they were family.
Sometimes that made the hard days a little easier to deal with. But not today.
Hotch kept a blank face.
To the rest of the team, it would look like his trademark stoicism. JJ was the only one who really knew what that mask was hiding. It was hiding his secrets. His lies.
Honesty and integrity were values that Aaron Hotchner held in high esteem. They were the values upon which he had based both his career as a prosecutor, and his career as a profiler. No matter how strongly he had held that oath, it was broken now.
He thought of Haley.
He thought of the woman that he loved, and how she was dead because of him. It felt wrong, somehow, like cheating – but this was a funeral, and no matter how stoic Aaron Hotchner was, it was not an occasion for masks of stoicism.
He felt like a traitor.
They had lost Emily – just not in the way that everyone believed. It seemed a little easier, then, to let himself cry when he spoke words of Emily Prentiss' unwavering courage, of her compassion, of her friendship. Those words, at least, had truth to them, even if the tense was wrong.
As Hotch sat back down, Rossi clapped him on the shoulder, too overcome with his own tears to give any words of comfort. Aaron Hotchner had known David Rossi for almost twenty years, and he could not remember a time when he had seen the other man cry.
Rossi's speech was a little more personable, and a lot more tearful, and understandably so – the older man had been a lot closer to Emily than Hotch was. On some levels, Hotch was probably the person she had been least close to.
Or maybe he was just making excuses.
'We're going for drinks,' Rossi announced, a little over half an hour later. Hotch checked his watch – it was almost four o'clock. A little early to start drinking on a normal day, but funerals – even fake funerals – seemed to follow their own special rules.
After a group discussion that Hotch chose not to participate in, it was decided that, seeing as it was too early for any bars to even really be open, and because Rossi probably had more variety of alcoholic beverages than the rest of the team put together, they would instead be going to the senior profiler's house.
'I think I'll just go home,' Hotch muttered, and Rossi gave him a look, before putting a hand to his shoulder and leading him away from the rest of the team.
'You can't just go home and drink alone, Aaron.'
'I've got to go pick up Jack.'
'So call Jessica. You can't just push this away again.'
And there it was.
'It's too soon,' he murmured, thinking of the woman that he never had the chance to properly mourn. Hotch hated himself for lying to his best friend. He knew that David Rossi would take the secret to the grave if necessary, but Hotch couldn't give him that burden.
But maybe it wasn't really a lie.
Because it was too soon, and the deceit somehow seemed to be tarnishing Haley's memory as well as Emily's.
If you were a better profiler, you could have saved both of them. If you were a better profiler, you could have tracked down Foyet sooner. If you were a better profiler, you could have figured out why Emily was acting so strangely.
The team saw his guilt as grief, and in all honesty, he couldn't be entirely certain that it wasn't.
Soon, the alcohol was flowing, Rossi had put an order through for pizza delivery, and they reminisced.
Hotch remembered the awkward, self-conscious woman that had shown up in his office without warning – a contrast to both the headstrong, rebellious teenager that he'd met while doing security detail for Ambassador Prentiss, and the courageous, passionate woman that would have rather sacrificed her own life than see anyone she loved hurt.
Had that Emily Prentiss been just a shield – a barrier to prevent anyone from finding out she had done with the CIA? Or had it just been another piece in what proved to be an overly intricate puzzle?
'Did you ever find out what a "Sin to win" weekend was?' Garcia seemed to be asking Morgan. Having not been paying as much attention as would be expected of profiler, Hotch had no idea what the context of the question was.
'No,' Morgan admitted with a sad smile. 'But now, knowing what she…I can't help but think that maybe she spent the weekend in Atlantic City trying to stop a nuclear bomb from going off, or something. Spy stuff, you know?'
The conversation drifted towards science fiction, of all things, and Reid reluctantly told the tale of the time he and Emily had seen Inception in theaters, the day after the team had returned from a week-long case in Iowa. 'She fell asleep in the middle of the movie, and almost broke my jaw when she woke up,' Reid said. In a smaller voice, he added, 'We went out for ice-cream afterwards,' and Hotch wondered whether the younger man had wanted to keep that part of the story for himself.
The group fell into a pocket of silence – like some kind of black hole of misery, where not even the stories they told were enough to pull them from their slump. Hotch didn't dare look at JJ. Instead, he stared down at his untouched glass of whiskey, remembering the night that Emily and Rossi had invaded his office with three empty glasses and a bottle of expensive Bourbon.
'I spoke to Emily's neighbor,' JJ said, breaking the silence. 'She's visiting her niece next week, and can't keep looking after Sergio. Henry's not quite ready for cats yet,' she added, apologetically. Hotch frowned. He didn't even know that Emily had a cat.
'I'm allergic,' Reid provided.
'Gadgets and kitty-cats – as cute as they may be – do not mix.'
'I have a dog.'
Rossi gave Hotch a look. 'Weren't you saying something about getting Jack a pet?'
That was true – a goldfish, or a bird, maybe. Something low maintenance. At the same time, he felt like he owed it to Emily to make sure her cat was well-loved until she returned.
If she returned, that was.
While faking Emily's death had been an extreme security measure, there was always the chance that Doyle might find her anyway, or that he might stay on the run forever. Hotch didn't know how long he could keep this secret.
'Okay,' Hotch agreed, eyes fixed on some distant focal point. 'Okay.'
Hotch stared upwards at the moon, unwilling to meet the eyes of his co-conspirator. He'd known that the funeral was going to be the most difficult part of keeping up the charade, but their tears – their pain – was something that would haunt him for the rest of his life.
'She got to Paris okay?' he asked.
'Yes,' JJ confirmed. 'No dramas, whatsoever.' Save, of course, for the drama that accompanied faking your death and fleeing the country. 'The CIA's still putting together a more thorough variety of covers for her, and once that's done, I'll be flying out.'
'That's not in your job description,' he said with a frown.
'No,' JJ admitted. 'It isn't. But I know if I was in a foreign country pretending to be dead, then I'd sure as hell want to see a familiar face.'
She had a point – leaving Emily to fight this on her own had hurt almost as much as the fact that he was lying to the team. Maybe even more; leaving a team member behind was always a leader's worst fear. He had an obligation to lead, to keep them all together.
He had failed that obligation in every way possible.
It was dark outside when everyone started to head off. Hotch was the first, followed shortly by JJ. Morgan hadn't drunk a lot, by any definition of the word, but he stayed a little longer anyway to make sure he was good enough to drive.
'You're welcome to stay the night,' Rossi offered, and Morgan had considered it briefly – it was starting to get late – but he wanted to spend the night alone, in his own bed, mourning in his own way. In the end, Seaver was the only one who took Rossi up on his offer.
Reid, it seemed, had been planning on walking to the nearest Metro station, which Morgan point-blank refused to let happen. Never mind that it was the middle of the night (and not exactly a short walk), it would feel like leaving someone behind.
Even with two of the most talkative people that he knew in the car, the trip to Garcia's apartment was still the most lengthy, painful silence that Morgan had experienced in a long time.
'You sure you'll be alright?' Morgan asked, as he walked Garcia to her door.
Garcia gave him a sad smile. 'I have a sexy nerd waiting for me with hugs and chocolate.'
'I could give you hugs and chocolate,' Morgan offered.
'But not comfort sex,' she pointed out.
'Fair enough.' He pulled the technical analyst into a tight hug, and kissed her forehead. 'Stay safe, baby girl – I'll call you in the morning, 'kay?'
'Okay,' she nodded, sniffling into his shirt. The tears had started once again, and part of Morgan wanted to stay and comfort her, but he trusted that Kevin would do a better job.
Back in the car, Reid had his eyes closed, and his brow furrowed in pain. His expression relaxed the moment Morgan opened the car door, and he tried to pretend like nothing had happened, but Morgan was not going to let himself be fooled again.
'Everything okay, man?' he asked, which felt like the world's stupidest question, because things were so far from okay it wasn't funny. If things were okay, he wouldn't be sitting in the car outside Garcia's apartment building, still wearing the clothes from the funeral of one of his closest friends. If things were okay, he'd be at home with Clooney, watching TV, or out at a club, drinking and dancing. Anything but this.
And maybe, if he'd pushed a little harder. Maybe, if he hadn't just let her brush him off so easily. Maybe they wouldn't be here. So when Reid said, 'I'm fine,' Morgan didn't believe it for a second, and he wasn't going to let it go.
'Reid,' he said, in the kind of voice that commanded attention. 'Reid, tell me what's wrong.'
'Headache,' Reid muttered, but it was more than that. Headache might have been an acceptable excuse if not for the way the younger man had deflected the question, and the tone of his voice when he did answer.
Morgan put a hand on Reid's shoulder, feeling the man stiffen beneath his touch. 'Reid…please tell me what's wrong.'
There was a long silence. 'I've been getting migraines.'
'For how long?'
Reid gave a slight shrug. 'A couple of months,' he said, a little evasively. There was no doubt in Morgan's mind that Reid would know exactly how long the headaches had lasted, as well as the frequency and timing of each one.
'Have you seen anyone about it?'
'The doctors I've seen say that it's probably psychosomatic,' he provided. 'But…'
Morgan nodded. With a history of mental illness in the family, psychosomatic wasn't exactly a convincing answer. 'Anyone else know?'
Reid made a strange sound – it took Morgan a few moments to realize that it was a sob. His eyes were still closed, but there were tears starting to form at the edge of them. 'Emily,' he said. 'Emily knew.'
Morgan thought of so many things he could have said – that everything would be okay, that they would get through it all if they just stuck together, that Emily wouldn't have wanted them to mourn her like this. None of those stock catchphrases could encompass the enormous grief that was surging through him.
He left silence his answer.
'Was she…did she…?' Reid paused, seemingly lost for words, which in Morgan's book, was a first.
Let me go.
The finality of the words was stark. She had given up everything, to try and stop Doyle, to try and save Declan.
'She was…at peace,' he offered, which still didn't seem to be the right way to describe it. He'd always imagined someone being "at peace" with their death when they were one hundred and six, or if they'd been struggling with a terminal illness. Emily had a whole life left ahead of her; he wondered what had happened – what was so bad, that death was the only answer.
She needed help, and you let her suffer in silence.
He tried to bite back the guilt, knowing that it would eat away at him as much as grief.
'It's not your fault,' Reid said. His eyes were open now, and they looked so old, so tired, for a man that wasn't even thirty yet. Morgan was willing to be that he wasn't the only one carrying guilt on his shoulders. 'You tried to help, but…I don't think Emily wanted to be helped.'
Morgan looked the other man in the eye. For so long, Spencer Reid had been the baby of the team, the one who was never quite at home interviewing suspects, or the guy that looked like a goddamn comedy routine in the field.
These days, Morgan sometimes felt like Reid was more mature than all of them.
'Don't let yourself make the same mistake,' was all he said, at the same time knowing he couldn't keep that promise himself.
Ashley wrung her hands together, staring at the door for minutes after it had clicked shut. She was regretting not taking up Morgan's offer of a ride – while she didn't really want to be going back to Quantico at this time of night, taking up Rossi's offer of a spare bed somehow felt like an intrusion on his privacy, his grief.
Aside from Emily, Rossi had been the one most accepting of her presence on the team. He had made her feel welcome. Tonight, more than any other night, she felt like a stranger.
'You okay?' Rossi asked, as he came back into the living room to collect the rest of the empty glasses. Ashley immediately felt a rush of embarrassment for not having helped him clean up.
'Yeah,' she said. 'Yeah, I just…I don't know how I'm supposed to feel.'
Rossi raised an eyebrow; it was a kind of smugness that Ashley wasn't entirely used to yet. She might have looked up to the man, but she didn't know him in the slightest. Her textbooks would have said that she was looking up to him because he was a replacement for her father, and that she was looking for the kind of recognition that she'd never had in her childhood.
Sometimes the textbooks were wrong.
Sometimes they weren't.
'You guys – you all knew Prentiss for years, before I joined the team. The stories you told – they have no meaning to me. I feel like...I don't have the right to be upset, but I've never—' She choked out a sob, shaking her head. 'I don't know how to handle this. When you start at the Academy, they say that most agents never fire their weapon in their entire career, and I look at what's happened since I've joined the team and…I'm not qualified for this, Rossi.'
He put a hand on her shoulder. 'There's a reason they like agents to have a certain amount of experience before joining the Behavioral Analysis Unit,' he told her. 'The things we see…the people we deal with…No amount of Academy training can prepare anyone for that.'
'You're saying I should quit the team?' she asked, eyes widening.
'I'm saying it's not something that anyone is ever prepared for. You don't just wake up one morning, ready for it. It's something that comes with time, and experience. Nobody expects you to be a fantastic agent right off the bat, but saying you don't have a right to grieve? That's bullshit.'
Ashley nodded. 'Thanks,' she said. 'For, um…accepting me, and helping me be a better agent. I want to be able to say that I'm a profiler; and that I belong, but…that's going to take a while, isn't it?'
Rossi gave a smile. 'All the best things do.'
Kevin was waiting with freshly baked cookies, and Firefly DVDs. He'd almost gone with Buffy, before he realized that things involving stakes were probably a very, very bad idea. Penelope's eyes were streaked with tears as she came inside, immediately sinking into Kevin's embrace.
Agent Morgan gave him a look that quite clearly said, "Take care of her," and Kevin nodded, intending to do just that. He had only met Agent Prentiss a few times, but from the way Penelope spoke of her – the way Penelope spoke about all the team – she was a good agent, and a good friend.
Maybe later, they'd talk about it, but for now, Kevin could tell that Penelope was content to let him wrap his arms around her as they lay down on the sofa.
Before the first episode was even half finished, she rolled over to face him, eyes still wet with tears. 'I love you,' she blurted out, which wasn't exactly what Kevin had expected to hear. It wasn't the first time she'd said it, but the circumstances didn't quite feel right for the declaration of feelings. 'I just…I never really got to tell Emily how much she meant to me, and now she's dead, and I'll never see her again. She'll never know.'
Kevin pressed his nose against hers. 'Of course she knew, baby. She was a profiler. They know that kind of thing.'
'But I didn't tell her,' Garcia insisted. 'And now every time I walk by her desk, or into the Ladies Bathroom, I'll think about how she was alone, without any of us there to hold her hand.'
Kevin sucked at this. He was good with computers, not people, and he knew that no matter how hard he tried to convince the woman he loved that everything was going to be okay, his word would be nothing compared to that of one of her team members, like Agent Morgan, or Agent Rossi, or Agent Hotchner.
Maybe that fact should have made him jealous, or inadequate, or like a bad person (and in all honesty, it did, a little bit), but at the same time, it warmed his heart to know that there were people out there who loved this woman – this beautiful, wonderful, fantastic woman – as much as he did.
By the time they left the house, afternoon had shifted to twilight and then to the dark of night. None of them noticed the dark sedan parked halfway down the street, its single occupant watching them.
Another day, they would have seen it, but today…today, they were overcome with the grief of losing a loved one.
Ian Doyle could sympathize with that grief. He had lost the woman he loved twice over – first Lucy, and then Lauren. His heart ached when he thought of them, forever etched into his memory.
Once the last car had left, so too did Doyle; he didn't think that the veteran or the cadet would know anything about where Declan was. They were not complicit in politics, or espionage. Emily would never have told the SIS scum – not if her goal was to keep Declan alive. No – if he wanted to find Declan, then he would have to focus his attention on the Unit Chief. Aaron Hotchner. Hotch.
If anyone in the world knew where to find Declan, it was Aaron Hotchner.
And Ian Doyle was going to make him talk.