Title: Ghost
Rating: PG-13
Criminal Minds
Emily Prentiss, others - gen
Genre: Angst/Drama
She takes her memories, and her hopes, and her dreams and she crushes them into a ball. Emily Prentiss is dead. She is a ghost, a chameleon, a shadow.

Four weeks, three days, nine hours.

Eight different identities.

Six countries.

It starts as a measure of survival, and it becomes a way of life.

In Paris, she takes the envelope that Jennifer Jareau gives her. The identities that she doesn't need. It feels like a lifetime. Jennifer Jareau's face is familiar, and yet she can't quite help but see the eyes of a stranger.

After all, Emily Prentiss is dead.

The woman left behind is a ghost, a chameleon. A shadow.

She lurks in the darkness, and no-one ever sees her true face.

From Paris, she goes to Berlin, stopping by a train station bathroom to dump the designer clothes that had been her identity. The clothes change, and she turns from a sophisticated socialite, to a middle-aged woman that blends into the crowd.

It's not the best disguise, but it's what she's got. A couple of hours, and the right equipment, and she can make sure that not even her closest friends would recognize her.

But now, she does what she needs to do.

A professional can slip away, like dust in the wind. An amateur will change the hair, and the clothes, and the attitude, but they will still stick out like a sore thumb. An amateur will make the one mistake that no spy should ever make.

They keep their identity with them, like a crutch. They hold on to who they are, and that's what gets them killed. Sometimes it's the way they walk, or the way they talk, or the way they hold themselves, but something will always give them away.

She takes who she was – she takes her memories, and her hopes, and her dreams and she crushes them into a ball. Emily Prentiss is dead. She is a ghost, a chameleon, a shadow.

In Berlin, she finds a forger. He doesn't recognize her, but then, she's never met him. Intelligence is all about being able to ask the right questions, build networks. More than anything else, intelligence is about being somebody else.

About being the right person for the right job.

Roberta Southwell could slit a man's throat without even flinching.

Janet Danvers could field strip an M1911 blindfolded.

Lauren Reynolds could broker a multi-million dollar weapons deal.

Emily Prentiss could profile a disorganized sociopath.

They are all her, and yet none of them are her. That's what she tells herself.

She does whatever she needs to do.

Her finger itches against the trigger, and for a moment, she considers it. He can't tell anyone who she is, if he's dead.

The gun, she'd picked up in Brussels. Her old stomping grounds. She hadn't stayed long. It brings up memories that aren't going to do her any good.

It's a heavy gun, but the aim is true. She's lost count of how many people she's killed. Tens, at least. She's lost count of how many times she's died.

For a brief moment, compassion overtakes practicality, and she lets him live. Afterwards, she rationalizes. A body will draw more attention than whatever information he can give away. As far as Ian Doyle is aware, she's dead.

But you are dead, she tells herself, cringing slightly at the thought. Self-awareness isn't the greatest advantage right now. She needs to be cold, distant, emotionless. Without fear, without uncertainty.

Maybe you've been at this too long.

That slightest bit of doubt is like a sledgehammer against a wall of glass. It could destroy her. She shuts it out. Doubt won't help her find Ian Doyle. Doubt won't help her kill him.

It's not something she wants to do. It's something she needs to do.

She needs to make sure that he will never, ever find her again. It's hardwired into her brain, like machine-code.

She finds a hotel, and she pays with credit. Cash is suspicious. It draws attention. If he's looking for her, he'll be looking in the darkest corners, the most shadowed alleyways. What he doesn't know is that the darkest places are inside her mind.

She sets her bag by the bed, and clips the gun to her belt. Now she's alone, she can wear it without being noticed. It's all about blending in.

A chameleon. A ghost. A shadow.

She strips off the blonde wig, and lays it out on the nightstand. The clothes she throws away, but the wigs she keeps. Realistic-looking ones can be expensive. Her real hair is cut short – to the scalp. Part of that's for convenience, and part of it is just another one of those things that stops her from getting too comfortable. Her body is a blank slate – the only identifiers of the past are the scars that she ignores.

She stares at the papers given to her by the forger. Tomorrow she'll be Eva Schmidt. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and looking for work. That's the cover. Really, she'll be tracking down Doyle. Whispers cling to the air – some say he's going back to Ireland to re-start his operation. Some say he's scouring the globe for his son.

One day, she'll have enough intel to find out for sure.

That day comes five weeks later. It's raining, and she is soaked through. The cold bites down to the bone, and he pretends not to feel it.

Normally, Belfast is nice this time of year.

Today is not a normal day.

Both theories had been right; Ian Doyle is rebuilding his operation, but he's also looking for his son.

He will never find him.

She'll make sure of that.

Whatever happens today, it will all be over. If she wins, then her mission is done. If she doesn't, well…

She's been dead a long time now anyway.

That's something that she and Doyle have in common.

She's been keeping his bullet for him.

He has new buildings, new men. They die just as easily as the old.

A bullet tears through her shoulder, and she doesn't flinch. After all, dead women can't bleed.

Ian Doyle is on his knees. She makes him beg. Anger tears through her. This is the man that killed Lauren Reynolds and Emily Prentiss. She is who she is today because of him. Lauren might have loved him – Emily might have loved him – but she doesn't. She puts her gun to his head and pulls the trigger.

Just like that, it's over.

Realistically speaking, she needs a hospital, but she doesn't have any I.D. on her, and she sure as hell doesn't want anyone running her prints. The bullet wound is barely a scratch, and the shivers will subside once she gets out of the wet clothes.

It's over.

It's over, and she doesn't feel a damn thing.

There should be relief, or joy, or some other feeling, but there isn't.

There's just emptiness.

She pulls her jacket tighter, and returns to the hotel. The sewing kit provided isn't the best way to deal with a bullet wound, but it's better than nothing. It doesn't prevent the infection that sets in four days later, or the raging fever that comes with it.

Her mind blurs, and she's more confused than ever.

She's Lauren Reynolds and Emily Prentiss and Janet Danvers. She's a little girl, and an FBI agent, and an arms dealer. She's tired, and she's sick. She's dead.

There's a knock on the door, and her hand closes around the gun.

'Emily,' a voice calls out. 'Emily, are you in there, it's Morgan.'

Her heart clenches. She knows that voice. He speaks a name that is so familiar, and yet so strange. Emily.

Your name.

But no.

You aren't Emily anymore. Are you?

Are you?

Her hand shakes from the fever, finger brushing against the trigger.

Wood splinters. Footsteps slam into floorboards.

She hears the name again, and now it's a different voice. Two of them, one pale and skinny, the other dark and buff. She feels some kind of warmth in her heart and she doesn't know why.

'Once they found Doyle's body, JJ told us,' one of them says. His hand is wrapped around hers, and the gun is on the ground. She wonders when that had happened. 'They found your blood at the scene.'

'She needs a hospital,' the other one says. 'Fever, sweating – there's probably an infection. Emily, have you been fatigued?'

A smile quirks at her lips, as though this is exactly the kind of thing she expects him to say, only she doesn't know why.

Tired, sore, dead, she wants to tell him.

She says nothing at all.

Her eyes flutter closed and the next time she wakes, the walls are white and the pain has dulled.

She tries to push through the confusion, but after everything that's happened, it's thicker than sludge.

It could have started in a hospital room in Boston, her stomach swathed in bandages, and her life in ruins. It could have started twenty years ago, when the CIA recruited a young woman from Yale. Or maybe it even started before that, when she'd been a little girl, with a smile on her face, even though she's crying inside.

The green band on her wrist says "Emily Prentiss." Maybe one day, she'll really know what that means.

Today, she's just a ghost.