Rating is for mild swearing.

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Chapter 1

Aaron Hotchner sits at his desk, uncharacteristically still.

Uncharacteristically, because he doesn't even have a file open in front of him. It's his blank blotter, with only his elbows for company. His head is in his hands and he's looking down at the dark leather blankly.

Jack asked about Emily last night.

It's not the first time, nor will it be the last, but Hotch is starting to wonder if his poor son is going to develop a complex. First Haley, now Emily. It's the last thing he wants, but he didn't really get a choice in the matter, either time. Haley had been in WITSEC. Emily hadn't let anyone help.

But damn it if it doesn't break his heart.

The knock at the door forces him into action and he's got a file open on his desk by the time JJ steps in. He's so glad she's back, and not just because the BAU has not been the same without her. Garcia tried, but no one could replace Jennifer Jareau. But more than that, he missed the friendship. He missed having someone who saw through what he was and still let him be. Like adult siblings. And then Emily… Well, he's glad for the familiar face and the happiness associated with her return. It lightens the load. It lightens him. He's always had a soft spot for JJ.

She doesn't look happy, and Hotch braces himself for children or dark-haired women. He's done the latter since Emily became more than an agent to him, and even more so as her relationship grew with Jack.

They aren't… together. Not in reality anyway. There are rules and all that. But he cares about Emily. More than cares. He still thinks about it in present tense. She's still alive, and much like when he stepped down from the Unit Chief job, they're going to find Doyle and restore Emily and then…

"Got a minute?"

Right. JJ.

"I do."

JJ hands him a case file and he opens it, perusing the files. She's still holding a piece of paper and he knows JJ well enough to know that she's holding her trump card, just in case he says 'no'. They're all women. He's not quite sure what the connection is. Really, it just looks like a string of strangulations. There's an increased level of bruising on each of the three victims, but… It's almost textbook.

"The locals have nothing," she says when he finally raises her head. "The captain's called me three times."

He simply eyes the paper.

JJ takes a deep breath and that, more than anything, puts him on edge. Then she hands over the page. Pages, he realizes.

"Baltimore PD were called to an apartment. Obviously, there was a struggle. When they ran the prints, these popped."

Hotch knows he's white, knows he can't hide his reaction.

Because staring up at him, is Emily Prentiss.

"She's not supposed to be stateside." He actually has to force himself to flip past the fingerprint results to the glossy pictures beneath.

"I know."

But they both know what it means. They both know that she's thinking about changing the game, hunting. She's had enough, enough hiding, enough running and even when JJ had suggested this, he'd known this would be the result. Emily's a fighter. She'd kept Doyle occupied for hours, given them time to find her, because the only way she would be able to have peace, alive or dead, would be through Ian Doyle's untimely – or timely, really – demise.

He finds himself wondering if maybe this is her way of saying it's over. He wonders if maybe she'll break pattern. Maybe, this time, she'll come to them. "Does the team know?"

JJ shakes her head. Hotch isn't surprised. They're the only two who are aware Emily's alive. "I've had her file tagged. The results didn't even go through Garcia."

He debates with himself for a full minute before his eyes lock on JJ's. The blond is looking at him with knowledge and sadness in her eyes. There's never been a doubt for either of them. It was always going to come down to this. And there's no doubt that it's going to hurt.

"Gather the team."

These are all going to be very short chapters. None are over 1000 words, I don't think, and I'm up to 19. Deliberately. But now I'm done with what I've got, so I decided to start posting. They should be fairly quick posts because I keep going over and over it all and adding so I can smooth things over…

But really, it's about your thoughts an opinions. I get a lot from you guys (reviewers) as to what you think, where you think they're going and what you'd like to see. So I'm posting and I hope, at the end of the day it makes sense.

Please note: I have deliberately refused to watch the episodes after Lauren. Mostly, I don't care enough 'cause neither Em nor JJ are in it. So I'm pretending those episodes don't exist. And the premiere won't exist either in terms of where the case goes from here. It's part of the reason I'm starting to post now.

So let me know what you think by reviewing? Please?