Ease On Down the Road

Emily sat at her desk reading the same paragraph for the fifth time. She absently wondered if Reid was noticing how many seconds it was taking her to advance the page. Since she was leaving the team in a few days, she shouldn't really have taken on anything new, but she'd volunteered to help the team clear some consults anyway. Now she wasn't so sure that was a good idea.

Her mind kept going back to the strange dream she'd had last night. Who dreams about "The Wizard of Oz" as an adult? Maybe too many 'Tornadoes' at her farewell party. She'd fallen into bed when she got home, then awakened with a fuzzy mouth and a hazy memory of gifts, laughter and lots of tears. It seemed anticlimactic to come back in to the BAU for the final few days, but she was leaving her team short, and felt guilty enough about it.

Her proficiency with languages had first caught the attention of the State Department, and her skills in espionage and behavioral analysis the attention of one of the "initialed" agencies. She'd been persuaded to leave the BAU and apply her talents elsewhere "for the sake of the country", as it had been put to her. Emily had often thought her need to take care of those around her might be annoying to them-she was always probing, always trying to "fix" everything-and now she was about to apply it to a nation. Or, more correctly, to other nations. Hoping not to create an international incident along the way.

The others had insisted upon the party. As much as she fussed over others, Emily always preferred they not focus their attention on her. Maybe because her past had required her to blend in, almost to invisibility, for survival, she still would have felt more comfortable going quietly away. No such luck when Garcia and Rossi were involved. The unlikely duo had orchestrated the whole thing, Rossi-had he really been the Mayor of Munchkinland? -offering his mansion and Garcia filling it with balloons, music and food. Garcia always manipulating behind the scenes-was she really the Wiz?

Her reverie was broken by Morgan, who was apparently unaware of his stint as the Cowardly Lion in her dream. "Hey, Princess, you are lost in la-la land. What's up?" Apparently Reid wasn't the only one who noticed everything-at least everything you hoped he wouldn't notice.

"Nothing. I'm just in recovery mode. I think we all might have enjoyed my leaving just a little too much last night." At his raised eyebrows, she added, "But thanks for the party. It meant a lot to me. And I'll definitely be able to use that English/Macedonian dictionary you gave me-I think."

Morgan laughed. "It's hard to know what to get the girl who has everything." Getting serious, he added, "Prentiss, I actually mean that. You have everything you'll need to do the job. I've never been prouder to call someone my partner. You'll be hard to replace, Princess."

"Make that impossible," said the Tin Man, aka Hotch. Emily wasn't very surprised Hotch had played that role in her dream-she was just surprised it had stayed in her head. He'd been hurt badly in love, and was just nurturing his heart back to life. "The Bureau has had cutbacks like everyone else, so your position will remain open, Emily. It looks like JJ will have to keep us in touch with our feminine side when we're in the field."

At the sound of her name, JJ turned from the phone call she'd ended. She glided over-just like Glinda, Emily thought. "Did I hear my name?"

"We're just talking about how we aren't replacing Emily in the field. Strauss says there's a hiring freeze and she can't even post the position for a transfer." Hotch, dodging the "feminine" issue.

"Hey guys," Reid said as he joined them with some urgency. "I think we may have a case buried in the consults. It would have been easy to miss, but I remember reading something similar about 8 months ago. I think there's a serial abductor in rural Pennsylvania. One child's body has been discovered. He had been soaked in bleach. There was a very similar incident in Maryland. I think they may be connected."

After Reid explained a little more, Hotch was all business. "JJ, see if you can get them to invite us in. Or, if not, see if there's enough evidence that it's crossed state lines-we won't need an invitation then. Everybody, conference room in 5 minutes. Prentiss, you don't need to join us. We can't bring you into the field at this point."

"I'd like to see if there's anything I can contribute, just the same. Is it all right if I join the discussion?"

"Better than all right, Prentiss. You're still a member of this team, at least for a few more days," said Rossi, who'd joined the group. Putting an arm around her and squeezing her shoulders, he whispered, "And always welcome to come back to it whenever you want."

Emily grinned in gratitude. Her eyes went to Reid, who looked a bit stricken. "Reid, are you okay?"

He looked embarrassed. "I guess I just never really pictured us doing this without you. I mean, I've known you were leaving, but I guess my brain just didn't really process it. Not much help being a genius, huh?" He was looking down, making that little-boy half smile that always got to Emily. Okay, the Scarecrow thing was obvious for him, she thought.

"Only sometimes. Maybe this got it (touching his head) but this didn't? "(touching his chest). And then Emily was surprised at herself for the display of intimacy. But she really did love him, this teammate/little brother/sometimes-son. And she knew he loved her, in the same complicated way.

Together in the conference room, they fell into their usual give and take. Reid noticed a similarity in how far the abduction sites were from parochial schools. Rossi recalled an old case in which an abducted child had been found buried with a prayer book.

Emily was the one who realized the children had both recently made a first confession. "Could the unsub be targeting children he no longer sees as "innocent"?

"And then "cleansing" them with the bleach?" added Morgan. He continued, "Is the death accidental then, because of the bleach, or does the unsub intend to kill them?"

"The cause of death in both of these cases was suffocation," Reid provided.

Emily was sure. "He…..or she…..this could definitely be a woman….cleanses, but then realizing it hasn't worked, sacrifices the children."

JJ entered the room and informed them they'd been "officially" invited to assist with the case. She'd convinced the Pennsylvania State Police that they were dealing with a serial.

Hotch made a call. "Wheels up in 20 minutes." The team dispersed to prepare.

As they did, Emily leaned against the window and watched the rhythm of the BAU. Looking at each of her teammates in turn, she bade them a silent goodbye, her mind a whirlwind of memories, hopes, regrets, and emotions. The characterizations from her dream kept coming back to her. She was amazed at how accurate they were.

She couldn't actually see Garcia, who operated in a windowless office, much like her alter ego. She would forever be the Wiz to Emily, working behind the scenes, accomplishing miraculous feats of electronic wizardry. Morgan seemed to be able to penetrate the veil that hid who Penelope was, and maybe JJ to a degree. But Emily had always been on the other side of the curtain, granted glimpses of the personality on girls' nights out or at holiday parties. She knew she would miss Penelope, but couldn't say how or why.

Next she spied Rossi. In her dream, the Mayor of Munchkinland. She'd had a lot of trouble interpreting that one, but finally realized that he served as a senior spokesperson for the BAU-for the Bureau, really, through the books he'd written. Really, kind of an ambassador for them. Who had stepped into some pretty big shoes on the team, joining them after Gideon left. For Emily, his tenure had lasted much longer than Gideon's. He'd been the voice of experience, the calm in the storm-when he wasn't creating the storm himself. Rossi had a tendency to let his emotions lead him, to shoot from the hip, and Emily loved that about him. There was something "old school" about him that she respected and admired. She would miss his mentoring and (sometimes) subtle humor.

Rossi may have been the mayor, but he certainly wasn't the one who kept the citizenry in line. That job fell to Glinda, the Good Witch. Had it been just because of the blond hair that JJ'd had that role in her dream? Or was it because it was always JJ who calmed the masses-victims' families, local law enforcement, the press? JJ was, literally, the team's mother, the one they sought out for solace, the voice of reason in the midst of panic. (She was also a major fan of the "Tornado" as well, and Emily wondered if she was faring any better this day after.) Forever, Emily would be grateful for the long distance relationship JJ had sustained with her during her "death". Even more, she would always feel gratitude-and guilt-that JJ had risked her relationships with the others to protect her. She didn't think she would actually be saying goodbye to JJ. Somehow they would find a way to stay connected.

Morgan. How could she say goodbye to Morgan? Morgan the hothead, Morgan the kicker-down of doors, Morgan the protector. He'd made her feel welcome the moment she joined the team, had gifted her by entrusting her with his life from the beginning. He gave her opportunity to prove herself, and acknowledged her when she did. Morgan, who could explode at any of the others for taking a risk, yet could never do any less himself. Never actually cowardly, but always the lion. She'd abandoned him once with her "death", and sustained that separation through deception. He'd forgiven her and, seemingly, forgotten. But Emily eyes filled with the sudden realization that he hadn't forgotten at all, but had, miraculously, made the choice to forgive her-and continued to do so, day by day, one day after the other. What strength of character, what testament to friendship-and faith. Farewell, my Lion.

Hotch came out of his office just then. The Tin Man, who'd forgotten how to feel after he lost Haley and the family they had made with Jack. Who'd accepted the painful "oiling" that allowed him to become human again, for the sake of Jack. Who, despite his hard exterior or, maybe, because of it, was able to recognize the one she'd built for herself. Who was able to see when that artifice was crumbling. Who offered the chance to do something he himself could not do, to admit her frailty and seek respite. Saying goodbye to Hotch was more painful than she'd realized it would be. Tin Man, I wish the best for you -a heart full of love to share with your son and a special someone.

Lastly, her gaze settled on Reid. Her cubicle-mate, her teammate, in many ways a younger brother and, occasionally, a little bit like a son. Reid, whose youth trumped his genius when faced with life's inequities. Who would rather invest in hope than cynicism, who was unafraid to acknowledge his shared humanity with those who committed some of the most heinous crimes. His innocence had touched something deep within Emily, and the loss of that innocence after Henkel, something even deeper. Reid, who had been so upset when she'd been hurt at the cult compound, and completely devastated at her "death". Reid, who'd made her smile with "physics magic" and then cry because he felt inadequate at the ripe old age of thirty. Reid, who had helped her rediscover the humanity she'd suppressed when she left the episode with Doyle. Reid, who had shared with her some of his deepest fears and been gifted in turn with the deception of her "death". Reid, who had loved her enough to forgive her. She'd lost herself in that experience, and found herself again in the forgiveness. Scarecrow, I think I'm going to miss you most of all.

The team were beginning to head for the elevators now. Each of them in turn stopped in stride, locked eyes and smiled or waved. She might be gone by the time they returned. As painful as the separation might be, there was work to be done. Rossi shouted across the room, "Emily! Remember, you'll always have a place here. This will always be your home." With that, the elevator door shut.

And because she couldn't stop herself, Emily clicked her heels three times.