Disclaimer: The usual.

Set immediately after the season 8 finale.


I. David Rossi

Rossi sat at the table in his backyard, holding a diamond ring in one hand and a sobriety chip in the other. A single tear rolled down his cheek. He heard footsteps and looked up. He saw Spencer Reid approach.

Reid said, "I'm so sorry."

"I was going to ask her to marry me."

"She would have said yes. She loved you very much," Reid said.

"How do you know?"

"She told me."

The wheels in Rossi's head turned, and then realization dawned. "You were her sponsor."

Reid's silence confirmed it.

Rossi continued. "She never told me who her sponsor was. She just said someone in the Bureau. Thank you. You helped her keep her sobriety. You gave me a year with her."

"I wish you could have had more time."

"So do I."


II. Aaron Hotchner

Hotch walked through the cemetery, noting the names on the headstones as he passed, each one representing someone he couldn't save. Erin Strauss. Maeve Donovan. Haley Hotchner.

He stopped in front of Haley's grave and said, "I failed again. I'm sorry."

"I can't help but think it's not worth it. Foyet killed you because of the job. Gideon, Reid and Dave lost loved ones to unsubs, too. Maybe you were right. Maybe the price is too high."

He thought of Beth. Could he risk her life the way he risked Haley's?

He remembered the last time he seriously considered quitting the BAU. "After you died, Erin offered me full retirement. I almost took it. After all, the job cost our marriage and then your life. Now the job cost her life, too."

Then he thought about what Jack said when he had to leave him with Beth while he chased the Replicator. If someone is in trouble, you have to help them.

"I'm sorry, Haley. I have to keep chasing the evil ones of the world. It's who I am."

The wind blew, and he almost felt a voice saying, 'I know.'


III. Spencer Reid

The phone rang at 11:00 pm. "Hello."

"John. It's Spencer. I'm sorry to call you at this hour, but I really need to talk to someone."

"Of course. What's on your mind."

"It's not fair."

"What isn't fair?" John asked.

"I was kidnapped and drugged by an unsub, and I survived. Erin was kidnapped and drugged by an unsub, and she died. She worked so hard on her sobriety, and it was forced from her in the end. I know she must have been so frightened. I was when it happened to me. It's the ultimate violation," Reid said.

"What are you thinking about right now?" John asked.

Reid reached into his pocket and pulled out his five year coin. He ran his thumb across it and then threw it against the wall. "I want to go get high. I mean, what's the point of staying clean if an unsub can just rip it all away? Better to do it by choice than be forced into it. After the year I've had, escape sounds kind of nice."

"Stay on the phone, Spencer. I'm coming over."

Ten minutes later, John arrived. They sat in silence until Reid fell asleep. John gently picked up the coin and tucked it back into Reid's pocket.

The next morning, John drove them to the local Presbyterian church. They walked into the multipurpose room, which was marked with a sign on the door. Beltway Clean Cops.

Reid looked around at his friends, at John's friends, at Erin's friends. He took a deep breath, "Hi. My name is Spencer..."


IV. Penelope Garcia

Garcia bustled around her office, deftly avoiding the tangle of wires and cables on the floor. She flew around in a hurry as she typed commands and hooked up equipment.

"Baby girl. What are you doing?"

She looked up and saw Morgan standing in the doorway. "I'm installing biometric controls and re-encrypting my system. I'm making sure that nobody can get in. It's my fault again. I'm the weak link. I thought I fixed it enough after Randall Garner, but obviously it wasn't enough. My computer system is what got Strauss killed."

"Come here," Morgan said as he enveloped Garcia in a hug.

"It's not your fault," he said. "The only person whose fault this is is the Replicator."

"Still, I'm the weak link. The rest of you have guns. All I have are my computers and my troll dolls. I have to keep you safe like you keep me safe."

"Do you need any help?" Morgan asked.

Garcia handed him a wire and said, "Plug that sparkly pink cable into the lime green socket."


V. Derek Morgan

The morning after the funeral, Derek Morgan found himself at the gym. He had been sparring with the punching bag for the past hour. With each hit, he imagined his fists landing on the Replicator's jaw.

Right hook. That's for hacking Garcia's computer.

Left hook. That's for stealing his glass at the embassy.

Right hook. That's for using Maeve as a pawn in his sick game.

Left hook. That's for all the victims of the replicated crimes.

Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. Right. Left. Right. That's for killing Strauss.

He paused and realized the irony that at one time, it was Strauss's face he envisioned on that punching bag. She started out with an agenda to destroy the team. Along the way, she went from antagonist to neutral to friend.

He continued to rain punches down on the bag in a futile attempt to avenge her death. His knuckles began to bleed.

He showered and bandaged his hands before heading upstairs. When he walked past Strauss's office, he saw Agent Anderson gently boxing up her belongings.

It all seemed so final. Morgan headed to his office and punched the wall. His bandage began to turn red.


VI. JJ

JJ stood in front of the memorial wall in the hallway outside the BAU. At the top were the words:

In memory of our fallen agents.

She held a framed photograph in her hands and hesitated before placing it on the wall. She read the plaque.

Erin Strauss

Section Chief

Behavioral Analysis Unit

Killed in Action - May 22, 2013

She remembered the last time a photograph of one of her friends graced that wall. How she wished this was a lie, too. But it was the truth. The horrible, ugly truth.


VII. Alex Blake

For ten years, Alex Blake hated Erin Strauss. That amoral backstabbing bitch ruined her career. Threw her under the bus when things went south during the Amerithrax case.

For ten years she clawed her way back up, restoring her reputation. She was honestly shocked when she was accepted into the BAU. She knew she was qualified, but she figured that Strauss would veto her application.

Alex wandered through the cemetery and stopped at a newly formed mound of earth. Instead of a headstone was a simple temporary marker.

"Erin, I'm sorry. It's my fault that you're dead. I gave you a ride back to the hotel because I wanted to talk with you and tell you that I forgive you. If I had forgiven you sooner, Dave would have taken you back to the hotel, and he would have been with you when the Replicator came."

She was greeted with silence. But what did she expect? The dead can't speak.

Just as she was about to walk away, to wallow forever in her guilt, she heard a rustle in the trees. She looked up and saw a dove fly overhead with an olive branch in its beak.