give you opportunities to look more deeply into your existence."
London, England. September 2013.
"Turn on the television. Channel 4."
Emily Prentiss rolled her eyes at Clyde Easter's brusqueness—he didn't even bother to state his name, simply issuing commands the instant that she answered the phone. Still, she did as she was told, reaching for the remote at the corner of her desk and punching the necessary buttons.
Across the room, the flat screen on the wall filled with images of smoke and shattered glass, bloody faces and crying mothers, armed police officers hurrying people to safety. The past four days had been an absolute reign of terror in Nairobi as a group of East African jihadists had held an entire shopping center hostage. Earlier that morning, a military-police joint task force had stormed the mall and ended the standoff in an absolute bloodbath.
"The assault in Kenya," she stated, informing him that she was watching the correct channel.
"Yes." She repeated, still trying to understand whatever he was trying to tell her.
"Your passport's up to date, isn't it, darling?"
Emily stamped down another wave of irritation—she hated how he always asked questions that he didn't mean, how he used them to skirt around an issue instead of simply coming out and saying it.
"You know it is," she pointed out, quickly cutting to the chase. "I assume that you're asking because I have a trip to Kenya in my future."
"You do. My, what a sharp one you are, Miss Prentiss—"
"Spare me the sarcasm, Easter." She tilted her head towards the ceiling again, daring to ask, "Why me?"
"Because," Clyde paused for a beat (and Emily loathed him for it, for drawing out every second). "Your little friends from the FBI are coming over to investigate, along with members of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. They believe the attack is a direct threat to the United States and her allies. Since you have a prior working relationship—and a first-hand knowledge of how the Bureau operates—you're the perfect candidate for the job."
"The BAU is in Kenya?" Now Emily sat up, planting her feet firmly back on the ground. She honestly wasn't sure how she felt about this news, or about the prospect of working with them again—yes, this time she'd left on good terms, but the thought of being back on the case with her old team stirred up some unresolved stuff (she knew that it would make her miss them again, it would remind her of the feeling of family and belonging that she'd always felt around them), and she wasn't sure that she was ready to be thrown back into that emotional tailspin.
"Well, no, technically—not yet. They're leaving the U.S. tomorrow morning. Which is when you'll be heading out as well."
"Yes, sir," Emily answered automatically, her mind already a million miles away as she began to dread all of the possible reactions that she could have to being back with the BAU.
Clyde said something else, and Emily hoped that it wasn't important, because she didn't actually hear his words—she simply hung up the phone, swiveling her chair to look out at the London skyline.
She liked it here. The job was a challenge, in a good way—she'd had to re-learn and re-develop those skills and muscles that she'd cultivated during her stint with Interpol, but once she found her stride again, the pace was familiar and comforting. She knew that this was where she belonged. As much as she had enjoyed her time at the BAU, international crimes would always be her niche, her true calling.
Still, that didn't stop the odd apprehension rising from her chest and through her throat as she contemplated what it would be like to work with her old team members. Last year, Derek Morgan had spent a few weeks working with her in London (Penelope joined him, but she was there strictly on vacation)—it had been nice, having her old partner in the trenches with her. It wasn't the same as the BAU, they didn't spend their days walking through crime scenes or down crowded city streets, but rather cooped up in her office, going over paper trails and making international phone calls. However, the camaraderie and smooth-rolling efficiency was still there—there were several times when they were simply sitting in her office, quietly focused on their respective tasks, and Emily would realize that she was smiling, simply because she was so happy to have her friend here with her.
However, she also remembered how her whole body filled with a dull, empty ache whenever they left. She'd returned to her apartment (her flat, as Penelope would say), which had seemed so hollow without Penelope's bubbly personality, her giggly girlish lilt filling the rafters as she recounted the adventures of her day to Morgan and Prentiss, and the warm, deep melody of Morgan's voice as he delivered one of his customary smooth lines, the reassuring weight that his presence always seemed to instill in any room, the feeling of family that had saturated every pore of her little nest while they were there.
Emily could admit that when it came to human emotion, she was a bit of a coward. She didn't like the sadness, the pain of it all. Until she'd transferred to the BAU, she'd done a pretty fine job of avoiding any deep ties with her coworkers (hell, she'd even been able to keep distance between herself and Doyle, and she had been sleeping with him), because she'd known that everything in life was temporary. However, she hadn't been able to stop herself from falling in love with the members of her BAU team—it was so subtle, so gentle and soft that she hadn't realized it was happening until it was too late.
She didn't regret falling under the spell of the BAU. She wouldn't even regret spending time with them again. However, she would (and did) dread all the angsty fallout that would follow.
She suddenly realized that she was biting her thumbnail again. With an irritated sigh and a roll of her eyes, Emily shook her head and swiveled her chair back to the computer. She had work to do. She'd deal with the stupid sloppy emotions whenever they actually occurred. Right now, she simply filed them away in her mental box and focused on the task at hand. She'd have plenty of time to dread and worry and fret over things she couldn't control on the long flight to Nairobi.