Dreams of the Lost
times of grief and sorrow I will hold you and rock you and take your grief and
make it my own. When you cry, I cry, and when you hurt, I hurt. And together we
will try to hold back the floods to tears and despair and make it through the
potholed street of life."
The smell of Erin's room. Sweet, heavy with the scent of lilies—her favorites, which he bought for her earlier in the week, a simple gesture that never fails to make her smile. The warmth of her skin next to his. Now comforting, familiar, expected—both were used to sleeping alone, but now they can't stand to sleep apart. The softness of her breathing. Calm, steady, assured, chest rising and falling beneath his cheek—this is how they always fall asleep, his head on her chest, listening to her heart beat as her fingers gently entwine themselves in his hair.
There is a noise.
Erin murmurs something, the sound odd and hollow in his ear, which is pressed against her chest. She nudges him awake.
"David. David, it's the cat. Go let him in."
"He's a cat. He'll be fine outside."
"I'm going." He rolls out of bed, pulling on a robe. She props herself up on her elbows, smiling sleepily at him.
The hallway seems longer. When he finally reaches the front door, the noise has stopped. He opens the door anyways, looking around expectantly for that annoying ball of fur that Erin adores like a fourth child.
But it isn't Erin's front porch anymore. In fact, the entire suburb had disappeared.
David is staring out at a crowded city street. A crowded New York City street, to be exact.
He goes back to the bedroom, but he can't move fast enough, everything's in slow motion, like he's walking underwater or through deep snow. He pushes harder, finally makes it back, though he knows what he'll find when he gets there.
An empty bed. The lilies are gone. The window is open.
He rushes down the hall, this time much more quickly than the last, pulse pounding as he darts through the open door, into the blaring, flashing city-world.
One block, two? Remember how to get there. You know that you know the way. She's always there, always in the same place. Find her faster this time—find her before it's too late, this time.
He sees the iron-wrought bench, sees the two figures seated on it. That familiar blonde head is still bobbing, still moving, and he hopes—oh, how he hopes! —that he will save her this time.
He moves, but again it is in slow-motion. There are too many people, too many obstacles, but he pushes and curses and shouts—shouts to her, for her (hang on, hang on, I'm coming, don't leave me, not yet, no please not yet!).
Her hand falls. He knows.
September 2013. Nairobi, Kenya.
Emily Prentiss glanced at the bedside clock again—it was late, but Hotch was probably still awake. Most likely, he was working on action reports and other paperwork, or perhaps getting in a Skype session with Jack. The last thought made her hesitate—what if he was talking to his son?
She shook the thought away. No more excuses.
She moved to the door, her hands trembling with adrenaline and audacity. She'd go to his room, tell him exactly what she'd thought earlier that night—that they'd paid for the right to be happy together, paid for it with blood and tears, paid for it in scars and slain demons and seas of tragic faces. He'd feared burning their world, but perhaps it was time to remember that fire wasn't always bad—it brought safety, heat, light. Nothing bad could come of this. They'd already given the bad its due. All that was left to claim was the good.
With one last deep breath, she whipped open the door—and looked straight into David Rossi's haggard face.
He looked like hell, and not in the normal fatigued way that came as part and parcel of their work. He had the look of a haunted man, bottomless eyes and defeated shoulders and a quiet sense of desperation.
She didn't have to ask what was wrong—the pained look on his face told her everything. She simply took him into her arms, and he gratefully returned her embrace, clutching her like a drowning man clinging to a life raft. No questions, no explanations.
"I wasn't sure you'd be awake," he confessed quietly, tears etching his voice, which was muffled by her shoulder.
"I would have wanted you to wake me," she assured him.
"I haven't dreamt about her in so long…I thought maybe I was past it. It's always the same."
Emily didn't ask who he dreamt about. Again, she didn't have to ask, because she understood. After Matthew's death, she'd had recurring dreams of him, her mind trying to reimagine the thousand different ways that she could have saved him—except that she never could save him, no matter how she tried.
"Come inside," she gently moved him away from the door so that she could close it again. All thoughts of Aaron shattered and drifted away. This was a sacrifice worth making.
Rossi seemed to suddenly realize what he'd done, "I'm sorry, gattina—I should go back—you need to rest—"
"You're not going to be alone," she informed him. "If you don't stay here, I'm just going to follow you back to your room and sit outside your door until you let me in."
He smiled at this, finally confessing, "You know, sometimes, when you say stuff like that, I think you could have been the daughter I never had."
"Who knows? With my mom's travel schedule and your track record, that might still be a possibility," Emily returned dryly.
Now he laughed, wiping away tears. "I'm not that lucky, mia cara."
"I'm not sure if that was directed at me or my mother."
He simply hugged her again, and that was her answer.
"Do you want to talk about it?" She asked quietly, dark eyes searching his face.
He looked away, out the window, "Not yet."
He turned back to her with a slight smile, easily plopping onto the edge of the bed, "Distract me for a while, gattina. Tell me exactly why Aaron Hotchner gave me a rather scathing sermon on the duties of friends and not sharing sensitive information with certain persons of interest."
She grinned, only slightly chagrined, "I didn't mean to implicate you."
"He would have known, even if you hadn't."
She couldn't refute that claim.
"So, what happened?"
"Well, nothing, technically," Emily admitted, sitting beside him and crossing her legs indian-style. "Except we did finally admit that there was something there. And…and I think he plans to continue the discussion. Or at least I do."
"Good," he gave a curt nod of approval. "I know this may be hard to believe, but Hotch is a lot like Strauss. It takes a while for those types to really come around—but when they do, you certainly won't regret the wait."
"That's a comparison I'd rather not have in my mind," she informed him.
"Oh, the things I could tell you—"
"I'd really rather not hear."
"What? You don't want to hear stories about Erin Strauss' softer side?"
"I don't want to hear stories about your sex life," she corrected him. She gave a wry shake of her head, "I've heard enough of those over the years, and they were so much more bearable when I didn't know the other participant, but Strauss—that's a line I can't cross and mental image that I don't want in my brain, especially when—"
"Especially when you've already got some very compelling mental images of Aaron Hotchner rolling around your head?" He finished sweetly, his grin as smooth and wicked as the devil's himself.
She couldn't help but laugh, lightly spatting his shoulder in reprimand. "I hope to god I'm not your daughter, because these are certainly not the kind of conversations that fathers and daughters usually have."
"What can I say? We're a very special family."
The harsh buzzing of his cellphone jolted Clyde Easter awake. He sat up, rubbing his bleary eyes as he tried to focus on the name lighting up the screen: Connelly.
"What is it?" He tried to sound more awake than he felt, and failed miserably.
"Sorry to disturb your beauty rest, Mr. Easter." Again, the Mr. was used in a derisive tone. "But I just got a call from London. We've figured out who Wasaki's partner was—or is, I suppose."
"Who?" Clyde was instantly energized—any remains of sleep or fatigue zipped away at the promise of closing in on the chase.
"Andwele Ade," she answered. "That's our best guess, anyways—my analysts have dug up several connections between the two. The last few times we've caught Wasaki on camera—traffic camera footage, security feeds, that sort of thing—this Ade character has been with him. The general consensus is that Ade is being groomed to become Wasaki's successor."
"So, he's younger?"
"A bit, but not much—I'd guess maybe ten years, thirteen tops." Clyde could hear the distracted tone of Constance's voice, as if perhaps she was studying a picture of Ade right now. "Which would still put him older than most of the ANAM members—and he's from West Africa, too. Senegal, to be exact."
"Which also happens to be one of the suppositions for Wasaki's place of origin," Clyde remembered. He gave a slight sigh. "It makes sense. Perhaps Ade is a childhood friend—maybe even a brother? We know Mariatu Wasaki is the name he chose for himself years ago. Who knows what his real name might be?"
"A man like Wasaki would only take on someone whom he trusted implicitly," Constance agreed. "I'd stick to family too. But not the kind you're thinking. As the saying goes—blood is thicker than water."
"Which would imply family," Clyde pointed out.
He could actually feel Constance shaking her head, "The blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb. It means that brothers of blood are closer than biological brothers—we're talking about warriors,soldiers, Clyde. These men probably served together at some point, shed blood for each other. They've saved each other's lives. You can't trust a man with anything more deeply than your own life. And that's the only kind of person whom Wasaki would trust—the kind who'd proven himself, the kind he'd trust with his life."
"Brothers of blood," Clyde murmured to himself. "That's damn near poetic, Connelly. How many coffees have you had?"
"Since arriving in Nairobi?" She felt silent for a moment, mentally counting. "Eight. Maybe nine. I'm not entirely sure."
"Jesus. Have you slept?"
"Clyde. I'm in a windowless metal room with half a dozen charred bodies. You think I'm just gonna curl up in some corner and drift into peaceful slumber?"
He had to laugh at that. She had a point. "You should come back to the hotel. Get some rest."
"There are more important things than sleep," she returned, though her tone held no accusation.
"Don't run yourself into the ground." He couldn't order her to stop (even if he did, she'd laugh and keep going anyways), and he didn't know how to tell her that he was concerned for her (he'd never been good at that, it was the unsentimental Brit in him, he supposed). This was as close as he could get.
She seemed to understand, because her voice was soft, "I won't."
"Is that all we've got, so far?" He changed the subject, assuming an air of all-business.
She gave a slight huff, "I hand you a budding world-class terrorist on a silver platter, and that's what you ask me? Clyde Easter, you cheeky bastard."
He smiled at her feigned outrage, "I take that as a yes."
"More to follow, soon," she assured him. "All four of my analysts are on video footage now—hopefully we can catch of glimpse of either one of our targets at a supermarket or bus station or something."
As always, Clyde felt a sense of awe for the intelligence department—the things they could do, the networks they could access, it made them seem like something out of a hyped-up secret-agent television show. They performed the impossible with tools and programs that seemed too fantastical to be real and too invasive to be legal (and honestly, some tactics probably were too invasive to be legal, but it's only a crime if someone reports it, and to be able to prove it, that someone would have to have the same programs, which was nearly improbable and impossible.)
"I must return to the dead," she informed him drolly.
"Yes, go play with your cadavers," he continued the unaffected tone.
He heard her give a small hum of amusement before she hung up. He set the phone back on the nightstand and stared up at the ceiling.
Another link in the chain…but was it a link that would actually physically lead them to Wasaki's door? Constance was right—there had to be a deep connection between the two, an old connection, one proven through time and sacrifice. He could assign analysts to research and dig up all they could on Ade, to provide a more extensive background on Wasaki—but that didn't necessarily mean that any of it would contribute to his apprehension.
Emily would probably disagree. She seemed to think that an UNSUB's history was everything—the predictor of the future, the influence of the present, the explanation of the past.
But of course she'd think that—after all, the parts of her past (or at least that parts that Clyde knew) were predictors and influencers and explanations of Emily Prentiss.
Though he hadn't quite figured out which part was the influencer of her current behavior. He let his mind shuffle over the past few hours, the moments he'd spent watching her, trying to read her, trying to find his old Prentiss again.
Parts of the Emily that he knew were still there—her directness, her command of the situation, her cool resolve as she navigated the crime scene and directed the other agents. But in the moments of calm, she seemed to lapse, as if her inner monologue were distracted by something—it was a minuscule thing, something that only someone who'd known her for a very long time (like Clyde) would notice.
But he had noticed. And it worried him.
Was Emily coming unhinged? Had his shining star agent begun to fall?
No. If anyone could survive and thrive, it was Emily Prentiss.
She just needed a rest—she'd gotten this way with Doyle, in the end. She'd been pushed too far, too hard for too long, and like the dependable workhorse that she was, she'd keep pulling her yoke until it crushed her. She hadn't slackened pace since she'd joined Interpol again, over a year ago—it was time to let her recuperate.
After this case, of course. Clyde breathed a small prayer to the fates above that somehow, they'd find a quick and satisfying end to this entire debacle.
He knew the wish was futile, a stillborn, strangled by its own umbilical cord before it could even take a single breath.
He pushed himself from the bed with a frustrated sigh—no sense in lying here, knowing full well that he wouldn't be able to sleep, not with his mind spinning like a pinwheel in a high wind.
As he made his way to the door, he got the distinct feeling that there was something, someone on the other side. He peered through the peephole, instinctively holding his breath.
Shuffling. Footsteps muffled by the heavy carpet. Not an unusual sound for a hotel.
Voices. Low, caring, tender. A man and a woman.
Emily. The female voice was Emily's.
A movement, someone walking quietly down the hall, past his door.
A brief flash of a face.
Clyde stepped back, his face a blank screen of shock.
Penelope cranked up the music on her speakers as she returned her focus to the computer screen in front of her—the latest soundtrack from some action-packed spy movie, something with adrenaline and some serious bad-ass orchestral notes that always made her feel like she was at the center of an action flick herself.
Her bedazzled high-heel tapped in time with the building music as she scoured every database known to man for a single name.
She didn't know who he was, but she was quickly learning. And all too soon, she realized that there wasn't much to learn—this guy was an enigma, an ingénue of terror who'd just recently appeared on the world stage.
He may have seemingly appeared from nowhere, but he wasn't a ghost—he had a life, and lives left trails, Penelope knew. And wherever that trail was, she would find it.
She glanced at the clock at the bottom of her computer screen. It was almost nine o'clock. She should have left the office two hours ago. Still, she couldn't help herself—she had been losing sleep, trying to keep up with her loves halfway around the globe, adjusting to their work schedule while still keeping her own, seven time zones away.
Sleep was a small sacrifice, in her book. She was torn between wishing that she was closer to them and being grateful that she was safely ensconced in her nest at Quantico.
A slight noise caught her attention—a small jingle, barely audible over the pulsing soundtrack. She switched screens, to the Interpol database—she was constantly checking on the status of the Nairobi case, which had its own file of action reports and discoveries within the database. There was a new entry—Andwele Ade had been either with Wasaki or within a thirty mile radius of him at all times for the last year.
"Man, these guys are fast," she felt a twinge of envy. She'd already brought some great information to the fore in this case, but she still bristled at the idea of someone else aiding her loves.
That whole lost-cause heat-seeking satellite mission, for instance. She would have advised against it, primarily because she knew that satellites generally couldn't provide real-time images. Really, the heat-seeking thing could be used to back-track or to follow targets moving down paths that had only one outlet….
Back-track. The thought flickered an idea across her brain. Her eyes widened with sudden excitement.
She fumbled around, fingers searching for a piece of paper on her desk—Hotch had given her the direct line for the CID in Nairobi, somewhere.
"Aha!" She gave a triumphant grin as she pulled the paper from underneath a stack of sticky-notes. She quickly punched in the number, glancing at the clock. It was late (or technically, very early) in Nairobi, but there would be someone working the graveyard shift. That was the wonderful thing about police stations—there was always someone to answer the phone.
The call didn't take long, though it took awhile for Penelope's request to be finalized—she wasted some time by further researching Andwele Ade and Mariatu Wasaki in the Interpol database. Within the hour, she was watching the stored footage from the heat-seeking satellites. Frame by aching frame, she followed the heat signatures. True to theory, the red-yellow blob in the middle building moved, exited the building just minutes before a large group of red dots appeared at the front.
The blonde eagerly leaned forward, watching the direction of the runaway blob. It disappeared out of range.
East. He was heading east.
Penelope sat back, trying to figure out how this could be used to her advantage. The footage had been terminated just a few minutes after the tac teams had secured the building. The satellites were programmed to record over their feed every few hours—there wouldn't be any way to retrieve any relevant footage, since it had been almost twelve hours since the attempted apprehension.
She pulled up satellite maps of the area. She looked for hotels and other abandoned buildings near the site—all east, because it didn't seem likely that Wasaki would circle back.
If that little red-yellow dot had been Wasaki in the first place.
She gave a frustrated sigh, taking a beat to simply stare at the computer screen.
She went back to the Interpol database. A few seconds of searching brought her another telephone number.
"Information Intelligence Division, this is Analyst Knox speaking." The voice was undeniably British—South London, if Penelope had to guess.
"Um, hi. This is Technical Analyst Penelope Garcia, from the FBI. I'm….I'm assisting on the Wasaki case in Nairobi as well—"
"Ah, yes. I see your credentials here on our network—got a pretty high clearance for an outsider, I must say."
"I've got friends in high places," she said, only half-jokingly.
"I'd say." There was a smile in Knox's voice. "What can I help you with?"
"Actually, I was going to ask you the same thing," Penelope admitted. "I'm going stir-crazy here, and I'm hitting a dead end with the satellite footage—"
"Oh, yeah—the heat signal stuff from earlier? Not much use, I'm afraid."
"Exactly. So I need you to give me something to do—something that might actually help."
She could sense that he was grinning again. "A right regular boy scout you are, TA Garcia—or girl scout, I suppose. Lucky for you, we'll take anyone on deck. Our hands have been a bit tied in terms of sharing with outside agencies, but since you're already in on this one, you've got clearance. Give me a minute or two and then check the FTP files—I'll be sending you something soon."
"Thank you," she breathed a sigh of relief.
"No, thank you," he returned. He murmured to himself for a few moments, then spoke clearly, "Ok, so you're up to speed on the Andwele Ade development, yeah?"
"Yes. I've done a little research of my own, too."
"Good. Now what I'm assigning you is, quite honestly, boring as hell. We've got all four analysts here pouring over footage from various entities—it's best not to ask where or how we got this stuff, by the by. We're operating on the assumption that Wasaki and Ade haven't left the area, so we're looking for them in footage—they gotta eat, they gotta sleep, they gotta cross streets, and we've got footage from traffic cams and security feeds from banks and grocery stores and hotels. Our job is to find those lovely faces. We upload footage into our facial recognition program and let the computers do all the heavy lifting—but we still have to keep an eye out, because it's not intuitive, like we are. We can only run so much footage through the program on each computer, so if we could borrow yours, that would help a lot. I send you the files, you upload into the program, and if there's a hit, you inspect it further—then you flag it and send it back, so that we can use geo-profiling to start looking at footage from other cameras nearby. Got it?"
"Got it," she repeated with a deft nod.
A few more words of advice from Knox, then the phone call ended. Penelope sat back, taking a deep breath. She didn't mind boring work—so long as it was helpful. A few minutes later, there were several video files awaiting her perusal. She uploaded the files into the facial recognition program, as Knox had instructed, and waited.
She hated waiting.
"C'mon, ya creep," she glanced over at a photo of Ade, which was in the upload queue. "Show me something good."
The Plaza Hotel. Nairobi, Kenya.
Aaron Hotchner took another deep breath before giving a quick, efficient rap on Emily's door. He'd spent the night turning their previous discussion over and over again in his mind.
Let's just not pretend that it's not there. That had been Emily's only request. She didn't ask him to do anything, didn't ask him to stay or walk away. She'd simply asked for recognition.
And he wanted to give her that. He wanted to give her more than that.
But his restlessness had not been based on that. It had been based on what flashed before his eyes when he fell asleep.
He had dreamt of Haley. He'd dreamt of finding her again, lying on the floor, vacant eyes and pale face, blood soaking the carpet of their home. He'd taken her into his arms again, but this time, he did not cry.
But when he had pulled back to look at her face again, she'd changed into Emily—Emily with Doyle's stake through her chest, Emily without spark or expression, Emily without her Emilyness.
She had fallen further back, kept falling, away from him, deep into a dark pit, her lifeless face a pale dot slowly fading into the inky blackness.
He'd woken in a cold sweat. What did it mean?
He'd told himself that it was just his fears—the fears he'd kept at bay for so long, the fears he'd felt towards anyone that he'd cared about, since the loss of Haley.
He had loved and lost Haley. He feared that if he loved Emily, he would consequently lose her, too.
He told himself that was what it meant. He still wasn't sure if he believed it, yet.
Emily still hadn't answered. He stood a moment, hesitant to knock again.
A movement down the hall caught his eye, he turned to see Clyde Easter walking towards him, each step weighted and smooth, like a jungle cat secure in his own territory.
Clyde was nursing a steaming cup of tea, watching it with a distracted air as he casually supplied, "She's downstairs, getting herself a cuppa—turned into a right proper English girl, on that front."
The last remark seemed like a volley of some sort, an opening salvo in some unspoken battle between the two. Aaron wasn't sure of the point—was Easter simply reminding him that Emily had chosen the London Interpol over the American BAU? Was he trying to tell Aaron that Emily was happier, that she was where she truly belonged?
Whatever the meaning, Clyde didn't push it further. Instead, he changed tack, "I think she'll be staying downstairs until the van arrives—though I feel obligated to warn you, I don't think she'll be as anxious to see you as you are to see her."
"What is that supposed to mean?" Aaron tucked his hands into his pockets, to keep them from instinctively balling into fists. He remembered with painful clarity why he didn't jive well with Clyde Easter—the man loved to play mind games, to offer hints and half-truths with a casual nonchalance that was both unnerving and infuriating.
Clyde slipped his key card in and out of the reader easily, gently swinging the door open as he took a small sip of his tea—each movement perfectly choreographed, like a Russian ballet, all grace and theatricality disguised as effortless unconscious action.
"Because," he said simply. "You weren't the man leaving her room at three o'clock this morning."
if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."