The Process of Knowing
is never afraid of the unknown; one is afraid of the known coming to an
Penelope rubbed the tight and sore muscles in her neck as she stared at the screen.
There had to be a faster way. Maybe if she'd actually slept in the past twenty hours, she would be able to think of it. But fatigue was about to win this battle.
A notification from the Interpol case file popped up in the corner of her screen. She paused the footage and read the entry. It was short, a simple input that after reading interview transcripts in which Wasaki had pretended to be a Senegalese tourist, paired with the fact that Ade was Senegalese, analysts had determined that Wasaki was most likely from Senegal in real life.
Interesting. But perhaps not very helpful.
Penelope slumped back in her chair. She really needed a nice cup of tea—something gentle and comforting, just like home.
Home. Just like home.
She bolted upright again.
If she were a super-scary bad guy, always on the run and jumping from place to place, she'd want some kind of home comforts. What was the easiest way to feel back home?
She opened a new screen on her computer, searching for Senegalese restaurants in Nairobi.
There were three. She quickly figured out their coordinates, then went back to the folder of Interpol footage. It took a few minutes, but she finally pared her list down to cameras near the locations of each restaurant.
"Please be right," she prayed to herself.
Forty-five aching minutes later, there was the first sign of hope. The liquor store next to a Senegalese restaurant had security cameras that looked out onto the street—and to the entrance of the restaurant next door.
She saw a man who could be Andwele Ade entering. The footage was too blurry for the facial recognition program to get more than a 65% match, but it looked promising. She noted the date and time, then kept going.
The same man appeared the next day, around the same time. This time he got closer to the camera. This time the match was 83%.
It has to be him. The thought jolted through her body like an electric current. Yes, she was tired, and yes, she was desperately wanting to make some kind of headway in the case, but no, she wasn't blind yet.
She picked up the phone. Time to call London for further analysis and confirmation.
David Rossi was by no means an easily shaken man, but Clyde Easter was definitely creeping him out.
This was approximately the seventh time that Rossi had looked up from his work to see Easter staring at him with an unreadable expression. He never said anything, just always held Rossi's gaze for few beats before returning to the interview transcripts in his lap.
This time, it was even creepier, because everyone else was out grabbing lunch, and they were the only two still in the room.
"Can I help you?" Dave finally asked, in the sarcastically pleasant tone that could only be described as Rossi.
"I'm trying to figure out what Emily sees in you," Clyde's tone was relaxed, conversational. "I must admit, I just can't quite see it."
Clyde gave a nonchalant shrug, tossing a set of transcripts towards the middle of the table, "I mean, spend more than ten minutes with Emily Prentiss, and you'll realize that the girl has mommy issues—that was apparent, from day one. But in all the years I've known her, I've never known her to have any kind of Electra complex."
David immediately understood what the Brit was hinting at, but he kept quiet—Easter was a snake, and the only way to chop off a snake's head was to let him slip out of his lair. Let Easter come out and say what he was thinking. David wouldn't give him anything unless he directly asked.
The interview transcript in David's hand suddenly became the most interesting thing he'd read all year.
After a few more beats of silence, Easter persisted, "You know, when Emily came back to Interpol, I felt that she'd left something…unresolved, back in Virginia. She was different, not the way she was before she transferred to the FBI. At first, I thought it was simply fallout from the whole ordeal with Ian Doyle."
Clyde sat back, his gaze firmly fixed on Rossi's impassive face, "But now I'm beginning to think that it was something else entirely."
David turned a page in the transcript. He continued reading. He could feel Easter's frustration at his lack of response, and that only made him resolve to be even more stubborn.
Finally, Easter dropped his coyness, "How long have you been sleeping with Emily Prentiss?"
David Rossi wanted to laugh at that question—Emily was an attractive woman, but she'd always been his kid sister, his daughter, his gattina. He couldn't even imagine kissing her, much less sleeping with her.
Still, he kept his face deliciously deadpan as he slowly raised his gaze to meet the other man's. "And what would give you that idea?"
Despite his flat and uninterested tone, Rossi's mind was brimming with curiosity. Nothing they'd ever done or said to one another had ever even approached the semblance of anything other than the mutual admiration and respect of friends and coworkers. Where was Easter getting this harebrained scheme?
"Oh, I don't know," Easter made another nonchalant gesture with his hands. "Perhaps the fact that you were in her room until three o'clock this morning."
Ah. So Easter had somehow seen him leaving Emily's room—David couldn't imagine that Emily would volunteer such information (and even if she had, she would have told Easter the truth, which meant he wouldn't be interrogating David Rossi right now).
"And how do you know that?" David wanted to see if Easter would confess.
"I saw you."
So Easter really was putting all the cards on the table.
"And what did you see, exactly?" David crossed his arms over his chest, leaning back in his chair, mimicking Easter's stance.
"Just that—you, leaving Emily's room, at an ungodly hour."
"And every time a man and a woman are in room together, they're automatically sleeping with each other?" David shook his head sadly, "I wish I would have known that sooner. I've had a lifetime of missed opportunities."
"Then what were you doing?" Clyde's tone got a little harder, a little louder.
"What is Emily to you?" David studied the man's face, looking for an answer. "We may be in the field, but she was off the clock—why does it matter to you what she does in her down time?"
"You don't understand Emily Prentiss like I do," Clyde warned. "And despite what you may think, I am trying to protect her."
"If you knew her half as well as you claim, then you'd already know that nothing would ever happen between me and her," the Italian countered smoothly, allowing himself a little smile. "And you'd know that Emily Prentiss doesn't need anyone's protection. So I politely suggest you take your concerns and fuck off."
Clyde took a beat to size him up. Then, he laughed—a genuine, deep laugh.
"I can see why you and Emily would never make it romantically," he admitted dryly. "You're much too alike."
His smile disappeared again and he soberly confessed, "I know what this must look like—and I assure you, it's a purely professional matter, from my standpoint. Just before Doyle was apprehended by JTF-12, Emily began to…drift, for lack of a better word. I thought she was just tired. I had also thought, upon her return, that she would be the way she was before the drifting. However, this case has brought back the detached behavior, and my only concern is to figure out why. She's one of my best, but she isn't worth anything if she gets herself killed. My job is to keep her alive and functioning at her highest capacity. I'm sure you understand."
This cool dissection of a working relationship made Rossi blanch. "Well if that's the only kind of relationship she's allowed to cultivate with her team and coworkers, then it's not hard to see why she's drifting, as you put it. She's not a machine, Easter."
"I never said she was."
"You treat her like one—and if she's your pet, I'd hate to see how you treat the rest."
"Pets are for little old ladies in the park. She is an invaluable asset to the agency. And she understands that."
Rossi just shook his head. "You're a real piece of work."
"Thank you." Easter's tone wasn't even borderline sarcastic.
David wondered how thankful Easter would be if he told him that Emily was currently pursuing a romantic entanglement with another one of her former FBI members—not that he ever would. Still, the look on Easter's face would be rather rewarding.
Of course, Dave wasn't sure if Emily had really had the time to pursue anything more—after all, it wasn't even noon yet, and they'd been running all morning. He didn't think that Emily and Aaron had even been able to talk alone yet.
Ah, well. All things in good time. He'd pushed it along as far as he needed to. They'd have to find their own way, from here on out.
"From here on out, I have to be on-site for evidence collection," Jeff Masterson decreed in a low tone, grimacing as he turned his attention to the next set of fingerprints. When the tactical teams had raided the three abandoned buildings, Spencer Reid had found evidence in a back room that someone had been there recently—the techs on-site had taken prints, but the results were less than satisfactory (at least by Agent Masterson's standards).
"It wasn't ideal conditions," Rowena reminded him with a distracted air. She was busy comparing bullet casings from the original attack at the shopping center. They were in their own section of the lab, sequestered from the burned bodies, so they were able to talk quietly between themselves, with little fear of being overheard.
"Still." He was not placated.
"Still." She mocked his serious air. Jeff Masterson was an unbelievably persnickety person when it came to evidence collection, both a blessing and a curse—and an easy way to get under his skin, which she occasionally used, for laughs.
He sent a flat stare her way, obviously unamused with her antics. She didn't look up from her work, but she felt his gaze, and she grinned in response. He simply returned to the task at hand.
"You think it will be a close enough match?" She changed the vein of conversation. When Wasaki had been interviewed as a hostage, the police had taken his finger prints, as a way to rule him out whenever they began comparing prints left at the scene. Wasaki had gladly obliged, knowing full well that he'd been so elusive his entire career that his prints had never been on record.
"Just doesn't make sense," Jeff murmured to himself.
"Just….if Wasaki's been doing this for over twenty years, never leaving prints behind, and suddenly, he gives them up, while pretending to be a hostage—he has to know that we'll figure out it's him, and that we'll have his prints on file after that."
"Maybe he thought it was worth it," his partner shrugged, still more interested in her ballistics. "I mean, I'm pretty sure he doesn't plan on ever getting caught. They never do, those types."
"Still. Seems reckless."
"Maybe he's a reckless guy."
"He is, but….I don't know, he's always seemed more calculating."
"Maybe he's slipping," Rowena's voice was quiet.
"Men like that don't slip."
"Most men like that don't live as long as he has," she pointed out. He had to give a shrug of acquiescence. She made a slight face as she replaced one bullet under the microscope with another, "Besides, what does it matter?"
"It doesn't, I suppose," Jeff admitted, returning to his latent prints. He found the ones from Wasaki's hostage interview packet, scanning them both into the system. "Just something to pass the time."
"You have a strange idea of fun," his partner drawled.
Jeff became very still. Roe noticed his silence, then glanced up to see his rigid stance. She rose to her full height, like an Irish setter on alert, "What?"
"We've got a match. Wasaki was the guy in the building—the one who got out just before the tac team arrived."
"Shit," Roe breathed, moving closer to inspect the computer screen, which was blinking confirmation. It wasn't a 100% match, due to the poor quality of the prints from the abandoned building, but it was definitely close—anyone with a good eye could see it was the same print, just slightly distorted.
Her hand involuntarily went to grasp her partner's upper arm. "You know what this means."
"Yeah," his mouth set in a thin, tired line. "The bastard's got an inside man in the CID."
There was definitely a spring in Emily's step. Not a literal one, but a figurative lightness to her entire being, Spencer noted. He knew better than to mention it aloud—after all, he was certain that he knew the cause of it.
Because someone else also was figuratively springy. The young doctor glanced over at his unit chief, who was walking a whole ten feet away from the brunette woman in question. Hotch and Prentiss hadn't so much as glanced sideways at each other, and yet their body language was a complete about-face from yesterday's.
So everything was alright again. Spencer wasn't sure that he wanted to know anything more than that. He'd simply take the lack of awkwardness as a gift. The whole morning had been wonderfully peaceful—the Americans and Brits had gone out to lunch together, with the exception of Rossi and Easter, and everyone was in a remarkably hopeful mood. Yesterday had been a bust, but it was amazing how a good night's sleep and a solid dose of camaraderie could improve any situation.
"So, how long have you been doing this?" Addison Cortez's voice interrupted his thoughts. He glanced down at the woman next to him, waiting patiently at the crosswalk.
She laughed. "Ah, I see the good doctor has a fully-functional sense of sarcasm."
"Sorry. I think I've been spending too much time around Rossi."
She waved away the apology, "It's fine, really. I like someone with a little wit to them."
He didn't respond. He was too busy watching her wrist—still, it did not remind him of Maeve again.
"I've been with the CIA for four years now," she continued. "Before that, I bounced around with a few agencies. What about you? Have you always been with the FBI?"
"Pretty much," he admitted. "It's all I've ever really wanted to do—well, at least the thing I wanted to do that also did the most good."
"That's rather noble."
"No. Just…practical, I guess. Following the law of supply and demand."
She looked up at him again, squinting slightly in the noonday sun.
He elaborated, "Well, I mean, these people—our UNSUBS are out there, always working, always moving, always tearing more lives apart. And the more there are of them, the more we need people like us. It just made sense. I have all these abilities which make me a good fit for this kind of work, and this kind of work needs people like me—so really, it was the most logical choice."
Addison gave a knowing smile, "Something tells me that it wasn't entirely logic that brought you here. You're too compassionate for that."
"You don't know me," he reminded her, not unkindly.
"I know you well enough," she countered easily. "You have a good spirit, Dr. Reid. It's evident."
"She's right," Emily piped up, not even turning back to look at him. "You do."
"Are you eavesdropping?" He asked in feigned disapproval.
"Just honing my super secret agent skills," came the dry reply.
"Okay," Spencer's voice held a note of challenge. Emily's back was still turned to him, so he held up his hand, "Using your super secret agent skills, tell me how many fingers I'm holding up."
Addison's cry of surprised delight told Emily that she was correct.
Spencer was quiet. Still, Emily answered the unspoken question, "Statistics, Dr. Reid. You once told me that the two most popular choices for such a query are three and two. Knowing you, I know you would choose something else—either one or four. So I guessed four."
"How did you know I'd hold up any at all?"
"Because you have a sense of fair play. You're a good spirit, remember?"
"I'm not a good spirit; I have a good spirit. There's a difference."
"Semantics," Emily shrugged. By now, they'd reached the doors of the police department again. She opened the door and smiled over her shoulder at her best friend. She knew her reply would only irk him more, like a kid being teased by his older sister.
He didn't rise to the bait. Still, he shot her a look that informed her of his disagreement. Her grin only widened.
Everyone else slipped through the open door, but Hotch hung back, keeping close to her.
"Don't tease the poor boy," Hotch chided quietly, only half-serious.
"Well, I have to be able to tease someone," she returned in a tone so low that only he could hear.
They shared a knowing smile. She liked this new aspect—shared secrets, the almost-wickedness of a quiet remark. Never enough to be overt or distracting, but enough to say what we started this morning isn't over, not by a long shot.
They boarded the elevator with the rest of the lunch crew, everyone still making good-natured jokes and acting as if they'd been friends for ages. Emily shifted closer to Aaron, and his knuckles barely brushed across the outside of her hip in response—so subtle, so minute that no one else could notice.
Emily was biting the inside of her mouth to hide her smile. Aaron was enchanted by the idea that underneath the unflappable and always-dry Agent Prentiss that he'd known for so long lay another version, the smiling and almost-shy Emily who blushed at the slightest compliment. He couldn't wait to explore the other versions, the versions that he hadn't even allowed himself to even think about.
And for a moment, he selfishly wished that this case would drag on, just for the chance to spend a few more days at her side. But he quickly stopped himself—he wouldn't ruin this by thinking too far ahead, or by bemoaning wasted time. He'd have to take it moment by moment, for all that it was, and nothing more.
He could do that. It had been such a long time since he'd been a part of something so tangibly fragile, something so destined for a brief existence, but perhaps that would ensure that he took every chance while it was available (after all, he had so many regrets with losing Haley, for all the ways he hadn't taken chances, for all the things he hadn't done to win her back, for all the things he'd done to push her away in the first place, with all the ways he'd assumed they would have more time later on to make up for the rougher patches—only to realize there was no more time, and nothing had ever been guaranteed, merely promises made and never kept).
Yes, he could do this. One could even say that he needed to do this. In her last words, Haley had begged him to remember the impulsively romantic boy that he'd been, all those years ago. Maybe this time with Emily would return forgotten parts of himself back to where they belonged.
He glanced over at the dark haired woman standing next to him. She was distracted, back in her own head again, big brown eyes looking up at the ceiling. She was beautiful—utterly, unabashedly, completely obliviously beautiful. He wanted to kiss her again, to make her smile and say something snarky, to hear her laugh truly and deeply (who the hell are you?).
The elevator doors opened, and Emily stepped back slightly, letting others exit before her. Of course, this allowed her the chance to lean further against Aaron, her hand "innocently" brushing back to squeeze his thigh.
Again, they hung back, allowing a quick moment of quiet words between them.
"What happened to treating each other with professional courtesy and respect?" He whispered jokingly.
"You promised that," she gave a slight shrug. "I didn't."
He held back a laugh. He couldn't argue with that.
"Besides," she flashed another quick, mischievous grin over her shoulder. "I'm your superior officer."
Yes. He was definitely looking forward to exploring every new side of Emily Prentiss.
I am wrong, then strike me for my sins—
but I believe our acts and thin disguises
were but a prologue to what now begins."