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Past in the Present

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It had been an excruciatingly long week for the team and none of them had had more than a couple hours of sleep. It was twelve in the afternoon on a Friday, and they had just gotten back from a tough case in Milwaukee, so J.J., Morgan, Garcia, and Reid had already left for the weekend while Rossi, Prentiss, and Hotch stayed to catch up on unfinished paperwork. When Prentiss was done, she got up, went to Hotch's office, and knocked on the door. It opened and he was standing inside.

"Come in." He smirked and took her hand.
He brought her inside his office, put his hands on her hips, and kissed her.

"You know, Jack is very excited for Sarah's birthday. He's been talking about how much he loves spending time with her and wants to get her something special for her birthday."

"I'm glad that they're getting along so well, Sarah has always wanted a little brother. But what exactly is Jack planning on getting a 14 year old girl?" She laughed.

"Well, he has been asking if you guys could come over for a 'special birthday dinner'. He wants to make her dinosaur mac n' cheese with pudding cups for dessert." She laughed again wrapping her arms around his neck and kissing him back.

"We would definitely love to come over, especially if there's that kind of gourmet food involved." Their laughter was interrupted by the ringing of Emily's cellphone. She looked at the caller I.D. to see it was Sarah and answered it.

"Hey! We're going to Aaron's house for dinner tomorrow night. It-"

"Mom? I'm really scared....there's somebody inside. I-I didn't get a good look because I ran into my room and hid under my bed and then I called you." She put the call on speaker and held it in front of her so both her and Hotch could hear.

"Sarah, slow down. You need to be as quiet as possible."

"I'm trying, but I can hear him coming closer. I'm so scared." Sarah's labored breathing became louder when a faint voice echoed throughout the hall.

"Come on out, Sarah. I'm not gonna hurt you...I promise," the voice chuckled.
Emily froze in disbelief; she didn't think she would hear that voice again.

"Sarah, honey, I need you to stay calm. That's him." Emily heard her daughter's silent whimpers on the other end.

"Oh god no! Is he gonna hurt me?"

"I don't know, but you have to be brave for me. Can you do that?"

"I'm too scared. Please help me, Mo-" All of a sudden, there was a blood-curdling scream and silence.
The familiar, husky voice flooded Emily's ears once again.

"I told you I'd be back. I'll be waiting." And the line went dead.

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Emily immediately went for the door, but was stopped by a hand wrapped around her forearm. She tried to rip herself from Hotch's grasp to no avail.

"Please let me go, Aaron! I have to save my daughter! Please!"

"Emily, you have to tell me who he is first! What do you mean 'that's him'?" She looked at him with tear-filled eyes.

"When I was 13, a man broke into my house, kidnapped me, and murdered my father. It was two years before there was any new evidence, two years I was alone...two years I prayed for the torture to end, for my life to end...two years and everyone stopped looking. He was the reason I had to get an abortion at 15, Aaron!" She paused a moment to wipe the tears from her cheeks with her palm.

"There was a break in the case when another missing girl and dead father was reported. The girl's body was found a few days later with a note from him, so the FBI was called in. The team that showed up was led by David Rossi, he was the one who found me. I was so young then, so relieved to get away from the bastard that I didn't believe him when he said he would be back. I didn't take his goddamn word for it and now he has my daughter!" She collapsed into his arms and he gave her a reassuring embrace.

"We'll get him Emily. Let's go." Her sobs were interrupted by the erratic footsteps of Rossi rushing down the hall and into the section chief's office.

"Erik Stanton has escaped. I was just notified that he murdered two cops and is now on the run."

"He has her, David! We need to go now!" Hotch looked sternly at them.

"I'll call the rest of the team and tell them to meet us at your apartment." The three of them made their way out of the building and drove for what seemed like hours. When they arrived, the rest of the team was already there.

"Just let me go in first, I need to do this alone. I'll page you when I need you all. Okay?" They each hesitantly gave their team member an approving nod. Prentiss made her way towards her apartment door and turned the knob. She walked inside, pulling her gun from the holster and pointing it in front of her. She walked up the stairs towards Sarah's room and heard the stifled cries of her only child inside. Emily slowly opened the door to find her daughter at knife-point in the arms of the man that forged her dark past.

"It took 30 years, Emily, but I'm back." She looked at a beaten Sarah who was tied up in a chair and had a mixture of blood and tears streaming down her face.

"Sarah, sweetie, you're going to be okay. I'm going to get you out of here."

"We both know that's not going to hap-"

"I am going to get her out of here no matter what!" He tightened his grasp around the girl's throat at her words and grazed the knife ever-so-slightly over the child's skin.

"Anything can happen, Emily." He smiled.

---------------------------------------------------

The team was standing outside when they heard gunshots. They ran into the apartment and into Sarah's room to find the man lying comatose on the floor with a bullet wound in his chest and Emily collapsed off to the side holding the bloody, lifeless body of her daughter. The team stood in shock with the obscure cries of Emily trailing off...

"Oh, my baby! Sarah, I'm sorry.....p-please talk to me, sweetie.....please!"

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She was sat in the empty waiting room for what seemed like years, letting the near-deafening symphony of whirring, beeping machines and frantic footsteps fill her ears. The team had come and gone and she felt like time was dragging on, that no amount of waiting, or anything for that matter, could remove this empty, sick feeling she felt growing in the pit of her stomach. She was only brought back to reality by a gentle tap on her shoulder. She looked in the direction the tap came from and realized it was the one person she knew she absolutely needed most in that moment.

"How did I let him get to me, Aaron?!”

He put his arm around her and she let her head fall onto his shoulder.

“Emily, it’s not your fault...”

She looked up at him with a kind of sadness that made his heart sink.

“If it’s not my fault, then why do I feel like I could have done something to prevent this?”

He looked at the tears rolling down her cheeks and wiped them off with his thumb. He then placed a tender kiss on her forehead and pulled her tightly into his chest.

“I won’t let anything else happen to her.”

As if on queue, they heard heavy steps coming down the hall and stop within the doorframe.

“Is there an Emily Prentiss?”

She shot up at the sound of her name and tackled the nurse with a sea of concerned questions. The nurse looked at her with a warm smile and confirmed the multiple stab wounds the young girl had suffered were not fatal, that she would indeed make a full recovery. She couldn’t contain the relief she felt and practically threw herself into the arms of the unit chief, letting the tears of happiness shed away every bit of misery, doubt, and uneasiness that had consumed her in the hours before.

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Emily nervously walked down the hospital corridor towards the room the nurse said her daughter resided in. She stopped herself just within the doorframe and gave it the slightest knock so she didn’t startle the raven-haired child.

“Hey, sweetheart.”

Sarah’s face brightened and rose up towards the sound of her mother’s voice, giving her the most joyous smile she could under the influence of all the pain meds the doctors had given her.

“I made sure they got an extra homey chair for you.”

She let out a faint giggle and gestured towards the monstrous armchair sitting directly next to the bed. The mother shuffled across the room until she found herself within arms reach of the girl. Emily couldn’t help but let her emotions take hold and enveloped her daughter in a warm and long embrace. The only thing that pulled them from each other’s hold was the pitter-patter of small footsteps and the soft voices of Jack and his father coming towards the room.

“We have to be really careful with Sarah because she’s not feeling too good right now, okay buddy?”

Much to his fathers chagrin, Jack ignored his father’s words and bolted into the room.

“Sarah!! I missed you so much!! I’m sorry we couldn’t see you on your birthday, but I made you lots of pictures!!! I can’t wait to give you the biggest hug!!”

The energetic boy then proceeded to climb upon the bed and drape himself over the girl he had come to call his ‘bestest friend’. She held the boy tighter in her arms in return and peered up at her mother.

“What are you guys waiting for?”

“Yeah, it’s a group hug!!” Jack chimed in.

The couple joined their children and let every last bit of worry and trouble disappear.