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There's several things Emily Prentiss really enjoys about being the active unit chief at the BAU. She likes that she's back with this team, with people she considers her family more than her own blood relatives. She likes that everyone on the team feels each other is like an extended family in a way. She likes that Matt Simmons, Luke Alvez and Tara Lewis all feel welcome and accepted into this crazy, chaotic family unit despite them being relatively new compared to everyone else here.

She likes that she's comfortable with this job, that she finally feels like she does an alright job at leading her team. She knew when the position was offered to her that she would have big shoes to fill; Hotch was always a great leader. She knows she's screwed up a few times, knows there's times she could have done something one way, or another that way. But after being in this position for a couple of years, she finally feels like she's doing things right, that the unit is running like a well oiled machine just as well as it did under Hotch (at times, Dave does tell her that she runs the team better, but she figures it's just his "inner dad" kicking in).

[The one thing she certainly can do without is the mountain of paperwork that comes with the job, but most of the time it's manageable.]

The office, for her, is one of the biggest perks of the job. It's obviously much bigger than the small desk she occupied years ago and has a certain privacy factor that she hadn't realized she would find so comforting (though, most times, her door is wide open for anyone to come in). She most definitely likes the fact she can shut off the lights and close the blinds when her migraines get too intense.

Today, her blinds are closed and her lights are off, but not to ward off a migraine. Instead, she wants to avoid the prying, curious eyes of the profilers outside the door as she periodically grimaces or flinches due to the sharp pain on her chest.

The shamrock branded into her skin almost feels hot, as if a fresh iron had just been pressed against her skin. The flesh is white and raised up into a scar that captured every little detail of the rod as it pressed onto her. It stings just as bad today as it did when Doyle had put it there years and years ago.

She knows realistically that it doesn't hurt, that the pain is only psychosomatic but it doesn't seem to register fully with her brain as the area feels swollen, red and singed. She swears if she stops focusing on typing up the current case file, she'll smell her flesh burning.

It irritates her that she feels like this. It's not even close to the anniversary of her kidnapping and "murder". It's never even hurt like this before on the anniversary of that day. It's like Doyle still has a grip on her, the mark symbolizing that he owns her, even from beyond the grave.

It makes her feel sick.

Throughout the day, she manages to hide her discomfort from the team. The pain stops briefly during her lunch break with JJ, the blonde offering her a distraction and comfort in the form of innocent conversation about the boys. After she gives the older woman's hand a gentle, reassuring squeeze before she heads back to her desk, Emily starts to think that whatever is going on with the scar is over with, that she finally got a grip on herself and snapped out of it. Only for her chest to start hurting again so intensely, she just barely manages to stifle a soft cry of pain by biting the inside of her cheek.

She tries to avoid it as long as she can, really she does, but by mid afternoon she's periodically rubbing at the area with a look of discomfort seemingly plastered on her face. She knows this isn't the best thing to do; if anything, she's irritating her skin more than she is helping herself. But in her mind it does help, in a way, for her to do this, to chant in her head that whatever's hurting isn't real, her pain isn't real.

She startles out of her trance at a knock coming from her door. Dropping her hand down, her head snaps up from the computer to her doorway where Garcia stands with a worried look on her face.

"Everything okay, PG?" she asks with a clearing of her throat, expecting the other woman to hand over a case file until she makes note of her empty hands.

"Yes!" technical analyst nods, then hesitates, biting her lip, "Well, no..." Taking a deep breath she lets herself into the office, shutting the door behind herself with a sheepish look. "Look, I know that I shouldn't be paying attention to the security cameras, and I'm not, but they're on my wall and they shuffle through and I couldn't..." She starts to ramble but stops, collecting herself as she clasps her hands together nervously.

"I noticed you kept doing..." she gestures towards Emily, slightly embarrassed to have caught her at a moment she knew she shouldn't have. "I know it's bothering you today and I couldn't just stand by and watch one of my angels hurting and not do anything to help stop it..." She pauses her ramblings again, pushing her glasses up her nose before retrieving a business card from her back pocket and handing it over to the unit chief, who had just barely managed to follow the series of ramblings with a confused frown.

Emily takes the small, colorful card carefully, looking over it. The one side is colorful and has a ton of grungy, chunky drawings on the front, all outlined with thick, black lines and colored ridiculously bright. The back is plain black with white type that reads "Cassadee Knightly" with an address, a business email, a user name for Instagram and phone number underneath in smaller type.

"My friend Cassadee is one of the best coverup artists along the east coast," Garcia explains as Emily's confused look deepens a bit. "She's known for her new school designs, but she can knock out an amazing piece in any genre," she adds quickly as a reassurance. "Don't let the colorful designs on the card fool you. She has an amazing, very diverse portfolio and can make you forget you ever got that thing. Just give her a call or go to the studio and say I sent you and she'll get you in right away."

Emily's eyes softens at the sentiment, at the kind gesture from her friend that she's rendered nearly speechless. "Penelope..."

"You don't have to get it covered," Garcia quickly backpedals. "I just... I wanted to give you an option that might help."

Wordlessly and almost breaking into tears, the unit chief stands and wraps the younger woman into a tight,  grateful hug. "Thank you," she whispers sincerely. "I'll think about it, okay?"

Garcia gives her friend a tighter squeeze, reassuring her. "I'm here for you, okay? If you need to talk, I'm here, Emily."

She feels guilty for the underlying tones of panic in the younger woman's voice, knows it stems from a time where she kept the most dangerous part of her life hidden away from the team. She tries not to be like that anymore; it never did seem worth it to her to put the team through something as traumatic as her "death". Penelope knows that she tries to be a bit more open, doesn't try to hide much anymore. But Emily assumes that once someone faced death as many times as she has herself and barely managed to escape by the skin of her teeth each time, the technical analyst is justified. It's her way of letting Emily know that she cares, and the unit chief deeply appreciates it.

"I promise you, I'm okay," she assures Garcia with a strong, reassuring squeeze to her shoulder.

"He's dead," the younger woman says, giving her free hand a squeeze.

"I know that."

"He can't hurt you anymore," Garcia adds, more firm this time.

A small, sad smile manages to flash on her face for a brief second. "I know that, too."

Exhaling with a nod, Garcia goes to open the door.


The colorful blonde turns towards her boss. "Yes, Em?"

"Thank you," Emily murmurs again, holding up the card. "Really, this means more to me than you know."

With a small smile and another nod, the technical analyst exits her office, leaving the door wide open on her way out.

The rest of the afternoon seems to fly by after that, Emily typing up a few more reports before she stops suddenly and looks at the card once more. After Garcia left, she had put it at the corner of her desk, right next to the framed pictures of drawings from both Henry and Michael (a scene [admittedly, one of Henry's favorites] from one of the Magic Treehouse books drawn out in pencil and a portrait of her small family done in crayons done by the younger boy at preschool respectively).

She picks it up after a few moments, leaning back in her chair as she studies the stark white san serif font on the back of the card. The material is a thick card stock, laminated on the side with all the artwork. The text is engraved into the card— she can feel the bumps as she runs her finger across the card.


Glancing up at the doorway and at her expression, the unit chief can tell JJ's been standing there for a few minutes at least, studying her in silence. She's known something's been wrong with her partner since she woke up this morning, knows that the conversation isn't one to be had at work. But it doesn't stop the concern from showing in her gaze, or the worry emanating from her.

"You ready to go home?" the blonde asks carefully from where she stands when Emily's gaze meets her own. She longs to go over and kiss her pain away but knows that it's not appropriate here, not with Spence and Rossi, the last remaining people in the office, so close by.

Glancing towards the clock and then the last half typed up report, Emily saves the document and clicks the off button to her monitor with a nod. She'll finish it tomorrow, she decides. "Yeah, let's go," she murmurs, sticking the business card into her back pocket.