Work Header

Changed for the Better

Chapter Text

Salt Lake City had a killer on the streets attempting to copycat what the media then called the Alphabet Killer, but adding a few twists on their victimology. The original Alphabet Killer murdered girls aged ten to twelve, their copycat was murdering teenage boys.

"If the unsub is a copycat the Alphabet Killer why kill teenage boys instead of pre-adolescence girls?" Luke asked.

"Obviously this isn't about the races of the victims. Christian Carlson was American, and Timothy Thompson's mom was the daughter of Jamaican immigrants," Tara noted, twirling her pen between her fingers as she spoke.

"The unsub also committed a discrepancy," Spencer said. "The original Alphabet Killer disposed of the victim's bodies in places with the same initials of the victim's name. Christian Carlson was found in 11th Avenue while Timothy Thompson was found in 1450 South Street. In fact, if I would be attempting to copycat the Alphabet Killer, Salt Lake City would be the last city I would do it in, seeing as most of their streets are named in numbers to act as coordinate addresses to make them easier to find."

"It's unlikely that our unsub didn't know this fact about the original Alphabet Murders," Matt said. "They caused a public outrage, and after the death of Michelle Maenza, the police released specific details of the murder to the public."

"And I checked: it's also in the Wikipedia page of the Alphabet Murders," Penelope added. "That makes it an easy-to-access piece of info to nearly everyone."

"There has to be some connection between the victims. The original Alphabet Murders chose victims that were outcasts and loners." Luke said. "It says on their file that both teenagers were star soccer players and were on top of their classes at the same time."

"Garcia, can you check if the victims were also affiliated with the church?" Tara asked. "Catholic, to be specific."

"Can you shoot a gun?" Penelope asked with a teasing smirk, typing away on her laptop. Emily had no doubt that she already had the files on her computer as she spoke. "Hmm, nope. None of the families have even stepped foot inside the church since their children's baptisms."

"It's a complete opposite from the victimology of the Alphabet Killer," Rossi said.

"Other than having the same initials for their given name and their last names, the only connection between the two victims is the fact that they're both on the soccer team," Matt said. "It might be what triggered the unsub."

"Probably wasn't popular as a kid, or maybe he was bullied by jocks when he was younger," JJ agreed. "Or maybe it's something else, a different angle we haven't seen yet."

"Reid, I need you to go with Tara and talk to the families of the victims. Find out their sons' routines and if they noticed anything weird about them, if they seemed to be uncomfortable about something," Emily ordered. "Matt and Luke, I need you to visit the schools the boys attended and interview friends, teammates, classmates, the whole bunch. Ask them the same thing, but be specific to ask the teachers how the boys were as students."

"Oh no," Penelope mumbled. "Mason McFarlane was reported missing by his parents. He's been missing for two days now."

"They waited two days to report it?" Emily asked.

"He told his parents he was going to have a sleepover with his friends," Penelope said, typing frantically. Emily ran a hand against the blonde's arm—she didn't miss the tears glistening her friend's eyes.

"Reid, Tara, find out if the other two boys had sleepovers. JJ, Rossi, and I will set up in the Salt Lake City division office. Wheels up in twenty," Emily nodded, standing up to gather her files. She looked up a few seconds later to find JJ being the only one left in the conference room, smiling sympathetically at her. "What?"

"You do realise this is your first case as a pregnant woman," JJ said. "With the team knowing, that is."

"I did, yes," Emily drawled out, narrowing her eyes at the blonde. "What about it?"

"Oh nothing," JJ waved her hand off. Emily moved to walk beside the blonde as they left the room. "It's just that I remember my first case."

Emily rolled her eyes. "Ah yes, the time when Will randomly showed up in New York and Hotch was nearly blown to death. That one."

"Well I didn't say it was a particularly fun case," JJ nudged the woman. "I just hoped you'd remember what happened after you guys found out."

"Why?" Emily asked, glancing at JJ with a confused expression on her face.

"Well, Agent Prentiss, it seems the tables are about to be turned."

The way the sympathetic smile on JJ's face turned into a smirk did not, in any way, remove the confusion and slight fear Emily was feeling. "What is that supposed to mean?"

"I'll let you figure it out yourself," JJ said, walking away from her. Emily stared at her and shook her head, entering her office to grab her go-bag. There was a killer on the loose, and whatever JJ was implying could wait.

As it turned out, however, it couldn't.

Rossi met her outside of her office, his go-bag in hand one hand and a file tucked in his arm.

"Hey," she said. "I thought you were going ahead with the rest of the team."

"I was, but I wanted to have a talk with you," he said. She narrowed her eyes suspiciously at him but nodded. Together, they walked down the stairs and towards the elevator, where they had the privacy for a conversation Dave seemed to want.

"So, how are you doing?" he asked. At her raised eyebrow, he added, "Are you—both of you, are you okay?"

"Oh," Emily said, glancing down at her lower abdomen with a small smile on her face. "I'm, we're fine, really."

"No morning sickness?"

"Well, I'm in my second trimester already, and JJ and Reid say that's the time when the nausea and the sickness dies down. It hasn't happened to me yet, so I'm looking forward to it," she smiled. Emily opened her mouth to mention something, but pursed her lips together as she decided against it, an action Rossi noticed.

"What is it?" he asked in a gentle tone. He knew Emily—if she never wanted to talk about it, she wouldn't bother letting someone know she had something to talk about.

Emily sighed and turned her head to give him a small smile. "Promise you won't call me crazy?"

"Well, I can't promise that, because you're one of the main reasons I have gray hair," he said in a snarky tone. Emily rolled her eyes. "But I promise not to laugh."

"Okay then," Emily laughed. The elevator dinged, temporarily halting their conversation, and they walked together towards the airway. They were a few feet away from the jet when Emily spoke again. "A few days ago, Andrew asked me if we could visit his sister in Boston this weekend, considering we both don't have work," she said. "We both agreed that it was news that didn't deserve to be announced through the phone."

"I have to agree," Rossi said. "His sister—what was her name again?"

"Sandra," she provided. "He husband's name is Martin and they have a three-year old daughter named Julia."

"It must be serious then if you already met his family," Rossi teased.

"Yes, because being pregnant with his child doesn't entail seriousness at all," Emily said with an eye roll. "But as I was saying, if we finish this case by Friday, we're breaking the news to Sandra."

"What's your dilemma?" he asked. "You wouldn't tell me any of this if you weren't worried about something."

Emily sighed. "Andrew asked when I was going to tell my mother." She heard Rossi let out a disgruntled noise. "I know, that's what I told him too. I think he realised his mistake because he never brought it up again after I told him I'd like to tell Sandra first, but he had a  point."

"Tell your mother she's about to be a grandmother or tell her nothing until she shows up at your apartment and be bombarded with the news that she already is a grandmother," Rossi stated.

"Exactly. And knowing my mother, that means I'm stuck between a rock and a hard place," she said. They had reached the jet and Rossi offered to carry her files for her but she refused with a weird look on her face.

"How did she react about you dating a fellow Bureau agent?" he asked as they took their seats. Emily noticed that most of the pillows were on her favorite seat, arranged to make her feel comfortable. She glanced around and saw that everyone had only one pillow each, when she knew for a fact that there were enough pillows for each member to have two each. "Emily."

"Yeah?" she asked. Having no choice, and knowing that they would need to discuss the case once the jet was in the air, she sat on her favorite seat.

"How did she react about Andrew?" he asked again. Tara, who arrived with the team behind her, eagerly turned her attention to Emily.

Emily winced mentally. "She, uhm, didn't?"

The team stared at her for a minute, the emotions on their faces ranging from pure shock to bewilderment. "Emily!"

"You've been dating for a year!"

"You live together!"

"You're pregnant with his child!"

"Hey!" Emily protested. "Have any of you met my mother? Elizabeth Prentiss is a woman of tradition. She would lose her mind if she found out I'm dating someone I met on a case, what more if she found out I got pregnant out of wedlock?"

"My mother felt the same thing about me dating Will, and it took her a while to adjust to it, but she cried tears of joy when I told her I was pregnant," JJ pointed out.

"My parents weren't married when my mom got pregnant with me," Tara added.

"In conclusion," Rossi said. "Have her over for dinner and do the introductions, then—"

"Tell her I'm pregnant so there's no way I'm getting rid of this relationship? Good idea," Emily added in a sarcastic tone.

"I was going to say you and Andrew should gently break the news," Rossi said, giving her a look.

"Look, I appreciate the concern, but I will find a way to tell my mother about Andrew and the baby after the case," she said, letting out a sigh of relief when the team seemed to accept her answer. She accepted the water bottle Luke was handing her and uncapped it, and was about to take a sip when she slowly realised what was happening. Glancing behind her, she took in the pillows arranged neatly on her seat and darted her gaze back to the bottle on her hand.

"Hey," JJ said in a low voice. Emily looked up and narrowed her eyes at the small smirk on the blonde's face. "Are you okay?"

"Yeah," Emily replied, clearing her throat. With a strained smile, she accepted Spencer's offering of saltine crackers, trying her hardest not to glare at him. From where he sat across her, Emily could see Matt hiding a smile.

Emily sighed, tearing the package open. As thankful as she was for the crackers, because they did help with the nausea and some brands taste good, she had a feeling that the hovering is about to get worse.

"Remind me to fire everyone once this case is over," Emily grumbled to JJ.

"Even me?" JJ gasped dramatically. "But Emily, I'm the one who drinks all the water Luke and Spencer give you."

Emily rolled her eyes. " I guess you, and maybe Matt, can be spared, but I swear to god, if any one of them offers to carry something as light as a file, I will not be held responsible for my actions."

"Wow," JJ chuckled, shaking her head. "Well, if you need help hiding the bodies, you know Matt and I are willing to do it. Andrew, too, once you get him up to date."

"Oh no, he is not spared," Emily retorts, "he got me pregnant—I love him, I really do, but he's the reason I feel nauseated every second of every day, so technically, he's number one on my hit list."

JJ opened her mouth to reply but was cut off by a ringing phone.

"Garcia, what have you got for us?"

Penelope's first deep-dive was a lost lead, but an interview with some of the victim's families had given their lost leads a new angle to look through. All three families were once loyal devotees of Catholic organizations, but became inactive a few years after the birth of their children. The Carlsons quit their organization after an altercation with another devotee, and the Thompsons merely stopped attending meetings. The McFarlanes, on the other hand, were still active donors despite their lack of attendance in meetings and organizational activities. After a few days of interviewing families and friends, the team had slowly come to the conclusion that while the children were murdered, they were not the intentional victims of their unsubs, but rather their parents, for becoming inactive members of the church community.

"I have some info on the church groups the victims' parents used to be a part of, and I hope both of you are sitting down because what I have is mindblowing," Penelope began. "We all know that the Carlsons left their church group, Life Church, due to a disagreement of sorts with another devotee. What we don't know is who the devotee is and what actually happened. And that actually got me thinking, why would they not tell what really happened when clearly it is a crucial piece of information needed to catch our guy—"

"—unless they're trying to hide something from us," Emily said.

"Something that could ruin the organization's image as well as the entire congregation," JJ added.

"Yes, so I looked through their file and went back to the year the Carlson's left, and I found a bunch of sealed documents, and I think we all know when those mean dirty secrets. Add a few magic clicks and voila! Our file has been unsealed and has been sent to your tablets."

By the time JJ and Emily had opened their received files, Tara and Luke had arrived, and hurriedly opened their tablets.

"We have Royce Griffin, who, from what I can read so far, should have his photo placed under the word 'devotee' in dictionaries because he is taking devotion to a whole new level," Penelope said. "He was a member of the same Catholic group as the Carlsons for three years and was even a candidate to be their new leader when the altercation happened."

"Does it say what actually happened between Royce and the Carlsons?" JJ asked.

"Looking, looking and here we g—oh."

"What did you find?" Emily asked, straightening in her seat. She looked up when she felt a hand on her shoulder and restrained from rolling her eyes when she saw Rossi handing her a bottle of water and a granola bar.

"Most churches in America have play areas for children under the age of five, and Royce Griffin was often assigned to watch over them. It's how he got nominated as leader—most of the parents vouched for him," Penelope. "What I am sending to you now, my lovely crime fighters, is a letter of complaint coming from Janine Carlson."

"She came to pick up Christian when she saw Royce molesting the child," Luke read out loud.

Emily felt a wave of nausea wash over her as the images of a two to four-year-old child, toddlers, being molested by a grown-up man and mentally counted to ten in French as she forced herself to swallow the bile forming in her throat.

"Christian's parents asked him to be removed from the church group but instead of doing that the organization leaders just removed him from the candidate list as a punishment," Penelope added.

"That's why the Carlsons left the church group. Maybe that's when they started questioning their faith in the church and just stopped going to one ever since," Rossi stated.

"And there's more," Penelope said. "The McFarlanes aren't in the same group as the Carlsons, but I just found out from the Life Church files that Timothy's grandfather was a member of Life Church, and left when the Carlsons did. He died a month ago."

"The same time Christian Carlson went missing," Tara said. "That must have been his trigger."

"It makes perfect sense," Spencer said. "Garcia said he was one of the most devoted of devotees, and when the Carlsons got him removed from the shortlist he was probably no longer allowed to watch over the children. He gets his revenge by killing the people most important to them, and for the Carlsons and the Thompsons, it's their children."

"So he kills their children to punish them getting him busted, and their names were merely coincidences. He probably even used the Alphabet Killer to make sure his name stays out of it completely," JJ said. "But why take Mason McFarlane? Where do the McFarlanes fit in all of this?"

"Guys think about it," Matt started. "Royce Griffin is narcissistic—he plots revenge against those who took everything away from him, people who also lost their faith in the church. When he sees them suffer, it feeds his ego and probably felt like it was his job to somehow rid the world of people who lost their faith as well."

"He stalks their families and sees that their children are their world and takes them out, somehow he must've stalked the McFarlane's as well," Rossi said.

"Garcia, go through the Mason's school files again," Emily said. "See if his team played against Christian's or Timothy's. If Royce Griffin is our unsub, he must've seen Mason play against them and started targeting him."

"Emily Prentiss you are one fine mama," Penelope remarked. "Mason is playing against Timothy's team for a city tournament, which started two weeks ago."

"That's around the same time Timothy was taken," JJ said.

"Royce Griffin is our unsub," Emily stated. "Garcia—"

"He has five addresses," Penelope said. "Apparently he had enough gold to buy himself a ton of properties."

"We need to narrow it down. Eliminate anything in residential areas. Focus mainly on abandoned buildings and areas of high foreclosure rates," Emily said. "And it has to be secluded enough that no one would see him there."

"Got it! Address is sent to your phones! Stay safe my darlings!" Penelope said before she hung up. Emily put the phone in her pocket immediately and went with the team to suit up, earning a few looks she failed to notice from the rest of the team.

"Wait," Luke, the bravest, and most unlikely to keep his mouth shut, of them, said to Emily. "You're coming with us?"

Emily rolled her eyes as she strapped on her vest and double-checked her gun. "Yes, why?"

"Nothing, I uh, well — "

"You're thirteen weeks pregnant," Spencer finished for him.

"Last time I checked, thirteen weeks is still pretty far from a due date."


"I am pregnant, not an invalid. You know what," Emily said, throwing her hands up in frustration. "We are not having this conversation right now. But until my doctor says no, I am going with you. Do I make myself clear?"

"Yes," Spencer mumbled under his breath. Luke nodded, although he kept his eyes glued on the floor.

"Rossi?" Emily asked, raising an eyebrow.

Rossi sighed and shared a glance with JJ and Matt before nodding. "Alright. But be careful, okay? You have a lot more to lose now."

Feeling a wave of emotion surging from her stomach, Emily darted her gaze to the floor and cleared her throat. "Got it. Let's get this unsub."

They caught Royce Griffin and managed to subdue him before he shot himself. Mason was found in a cellar of the building, dirty and tied up. He clung to Emily when they got him free from the ties. To the team, it made sense that he would cling to her and most probably JJ or Tara; after days of being held by a man who had plans to murder them, it was inevitable that Mason would be hesitant around men.

Reuniting the family was an emotional scene. Mason ran to his parents immediately after seeing even just a glimpse of his mother's hair. The team stood by and watched, satisfied by the reunion, and a little heartbroken that two families had to lose their sons for one to be returned.

Emily felt a wave of nausea rush over her and excused herself, practically running to the bathroom and throwing up until she was dry heaving and her throat was sore. She washed her face and mouth and stared at her reflection in the mirror for a few minutes to gather herself. When she walked out, JJ was waiting for her with a can of ginger ale and saltine crackers. Emily offered a small smile as she took them.

"You okay?" JJ asked.

Emily nodded, but then shrugged a few seconds later. "I just, I don't know. I never felt like this before."

"Like how?"

"You know how it is when cases involve kids or teenagers," Emily explained. "Everything seems harder and everyone is somehow more tense than usual, but… I don't really know how to explain it."

"When you have your own child everything seems impossible," JJ finished.

"Yes," Emily said. "And it doesn't really make sense because my baby's not even here yet but I'm already feeling like this."

"Emily, that's okay. That's normal," JJ said, placing a hand on Emily's shoulder. "You're starting to adjust to everything differently, and trust me when I tell you that it's natural. You're having a baby, and your protective instincts are starting to become more prominent than expected."

Emily chuckled and sniffled. "You sure I can't just blame the hormones for this?"

"Preaching the choir, sister," JJ grinned. "The team is packing up, and Rossi finished some of the paperwork we need before we go, all he needs is your signature."

"Okay," Emily said. "Thank you."

"Anytime," JJ smiled. They walked back towards the conference room the Salt Lake City Division offered, but JJ held Emily back for a few seconds before they entered. "Go easy on them, okay? They just worry."

Emily rolled her eyes. "It's not like I would do anything to risk my life and my baby's. They know that."

"I agree," JJ said. "But you were the same when I was pregnant with Henry, and I was just the media liaison then. You, on the other hand, are the unit chief. And as much as I hate to admit it, you have a tendency of putting yourself into the line of fire for everyone. This is them telling you that right now, it's not just your life on the line, but your kid's. This is us reminding you that you may be our boss, but you are our friend first."

There was a moment of silence where Emily struggled to come up with an appropriate response, letting a few tears slip down her face as she processed what JJ said. "Damn it, JJ. Don't make me cry."

JJ chuckled and wrapped her in a hug, leading her to the conference room away from the prying eyes of other agents.

"Hey," Reid said. His smile turned into a frown when he saw Emily. "What's wrong?"

"Hormones," JJ said. The team all shared a sympathetic glance while Matt had an understanding look on his face. "I think Emily has a few things she likes to say."

Emily smiled as she wiped her face, taking a deep breath before facing the team. Luke and Spencer looked wary while Tara looked like she was torn between being scared and supportive. Rossi, on the other hand, had his signature poker face on, but even Emily could tell he was slightly nervous about how this conversation would go.

"Thank you for your—well, overwhelming shows of concern. Now don't get me wrong, I appreciate them, but like I said earlier, I am pregnant, not invalid. Spencer, Luke, I do not need water every ten minutes—"

"But Emily, water helps in preventing common pregnancy problems," Reid intervened, "such as constipation, hemorrhoids, and bladder infections because drinking water dilutes your urine which reduces your risk of getting infections." Emily found it amusing how Luke was dumbly nodding next to him.

"I understand that Spencer, but I just found out I was pregnant. I'm still getting used to this drinking a lot of water thing. Even my doctor told me to take a few sips of every ten minutes so I can get used to it, but at the rate you and Luke are giving me water, I might be drinking for a third world country."

Reid opened his mouth to argue, but decided against it, nodding his agreement to Emily's statement. Satisfied, Emily turned to Tara and Rossi, the latter who seemed to wince once he realised it was their turn to be reprimanded.

"I can carry a file and a box and my bag. They are not that heavy," she said. Tara and Rossi nodded, offering no arguments, which Emily was thankful for. Pregnancy was tiring; she felt like she had no ounce of energy left in her body and all she wanted to do was sleep, but she still had one more point to clear out. "And I am not leaving the field until my doctor says it is necessary. As much as I hate to admit it, I might be staying behind at Quantico earlier than I expected. But, as long as I'm careful, I can stay in the field. I have borrowed time on stake-outs and arrests, but I can do interviews and M.E. visits. Besides, I know that if I go too far, I have seven people ready to drag me chain my ass to a chair."

Everyone stared at her for a moment before they dissolved into fits of laughter. Emily couldn't help but smile. Her hand went to her lower abdomen and she sighed. Things were going to be okay.