For as long as Emily had been alive two things had been true. The first was that she knew things - not everything but significant things - before they happened and the second was that no one ever believed her. After her visions came true it was like a shadow passed over whoever she told. There was no shock at the revelation, it was like Emily never told them in the first place and so when it inevitably happened again she was called a liar, a child with too much imagination.
Emily had never been struck by lightning but that was the only way she could describe the visions. At first they had been preceded by a stabbing pain behind the eyes and as a small child Emily would sob, balling her chubby hands into fists and pressing them against her eyes to make the pain stop. Then as she grew older the pain lessened until her mid teens when it became a pressure, like her brain was expanding in her skull before receding as a white light took over her vision.
After that it was sort of like watching a grainy movie except sometimes there were pieces missing around the edges. But it always unfolded exactly how it would in real life, usually a day or a week later, occasionally longer. The main difference from watching a movie was that Emily could feel the emotions of the people she was seeing in her visions. They would crash over her like a wave, drowning her. The breath would be ripped from her lungs and for the longest time she would be left gasping and dizzy. Like with the pain, it changed over time or at least Emily’s reaction to it changed. As soon as the pressure began she would take a deep breath, tense all the muscles in her body and brace herself until it passed. By the time she reached adulthood there were no outward signs that the future was passing before her very eyes.
When Emily was small, her mother scolded her, her father tuned her out (he was always half absent from the home anyway, if not in body then definitely in mind), her nannies and then as she grew older her tutors were exasperated with her and at boarding school she was almost permanently in detention. Emily could scream, cry, beg and throw herself at the feet of anyone she could find and it wouldn’t make any difference.
So eventually she stopped telling people that the girl next door was going to fall off her bike in the middle of the road and fracture her arm or there would be an accident on her mother’r route to work or her father would get into a drunken fight at the country club again. Instead Emily watched and waited for things to come true, powerless to change them.
Perhaps law enforcement was the worse possible job for her. Death and trauma became her bread and butter. Or perhaps it was the perfect job because at least Emily could do something now. Maybe it wasn’t preventative but she could at least get justice for people that had been hurt.
She wanted to be a profiler. Because of the visions, the how of a crime came to Emily very easily but the why of it was always out of grasp. The training was hard but Emily thrived until it was her other talents that began to Garner attention.
“You’re multi-lingual”, Easter fixed her with a penetrating gaze, “you’ve travelled all over the world with your mother’s postings and you can ingratiate yourself with almost any type of person because your social skills are so sophisticated.”
Perhaps Emily was supposed to be flattered. She wasn’t.
But she also wasn’t making it to the BAU any time soon. Emily had seen herself accepting the job and felt the trepidation of her future self as she shook Easter’s hand and assured him that she was more than up to the job.
Emily would never resent her ability, or rely on it less than in the years she worked as part of the team. Since every word she spoke was a lie and every gesture an act she never had to worry about sharing her visions and being doubted. Lauren Reynolds was a normal woman. Or at leats as normal as an arms dealer could be.
It was horrifyingly comfortable.
“This kind of killer typically profiles as a narcissist and a textbook case of this kind of resentment is a rejection by a mother figure,” Emily twisted her hands and she spoke as precisely as she could, all eyes on her. “This in turn means he fixates on women who remind him of her. Since the previous victims were all women in the food service industry with dark hair and petite builds it’s not unreasonable to assume his next victim will fit that pattern…”
It wasn’t unreasonable at all because Emily had seen her, fighting for her life with every ounce of strength she could muster as the killer, his face in shadow so Emily couldn’t see his features, drove a knife into her chest again and again. But that was the thing about profiling, it was pattern recognition so Emily didn’t need to say what she was seeing. When the files came across JJ’s desk there was already the start of the pattern there - all Emily had to do was suggest what was likely to come next, in accordance with what they knew about certain types of killers of course.
“Makes sense,” Morgan said, “and it’s likely he’ll escalate as the murders don’t satisfy him anymore.”
“Or get more sloppy as he’s desperate to chase that high,” said Emily, her heart beating faster, “I think there’s a chance he might just dump her. Someone close and convenient so he could make a clear getaway.” Hotch frowned and for a moment Emily felt her heart stop before Reid jumped in.
“The end of town that he favours as his hunting ground has a number of vacant lots,” he tapped the map. “A good place to dump a body quickly.”
“We should ask the local patrols to look more closely at abandoned lots, derelict buildings and similar,” Gideon said. He had the faraway look in his eyes that Emily had begun to notice would come over him when a case was becoming thorny, the unsub inching out of reach.
“We’ll find her,” Emily murmured under her breath as relief washed over her. It was halted suddenly a hand on her shoulder that disappeared as soon as it had appeared.
“We will,“ Gideon said softly.
Welcome to our nightmare…
Why hadn’t she seen it? She had seen the people that Hankel had killed so why hadn’t she seen him take Reid? It wasn’t fair, it wasn’t-
“Prentiss can you go and see how JJ is doing?” Gideon asked softly. I’m worried about her, went unsaid. The gun in Emily’s face proved he was right to worry. She knew JJ wouldn’t have shot her (she at least would have had a vision about that right?) but her blood was still pounding in her head as she asked JJ to come with her to interview a witness the next day, only slowing when JJ agreed.
“Emily” JJ’s voice wavered a little as Emily was about to leave. It made something in Emily’s chest catch.
“How come none of this gets you?”
“What do you mean?” Emily pretended not to understand the question, knowing there was no way JJ would drop it in that moment.
“You came off a desk job, now suddenly you're in a field, surrounded by mutilated bodies and you don't even flinch.”
Because I always know what’s coming and if I tell you, you’ll never believe me so I’ll lose the one place that feels like home.
“She's right. You've never blinked” Hotch said, eyes fixed on a file in his hands but Emily knew all his attention was on her. Profiling her.
“I... guess... maybe... I can compartmentalise better than most people,” Emily said slowly. JJ was too unfocused to see the deception but Hotch did and for one terrifying moment Emily thought it was over, until he nodded and turned away.
“Give me the vials.” Emily held out her hand, her voice so even that Reid’s denial caught in his throat. They were outside the hospital and away from prying eyes. It had taken everything to convince JJ to leave Reid’s side for a moment and grab some coffees for them.
The check up had been quick and Reid would be signed off work for a good three weeks. No therapy though, Emily noted sourly. Hotch and Gideon apparently thought the mental trauma of being tortured would just go away once Reid came back to work.
“How did you know?” A note of panic rose in Reid, eyes darting around as if some invisible presence was listening.
“Hankel was a prolific drug user, it makes sense he would use his own drug of choice to sedate you,” Emily said.
I’ve watched you shoot up over and over. I’ve watched it take hold of you.
Her hand was still open.
“Spencer. Give. Me. The. Vials. You’re smart. You know what will happen if you go down this road. I’ve seen it…with other people. You need to hand them over now and then get help.”
“Gideon and Hotch don’t think-“
“Neither of them are paragons of mental health,” Emily snapped, “and frankly not getting you to talk to someone after what happened is negligent in the extreme. I’m not blaming you for looking for a way out after what happened to you. There is some pain that is all consuming and being awake just hurts,” Emily added softly.
“I don’t want to feel this way anymore. It helped Emily.”
“Briefly yeah, but the more you do this the less it will help each time so the more you will take.”
The look of hurt in Reid’s eyes was heartbreaking but Emily stood firm and finally Reid pulled out three little glass bottles and placed them in Emily’s hand.
“You won’t regret this I promise.” Reid snorted in indignation. “I’ll put you in touch with a friend of mine who runs a a group. She’s lovely and she knows all about this.”
“Is that what you meant when you said you’d seen it with other people?” Reid asked but luckily JJ appeared with three large coffees before Emily had to answer. The three of them headed back to the SUV and the drive to jet was silent except for JJ’s forced one-sided conversation. Emily could feel Reid’s eyes on her the entire time.
If nothing else at least the look on Gideon’s face when he saw Emily standing on the front step of his cabin was satisfying.
There was no “what are you doing here?” or “how did you know?” or any other question. He just stared at her for the longest time with that same fade-away look on his face.
“You have one hour,” he said eventually, stepping aside to let her pass.
“If you think I’m here to persuade you not to leave you’re wrong.” There was no need to hide her curiosity as she looked around the little cabin. It was cosier than Emily expected with a roaring fire, shelves full of books and vinyl and thick blankets draped over the couch. Between the couch and the fire was a chessboard resting on a table. Gideon was mid way through a game.
‘I’m not even going to berate you for not having the balls to tell the team you’re leaving in person or ask why the hell you only thought Reid was worth writing a letter to,” she added, shifting a black piece on the chess board and moving the captured white piece.
“I wrote to Hotch too,” Gideon said evenly. That did surprise Emily. In her vision only Spencer mentioned a letter which meant that Hotch would keep his a secret, at least at first.
“Still not the reason I’m here,” Emily said, looking directly at him for the first time since arriving. There was an almost imperceptible tension in the way Gideon was holding himself. He had been so sure he could leave without having to say goodbye and Emily had ambushed him. She felt a sense of pride at that.
“So why are you here?”
“To say thank you,” Emily shrugged, “for giving me a chance to prove myself, for letting me be part of the BAU.”
“Defers to you in everything. He’s the political animal, the barrier between you and the brass but the BAU is your show,” Emily said, ‘everything begins and ends with you. And your approval.”
A long silence stretched between then and Emily could practically hear the gears grinding in Gideon’s head as he took in what she was saying. She hadn’t wanted to hurt him but she had wanted to make a point when she had found out that he was sneaking off. Abandoning the team.
To heal. Gideon had to leave, Emily knew, just like she had to take the drugs away from Reid.
“How do you deal with it?’ Gideon asked finally.
“I guess because I’ve known you for far less time than the rest of the team-“
“No. I mean how do you deal with knowing? Knowing it all?”
Somewhere in the distance a bird began to sing. It was still early, the sun hadn’t set yet and the fire cast a warm glow on the room.
“I had no choice,” Emily shrugged.
“There’s always a choice.”
“Nope,” Emily laughed, “if this job has taught me anything it’s how little say we have over our lives. It’s all…interconnected. We get what we’re given and it’s what we do with it that counts.”
The disbelief was evident on Gideon’s face but he didn’t contradict her, just turned and busied himself tidying up while Emily waited, hands jammed in her pockets. She had considered staying until Reid arrived in what she guessed would be a few hours time after Gideon slipped away. There was no way to explain it to him though, not in a way he would believe and she didn’t want to lose his friendship.
“Good luck Emily,” Gideon said and she turned to leave. “You’ll do magnificently. I know it.”
“Be careful out there.”
There was a chill in the air as Emily headed back to her car and a restlessness came over her. Everything now would be a waiting game until the rest of the team found out and Emily hated waiting. It was the worst part of knowing what was to come. That and being unable to stop it.
The second worst thing was the loneliness that came from seeing the world differently from everyone else and therefore not being able to experience it the same way. Friendships were difficult.
Emily’s phone buzzed as a message came in. Garcia wanted to know if she was free to hang out with her and JJ at O’Keefe’s.
Difficult but not impossible.
Only if they invited Morgan and Reid too, she responded, the last case had been hard and they should all be together right now.