a/n: Just a quick note to help you find your way. :) This story takes place immediately following the prologue in "Reckoning." If you haven't read either "Reckoning" or "Endgame," I would recommend reading at least the first two chapters of "Endgame" and...well, at least the prologue of "Reckoning," though then you'll probably have more questions than answers. :)
Obviously, this is the third story in the Elliot Jackson series.
Disclaimer: Criminal Minds and the characters pertaining thereto do not belong to me. Thanks to Jeff Davis, et al., for creating them and letting me play. :D
Chapter 1: Morning, Interrupted
And if we go home tonight,
You might find the very thing
That come the morning light might well have washed your mind of him.
So let me in tonight so we two losers might start to win.
-Del Amitri, "It Might As Well Be You"
It was still early; not quite seven, she gauged by the quality of light; but the birds were up and about in happy little choirs. It was spring in northern Virginia, good and proper, and that meant chirping birds, blooming flowers, and itchy noses. The good far outweighed the bad, and it was a wonderful time to be alive. Elliot Jackson had more reason to be thankful than most: the recent ordeal she and her partner, Spencer Reid, had been through in Florida was still very fresh in her mind.
But for now Jackson rolled over in bed with a long, contented sigh. Even though she was still bruised, still hurting, she felt like she might actually recover. Last night had been a step in the right direction for sure. Smiling, she slid her hand across the bed to find…empty space. Her smile melted into a frown as she sat up; brushed short brown hair out of her face. He was gone. What…?
Anger was tickling the back of her mind when she saw the note. Of course. He wouldn’t just disappear; that wasn’t his way.
Went to get pancakes. You looked like you could use the sleep. See you soon.
PS: don’t you dare put any clothes on before I get back!
The postscript made her laugh aloud. Typical Taj. She glanced at the clock: seven AM, just as she’d predicted. She yawned. Snuggled back under the covers, and it was hardly any time at all before she was asleep again.
Her dreams were dark; haunted. A small, bare cell. A mad man with a gun. Spencer with a needle. Spencer, again, this time shooting her instead of their kidnapper. She tossed restlessly; swore she could hear the gunshot; but after a time the nightmares faded and she slipped more deeply into sleep.
Hours later some annoying, insistent noise tugged her toward consciousness. She tried to ignore it, but it wouldn’t go away, and as awareness gradually returned, she realized it was her BlackBerry. With a grunt of irritation she began blindly groping for it. Her hand brushed across the nightstand’s surface, and she heard the decisive thud of small electronic equipment hitting oak flooring.
Sighing melodramatically, she hopped from the bed (winced as her sore ribs protested such sudden movement) and retrieved the histrionic phone. A glance at the caller ID told her the early caller was Aaron Hotchner, her boss at the BAU, and that it wasn’t nearly as early as she’d expected – nearly ten o’clock. She spared a brief moment to wonder how the hell long it took to get pancakes before answering the call.
“Jackson,” she gasped.
“E.J., you sound out of breath. Everything ok?”
“Yes, sorry, I just dropped my phone and had to chase it. Early morning aerobics are hard on the ribs. What’s up?”
There was a heartbeat of silence. “E.J., listen. I know it’s Saturday and you’ve had a rough week – to say the least – but I need you on a case.”
She blinked. Why did he sound so strange? “I, um…I’ve been cleared for work, Hotch, you know that.”
“Right,” he said a bit too quickly, “of course. We’re just around the corner from you, at the Fig Tree Café. How soon can you be here?”
She tried to shake the instant, all-encompassing feeling of dread that suddenly descended over her and her formerly perfect Saturday morning. “Give me twenty minutes,” she rasped out.
“Good. I’ll see you soon.”
She hung up without replying, and her eyes instantly landed on Taj’s note. He’d been gone nearly three hours. It didn’t take three hours to grab breakfast, especially not in this part of Alexandria; there were small cafes and restaurants all over the place (like the Fig Tree, that annoying little voice in the back of her mind taunted). It should’ve taken thirty minutes, max. Maybe he got called in to work? Just like she was being called in…
She glanced down at the BlackBerry she was gripping much too tightly and realized that all of this anxiety could be quelled with one phone call. She could hear his voice, tell him she’d been called in, hear his excuse for taking so long…but she didn’t make that call. Instead her small, trembling hand gently replaced the phone on the nightstand, and she turned toward her bathroom. The shower, and her day, beckoned, however unwelcome the latter might be.