Chapter 1

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It's been a year. It's been one year since Maddie passed away. The thought of her is heavy in my mind this morning, with it being the exact one year anniversary.

The kids are both four now. They're incredibly smart, both of them. Ellie reminds me of Maddie every day, with her witty attitude and loving outlook. Eli has her features. We've all healed since her death; the kids don't get too upset over it, they simply talk about her like she was still here. My mind drifted to when I had to tell them what had happened - also known as the absolute hardest thing I've done, next to holding Maddie as she passed.

I sat motionless in my bedroom, which felt too much like open waters that threatened to drown me in my tears. After Maddie's funeral yesterday, I simply couldn't bring myself to hold it together. However, as I heard my front door open and shut, I tried to lace my open wounds shut for my kids who would soon be in front of me, returning from Hotch's.

My assumptions were correct. Ellie and Eli ascended the steps slowly for a change, and gently crawled onto my bed on either side of me. They talked quietly about Hotch's house, and what all they got to do while they were there. It wasn't long until Ellie, being the incredibly smart girl she is, asked about her mother.

"Daddy, what happened to mommy?" She asked, looking up at me with wide, stoic eyes. My heart constricted.

"There was a very bad man," I said, choking on my words as I forced them out. "And he didn't like mommy. He wasn't gentle enough with her, and she didn't like it, so she got away from him. But he found her, and he made sure she couldn't get away anymore." Ellie's bright eyes turned downwards as she messed with her pale pink skirt. I lifted her chin up so I could see her face, and looked over to Eli, to make sure he heard me as well. "That's why you always have to be nice to people. Be gentle with everyone you meet."

They both nodded as they seemed to get the point I was making. I knew full and well that if I told them exactly what happened, it would surely scar them for how young they were and how impressionable their young minds could be, so I left it simplified. Because I didn't have the heart to say it, and they didn't have the hearts to hear it.

I never went back to work for the BAU. After a long talk with Hotch and Morgan, it was agreed upon that it wasn't my place anymore. Too many harmful memories were burned into my brain from the BAU. Every day that I taught at the college, I missed my coworkers. I had long since lose touch with all of them except Hotch, save for the stray "How are you?" email.

I was making the kids breakfast when they came downstairs, fully unaware of the day.

"Hi dad," Ellie said, taking her place at the table.

"Hi sweetheart," I smiled at her. She grinned back. Eli sat and gave me a toothy grin. "Are you guys ready to spend the day at Grandma Beth's?"

"Yeah!" They beamed. They loved her and Hotch.

When we were all ready to go, I dropped them off at Beth's. Afterward, I went to the florist and got some white roses. I took them to her grave. I noticed someone standing there when I arrived. They left quickly, without me being able to see who they were. I shrugged it off; she'd have a lot of people coming to see her today. I knelt in front of her grave and sat on my knees. I looked at the white marble headstone.

"Madison Collins-Reid. Taken too soon."

I smiled softly at the small cursive written across the bottom. It read, "You are my sunshine." There was an engraved rose on the top right corner.

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