DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
SPOILERS: 2x12 Profiler, Profiled, 2x15 Revelations, 2x17 Distress, 2x18 Jones, 2x20 Honor Amoung Thieves, 3x01 Doubt, 3x02 In Birth and Death, 3x04 Children of the Dark, 3x09 Penelope, 3x10 True Night, 3x17 In Heat, 3x18 The Crossing, 3x19 Tabula Rasa, 3x20 Lo-Fi
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

20 Seconds
By gilligankane


You know that this is it.

The extent of your relationship – all that you've been through and everything you never said – has come down to twenty seconds.


The ups and the downs and the false starts have boiled down to less than half a minute and you're not sure if you can stop this train wreck.

You're not sure if you have the courage to face rejection again because she's been rejecting you from the beginning and what's to say she'll stop now.


In Chicago, as Derek sits in some interrogation room, you watch how diligently she works to do her part – to get Derek out from under the cloud of suspicion he's fallen under. You remember how the moment seizes you and before you can stop yourself, you send her a text, a joke about that racist detective's tie that isn't remotely funny. But you remember she whips around and looks at you with an expression of amusement and you feel your own mouth curve upward.


She tells you "yes" back in Georgia, or rather; her eyes do, when you run into the barn in the middle of nowhere and pull her out of that daze she's fallen into. When she looks at you with that look of absolute terror, you feel a swell of pride in your chest and know it's your heart fluttering. The jilted blonde hasn't even acknowledged Morgan's presence, but the minute you open your mouth, those beautiful blue eyes swing in your direction, you know that there could be something there and you hold onto that moment for a long time afterwards.


But she retreats when she gets her strength back, after you tell her how you get over these new things you've seen. She's right, you did just come off a desk job and you haven't blinked once. And when you tell her that you "compartmentalize" as if it's some big secret, you can see the walls go up instantly. Even though she's essentially copying you, it hurts that the trust you had just developed disappeared so fast.


In Houston, after you are verbally bitch slapped by Reid, she's two steps behind you and you're preparing yourself for round two, because you're the new kid and no one likes the new kid, especially when the new kid has her own opinions and convictions. So you brace yourself, but it's not for what she does next, taking a hold of your arm and dragging you down the sidewalk, mumbling something about something being wrong with Reid, and even though you're thinking "nice observation genius" you can only nod uncontrollably, because her hand is on your bare skin and you have to remind yourself to breathe.


Suddenly though, you can breathe again, but every time you take a breath, the taste of crawfish fills your lungs and the smell of disbelief fills your nostrils, taking over every inch of you. Anyone with half a brain can see the chemistry between JJ and that detective, and you wonder if you look as obvious as him when you watch JJ walk out of a room. You're not sure what's going to happen between them, but when JJ hands him her business card, you know it can't be good.


You blame your mother for JJ inching even farther away from you and for locking herself in her office for hours at a time, her low voice giving her away when she mutters "Will" in such an exasperated tone that your heart sinks a little lower in your chest. It's your mother's fault, because when you introduce the two of them, your mother does that thing you can't stand and clicks her tongue in disapproval, as if JJ isn't good enough to be your friend. JJ doesn't talk to you, directly, for a week, and you can't blame her.


It seems like you just get further and further away every time you blink, because when Hotch tells you to go interview some of the students at that small college in Arizona, She looks at you quickly and says "no" and takes Reid instead. You don't have too much time to think about it, because the case moves along at lightning speed and the next thing you know, you're kneeling on the ground with some poor, twisted girl's blood running through your hands, coating your fingers and slicking your wrists.

Later though, as the coroner van takes the bodies away, as you're scrubbing at your hands furiously, she stops you from scrubbing your skin off and her eyes tell you not to say anything, because then the moment would be ruined.

She washes your hands off and you try not cry.


She won't look you in the eyes again, and you're starting to forget what color hers are. When the team finds out about Strauss and the entire debacle between you and the Section Chief, her head hangs in disbelief and shame. You shamed her, because she won't listen to the rest of Hotch's explanation, about how you didn't give the team up.

When she finds out you quit, for those few hours in between leaving the BAU in the middle of the day and getting to Milwaukee, after sitting in that ambulance for a half an hour with blood dripping down your face, she follows you to the bathroom in the airport and stands there staring at you.

"Please promise me you'll never quit again." You're disoriented because of the slight concussion, but you manage to nod, and to not hit the floor when she kisses you lightly on the forehead.


It's not until Denver that you finally know the meaning of the phrase "just out my reach" because you are this close to bringing Carrie home with you, but JJ, Old Faithful, pulls through again and gets a hold of the teen's family in L.A. When Carrie leaves your side in the airport, headed to the other terminal with FBI detail in tow, she hugs you quickly and whispers something you'll never forget.

"I know that you and Agent Jareau would have made great parents for me" she says, which shocks you for two reasons. One, you ask yourself, how did she know that you wanted to take her home with you, and two, why did she automatically assume you'd be raising her with JJ? But you shake it off, along with the tears you know are coming, and get onto your own plane, watching as the land underneath you gets smaller and smaller.

"I can see it," she says, sitting across from you. "You, kids."

You can see it too: you, kids, her.


In a hospital waiting room, you see it all: life, the dying, and death. She's sitting next to you with her head in her hands, because this isn't supposed to be happening and it is. You wish you could say something remotely relevant, but all you can come up with is the stupid joke your last nanny had told you: something about a chicken and a playground.

You hear the tear hit the ground, rather than see it, and you finally get how hard this is hitting JJ. Her best friend is on some metal table behind those swinging doors, her precious life in the hands of doctors you don't know. And she's looking at with you watery blue eyes and you do the only thing you can think of: you take her hand in yours, give it a squeeze of reassurance, and close your eyes, willing this to blow over, because JJ wouldn't be able to get past it, should something worse happen.


You can hear her on the plane, hear the banter between JJ and Morgan and Reid and you smile, even if you're not a part of it.

"I couldn't imagine having nothing left of someone but a voice message," you hear her say. "Think I'd never stop listening to it." And it makes you wonder: if you were to leave, or die, tomorrow, what would leave her with? So you make a decision and you hope it's the right one, because if it isn't, then you'll just make a fool of yourself.

As you get off the plane, you follow her to her car and make conversation, laughing at her impression of Reid losing at cards, and when you reach your cars, you know this is now or never. So you take a deep breath, grab her by the wrist, spin her around and kiss her soundly, trying to tell her exactly what's going through your head. When you pull back, her eyes are closed, and she's breathing deeply.

"I just wanted to leave you something to remember me by," you tell her as you get in your car. She's still standing motionless when you pull out of the parking lot.


You get on the plane headed to Miami, still looking over the case file, and settle into one of the chairs, intent on reading the damn file. Your pocket goes off and you hastily check the text message as Billy Joel's "Still Rock and Roll to Me" blares through the tiny speakers. Your stomach leaps into your throat at the message on the screen and you excuse yourself as you push past Reid, stopping briefly to hit him on the back of the head as he comments about your choice of music.

You enter the restroom area of the plane and strong hands grab the front of your shirt, pulling you into the tiny cubicle and full lips are on yours, drawing your very soul out of you.

"JJ…" but you never get past that, because her hands are wandering under your shirt, touching places you've only dreamed of her touching.

You don't stop to ask her why she's doing this, and it doesn't occur to you to care why.


You find out why though when you get to Miami and see him waiting by your SUV's, his hands in his pockets coolly, as if he belongs here. You see the way her eyes light up in disbelief, because apparently, while she knew he'd be here, she didn't know he'd be here, in plain sight, for all the world to see. But when startled blue eyes swing in your direction, you know that she didn't think she'd be here in plain sight for you to see.

You avoid her for the rest of the day.


The words are meant to be harsh and direct and said with such hatred that your mind clogs at the thought of it. But when they come out, you sound sad and pathetic, but there's still the underlying anger and it's enough so that she looks at you and her eyes blaze.

"You know what?" She asks herself, and she rounds the corner in the precinct with a clear mission written across her face.

You don't hear what she says to him, but it works and you know you'll be sitting by yourself on the plane ride home.


She tells Garcia, which is a stupid thing to do, because she's out of the tech's office and within five minutes Garcia calls you and demands you get in her office now. You roll your eyes at the boys, and they say they'll wait for you outside. After that case and the strain of trying to figure out who Keri's stalker was, you need a drink and Morgan and Reid are just the guys to go out with right now. You know JJ isn't coming, so you avoid her office and head straight to "the lair."

Garcia can barely contain her joy. JJ is having a baby. JJ is pregnant. JJ is having a child with William LaMontange Jr. and you smile numbly as Garcia goes on and on about how great it'll be to be an aunt.

You don't agree so much.


Hotch is out of the office, Reid is with him, and Morgan disappeared somewhere with Garcia an hour ago, and you decide this is the best time to do this. You have a speech planned, because you need to know what you're going to say before you say it, otherwise you'll end up looking like a fish out of water, mouth gaping.

You march into her office and ignore her look of shock. You open your mouth as she stands abruptly and marches towards you.

"I don't care what you have to say right now Emily Prentiss…" and you deserve her anger, because she's called you ten times in the last two days and you didn't pick up once. Your speech is on the tip of your tongue, but it suddenly doesn't seem so important, because she looks furious and her eyes are blazing and you want your revenge.

So you kiss her as the world spins, pushing her back against her desk and stealing the words from her mouth. You're suddenly too angry to care that she's kissing you back just as desperately.


In the city of lights, or whatever it is they call New York these days, you try to act surprised when you see Will barrel through the precinct doors. For a fleeting second, you wonder what it is with him and precincts, but Hotch points him out and you watch JJ spin slowly.

"I've asked JJ to marry me."

You don't need to hear anything else.


She corners you in the bathroom and it's ironic – to you – that she's the one who's crying.

"Emily I…" But you don't want to hear it. You don't want to hear how sorry she is and you don't want to hear that it's all her fault and you don't want to hear that what happened between you two was a mistake, or that she wished that live could always be the two of you.

You're tired of hearing all these excuses when the only thing you want to hear is how she wants to be with you too.

You could be the one to start what you know is going to come. You could be the one who initiated the next step that the two of you always seem to take. But it's not enough this time, to be pressed against the bathroom door with her lips attached to yours.

So you grab her by the shoulders, steady her and look into her eyes.

"It's not enough this time," you tell her.


You come tearing out of the precinct, with your gun drawn and your blood rushing in your ears. You were supposed to be checking on Cooper, but it took you longer than you expected to calm yourself back down and so you're still in the precinct lobby when you hear that blood-curling scream coming from outside the door.

You come tearing out the precinct, with your gun drawn and you stop short. One of the hooded freaks you're chasing after has one arm wrapped low around JJ's body, hugging her to his lanky frame, and the other hand is holding a controller. He backs up against JJ's SUV and grins an evil, sadistic smile.

"You have twenty seconds until I blow this thing up," he says methodically. "Only one of you has to die. It's either her, or you."

He's not talking to anyone else but you right now and his eyes are telling you this is no joke. You're sure at least five seconds have gone by now. You have to do something – fast.

This is it.

Your entire relationship is running through your mind and the blood is rushing in your ears and your hands are shaking slightly and your gun is wavering slightly and the look in JJ's eyes is telling you that it's okay.

"Take me." The words are out of your mouth instantly, and you've given this no thought. You're already halfway to the ground, placing your gun down as calmly as you're speaking.

"Emily…" But you smile.

"Take me." He pushes JJ forward and you catch her before she hits the ground. Her eyes are brimming with tears and you're not sure if she's scared for her life or scared for you. You don't give her the chance to say anything, and it's not like you can if you want to, because this hooded idiot is pushing her further away and pulling you closer.

"Take me." The words are out of your mouth instantly, and you've given this no thought.


Times up.

The End

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