DISCLAIMER: God knows, if I owned them, there would be no debate over whose hands those are in the “Penelope” promo. All herein belong to CBS and its affiliates, not me. Not profit was made, no disrespect intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This is meant to be an additional scene for 03:09, “Penelope”. It is beta’ed up until the last few paragraphs, so anything wrong in those is entirely my fault. The title of the story comes from a Sarah McLachlan song of the same name, the lyrics of which seem completely appropriate for our two ladies and the circumstances.
SPOILERS: Season Three, Episode Nine, “Penelope”.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Jennifer Jareau leaned her head wearily against the back of her office chair. The adrenaline rush had worn off hours ago and the emotional toll of what had happened over the past week settled on her slender shoulders like the twenty pound pack that they had been forced to carry during cadet training. Stress was a more than worthy opponent and she felt her body give in, inch by inch, in surrender. Even her skin felt sore, that slight tingling sensation that occurred as a sleeping limb came awake again tracking down her neck and back, all the way to the soles of her feet.
A knock on the door of her office brought her head up and eyes open, although the abrupt motion left her a little lightheaded and it took a moment for her eyes to focus.
"Hey, JJ," Spencer Reid said in his typically inoffensive, almost apologetic tone. "Um, we were just getting ready to leave, me and Morgan, and we wondered if you wanted to grab a bite to eat or a drink with us?"
JJ forced a grateful smile on her lips. The boys really could be thoughtful but she wasn't in the mood for their company. Not tonight.
"Thanks, Reid, that's really sweet of you, but I'm going to pass. I'm exhausted and I think I'm just going to head home and take a shower and try to relax," JJ answered, her voice clearly tired.
"Okay, but if you want to talk, anytime," he responded, his voice trailing off. The corners of his mouth turned up at JJ's half-hearted smile of response. "Well, then have a good night."
He started to leave and then poked his head back in the door.
"You did really great tonight, JJ," he said shyly, nodding at her acknowledging look, before turning with a slight wave and disappearing.
JJ sighed deeply and just for a moment allowed her head to fall back against the chair. After a minute or so, she pushed herself up, bending to gather her purse and keys from her desk drawer and her ready bag from beside the bookcase. Straightening, she turned tiredly toward the door and met the concerned gaze of Emily Prentiss, who leaned gracefully against the door frame, dark eyes quickly taking in everything.
"Hey. You ready?" Emily asked gently.
"Ready for what?" JJ queried, at a momentary loss as to what the brunette was referring.
"Well, first I'm going to make sure you eat something, since you've barely touched anything all week. Then I'm going to drive you home, because honestly, you look so exhausted that I doubt that you could manage to run the elevator on your own, much less a car.
"I know that this week has been hell on all of us, but considering how close you and Garcia are, and the fact that you're the one who ended up discharging your weapon tonight, you've got to be beyond tired," Emily told her gently yet succinctly, pushing off the metal frame to stand, feet slightly apart. She had obviously spoken to Reid and Morgan and was clearly anticipating an argument.
To Emily's noticeable surprise, and a little to JJ's as well, the argument didn't come. In the few seconds it took to process the brunette's words, JJ realized what the vast difference was between this and the earlier invitation she had turned down. Reid's offer, much like Reid himself, had been tentative, almost certain of being rebuffed, and frankly, JJ didn't have the energy to be cheerful or kind or to take care of anyone else right now.
Emily on the other hand, Emily wasn't hesitant. Emily didn't need JJ to be anything other than what and who she was, and if someone was going to take care of her tonight, JJ knew who she wanted it to be. In the few moments of quiet this past week, she had found herself remembering the feel of Emily's fingers wrapped around her own, and how completely natural and completely comforting it had been to hold the brunette's hand. So she didn't argue.
"All right. But can we make it take out? I don't think that I could deal with a restaurant tonight," JJ qualified, slipping her bag onto her shoulder with a grimace and moving toward the door.
"I already called in an order at Fuji. Hibachi veggies with extra mushrooms," Emily smiled at her, reaching out and sliding the bag off JJ's shoulder and onto her own. "Come on, let's get out of here."
Had it been anyone else, JJ would have protested that she was perfectly capable of carrying her own bag, but for some reason, she never felt patronized by Emily, only cared for.
"So, you were pretty sure that you'd convince me to go with you, weren't you?" JJ smiled wearily, stepping into the elevator with Emily, and leaning against the side wall. "What were you going to do with two orders of veggies if I said no?"
"I had faith in my powers of persuasion," Emily grinned at her, her dark eyes teasing. "Didn't you ever hear that you should go into every mission believing that you will succeed?"
"Oh, I'm a mission now, am I?" JJ asked, chuckling a little as the elevator deposited them on the ground floor.
"If you only knew," Emily muttered to herself as she walked out the door in front of JJ.
"What'd you say?" JJ complained, the rush of air as the door opened drowning out Emily's reply.
"No, you're not a mission. You're a friend who needs a little TLC," Emily answered, turning to smile indulgently at JJ.
JJ couldn't help but smile back, her heart skipping a little at the tone of Emily's voice and the sweetness of her expression. Sliding into the front seat of Emily's car, JJ realized the truth of at least part of her friend's statements. She was too tired to drive. As Emily started the car and headed out of the grounds, JJ let herself relax again, turning her head to the left so that she could see Emily's profile in the steady row of streetlights that lined the road.
'Thanks," JJ said softly, the urge to feel Emily's hand in hers again nearly overwhelming. Reaching out, she ran her fingers along the length of Emily's sleeve, pleased when the brunette silently slipped her hand down and grasped her own, bringing them both to rest on the leather seat between them.
"You're welcome," Emily replied sincerely, glancing over to give JJ another of those endearing smiles, squeezing her hand gently. She saw JJ's eyelids flutter as the blonde let out a deep sigh.
"You can go to sleep if you want. I'll wake you up after I pick up the food and we get to your house," Emily instructed gently, tightening her grip on JJ's hand just a little in emphasis.
"I'm fine. I'm just going to relax for a minute" JJ answered, allowing her eyes to close, safe in the brunette's driving and in the knowledge that Emily would take care of everything. It normally wasn't that easy for JJ to relinquish control, but with her hand still wrapped gently in Emily's, it seemed the most natural thing in the world.
Glancing over, Emily could tell that JJ had gone to sleep. Her lashes lay dark against her skin, a little pucker of a frown creasing her forehead, as if she were concentrating on a fragment of dream that was eluding her. Emily had been startled when JJ had reached for her hand. All week she had been remembering the feel of those slender fingers in hers, not a sensation that she had anticipated experiencing again anytime soon.
She had acted purely on instinct in the hospital, knowing that JJ, in her anxiety and fear over Garcia's condition, needed the comfort of another person, needed to feel a physical connection, if only for a moment. Clearly, in her exhausted state, that need had returned and Emily felt touched that the blonde had felt comfortable enough to act on it.
Unfortunately, JJ's actions had only made matters worse for Emily. Her feelings for JJ had been growing stronger, and while Emily knew that JJ had to be aware of them on some level, she was also painfully conscious that there was little chance that either of them could or would acknowledge them. Still, if only for this ephemeral moment, she could enjoy the feel of JJ's hand in hers and perhaps even more precious, the immense trust she had placed in her.
What seemed to JJ like mere seconds later, she could have sworn that she felt the soft brush of Emily's hand along her cheek, tucking back a lock of hair. The gentle touch roused JJ, blue eyes flickering open to meet Emily's, uncertain whether she had imagined the feel of Emily's hand against her skin.
"Hey, we're here," Emily explained, as JJ glanced out the window and saw that they were parked in her driveway.
"Did you stop and get the food?" JJ asked, the question somewhat unnecessary as her brain registered the scent of ginger and garlic coming from the back seat. She had a vague, indistinct memory of uttering a sleepy murmur of protest as Emily's hand had left hers, and of the quiet clicking of the car door.
"Yeah. Come on, you need to eat and to get to bed," Emily stated firmly, opening her door. The overhead light came on, bright in the relative darkness of the driveway, and JJ blinked rapidly, fingers fumbling with the seatbelt. Emily opened the back door and retrieved the brown paper bag containing the food, along with JJ's ready bag.
Shaking her head to try and clear away the lingering cobwebs of sleep, JJ proceeded Emily up the brick walkway, pulling her keys from her purse and unlocking the kitchen door. Once inside, she reset the alarm, silencing the beeping that had begun at their entrance.
JJ's slumber clung to her, and yet, she was intensely aware, of the soft white glare of the kitchen light, of the coffee cup and plate she had set carelessly on the counter that morning, and most of all, of Emily, as if she had emerged from JJ's dream, no longer hazy and indistinct, but vibrant and fiercely real.
Emily set the food down on the pale oak of the kitchen table, turning to look at JJ, who stood absently in the middle of the floor, her gaze sleepy and intense as she regarded Emily. JJ walked slowly over to the counter, picking up that morning's coffee cup and turning it reflectively in her hand.
"JJ?" Emily said her name questioningly, taking a step closer to her, dark head tilted a little to the side, thin brows drawn down slightly in concern.
"You know, when I left the house this morning, I didn't have any idea that I would have to kill someone today," JJ said, her tone curious, as if she were discussing forgetting to take out the garbage. Emily drew in a breath, trying to gauge JJ's mood. There was something about her tone and the expression in her eyes, unguarded and yet, oddly lacking in affect, that was disturbing to Emily.
"JJ, you shot a serial killer who had tried to murder a friend and colleague and who was, at that moment, holding a hostage in the middle of the B.A.U. That's not the same as killing someone," Emily tried rationally, unprepared for the laugh that came harshly from JJ's throat.
"Emily, you don't really believe that and we both know it. You've shot people before. You know exactly what I mean," JJ's stare was unblinking as her eyes met Emily's. "You shoot someone and he's dead. That's killing, however you try to spin it. It just makes it easier to deal with if you can rationalize it by saying that you had no other choice and that you were only doing your job."
"You didn't have any other choice and you were doing your job," Emily stated firmly, cautiously taking another step closer, as if scared of spooking a wounded animal.
"I know that. And I would do it again, without hesitation. I will do whatever I have to in order to protect my family. But I am not going to lie to myself and pretend that I didn't just take a life today," JJ told her, her eyes not leaving Emily's face. "And I guess what bothers me is that it doesn't really bother me. I'm not upset that Battle is dead, and I'm not even really upset that I'm the one who had to shoot him. Part of me feels like I should be, but I'm not. And I'm not sure if I have lost something or gained it, you know?"
"What do you think you've lost?" Emily asked quietly, standing close enough that JJ could smell the subtle, expensive fragrance of her perfume.
"I don't know. Maybe part of that girl from East Allegheny that I used to be. Maybe a little chunk of my soul, offered up as sacrifice. Isn't that what the gods always asked for, a sacrifice to turn the tides in combat?" JJ pondered, her eyes focused on the white and blue swirl in the Formica countertop, as if she could find the answers to all the questions of the universe if she could unravel the pattern.
Strange to be able to talk to someone like this. Normally, JJ kept her own counsel, hiding her fears and doubts behind a serene smile, and a calm, self-possessed demeanor. But for reasons she couldn't quite explain, Emily had always managed to get glimpses under that composed exterior, and tonight JJ was too tired to try and keep up the façade.
"Okay, so, if you've lost that part of you, what have you gained? Because it seems to me, that you have to be able to find the balance. That you have to figure out if what you lost was worth what you got in return. And I'm not talking about knowing that a murderer won't hurt anyone else," Emily replied, her expression knowing and compassionate.
JJ lifted her head, staring intently into Emily's eyes, seeing the subtle shadings of color, the rich espresso shifting to dark chocolate around the blackness of pupil. There was a disconcerting intimacy in this apparently pedestrian moment; two wary people who had formed a fragile, deeply private connection.
JJ knew that it had taken time, that it had been forged slowly over weeks, months even, new links fashioned from shared experiences, from a growing sense that, despite differences in background and family, their values and moral view of the world were the same. With it had come an awareness of each other, a need to connect, to see, to hear, to feel.
JJ wondered sometimes if the other members of the unit had noticed the meaningful looks, the smiles that were meant for no one else, the quickly diminishing gap in the physical space between them, as if there were some invisible tether, drawing them closer.
Sitting in the waiting room the night Garcia was shot, JJ had felt the connection as a palpable link, a current finally completed and closed as her hand had slipped effortlessly into Emily's. A current that she could feel tonight, stronger than ever. JJ could see from the look in Emily's eyes that she could feel it, too.
"JJ?" Emily prompted, needing to hear the answer to her question. When JJ finally responded, it was to ask a question of her own.
"Do you believe that everything happens for a reason?" The leap forward in JJ's thinking startled Emily for an instant, before her mind caught the connection and the reason for the inquiry.
"I'm assuming that you don't want to debate Stoic philosophy?" Her attempt to ratchet down the intensity of the moment brought an acknowledging smile to JJ's lips for a few seconds.
"Emily," JJ said her name reprovingly, shaking her head tiredly.
"I'm sorry," Emily apologized before addressing JJ's words, her own speech slow and thoughtful and noticeably indecisive. "I don't know the answer to that question, JJ. I'd like to believe that we have some free will, that everything that happens to us isn't merely the dictates of fate or God or some alien life form.
"I don't know how comfortable I am with the concept that nothing that I do or say has any affect on some cosmic plan. And yet, sometimes it does seem as if there's some causal order to things. I just don't know. Why?"
"Garcia told me that she believes that everything happens for a reason, and that if she loses that belief that nothing makes sense anymore," JJ explained, her expression confused and troubled.
"Sometimes it's easier to believe that Fate controls everything and that things happen because they are meant to according to some greater plan. Substitute God for Fate and you have the reason that churches are full every Sunday," Emily replied, knowing that she was skirting the question, and yet, some small part of her was terrified to be drawn into what appeared to her to be the inevitable end to this conversation.
"It just seems like we have so little control over what happens to us. Look at the people we see every day. The ones in the wrong place at the wrong time, who end up tortured, raped, murdered. Can all that really be happening for a reason?" JJ implored, her eyes grown dark and troubled.
"JJ, stop," Emily stated firmly, wrapping her fingers around the blonde's slender forearm. "You can make yourself crazy wondering about this and in the end, does it really matter? What happens, happens, and whether or not we have any say in the outcome, all we can do is live our lives the best we know how. Ultimately, all we can do is hope that the reason that everything happens is a good one."
JJ looked down at Emily's hand, at the fingers curled so carefully around her arm. There was no denying the minor shockwaves that sizzled along her nerve endings at the other woman's touch. Not that JJ was in any mood to deny much of anything right now. She suddenly knew how Garcia had felt, turning to meet Kevin for the first time and hearing all the gears click into place.
The catalyst to this moment had been set into play the instant that Battle had pulled that trigger, and in her heart JJ knew it. She couldn't help but feel a whisper of gratitude.
"Speaking of good reasons, you asked me earlier what I have gained from all this and if it balanced out what I've lost," JJ's hand came up to cover Emily's where it still rested on her arm, and she took the last step closer, moving well into Emily's personal space. "But I need for you to help me answer that Emily, because I can't do it on my own."
Emily tried to smooth out her suddenly ragged breathing, every nerve in her body hyper aware of JJ's proximity, of the warmth radiating off of her skin, of the faint scent of citrus and flowers, of the startling clarity of her eyes. She really hadn't intended for this to happen and part of her felt that any move forward would be taking advantage of JJ's vulnerability. The last thing that she wanted was for JJ to regret anything that might happen between them.
She had simply been trying to make the events of the past week a little less difficult for a woman for whom she had come to care deeply, not push the situation to this. But the look in JJ's eyes made Emily realize that there was no turning back from here, not if she wanted to keep the delicate, fragile trust that JJ had given her.
So, she did the only thing she could.
She kissed her.
What began as the lightest brush of lips transformed like quicksilver into something much more intense. JJ's right hand snaked up around Emily's neck, urging her closer, a groan escaping her as she tasted the richness of Emily's lips. Her left hand came up to grasp the lapel of Emily's burgundy shirt, her fingers slipping under the edge to rest against the warm silk of the brunette's skin.
Emily's lips were full and incredibly soft and JJ devoured them, her hand behind Emily's head pulling her ever closer, the feel of Emily's hands slipping under the edge of her shirt to skirt along the small of her back dragging another low moan from her throat.
JJ lost track of time as their kisses became slower and deeper, her hands moving of their own volition to seek out the silken warmth of Emily's skin, her body reveling in the touch of Emily's fingers along her back and around her stomach. The silence in the kitchen was broken only by the somewhat labored sound of their breathing and an occasional moan.
JJ's fingers had undone the first two buttons on Emily's shirt and her lips had begun to trace the long line of her neck, when Emily, groaning softly, pushed away, her hands coming up to catch JJ's, stilling them against her chest.
"We need to stop," Emily whispered breathlessly. Her eyes were wide and JJ could have sworn they looked frightened.
"What's wrong?" JJ asked, having a difficult time focusing on anything but the bruised look of Emily's lips, wanting to taste them again.
"JJ," Emily began, her mouth opening and closing several times before she found the words. "This has been a really shitty week, and I don't want you to do anything that you are going to regret. It would kill me if we , if something happened between us and you regretted it tomorrow."
JJ slowly raised Emily's hand to her lips, placing a chaste kiss on it. She looked intently into Emily's eyes, her expression tender and fierce.
"I will not regret anything, Emily. Do you really believe that I could ever regret you?"
"I'm scared, JJ," Emily admitted.
"Me, too," JJ smiled, slipping her arms around Emily's waist. "But I'll be damned if I'll allow that to control my decisions. If I learned anything this week, it's that life is so unpredictable and so short. I'm not going to waste it and I'm certainly not going to regret anything as amazing as this."
A slow grin spread across Emily's face at the sincerity of JJ's words.
"You still need to eat and get to bed," Emily told her, a shadow of her normal confidence reasserting itself.
"On two conditions," JJ told her, taking her hand and leading her over to the table. "One, we both eat. Two, you stay with me tonight. Nothing will happen if you don't want it to, but I really liked falling asleep holding your hand, and I imagine that it will be even nicer in your arms."
Emily's voice was lower than usual and quite husky with emotion.
"Jennifer Jareau, you are an amazing woman, and I have a hunch that even if I spent the next fifty years trying, I wouldn't learn everything I want to know about you."
"How about I check with you at say, thirty years and see what kind of progress you're making?" JJ laughed, the weight that had settled on her shoulders earlier suddenly a lot lighter. "You know, Emily, what Garcia said is true: everything happens for a reason, and for me, that reason is you."
Return to Criminal Minds Fiction
Return to Main Page