DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I can't believe I actually finished this. Includes tiny, tiny, blink-and-you-miss-it kind of spoilers. A BIG thank you to Ann for the wonderful beta.
CHALLENGE: Submitted as part of the Epic Proportions challenge.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

Between The Lines
By lysachan


"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
- Soren Kierkegaard


Tommy Jenkins loved to play baseball. For his twelve-year-old self, the sensation of the bat hitting the ball at just the right angle and the perfectly round object then flying all the way over to the small patch of woods on the other side of the park was the best feeling in the whole wide world. He was a good player, one of the best in his local league; he knew that one day he'd play professionally, maybe eventually even compete in the World Series, and that prompted him to spend all his free time in the park, practicing furiously. Placing his black White Sox cap tightly on his head, he prepared to take a yet another swing at the ball that he threw in the air shortly afterwards.

As the ball once again found its way to the familiar area of trees, Tommy swept perspiration off his forehead and began jogging at a leisurely pace across the field, a confident smile still gracing his lips. Reaching the first of the tall oak trees, he slowed his steps, his eyes on the area in which he figured the ball must've landed. The thick layer of leaves on the ground shone with different shades of yellow and red, making the task just that much more difficult.

Rounding yet another, clearly impressively old tree, Tommy suddenly bumped into something firm and stumbled backwards in surprise. Taking off his cap which had slid onto his face, he glanced up, automatically apologizing, but the words died on his lips when his eyes landed on the sight in front of him.

All Tommy Jenkins could do was scream.



Emily Prentiss liked to think of herself as a woman of principle.

In fact, when she truly decided something, she was usually extremely pigheaded and didn't waver an inch. And that's why she found it completely unforgivable that at that very moment, she was standing half naked in her apartment, her hands on a blonde who was also wearing suspiciously few clothes and, right then, doing rather incredible things to her earlobe.

It was Monday night and Emily knew she needed to be at work at eight o'clock sharp the following morning, which usually put a lid on her needs – but not today. Today was different. After a particularly difficult day, a crappy day, an unbelievably shitty day at the office, she had felt like she was drowning in hopelessness and unhappiness. And finding a way to relax, to ease the growing feeling of emptiness that was slowly but surely taking over her, simply couldn't be achieved by staying within the four walls of her home.

So, she'd broken her own sacred rule and gone out on a week night.

Emily slid her fingers slowly up the side of the blonde woman who was like putty in the agent's hands. The skin she discovered underneath the white blouse was smooth and warm, the irresistible softness urging her hand closer and closer to the more important areas. She kissed the woman's neck, making her way down to her collarbone, and heard the other woman moan quietly in appreciation. Taking one full breast in her hand, Emily captured the blonde's lips again, all the while maneuvering them towards the fashionable-looking couch in her living room.

It was a fancy couch, and Emily was rather proud of it. Its creamy color complemented perfectly the rather subdued colors of the rest of the apartment. It was a couch that was just on the border of being either posh or simply elegant, and for once, Emily had to admit that her mother had been right about it. It'd been an insane gift from Ambassador Prentiss several years previously when there'd, once again, been something she needed to compensate for with her daughter. Emily hated that her mother usually went on a shopping spree instead of a normal, internal guilt trip, especially since most of the time, the things she was offered Emily most certainly didn't need. But the couch had been a lovely exception, and now it worked nicely as an eye-catcher in her living room. Although, she wasn't so sure her mother would appreciate how she currently put it to use. She couldn't even remember the last time she'd sat on it like ordinary people.

Emily snapped back to the present when she felt the blonde in her arms effectively unbuttoning her crimson red blouse, the soft brushes of the woman's fingers against her sensitive skin leaving a trail of goosebumps in their wake. If Emily concentrated really hard, she could almost imagine someone else standing in front of her, see someone else smiling seductively at her and feel someone else doing incredibly wonderful things to her.

It wasn't like her current guest was by any means unattractive. No, she was beautiful, gorgeous even. But it didn't matter what an incredible catch she was, because she simply wasn't her. And that's why Emily unabashedly used her imagination, blurring some features out and sharpening others. The woman before her became someone else, and the thought sent a pleasurable shiver down her spine, a shiver that ended up somewhere between her legs, making her breath catch. She swallowed, working hard to keep her fantasy from slipping away.

The other woman took the passing look of desire as encouragement and gently pushed Emily backwards until the brunette's legs came into contact with the side of the couch, and she had no other option than to fall on it as gracefully as possible, followed shortly thereafter by her companion. Sinking her fingers in the blonde's hair, Emily squeezed her eyes shut, her breathing beginning to become ragged as she concentrated solely on the lips that were now tracing her pulse point and sending jolts of pleasure through her body.

A hand made its way down her abdomen, stopping at the waistband of her jeans, and after a moment of pure torture, slipped underneath the denim barrier. Emily's breath hitched, and rational thinking became an impossible task.

"God, Jennifer, don't stop."

The moment the words were out of her mouth, Emily realized her mistake. The lips on her neck, as well as the hand down there, stilled and soon clear blue eyes were peering down at her, confusion and bafflement written all over them.

"I know we just met, but who the hell is Jennifer?"

"I..." Emily felt the words abandon her, her mouth opening and closing as she tried to somehow ameliorate the situation.

She wanted to lie, desperately, but for some reason, she couldn't bring herself to do it. All it would take was some sappy made up story about how her lover of ten years just left her for a banjo player in some weird Eastern European folk music group, that she was still not quite over it, God forbid, and all would be back on track again. Only, she couldn't; she'd deceived the woman enough as it was. The silence, however, left Emily in a very awkward and unbelievably embarrassing situation.

The other woman's lips pressed into a thin line. Game over, thanks for playing.

"Um, I think this is my cue to leave." The blonde stumbled from the couch, buttoning her pearl white blouse and trying to smooth the worst of the wrinkles from her skirt that their little tryst had caused.

"No, please. I just..." Emily followed suit, pulling the lapels of her own blouse closer together in a sudden wave of prudishness. It was ridiculous, really, considering that just minutes earlier she'd been ready to discard far more than just her shirt. "I'm really sorry, I didn't mean to-,"

"What's my name?" The blonde cut her off, the look in her eyes challenging.


"What's my name, Emily?" The other woman repeated her question, emphasizing the last word so that the brunette involuntarily winced. Fetching a pair of high heels she'd lost on the way to the living room, the blonde turned back to her, eyebrows rising in silent question.

Emily fidgeted, her fingers subconsciously playing with the hem of her shirt until she caught herself and crossed her arms self-consciously over her chest. Clearing her throat, she finally raised her eyes to meet the sapphire blue ones that were still firmly fixed on her.

"...Holly?" she finally tried and flinched at the look that passed on the other woman's face.

"Wow." The blonde chuckled humorlessly, shaking her head in disbelief. Collecting her purse and coat where they'd been unceremoniously dropped on the floor earlier, she continued, "I think I just remembered why I don't normally do this." She looked at the brunette again. "Have a nice life, Emily." It was said without malice.

"Yeah. You too," was all Emily could muster as she helplessly watched the blonde walk out of the door, leaving only silence and a faint scent of perfume behind. She walked slowly to the door and slipped the dead bolt in place, both symbolically and literally barricading herself from the outside world. Leaning her forehead gently against the smooth surface of the door, she sighed resignedly before making her way back into the apartment.

By chance, she glanced in the mirror that was hanging in the foyer and was taken aback by the sight that greeted her. She looked tired, exhausted even, her hair hanging lifelessly around her neck and ugly, black circles marring the skin around her eyes. She couldn't recall the last time she'd slept properly, her mind constantly plagued by thoughts she couldn't shake off.

Sometimes, in the throngs of passion, when she was clinging to a woman who reminded her of JJ and begging her not to stop, she was able to forget for a while. It never lasted, though. It was like a trip to a drug addict. But it gave her just enough strength to get through yet another few days of painful acting and being forced to constantly acknowledge what she couldn't have.

Glancing one last time at the door, she sighed again and rubbed her eyes tiredly.

"Well done, Emily; really well done." She glared at herself in the mirror and then shuffled along the hallway and toward the infamous couch. Flopping down on her back, she stared at the ceiling above her and wondered how different her life could actually be if she'd only made the choices her mother had urged her to make. Sure, she wouldn't be doing the work she loved, with people she highly admired, but maybe her life would make just a little bit more sense, and maybe it'd have some stability that her current state of being clearly seemed to lack. In a moment of annoyance towards her mother and life and, most of all, herself, she picked up a flowery-patterned cushion, which just happened to match the color of the couch to an annoying extent, and threw it angrily across of the room. Burying her head in her hands, she cursed out loud.

"God, I could've sworn it was Holly!"



Jennifer Jareau—or JJ as everyone apart from her mother called her—prided herself in being punctual. In fact, her job very much required that characteristic in a person, so she'd simply perfected an already existing skill. It was her responsibility to ensure that the team of the FBI's Behavior Analysis Unit be able to work smoothly and efficiently as they attempted to catch the most horrific criminals in the entire country. In order to do just that, the media liaison needed to be painfully precise about everything.

Punctuality was an attribute JJ had possessed for as long as she could remember. When she was little, she was always the one who turned up too early to her friends' birthday parties and was then forced to sit awkwardly on the couch until the others finally arrived – twenty minutes late. She'd never been late to a single date in her whole life, and the times when her partner for the evening happened to turn up fifteen minutes after the agreed upon time, she was already long gone. Patience, in terms of her schedule, simply wasn't her forte.

And that was why it truly ticked her off that Agent Prentiss was late for the morning meeting.

Or, that was what she told herself anyway. Emily's chair was the only unoccupied one in the stylish BAU briefing room, and on a regular basis and very much by their own accord, the blonde's eyes returned to that particular piece of black leather furniture. Unconsciously tapping her pen against a brown FBI folder on the table in front of her, she sighed.

"Should we just start without her?" she finally asked Aaron Hotchner, their team leader, who was seated to her right. She knew the annoyance in her voice was just a tad too obvious, but she was only being punctual, was it that difficult to understand? Hotch eyed the clock on the wall, and, perhaps unconsciously, straightened his tie at the same time.

"She called earlier and said that she'd be running a little late. We might just as well wait." He glanced curiously at the blonde media liaison—the way profilers tended to glance at people like they knew everything about them—and then turned his attention back to the file he'd been immersed in earlier. Suddenly feeling uncomfortable, JJ busied herself with her papers.

"It's the third time this month," Spencer Reid, their super genius and walking encyclopedia, noted absentmindedly while trying to balance a pencil on his outstretched finger.

"Maybe she's been busy at nights." Derek Morgan wiggled his eyebrows suggestively, his trademark grin making an appearance. For some inexplicable reason, the ever calm Agent Jareau wanted to strangle him at that very moment.

"What do you mean?" Reid frowned and looked at Morgan, giving up on his little acrobat show.

"Sometimes I really can't believe you're a genius, kid." Morgan chuckled when the look on Reid's face turned even more confused.

JJ saw the former child prodigy's mouth open to reply, but then there was commotion at the door, and the team's eyes turned to Emily who quickly slipped into her seat. She was panting like she'd run the whole way from her car to the briefing room.

"So sorry I'm late." She looked sheepish and snatched her copy of the case file from the table, fanning herself with it a couple of times before concentrating on the actual contents.

"Hot date last night?" Morgan quipped, clearly amused by Emily's slightly rumpled appearance.

God, didn't he ever stop? JJ forced down a sudden urge to throw something at the brawny agent, and instead, snuck another peek at the brunette. Blinking, she realized that Emily was wearing the exact same outfit she had on the day before; that crimson red shirt, which hung in just the right places, was wrinkled, the buttons on the sleeves unbuttoned, and JJ remembered the black slacks because of Emily's brief visit to her office.

The realization that she knew all that for certain—she could take a damn oath and swear to it in court—made her feel slightly lightheaded.

"Oh, wouldn't you like to know?" Emily pursed her lips and glanced at Morgan who laughed at the easy banter.

"Focus, please," Hotch intervened, but his eyes betrayed his amusement.

Emily mouthed a silent 'sorry' and finally turned fully to JJ who suddenly felt like fleeing the room. If JJ didn't know any better she would've thought she was jealous – which she totally wasn't. She didn't get jealous. Especially of co-workers. And female co-workers at that.

Clearing her throat, JJ stood and aimed the remote towards the big plasma screen, more than grateful for the interruption and being able to concentrate on the job at hand.

"Right. Chicago, Illinois. They have a real problem."

"What kind of a problem?" Reid asked, and five annoyed pairs of eyes turned to his direction. "Sorry," he muttered and slumped back in his seat.

"Like I was saying," JJ began again and pushed another button on the remote. "They have a serial killer. There've been four suspicious hangings in the northern part of the city during the past month." Four face shots appeared on the screen. "All victims are female, ages ranging from 21 to 50, different socioeconomic backgrounds, different life circles. The local police didn't connect the dots until the latest victim, Cheryl Thompson, 21, was found dead yesterday afternoon." A set of crime scene photos replaced the head shots.

"Well, that's a ladder imprint if I've ever seen one." Emily noted quietly, inspecting her own set of photos from the folder.

"It rained heavily the night before and the ground was still nothing but mud when our killer strung her up there. A detective assigned to the case pulled all other recent suicide files and three of them matched the newest one. Also, he discovered this." A push of a button and an image of a white sheet of paper appeared. "The suicide note in all four cases is the same. Word for word."

"Wow. Four victims in a month?" Reid's eyebrows shot skywards. JJ nodded, looking around the room from one concentrated face to another.

"Someone's angry," David Rossi noted, his eyes narrowing slightly. The blonde could almost hear the wheels turning in his head and wondered if he was going to share his thoughts with the team. None of them still completely trusted the BAU legend after the rocky start they'd had, but lately, things had begun to change for the better.

"All the bodies were found hanged in public parks or wooded areas. As for the killings themselves, we don't know much of the specifics yet, especially since the first three cases literally weren't under a microscope until this fourth one. We should find out more once we get to Chicago," JJ said, flipping through her countless papers and notes, which gave her something else to do for a few seconds rather than wonder what on earth Emily had been up to since the last time she'd seen her.

"The suicide note. It's pretty average, don't you think?" Emily asked, reading through it again.

"It's exceedingly average. Partly, at least," Reid agreed, nodding. "I mean, 'I simply can't do this anymore' must be one of the most overused expressions in suicide notes." He underlined that specific line from the note. "But then there's the, 'I know this is wrong.' part which isn't consistent with your usual pattern."

"It isn't?" Morgan asked, now studying the text himself.

"No. Suicide notes rarely comment on the morals of the act." Rossi said, turning Morgan. "It's usually more about the reasons behind it." Morgan nodded, satisfied with the explanation.

"Whoever wrote the note clearly resents these women and the act of hanging itself," Hotch spoke up. "He must be familiar with suicide, one way or another."

"Family member, probably," Emily said, the others nodding in agreement.

"JJ, let the people on Chicago's end know we're coming." Hotch told the media liaison and then proceeded to stand. "Get your bags, everyone. We'll be leaving in an hour."

The sound of chairs being pushed back and the noise of papers being shuffled filled the room as the team finished their briefing. JJ switched off the TV screen and piled up her various files, still preoccupied by the brunette woman on her left that she wasn't able to shake off her thoughts.

"I'd swap that shirt if I were you." JJ heard Morgan's sly comment to Emily as he made his way towards the door. Swallowing nervously, the blonde kept her eyes on the files, wishing she was anywhere else but trapped in the room. She really, really didn't want to be in the middle of Emily and Morgan's oh-so-witty repartee.

"Oh, funny." Emily chuckled. "Guess where I'll be heading right now?" she continued in a knowing tone.

"Someone's been getting some lovin' lately." Morgan's chipper voice carried to JJ's ears even though he wasn't in the room anymore. After being certain of his exit, she allowed herself to look up again.

Emily snorted, her eyes on Morgan's retreating form. Then she turned back to her papers, shaking her head in an amused manner.

"He really is sure of himself sometimes," Emily said inattentively, and JJ wasn't sure if she was expected to comment, but she decided that it'd seem more suspicious if she didn't.

"He's a man," JJ finally bit the bullet, her ears burning. Clearing her throat, she glanced at Emily who was now staring at her with those gorgeous brown eyes, and damn it, JJ simply couldn't look away. A wide grin spread on Emily's face, and her laugh was full and unrestrained, making it impossible for JJ not to crack a grin of her own.

"Touché." Emily finally managed. JJ could do nothing but look at her.

The brunette agent let her guard down so rarely that whenever it did happen, JJ knew to treasure the moment. Seeing Emily laugh, without reserve, was something so exciting and precious that JJ thought she'd burst with joy. And she loved nothing more than being the one who was able to bring out that side in Emily. Somehow seeing her content and happy made JJ's own fears and doubts shrink away – for a little while at least.

There was a strange connection between the two of them, a connection that JJ wasn't sure Emily was even aware of. It was a connection she had felt the moment she'd been introduced to the new addition to their team, and although it was there, lingering, every single moment the two were in each other's presence, JJ hadn't been able to give a name to the extraordinary link. It was something that was beyond everything else, something almost too big and profound to comprehend. JJ only knew that Emily simply got her, she understood.

Now, standing in the middle of the BAU with the agent who had fit the team like a glove, JJ all of a sudden felt that connection stronger than ever. Emily's presence lit up the entire room, the light wrapping the blonde in a cocoon she never wanted to leave. What she had thought was a harmless crush, innocuous flirting between two good friends, suddenly transformed into something else entirely. And in a moment of epiphany—it was like a veil had been lifted from her eyes—JJ realized why exactly she cared so much what Morgan said or if Emily slept with the entire city of Washington DC.

And that realization scared the hell out of JJ.

"I'd better go and change this damn shirt." Emily rolled her eyes at herself, gesturing vaguely with the pile of papers in her hand. "I'll see you on the plane." A final smile aimed at the press liaison, a smile JJ could swear Emily didn't use with anyone else, and all she could do was politely smile back.

Emily swaggered out of the room, leaving JJ staring at her wake and feeling more a loss than ever before.



Every time the team traveled in their own private jet, Emily couldn't help but marvel at the group of people she was honored to be a part of. Confined in a fairly small place, the plane traveling only emphasized the team dynamics and how perfectly they worked together. It still amazed her how close knit they were, like a second family to each other – and, in Emily's case, this was a family she highly preferred. She'd often wondered if the others had any idea how important they were to her, how much being accepted as part of the team meant to her.

Studying the familiar faces around her, Emily felt overt pride of finally belonging somewhere. She'd never thought she was a part of anything before joining the BAU, not within her own family or in terms of her work. But now, now she knew she'd finally found her place, and she felt happier than she had in years.

It was partly because of the still fairly new and somewhat fragile feeling of belonging that her growing attraction to one Agent Jareau distressed Emily tremendously. By compromising the team dynamics, she would put not only her own personal career, but also their collective work at risk. And she had absolutely no right to jeopardize the team. But she couldn't just turn a switch in her brain and stop longing after JJ, which meant that she would have to suffer in silence and to try to ignore her increasing heart rate whenever the blonde smiled, talked, or simply was in the vicinity.

The bitter irony of the situation didn't go unnoticed by Emily.

"The locals faxed me some more info on the victims," JJ announced and sat opposite the brunette, bringing her back to the present. The press liaison slid a copy of the fax across the table to Emily who gratefully picked it up.

"None of the victims were reported missing?" Emily's eyebrows rose high on her forehead.

"None of them were gone more than a few hours before they were found dead," JJ explained, preoccupied, her fingers dancing on the buttons of her cell phone, a small frown on her face.

"How does someone trick four women into going with him just like that, especially since there were no visible signs of violence on the bodies?" Morgan mused incredulously, reading the fax over Emily's shoulder.

"He's either extremely suave, or they knew and trusted him," Hotch noted, and Reid nodded in agreement.

"Guys, we have a commonality," JJ interrupted, glancing up from her cell phone. "Garcia says that all the victims had previously tried to commit suicide. Unsuccessfully, obviously."

"That's a hell of a commonality," Rossi said, his fingers tapping rhythmically against his thigh.

"Maybe we're dealing with an avenger of some kind?" Emily proposed. "Maybe he's punishing these women for what they did in the past."

"Could there be a religious aspect?" JJ inquired and looked across the aisle at Rossi.

"Doubt it." The older agent pursed his lips, leaning slightly forward in his seat. "In that case, the religious aspect of the murder would play a significant part in the suicide note. There's nothing overt."

"He probably stalks his victims prior to abducting them," Reid said, and the others murmured in agreement.

"There'll be a briefing on the latest murder as soon as we get there, to get us up to speed." JJ turned to Emily, and their eyes locked. Emily felt her heart skip a beat, like so many times before, and with great effort she tore her eyes away, shifting in her seat uncomfortably. She busied herself with the fax in front of her and missed the flustered look on JJ's face.

All of a sudden the cabin of the plane felt almost claustrophobic.

As the team finally stepped out of the plane in Chicago, Emily felt the familiar surge of excitement wash over her. Although she saw truly horrible things that no person should be forced to see, the brunette truly loved her work. The criminal mind fascinated her, and she loved nothing more than to outmaneuver the killers simply by using her brain. It was a vicious circle she found herself in, though; for them to do their jobs and catch their killer, several people had to die. She hated that. But when they finally caught their guy, the guilt for not being able to save the victims eased just a little. And then the circle began all over again, because there was always a new case, always a new killer. Emily had to admit that it was morbidly addictive.

The local FBI office had sent their cars to the airport, and the team divided into two groups as they hopped into the provided vehicles. It didn't go unnoticed by Emily that JJ quickly made a beeline to the SUV in the front after the brunette had already picked the other one. She was strangely relieved and annoyed at the same time. A fleeting thought of JJ knowing that there was something going on with her filled Emily with growing uneasiness, and she tried to ignore the little panicky voice in her head which scolded her for being so careless.

The precinct that would become their command center during the case was like any other police station in the country. It was slightly cramped, detectives and police officers milled about, and Emily instantly felt out of place. The room suddenly got quieter, and she could see the people around them eyeing them in suspicion. That was one of the rare things she actually could've done without in her job, the feeling of being under extreme scrutiny every time they turned up to help. And that's exactly what it was: helping.

A brown haired, middle-aged man dressed in jeans and a vest approached them. What set him apart from the rest was the large silver star on the front of his shirt, identifying him as the boss of the local law enforcement. The star glinted faintly under the halogen lamps, and that, combined with his confident strut, reminded Emily of John Wayne in 'Rio Bravo'. JJ stepped forward, offering her hand.

"Sheriff Gordon?" The man grabbed her hand and nodded. "I'm Special Agent Jareau. We spoke on the phone. These are Special Agents Hotchner, Rossi, Morgan and Prentiss. And this is Doctor Reid." Sheriff Gordon shook hands with them all, a grim look on his face.

"Don't take this the wrong way, but I'd rather not need you here," he grunted.

"Likewise." Hotch nodded. "Is there somewhere we can set up shop?"

"Yes, follow me." Gordon made a vague gesture to the back of the station, and the team followed closely behind. He led them to a large, office-looking room that was almost Spartan in terms of furnishing, and Hotch looked around him, satisfied.

"What can you tell us about the latest victim?" Rossi asked once everyone was inside.

Gordon blinked. "It's straight to business with you people, isn't it?"

"The sooner we get to work, the better," Hotch said in his typically expressionless way.

"Right." The sheriff scratched his chin, clearly intimidated by the authority that oozed from the federal agents in front of him. "The latest victim, Cheryl Thompson, 21, she was last seen around eight o'clock on Monday morning. A kid playing baseball found her body in a park around noon the same day. The autopsy confirmed that she died of asphyxiation by hanging. The ME also found traces of chloroform in her system, which might explain how she was taken so easily."

"And she'd tried to commit suicide before, just like the others?" Morgan asked, leaning casually against a large table in the middle of the room.

"Yes. And the suicide note that was left on the scene, it was pinned to her shirt, it was exactly the same as the three previous ones."

"Right." Hotch turned to Morgan. "You and Reid stay here, get everything organized. Rossi and I will go through the other three case files with a fine-toothed comb. Would you help us with those, Sheriff?" Gordon nodded firmly and left the room.

"You two." Emily and JJ looked expectantly at Hotch. "We need to interview the victims' families. I know it's been done already, but you know what to look for and which questions to ask."

"Wouldn't Morgan be more suitable for this?" JJ asked uncertainly, giving a sideway glance at the brunette agent standing next to her.

"No, I think we need to play the gender card here. They're more likely to relate to you than to Morgan." Hotch turned away, and JJ sighed.

Emily couldn't help feeling hurt at JJ's obvious discomfort with the assignment. But as they walked out of the station, she told herself that it was nothing to do with her, and that JJ was probably just feeling out of her element in the field.

As if. Pretending had never been Emily's forte. Her mother would vouch for that.



The drive to the house of the first victim's family went by in semi-comfortable silence. JJ was grateful Emily didn't try for small talk, because it would've required reciprocation on her part, and she most certainly wasn't in the mood. Only the GPS lady uttered a seemingly obvious instruction on random intervals. JJ hated the GPS lady; the way she said "re-cal-cu-lat-ing" drove her up the wall, and by the time Emily pulled the car next to the curb in front of the white suburban house, the blonde was ready to murder the damn thing.

Quickly hopping out of the car, JJ registered the worried expression on Emily's face with slight annoyance. Nothing went unnoticed by the profilers, which meant she needed to keep her game face on 24/7.

But JJ was bone-tired. She was exhausted as well as utterly confused and completely at a loss. And when she had so much on her mind, it became more and more difficult to keep up appearances. Also, the tiny, tiny fact that even her basic brain functions seemed to short-circuit every time Emily happened to be in the same room with her, made the task just a little bit more difficult.

Actively ignoring the other agent's baffled gaze, JJ made her way to the front door, soon sensing Emily's presence beside her. She pressed the doorbell and waited, bracing herself for what was to come.

The house appeared to be well maintained, the lawn was cut, the windows were spotless, and absolutely nothing seemed out of place. Keeping up appearances, indeed. The house belonged to the parents of the first victim, Sally Dern, who'd been found in a park only a few blocks down the road.

There was a faint sound of footsteps, and the door was slowly opened. Dull, green eyes looked right at JJ. Suddenly, the blonde didn't quite know what to say, staring at the face of an older woman and feeling her throat constrict at the thought that they had to bring up something the woman probably wanted to forget ever happened. Fortunately, Emily covered for her.

"Good afternoon, Ma'am. I'm Agent Prentiss, this is Agent Jareau. We're from the FBI." She flashed her badge in an experienced manner while JJ pathetically fumbled with her own. "We're very sorry to disturb you, but would it be possible to come in and ask a few questions? It's about your daughter, Sally." Emily's voice was full of compassion.

The woman before them studied the two agents for a moment and then stepped aside, opening the door wider.

"Thank you," JJ said and made her way inside, Emily trailing closely behind her.

In the living room, the gray-haired woman sat gingerly in a ragged arm chair and gestured the visitors to take a seat on the couch opposite her. After being seated, Emily leaned forward slightly, resting her arms on her knees. JJ was secretly glad that Emily, with her usual air of confidence, seemed to take the reins of the situation.

"Mrs. Dern, I know this must be awfully difficult for you, and I'm sorry we need to bring up unpleasant memories, but it would really help us if we could ask some questions about Sally."

Emily's voice was soothing, genuine, and once again, JJ marveled at the other agent's ability to empathize, to communicate with the victims, and to make them trust her seamlessly. With wonder, the blonde watched as Mrs. Dern's features softened at Emily's words, her eyes filling with tears. She took a shuddering breath and nodded.

"Thank you," Emily said quietly. She cleared her throat. "We understand that Sally had tried to commit suicide once before. When was this?"

"Oh." The older woman sat up straighter in her chair, wiping moisture off her cheeks. "That was when she was 19."

"What happened?"

"She had some difficulties adjusting to college. Me and John, my husband, we didn't really give her as much support as we should've." She stammered. "Anyway, then her boyfriend left her, and she just spiraled into a bad place. We really should've been there for her, but..." She finished with a sad shake of her head, her shoulders sagging.

"It's not always easy being a parent." Emily gave a supportive smile. "Did she ever recover from all that?"

"Yes, that's the thing!" Mrs. Dern exclaimed fervently. "She was fine! It took her some time, but she was back to her old self again. She was happy, she was planning on continuing her studies, and everything seemed just how it used to be. She always called us several times a day to let us know everything was okay, especially since she knew we were still worried about her." Blowing her nose, Mrs. Dern looked old and fragile, although, she couldn't be much older than 50.

"I'm sorry, but I need to ask this. How did Sally try to take her own life?" Emily's voice was yet a notch gentler, and JJ realized she was actually holding her breath.

"Drug overdose. Ritalin. Got it from a friend of hers," someone with a deep voice said from behind them. Heads swirled towards the figure standing in the doorway, and JJ's eyes landed on a handsome-looking older man with a sad look on his face. The two agents warily stood up.

"What's this about? Why are you asking about Sally?" It didn't take a rocket scientist to tell that Mr. Dern was still deeply mourning the loss of his daughter.

"There's been a new development," Emily said, and Mr. Dern's posture immediately straightened.

"What kind of a development?" he asked, Mrs. Dern joining him, hooking her arm with his. They stared at the two women in confusion. Finally, JJ stepped forward.

"We have reason to believe that your daughter's death was actually a homicide." JJ could tell the exact moment the new information registered with the parents. Mrs. Dern's hand flew to her mouth in horror, while Mr. Dern visibly paled, his left hand forcefully grabbing the door frame.

"What?" Mr. Dern's voice sounded horrified, and at that moment, JJ hated her job.

"There've been other cases, cases with some striking similarities to your daughter's death," Emily answered. JJ watched helplessly as the parents attempted to come to terms with it all.

"Someone killed her?" Mrs. Dern asked in a desperate whisper, pressing closer to her husband for support.

"Yes," JJ answered simply, casting her eyes downwards in order to avoid the open look of despair on the parents' faces.

"We would like to be alone now, if you don't mind," Mr. Dern said hoarsely, his arms around his wife, who was now fully sobbing.

"Of course." Emily nodded, bowing her head slightly. "I'll leave my card. Call me if you need anything, or if you want to talk."

The Derns didn't look at the agents when the two women passed them in the doorway, and JJ numbly followed Emily out of the house. She felt absolutely drained after only one interview, and with growing forlornness, she thought about the three others that were yet to come. Rubbing the bridge of her nose tiredly, the blonde got in the car without a word.

"Do you want to take a break?" Turning to look at Emily, JJ was met by gorgeous brown eyes filled with understanding. Faltering under the intense gaze, JJ hated herself for being so damn weak.

"No. No, I'm fine." She flashed a tired smile and purposefully turned to look out of the window.

JJ hoped Emily would simply drop the matter, and she closed her eyes in relief when she heard the other woman finally turn on the engine. Soon, they were on their way to the second destination of the day, again accompanied by the annoying GPS lady. JJ had no idea how she'd be able to last the day.

"What's the name of our second victim?" Emily asked when they'd driven a good ten minutes in silence.

"Heather Brown, 32," JJ answered, flipping through the case file.

"Heather!" Emily exclaimed all of a sudden, hitting the wheel with her hand and making JJ jump. "Of course, Heather, not Holly. Goddammit."

JJ blinked, staring at Emily like the brunette had suddenly grown a second head. The other agent shook her head in an amused manner, and it wasn't until then that she apparently remembered she had company. Glancing sideways at JJ, Emily swallowed and finally sighed in defeat.

"Don't ask."

JJ wasn't sure she even wanted to know.



The day had been grueling. Even Emily, who was somewhat used to the role of being the bearer of bad news, felt absolutely worn out by the time they arrived at their final destination, the house of Rod and Helena Thompson.

Stepping tiredly out of the black SUV, the brunette again took notice of JJ's resigned posture and wondered if they should've taken that break earlier after all; it was truly exhausting to go through the same ordeal of interviewing the grieving families over and over again, to see the desperation and sadness in the family's eyes, and knowing that the news they brought probably only added to it.

But Emily wasn't stupid. She was perfectly aware that JJ would take any expressions of concern as questioning her professionalism, so instead of asking pointless and inane questions, Emily simply settled for smiling reassuringly before knocking on the big, mahogany door in front of them. Taking a deep breath, Emily prepared herself for what was hopefully the final challenge of the day.

The door was opened by a robust, middle-aged man who looked like he hadn't slept in weeks. For the fourth time that day, Emily made the usual presentations and asked if they could possibly ask some more questions.

"Haven't you people harassed us enough already?" Rod Thompson asked wearily, but stepped aside anyway, letting the women enter.

Helena Thompson stood in their elegantly furnished living room, a wild and scared look in her eyes. Emily guessed that the woman had heard who they were and what their business was, so she only nodded politely.

"What do you want?" Mr. Thompson joined his wife, cautiously eyeing the FBI agents standing in the middle of his house.

"I'm afraid we have some bad news." Fourth time and it still wasn't getting any easier.

Mrs. Thompson let out a terrified shriek while her husband held on to her tighter, his eyes widening in shock.

"Murdered?" The look on Mr, Thompson's face was one of pure horror.

"I'm afraid so." Emily couldn't imagine how the parents must have felt at that moment, and she hoped she would never have to know.

"Was your daughter acting any differently before Monday? Any new hobbies or friends?" Emily asked as compassionately as she could, fighting the urge to cross her arms defensively when Mrs. Thompson looked sharply at her.

"She was fine." It was Mr. Thompson who answered. "She was back to her old self again, you know, after the...the..." His voice cracked, and he had to look away.

"I'm sorry, but why are you here exactly? Shouldn't you be out there, looking for the monster who did this to Cheryl?" Mrs. Thompson raised her voice, and Emily could hardly blame her for being so emotional.

JJ stepped to Emily's side, gesturing calmly with her hands.

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Thompson. We're only doing our job. And it is our job to find him."

Emily didn't see it coming. If she had, she most certainly would've reacted sooner.

Mrs. Thompson took a few rapid steps and slapped JJ across the face, hard. Emily lunged forward and wedged herself between the two women, facing the enraged mother, her hand subconsciously grabbing JJ's wrist behind her.

"Well, why don't you leave us alone and go find my daughter's killer then?" Mr. Thompson pulled his distraught wife away from the two agents, struggling to keep a hold of her.

"Darling, calm down," he begged, his voice heavy and full of heartfelt sadness. Finally, Mrs. Thompson seemed to burn out of energy; she slumped forward, clung to her husband desperately, and wept.

"I'm sorry," he offered weakly, looking a tad embarrassed.

"It's okay," Emily assured, feeling JJ pull away from her. She glanced behind her and saw the blonde leaving the room, soon followed by the sound of the front door opening and closing. Self-consciously clearing her throat, she turned back to the Thompsons.

"I'll leave my card. When you're ready, don't hesitate to call me." She placed the card on the table next to her and smiled an apologetic smile before making her way out of the house.

She found JJ standing next to the SUV, her back to the house, and her shoulders slouched in a defeated manner. Emily felt her heart break a little at the sight. She walked slowly to the blonde and placed a hand tentatively on her shoulder. Feeling the other woman tense, she simply gave JJ's shoulder a little squeeze and stepped to stand in front of her.

JJ was pinching the bridge of her nose, her entire being full of exhaustion. Assessing the situation, Emily threw her earlier restrictions out of the window and regarded the blonde determinedly.

"Let me see," Emily said, urging JJ to look at her.

JJ swatted the other agent's hand away, annoyed.

"Emily, I'm fine. Let's just go." The blonde turned her head away from her concerned colleague, but Emily was having none of that.

"JJ, cut the crap and let me have a look." Emily's voice didn't leave any room for negotiation, so JJ just sighed and turned back to the brunette.

Placing her hand under JJ's chin, Emily canted her head to the side and inspected the angry, red mark on the blonde's cheek.

"It's a little red. Shouldn't be anything too serious, though." She smiled encouragingly, and JJ's features softened a notch.

"Could we just go, please?" JJ asked, resigned, looking pleadingly at Emily. She looked innocent and lost, nothing like the tough FBI agent she usually was, and Emily felt a sudden need to shield the other woman from all the horrors of the world. She wanted to make sure no one ever hurt her ever again, as irrational as it sounded.

But JJ wasn't hers to protect. The press liaison was completely capable of taking care of herself, and she'd be absolutely appalled if she knew that someone thought she was in need of protection.

"Sure." Emily nodded.

She watched as JJ opened the truck door and climbed inside. Hesitating just for a few seconds, Emily quickly rounded the vehicle to the driver's side. Once she was inside, she laid her hands on the wheel and took a quick look at the woman in the passenger seat.

"You know, someone once hit me on the head with a table lamp."

JJ's head whipped around, and she stared at Emily, dumbfounded. There was a clear, red outline of a hand on her cheek now.

"Seriously?" JJ's eyes were like saucers. Emily's face remained serious.

"No, but would it make you feel better if I lied and said yes?" Emily cracked a smile, unable to keep a straight face.

JJ blinked a few times and then gave a small chuckle. "Sheesh." Shaking her head, she leaned back against the head-rest, momentarily forgetting her bad mood. To Emily it was like sunrise, and she felt warm for knowing that she'd succeeded in making JJ feel better.

The ringing of her cellphone distracted the brunette from her musings, and she snatched the phone from her belt, a small smile still lingering on her lips. It quickly faded away, however, when she heard Hotch's voice in her ear, explaining the latest turn of events.

JJ sensed the mood in the car shift, and she looked at Emily, locking eyes with her. Tilting her head in a silent question, JJ intently followed every tiny change in Emily's features, as if the information could somehow be interpreted and passed along that way.

"Yeah, we just finished. We'll be there as soon as we can." Emily finished the call and let out a long sigh.

"What is it?"

"We've got a new body," Emily answered flatly, already navigating the car back to the street. From the corner of her eye, she saw JJ's improving mood make a crash landing and cursed the incredibly lousy timing of Hotch's phone call.

It didn't surprise Emily that neither of them felt like talking on their way to the crime scene. Afternoon had already begun to turn into early evening, shadows growing steadily and the first street lamps glowing dimly before lighting up properly.

Eyeing the GPS monitor every now and then, Emily made sure they were heading in the right direction while all the while being painfully aware of the brooding agent next to her. She knew that JJ's current state of mind couldn't be all because of the new case; it'd been a difficult year for the blonde, and everything had, in a way, culminated with the Fredericksburg case a while back – a case that was exceptionally difficult for JJ.

The profound urge to console the other woman had been almost impossible for Emily to ignore back then, and she was fighting that same urge yet again when she glanced at JJ and took notice of the empty look on the other woman's face.

She opened her mouth to say something in order to break the silence that hung heavily around them, when the GPS lady suddenly chirped up and informed the agents that they were only a mile away from the intended destination. Within no time, Emily could see the flashing police lights in the distance and slowed down, inching the car next to its twin near the crime scene.

Rossi approached them when the two women stepped out of the vehicle, and together, they made their way to the crime scene tape and ducked underneath it.

"Charlotte Hemingway, 35. Not pretty," was all Rossi said, and Emily only nodded.

JJ walked a few feet behind her, so it was Emily who saw the body first. Her breath caught in her throat as her eyes landed on the body a few feet up in the air. Swirling around, she stepped in front of JJ who came to a sudden halt when the other agent crossed her path.

"Emily?" She frowned tiredly.

"Maybe it's better if you don't look, JJ." Emily knew it was absolutely pointless, but she had to try anyway.

"What are you talking about?" JJ's eyes flashed dangerously, and Emily knew the blonde thought she was belittling her.

Stepping around her, JJ left Emily standing in her wake, and the brunette slowly turned around. JJ had stopped abruptly, transfixed, her eyes on the body of a young woman who was hanging from a tree branch before her. JJ's hands were in tight fists, and Emily could tell she was shaking when she finally walked to stand beside the blonde.

The resemblance was uncanny; blonde, 30-ish, shoulder-length hair, smart-looking business suit, slender figure, beautiful features. Emily swallowed and looked away; the similarities causing a shiver go down her spine. Looking at JJ, she realized that the blonde's eyes were still fixed on the body, the look in them a mixture of bewilderment and impassivity.

"JJ?" Emily inquired quietly, but the other agent didn't seem to react in any way.

"This day just gets better and better," JJ suddenly muttered and turned on her heels, heading back to the cars. Emily followed her retreating form helplessly with her eyes and wished she could go after her without making a scene.

"Is she okay?" It was Hotch, and Emily turned back to their boss who had materialized next to her.

"Yeah." She tried to smile as confidently as she could. "A little altercation with a victim's family, but nothing to worry about."

"I see." Emily could tell Hotch didn't completely believe her, but he let it be.

"Definitely the same killer?" Emily asked when she was certain Hotch was done with the previous subject.

"Without a doubt. The note was the same again, and the forensics also found ladder imprints on the ground."

"It looks like the unsub's spinning out of control," Emily noted grimly and Hotch nodded in agreement.

"Two victims in three days. Doesn't look good."

They stood in silence and watched as the forensics personnel slowly lowered the body to the ground, and after the preliminary examination by the ME, the victim was zipped up in a black body bag. Rossi joined the two agents when the body was finally wheeled from the scene.

"The family has been notified, but there's no use for us to talk to them before morning," Rossi said, his impressive, Italian features somehow becoming more apparent in the bright police lights that were still flashing in the vicinity.

"I was thinking the same," Hotch agreed and loosened up his tie a little. "We also won't have the autopsy report on Charlotte Hemingway before morning, so we should call it a day."

Emily nodded and wished the two men goodnight, secretly relieved that she could go to the hotel and not think about the case for the next ten hours. And it really didn't have anything to do with the murdered women.

She found JJ already sitting in the passenger seat when she reached the SUV and hopped behind the wheel for the millionth time that day. The blonde glanced quickly at her and then turned back to stare out the side window. For a moment, Emily wondered if she should bring up what had happened at the crime scene, but then she realized how unbelievably tired and burned out she was. The last thing she wanted to do was to try another useless attempt at a supportive talk with her just as drained colleague. So, with a final look at the crime scene that was still buzzing with people, she turned the key in the ignition and let the whole matter drop.

Emotionally spent, Emily realized that she really would've needed that relaxation the previous night.



JJ twisted and turned in her large queen-sized bed, trying to find a comfortable position among the abundance of fluff and softness. She was tired beyond belief, but her subconscious had declared a war and had obviously decided to keep her awake as long as possible. Giving up with an annoyed sigh, she flopped on her back and stared at the ceiling which was just as generic as every other of the dozens and dozens of hotel room ceilings she'd seen during the past few years.

The drive to the hotel had been awkward to say the least, the knowledge of what had happened at the crime scene hanging heavily between them, but Emily hadn't said a word. After they'd signed in, the brunette had simply wished JJ a good night, before disappearing into the room next to hers.

Ready to sleep 24 hours straight, JJ had discarded her clothes in record time and was under the soft covers before the digital clock above the TV showed 9:30. Burying her head in the gigantic pillow, she'd let out a sigh of contentment and prepared herself to be whisked away to dream land and away from everything that had to do with the BAU.

Except, that never happened.

The clock showed 12:00 now, the red digits glowing in the dark, almost as if mocking her.

"Goddammit," she whispered in the darkness and buried her hands in her hair, fighting the tears of anger that threatened to spill over. There really was nothing worse than wanting to sleep when you weren't able to do so.

JJ had always been independent. She'd always solved her own problems, and she didn't expect, nor did she want, anyone else's help. Independence was a virtue to her, one of the characteristics she valued the most in herself, and that's why she mentally kicked herself when, fifteen minutes later, she found herself standing in the corridor outside of Emily's room.

She'd thought about it long and hard while haphazardly dressing. There was no way she'd go to Rossi or Hotch; that'd be like telling your father you're a failure. She could never take the embarrassment. And she couldn't go to Morgan or Reid either, because Reid would only gawk at her like she was talking Greek, and Morgan would probably suggest she get laid, or something equally bright.

So that left Emily. Because Emily got her. Plain and simple.

Fidgeting in the corridor, it finally hit her that Emily could actually be fast asleep for all she knew. The utter insanity of her antics finally registered with her, and, distressed, she leaned her back against the wall. And how wise was it anyway to force herself on the person she was harboring almost illicit feelings for, really?

Seconds turned into minutes, and finally JJ had had enough. Taking a determined step towards the door, she knocked softly, listening carefully for any signs of movement inside. She held her breath and fought the urge to flee to her own room while she still had time.

Finally, there was the sound of the lock being turned, and JJ swallowed in horror. Confused brown eyes peered at her for a second or two when the door cracked open, but then Emily seemed to realize who'd been knocking, and the door slid all the way open.

"JJ?" Emily's voice was uncertain, and JJ truly started doubting her earlier reasoning. With satisfaction, she took note that Emily was still wearing her work clothes, so at least, she hadn't woken the poor woman.

"Hi." JJ said with an uncertain wave and abashedly tucked the hand under her arm when she realized how silly it looked. "I know it's late, and I'm so sorry to bother you, but..." God, this was insane.

"Oh, I wasn't really doing anything." Emily smiled, and JJ let out a sigh of relief.

"I..." She couldn't look at Emily, the ridiculousness of the situation making her cheeks burn. "To be honest, I don't really know what I'm doing here."

Her head was starting to ache, and she just wished the ground would swallow her up, because this whole thing was rapidly turning into total humiliation. Pinching the bridge of her nose for the umpteenth time that day, she regarded the other woman miserably.

But instead of laughing or making fun of JJ's bizarre nightly adventures, Emily stepped aside from the doorway, an understanding look in her eyes which the blonde knew so well.

"Wanna come in?" she asked simply, and at that moment, JJ knew exactly why she was standing at Emily's door and not anyone else's.

Taking a ragged breath, JJ stepped into the room, hearing the door close with a small click behind her. Self-consciously sitting on the foot of the bed, JJ looked at Emily who had taken a few steps into the room and was now studying her attentively.

"We need a drink." The brunette said matter-of-factly and walked to the minibar with three long strides. The door made a faint 'psssshhh' noise when she opened it.

"Give me a vodka." Hearing JJ's request, Emily turned to her, frowning uncertainly.

"You hate vodka." The brunette reached for the bottle anyway.

"I don't care, I want one." JJ knew she sounded like a five-year-old, begging her mom for candy at a store, but after the day she'd had, she was past caring.

Emily handed over one of the small bottles and then took one herself. JJ gratefully accepted the offered item, unscrewed the lid and downed the contents with one gulp. The liquid unpleasantly burned the back of her throat, but the warmness that spread through her limbs was totally worth it.

"Here's a..." Emily stopped dead in her tracks. "...glass."

"Give me another one."

"JJ," Emily warned, but the blonde raised her hand to silence her colleague.

"Emily, I'm fine. I just need to take the edge off tonight," she explained and knew that Emily would relent.

With a roll of her eyes, Emily reached for another bottle and brought it with her to the bed. Sitting next to JJ, she handed it to her and took a sip from her own.

They sat in comfortable silence, both sipping their vodkas and both observing the other from the corners of their eyes. JJ felt her entire body relax, little by little, and the hint of her headache was practically gone already. Taking yet another gulp from her bottle, she mused that coming to Emily was the best decision she'd made all day.

"Couldn't sleep?" Emily's voice breaking the silence brought the blonde back to the present. It took JJ awhile to register what the other woman had asked, and then she looked rueful when she realized she'd momentarily zoned out.

"It was a shitty day," she answered non-committedly. It was never a good sign when she started cursing, but JJ pushed the irritating thought aside and took another sip which burned just as badly as the first.

"You can say that again." Emily smiled humorlessly, absent-mindedly peeling off the label of her bottle.

Another moment of silence.

"I still don't know how you do it," JJ said in a startling burst of honesty.

"Do what?"

"Any of it. What we did today. How do you do it every day and not find yourself buried under all...that?"

Emily nursed her bottle for a while, the look in her eyes oddly distant.

"I don't, I guess," she finally said and shrugged. "I carry it all with me, but I suppose I just hide it better than most people."

"What? No compartmentalizing?" JJ asked, feigning shock.

"Well, there's some of that, too." Emily chuckled, downing the last drops of her vodka, before throwing the bottle in a nearby trash can. JJ followed her example, and her two bottles made a loud clinking sound when they hit against Emily's on the bottom of the can.

Wordlessly, the blonde stood up and fetched new bottles for them both. Emily only raised her eyebrow in disapproval, but was clearly too tired to protest any further.

JJ knew she was tipsy. Actually, she was a little more than tipsy, but after doubting herself and feeling absolutely useless the entire day, she welcomed it with open arms. And the more tipsy she became, the more aware she was of the other woman sitting next to her; the warmth radiating from Emily's body made JJ's skin tingle, her subtle perfume deliciously tickling JJ's nose.

"How's your cheek?" Emily's voice forced the blonde to concentrate on matters of more importance.

"It's all good," she replied with a chipper voice, not wanting to let on how much the whole thing still bothered her. Raising the bottle in salute, she aimed at her most convincing smile.

JJ felt fingers curling around her chin, the other woman gently urging her to look her way – just like only hours before. Emily inspected the still clearly visible mark, her intense gaze making JJ shiver against her will. She looked at Emily, afraid to breath or move, the brunette's eyes slowly tracing the lines of her cheek until she looked up and their eyes met. Something transpired between them—JJ felt it all the way to the tips of her toes—the invisible pull towards the other almost too powerful to resist. She could hear the blood rush in her ears, the pounding in her head deafening.

Just when JJ was certain her heart would jump out of her chest, Emily seemed to snap out of her trance and quickly let her hand fall from JJ's chin. The brunette turned away from her, clutching the small bottle in her hands. She couldn't quite explain it, but JJ felt the loss of contact almost as a physical blow, as an ache somewhere deep inside her.

Emily drank the remainder of her vodka, her hands trembling slightly, her chest rising and falling irregularly. Feeling oddly shaky, JJ seconded the move and heard another clink from the trash can as her bottle landed on top of the others.

She knew she probably shouldn't do it, knew that this was the moment when she should simply thank Emily for helping her take her mind off certain things for a little while and leave, but it was so much easier said than done. She just couldn't, the rational part of her brain losing the battle and dying a quick, painless death the moment she turned to look at Emily.

JJ's eyes swept over soft, elegant features, and in awe, she marveled, once again, at just how incredibly beautiful Emily was. The other agent's dark hair fell perfectly around her face, framing it beautifully and making her look like a Renaissance painting. Her skin was fair and smooth, and JJ suddenly felt a compelling need to run her fingers down the brunette's neck and experience the smoothness herself.

And then Emily turned to her, their eyes locking, and JJ saw Emily's eyes grow dark with something that she didn't even dare to contemplate. Her eyes involuntarily slid down to stare at Emily's full, perfect lips which were so close that she could easily reach out and trace them softly with her fingers.

JJ found herself wondering for a millionth time that day what it would feel like to kiss those lips, and had her brain not been consumed by alcohol, she would've realized how dangerous her train of thought actually was. But with the day she'd had, she more than deserved to know. Seeing Emily's lips part slightly and the emergence of a pink tongue swiping across Emily's lower lip overloaded JJ's brain, causing it to switch off completely as she leaned forward and captured the brunette's lips with her own.

The moment JJ's lips touched Emily's, her world exploded. It was like sunrise with a giant angel choir singing 'Hallelujah' in the background, like the sweetest candy she'd ever tasted, like coming home, like every other possible romance novel cliché she could think of. Emily's lips tasted of spring and vodka and Emily, and JJ knew she was hooked.

After only a small moment of hesitation, Emily kissed her back, eagerly, her tongue sliding along JJ's lower lip, demanding entrance which the blonde more than happily granted. JJ buried her hands in Emily's hair, pulling the other woman closer, wanting to taste everything. Of its own accord, Emily's hand slowly inched under JJ's blouse, her fingers finally touching bare skin. For JJ, the touch was like a jolt of electricity, and eagerly she struggled to get out of her shirt. Finally, the blonde felt Emily slipping the fabric down her shoulders, the touch incredibly warm and soft. Gently, the brunette lowered them down on the bed, her lips never leaving JJ's.

Their clothes were discarded, one item after another, and soon JJ found herself pinned down on Emily's hotel bed, her lover's face hovering above her. Feeling Emily's naked body firmly against her own made JJ's insides tingle. Emily kissed her slowly, passionately, and JJ was certain she'd never get tired of feeling those lips on hers. Then the brunette pulled back, and JJ whimpered for the loss of contact, but her whimper soon turned into a moan when Emily kissed her way along JJ's jaw and then down her neck. Her breathing ragged and heavy, JJ felt the brunette inch toward her breasts, and she bit down on her lower lip when Emily's tongue made contact with her nipple. Her breath caught in her throat, her hand winding in the other woman's hair in encouragement.

JJ had never felt this way. Her every nerve ending was on fire, her entire being was attuned to the feel of Emily's mouth and hands on her body, every new touch more electrifying than the previous one. A thin sheet of perspiration stuck her hair to her forehead, but JJ didn't care. Emily continued her journey down her stomach, and JJ's head arched back into the pillow when the brunette discovered a particularly sensitive spot.

The ability to form any kind of coherent thoughts had disappeared long ago, and all JJ knew was Emily and Emily alone. The other woman was everywhere, surrounding her completely. Her outstretched hands grabbed the bed sheet, fingers almost painfully digging into the cotton as her body readily responded to Emily's skillful maneuvers. Squeezing her eyes shut, JJ was certain she'd died and gone to heaven.

And then Emily shifted slightly, her hot breath tickling the sensitive skin of JJ's inner thigh, and even in her absolute state of euphoria, the blonde knew exactly what Emily was about to do. She opened her eyes wide and grabbed the sheets even harder, and then Emily's mouth was there and-

Oh, my fucking God.



A sharp beeping of a cellphone penetrated Emily's deep state of sleep, and with an annoyed groan, she finally reached for it and switched off the alarm. She always had her cellphone ring at six a.m. when she was working, so she didn't need to check the digital clock on the television to know that she had exactly an hour and a half to drag her butt downstairs and meet the rest of the team.

Taking a deep breath, she blinked. Her eyes fixed on the outline of the window that looked down on the busy street in front of the hotel. It was still dark outside, but there was enough light for her to make out random shapes of furniture and the tall plant in the corner of the room. The noises of traffic could be faintly heard through the glass. Reaching for a light switch, Emily turned on the small bedside lamp and blinked against the sudden brightness that illuminated her surroundings.

Her head felt oddly heavy, the remnants of sleep refusing to let go, and it seemed like every muscle in her body was truly and utterly spent. Furiously rubbing her eyes, Emily tried to sit up, but her right arm refused to move an inch.

It was then that it all came back to her.

A surge of adrenaline washed over her, every instinct suddenly hyper-active. Turning her head to the right, she caught a glimpse of blonde hair and finally registered the soft and regular breathing against her skin. Her colleague was sound asleep on her shoulder, peaceful, her head buried in the crook of Emily's neck, and her arm swung carelessly around her waist.

"Oh no," Emily muttered, details of the previous night coming back to her, one by one. In a need to make absolutely sure, she slowly peered under the sheet; although, she knew exactly what she was going to discover.

No clothes. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

"Shit!" she cursed loud enough for the blonde next to her to stir, but JJ only nuzzled closer to the warm body and soon her breathing was even again. Emily let the sheet fall back on their naked bodies and stared at the ceiling.

This was so not the way she'd imagined it would happen. Getting drunk while working—at least they had been off the clock, she noted, mortified—and then sleeping with your co-worker was pretty much the worst idea in the history of the universe. What the hell had she been thinking?

She should've put a stop to it. JJ obviously hadn't been able to think lucidly; the three vodkas on an empty stomach had made sure of it. And while Emily hadn't been quite sober herself, she'd still been sober enough to know better. But feeling the blonde's lips on hers, a year of longing, hopeless fantasies, and anguish finally coming to an end, she simply hadn't been able to pull back. She hadn't wanted to. She'd been offered the forbidden fruit, and now there wasn't so much as a seed left.

It was all so messed up.

Carefully extracting herself from the sleeping blonde, Emily bitterly realized how incredibly right and perfect it felt to hold JJ, to feel her heartbeat under her palm, and to see her chest rise and fall peacefully. It was everything she'd ever dreamt of – except now it was real, and she had no idea what to do. Her life seemed to be an embodiment of irony.

JJ let out a small whimper when Emily slid out from under her, but thankfully, the movement of the bed didn't wake her up. The brunette let out a sigh of relief. She needed to think, to find a way out of this mess before they were inevitably forced to deal with what they'd done.

There was a small part of Emily which innocently believed that it'd be all right, that maybe JJ could actually feel something for her and that they could live happily ever after in a big house with a white picket fence. The sensible part of her brain laughed at her for being so unbelievably naive and ingenuous. Rationally, she knew this was a dead end, the farthest she could ever get with JJ. She'd blatantly taken advantage of her friend, and she hated herself for it, no matter how amazing the night had actually been.

Pulling on her bra and panties, Emily tried to locate her pants and finally spotted them behind the TV set. She'd barely stepped into them when her cellphone came to life again, playing that annoying default alarm tone she'd grown to hate. Emily froze, her pants halfway up her legs, and stared at the phone on the night-stand in horror.

Fucking snooze.

JJ stirred again. She turned to lie on her back and stretched lazily, the movement causing the sheet to slide back, revealing quite a bit of her upper torso. Emily stared, blushing furiously when the gorgeous sight in front of her brought forward certain images of the previous night.

The brunette quickly pulled her pants the rest of the way up and bent down to fetch her shirt from the floor. She was hugging it to her chest when JJ's eyes slowly opened and met hers. Emily couldn't breathe. The alarm ended, preparing to blast out another awakening in ten minutes time, and left the room in eerie silence.

JJ's eyes were confused at first, the look on her face thoroughly clueless. Then she blinked a few times, her eyes drifting to her bare chest, and Emily could easily pinpoint the exact moment when it all sank in. JJ's eyes widened, her hand flying to her breasts to cover her immodesty, and then she looked up at Emily, shocked.

Neither of them dared to say a word, all that happened the previous night hung like an impenetrable cloud between them. With sadness it dawned on Emily that whatever the outcome might be, their friendship would be changed forever, irreparably damaged. She couldn't believe she'd let it happen; she was usually so level-headed.

Just when Emily had gathered enough courage to break the silence, JJ scrambled to her feet, the white sheet wrapped tightly around her. She quickly collected her clothes into a small bundle, squeezing it tightly against her chest, and then, without a word, disappeared into the bathroom.

Emily stared at the closed door, her emotions at war with each other, wreaking havoc in her head. Feeling oddly numb, she threw on her shirt and buttoned it with trembling fingers. Vehemently combing her hand through her hair, she tried to get rid of the worst tangles that served as further proof of her nightly activities.

When JJ finally emerged from the bathroom, fully dressed, Emily had stood, unsure of what to do, in the middle of the room for a good ten minutes. It hadn't seemed like a fair option to flee and leave the blonde behind, so she'd fidgeted in the same spot, waiting for the damn door to open.

Awkward didn't even begin to describe it. Neither still knew what to say, neither could look the other in the eye, both women wanting nothing more than to run out of the room, screaming. JJ scratched the back of her neck, her left arm protectively wrapped around her middle section. Protection from what, Emily wasn't sure.

"The drinks. Who...I mean...," JJ struggled for words, her cheeks turning a faint shade of pink. And despite the God-awful situation, the naive part of Emily found it adorable.

"I'll just pay the clerk beforehand. It won't show in the bill," Emily replied quietly, immediately able to follow JJ's train of thought.

"Oh, okay." The blonde still wouldn't look at her, and Emily felt a sting of anger in her gut.

So very messed up.

"JJ-," she began, but JJ raised her hand, and Emily's words died on her lips.

"I just...I can't right now." JJ rubbed her eyes and then ran a hand through her golden hair. "I need to go and...and change." With that, JJ turned on her heels, and the door closed behind her with a thud before Emily had time to grasp what was happening.

Emily wasn't quite certain how long she simply stood there, staring at the closed door, wishing she could take the last twelve hours back. She realized, embittered, that she'd swap the previous night for her unrequited love and for having her best friend back in a heartbeat.

And that really was the worst part. For the rest of her life, she would know exactly what she couldn't have, what she would miss. It hadn't been easy before either, but now she wouldn't need to imagine anything because she'd know exactly what it felt like to be with JJ. She could never go back to pretending – it'd never be the same, not even close. It'd be like switching to lemons after you'd run out of oranges; she'd always be able to tell the difference with painful accuracy.

An hour later, Emily found herself sitting on the foot of the bed—the same spot she'd sat only hours before—and staring into space. The clock said 7:20, which meant she had roughly ten minutes to put on her mask of professionalism, force herself to leave the safe haven that was her room, and prepare to work the entire day without being preoccupied by her personal life. She fell back on the bed, the springs of the bed making a squeaking sound.

Yes, she'd be dead by lunchtime.

The rest of the team were already waiting in the lobby when Emily finally stepped out of the elevators on the ground floor. She easily spotted JJ, standing a little apart from the others and wearing her sunglasses – an obvious attempt to hide the black circles under her eyes. After a quick detour to the front desk—she'd just tell the others she needed new towels in her room—Emily joined the team, and they headed out.

It didn't really surprise the brunette that JJ again chose to ride in the SUV she wasn't in. Succumbing to her guilt, Emily stared out of the window without really seeing the scenery and wished she was anywhere but there.

The precinct was already buzzing with energy when they stepped inside a little after eight. The team gathered in their temporary headquarters where Sheriff Gordon was already waiting with a thick manila folder.

"The autopsy report of Charlotte Hemingway came in twenty minutes ago," Gordon began, looking satisfied. "It's basically identical to the last two. The ME wasn't able to get much of anything from the first two victims, but I think this definitely establishes the pattern for certain."

"Good." Hotch nodded. "Then I think we're ready to give the profile." He marched out of the room, the Sheriff close behind him.

"Wait, we are?" Emily asked dryly, consciously avoiding looking in JJ's direction.

"Better just roll with it," Morgan mused, leading the rest of the team to where Hotch and Rossi now stood in the squad room.

Giving a profile was one of the things Emily loved the most about her job. It all came together so beautifully as they took turns in dissecting the criminal mind, the profile being a perfect skeleton of the unsub's psyche. It never ceased to amaze Emily how accurately a person's mental state could be analyzed by using only arbitrary details of them in the visible world.

"We're looking for a man in his mid-30s, Caucasian. The killings started a month ago, so look for stressors around that time; something made him snap," Hotch explained to the roomful of uniformed police officers, most of them furiously taking notes while he spoke.

"His M.O. is rather specific in terms of the means and the method of killing. The stressor most probably had something do with a person close to him, a person who took her own life, presumably by hanging," Emily chimed in, the others nodding slightly as she spoke.

"The unsub is average in every way." Morgan took over from her, taking a few steps forward. "Average-looking, average income, average life. He has a gift of making people trust him, since he was somehow able to lure these women to him."

"At the same time, he's physically unsure of himself. There are no signs of struggle at the scenes because he used chloroform to subdue his victims. He wants to make sure they don't fight back because he might not be able to hold them down," Rossi finished, the officers hanging on every word he said.

"What about the suicide note?" one of the officers asked, and all eyes expectantly turned to Reid.

Clearing his throat, he began explaining in his typically enthusiastic manner. "The wording in the note suggests the unsub is angry at whoever committed suicide and left him behind. He's expressing this anger through these murders and thinks he's doing something noble and courageous. His anger is clearly only fueled by the killings, seeing as how he has escalated radically during the last two weeks.

"Also, the fact that all the victims had previously attempted suicide simply can't be a coincidence. To him, these women are not worthy of anything, so what better way to put them to use," Reid finished, his eyes shining with excitement.

"Somehow our unsub has access to information about the victims' backgrounds. He knows they have a history in terms of suicide, and purposefully, picks his victims that way," Hotch concluded. "Any other questions?"

No arms rose, so Hotch ended the briefing with a nod and led his team to the back office while the officers returned to their daily routine.

"We need to talk with Charlotte Hemingway's family. Dave, you and Prentiss do that. The rest of us will stay here and work on the evidence we have so far. Let's meet back in two hours," Hotch said and Emily nodded, thankful that he'd decided to pair her up with Rossi instead of JJ.

"The media is insisting on a press conference. It's been three days," the blonde media liaison noted flatly when Emily and Rossi were preparing to leave. JJ had removed her sunglasses, and Emily flinched inwardly at the exhaustion that shone on her face.

"Yeah, put one together, but keep the information to a minimum for now," Hotch agreed, his eyes lingering on JJ's tired features.

Walking across the precinct, Emily could feel JJ's eyes burning a hole in her back, but she forced herself to ignore it and followed Rossi out of the building. She had no idea how she could keep on working with JJ after everything that had taken place. Every single detail of their love making was burned into her brain like a brand, and it was a brand that most certainly dictated ownership; in one night, JJ had ruined her for everyone else. Emily knew she would never be able to act like nothing happened between them, if that indeed was what JJ wanted.

Anger and frustration built up inside her, a big lump of blackness in her chest making it hard to breathe or concentrate, and Emily slammed the car door closed a little more forcefully than she'd intended. Rossi glanced at her, his eyebrow slightly crooked, but she was too pissed off to wonder what her open display of irritation might look like to the newest addition to their team.

Feeling like the world was out to get her, Emily realized, that for the first time in over a year, she didn't particularly look forward to working.



It was the fifth time she'd attempted to read through the same paragraph. Tapping the table in a frustrated manner with her thumb, JJ started over again, this time getting two lines in and then losing her concentration. It was impossible; she simply couldn't get anything useful done, and she felt absolutely horrible for it. Personal issues should never override the job at hand, and by letting her mind wander JJ felt like she was letting everyone down.

She'd even royally messed up the press conference by basically giving the impression that it was her first day on the job. Forming coherent thoughts had been insanely difficult, which certainly didn't help when she was supposed to answer the reporters' various questions in a way that didn't make them wonder if she knew what she was talking about. She should've known to expect it beforehand, though; there was no way in hell she would remember anything about the case while the thoughts of Emily making love to her played in an infinite loop inside her head.

And trying to forget sex with Emily Prentiss was something JJ wouldn't have recommended for anyone. Mostly because it was impossible. A paradox. An oxymoron of sorts. One simply didn't forget having sex with the most gorgeous woman on the planet.

She felt ashamed for dealing so poorly with the whole thing afterwards, but her brain couldn't have processed what had just occurred the night before. Standing in the middle of Emily's room, she'd felt like she was on candid camera, and someone had pulled the cruelest joke possible on her, like she was in a farce of some sort, because things like that simply didn't happen to normal people.

And then, there was the look on Emily's face when JJ had stepped out of the bathroom, the one with a mixture of confusion and fear, and that had essentially assured the blonde that she really couldn't talk about it yet, not when she knew exactly what Emily was going to say. It'd break her heart in a million pieces, and she needed to prepare herself before letting Emily tell her, in all likelihood volubly and with colorful terms, why they should simply forget anything ever happened.

All this, because she was stupid enough to get drunk.

JJ had never been a big drinker; usually she took a drink or two when she was out with friends or the team, and maybe partake in some wine at dinner when she was truly pampering herself after a particularly difficult day. But she never, ever, got drunk on vodka with a co-worker and while basically on duty, and then flagrantly took advantage of said co-worker who was probably just too polite to turn her down.

She really should've known better than to take Emily's suggestion for a drink. She'd known the alcohol would loosen her tongue—especially since she hadn't really eaten anything the entire day—and perhaps, make her say or do something she'd regret later. But nothing like this. Nothing. She'd felt so defeated, and seeing Emily standing there, her eyes shining with tenderness and understanding, JJ had relented without much struggle. And if that wasn't enough, she hadn't even been smart enough to overindulge in her drinking so that she wouldn't remember anything the following morning. It certainly would've made the whole thing significantly easier to deal with.

The amount of self-loathing JJ felt at that very moment could've cast an ominous shadow over the entire precinct, if it was distributed equally.

She was so engrossed in her internal battle that she didn't notice Emily and Rossi's return until the latter dropped a large case file on the desk with a thud, startling her. She glanced up from the file she was supposedly reading, and her eyes landed on the soft curves of Emily Prentiss, who was standing in front of the evidence board. The brunette was studying the different crime scene photos and various pieces of paper pinned to the board, her back to the room and to JJ.

"Anything useful from the family?" Hotch asked from the other side of the table, forcing JJ to take her eyes off of Emily's backside.

"Hmph," Rossi snorted, taking a seat at the far end of the table as well. "Nothing we hadn't heard already. Her first suicide attempt was five years ago after she and her husband lost their child in a car accident. But apparently she was back to 'normal' again and living happily with said husband."

"It's the previous suicide attempts which work as a commonality between these cases, so maybe we should concentrate solely on that," Morgan suggested, pouring a cup of coffee from the pot that had been delivered to them by a polite beat cop just moments before.

"Guys?" Emily's voice interrupted whatever it was that Hotch was about to say, and all eyes shifted to the brunette, who was still scrutinizing the board.

She turned around, her eyes shining. "Does it seem odd to anyone else that none of the victims had their cellphones with them? In fact, their cells haven't popped up anywhere."

Rossi's eyes narrowed. "Go on," he encouraged her, clearly intrigued by this seemingly irrelevant detail.

"It just occurred to me that when we interviewed Sally Dern's parents yesterday, her mother remarked that Sally was constantly calling to assure them everything was fine. Well, if she called so often, where's her cellphone? It's the 21st century, everyone has one." Now having the undivided attention of everyone in the room, Emily pointed to the photos of the personal items that were recovered at each scene.

"And it wouldn't be half as odd if the other victims weren't missing their cellphones as well. All of their purses were found in the vicinity of the crime scenes, but no phones. Although I have no idea why, I'd be willing to bet my right arm that the unsub took them as souvenirs." Emily crossed her arms on her chest, waiting for the verdict.

"Nice catch," Hotch said, impressed. "Morgan, get Garcia on the phone."

The robust agent hit speed dial and put the phone on speaker.

"The office of everything supreme, how may I rock your world?" Garcia's cheery voice sounded through the speaker, earning a round of chuckles from the rest of the team.

"Garcia, we need you to see if the victims owned a cellphone," Hotch instructed the computer whiz, and soon a faint sound of fingers tapping on keyboard could be heard.

"Yep, they all had one. At least, they all paid a phone bill once a month," Garcia concurred.

"Can you pull their phone records and cross-reference them?" Emily cut in, leaning her hands against the table. "I have a hunch," she explained and shrugged when the others looked at her, puzzled.

"Easily, but it's going to take a while," Garcia replied, the sounds of the keyboard increasing.

"Just call back when you're done," Hotch instructed.

"Right-O." The line went dead, and the atmosphere in the room was suddenly more excited than ever before during their stay.

Hotch had told them all to take a short break, before getting back to the endless task of going through files and documents, and JJ had taken the opportunity to head outside in a vain attempt of clearing her head. After what had to be close to a quarter of an hour, she was convinced that nothing she did would ameliorate her mood in the slightest. There was no other option than to try and concentrate the best she could because it, frankly, couldn't get any worse than it already was.

Of course, she was greatly mistaken.

As she was walking back to the countless files and trivial details, someone grabbed her arm and pulled her into a small, unoccupied office. She snatched her arm back and, her eyes burning with fury, turned to look at the person who'd interrupted her journey. The air was knocked out of her lungs when she realized she was staring at Emily, Emily with a look of uneasiness and nervousness on her face.

"What are you doing?" JJ asked, her voice more annoyed than she intended. She subconsciously rubbed the spot on her arm where the brunette had touched her.

"We need to talk." Emily closed the door firmly behind her and stood in front of it, efficiently cutting off JJ's only means of escaping.

"I don't think we do." The room suddenly felt a whole lot smaller.

"What the hell is wrong with you, JJ?" Emily raised her voice and took a step forward.

"God, nothing's wrong with me!" All the frustration JJ had felt manifested itself as pure anger. "And we certainly don't need to talk because I have no idea why I was moronic enough to sleep with my co-worker!"

"Right," Emily mumbled, casting her eyes to the floor between them. "Well, I can see it's really bothering you, so-,"

"Don't profile me, Emily." JJ's voice was low and cold.

"It actually doesn't take a profiler to see it." Emily snorted humorlessly.

"I need to get back to work." JJ said as evenly as she could.

"Exactly. Look, we need to work together, so could we just talk and get it over with?"

"We're only working together because you were Strauss' personal sock puppet!"

JJ knew she'd crossed the line with that one. She felt a horrible pang of guilt hit her when she saw Emily's face grow pale and her eyes flash with hurt. The anger inside her subsided and was replaced by sadness so powerful she felt she was drowning in it. She couldn't believe she'd gone that far; she knew that was the one thing Emily felt insecure about in terms of her role in the BAU. The brunette had told JJ about the whole Strauss debacle, on the spur of the moment, when they'd gone for drinks one time after work. Emily didn't trust people easily, that much was clear, and she'd confided in JJ, and now the blonde had thrown it back in her face like it meant nothing to her.

She was such an asshole.

"Wow." Emily's voice was rough, making JJ cringe. "I honestly thought you were different, JJ." The way she said it, the amount of disappointment and mortification encoded in her words, made the blonde want to cry.

"Emily," she began, desperate to apologize, to explain everything. But before she had the chance to do so, there was a sharp knock on the door, and Reid popped his head in.

"Garcia's got something." Apparently it didn't seem odd at all to him that the two women were standing in the middle of an empty and poorly-lit office. Reid simply offered a smile, blowing a few random locks of hair off his face.

Emily followed him out of the room before JJ could stop her, and the blonde was left standing alone in the dark. She fought the urge to curl up in the corner and weep. She forced her legs to move and finally followed the other agents, trying to hide the pain she was in. She'd just irrevocably hurt the person who meant the most to her in the whole world, and there really was no other pain like that.

Impassively, she stepped back into the room and moved to stand at the far end, as far away from Emily as possible. She noticed that the brunette was sporting her usual mask of authority as if the earlier conversation had never taken place. It always seemed like the other woman was used to it, used to hiding herself from the world. She made it look so effortless while JJ herself was seriously struggling. Emily once again leaned over the table, her eyes focused on the speaker in front of her.

"Well, what do you know, my little cherubs, the phone records showed something very intriguing," Garcia said with excitement.

"We just got the fax you sent, so go on, Hot Stuff." Morgan grinned, and JJ had to stop herself from rolling her eyes. Yes, the constant flirting between the two was adorable, but right now, she felt like throwing the speaker against the wall. She took a deep, calming breath and concentrated on the matter at hand.

"I cross-referenced all the records like Emily asked, and I found something interesting. All of them have one number in common, as in all of the victims have called it. The calls lasted from ten to thirty minutes. Well, this might not be more than a coincidence, but then I checked the time in each record, and each call was placed less than twelve hours before the particular time of death," Garcia explained fervently.

"What number is it?" Rossi asked, a hint of impatience in his voice.

"That's the best part. It's a number for a suicide help line in the Chicago area." Garcia sounded almost gleeful.

"And that's how he knows his victims." Emily straightened up.

"Garcia, do you have an address?" Hotch asked, already standing up from his seat, ready to embark on their next task.

"But of course."

In spite of her massive failure in terms of her personal life, JJ felt that familiar thrilling sensation in the pit of her stomach for getting yet another step closer to the unsub. When they headed out to the cars, hastily pulling on kevlar and making sure their guns were in place, JJ mused that this was exactly what she needed right now; a little adrenaline rush and taking down a bad guy would mercifully take her mind off of other things and give her a moment of peace. Hopping in the car next to Sheriff Gordon, her hair already in a ponytail, she felt positive for the first time all day.

The building where the help line offices were located stood tall in downtown Chicago. The skyscraper impressively reached for the sky in front of them, and JJ felt smaller and smaller as they approached yet another massive epitome of the modern world.

It took them a little while to find the right floor, but then the elevator doors slid open on the 35th, and JJ felt another surge of adrenaline flow through her veins. The room in front of them was large and divided into small cubicles like any other office space. They stepped cautiously out of the elevator, the blonde only moderately aware of Emily standing not far to her right, their eyes darting around the space with suspicion. Their ears were filled with ringing of the phones and people chattering away.

Some employers in the cubicles closest to the elevator looked at them with bewilderment, and finally a man in jeans and a stylish shirt approached them.

"I'm Max Gerrard, the head of this department. Can I help you?" He eyed them nervously.

"We're looking for an employer of yours." Rossi stepped beside Hotch, his hand on his belt making him look nothing short of intimidating.

"Who might that be?"

"We're not quite sure yet," Rossi said lightly, and Max frowned.

"He's very much average, middle-aged, he's precise and doesn't like disarray," Hotch started listing. "He's never late, and although he's probably been here a while, no one really knows anything about him."

"Damn, that's Phil to a T!" Max chuckled and then obviously realized that there must be a grave reason for the presence of the FBI, his face growing serious again.

"Is he here now?" Rossi asked, his eyes pinning the man to the spot.

"Yeah, uh, Phil Flanders, he's in his cubicle. It's one of the last ones in that row." He pointed to his left. "It's where all the calls to the suicide help line come in."

"Thank you. Stay here, please," Hotch said, and with a quick look at the others, he started slowly making his way past the first set of cubicles.

Her hand slightly on the butt of her gun, JJ followed suit, her heart beating fast against her ribcage. They were halfway down the aisle when there was commotion in front of them. Someone from a cubicle not far from them jumped up, his eyes widening with horror when he saw the team of FBI agents heading his way.

"Jesus!" he shrieked. "I'm truly gonna pay that bill as soon as my next paycheck comes in! I swear! Just please don't arrest me!" The man stepped in front of them, his hands raised above his head, eyes wide with terror. He was trembling all over.

"We're not here for you," Hotch said, his voice unusually chilly, and the man swallowed. Just as quickly as he'd appeared, the man apologized furiously, explaining something about not having any unpaid bills after all, and then stumbled back into his cubicle. JJ rolled her eyes and saw Emily grinding her teeth, clearly annoyed.

When they turned back to their intended destination, they saw a man sprinting towards a door at the end of the room. Cursing heavily, Rossi started after him, the rest of the team following close behind. There was a glowing exit sign above the door.

"Morgan, Prentiss, JJ. Check upstairs. The rest of us go down," Hotch gave the order before he was fully through the doorway. He headed down the stairs without a second look behind him, the team splitting in two as the three assigned agents started their journey up the steep steps while the others followed Hotch.

JJ unholstered her gun, following Emily's example, and stayed near the brunette, who was leading the way. Her finger-tips tingled with excitement as she felt the cool metal of her semi-automatic between her hands.

It was fairly recent that the team included the blonde in their field missions. Although JJ had been more than qualified as a field agent when joining the team, somehow her specialty being media relations had come across as an equivalent for 'no field action, please'. Truth be told, it had definitely felt ridiculous at times for her to walk around with a gun attached to her hip while in reality she never needed it. Perhaps, she could've brought it up with Hotch sooner, but when Elle had left the Bureau, JJ had all of a sudden found herself being included in all the action. Due to lack of experience, she'd been hesitant at first, not sure whether she was of any use to the team, but with time, she'd become more and more confident, and now, she almost craved for some field time whenever they had a case.

The threesome arrived at the next floor, and Morgan pointed to the door leading to another office, indicating with his hand that he was going to check it out. Nodding in acknowledgment, Emily and JJ steadily continued their way upwards, soon realizing that there were no other floors after the one Morgan was investigating. The stairs spiraled two or three times more before the two women found themselves standing behind a thick steel door which led to the rooftop. A rusty padlock hung on a little metal hook, unlocked.

Emily glanced at JJ, her hand on the bar, ready to burst through. JJ looked back and nodded, easily understanding Emily's silent question. Satisfied by her response, the brunette pushed the door open and moved quickly to the bright daylight, her hands firmly holding the gun before her. JJ followed, her eyes darting from one possible hiding place to the next.

Emily steered to the left, so JJ headed in the opposite direction on the vast rooftop. There were various storage boxes standing in front of her, and she cautiously made her way around them, securing every direction before continuing forward. After rounding another corner and spotting absolutely nothing suspicious, JJ saw the edge of the building and sighed with exasperation. Step by step, she drew nearer to the wide stone railing and the last storage unit that blocked her of a complete view to Lake Michigan.

JJ didn't know why exactly, but she made the fatal mistake of quickly glancing behind her, before taking the last turn around the final corner, and the next thing she knew, there was a hard blow to her wrist which sent her arm flying to a wall. She lost the grip on her gun as pain radiated up her arm, the weapon making a clattering sound when it hit the ground. Disoriented, JJ glanced up, and for a brief moment, her eyes met those of a feeble-looking man before she felt another hard push as the man ran past her.

It all took only a second or two at most, but for JJ, it had happened in slow motion and had felt like an eternity. She'd felt the push as the unsub shoved her aside, and then her hip came into contact with the railing. She gave a strangled cry as her brain registered what was about to happen, and her heart stopped when she realized there was absolutely nothing she could do to prevent it. She grabbed the edge of the railing with her left hand, the laws of physics making fun of her as the rest of her flew over it. Her body slammed against the gray stone wall, and a sharp pain shot through her shoulder, making her eyes water. But the surface of the railing was smooth and round, and the weight of her body was far too much for her arm. Her fingers were slipping, and then there was that terrifying moment, lasting less than a fraction of a second, when she knew that she couldn't hold on and that she was going to fall. With horror, JJ felt her fingers lose the battle against gravity, and then there was only air under her.

Just when she thought she was going to die for certain, something wrapped around her wrist and effectively stopped her falling motion. She tried to claw her way back up, her feet easily slipping on the flat surface of the stone and every failed attempt fueling the growing panic inside of her. She couldn't tear her eyes away from the tiny cars, miniature streets, and people that swarmed like an ant colony hundreds of feet below her.

JJ knew she was hyperventilating, which was never a good thing, and then the feeling of panic and shock was simply too overwhelming. She screamed and cried and yelled and begged, all the while furiously trying to propel herself upward.

"JJ!" The blonde vaguely registered someone calling her name. "JJ!" Again.


The blonde looked up sharply into brown, scared eyes and finally realized that it was Emily's hand around her wrist, keeping her from falling. She quickly wrapped her right hand around Emily's, instinctively holding on for dear life. Panic raised its ugly head again, and she looked back down.

"Oh, God! Pull me up! Pull me up!" JJ almost didn't recognize her own voice. "Please, pull me up, pleasepleaseplase..." Her pleading faded to desperate whispers.

"JJ, look at me!" Emily's voice broke through her hysteria again. "Look at me!"

Taking a shaky breath, the blonde looked back up, meeting Emily's reassuring eyes. The other woman gave a small smile, and JJ knew she'd be all right.

"Good." Emily nodded. "Here's what we're going to do. You need to let go-,"

"No! Don't let go!" JJ's fingers curled even tighter around the brunette's hand for emphasis.

"JJ, we don't have time for this!" Emily held the eye contact. "Do you trust me?"

"Yes." A whisper.

"Okay. Then do what I tell you to do. You need to let go of my hand. I won't let you fall, I promise. I'll pull you upwards, and you'll take hold of the railing, so that I can grab your waist and pull you all the way over. Okay?" The confidence that greeted JJ in Emily's eyes calmed her down enough to concentrate, and she nodded weakly.

"On three." Emily's eyes never left the blonde's. "One...two...three!"

JJ felt her body move up, and then she saw the railing and grabbed it with everything she had. Emily got a hold of a belt loop, and soon JJ felt herself being pulled over the edge and back to solid ground. She swung her arms around Emily's mid-section, holding on as tightly as she could, and they stumbled backwards, ending up on the ground a few feet away from the edge.

She was shaking uncontrollably, her fingers digging into the harsh kevlar Emily was wearing, her breathing ragged and fast. JJ felt the other agent envelop her in a warm embrace, shielding her from everything around them, and she allowed herself to bury her head in the crook of Emily's neck. Squeezing her eyes shut, she concentrated on the rapid beating of Emily's heart under her ear. She fought the need to hyperventilate, trying to convince herself that everything was fine, and that she wasn't going to fall. The presence of the brunette next to her eased the extreme trepidation that was still looming under the surface.

Gradually, her own heart stopped racing, and the magnitude of what had nearly just happened sank in. Taking a shuddering breath, JJ opened her eyes, content with just letting her head rest on Emily's shoulder. Emily's hand made reassuring circles on her back, and JJ couldn't remember if she'd ever felt as cared for as she did at that very moment.

Reluctantly, JJ eventually pulled back. They looked at each other, Emily's hand still firmly on the blonde's back, and JJ could see the relief she was feeling reflected back in the brunette's eyes.

"That was close," JJ said with a shaky voice, needing to make light of the situation.

"Too close." Emily shook her head in disbelief, turning to look at the edge that would most certainly cause nightmares for the blonde in the future.

"The unsub. What happened?" JJ finally remembered why she'd almost been sent flying without a parachute in the first place.

"No idea. It was either you or chasing him, so..." Emily's words faded away, and it hit JJ just how incredibly close she'd been to becoming a wet patch on the sidewalk.

Suddenly feeling an almost compulsive need to make sure she was, indeed, safe, JJ grabbed Emily's hand tightly, soundlessly pleading for understanding. She felt the tears of shock and fear burning her eyes, and she finally stopped resisting when the brunette's hand wrapped tightly around hers. Silent tears fell down her cheeks as she looked into Emily's eyes, so gentle and full of something so powerful that it took JJ's breath away.

And then she recognized it, all the pieces of the puzzle locking into place. She remembered seeing that look before. She remembered seeing it so many times during briefings, when they were sitting opposite each other on the plane, when they went for drinks after work, when Emily took her hand after Garcia was shot, when they were sitting close together in Emily's hotel room the previous evening. She remembered the intensity of that look, how it took over her entire being and left her breathless. The final details of their night together were revealed to her before her very eyes, and with wonder she realized how that look—what it signified—had been present in every look, every kiss, every tender touch of Emily's hands.

In awe, JJ understood the depth of the emotion she saw in the other woman, and she wondered how it was possible that she'd never been aware of it until now. The events in the precinct earlier that day came back to her, and she chastised herself for being so unbelievably blind and clueless about what had been right in front of her the whole time. All of a sudden, she saw every interaction, every look and touch in a different light. Tears long dried up, the blonde simply observed Emily in amazement.

Seeing the change in JJ's demeanor, Emily quickly looked away and self-consciously cleared her throat. With a small grunt, the brunette rose to her feet, wiping dirt off her navy-blue pants, and then held out her hand for the other woman. JJ took the offered hand with gratitude, and Emily pulled her up with one, swift motion.

"Come on, duty calls," Emily said softly, all the while still running her thumb soothingly over JJ's knuckles. "And we need to get that shoulder of yours checked out."

JJ then remembered her injury and winced as she tried to move her left shoulder, a jolt of pain shooting through her entire arm – yet another reminder of how dead she could be without the woman standing next to her. The adrenaline was, little by little, wearing off, and JJ could feel the gnawing pain becoming more and more intense by the minute. Emily handed JJ her gun, and the blonde slipped it back to its usual place on her hip.

Her hand securely on JJ's lower back, Emily guided her away from the edge and back towards the door that led into the building. They'd just rounded the last two storage units when the door in front of them flew open, and Morgan emerged, his gun pointing straight at them for a few seconds before he recognized who they were.

"What the hell happened?" he asked, worry obvious in his voice. He holstered his gun and studied the two women, who approached him with a fatigued look on their faces.

"We had a little incident," Emily replied. It was the understatement of the century.

"Did we get Flanders?" JJ asked, her left hand hanging unnaturally still at her side as she tried not to move it any more than she had to.

"Yeah, he ran right at me in the stairs. Son of a bitch surrendered without a peep. I took him downstairs, and when Hotch and the others joined us and told me that they hadn't heard anything from you guys, I got a little worried." Morgan swept moisture off his forehead, his eyes turning to JJ's shoulder.

"Seriously though, what happened to your shoulder?" He opened the door for the two women, curiously studying them.

"Let's just say that I won't be going to any rooftops anytime soon," JJ said through clenched teeth, the pain in her shoulder now absolutely excruciating. Thankful for the body next to her, she pressed a little closer to Emily and let the other woman lead the way. As always.



Emily accompanied JJ all the way down to the lobby where the others were fidgeting. She never, not once, let go of her when they were bombarded with worried questions, the protective side that JJ seemed to be able to conjure up in Emily so easily rising to its full height again. And when the other woman vehemently refused that they call an ambulance, Emily just as fervently told her to simply go with it.

The paramedics arrived in record time, and when they sat the reluctant media liaison on a wooden bench and started probing her shoulder, Emily moved aside, assured that JJ was being taken care of. With a hasty comment to Morgan that she would meet them at the cars, the brunette made her way across the lobby and around a corner, away from prying eyes. With trembling fingers, she turned the knob of a restroom door and stepped into a brightly-lit room.

After making sure she was alone, Emily leaned against the door, suddenly feeling weak and completely drained. The last half-hour was a haze, her brain desperately trying to process everything without having much success. The image of JJ going over the edge flashed in her mind, and she clenched her fists, nails digging painfully into her palms.

Emily could still see the truly horrified expression on JJ's face when she'd looked up at her, and the way JJ had been pleading for her to help ricocheted in her head. The realization that she'd been so close to losing JJ, that things could've turned out in a whole different manner, caused her legs to give out from under her. She slid down the door and sat on the disgustingly dirty floor, tears streaming down her face.

She was exhausted, both physically and emotionally, and there was no way she could stop the sobs that wrecked her body. She remembered their earlier conversation, the way JJ had basically pulled the rug from under her, and the memory of it made her feel so insignificant and worthless that although she knew, deep down, the blonde hadn't really meant it, she'd never felt so lost and hurt in her entire life.

Somehow JJ's words—albeit said in a heat of the moment—had done more damage than anything anyone had ever said to her. And she was used to being the target of under-the-belt insults; she was the daughter of Ambassador Prentiss after all. She'd heard so many accusations and expressions of disappointment in her life that she'd thought she was beginning to become immune to them. But JJ's words had been like a knife to her back, they had ripped her heart right out of her chest.

And then, having the blonde in her arms on the roof and seeing her look at her with utter trust and wonder, Emily had been ready to forgive her anything. She was confused and alone, and she had no idea of what to do. Because while she knew that JJ was probably just as mortified about their little quarrel as she was, the past three days had finally made Emily realize that compartmentalizing was complete and utter bull when it came to JJ. The blonde simply didn't fit into a neat and tiny compartment. It was obvious to Emily that she was only torturing herself by coming to work everyday, which truly wasn't what she'd had in mind when joining the team.

Staring at the wall on the opposite side of the restroom, Emily couldn't believe she was actually contemplating on giving up her job, a job that she'd aimed at ever since joining the FBI. But it was now crystal clear to her that working alongside JJ, pretending as if nothing had ever happened between them, would be impossible. And, really, that only left one option: one of them had to leave. It'd be the hardest thing she ever had to do, but she'd do it, if not for herself, for JJ.

Standing up from the floor with shaky legs, she walked to the sink and looked at herself in the large mirror. She saw a woman who looked, well, like crap, but under all the exhaustion and misery, there was a woman who finally knew what she had to do.

As she was splashing cold water on her face, Emily mused that while she'd take the friendship with JJ back in a heartbeat, leaving the BAU really was the best option. At least she'd had one night with the woman who she, when she felt exceptionally corny and sappy, considered to be her soul mate. At least, she had the memories—which would drive her crazy, without a doubt—and the knowledge that, for one night, she'd felt...whole.

Straightening up, she dried her face and took one, final look at herself. Fairly satisfied with her somewhat disheveled appearance, she took a deep breath and prepared to face the world again. She really had no idea how she'd explain her resignation to the team, because no matter how she looked at it, it was like disowning her own family.

Discarding the thoughts of leaving for now, she figured it'd be best not to think of the whole fiasco before their current case was completely wrapped up and before she'd had some time to consider her options; the old idea of taking the Foreign Service exam—like her mother had urged her to do all those years ago—and ending up in a state department didn't inspire her at all. With a final sigh, she turned the door knob. Her face giving nothing away, she left the restroom and strode out of the building to where the others were waiting.

Emily refused to go to the interrogation room when Phil Flanders was being questioned because she wasn't entirely certain she wouldn't beat his face in. So instead of observing the interrogation, she was doing paperwork which she would be required to complete in a week's time anyway. She was scribbling down her second report, bored out of her mind, when Morgan and Reid came into the room and started piling up the files and papers.

"That was fast. Did he confess?" Emily looked up from her writing.

"In lightning speed. Couldn't wait to share his heroic deeds with us," Morgan scrunched his nose in disgust and fetched a cardboard box for the stack of files on the table. "Turned out his-,"

"Let me guess, wife?" Emily interrupted and began organizing her papers in a neat pile as well.



"She hanged herself in her bedroom a couple of months ago. The suicide note Flanders used was an edited version of the one his mother left behind." Reid filled in for Morgan, efficiently stripping the evidence board of photographs. "And the victims' cell phones were found at his house. He took them so no one would find out about the calls to the help line. All of the victims used the line as a kind of a therapy method, apparently."

As hard as she tried, Emily simply couldn't feel remorse for the man. Shaking her head, she filled a box with various folders and then placed it next to the other ones by the door.

They were just finishing up when Rossi and Hotch showed up with Sheriff Gordon, and Emily automatically glanced behind them, in search of their blonde media liaison. But JJ wasn't with them.

"I can't tell you how glad I am to see the back of you." Gordon chuckled. "Again, no offense."

"We're more than happy to go." There was small smile playing on Hotch's lips when he shook hands with the sheriff. Gordon took Rossi's hand as well and nodded politely to the rest of them, before retreating back to the squad room.

"The jet's waiting for us and ready to take off as soon as we get there, so let's go check ourselves out of the hotel," Hotch said and grabbed one of the boxes from the floor.

"Um, where's JJ?" Emily asked, trying to sound nonchalant, as she hurried after their boss, a brown box tucked under her own arm as well.

"I sent her ahead to the airport. After all that's happened, she looked like she could use some sleep."

"Oh, right." Knowing that any further questions would arouse suspicion, the brunette had to settle for the ambiguous reply Hotch had given her. Even with everything that had taken place, she couldn't stop caring; worry unavoidably set up camp inside of her, various unnerving scenarios running through her mind, and Emily found herself clutching the box a little harder than necessary.

It took them awhile to get to the hotel and then to the airport, and when the SUVs finally came to a halt in front of the terminal, Emily wanted nothing more than to slump down in her seat on the plane and stay in it till the end of time.

The brunette spotted JJ the moment she stepped onboard, her eyes immediately landing on the figure laying supine on the double seat at the back of the plane. She knew it was completely insane and extremely foolish, but she couldn't help it; she found herself almost dawdling around the seat on the opposite side of the aisle, irresistibly drawn to the younger woman in spite of everything.

Emily refused to wake her up and very gently fastened JJ's seatbelt to ensure that the blonde didn't roll off the seat when the plane took off. JJ only stirred momentarily, her utter exhaustion and the power of painkillers finally winning out. At the back of the plane, away from the others' curious gazes, Emily secretly allowed herself to watch JJ sleep. It did occur to her that someone might consider it a tad creepy, but trying to keep her eyes off JJ right then was like trying to move a mountain with one's bare hands.

Leaning back in her seat, Emily marveled at how incredibly beautiful JJ was when she slept. Although she'd seen JJ asleep on the plane several times before, she'd never really given herself the permission to observe before. The blonde was always beautiful, but the façade they all wore to work always slipped away when she slept, and it revealed a glimpse of the real JJ, the innocent and genuine version of her. The brunette had only seen JJ remove the mask completely once before in her company, letting Emily witness the vulnerable side of her. When she'd made love to her and gazed into her eyes, Emily had seen the real woman behind the pompous title and the gun and the intimidating authority. Just for a moment, they hadn't been strong and powerful FBI agents in one of the most respected and highly esteemed units of the Bureau; they'd been just Emily and Jennifer, two people who'd finally found each other, two people in the exact same moment, the rest of the world only a vague blur around them, because right then, nothing else existed but the other.

Feeling a sudden lump in her throat, Emily turned her back to the sleeping woman and stared out of the window into the darkness.



2 weeks ASE (After Sex with Emily)

JJ could've told the exact amount of time since that faithful night in minutes—21,600—if need be. It was all she could think of; the other woman filled her every waking thought and usually a fairly big part of her nightly dreams as well. She was reminded of Emily no matter what she was doing; something would always cause her to remember and bring her back to the brunette. But, sitting in her office at the BAU, she could at least pretend to be doing something else other than dreaming of how soft Emily's skin felt when she'd run her hand down her side or how the other woman's lips had so easily found that special spot near her collarbone, making her shiver like a leaf.

It wasn't like JJ didn't know what she wanted to do, what she probably should do. But the memory of hurting Emily to the bone kept tormenting her relentlessly, and judging by the pain she felt herself, she wouldn't be terribly surprised if the other woman refused to ever forgive her. And then there was the little voice in her head, nagging that she was basing all her assumptions on the way the brunette had looked at her. Not what she'd said, not what she'd shown her, but how she'd frigging looked at her, which sounded absolutely ridiculous even to her own ears.

But that was exactly it. The look. She had analyzed and scrutinized every encounter she could recall, and the results were always the same. The way Emily had looked at her so many times during the past year; the way Emily had looked at her on the rooftop in Chicago; the way Emily had looked at her during their night together. That night hadn't been just sex, it hadn't been just a random encounter between two people who simply wanted to find some release and happened to be in a right place at a right time. JJ knew—she could remember it vividly—she'd never felt so deeply adored and cherished by anyone than the way she'd felt that night with Emily.

She'd never felt more loved.


Freaked out by her own assessment, JJ straightened up in her chair in bewilderment and looked down at the paper before her. There was a black, messy ink stain on the page where the tip of her pen had remained for the past fifteen minutes without moving an inch. Letting out a frustrated sigh, she crumpled up the entire paper and threw it across the room towards a trash can. It missed its mark, but JJ didn't notice because it was then that she realized Garcia was standing in her doorway.

"Jesus, Garcia!" She slumped back in her seat. "How long have you been standing there?"

"Long enough," the computer analyst answered cryptically and stepped fully into the room.

"What are you doing here anyway? It's Saturday." JJ frowned and glanced at her wrist-watch. It was almost five-thirty.

"I could ask you the same thing, Girlfriend." Garcia's eyes were reproachful. "Besides, I have a very, very hot date this evening. I just came in to pick up my darling laptop."

JJ finally noticed that the other woman was indeed dressed up a little less bizarrely than usual.

"Anyone I know?"

"Maybe." Garcia studied her, her eyes narrowing slightly. "But don't think you'll distract me that easily. You're dealing with a goddess of supreme knowledge, after all."

"I have no idea what you're talking about." JJ aimed for cool and collected but ended up somewhere between painfully obvious and as plain as day.

"Right." Garcia nodded sarcastically. "Oh, is Em still here?"

"No, she hasn't been in a..." JJ looked up into amused eyes and knew that she'd just been played. "Nice." She crossed her arms, brooding.

"Did you honestly think I don't know? What blasphemy, I knew before you knew!" Garcia chuckled, and JJ buried her face in her hands in embarrassment.

For a while JJ didn't say anything, the direction of the conversation had caught her slightly off guard. Then she lowered her hands and looked at her best friend in despair.

"I don't know what to do," she said quietly, picking at invisible lint on her pants.

"The heart knows best." Garcia smiled radiantly, and JJ rolled her eyes.

"Even if that wasn't so corny, it still wouldn't be that simple." She shook her head, feeling so unbelievably relieved for finally being able to talk with someone about the whole situation. "I mean, I don't even know if she..."

"Maybe you should just get her drunk and see if she comes on to you." The computer whiz stated matter-of-factly, but JJ didn't laugh. Instead, she could feel her cheeks burning. Actively avoiding the other woman's eyes, she swallowed self-consciously and wondered why no one ever came to bother her when she was in real need of a distraction.

"Well, someone's really been holding out on me!" Garcia stifled a laugh, which earned an angry glare from the blonde. She raised her hand in a surrendering manner. "I'm sorry, doña Juana. Being dead serious now."

"Oh God. This is a nightmare." JJ groaned and massaged her temples in a vain attempt to ease the faint pounding in her head.

"Why don't you tell the celestial being of Quantico everything, so she would have yet another good reason to tell you to drag your butt over to Washington D.C. ASAP?" Garcia plopped down in one of the chairs in front of the blonde's desk and waited.

"I thought you had a date." JJ blinked, trying not to show how desperate she was to share it all with someone.

"A woman should always be fashionably late."

JJ smiled, incredibly thankful for having such a great friend, and began tentatively relaying information. After several "You go girls" and just as many "oh my gods," she finished the story and eyed the other woman uncertainly.

"I really didn't think you had it in you, Jay-J." Garcia was smiling widely, making JJ blush furiously.


"Right, right. You want my honest opinion?" The blonde nodded. "Sweetie, you're an idiot."

"What?" JJ blinked, not sure she'd heard correctly. Garcia tilted her head to the side and gave the media liaison her best 'are-you-serious' look. She sighed and gave up. "I'm an idiot."


"Christ, I was so horrible to her." JJ wanted to smack herself.

"You know, in the movies, this is the moment when you're supposed to go and confess your undying love for the insanely good-looking co-star and sweep them off her feet." The computer tech looked wistfully into space. "Oh, what I'd give to find Denzel Washington standing under my window."

JJ laughed, feeling surprisingly light-hearted, and pushed herself up from her chair in a sudden burst of energy. Collecting her purse from the floor, she rounded the table and hugged the other woman tightly.

"You're totally insane, but I love you for it." Pulling back, she smiled one last time at Garcia and then practically ran all the way out of the building.

By the time JJ pulled her car to the side of the street in front of Emily's apartment building, the self-confidence and courage her little chat with Garcia had built up in her had more or less evaporated into thin air. Her fingers squeezed the steering wheel, knuckles turning white, and she peered up to the window she knew to be Emily's.

Now that she was actually there, she had no idea what to do or how to proceed. Rather than feeling hopeful and excited, she felt idiotic and ridiculous. Maybe Emily didn't even want to see her. And maybe she'd completely misread the signs, and it was all just a big misunderstanding, which would inevitably lead to her looking like a fool.

"Goddammit," she muttered and withdrew her hand from the door handle for the tenth time in as many minutes.

Leaning forward again, she observed the double window of Emily's apartment through the windshield. The light was on, so she was home, but who knew if she was alone or not. JJ shuddered at the thought of carelessly interrupting the other woman's evening, only to find out that she was about to do the horizontal tango, or God knows what, with someone else.

She didn't know exactly how long she sat there, but some random top-whatever countdown show on the radio had gone from number twenty to number five during that time. And just when she'd about had enough, had decided to go for it, and had pushed her insecurities aside, there was a sharp knock on the driver's side window.

Startled by the sudden interruption, she peered out and saw a police officer casually leaning his arm against the top of her car and gesturing with his hand for her to open the window. Dutifully, JJ lowered the window halfway down and looked expectantly at the man.

"Ma'am, I need you to step out of the vehicle, please," the officer said patiently.

"Excuse me? Why?" JJ's voice was incredulous.

"Just step out of the car, please."

JJ did as she was told and warily wondered what in the hell Officer Malone—there was a name tag on his shirt—wanted.

"Could you state your business here, Ma'am?" The officer looked her up and down.

"I'm here to see a friend."

"Where is this friend, then?"

"What's this about?" She was starting to lose her patience.

"We got a complaint of suspicious loitering, Ma'am."


"Yes. So could you state your real business here, please?" Officer Malone put his hands on his hips, but the power game was wasted on JJ.

"Look, I'm an FBI agent. Here's my-." She reached for her badge which was in her jacket's breast pocket.

"Freeze! Hands where I can see them!" Malone pulled his gun, causing JJ to, indeed, freeze.

"My badge is in my pocket," she tried to explain, but he didn't want to hear it.

"You'd be surprised how many times I've heard that one before." He didn't lower his gun an inch.

All the commotion on the street had attracted attention, and there were now people curiously looking at the scene through their windows; one of them probably was the imbecile who had called the cops on her. Some passers-by had stopped on the sidewalk around them, murmuring, and all eyes were on JJ and Officer Malone.

Just when JJ thought her life couldn't get any worse.

"I swear I'm an FBI agent. If I could just show you-."

"Against the car, Ma'am."

"What? Do I look like a criminal to you?" Her voice rose dangerously, but she didn't care.


"Excuse me, Officer." There was a familiar voice behind her, and JJ turned, relieved, to find Emily standing on the sidewalk. "She's with me." The brunette flashed her badge, and there was a collective gasp and increased murmuring around them. It was a damn Kodak moment.

JJ turned back to Officer Malone, clenching her teeth. He had visibly paled and looked downright apologetic, which JJ noted with satisfaction. She straightened her jacket, and, with one last glare at him, walked to Emily. Mouthing a silent 'thank you' to her savior, JJ followed Emily up the stone steps and into the building.

"Come on, nothing to see here! Off you go!" The blonde could hear Malone's voice behind her, but she didn't give him the satisfaction of looking back.

"God, can you believe the nerve of that man?" JJ stomped into Emily's living room after the brunette had unlocked the door and let her in. When there was no reply, she turned around and found Emily standing apprehensively next to the bar which separated the kitchen from the living room.

"What are you doing here, JJ?" Okay, she totally deserved that.

"I..." She took a few steps forward, her eyes accidentally sweeping over the small table next to the couch. She'd already moved forward when what she saw registered in her brain, and her head whipped around in shock. She stared at the white sheet of paper on the table.

"What's this?" she asked incredulously and picked it up.

Emily didn't respond, her demeanor didn't actually change at all. The brunette looked at the paper in JJ's hand and then at JJ, her face—the blonde noted—scarily expressionless. Finally, she smiled a humorless smile and sighed, her shoulders rising and falling in a defeated shrug.

"You're resigning?" JJ whispered disbelievingly, her hands trembling against her will. "You're resigning? What, the last time wasn't fun enough?"

Still nothing.

"You can't resign, you belong to the BAU!" Suddenly, her heart was beating so fast that JJ thought it'd jump right out of her chest.

"Yeah, well. Things change," Emily said flatly, hands in her back pockets.

"You can't resign!" JJ's voice rose, and had she not been so preoccupied by the ominous message on the paper, she most certainly would've scolded herself for sounding so blatantly hysterical.

"I've made up my mind." Emily sounded tired. She walked to the blonde, took the resignation letter from her hand, folded it, and tucked it in her back pocket.

After a non-committed smile, Emily moved to the window with the impressive view of the Capitol, but it was obvious that she didn't really see the beauty before her as she gazed outside. Her shoulders were unnaturally straight, and her entire body oozed tension.

"Why do you..." JJ didn't know what to say, she was too upset to think. "Why...do you...is it...is it because of us?"

"Why are you here, Jennifer?" Emily suddenly turned around, her words sharp and hollow. The use of her real name made them sting just that much more.

They stood there, in the middle of Emily's living room, looking at each other, and something in that very point in time made JJ realize that it was the moment she'd perhaps been waiting for her entire life. It was the moment when she could either get burned or get it all, and it all depended on her and her alone.

She watched Emily stand tall before her, and all she could do was wonder what she'd done to deserve such an incredible human being in her life. Everything was simple and right when they were together. Emily always knew how to cheer her up, and she would stand beside her no matter what. When she felt like she couldn't go on, Emily would smile or touch her hand as a gesture of caring, and it'd all be better again. They were the two sides of a whole, and she could live without Emily only as long as she could live without breathing.

"I'm so sorry," JJ finally whispered hoarsely, desperate to make the other woman understand.

Emily didn't move; she simply looked at her. JJ struggled for words, trying to find the right ones to say just how sorry she was and how much she needed her. But the longer she looked at the brunette, the more it dawned on her that words would never be enough to express how much the other woman meant to her. There were no fancy turns of phrase to show Emily how completely and utterly in love she was with her. Encouraged by the depth of her feelings, JJ walked hesitantly to stand in front of the other woman. Carefully, she raised her hands to cup Emily's face, and when the brunette didn't pull back, JJ leaned in and kissed her. Softly.

It was just as wonderful as she'd remembered. Emily's lips were soft and perfect, and JJ didn't know how she could ever live without the feeling of wholeness that overtook her. Unhurriedly, she pulled back and watched as Emily's eyes slowly slid open, the look in them undecipherable. She studied JJ, her eyes searching for something, and the blonde earnestly held her gaze.

It was strange. In her life, JJ had fought some of the worst serial killers in the country; she'd stood in front of an enraged crowd of journalists, who wanted nothing more than to tear her apart; she'd dangled hundreds of feet above ground, about to fall to a certain death. And still, she'd never felt more terrified than right then under Emily's unfaltering gaze. Because Emily could see right through her, see exactly who she was, inside and out. And the fear of her not liking what she saw was truly the scariest feeling of all.

Then JJ spotted it; saw the eyes before her fill with tenderness and the small smile tugging at the corner of Emily's mouth. Her own heart skipped a beat when she was gently pulled forward and enveloped into a warm embrace. Her arms circling the brunette's waist, JJ inhaled deeply and enjoyed the sweet and unique fragrance that she realized she'd missed terribly. She could feel Emily's breath softly tickle her ear, which released a herd of butterflies in the pit of her stomach.

"Have you been drinking?" Emily suddenly asked quietly, momentarily disorienting the blonde with the odd non sequitur.

"No," she replied breathlessly, holding on to the other woman just a little tighter.

"Good," Emily stated simply, only half-joking, and then leaned back slightly so that she could bring their lips together.

JJ couldn't believe that she'd actually considered letting Emily go without a fight. As she felt the kiss deepen and their bodies molding together perfectly, she mused that she never again wanted to know what it felt like not having Emily with her. And to ensure just that, she needed to apologize, to swear she'd never be so reckless and do anything so stupid ever again.

It took all her willpower to do so, but JJ slowed down and reluctantly broke the kiss, her hands still firmly against the small of Emily's back. She looked deep into the brown eyes, the feel of the other woman's soft breath on her swollen lips sending jolts of electricity through her body, jolts that ended somewhere much further south.

"I really am so sorry, Emily. I'm such an idiot," she whispered, closing her eyes in exasperation.

"Yeah, you are," Emily said, and the blonde turned her head in shame. Fingers under JJ's chin, Emily gently urged the other woman to look at her.

When JJ slowly turned back to the brunette again, she was greeted with a look so full of devotion and trust that she thought her heart would burst. There was a small, happy smile playing on Emily's lips.

"But you're my idiot," she murmured before claiming JJ's lips once more.

Things didn't sound nearly as corny when Emily said them.



6 months ASEFT (After Sex with Emily for the First Time)

Combing her hand tiredly through her long, blonde hair, JJ strolled into the kitchen and turned the kettle on. She'd always liked to drink tea in the morning, ever since she was a child. Her mother had brewed tea in her antique silver tea pot every morning, and although it was over a decade ago that she'd actually lived at home, she simply couldn't break the habit. And besides, she'd get her caffeine fix later, since she usually drank so much coffee at work, that by the end of the day, she sometimes felt like an energizer bunny.

JJ was reaching for the mugs in the cabinet when her bedroom door opened and a frantic FBI agent emerged through it.


"Yeah?" The mugs securely in her hands, the blonde turned around to look at her girlfriend, who was only dressed in her black bra and pants, a dark blue shirt dangling from her hand.

"It's the third shirt this week," Emily whined, slipping her arms into the sleeves.

"You've got plenty of new ones in the closet," JJ said light-heartedly, feeling slightly self-conscious about the topic in question. She was, after all, responsible for the rapid dwindling of Emily's wardrobe – shirt-wise at least.

"Actually, this is the last one," Emily noted absently, still struggling with the sleeves that were somehow tangled together.

"Oh." JJ busied herself with the kettle, but froze when she heard Emily's next words.

"You know, it'd be so much easier if all our stuff was in the same place." The brunette pulled the shirt over her head and was just about to slip her head through the neckline when she realized how her words had come across. She halted her movements, leaving her standing like an idiot in the middle of the kitchen, the shirt halfway on.

JJ walked across the room, and Emily could feel the warmth radiating from her as the blonde came to stand close to her. Mercilessly, she pulled Emily's shirt down, smoothing the fabric over her torso, and then looked up at her.

Emily's mouth opened and closed, but no words came out. She really hadn't meant it to sound like it had. But now that it was there, out in the open, she was absolutely terrified that JJ would laugh at her, or somehow downplay the real meaning behind it all. Besides, she'd thought about it. A lot. They practically spent all their free time together anyway, so it was only logical. She just hadn't intended to come out with it quite like that.

"Are you asking me to move in with you?" JJ's eyebrows rose in a questioning manner, her eyes sparkling with merriment and her fingers still playing with the hem of her lover's shirt. She watched, fascinated, as a range of emotions danced across Emily's eyes.

"Well..." Emily swallowed, the feel of JJ's fingers brushing against her skin, causing goosebumps. "Would you mind terribly if I did?"

"Hmm..." JJ pretended to be thinking it over.

"And, you know, after that incident at the office Christmas party, it's not like it'd come as a surprise to anyone, really." Emily smiled fondly, and JJ couldn't help blushing. What was it with her and vodka? "Honestly, though. I'm serious, I just really love being with you. " The brunette cleared her throat nervously. "All the time, actually. So, what do you say?" Emily gave her a small peck on the lips.

JJ felt an unexpected lump in her throat. The look on her lover's face was a mixture of excitement, hopefulness, and uncertainty, and JJ had never loved her as much as she did at that very moment. She planted a fervent kiss on Emily's lips and then leaned back, grinning like an idiot.

"You do know this won't really solve yout shirt problem, don't you?"

"Who cares?" Emily let out a relieved chuckle, wrapping her arms tightly around JJ.

It was the third time that month Hotch received a sheepish phone call a little after eight, informing him that Route 95 was, once again, an absolute bitch to navigate in the morning traffic.


"If there is no wind, row."
- Latin proverb

The End

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