DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This one goes out to yellowsmurf6 who was working a shitty shift as a public servant and gave me the prompt for this. As usual, please forgive any abuses of the English language.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Caught in the Cookie Jar
Rubbing the bridge of her nose in a admittedly futile attempt to keep the threatening headache at bay, Special Agent Jennifer Jareau reached absently for the coffee cup beside her hand while she tried once again to read the report in front of her. Tired blue eyes refused to focus however, and the cup that was brought to her lips was hastily put down when the liquid inside was found to be long cold.
With a grimace JJ admitted defeat. It was time for a new cup. The well worn fiction that she needed 'just one more cup of coffee' to get her work done was familiar to all dedicated professionals and JJ was certainly not immune. Stretching, the blonde press liaison left her desk and walked to the door of her office, glancing out at the now darkened bull pen. It was late ridiculously so and yet JJ was not alone. Hotch was still in his office; unsurprising as she was no longer sure when the man went home. A light in Rossi's window showed the older agent was still working as well. Morgan was apparently gone, but down in the bullpen, Reid was slumped over his desk, crutches leaning precariously by as he scribbled on something, and next to him
JJ felt a swift surge of complicated longing as her gaze rested on the dark head of the woman bent over her paperwork. The lamp light caught in Emily Prentiss' mahogany hair, giving it soft highlights and lending a glow to the pale sliver of skin that JJ could see from the angle of her door.
Her body heavy and aching with the long day and the knowledge it wasn't done yet, JJ found herself leaning against the door frame and simply watching Emily. Every small movement of her wrist as she wrote notes on a case file, every absent minded tucking of that soft dark hair behind the elegant shell of her ear, each subtle shift of muscle under that deep red top that accented her flawless pale skin so well
Mentally JJ shook herself. She was doing it again. She was watching Emily like well like more than colleagues, more than friends. She was watching Emily like she used to: before she had gotten scared, before Will, before Henry. JJ found herself more and more watching Emily with the eyes of a woman who wanted, and even though she knew it was dangerous, that indeed she truly had no right to do so, the blonde woman found herself unable to stop. The desire simply to look at Emily was one that had grown in intensity lately, eroding whatever voice of professionalism cautioned otherwise.
Their relationship lately seemed to once again have reached a place of ease and understanding, of the close friendship that JJ had come to value and rely on so much. Once again the soft looks and softer touches the dark agent bestowed on her felt unconscious and unforced, and it warmed JJ immensely.
It also frustrated her.
JJ was no longer the woman she had been. Will might have been a mistake but her son had taught her courage, and faith in love that was total, unshakable and all encompassing.
The tired woman leaning hipshot against the hard wood frame of her office door wasn't sure if what lay between her and Emily was truly love, but JJ did know, deep down, she was no longer afraid to find out.
The only fear she had was in discovering the answer to that question was a negative.
So she waited, and tread carefully. She and Emily had never been a 'couple', never shared anything more than weighted glances and soft, understanding smiles, and yet JJ knew she had hurt her friend when she had turned to Will.
It had taken time for Emily to trust her again.
It would take more time if anything deeper was to develop between them.
Time JJ was willing to give.
But that didn't mean that she was going to stop herself from indulging a little.
After all, there was no harm in looking she firmly told herself.
At that moment however, her thoughts were interrupted as Emily leaned back in her chair and JJ caught the sound of a soft sigh coming from the older woman. It reminded the blonde agent she wasn't the only one who was exhausted and with a quick mental gamble, she decided to make it two cups of coffee.
Turning back to her desk and opening the drawer with her spare mug in it, JJ also grabbed one of the small chocolate wafers from the box of assorted sweets she kept hidden deep in the second drawer. It was a secret weakness of hers that she rarely indulged, but sometimes just couldn't resist. A girl just needed her chocolate sometimes.
Shutting the drawer carefully the press liaison took the two mugs and headed to the kitchen, throwing a last glance to where Emily worked on, unaware.
The bullpen was dim, the other agents long gone home for the evening. Only two people remained at their desks, the individual desk lamps creating small, warm puddles of light in the empty space normally bristling with people during the day.
The only movement came from JJ as she walked along the upper level toward the kitchen.
Unbeknownst to the blonde press agent, her trajectory was followed closely.
"Psst, Emily, she's gone," Reid stage whispered.
"Hmmm?" An apparently distracted murmur was the only response.
"You know she keeps a stash of chocolate in there, go grab us some."
This hushed directive elicited a slow, nonchalant stretch as Emily rolled her neck.
"Reid, that's called stealing," Emily replied, though the hint of humor in her voice belied any sting in the words.
"I do need to go check on a report though," the dark woman said with studied casualness, getting up from her chair and feeling the stiffness in a body too long confined to a desk.
"Grab me one too will you?" Reid whispered conspiratorially or tried to the tiredness in his voice and shadows under his eyes lent the handsome young man a plaintive air and Emily threw a weary smile in his direction.
"I have no idea what you are talking about," the older agent replied, aiming for airy and knowing she fell well short.
They were all tired. It had been too long without a happy ending. Too many cases and too many loses. The whole team was showing the wear, stretched and hanging on, and though it was stupid and childish, stealing cookies from the stash in JJ's desk that she still thought no one knew about just seemed like a good idea to Emily right now.
Sneaking a quick look at Hotch and Rossi's office, Emily grabbed an empty file folder as 'cover' and walked toward the stairs leading to the upper level. She pretended to be immersed in the 'file' but kept her attention on the hallway that led to the kitchen lest JJ return suddenly.
With a last glance around Emily slipped into the dimly lit room, shaking her head as always at the piles of folders that seemed to defy physics that occupied most of the space. She used to tease JJ mercilessly about how a woman who projected such a composed and neat image could be such a slob in her office.
With a start, the dark haired agent realized she had made a crack about that just the other day. Pausing in her clandestine mission, Emily let the implication filter through her mind. She had become comfortable around JJ again she realized. Comfortable to the point where sneaking up to the press liaison's office to steal her cookies didn't give her a second's pause: comfortable enough to tease and touch, comfortable enough to trust.
It had hurt when the blonde woman had gone to Will. Not because Emily viewed it as some kind of betrayal, but because for a time the older agent felt as if she had lost her best friend. The JJ that she knew that she felt so easy being next to, that her hands wanted to touch as if of their own volition had disappeared for a while and a new JJ an uncertain, distant JJ had taken her place.
Something had changed between them, and though Emily could not for the life of her pinpoint the moment when that something shifted once again, her presence in JJ's office attested to the fact that it had.
Deep, life altering thoughts however, would have to wait for a time when Emily was not achingly tired, and there were not cookies to purloin.
One had to keep one's priorities in order after all.
With a last glance at the door, Emily moved to JJ's desk and unerringlly opened the second drawer, drawing out the box of cookies and opening it with the rising excitement of a thief about to get away with their crime. A smile edged full lips as she noticed the cookie count was significantly low. Must have been a tough week for her too, Emily mused, knowing the cases they had worked wore on them all equally but still a tiny bit amused at this visible evidence of JJ's mental state.
Her decision process about which treats to nab and which to leave however, was cut brutally short by a sharp clearing of a throat from the door.
Dropping the tin with a most undignified squeak, Emily looked up to find JJ standing in the doorway, one elegant brow raised and two cups of steaming coffee in her hands.
You are so busted, Emily could read the words loud and clear in JJ's expression.
For a moment neither woman moved, a silent tug of war going on behind two mouths struggling not to smile.
Emily broke first.
It started as an inelegant snort, then became a guffaw, then melted into a full out, belly deep laugh The ridiculousness of two grown women FBI agents hiding and stealing cookies was too much, and JJ had to place the coffee down before she spilled it. They laughed at themselves, at the fact that Emily had literally been caught with her hand in the cookie jar, at the fact that it was after 9pm on a Saturday night and they were both working, at life and fate and all the things that people who haven't laughed in far, far too long laugh at when finally given the chance.
When they finally managed to stop, eyes streaming and gasping for breath, they found themselves standing close together. Closer than they usually stood. Much closer than was necessary.
"You could have just asked," JJ chided gently her mouth quirking as she watched the delight in Emily's eyes and found it echoed in her own heart.
"Oh come on," the dark haired agent responded, wiping her eyes one last time. "Where would the fun in that be?"
"And here I thought I was keeping those secret," JJ muttered, though the smile on her face said clearly she wasn't upset.
"JJ, you work with profilers, what use are our skills if we can't figure out where our colleagues keep their stashes of good stuff?" the older woman asked archly.
"You know Rossi keeps a bottle of 15 year old single malt in his desk," Emily offered impishly, at once to prove her point and offer a token of apology.
JJ raised her eyebrow and whistled softly in appreciation. "Good to know."
Later she would blame it on the hour, on the fact that under the humor they were tired and raw and there was a part of her that just desperately wanted to reach out to Emily, even if was only a little bit.
"I've missed seeing you laugh," JJ spoke softly, watching in fascination the play of emotion her words evoked on the normally stoic woman's face. Watching and feeling a tentative joy when that face remained open and dark eyes held her own.
"It's been hard lately," Emily replied equally as softly, and JJ didn't' need to be a profiler to know they were not talking about their case load.
"I know, but it doesn't have to be anymore." It was an olive branch, a bridge, an invitation and in the silence that followed her words JJ threw all her tiny, newborn hope.
"I want to believe that," Emily nearly whispered, dark eyes fathomless in the low light. There was an echo of JJ's fragile feelings and a naked vulnerability in that rich voice, and once again, the blonde woman acted without thinking. Reaching out, she caught Emily's hand in her own, the same hand that had, in fact, been in her cookie jar just moments ago.
"Then just believe." The 'please' was left unspoken, but it hung in the air between them as clear as if shouted.
Emily's skin was warm and soft and when the dark haired woman tightened her hold just a fraction, JJ's heart leapt.
"Just like that?"
JJ nodded, holding Emily's gaze like a lifeline, trying to let the other woman see the tangled emotions that crowded her heart. "Just like that," she said, only a little surprised when her voice sounded resolved.
A slow, cautious smile and a strengthening of Emily's grip was her response.
"Just like that then."
Once again the two stood frozen, though there was no laughter this time. This time a warm sense of acceptance settled between them, softening the erosion of time and letting the world outside the connection of their two hands fade for just a moment. In the soft light of JJ's office lamp, with two mugs of coffee and the nearly purloined cookies as witness, two friends made a second beginning this one perhaps better than the first.
Gradually however, awareness crept back in and the two agents stepped away. JJ handed Emily her coffee and with a significant look, walked around her desk and handed the dark haired woman a cookie.
"Here, take one for Reid too," JJ smiled and Emily chuckled, admitting the young doctor had, in fact, egged her on.
They ate in silence, but it was comfortable; a moment of shared contentment and peace. A moment that held the possibility of more like it.
Taking Reid's cookie, Emily turned to go, pausing one last time at the door.
"Jennifer? Thank you,"
The blonde haired woman didn't for a second think Emily was talking about the cookies.
"No, thank you," came the soft reply, weighted by as yet unexplored emotion.
A gentle nod was her reply and then Emily turned to go. JJ however, had one more thing to say,
"Oh and Emily, the next time you get an urge to play cat-burglar? Go steal Rossi's scotch," the press agent grinned impishly, and the rich sound of Emily's laughter lingered in JJ's heart long after the older woman had walked back to her desk.
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