DISCLAIMER: I do not own Criminal Minds or its characters. I wish I did, because it's an amazing show and Paget Brewster and A.J. Cook are hot, but...
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SEQUEL: To Psychopathology.

Chaos Theory
By Kyandralin


Chaos Theory: The branch of mathematics that deals with complex systems whose behavior is highly sensitive to slight changes in conditions, so that small alterations can give rise to strikingly great consequences

Date and Time: September 7, 2010, 03:06

Location: Prentiss-Jareau Home Outside Quantico, Virginia

Something's happened to Hotch.

Emily shook her head, trying to get her own words from nearly a year ago to stop repeating over and over, making her pounding headache progressively worse. She had felt something was wrong that day and she had been right, but that wasn't something she took pride in. After Haley and Jack had been put in protective custody she had found herself awake at three in the morning, looking through the Reaper files and trying to piece together anything on Foyet that would help take him down. She had known Hotch was doing exactly the same thing, unable to sleep until complete exhaustion overwhelmed him. She had chosen to act as a driver of sorts for him because she understood what it was to feel isolated by fear and guilt. He had to see he wasn't alone, but more than that he had to know it. Having a friend, someone he trusted, in his apartment with him was that much longer he wasn't reliving the moment he'd turned around and found a gun on him. That hole in his wall had been patched up easily enough, but Emily knew some part of him wished that bullet had gone through him instead. She could just picture him standing there, not turning, not blinking, giving Foyet nothing. If he had, if he had lost control of himself in a situation where he was already at the mercy of someone else, he would more than likely be dead. Later he'd been forced to fight Foyet in the house he'd raised Jack in along with Haley, making a place that was precious and sacred to him a crime scene and worse.

"Come to bed, sweetheart," JJ's voice called from just behind her, and she tilted to look up into blue eyes, feeling blonde hair brush her face as her lover lightly kissed her forehead. Jennifer was leaning over her from behind the couch, but the profiler felt no fear or crowding, which she would have with anyone else. Even two and a half years after everything with Samis she still found herself looking over her shoulder, tensing when someone touched her or came too close, and lapsing back into silence when hurt. Worse were the times when a wall or corner changed when she blinked, becoming the bomb shelter that was her personal hell, her constant nightmare, a nightmare only her Jennifer seemed to be able to stop before it got out of control. It would last only seconds, but that didn't stop her heart from pounding or her body from being momentarily paralyzed.


Nearly thirty-one months had passed for her and it was still there under the scar tissue, but she knew it was getting a little deeper, a little less raw and exposed, all the time. Hotch was still being tortured, the physical wounds barely a scratch compared to what was inside. She and Jennifer had talked about this before, and from the blonde's expression she knew what Emily was thinking about.

"I'm coming."

The liaison nodded, holding a hand out to her when she came around the couch. Emily smiled again, bringing it to her lips before stepping into the embrace her partner offered, breathing deeply when her tired, battered body responded to the contact by relaxing somewhat, leaving her blissfully sleepy.

"You're magic."

Jennifer laughed, pulling back to tug her to their room. Once the older woman was in bed she nudged her onto her stomach, and Emily sighed happily, knowing what was coming next. Sure enough strong, calloused hands worked their way from her temples to her neck and down her spine.

"You always say that."

"Because it's true," she purred contentedly, "You take such good care of me."

The brunette felt the hands pause and almost turned, but JJ gently held her down, continuing the massage as she answered.

"You take care of me too, Em, but tonight it's my turn. I know you're worried about Hotch, but the best thing you can do for him right now is rest. You can't help him by turning into him."

Emily sighed, then groaned as JJ found a particularly bad knot and slowly broke through it. Her lover was right, of course, but even though she knew that she couldn't help it. Hotch had done some pretty incredible things for her, some of which had put him at risk professionally, and sometimes personally. The whole team had rallied around him, but Emily knew the kind of distance he kept from others from firsthand experience, and knew how to crack it, at least a little. She was just glad he let her help. Still, it came at a price to her. Since Foyet had attacked Hotch in his apartment Emily had started having more nightmares and 'mini' panic attacks, and Haley's death had made things even worse. More than once she had said that home is supposed to be where a person felt safe, where a person was safe. Her old condo had lost that when the younger Samis had come, but she had another source of security, a lifeline and a safe place to retreat and recover. If she lost that security here... Her mind filled in the blanks with extreme detail and she shivered inwardly, flashes of blood around her, on her, from her, and metal digging into her back, and burning, and-

"Relax, Emily," JJ scolded, and she laughed weakly, realizing she had tensed up again. Her body had reacted to the images of Hotch in pain and her mind had taken that chemical fear response and brought up associated memories. Knowing why and how it had happened didn't particularly help, though. What did help was Jennifer's hands, the smell of her hair, the warmth of her body, and the heat of her lover's breath near her ear.

"You're beautiful, Emily," the blonde whispered, so close the profiler could feel the brush of soft lips as she spoke, "and I love you. You're safe here, with me, but I need you here, sweetie, not back there."

She felt those lips grin, then her ear was being nipped at, making her shiver for an entirely different reason.

"Besides, jealous woman like me? I don't share."

"Good," Emily answered breathlessly, "It would hurt my feelings."

Jennifer nipped her ear again just to make her breath hitch and watch the goosebumps and tremors spread, then pulled back. Emily rolled onto one side and tossed an arm around her, which she happily accepted, curling into the body it was attached to. It used to seem strange to her that they could go from Emily having one of her 'episodes' and needing comfort to Emily having her in a protective embrace, offering that same comfort in turn, but she had adjusted to it. They both needed it, and not just for equality in the exchanges. They were both confident, intelligent, and strong-willed, but the natural 'switching' of roles kept them in balance rather than at odds as often happened when such independent and stubborn people came together. If she had to describe her relationship with Emily, though, she would argue there weren't roles between them, not in the traditional sense. They didn't need them.



"Don't ever leave me."

The brunette frowned worriedly, tightening her grip on her partner. Jennifer must have woken up from one of her more disturbing nightmares and had needed to find her. Like the older woman she had them frequently enough, but they had gotten particularly bad after what had happened in Manhattan. After they'd come home they had spent several days with just each other and the dogs, getting their bearings back. Henry's birth had required even bigger changes and adjustment for all involved, but they loved and adored their son and had gotten through several very bad periods as a family. After Jennifer's early return to the BAU, leaving Henry with Haley, Jack, and Haley's sister, they had adjusted to being separated on cases, more or less, anyway, but the team knew what needed to be done if something happened while they were apart. They both trusted the team implicitly, but their nightmares and fears had so much to do with the safety of the other that there wasn't really any better way to help than to bring them together. Emily was relieved that the team was willing to support them in so many ways, but it was rather embarrassing to be so exposed to so many people, even them. It also troubled her to need one person so much for more than one reason, but her therapist had assured her that it wasn't weakness on her part, just part of the healing process, and JJ had said hers had told her nearly the same thing.

"She was your touchstone during the most traumatic period of your life. She was what you lived and fought for, the one thing he couldn't take from you despite everything he did. Why should it surprise you when she's the one who can draw you from the fear and pain of those memories? The same works in reverse. During that week her sole focus was finding and protecting you, and her fear of losing you is still intense and won't be easy to shake off given the work you both do. It's no wonder the pair of you feel safest together. Before you start questioning your own strength and courage, you need to remember you've made excellent progress since then and you continue to improve."

"But it isn't going to go away," she had answered softly, looking out the window of his office, "It's always going to be there."


"For her too."


She had known the answers to those questions, but she had still needed to ask them, just like Jennifer had needed to ask that question now. She needed to hear an answer, not just think one.

"No, love," she murmured soothingly, holding the smaller woman even more tightly, "Never willingly. I'm here now, though, and I'm not going anywhere, I promise. Sleep."

The blonde nodded, drifting off to sleep not long after. Emily still couldn't sleep, but she didn't move, just held JJ, whispering words of comfort whenever she started to tense and make the little sounds of fear and pain that heralded the onset of her nightmares. It was only once Jennifer woke up that she rose, going through her morning workout and taking a shower after. While the blonde finished her own workout and shower the profiler set about making breakfast for both of them, well versed in the dangers of unleashing her lover on the world on an empty stomach, something that had only grown worse during and since her pregnancy, but that wasn't a surprise. She was setting plates out when her partner came in wearing her robe and toweling her hair dry and the sight of the food made her grin and give the pleased chef a grateful kiss in passing.

"Emily Prentiss, what is so wrong with the world that no one had the sense to make you fall in love with them before me?"

"Make me? Is that what happened?"

JJ smirked, sticking her tongue out at her like a smug child.

"Right, whatever helps you sleep at night, missy."

"I have you, don't I?"

Emily shook her head in admission of defeat, smiling affectionately as she joined her partner at the table.

"That you do."

Without an active case, the BAU was in a sort of holding pattern that largely focused on paperwork, especially for JJ. By Thursday she felt like she was drowning, but she said nothing to anyone about it. Hotch and Morgan had enough to do with the transition of authority, Rossi was, well... Rossi... and Reid had been recruited by Garcia for whatever crazy stunt she was planning now. Normally Emily dropped by and those visits, even if they lasted just long enough for a roll of dark eyes, a sigh, a smile, or an apparently innocuous sip of coffee that told JJ more than words could have, were a lifeline. She hadn't known how much difference those visits had made until shortly after their most recent case. Emily had become distant again, and for one of the few times since she'd joined the team she was almost completely avoiding JJ at work. She didn't fault her beloved for that distance, though. It wasn't like she hadn't treated Emily worse. She had done far worse, in fact, but it wasn't indebtedness that kept her from confronting the older woman during the day or once they were home. Emily, who hadn't said more than a few words to Jennifer that day, wasn't looking for that. In reality the brunette flopped on the couch barely registered her lover's presence as more than an unconscious awareness of rightness in her world.


The profiler looked up, realizing she'd been rubbing her head again. Her headaches from the accident Schrader had used to escape in December had eased up, but she was still getting them on long days. The concussion hadn't been the worst head injury she'd ever had, but each one took her longer to fully recover from. Headaches and other causes of pain were hardly new to her, but she did get damn tired of so rarely being pain-free.

"Hey JJ," she greeted tiredly, intending to put up a front of reasonable good cheer to put off the concerns and questions in the shadowed eyes. She almost did, but her lover's knowing look gave her pause, and the realizations Jennifer had put Henry down for the night and that she smelled chocolate from the kitchen made her drop the idea entirely. JJ was taking care of her again with the same loving patience that had repeatedly saved her life and sanity. A flash of pain told her the use of the nickname in their home had stung, and she sighed, holding a hand out.

"Jennifer... I love you."

Blue eyes, still shaded with fear and a little resignation, lightened, then strong fingers were digging into her neck without hesitation. The dark woman moaned softly, the first pain of the massage rapidly fading into a low hum of pleasure and slow relaxation. JJ's hands knew her better than she did herself, which didn't surprise her but did sometimes leave her in awe of her housemate. Dark eyes closed when their hands met, the contact easing the slow boil the pain had been adding to. She let herself be led to their bed and drawn out of her shadowy thoughts, her body surrendering before her mind had a chance to fight. The fight would have been self-destructive, she realized the next morning when she woke to pleasant exhaustion in her muscles and the warmth of a strong body curled rather protectively around her. She hadn't had any nightmares, her headache was gone for the time being, and most importantly she didn't feel the darkness that had been haunting her for days or weeks at a stretch. Jennifer had taken all of that away for a little while. After her morning workout she found a grinning blonde in the shower waiting for her, then chocolate-chip pancakes ready at the table. The simple domesticity of feeding Henry and getting him to Haley's sister in time for them to get to work relaxed her further, but all it took was seeing Hotch's face as he said goodbye to Jack for the day to start bringing it back. By the time she got to the BAU bullpen much of the warm heat left over from the night before had faded, and blue eyes were again watching her with concern and uncertainty.

"Hey Emily, trouble in paradise?" Derek asked, his eyes almost as concerned as Jennifer's after watching her walk by the liaison's office without stopping for the second day in a row.


The reply was short and irritable, and just loud enough to get Reid's attention. Derek gave her a long, searching look that made her want to snap at him, an action only halted by Rossi's appearance as he crossed the room to get a cup of coffee. He was far too astute to miss the tension in the room, and Emily didn't want him to see or overhear an argument. Realizing that she would have started one over a relatively innocent question, however, made her stop short mentally. She had been short with her lover lately, and she did work with profilers. Most kinds of coworkers would have noticed something off, but these people were also her friends and family. He was asking because he felt someone needed to call her on it, and Jennifer wouldn't, at least not yet. They recognized that, even if they didn't know the reasons.

"No, nothing like that," she assured him quietly once Rossi had passed again. She trusted the Italian, but she didn't want to involve the older man in this. He'd probably give her one of those knowing, sardonic looks, and she would just want to slap him. Her temper was too frayed for Rossi. It was too frayed in general, and a glance at Derek told her it was spilling over more than she had guessed. She needed... something. Just...

"Prentiss? Hey, earth to Emily!"

She opened her eyes, surprised to find them closed, then found herself staring at her hand, finding a very unexpected answer there. She got up without answering Morgan verbally, though she did glare away the hand going for the little basket of chocolates that had appeared on her desk that morning. At JJ's office door she hesitated, almost knocked, then sighed, letting herself in. The blonde looked startled, but at a tentative smile from Emily her expression warmed to gentle welcome.

"What can I do for you, Emily?"

The older woman sat down slowly, gazing across the desk at her partner.

"Do you still want me to come?"

Jennifer shifted uncomfortably, but not so much at her question as at the memory of what she referred to. They hadn't talked about the trip JJ had been asked to make since that was when Emily had started reliving the day Hotch had been attacked and the day Haley had died. JJ knew that, knew the reasons, and really, really hated the situation they had been put in.

"Of course I do, Emily," she admitted quietly, brushing pale hair out of her eyes, "I don't really want to go at all, but I-"

"I know," the brunette broke in, shaking her head. This wasn't the place to go into the details. Despite the closed office door there was no privacy at the BAU except, perhaps, in the restrooms.

"You know I have to be at that appointment Friday, but I can be there Saturday morning. Hotch already signed off on vacation time since we were going to go to Montana after you got back..."

That settled things, and that was how Emily found herself frowning down at her phone a week later, checking the readout for the fourth time. Jennifer had called just a moment ago, but all she'd heard was a harsh breath and a sharp crack, then nothing, not even a ringtone. She tried calling back, but she got an automated message that the number couldn't be reached. Fear surged through her and she couldn't convince herself it was just paranoia or a result of missing her little family. It might have been possible if JJ's cell were just off, but for it to suddenly be unreachable...?

"I'm probably overreacting," the profiler muttered as she dialed a different number from memory, "I still need to be sure, though. They might-"

"Goddess of all things knowable and beautiful speaking, now granting miracles! What is your wish?"

The brunette smiled, but her nerves still wouldn't settle.

"Hopefully I won't need any miracles today," she replied, trying to sound unconcerned and failing, "but I need you to track Jennifer's cell. She called me, but it cut out and now her phone number is out of service."

"Out of service?" Garcia repeated, her voice losing much of its levity, "that's weird."

Emily was grateful her friend didn't ask whether or not she was sure. She listened to the clacking of keyboards, unhappy Garcia-noises, and a beeped alert in silence, her eyes fixed on where Shal and Ze'ev were wrestling but not really seeing them or the inactive baby monitor near her free hand. She was supposed to join her partner and their son in East Allegheny the next day where one of JJ's relatives had performed a christening for his newborn daughter. The blonde had been ambivalent about going, especially after they found that Emily would be detained by an appointment for a MRI she couldn't afford to miss. Despite her misgivings JJ had wanted to see the new baby and introduce Henry to her family, something she had managed to put off for so long only by way of much guilt and arguing. They hadn't decided if they would 'come out' to the Jareau family, but Jennifer had wanted her there regardless, and she wanted to be where her lover and son were.

"Emily, I can't find it," the tech analyst's voice reported miserably, "I've tried everything I can think of, but any signals cut off just before you called. It might just have gotten broken, though. Maybe she dropped it?"

"Maybe. If she did I'm sure she'll call back soon. Thanks, Garcia."

Penelope's response was uncertain, and so was Emily. JJ didn't trust her family not to do something stupid if they knew about Will's role, or lack of one, in Henry's life. They were already giving the blonde trouble because there was no man in her life to "settle her down." Jennifer's father had made more than a few pointed remarks about Henry growing up "deviant" and her mother had loudly and repeatedly worried that JJ couldn't possibly handle the stress of raising the baby "alone and so far from the security and comfort of family." It all seemed typical and benign enough, but the comments and arguments had set Jennifer on edge about going, especially without her partner, and Emily knew enough about her beloved's parents to be uneasy. She contemplated calling the house, coming up with plenty of reasons not to risk it.

"Not just yet," she muttered to her queasy stomach, "Give her some time."

By late that evening Emily's nerves had been stretched too thin. Even a run with the dogs couldn't wear the anxiety out of her, and they were getting anxious in response. The brunette did the best she could to reassure them before going back in and giving in to her need for action. She gathered her bag and hardware, though the latter she carried more out of habit than any anticipation of need. She would have needed to do so anyway when she left the next day, but on the off chance she needed to leave in a hurry, she wanted to be ready. The profiler took a long, calming breath before picking up the phone, but hesitated again. There was a new message, but the number wasn't Jennifer's. It was from the area she was in, so maybe she had called from someone else's phone?

"This is a message for Agent Emily Prentiss regarding your colleague Jennifer Jareau. As her authorized emergency contact I'm calling to inform you she was brought to the ER in East Allegheny tonight for psych reasons and has been admitted pending an evaluation tomorrow. Please contact us as early as possible tomorrow to discuss her disposition."

Emily sank down onto the couch, trying to make sense of what she had just heard. Some distant corner of her mind was extremely grateful they had the paperwork in place, but mostly she was shaken and confused. She broke free of the shock quickly and dialed another number, determined to find out what the hell was going on, who was responsible, and fix it. A voice she recognized as Mrs. Jareau's answered, sounding a little tense but not as if something terrible had happened to her daughter.

"Mrs. Jareau? This is Emily Prentiss, Je- JJ's friend? I haven't been able to reach her and I just got a mes-"

"You leave my daughter alone," a harsh male voice broke in, making Emily jump and her heart beat spike, "She wants nothing further to do with you, and she'll be staying here with her family where she belongs. God bless and don't call here again."

Emily stood frozen for a minute, trying to rein in her racing heart and emotions. She was surprised by how much that statement had hurt, even though she knew it to be blatantly untrue. Short of something happening to her partner and son, that was one of her worst fears. It was illogical in the extreme, but then fear often was. The conclusion jarred her out of her confusion and she grabbed her things, tossing them in her car and leaving without further hesitation. It wasn't an unbearably long drive, but it would take a while. She had already made sure Ze'ev and Shal had plenty of food and water, and they were used to entertaining themselves while their humans were away. The brunette was angry at herself for not going with Jennifer and Henry in the first place, even though she knew there had been no way around that. Anger, like fear, didn't tend to be submissive to logic.

"This sucks," she decided, shaking her head as she got on the interstate, "I hope Jennifer's staying out of trouble."

She snorted mentally, knowing her partner much better than that. Like her and the rest of their team, Jennifer attracted trouble, this being a good example. Hours and many cups of very bad gas station coffee later she drove into East Allegheny, but once there realized she didn't know where to go. Showing up at the Jareau's door wouldn't get her anything but a fight and Jennifer wouldn't be there anyway. There was only one hospital here, but there was no way they'd let her in this early. She leaned against the car as she put more gas in it, then realized she did have one place to start.

"This better be important," a very grumpy, sleepy, Penelope growled when she answered the phone, but when Emily explained she stopped complaining. Well, mostly, but the profiler could hardly blame her for that. It was four in the morning.

"Okay, what exactly do you need me to do?"

"I need to know who admitted her and why, then maybe I can make some kind of plan."

With a yawn and a grumble Garcia got to searching, and Emily tried to make herself patient and content to wait as long as it took. "As long as it took," as it turned out, wasn't that long.

"Em, her parents had her admitted. In the report it says she was being threatened and stalked, and the stress had gotten to her. She's scheduled for a psych eval in the morning, but there's a note here that says the doc that talked to her after she regained consciousness didn't think she was incompetent. The evaluation is probably a formality to get her released."

"Threatened and stalked?" the dark agent repeated lowly, her free hand clenching into a fist, "By me, I bet. She must have told them something. If they weren't her parents..."

"Your best bet would probably be to stay at a hotel or something for a couple hours. She's scheduled to be seen on first rounds at 6:30."

"That's in two hours. I'm not getting a hotel room for two hours."

"Think, Emily," Garcia scolded, her voice a little snappy, "She's probably not going to want to go straight back to her parents' house, they're probably "babysitting" Henry, and you're way too exhausted to drive home right away anyway."

She was right, of course, but part of Emily still demanded immediate action. With a sigh she stuffed down the reckless impulse to race down there, instead getting back in the car and setting the GPS for the nearest hotel to the hospital. All she had to do was walk across the street, she noticed happily from the window of her room. She was far too keyed up to sleep, though she knew she'd be crashing later. Her leg hurt too much to pace, she had no interest in whatever infomercials were on TV, and she hadn't brought anything to read. For lack of anything more comforting or interesting to do she started writing in the journal she still used intermittently. One of many glances at her watch told her it was the earliest time she could hope to get access to her beloved, and she left the room after only a quick brush through her hair and a splash of water across her face. The hospital was hardly bustling, but there was plenty of purposeful activity around her as she walked. A glance at a directory and a press of a button had her on the way to the psych floor to find the reception desk dark, but she had expected that.

"Do I wait for Jennifer to be let out or..."

The brunette grinned wryly, knowing herself better than that. Before long a nurse came by, clearly startled to see the stunning woman standing there.

"Visiting hours haven't started, ma'am," came the confused greeting, and Emily shook her head, giving the man a tired smile.

"I know. A... friend... was admitted last night under false pretenses and I was notified. I'd like to talk to her doctor."

He hesitated, studying her, then nodded slowly, proving he knew exactly who she was talking about.

"May I see your credentials, ma'am?"

Grateful she'd brought them, she handed over her badge, which he looked over before handing them back.

"Miss Jareau told the charge nurse who spoke with her last night she expected an Agent Prentiss to arrive at some point today, though she didn't suggest it would be first thing this morning."

Before she could come up with some vague or evasive response he smiled, his laughter dry.

"I'm not blind, Agent. She's not just a colleague, but that's no one's business but yours. I'll be back in a moment."

She stared after him, then laughed helplessly. Garcia had once told her anyone with a brain could see they were in love. That hadn't exactly proven true, but apparently it was in this case. After a few long minutes the unit door opened, this time to admit a tall, striking woman she guessed was in her early or mid thirties carrying a chart and wearing a badge clipped to her elegant but understated blue knit sweater. Her eyes were a soft, warm brown, giving her an air of gentleness and compassion that might have comforted her in other circumstances.

"Agent Prentiss, I'm Karen Leigh. Would you come with me, please?"

Deeply ingrained caution had her hesitating, and the woman she guessed was a psychiatrist shook her head, causing some of her long black hair to cascade over her shoulder, and gave her an apologetic look.

"My apologies, agent. I'm Agent Jareau's doctor while she's here. You have the legal right to be informed of what's going on and your partner asked to see you as soon as you arrived. I was just about to meet with her, and I would guess you're eager to make sure she's all right. I'm hoping the two of you will be able to understand what brought her here."

This time Emily followed when she started to walk away, though she couldn't help the tension that ran up her body as the doors closed and locked behind them. She had never liked being closed in, but tired as she was her self-control was being tested enough as it was. Still, she followed the other woman down a corridor, past a nurse's station, and into an office. A moment later the nurse that had met Emily led Jennifer in, and tired blue eyes lit up on seeing her lover.

"Emily," she breathed reverently, "Oh, thank God... Emily..."

The profiler crossed the room and folded her beloved into a warm, strong hug she just managed to keep from being crushing. She could feel JJ shaking as she started crying and ignored the wetness just reaching through her silk top in favor of holding her obviously distressed companion.

"I'm here."

The liaison hiccuped, then pulled back and wiped her eyes and face. As one they turned when the doctor cleared her throat, but the woman was giving them a small smile. She waved them toward the chairs in front of her desk, but a look from JJ had Emily standing at her side, a hand on her shoulder. The doctor said nothing, not even seeming to notice.

"Well, obviously you don't feel you're in any danger from Agent Prentiss, and you show no signs of Stockholm Syndrome or similar trauma. You're also not drugged or beaten into submission."

Both women stared, matching expressions of horror, outrage, and shock crossing their faces.

"What would..."

JJ trailed off, then seemed to wilt in her chair, a hand pressing on the one Emily still had on her shoulder.

"My parents. That's... I don't even know what to call that. Sick? Infuriating? Dead wrong?!"

She might have gone off ranting, but the doctor shook her head, giving them a look both understanding and wise. Emily forced her hurt and anger, a mirror to Jennifer's, deep inside herself. She wasn't strong enough to deal with it at that moment and she didn't want to lose control in front of this doctor who had been given such a warped view of her. Leigh was clearly intelligent enough to see past the lies, but she couldn't take the chance something would stick.

"I can see that's all untrue, Agent Jareau. I recognized that as soon as I met your partner. She cares far too much about you to be any of the things your parents accused her of. She's clearly not craven, brutish, or cruel, and now that we have that established let us talk plainly. Why do you think your parents would take such drastic steps to separate you?"

"I don't know," JJ replied hollowly, her hand tightening around Emily's until the grip was white-knuckled and hard, "but I'm not a child, Doctor. I'm a federal agent, and I've been living independently of my parents since I graduated from high school. Emily and I have been working and... and living together for a long time. We fight sometimes, but who doesn't? The closest we come to violence is sparring at the gym when we have the time."

"I'd never intentionally hurt Jennifer," the brunette added quietly, noticing but not commenting on JJ's acceptance of the reference to her as 'partner' and not something more politic, "I've never even met or talked to her parents before. I don't know how they could have gotten that image of me."

"I believe you," Dr. Leigh repeated simply, brushing loose black hair behind her ear, "I have no concerns about discharging you, Agent Jareau, but I am concerned about what you plan to do next. In the claim your parents gave they felt you were 'unstable' due to what I can only assume to be Agent Prentiss's influence, and 'unfit to be a mother' while around her. They also felt Agent Prentiss was a danger to your child. Why would that be?"

JJ had paled dramatically on hearing herself and Emily described so horribly, and to Emily she looked as if she were about to be violently ill.

"Henry is my son too," she explained quietly while JJ struggled for control, "I have parental rights and we both love him very much."

"I see..."

She hid it well, but the profiler could see the psychiatrist was deeply disturbed by what she was hearing and seeing. Just then JJ gagged, but Dr. Leigh reacted rapidly, coming up with a small trash bin from under her desk and handing it to Emily, who crouched down with JJ and held her hair back as she threw up. The blonde shook violently, her pale face covered in beads of sweat.

"I've got you, love," Emily murmured softly, whispering other reassurances without registering what she was saying. JJ coughed again, then dove into Emily's familiar arms, seeking the sanctuary she knew she would find there. It was all too much. She was exhausted, her parents had done and said things that cut right through her, and they were apparently trying to take Henry from her and her partner, who loved him as much as his biological mother did. They had used chloroform or something similar to knock her out, which had left her with a pounding headache, and she couldn't hold up against all the hits alone.

"He's our son," JJ gasped from where she hid in a strong shoulder, "Your son. I can't believe..."

"Shhh, mi amour. We'll get this figured out. I promise. No one is going to take our son."

The exhausted, over-stressed communications liaison slowly calmed under her lover's words and touch, finally finding the strength to look up at the doctor and accept the box of tissues she offered.

"I'm sorry-"

"No, no need to apologize," Leigh broke in, shaking her head and studying them with gentle, understanding brown eyes, "This is a lot to take in all at once. I'll process your discharge, but before you leave I have to ask... what do you intend to do about your parents?"

JJ shook her head, unable to decide between sorrow and rage. She could feel the tension running through Emily worsening with every passing moment, but the older agent wouldn't show it while they were here. What had been done and said about her was bad, but much of her sick misery came from knowledge of the harm done to her partner, and what more was coming. She cursed her parents yet again, and herself. She had trusted them for some reason, but this was worse than unforgivable. She didn't say any of that, though. The doctor didn't need to know most of her thoughts, but she was honest in her reply.

"I don't know yet. I just want to get our son and go home to our dogs and our team. I think we'll get some rest and then go from there."

Dr. Leigh seemed to be weighing that, then sighed and started filling out paperwork without dismissing them. JJ hadn't been brought in with anything except what she was wearing, so there was no reason to send her back to her room, and the press liaison got the feeling she wanted to release her almost as much as Jennifer wanted out. Before they left the psychiatrist handed them one more document, but this wasn't a form for one or both to sign.

"This is a copy of your admission report," she explained without needing to be asked, "I don't know if it'll help you plan your next step, but I think you should know what you're facing from your parents."

Blue eyes scanned the report, swallowing against another wave of nausea. Emily gave her a concerned, questioning look, but she shook her head, wordlessly asking for time before going into and over the poison her parents had spewed. The tired profiler acquiesced, if reluctantly, and they left the hospital as soon as they possibly could. It took a long, hot shower for JJ to feel more or less human again, and she happily changed into a set of Emily's sweats rather than put her clothes from yesterday on again. They smelled like hospital and stomach acid, which wasn't exactly comforting to either agent.

"I know," she broke in when her lover started to ask a question, "but not yet, Emily. Come to bed with me."

The brunette was startled at being preempted, but she did as asked and slipped into the large hotel bed with her beloved wrapped around her. It wasn't until Jennifer had her in a strong, surprisingly protective embrace that her own distress and exhaustion broke past the wall she'd put up, leaving her shaking and crying in uncontrollable waves until her body surrendered to exhaustion and the familiar warmth of her partner. JJ watched her reluctantly lapse into sleep, holding the unconscious woman as tightly as she dared, her body soaking in the contact and eventually relaxing somewhat. She settled herself more firmly against Emily before dropping into uneasy sleep that was still the most restful she'd had since she had come to Pennsylvania Thursday. Sleeping in a bed she wasn't sharing with her partner wasn't easy or especially pleasant, so despite everything that had happened and was going to she smiled, taking what comfort and ease she could get for now. After they woke and managed to eat a little they left again, the brunette driving while her partner stared out the window beside her. They had read the admission report together before leaving, and despite having seen it before it was hitting JJ the hardest.

"How are you holding up?"

Emily shook her head when the blonde failed to hear her, sighing silently. Jennifer's parents were far from being criminal masterminds, but they still had to be careful. They didn't know how the older Jareau's would react at finding out their daughter had not only easily gotten herself discharged from the hospital they'd stuck her in, she had done so with the help of the 'sinful, deviant, rich, devil-spawned woman responsible for perverting their innocent child and threatening their precious grandson and his caring, concerned father.' Neither agent could decide how to react to the description they'd read in the admissions report, but as she drove them to Jennifer's childhood home she could see and feel her lover's anger building and growing into hot rage.

"Jennifer?" she tried hesitantly, not wanting to set off her edgy companion. JJ turned stormy blue eyes on her lover, but the liaison didn't lash out at the older woman.

"I know they meant well, Em, but that's not good enough," she explained instead, wishing she could fold herself into those strong, inviting arms as she had when Emily arrived, "I'm a responsible, competent, independent adult, and you are as much Henry's mother as I am. They have no right to make decisions for any of us, much less force those decisions like they did. What could they possibly hope to accomplish by trying to have me admitted like that? No halfway sane doctor would let that stand!"

"And you have every right to have them arrested," Emily broke in, her dark eyes sad, "both for that and taking Henry, but you won't. Let's get our son and go home, okay?"

JJ considered that, then sighed.

"Pull over, Emily."

The profiler did, wordlessly getting out and coming around the car to hold her tightly, just as she needed her to. JJ soaked in the warmth, love, and security, falling more in love when her partner didn't say or ask anything when she started to cry. She just held on, a buffer against the world and the cold emptiness in the blue eyes.

"What am I supposed to say to them, 'Mly? I need to know why they did this, but I'm so damn angry I'm afraid I'll hit someone no matter what they say, and that'll just prove I'm unstable and unfit to be a mother."

"Do you want my advice?"

Jennifer considered that, hardly surprised Emily knew to ask. In general a question like that was rhetorical, but Emily was very familiar with her reaction to anything that could be considered overbearing or controlling.

"Yes," the liaison admitted, "I can't think and when I try I just get madder. Why is it this gets to me more than some of the cases we've seen?"

"Because they went right for the throat, Jennifer, yours and mine. When we're dealing with a criminal we know we're in danger. That should never be the case in your parent's house."

"No... and that is part of what makes me so mad. That's supposed to be my home. It isn't, but what they did... I don't want to ever step foot in there again."

"Right now all that matters is getting Henry," the profiler repeated gently, her arms tightening reflexively, "I don't think you should say much of anything to them other than that until you're calmer and you have a better handle on how you feel about all this."

"This is just so..."

"Fucked up?" Emily finished dryly, getting a chuckle from Jennifer.

"That pretty much covers it."

The rest of the drive was quiet, both agents acutely aware of the other's distress, but also aware the time and place to face and deal with it would come later. The two people who stepped out of Emily's car in front of the Jareau household appeared calm, professional, and self-assured, their quiet entrance startling the older couple just finishing a late lunch.


Jennifer gazed into blue eyes that nearly matched her own, assessing her father the same way she might an UnSub. After a long moment she turned the same look on her mother, then glanced around, mapping the room like it was enemy territory, which, after all, it had become.

"Where is my son?"

The cool, professional tone of the question was obviously not what her parents had expected, and they stared at her for a long moment. She looked back in silence, projecting only the experienced federal agent and not at all the smiling, laughing girl they liked to think of her as.

"JJ, what are you doing here?" her father asked, his shock fading into confusion, then anger as his eyes fell on the dark form at his daughter's shoulder. He rose, his expression darkening, but JJ didn't give an inch when he approached, nor did her companion. On the way here the blonde had considered many approaches to this conversation but she hadn't chosen one until she'd stepped inside the door. It was no surprise, however, that Emily could follow her lead without any prompting or explanation.

"Where is my son?" she repeated, not reacting outwardly to her father's nearness. He hesitated, but the burning anger spurred him forward again, and the look he turned on Emily was bitter and hateful.

"You! I told you not to bother my daughter or grandson again! They don't need your perversion or poison!"

"Mr. Jareau, I don't believe we've met. I'm Supervisory Special Agent Emily Prentiss," the brunette answered, her tone a subtle rebuke for his rudeness. JJ had to work not to grin at that, not needing to turn to know Emily was giving him a look perfected by Ambassador Prentiss.

"I know exactly who you are! What you are! Get out of my house before I have you thrown in jail!"

"JJ, ask your friend to leave so we can talk in private," her mother broke in reasonably, "this is a family matter, not something for outsiders to take part in."

Emily smiled right into their faces, years as 'the ambassador's daughter' more than preparing her to face these two. Jennifer wanted her there and they had her son. She wasn't going anywhere, and she wasn't going to be bullied or threatened.

"You assaulted and illegally hospitalized a federal agent," she observed pleasantly, "and you're holding the son of that agent against his mother's will. As Henry is too young to speak for himself, the law defers to Agent Jareau's judgement."

"The law?!" the male Jareau demanded, taking a threatening step forward but effectively blocked by his daughter, "What about God's law!? You are a sinner and a deviant, and I am protecting my family as is my right and responsibility!"

"Henry is with his father," JJ's mother added, "where he belongs, and where our daughter belongs. Please leave. You have no place here."

Jennifer stiffened, blue eyes flashing dangerously as the pieces came together.

"Will told you about me and Emily. That's why you drugged me and stuffed me in a hospital, and kidnapped my son. Did you really think that would 'fix' everything?"

"You are my responsibility and I did what was best for y-"

"No," she interrupted sharply, standing toe to toe with the man she had once wanted to please above all others and seeing a stranger, "I am responsible for myself, and I have been for a long time. I am perfectly capable of deciding what is best for me and my son."

Rage twisted inside her, trying to slide out of her control and lash out like a striking cobra. She held on to it, but only barely.

"What exactly were you hoping to accomplish with that stunt, anyway?" she snarled, shaking with the effort of maintaining control, "What did you and Will think you would get out of it? Henry and a suddenly compliant wife and daughter? It doesn't work like that."

"If you could just get out from under the influence of that... that minion of Satan you would see reason! You aren't being rational and we need to protect you!"


The quiet word in her ear stopped her from attacking her father, and she took a harsh, deep breath, shaking her head. As she had once before with Will she took a half step back, and Emily was there, her bulwark and strength just as she was for the dark woman. Blue eyes closed at the contact and the reminder, then reopened and pinned the older Jareau's with a glare usually reserved for the worst of the scum they saw.

"Will acted out of jealousy and stupidity. You acted out of ignorance and arrogance. I'm not sure which is worse."

"JJ," her mother started, giving her the same look she had when JJ had been three years old throwing a tantrum, "There's no need to argue about this. Ask your friend to go so we can settle this properly, as a family."

"Family, huh?" Jennifer repeated softly, the word full of pain, remembered and current. She sagged tiredly, not even able to be angry anymore. She was so damn tired, and the whole situation was absurd. Her parents were completely entrenched in their little world, and they really thought they were right. They had no comprehension of the seriousness of what they'd done or the consequences if she were to press charges. They weren't stupid or insane, nor were they being deliberately malicious, at least not to her. They were chasing a phantom, the daughter they wanted rather than what they had and that hurt, but it was no excuse for their behavior or actions.



She gazed at her suddenly scared partner over her shoulder, knowing she deserved the doubts in the dark eyes. Emily half-expected her to deny or reject her, but that had never been a possibility. She reached back with one hand, fingertips brushing and then taking a strong hand.

"Let's get Garcia on this so we can all go home."

Dark eyes brightened and calmed, then suddenly widened as they slid past her. Sharp pain tore through her arm, and she realized its source was her father trying to yank her away from Emily. The hate in his face as he glared at her lover sent fire through her body, the energy allowing her to shove the older man away and put herself between him and the woman who was her life. His eyes, so like hers, narrowed, and he backhanded her across the face. It was only the second time in her life he had raised a hand to her, but this time she wasn't a scared teenager, and she never would be that girl again. JJ met his glare with one of her own, obviously shocking him with her defiance and utter lack of fear.

"Every day I look through files detailing the worst horrors humans are capable of inflicting on one another, or I'm out in the field trying to catch the people who commit those crimes. I've seen things you couldn't imagine in your worst nightmares, and you have the audacity to think you know me, or what's best for me? I'm not your little girl to bully and manipulate. I'm a federal agent more than capable of making educated decisions and judgements, though..."

She looked back over her shoulder, giving Emily a sad smile while adding, "though you wouldn't always be able to tell from my behavior where it counts."

The liaison sobered, but took comfort in the momentary brush of a hand across her back.

"I have a son I would give the world for and a partner who deserves the world and more. I have a family I can go to with anything and trust with my life."

Blue eyes slid past the matching pair to her mother, who was apparently as stunned as her father, and she wasn't going to give them a chance to recover or misinterpret what she was telling them.

"But that family isn't here. It never was, and it's time I went home."

She tangled her fingers in paler ones and tugged Emily forward, around her parents and up to the room she'd grown up in. She gathered the few things she'd left out of her bag and slung it over her shoulder, stopping at the door to look around at the reminders of her childhood and youth.

"I couldn't wait to get out of here when I turned eighteen," JJ observed aloud, giving her lover a sad but confident smile when she turned away from the past, "and now I know how big the world outside is in all its splendor and sickness. I couldn't fit back here if I tried, and I won't."

A tanned hand brushed dark hair away from darker eyes, staying to cup a soft cheek.

"You're where I belong, and who I belong to. Let's get out of here."

That plan was made difficult by the appearance of her mother with the shotgun JJ's father had always kept in the house for protection, though the likelihood of someone breaking in to their home in the little town was pretty low. She hadn't understood that when she was younger, though, and she had feared the specter intensely. Now the thing that was supposed to be a shield against violence and violation here was being turned against her, and she couldn't even find it in herself to be surprised. That her mother was pointing the weapon at her was stranger than being held at gunpoint by one of her parents.

"We've tried to reason with you at every turn, Jenny, but you just can't seem to understand we know what you need and are making sure you get it. You won't disgrace your sister's memory and this family! You're going to stay here, marry yo-"

JJ had had enough. She slipped her hand back, coming back up with Emily's gun and firing without hesitation. She stalked forward, picking up the shotgun and tossing it to her partner, who emptied it automatically but was staring at her just as much as her mother was fixated on the bullet hole next to her head. The gun was steady on her father when he came running, freezing him in place too.

"One more step and I'll change my mind about having you arrested and charged with assault and kidnapping," she grated harshly, gesturing Emily forward and away from her parents. The brunette pocketed the shotgun shells and did as urged, stuck between shock, awe, desire, and concern. Jennifer was clearly at the end of some sort of tether, but even so she was almost irresistibly sexy in her current mood. The profiler scoffed at herself, but the flashing blue eyes, defiant face, and proud toss of blonde hair still had a magnetic effect on her. She kept her mouth shut, hands on the wheel, and eyes ahead while JJ talked to Garcia and then directed her back to their hotel while their friend worked on tracking Will.

"I think I know why Will chose now to try this," the analyst reported when they spoke with her again, not needing to be prompted to explain further, "He tried to go through the courts, but he was refused not once but several times. He couldn't find anyone willing to represent him, and he was recently sanctioned for drinking and unacceptable conduct."

"It must be bad if New Orleans police are getting on him for drinking," JJ pointed out cynically, and her friends had to agree.

"So we know he's acting out," a male voice commented, making Emily and JJ smile as they pictured Rossi leaning over Garcia's desk, "but he doesn't profile as the kind of man who would hurt his own son. Family is too important to him."

"He may truly believe what he told the Jareau's," Hotch's voice added, and they could just picture their team assembled in Penelope's office, all staring at her screens, parsing through the information and building the profile.

"I think he does," JJ admitted unhappily, realizing she was clutching Emily's hand like a lifeline. The dark agent was doing the same thing in turn, though, so she let the observation go and turned her thoughts back to the 'hunt'.

"So we all agree the target of any anger or violence is likely to be Prentiss, not Agent Jareau or Henry?" Rossi asked thoughtfully. At the affirmatives he muttered something the two women couldn't catch, then Hotch's voice answered more loudly, laying out a rather cunning plan to secure Henry without endangering anyone. It was extremely simple, but in no way careless or unconcerned. Two hours later, when Will opened the door of his hotel room to admit an apparently calm, friendly JJ, the blonde could only shake her head mentally. Will LaMontagne had never been the brightest man she'd known, but looking at him now made her wonder what a life with him rather than Emily would have been like. Dreadfully dull, if nothing else. She could never have left the BAU for him, and she would never have been content as the happy little kept wife. Her life with Emily was full of life and color, and if it was difficult at times, what worth having wasn't? She saw the moment he realized someone was standing in the door he hadn't pushed closed. It would have swung closed on its own but for the dark form stopping it. An inarticulate growl was all Will could manage before throwing himself at Emily, only to find himself being restrained and pressed to the carpeted floor by Derek. Emily spared him only a glance before going to her partner and son, embracing both tightly. She was more disturbed than she wanted to admit by the wildness and hatred in the detective's face, and while she knew logically that hadn't been directed at the other members of her precious little family, she still felt an instinctive need to protect them from him.

"You okay?"

Blue eyes gazed at her affectionately, but the sound of Will cursing and struggling caused Jennifer to tighten her hold on her their son and move into Emily, needing the heat and solidity of her as an anchor. From what they heard while Derek yanked the detective down the hall he really had believed JJ would 'come to her senses' and leave the brunette. Hotch and Rossi escorted them down to the lobby, where they watched Will get passed into police custody. JJ handed Henry over to her partner so she could fill out some paperwork, and she was unsurprised to find herself trailed by Hotch while Rossi stayed with the dark woman. She was surprised when he stopped her before she could rejoin them, though.

"Does she know about the Pentagon, JJ?"

Blue eyes flashed, searching around them before going back to the hawk's stare waiting for her.

"No. She has enough to worry about without something that isn't an issue."

He nodded, but his face remained far too serious.

"You're getting pressure, aren't you?"

"I'll handle it, but JJ... you might want to discuss it with her."

She sighed tiredly, gazing longingly at Emily and Henry. Life could never just leave them alone and let them have rest and peace.

"Maybe after we get back from Montana," she temporized, but despite knowing she was more stalling than anything Hotch dropped it, even smiling when she hinted after the jet. He knew at least as well as she did that sometimes they all just had to tell life to shut up and back off, and this was one of those days.

"Have fun."

"We will."

Date and Time: October 5, 2008

Location: Quantico, Virginia, Jennifer Jareau's Office

JJ stared at the phone in her hand, momentarily frozen. The voice on the other end continued to talk, but she didn't hear what it was saying. What he had said before was still with her.

"Liberty Ranch was just raided by the state police. Nancy called to tell us they were about to arrive not long before all hell broke loose. I think your agents are in there with her. We don't know what happened, or how."

Your agents are in there with her...

"Agent Jareau?!"

She shook herself, her knuckles turning white as her grip on the phone tightened with the strain of keeping herself under control.

"I'm here," she assured the child services agent at the other end of the line, "I'm here."

"I wanted you to hear it from me first, even though the press is all over it," he explained helplessly, "I'm so sorry-"

"No need to be sorry," she replied absently, her mind breaking free of the shock and starting to race, "I need to..."

"I understand. Let me know if I can do anything."

She hung up, closing her eyes for just a moment to try and rein in her volatile emotions. She couldn't do it. She stood, breaking into a near run to get into the bullpen. She knew Morgan said something to her, but she didn't care. It was irrelevant. She flicked on the large television at the other end of the bullpen, and there it was for all of them to see: Liberty Ranch, gunfire, hostages and a failed raid... All of it. It took a moment for Derek to understand, but when he did his reaction was almost as powerful as Jennifer's own, albeit louder.


The unit chief and Rossi bolted out of their offices, taking in the horrible drama playing out on the television just as every phone in the room started to ring. JJ looked up at her supervisor, and his hawk-like stare went straight to her for a second. He knew. It hung there between them in air thick with shrill screams from telephones and confused chatter of men and women. Emily and Reid were in there. Emily was in there. That was all she needed to start moving again and Hotch straightened, eyes flashing as he took command, ordering his team to get ready to fly. They would be leading Hostage Rescue and Support to get their people out. Jennifer could have hugged him if there had been any time to think, much less do, anything of the sort. There was no time, though. Reid and Emily, her Emily, were hostages of a fringe religious group that had apparently been the subject of a weapon's investigation along with sexual assault accusations.

'Please God don't take her from me. Not again. Hasn't she suffered enough?'

Three hellish days passed and the answer to that question proved to be a resounding 'no.'

"I can take it."

'No, Emily, no!'

"I can take it."

Rossi and Hotch had ordered the raid team to stand down, leaving JJ standing off to one side screaming inside her mind. She wanted to force them to act, force them to go in and take out the bastard beating Emily, but she couldn't. All she could do was wait and make herself remember that her team was the best, that they wouldn't let anything to their colleagues, but it was Emily in there. She loved her team and Reid was practically her little brother, but the brunette was her life.

'I get to be that face and voice on the tv, and every time she hears or sees me she knows I can't help her. She knows I'm safe here while she has a gun to her head. Emily... just make it home.'

Jennifer leaned back against one of the SUV's parked a little away from the command center, needing distance from the press, people, and memories, and watching the activity with little outward emotion. This was supposed to be it and Emily was supposed to be safe, but she was so scared. Losing her lover would destroy her, but that wasn't the worst part. The situation with Will in New York and the way the team had found out about her pregnancy could have ended their relationship, she was sure. It hadn't, obviously, but the tension between them had been growing ever since, and she had no one to blame but herself. Her nightmare had terrified her, and not just because of what she'd seen while trapped in it. That Emily was essential to her was no surprise, but that the loss of her, through rejection, injury, or something else, could so thoroughly ruin her left her scared and torn between pulling away emotionally or doing as Emily had been struggling to do and simply embracing the strength of what they shared. If she were being precise, what had her so confused and shaken was the way her mind and body had completely given in to the nightmare, to the point where she had apparently been going into shock. She hadn't been able to address that and the baby on anything more than a superficial level, and Emily hadn't pushed, her own stress and fear adding to the weird gulf between them. Now, because of that communications failure she was standing here remembering that she hadn't told Emily she loved her before she'd left three days ago.

"I can take it."

After what Jonah Samis had done to her the beating she'd taken from Cyrus probably seemed trivial, but hearing her pain, the shattering of glass and a body being thrown around, had left the liaison on the verge of falling back into the darkness left over from her nightmare. She needed to see the older woman, needed to touch her and tend to her wounds, needed her partner to feel the same trust she had when she had been so badly hurt before, the trust that had made JJ her Jennifer and more.


She looked up, mostly unsurprised to see Hotch coming up to her out of the dark. She didn't say anything, instead turning back to the surreal scene that could take Emily away from her again. If he had been able to the unit chief would have been right there in the thick of things, but the explosion in New York had made it too dangerous for him to go, just as her pregnancy had for her.

 "Prentiss is leading the women and children out through that tunnel," he continued, watching with her as what he was explaining happened, "She's already been accounted for. Reid is in the chapel with Cyrus, but Morgan is on his way there."

The explosion sent both agents reeling, albeit for different reasons, leaving them to help each other get their bearings back and force themselves to wait. An SUV raced back up the dirt road, stopping just inside the perimeter of the command post, delivering two coughing, mildly charred men. Rossi got out of the driver's seat and opened the passenger door behind his, helping a blood-stained, battered, and dirty Emily out. JJ closed the distance between them in a rush, stopping just short of grabbing hold of her partner. She wanted to, but the brunette was shivering and stiff, so the liaison restricted herself to brushing her hair back and cupping a bruised, swollen cheek. Emily leaned into the touch, then moved forward and half-fell into her lover's arms, pulling her into a forceful embrace.

"I love you, Emily," Jennifer whispered as she pulled her closer, using her own body to provide Emily's with heat and support. The profiler just nodded and buried her face, which was fever-hot, in the blonde's neck, where JJ felt tears and shallow, gasping breaths as Emily sobbed silently. The blonde rubbed her back, accepting the blanket Rossi reappeared with and helping him wrap it around the dark woman with a grateful smile. Emily's shivering eased somewhat, but her grip didn't loosen. When she looked up into blue eyes she wore an expression that was painfully similar to how she'd looked when she'd talked about the woman she'd allowed herself to be captured for, a woman Jonah Samis had brutally murdered regardless.


"I told her we would get Jesse out, Jennifer," she answered hoarsely, "Morgan did too, but... Reid said she was the one who set off the charges in the church after seeing Cyrus dead. She died for him and took people with her, and I looked her mother in the eye and couldn't say anything. That woman made it possible for me and the women and children to get out, and I couldn't even protect her daughter. If I-"

The younger agent stopped her with a light kiss, not caring if the press saw or bothered by the metallic tang of blood on Emily's lips.

"She made a choice you had no way to anticipate, and we lost her because of it. We couldn't save her, Em, because she didn't want to be saved. She just wanted him. That's what makes people like him so dangerous. You know that. It's why you were there."

Emily shivered again, and JJ sighed, seeing she wasn't getting through and deciding on a more direct approach. The girl's death bothered her partner, but the core of the problem was something else, something she could do something about.

"You haven't failed us, Emily. The baby and I are still here, just like we will be tomorrow. I don't expect you to just forget about all of this, Em, but if nothing else matters our baby needs its mamma."

The emphasis broke through her beloved's numb shock, leaving the profiler staring at her in mixed awe and fear.

"Our baby? Mamma?"

She nodded, her thumb brushing away a stray tear.

"Our baby, Emily... If that's what you want."

"I do," the profiler whispered tiredly but confidently, but JJ hushed her before she went on.

"It can wait until we're home. Will you let me take care of you now?"

Emily nodded, tension giving way to the pain and exhaustion she had suppressed thoroughly enough to have forgotten.

"I love you, Em. Let's go get you patched up."

She allowed herself to be led to an ambulance, drifting off despite the prodding and noise around her. She was too tired to dream and the empty darkness was a relief after the last few days. When she could think at all it was thoughts of caring for her pregnant Jennifer and her... their... baby. Her mind offered simple, comfortable moments of family life, and she smiled in her sleep, waking becoming a desire rather than a punishment.

The End

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