DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have no knowledge of Middle Eastern politics (other than that basically everyone there fights), so any reference to any country and their possible political climate around the time Emily would have been a teenager is just my general thoughts. A very special thank you to ishfeeny for beta reading.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
SPOILERS: 2.15 (Revelations)
Chase Away My Demons
Emily looked out of the window of the plane, seeing nothing but her reflection. It was late and the team was finally on their way back home. It had been a bad one, the worst Emily had seen so far. Of course there had been Frank and the brutal evilness of deeds, but this case had hit home, mainly because for a time each of the members of the team had been afraid they'd never see Reid alive again. Not that any one had voiced his or her fears, but they all knew what they were thinking of, hoping and praying that it wouldn't end in the worst possible way it could.
Emily glanced around the plane and at various members of the team. Garcia and Morgan were talking animatedly, bantering back and forth as always. It seemed to be their way of coping with the worst cases they came across. Gideon was sitting by himself, immersed in a book, while Hotchner and JJ were looking over some files. Emily wondered if those two ever took a break; JJ looked ready to just drop and fall asleep, whereas Reid already had. His lanky frame was curled up on the couch at the other end of the plane where he had fallen asleep almost as soon as they had departed Georgia. He'd take a long time to heal, but at least he was with friends. Emily sighed.
Emily's eyes then fell on JJ, who was sitting besides Hotchner, having a quiet word with him. She thought back to their first evening at the Hankel house and the short discussion between the three of them before they'd been called by Morgan to witness the discovery of Hankel's body. It was JJ who'd voiced the question and Emily still wanted to wince when she recalled her fumbling answer. But what else was she supposed to say? She certainly couldn't tell the truth, at least not while Hotchner was standing there. It was too personal, too painful. Had it been just JJ Emily wondered. She felt connected to the other woman, that much she couldn't deny. She was attracted to her in several ways, even. The younger woman was beautiful, intelligent, caring and dedicated to whatever she put her mind to. Still, Emily wasn't a person to whom trust came easily. It was to be earned, with time but with JJ, who knew?
Turning her head to see her reflection looking back at her once more, she sighed again and closed her eyes. As she knew they would, her memories took her back to the day she'd lost the last of her innocence and had to face the cruelty of the world.
Emily was almost fifteen and it was the last two weeks of their time in Israel before her parents' work would force them to move to Egypt. She and Melanie were spending all their available time together before their separation; it was never easy to make new friends when they moved, but Melanie was special. Her father was the British Ambassador in Israel and they'd met very soon after the Prentiss family had moved to Tel-Aviv. They had a three year age difference, Melanie being older and although they were very different, Emily preferred staying home with her books whereas Melanie wanted to skip the book and see the movie after a day of shopping, they'd instantly connected and spent much of their time together. It was a weird combination but it worked and both were glad for it.
The girls were currently sitting on Emily's bed, flipping through magazines, looking at pictures of stars and wondering what life like that must be like.
"I wouldn't mind being so popular, but I wouldn't want too much attention. Then I'd have to get body guards and I've had enough of them already to last me a lifetime," Melanie declared, fighting a losing battle with her long red curls. Her hair was always curly and no matter what she tried it always seemed determined to escape whatever Melanie had tried to confine it with.
Emily looked at her friend and smiled. "I just don't get the attraction. I wouldn't want to be photographed all the time, always having to look perfect. And I definitely agree with you on the body guards. I told you that Rick figured out the basement route, right?"
"Yup. But hey, at least you still have the kitchen and you're leaving for a new place in two weeks so you'll have plenty of new chances."
"Yeah, I guess," Emily agreed, but didn't manage to sound enthusiastic at all.
"Look, we'll stay in touch," Melanie reminded her. "Dad already promised you could come with us when we go back to London in the summer."
"And we can always write letters."
"Thank god for Mr. Bell."
Emily rolled her eyes. Melanie was a notoriously bad pen pal. The summer before when Emily's and her parents had taken a vacation and gone back to the States, the younger girl had written two letters to her friend each week for the six weeks of her stay in Washington DC. Melanie had written two as well. Only two. All summer.
"So what time are your parents coming home?"
Emily shook her head. "I don't know. You know how it is, Mel."
Emily watched her friend and saw those blue eyes twinkle in a way she knew meant trouble. She frowned.
"What've you gotten in your head this time?"
"There's a movie I wanna see "
"Your mom and dad aren't even going to know we're gone. They won't be back until late and what they don't know won't hurt 'em."
Emily was weighing her options. On the other hand she, of course, wasn't allowed to leave the house without Rick. It had been the rule all three years of their stay in Israel. But on the other hand it was probably the last chance they'd have before their move. She knew she shouldn't go out without her body guard, but it certainly wouldn't be the first time, nor last. And if Rick knew, her parents would as well. Besides, it wasn't like they'd be going even close to the areas where all the trouble was.
"Em, c'mon. It's just a movie. We'll be back before anyone even notices we're gone," Melanie cajoled.
Emily had to admit that was true; she'd sneaked out often enough and returned back home without anyone ever finding out.
"Okay," she relented, suddenly very exited at the prospect of one more mini adventure with her best friend.
Gathering their things they left the room and quietly made it to the first floor and through the dining room to the kitchen, carefully listening to any signs of adults. In the kitchen the girls quickly reached the door close to a tree that in turn was right next to the wall which surrounded the property. Carefully climbing the tree they made their way to one of the lower branches and then, after checking for the final time no one had seen them, jumped down on the other side of the wall.
The movie was nearly through but the large soda Emily had bought, forced her to get up in the middle of it.
"I'll be right back," she whispered to Melanie. The redhead nodded once, her attention completely on the screen and the young couple.
Leaving the dark theater, it only took a moment for Emily's eyes to adjust to the light as she began searching for the restroom. They'd actually never been to this theater before. It was rather new and not as close to her house as the one they frequented. But as a farewell night out, they'd decided to try the new place. It definitely looked better than the other one, with posters of old classic movies on the walls mixed with the current and upcoming features.
Quickly finding her way to the bathroom Emily was thankful to find it almost empty. She wouldn't miss too much of the movie. She'd tried to hold out but had eventually decided that missing a few minutes of the movie was a preferable choice to losing to nature.
Suddenly a deafening boom cut through the air and before it even registered to Emily what was going on, she was laying face down on the ground, unconscious, with pieces of concrete and rubble falling on top of her.
Slowly Emily became aware of people screaming, crying. Coughing, forcing herself to draw in breath despite the pain, and with her mind trying to grasp what had just happened, it took her a moment to remember. Then it came back to her with the force that rivaled the actual blast. A bomb. It was the only explanation, Emily knew.
She tried to turn but found that her legs were pinned down by something heavy. She twisted her upper body and saw that it was the restroom door, having been blown off by the force of the blast. Scrambling as fast as she could to get away from under it, her mind was now fixated on one thing only: Melanie.
Her back and left shoulder were screaming in agony as she got up and walked through the doorway, now without the actual door in place. All around her there were people, screaming, crying and most were bloodied or worse. Crying, but unaware of it, Emily tried to press against the wall to avoid bumping into people but it was impossible as everyone capable of it was trying to get out of the battered building. A grunt of pain mixed with frustration escaped her lips, as the crowd made moving towards the theater and Melanie impossible. The more people rushed out, the worse they seemed. She saw a woman with a severe cut on her head, a man with blood running down his neck, holding his arm while a bone jutted through his skin. A young boy, about her age, with the other side of his face completely burnt off was screaming for help. Another man, his eyes wide with terror but clearly too shocked to even scream, was walking towards her, also leaning against the wall for support. He was cradling his one arm against his chest with the other. It took a moment for Emily to realize what was wrong: the arm he was holding wasn't attached to his body.
Even though it all made her want to run back to the remnants of the restroom and be sick, she knew she had to get to Melanie. Her friend needed her. Fighting against the pain she tried to push herself against the sea of panicking people, but felt dizzy and had to lean against the wall once more. The image of Melanie was thrumming in sync with wounds on her back and shoulder. Another jolt from another wounded man and Emily lost her balance. Falling on her back, she screamed as a white flash of agony seared through her before she again lost consciousness.
Again the first thing Emily was aware of was voices. But this time they were calm and although none of the voices were familiar, it instantly lowered her level of panic. Next thing she became aware of her was the pain. Her head hurt, along with her back and shoulder. Slowly she tried opening her eyes but the light only made her head hurt more so she quickly gave up on that idea. What had happened? Why did she feel like she'd had 18 rounds in the ring with Rick the Brick?
"I think she's waking up," she heard one of the voices say.
"Go call her parents," another said.
Emily tried opening her eyes again.
"Hello there, Emily," a man said. "And welcome back. I'm Dr. Richards."
"What happened?" Really, what was going on? She was confused. The doctor was obviously an American. But she was in Israel. Whatever had happened, Emily assumed it wasn't too serious since her parents weren't there but then why did she hurt so much?
"Alright, I'll have one of the nurses give you more painkillers for that. You're one lucky young lady, you know that? Your clavicle bone will need time, but given time it'll heal very nicely."
"My back "
"You received quite a blow, but"
Whatever else the doctor said was drowned by the thunder of blood in her ears. The world stopped and so did time. For one suspended moment there was nothing in Emily's life but the movie theater, the sound of the explosion
Emily was brought back to the present day by the sound of laughter coming from Garcia. Suddenly needing to bite her lip to keep from telling the computer whiz to shut it, Emily tried to focus her thoughts away from the worst week of her life.
The suicide bomber had killed fourteen people and injured well over 50.
Melanie had been one of the ones killed.
Physically, Emily only carried a scar on her back from that day but the scars that ran deeper had barely faded over time. Her father had arrived at the hospital soon after she'd regained consciousness; her mother had followed a few hours later. There were never any direct words that issued blame, but the insinuations were there. Emily had only stayed at the hospital for two nights and though her father had visited her once each day, her mother had called to tell her that she had important meetings to attend to and still a lot of things to take care of before the move, especially now with the bomb and all; Emily would understand, right? Pretending that there hadn't been tears burning in her eyes and a proverbial knife slicing her heart, Emily had told her mother that of course she understood. Mother had called her a 'good girl' and said they'd see once Emily was released from the hospital.
Melanie's body had been taken back to England for burial and no matter how much Emily had begged her parents they hadn't allowed her to attend the funeral. It wasn't until ten years later, after she'd graduated that Emily had finally traveled to London and visited Melanie for the first and last time. During all those years in between she had thought she'd visit her friend's grave often, but it was too hard. She carried too much blame. Standing over Melanie's final resting place, Emily wondered if her childhood friend would have forgiven her. She wanted to believe so, but there was always lingering doubt. Though she'd been the younger one, she'd also been the more sensible one. It didn't matter to Emily what she managed at times to convince herself of, in the end it always came back to one thing. She should have known better. In fact, she had, and yet she'd gone.
Emily turned to see JJ standing over her, looking exhausted but at the same time, worried.
"Are you okay?" JJ asked and sat on the seat next to the brunette.
"I'm fine," the automatic reply was delivered in a surprisingly hoarse voice.
It was only then that Emily became aware of the tears that had escaped her eyes. Wiping them away as quickly and as discreetly as possible, she cleared her throat.
"Yeah, I'm okay," she told JJ. "Just stuff I'm okay, really."
Though clearly not convinced, much to Emily's relief JJ nodded and let it drop. Taking refuge in the city lights that were finally visible below, Emily wished she didn't feel the need to constantly keep her walls up. At the same time, the thought of allowing others to know such intimate things about her seemed like a move too risky to make.
She was still pondering and analyzing her reluctance to let people close when she felt a weight settle on her shoulder. Looking down she saw a mass of blonde hair belonging to one very exhausted press liaison. Smiling softly, Emily was glad to see the woman was finally able to rest.
It was less than an hour later that they arrived in Virginia. As they exited the plane, Emily's thoughts focused on JJ and how she was holding up. There was no denying that Reid had suffered the most in the last few days, but it didn't take a profiler to see that JJ was still dealing with the aftermath of the case as well.
"JJ, wait," Emily called.
The blonde woman stopped, her stance practically screaming how glad she was for the break from walking.
Emily plunged on before she had more time to think. "I was wondering if you wanted I mean considering everything that happened if you wanted someone I mean I could stay with you. That is, if you wanted."
Emily wanted to groan at her fumbling words. Smooth she was not. Looking at JJ, for a moment Emily thought she'd gone too far, perhaps even offended JJ. The younger woman was clearly hesitating, but suddenly JJ gave a tired smile.
"I'd like that."
Together they made their way to Emily's car. Save for JJ giving directions, the ride was quiet; both women were tired and lost in their own thoughts. Finally they arrived to JJ's apartment.
Walking up the stairs to her flat, JJ stumbled on the steps. Luckily Emily's quick reflexes prevented any serious injury.
"I think I finally understand the saying 'so tired you can't see straight,'" JJ joked, rather embarrassed.
"Here, let me help you with that," Emily said, swallowing a chuckle as she took JJ's overnight bag from her and shouldered it with the one she already carried. Placing a guiding hand on JJ's back, Emily helped her walk the rest of the way to the door.
As soon as they entered the room, Emily dumped both their bags by the door and shook off her own coat before helping JJ out of hers. Then as JJ began to walk towards her bedroom, Emily followed, steering her away from the walls the blonde seemed to be determined to bump into.
Reaching the bedroom Emily ushered JJ directly to the double bed, sitting the woman on it. Hesitating, the profiler stopped for a second, wondering if she should now leave and let JJ just get herself ready for bed, but as Emily looked at her, she mentally scolded herself. JJ was barely awake, and there was nothing about the situation that either of them could misunderstand. It was like that time she had had Lucas, her cousin's son over for a week. The boy was still small enough that he needed to be put to bed and changing the clothes was just one more ritual before sleep.
Having convinced herself, Emily sat on her haunches, took JJ's feet and quickly removed her shoes. "C'mon, we gotta get you ready for bed. You'll sleep better if you're not wearing your working clothes."
JJ didn't reply but the brunette figured that since she wasn't hearing any loud objections, her plan had been approved.
"Alright, shirt next," Emily instructed JJ while placing the shoes neatly at the end of the bed. She tried not to notice JJ's body, how perfect it was, or how soft her skin was when her fingers brushed against it. After their combined efforts to free JJ of her pants, Emily turned her back to keep herself from looking at the smaller woman sitting there, at the edge of her bed wearing nothing but panties and a bra. She needed to fold JJ's clothes so they wouldn't get crumbled.
"I have nightshirts in the dresser there," JJ said faintly, almost as an afterthought and vaguely motioned towards the other side of the room.
Grateful for the provided distraction, Emily swallowed; just what had she gotten herself into? In the dresser, Emily found several oversized t-shirts, but noticed one that looked to have been well used and determined that it was probably a favorite so she chose that one. Emily gave the t-shirt to JJ and then discreetly turned her back again to allow the other woman privacy to change into it.
"All done," JJ announced and Emily turned to see a sight she was sure she'd never forget as long as she lived. JJ, half asleep already and her hair tussled from changing her clothes, was sitting up and wearing a Bart Simpson t-shirt claiming 'eat my shorts'.
A small chuckle escaped Emily's lips.
"Alrighty, JJ. Time to go to sleep," Emily then guided JJ under the covers and just as she had done with Lucas, she tucked her in.
Satisfied that JJ would now be able to rest comfortably, the brunette was about to exit the room, when she heard JJ's soft voice.
"Emily, could you stay, please? Just for a little while?"
Emily turned to see JJ looking at her and was surprised by the look of fear in JJ's eyes.
"Sure," she agreed, unwilling, and unable, to deny JJ anything.
Emily approached the bed, intending to sit on the edge until JJ would fall asleep, but for the second time in less than a minute she found herself surprised as JJ slid closer to the center of the bed,. "Just grab another t-shirt from the dresser."
Too shocked by the turn of the event to even remember she had an overnight bag by the front door, Emily could do nothing but comply. She was now more hesitant than she had been all night, but she was still determined to do whatever was needed to make JJ feel comfortable. Finding a deep red, extra large t-shirt from the dresser, Emily quickly discarded her clothes, save for her panties and pulled the red shirt over her head. Taking a deep breath to fortify herself she walked back to the bed and slid under the covers next to JJ.
For the next two minutes both women lay rigid, concentrating on the sound of their breathing and wondered if this had just been a huge mistake. Even JJ who had seemed ready to fall asleep in the middle of a sentence, couldn't bring herself to even close her eyes.
Finally JJ broke the silence.
"I I wanted to say thank you, for the offer and for staying," she said. "It helps. I mean, I know I can't have someone hold my hand all the time, but just for tonight, it makes me feel safer, you know?. It's home, but it's still I've had a hard time falling asleep after Hankel took Reid. That's why I'm so tired. I just I can't forget the dogs or the smell of blood in the barn. Did you see how little there was left of her? Of all the ways to die "
At first Emily had stayed silent, sensing JJ needed to exercise her demons, but now JJ was about to start panicking, Emily could hear it in her voice. Not knowing what else to do, Emily reached out and pulled JJ closer until she was snuggled against her, with Emily's arms protectively around her.
"Did you have pets when you were growing up?" Emily asked, trying to distract JJ from the morbid thoughts of their last case.
Though well aware of what the profiler was doing, JJ was happy to comply. "We had dogs, a few cats and when I was seven I got a rabbit."
"Oh yeah? What was its name?"
"Cotton. He was the white kind. We kept him inside the house and for a while my mom said he was the best wake up alarm a person could have. For nights we'd put him in his cage and every morning, exactly at seven o'clock he'd get on his front paws and drum the sides of the cage with his back paws, waking everyone up."
"No!" Emily exclaimed, happy to hear the light tilt that colored JJ's voice.
The two talked about JJ's pets, Emily at one point confessing that though she'd always wanted one, her parents had never really warmed up to the idea of having anything furry in the house. Emily was happy to listen to all the funny stories JJ remembered from her time as a child, but it wasn't long after that their conversation started to have longer and longer pauses. Some time later, when Emily was sure JJ had fallen asleep and finally allowed herself to relax enough to start drifting off herself she heard JJ whisper in the softest voice possible, "You look really good in red."
Emily smiled and held JJ just a little tighter as sleep finally overtook them both.
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