DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks to Kim for the wonderful suggestions and reassurances. A very special thank you to Debbie for taking on the job of beta for this fic as well as the 22 others and especially for agreeing to write her specialty, Birds of Prey, as part of this 24 fandom series. Thanks, Deb, I truly do appreciate it.
CHALLENGE: Written for the first International Day of Femslash.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.

The Cornerstone
By Ann


The room behind the etched glass doors was empty, the freshly buffed floors shining brightly and the desktops neat and tidy. Each rolling chair had been tucked securely underneath its appropriate desk, awaiting the arrival of each team member. The first agent through the door had never before had the opportunity to view the room in such an undisturbed state, so peaceful and serene. She usually arrived after most of her teammates and always after their team leader, Aaron Hotchner, but with no movement in the general vicinity or in the offices above, it was abundantly clear to the woman that not even her supervisor had managed to time his arrival before hers.

The bullpen of the B. A. U. was eerily silent when Emily Prentiss eased into her chair, her early appearance affording her additional time to prepare herself for the day, but especially, for that one, single, defining moment when she'd come face to face with Jennifer Jareau.

The night before, after *that* kiss, she'd finally crawled into bed and stared at the clock on her nightstand. Hour after hour, she'd watched as the time had slowly crept by, her overactive mind not allowing her body to rest. Not even the soothing hot water from her bath or the sheer exhaustion of the previous days' events could lull her into sleep. The vivid memory of JJ leaning in close and touching lips against hers had distracted her from much needed rest. But, it was her clear recollection of JJ's soft, silky tongue sliding beside her own that held her focus captive for the rest of the night and well into the early morning hours.

When the clock hit 3:30, she'd had enough and, throwing back the covers, she'd headed for the shower. An hour and a half later, she'd pulled into one of the front row spaces of her assigned lot at Quantico. She'd often wondered how early she'd need to arrive to capture one of the spots; now, she knew. She was fairly certain she'd never be able to claim one again.

A rustling noise from behind caught Emily's attention, and she turned toward the doors just in time to see Aaron Hotchner step into the room. It was obvious that he, too, was deep in thought as he hadn't yet noticed his agent sitting at her desk. Emily wondered what problems weighed heavy on his mind, but she held her tongue and waited quietly for him to realize he wasn't alone. Another step had his head snapping up, his surprised gaze settling on Emily.

"Prentiss? What are you doing here so early?" Hotch smoothly shifted his briefcase to his other hand and allowed his mind to profile the situation. He'd never known Emily to come in early – stay late most of the time, but never arrive before him or the others.

"Sir?" Emily jumped to her feet and nervously faced her superior. She hadn't counted on having to make conversation before her brain fully awoke. A frown quickly crossed her face; how could it awaken when it never went to sleep in the first place?

"You're early," said Hotch, quickly spotting the expression of confusion Emily wore. He crinkled his own brow in concern. "Is something the matter?"

"Huh? Oh, no… no, Sir, everything is fine. I just thought I'd get a head start on my paperwork." Emily gestured to the stack of papers on the edge of her desk, visibly cringing when she noted it was smaller than usual. Hotch noticed, too, but decided to give his agent the benefit of the doubt. He'd soon find out if her problem was serious enough to warrant any involvement on his part.

"Okay, carry on then." He gestured toward the upper level. "I'll be in my office if you need me." Offering a slight smile, he started up the stairs and disappeared through his office door. Emily stared at the now empty doorway and released a breath she hadn't realized she was holding.

"You've got to get a grip, Emily," she muttered quietly as she slowly sunk back into her chair. "And you've got to figure out what you're going to do about that kiss."

"Hey, Emily must've gotten here early." Garcia pointed toward the parking space nearest the building where Emily's car sat.

"Yeah, right, she probably got lucky and drove up just as someone was leaving," said JJ, pleased to have someone to talk to on her way in. Garcia had pulled into the space next to hers just as she was getting out, giving JJ a much needed break from wondering what Emily had decided to do about the unexpected curve JJ had thrown her.

Garcia laughed. "You're right. What was I thinking?" She gestured to the beat-up Volvo next to Emily's car. "Kevin said that you have to get here by 5:00 to get these spaces, and there's no way Ms. 'Barely Gets to Work on Time' Prentiss arrived that early."

JJ looked at the older car, sitting next to Emily's black Lexus, and smiled when she spotted the bumper sticker – Geeks Do It with a Bigger Hard Drive. She hip-checked Garcia and gestured to the slogan. "So, is that true?"

Garcia slid her arm around JJ's shoulder and directed them toward the entrance. "Oh yeah, but would you believe I had to kiss him first? I'd still be waiting for him to make the first move." She grinned. "Not anymore though. I think I've created a monster – a really, fun, sexy monster."

"So you kissed him first?" asked JJ as the pair entered the building, surprise tingeing her tone. She quickly steered Garcia toward her office for some much needed privacy, hoping her friend might have some advice on how to handle Emily. "How'd he react to that?"

"Well, I think he was a bit stunned at first." Garcia parted from JJ and took a seat in front of JJ's desk. She smiled and watched her friend walk around behind her desk and boot up her computer. "Of course, being kissed by the Goddess of Love will do that to a person."

JJ chuckled but remained steadily on course. "Ever wonder what you'd have done if he hadn't been receptive?" She plopped down in her chair and faced her friend, very eager to hear Garcia's reply. None was forthcoming. Garcia had become suspicious.

"What's with the questions?"

"Nothing, just girl talk." JJ tried to shrug it off. She should've known Garcia would see right through her.

"We've talked about my relationship with Kevin before, and you've never been interested in how it actually began." Garcia wiggled her eyebrows. "You've only been curious about the 'good stuff.'" She waited a beat before she continued, "Jennifer Jareau, you are such a bad liar." She scooted her chair closer. "Now, tell Garcia all about it."

JJ maintained her innocent look for as long as she could, before she closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her nose. "I kissed Emily." If it was possible to speak lower than a whisper, JJ had accomplished the feat in true style. Garcia frowned and leaned forward.


Keeping the volume exactly the same, JJ repeated her admission, but this time Garcia picked up the first two words. It was the third one that had escaped her hearing.

"Who did you kiss?"


"Finally!" Garcia practically jumped from her chair in joy, but JJ's lack of response had her easing back into her seat. "Oh, don't tell me she didn't kiss you back."

JJ ran her hand through her hair, but Garcia couldn't tell if it was a nervous gesture or one of frustration. JJ answered the unspoken question with her next admission. "She kissed me alright, but I still don't know what she's thinking."

"JJ, thinking can be overrated. If she kissed you back, that's all that matters."

"No it isn't. We work together, Penelope, on the same team. You of all people know how the bureau views relationships between co-workers. And we'd have to tell Hotch."

Garcia reached out and took JJ's hand. "Hey, cross that bridge when you come to it."

"There may not be a bridge to cross. I've left the decision to Emily. If she doesn't want to pursue a relationship past friendship, then I have to honor her choice."

"Are you nuts?" This time Garcia managed to leap from her chair. "If you want that girl, then you've got to do everything in your power to get her."

The arrival of Reid and Morgan had served to add more tension to an already stressed Emily, their playful banter not exactly creating the diversion she'd hoped for. Reid was still going on and on about the importance of a first kiss in a relationship, while Morgan purposely disagreed, having too much fun baiting Reid to care that his arguments weren't anywhere near his true feelings on the matter.

"Nah, the first kiss isn't that big of a deal." Morgan broke out in a huge grin. "It's getting past second and third and sliding into home that makes or breaks the deal."

All color left Emily's face. She'd been so obsessed with the actual kiss, she hadn't given any thought to rounding the bases.

"I hate that reference," said Reid, shaking his head in disgust. "Baseball is America's favorite pastime."

"That ain't all." Morgan's grin turned cocky. "At least it's not *my* favorite way to pass the time."

"Hey guys, how's it going?" Garcia gave Morgan a wink and stepped up next to Reid's desk. Emily had never been so happy to see the technical analyst in her life, but her glee was short-lived. "Emily, JJ asked me to tell you that she has some kind of report she needs you to look over."

"Report?" All bases faded into the background, home plate included. "What report?"

Garcia shrugged. "Beats me. She's in her office if you want to go find out."

"Hey Baby Girl, what do you think about first kisses?"

Emily quickly pushed to her feet, her eyes already on the door. "Thanks, Garcia, I think I'll go see for myself."

Garcia nodded and watched Emily start for the door. With a slight smile, she turned her attention back to the question at hand, answering loudly enough for Emily to hear. "Depends on who the kisser is."

Emily ran into the edge of a desk but didn't break stride as she exited the room.

Flipping through various printouts, JJ kept her focus on the page in front of her. She'd seen Emily, standing just outside her door, but she'd kept her head down, not wanting to force any interaction until Emily was ready. She eased the paper to the bottom of the stack and pretended to read.

Emily stood in the shadows of the hallway and gently rubbed her sore hip as she watched JJ at work. Of all the times she'd had the opportunity to observe JJ at her job, this was the first time she'd been able to study the other woman as she reviewed the various cases that came across her desk. It was JJ who decided which ones to present to Hotch for the final decision. JJ held all the power, but never as much as now.

Inching closer, Emily recalled something Reid had said in defense of his earlier statement. He'd told Morgan, "The first kiss is the cornerstone of a relationship; everything builds up to that moment to either succeed or fail. With a strong foundation, there are no limits to the possibilities."

Emily stepped forward and knocked on the doorframe; she'd always placed her hopes in possibilities. "JJ? You wanted to see me?"

"Hey, Emily." JJ glanced up from the file she hadn't been reading. "Pull up a chair."

Closing the door, Emily sat in the chair across from JJ. She didn't waste any time with formalities. "I've thought about what you said."

JJ lowered the file onto the others and looked back at Emily. This was the moment she'd been waiting for, but neither she nor Garcia had honestly expected Emily to get straight to the point.


"Yes, I haven't thought of anything else." As if on cue, the kiss began to play out in Emily's mind – the softness, the gentle touch of lips against hers, JJ's hand on her hip pulling her near, the ease in which JJ deepened the kiss, and her total acceptance of it. That kiss was the perfect cornerstone for any relationship.

"Would you like to come over for dinner tonight?"

"In what capacity?" JJ laid all the cards on the table. She didn't want a single one unturned. They'd both come too far to turn back now.

"A date." The ease at which Emily replied put a smile on both their faces.

"All right, Ms. Prentiss, a date it is."

Neither woman thought past the coming evening. Just getting on base was fine; they'd worry about sliding in home when the time came.

The End

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