DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
By Kassandra Luem
Emily Prentiss had always loved swings. When she was younger, her nanny used to take her to the playgrounds whenever she could and Emily loved clutching the old, rusted metal chains as she swung higher and higher. She loved the feeling when she'd reached the highest point, just before gravity pulled her back to the ground and she felt, just for a short moment that if she let go of the metal in her hand, she would fly straight up into the sky.
Those moments were magical. They didn't last long, in fact it was only milliseconds before ascent turned into descent, but in those fractions of moments, she felt weightless and like the world under her had shrunk to a tiny, little place the size of one of her nanny's old, well-worn woollen hats. For those tiny shards of seconds it didn't matter who she was, who her mother was, what she wanted her to be and what she wanted her to wear for this and that upcoming social event. For those few precious moments that she was suspended between rise and fall, she was just a child that felt like she could reach the sky. A child, whose only care was to get back to that point as soon as possible, to go higher and higher until her nanny shouted up at her to be careful and she could laugh at her concern and fear. Because up here, nothing could happen to her. Up here, she was on top of the world.
Then, she had turned eight and her mum had replaced her nanny with a stern-looking, silent, brooding woman with a bun so tight little Emily felt sorry for the woman, because her scalp had to hurt terribly. Her mum had introduced the stranger as her house teacher. She was old enough now not to have a nanny any more. It was time she learned how to be an adult. And Miss Porter would help her with that. And with her schoolwork. And with learning how to play chess, how to pronounce words like "acquiesce", how to make intelligent conversation and how to carry herself like a lady. She hadn't wanted to learn any of that. She didn't see why she had to know all of that. She only knew that no one took her to the playground anymore and whenever she tried to sneak out of the house and just go herself, some security guard always found her and her parents sent her to bed without dinner.
And so Emily had learnt how to forget the swings. Along with memorizing quotes out of Shakespeare's most famous plays and learning how to hold up the end of a dress just high enough it didn't drag on the floor, but not high enough to reveal too much of her legs, she had learned how to shut away that feeling of flying weightlessly right up into the sky. She had shoved it to the far back of her mind and only when she was sure no one noticed did she allow herself a wistful look whenever they passed a playground. She knew her mother wouldn't approve.
She'd tried, once, to explain to her just how it felt to sit on a swing at the very point it was turning. That had been when one of her mother's guards had kept her from entering a playground for the fist time.
"Emily, you're old enough to stop with those childish games. You're old enough not to fall for that split second's illusion of flying any more. Only idiots believe they can fly when they're still sitting on something that's definitely rooted to the ground. And my daughter's not an idiot."
And that had been the end of that. Emily had never again tried to talk to her mother about the swings. And she'd refused to believe what she told her about them. That swings were for idiots. But somewhere deep in her heart, Emily knew that from that day on, sitting on a swing would never feel quite the same to her.
So when JJ stopped one day in front of a playground as they were just on their way back from having lunch together, she hesitated before following her inside. By the time she had managed to set foot inside the place, JJ was already sitting on one of the swings, swinging mildly, her feet at an awkward angle because the people those swings had originally been designed for clearly had shorter legs than her.
"Come on, Emily, this is fun! I love swings" She shouted at her, laughing, her hair flying across her face in a flash of honey as she turned her head to look at the brunette that stood there, rooted to the spot and looked at her as if she was seeing her for the first time in her life.
"What's up, Emily? Now don't tell me you don't like swings! It's magical!"
"I do like swings. I love swings." The brunette muttered, so silently there was no way the blonde could have heard her.
Hesitantly, she made her way over to where the press liaison was just starting to swing higher. Enviously, Emily watched JJ go higher and higher, listened to her carefree laugh and her repeated offer to join in on the fun and just sit down on the swing, for God's sake. This was ridiculous. She was a grown up woman. She shouldn't be standing here in this playground staring at her colleague in envy just because JJ could still enjoy the feeling of defying gravity for a moment, just because JJ probably still felt as if she could reach the sky.
The sound of feet scraping against loose ground brought her back to the present and alerted her to the fact that JJ had brought her swing back down so she was on eye-level with the brunette once more.
"Emily, what's up?" she asked seriously, the laughter gone from her voice. And for a moment Emily regretted not just getting on that damn swing and laughing along with JJ. She loved the sound of her laugh. Silently she looked at the ground, not sure just how to answer. Finally she raised her eyes to meet JJ's crystal blue gaze and in an almost shy voice she asked her
"JJ, why do you love swings?"
JJ looked at her for a moment, wondering if she was serious, but the hopeful and yet sad gaze the brunette fixed her with made her ponder the question for a moment, before she answered thoughtfully
"I've always loved swings. You know, there's this one point when you've reached the highest you can go, just before the swing starts to drop back down. I tell you, it's magical. For a moment you feel like you could do anything, like you could fly if you just let go of the chains.
"yeah, I know that sounds childish." She added with a little embarrassed laugh, tucking back a few strands of blonde hair that had fallen into her face to cover the rising blush.
"No, not at all." Emily muttered, a slow smile spreading across her face. Her mother had lied to her all those years ago. Swinging was safe, enjoying the feeling of being at the highest point because it felt like the top of the world didn't make her an idiot. Because JJ enjoyed it too and JJ was everything but an idiot.
"Thank you" she said earnestly and the sincerity in her tone made JJ look up, that cute little line forming on her forehead she always got when something got her attention, something that seemed just a tad bit out of the normal.
"You're welcome." But she didn't question Emily and for that the later was grateful. Instead that playful smile slipped back onto her face and she asked
"So, you up for some fun? Whoever dares to go higher!"
She laughed at her and Emily joined her laugh, marvelling for a moment at how carefree it sounded. The blonde had no idea what she'd just given to her, but as Emily pushed herself from the ground and higher and higher into the air, she glanced over at JJ and saw her smiling back.
And in that moment, with JJ beside her, up high on a swing, she once again felt like she could conquer the entire world, if she just wanted to. JJ's laugh, the twinkle in her eyes drove her higher and higher, convincing her for the first time since she was eight, that up here nothing could hurt her. With JJ by her side, suspended between rise and fall, she was invincible.
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