DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
THANK YOU: To fewthistle for the support, beta and the rather fascinating late night IM conversations. And probably to atfm because the last time I checked, I did promise her a continuation of Fear.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have no idea what JJ’s real backstory is. I assume that at some point, she had two parents and I’m making up an uncle because it suits me. None of this is canon.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
Elements of Emotion: Belief
Belief was perhaps the most fickle and complicated of the elemental forces that JJ had named. Of them all, it could be either the most fleeting, or the least shakable. The blonde agent had never been particularly religious. Growing up, she had seen the Bible too often in connection with her drunken uncle's hands and learned to be wary of both. She never doubted however, the power of belief; be it in a deity, an idea, or one's self. The power of another's belief could be the most tremendous force and to rescind it could shatter the foundations of a person. The absence of that belief could cut like glass shards within a person's soul. JJ bore living testament to that. Every time she went home, it was only to return with new wounds: tiny and unintended, but bleeding nonetheless. They would fade and scar, but they would never truly vanish.
But belief - subtle and intangible and occasionally terrible - was the foundation of hope; the greatest of all human emotions.
Once, when JJ was very young, a massive summer storm had knocked out power to her small town. One of the worst to sweep the region in years, it struck with a fierceness that had seemed to the small girl trembling in her room to be personally directed at her. Unwilling to reveal her fear to her parents, JJ had curled on her bed, trying in vain to block out the sounds of the heavens splitting and the wind lashing the sides of her house. Rain had pelted the windows, seemingly furious at being shut out, and the walls suddenly seemed scant protection against the anger of the roaring monster outside.
When the storm was finally over, JJ had forced herself from her bed and looked outside. She still remembered the soft awe that struck her at the sight beyond her window. Where normally the lights from the mill and the town muddied the sky and robbed the stars of their place, that night the glittering diamonds had shone unsullied and lured a young girl out of her house. JJ remembered stepping off the porch and onto rain soaked grass. The aftertaste of the storm's power still hung in the air, but JJ no longer feared it. Darkness surrounded her gently; a darkness so complete that it seemed a velvet blanket had been draped over the world. Head tipped back and mouth left open, she lost herself in the sky, forgetting the storm, forgetting that her parents would be mad at her for sneaking out, forgetting even to breathe.
That night, a young JJ looked at the stars and her eyes feasted on their brilliance. Her breath was scant in her lungs but her heart had filled, bursting with some great emotion she couldn't - at that age - name or understand. Like some heavenly note had been struck inside her, JJ shivered, and in that moment, she was overcome with the desire to reach up and hold those stars in her hand. It didn't matter that she knew those twinkling diamonds were distant suns often long dead by the time their light reached Earth; for one fraction of one second, her heart overrode her mind, and in that tiny sliver of eternity, she believed it possible.
The belief, of course, was fragile, and between one second and the next it shattered; a delicate glass bobble finally handled too roughly. As the shards fell away and JJ lowered her hand however, she felt no disappointment and the awe and wonder of that moment stayed with her: a tiny, treasured memory she held onto for years.
Like most memories from childhood however, painful or otherwise, it eventually began to fade. The colors of the stars bled away and the velvet darkness bleached and tattered. Until one night the team was working a case in Kansas, and the city was hit with a massive thunderstorm. As it raged, JJ stood at the window of her hotel room, the merest flicker of a smile gracing her lips as she was drawn back to that storm of her childhood.
As if the memory were a cue, the lights in her hotel room flickered and died and JJ saw the stain of the city's light outside her window vanish as the darkness rushed in to fill its place. The blonde agent watched as the storm moved away, the flashes of lightning dying to nothing and the wind calming. The last drops of rain fell sullenly, forgotten by the clouds that were now moving steadily east, revealing a night sky washed clean and a sliver of moon in their wake.
The sight kindled in JJ a deep longing, and without hesitation she opened her door and stepped out into the warm, wet night. Closing her eyes the blonde agent drew a long breath, imagining she could still taste the storm on the air. Moving to the railing however, JJ realized she wasn't alone. The frail, silvery light of the moon danced across Emily's face where she stood with her hands resting on the iron railing, her head tipped back and her gaze fixed on the sky.
Despite the simplicity of the image, JJ found herself entranced. As if the moonlight was her guide, her eyes traced the elegant sweep of Emily's cheekbones and the long line of her throat, lingering on the gentle rise and fall of her chest before rising again to the dark agent's face.
Without conscious guide, JJ found herself being drawn forward. The desire to simply be near her colleague, her friend and the woman who was rapidly becoming more than either of those labels could encompass pulled her body into motion with a force as subtle and powerful as gravity.
Moving to the railing, she stood beside Emily, and when the brunette lowered her gaze to look at her, JJ imagined for just an instant, she could see the velvet night and the diamond stars reflected in those fathomless eyes. Perhaps it was something of the storm washing away the last of the dust that faded the colors of her memory, but as JJ looked at Emily looking back at her, she felt again the wonder and awe of the little girl who stood outside her childhood house and reached for the stars.
Emily did that, she realized. Emily made her feel like truly anything was possible and that the heavens were reachable; knowledge and distance and rationality transcended for one instant, by beautiful, fragile, belief.
It was in that moment of quiet clarity that JJ realized that, for some time, she hadn't needed to look up to the sky to feel that perfect moment of awe and belief. It had been right there in front of her. She felt it every time she looked at Emily: every time their hands brushed, or the dark woman slid her fingers along JJ's sleeve. It was there every time that smooth, rich voice changed pitch ever so subtly in the way that let JJ know the brunette's words were only for her. And most especially, it was there on those rare occasions JJ was treated to that brilliant smile; a smile seldom, if ever directed at anyone else.
For a moment neither woman moved; two figures seemingly frozen outside of time until some quiet accord was reached. Still holding her gaze, Emily slid her hand to cover JJ's where it rested on the cool metal of the railing, drawing the blonde closer. No words were spoken as they turned their eyes back to the sky, and as the fragile moon climbed higher, Emily and JJ stood and simply watched the stars.
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