DISCLAIMER: Criminal Minds and its characters are the property of CBS. No infringement intended.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Thanks so much to kjaneway for beta'ing.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
The Only Thing That Makes Emily Prentiss Flinch
Part Two: Interference from an Oracle
When Emily and JJ walked into the bar their friends were already settled in a booth near the back, laughing over some unintentional humour of Reid's and on their way to a second round of drinks. In the darkness of the bar the two strained to see through the cacophony of music and laughter and, locating their colleagues, made their way over to join them. The tension that had been weighing on the team earlier that day had slowly dissolved into an easy camaraderie. They had the kind of friendship that could only be shared by people smiling to salve the same wounds; welting and burning from the same horror and the same trauma. Who else would understand their need to laugh, and their ability to smile, after all of that pain?
It had done, it seemed, JJ and Emily good to get out of the office, too. Neither Emily's slumped shoulders nor JJ's telltale habit of pinching the bridge of her nose with weary fingers, as if to block out the recurrence of blood soaked scenes, had gone unnoticed less than an hour earlier. When JJ had stopped by Penelope Garcia's office to invite her out for drinks, the all-knowing computer tech couldn't help but look at her friend and think that she needed one. They all had needed one.
Yet again the files on her computer screens had charted more grisly crimes. She only saw pixellated reproductions but her friends saw them in person. They were the ones who covered their noses against the smell of death; they had to look into the dying eyes of relatives as, with a simple I'm sorry, they tore away their hope and their hearts; they had to pull out their guns to apprehend the people they had chased, and sometimes they had to pull the triggers. But it was JJ who bore the heaviest burden. Penelope knew that for every unsub they caught, for every victim they helped, for every time Jennifer Jareau said 'yes', she had to give a thousand regretful 'no's.
JJ needed a drink, Garcia thought. But there was something else she needed even more. Garcia had watched as JJ crossed the bullpen. She had seen her catch Reid in the kitchen. Observing in grainy black and white she had seen, in hindsight, the body language of an extended invitation and an eager acceptance. Morgan's appearance had heralded a repeat. He had then waved towards Emily. Even in the poor quality of CCTV Garcia had noticed JJ's focus shift to the elegant brunette, immersed in the papers at her desk. JJ seemed to slow and Garcia saw, even from a distance, how JJ was entranced. She waved dismissively to the guys, then gestured towards herself. With Morgan and Reid nodding in her wake, JJ crossed to Garcia's office, and through pixels and shadows, Garcia saw that her gaze was never far away from Agent Prentiss. Unsure, at that point what was transpiring, Penelope knew one thing: JJ's feelings for Emily were real. And they ran deeper than what JJ would have her believe.
"It's only a crush, Penelope," JJ had told her, when it had all began. "It's not important. I can live with it."
Garcia had looked on then, as JJ had stretched a thin smile to paper over the confusion lining her usually flawless features. It hadn't reached her clouded eyes, though, and Penelope was skeptical. Sitting watching the security feed, however, she was sure. As JJ had entered her office, Penelope had closed the window to hide her well intended prying. She had swiveled her chair around to face the smiling blonde, resolving to help the other woman find the resolution she knew she wanted, could see she needed, and was sure she would find, in Emily.
When JJ had invited her out for drinks with the team Garcia had grinned and accepted, beginning to understand what had transpired between her colleagues in the kitchen. Checking the time, she'd began to logout of the various systems she had accessed over the course of that day.
"JJ," she had said, peering knowingly over her glasses, "I'll leave it up to you to tell Emily, then?"
JJ had pinkened around her cheeks. Only Garcia knew anything of how she really felt about the other agent. It was nowhere near the truth. A crush, as she had told Garcia, was far from accurate. No crush would leave her as breathless, as flustered, and as elated as Emily could do, with only a smile flashed her way.
"Yeah. I'll go see if she wants to join us soon. I have to lock up my office first, though."
Garcia had nodded along. With Morgan and Reid on their way out of an almost empty office and her own computers locked, the B.A.U. symbol branding their inactivity, the only reasons JJ could have for stalling her final invitation were nerves and, what was to Garcia something far more adorable, a desire to get Emily on her own.
Garcia winked and JJ had averted her eyes, knowing her motives had been discovered. However, instead of pursuing JJ's embarrassment, Garcia had turned for her coat and bag and the two friends had made their way out of the office together. At the doorway Garcia had stopped, resting a hand on her friend's shoulder. She glanced over at Emily, JJ's eyes only too willing to follow. Garcia saw the lightness of JJ's expression as she watched the brunette copying her notes.
She was sure JJ's feelings were reciprocated. She hadn't missed the heat of shared glances, the radiance of Emily's smile when JJ walked into the room or Emily's eyes directed solely towards JJ in the melee of large briefings. And the way Emily touched JJ, on the small of her back, on the shoulder, on the sleeve of her coat was more than enough to encourage her to give the two a little push. Just a small one. She was sure that no more would be needed. So she had stopped JJ in the doorway to her office and had whispered, quickly and seriously how sure she was that it could all work out.
JJ had looked shocked, hopeful, and afraid. Then she'd nodded and smiling wryly, looking at the floor, had muttered something about thinking time, and fled to her office.
It hadn't surprised Garcia that almost an hour later she had still only Morgan and Reid for company in the bar. She was beginning to wonder if she had timed her intervention wrong; maybe JJ wouldn't come, or Emily wouldn't, or, perhaps, she had spooked the blonde into further burying her feelings for the brunette.
But suddenly, through the dim light of the bar, she saw Emily and JJ emerge, sashaying through the crowds. They walked closely together, their hands brushing against each other, moving as one body, in almost constant contact. It wasn't enough to suggest anything more than a close friendship, but Penelope saw the sparkle of laughter in their eyes as they neared, and she saw the way Emily guided JJ through the bar with a gentle hand resting on the small of her back. She saw JJ's adoring smile as she looked up at Emily, who was pointing them out. And when Emily turned and spoke to JJ, Penelope could see that the intensity in their eyes was mutual. JJ nodded up at Emily and then turned towards them.
Morgan shouted a greeting over the noise of the jukebox, and Reid raised his hand in a wave. JJ gestured towards them. Beers? Morgan nodded, holding up three fingers and JJ turned towards the bar, glancing one last time at Emily, who continued over to the group and slipped into the booth next to Garcia.
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