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SPOILERS: Episode 309 - Penelope
Apocalypse in Five Acts
The first time their eyes met, if the world had ended then, JJ wouldn't have noticed.
Prentiss stood in the bullpen, looking a little lost, and she had a box with her things sitting on the desk where Elle used to be. Her hair hung straight down on both sides of her face, and she seemed awkward, as if she didn't really belong. Even the tailored black pantsuit and crisp blouse classic FBI couldn't hide her hesitation.
JJ tightened her grip on the files she was carrying and worked her way over. She'd seen this woman before, in Hotch's office, a few days back.
"I'm Agent Jareau, communications coordinator for the BAU."
The brunette turned towards the voice, tried to extend her hand, but she changed her mind when she saw all the folders cradled in JJ's arms.
"Emily Prentiss. I'm kind of new here."
That's when their eyes met, and Emily smiled then too, a quiet dazzling smile that drowned out the room and the bustle around them, if only for a moment.
JJ doesn't remember if she smiled back, can't recall what she said after that. But what she does remember, is shuffling her files and trying to look professional, telling herself that she was sweating because the AC wasn't on high enough, and that her breath was short only because she'd taken the stairs that morning. What she does remember, is losing herself in the crystal pools of those auburn eyes and not knowing why. They were just ordinary, brown, and absolutely beautiful.
The first time their hands met, it was strictly by accident, and JJ felt the world tilt.
Yes, the doorway had been narrow. Yes, Emily had been headed in just as JJ was pushing her way out. And yes, their hands did brush at some point, but it was entirely accidental. Yet Emily had to catch JJ's wrist and squeeze as she passed, without so much as a glance or a word.
JJ was angry that day, angrier than the rest of the team who'd just stormed an Arizona farmhouse to find four more bodies. She was angry because they hadn't gotten there in time, angry because she couldn't look away from those festering wounds with the insects buzzing around them. She was angry because the smell was overpowering and she was supposed to be stronger than that. But most of all, she was angry with Emily Prentiss for touching her and taking away one more bit of what little composure she had left.
It wasn't supposed to be hard. It never had been hard, until Emily had come along Emily, with her silent smiles and quiet touches, her knowing glances and unshakable poise. She felt conflicted around Emily, strong and weak all at the same time. She felt protected, safe enough that she was allowed to be human sometimes; but she also felt tough, resilient enough so that no matter what happened, she knew they would make it. When she was with Emily, she felt hopeful and precious and free, and she hated herself for it.
The second time their hands met, it was not an accident, and JJ felt her world crumbling.
Somewhere down the hall, Garcia lay deathly still on the operating table and JJ needed to be strong. She needed not to cry. So she told herself that holding hands was justified, that Emily was there for the same reason as her, and that they needed each other's support. She told herself not to notice how warm Emily's hand was, how firm her grip was, and how perfectly their fingers wrapped themselves around each other.
They waited for hours, hands grasped so tightly together they were almost as white as the hospital tiles underfoot. Twice, JJ thought she would break; and twice, Emily held just a little harder, looked over and dared to hope. JJ made it without crying that night, survived by staring down and counting the lines on Emily's hand. She memorized the slender bones and elegant fingers, the closely cropped nails and smooth alabaster skin. She still remembers the smell of Emily's hand cream, the rougher tip of Emily's trigger finger, and the slick wet feeling of sweat running between their palms. She remembers holding on with all she was worth; and Emily, for her part, never let go.
In the end, Garcia was all right, and even though JJ cried the next morning when her friend awoke, gentle hands had carried her through until dawn. And she knew they weren't supposed to, but she told herself they were allowed, because this was life and death, and holding hands seemed so trivial by comparison.
The first time their lips met, it was Christmas Eve and JJ thought the world would end.
It started out innocent enough, meeting for coffee before they both had to fly off somewhere to be with their families over the holidays. JJ knew neither of them really wanted to leave. It was easier here, away from home, away from expectations of Mom, Dad, and Uncle John. So she didn't refuse when Emily offered to share a cab to the airport, didn't say anything when Emily asked the driver to turn off a couple exits early and take them to the riverbank instead.
"Let's just watch the snow for a minute."
And so they stood on the shores of the Potomac, captivated as delicate snowflakes drifted their way into the water. A minute became much longer though, as Emily wordlessly led the way upriver. They had their collars up, their arms linked, and JJ pretended they were huddled together only because of the cold.
She was sad that Emily was leaving, that they wouldn't see each other for a week, but maybe it was better this way, because even though she knew they were both professionals, sometimes the need to touch Emily was almost overwhelming. Garcia was beginning to suspect. Reid too. What's going on with you and Emily? JJ can't imagine what she'd say if Hotch ever asked.
But there wasn't time to think about that, because Emily pointed out over the water and muttered something unintelligible.
"What?" JJ turned to look, and before she realised what was happening, there was a hand on her shoulder and Emily pressing close. There were butterflies in her stomach and soft lips covering hers.
JJ pushed away, bit her lip, and tried to still her heart. "We can't do this," she said, and they both knew she was right.
Emily fled, stricken and crushed. JJ stopped smiling for a week.
The second time their lips met, JJ closed her eyes and the world felt new again.
New Year's day found her knocking on Emily's door, holding her breath and shifting from foot to foot. She counted to thirty before there were sounds inside, sixty before the lock turned, eighty before the door slid open halfway.
Emily leaned against the frame and stared at the floor, downcast face veiled behind umber strands. "I'm sorry about the other day."
JJ had lots of things she'd wanted to say, lots of carefully crafted lines she'd practiced in the dark, but somehow words seemed inadequate in front Emily. Words weren't meant for what they had. Words were brittle and hollow and blind. What they had, was beyond words nameless, and indescribable.
What they had, was JJ reaching out and pushing Emily's hair behind her ears, JJ closing her eyes and pressing her lips against Emily's. What they had, was a picture-perfect dream both forbidden and necessary.
JJ felt her heat beat faster, felt her fingers tingle; she felt hands on her back and an insistent tongue against hers. The world fell back into place that day. When she opened her eyes there was only Emily staring back and the scent of newborn promise.
She remembers warm wet eyes blinking in the morning light, bated breaths and the sweet taste lingering in her mouth. She remembers taking her trembling hands and brushing the tears from Emily's face.
"We can't not do this," she said, and they both knew that was true.
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